What you cook in lockdown can depend heavily on time. Some people suddenly have to feed multiple hungry mouths several times a day. Others have hours to while away and need a task absorbing enough to take their minds off the people and places they miss. Whichever camp you fall into, there are recipes here for you.
If you have 10 minutes …
Bettina Campolucci Bordi, a plant-based cookery writer, heats through 600g frozen peas with a little olive oil and a can of coconut milk, before blitzing until smooth. Divide between 2-3 bowls and serve with a dollop of yoghurt and fresh herbs.
Pitta pan toastie
Ollie Templeton, of Carousel, London. fills a pitta (any bread would work) with cheese, salad leaves and sriracha, then toasts it in a heavy-based pan, with another pan on top to flatten it.
Pasta with courgette
Felicity Cloake’s courgette carbonara is a thing of beauty. If you like the combo, another option is this pasta nerano by Robin Gill, of The Dairy, London. Cook 400g spaghetti to al dente – about eight minutes. Meanwhile, fry four medium courgettes sliced in rounds, in batches and in olive oil, until lightly browned. Sauté three sliced garlic cloves, add in the cooked pasta with a ladleful of the pasta water, then the courgettes and mix vigorously. Add a handful of grated provolone cheese and fresh basil, and mix until fully melted.
Carl Clarke, chef-founder of Chick ’n’ sours, London, says to boil a full kettle, and make an omelette with two seasoned eggs and some finely sliced spring onion, then slice into strips. Slice and fry on a high heat for a few minutes half an onion, a pepper (any colour) and a handful of button mushrooms. If you like, throw in some cubed tinned meat (Spam, ham, corned beef etc). Add 4cm sliced fresh ginger and four cloves of garlic, along with a handful of green leaves. Pour over 170ml boiling water and add half a packet of chicken-flavoured instant noodles, along with the packet seasoning, and cook until most of the water is absorbed. Add the omelette. In another bowl, mix together 1 tbsp curry powder, 3 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp rice wine or dry sherry, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp sesame oil and 2 tbsp cold water, and at the last moment, add to the noodles and stir. Garnish with sliced spring onion to serve.
Chicken noodle soup
Food writer Molly Wizenberg, meanwhile, has this even simpler chicken noodle hack (serves two), using tinned soup, vermicelli, egg and parmesan.
Buckwheat noodle salad
As a post-home-schooling quick-fix for two, Nicholas Balfe of Salon, in Brixton, south London, says boil a full kettle then pour 1.5 litres into a saucepan on a high heat. Soft boil two eggs (six minutes – set a timer). Meanwhile, dress very thinly sliced carrot (use a peeler) with a pinch of salt and 50ml each of sesame oil and rice wine vinegar, some sesame seeds and some nori seaweed, cut up finely. In another bowl, season cucumber half-moons with 50ml soy sauce and a teaspoon of sugar. When cooked, plunge the eggs into cold water, then peel. In the reserved hot water, cook 250g buckwheat (soba) noodles according to the packet instructions (two to three minutes), then drain and rinse briefly. Divide the noodles between two bowls and place clusters of carrots, cucumber and protein (it could be shredded roast chicken, smoked fish, cubed silken tofu or red beans, seasoned with salt, lime zest and juice). Top each bowl with a halved egg, fresh herbs and toasted nuts, and serve with kimchi, pickles, and/or hot sauce on the side.
Spicy vegan bao buns
These pineapple-glazed treats from chef Denai Moore (@dees_table) are reason enough to keep a packet of ready-made bao buns in the freezer … In a saucepan, mix 120ml pineapple juice, half a de-seeded scotch bonnet chilli (or a milder one if you prefer), two tablespoons each of coconut sugar and soy sauce, and two thinly sliced garlic cloves. Bring to the boil, then reduce for six to eight minutes until sticky and glossy. Meanwhile, slice 10 asparagus spears and 10 button mushrooms and fry in olive oil until caramelised and brown (four minutes) and season with a pinch of sea salt. Add the pineapple glaze, then remove from the heat, stirring to coat evenly. Microwave four frozen buns according to packet instructions, then fill with thinly sliced cucumber topped with the mushroom and the asparagus on top. Garnish with fresh herbs to serve.
Asimakis Chaniotis, the Michelin-starred executive chef of Pied à Terre, London, says: grate three large tomatoes into a pan, over a medium heat. Stirring continuously, add in seven whisked eggs to form a thick paste. Season to taste with salt, pepper and oregano and pour into an overproof dish. Top with 200g crumbled feta and bake at 220C, until the cheese begins to caramelise. Serves 2-3.
Chickpeas with feta and red onion
Mix a drained tin of chickpeas in a large bowl with a sliced red onion, 100g of feta cheese, cubed, a handful of cherry tomatoes, some chopped black olives and fresh basil. Drizzle with olive oil and a teaspoon of sherry vinegar, and season to taste. Tom Kitchin serves this with roast hake portions, which you can easily do in the same 10 minutes (season then pan fry, skin side down, for a couple of minutes then place in a 180C oven for four minutes more).
Cheat’s chicken shawarma
After a long day, chefs Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer, of Honey and Co, London, often turn to this dish. Dice an onion and fry in a hot oily pan, add as much garlic and chilli as you want, dice a breast of chicken and toss it in, mixing until almost cooked. Then, they say, hit the spice rack: choose from baharat, Lebanese seven spice, ras el hanout, curry powder or a mix of cumin, paprika and a pinch of cinnamon with lots of black pepper. Serve with sliced tomato, flat breads and yoghurt.
If you have 10 hours …
The night I spent meticulously following Sara Roahen’s recipe (live-chatting colour swatches with her to check my roux was asdone as it should be) is etched in my brain as the foundational culinary experience. I measured, dredged, sweated. There were times when I hallucinated … No wonder Matthew McConaughey pictures his father up in heaven in his pants, Miller Lite in hand, and a big pot of this southern wonder on the go. Read Roahen’s Gumbo Tales to get a taste …
Israeli chef Tomer Amedi, of Palomar in London, singles this dish out as his taste of home. It is slow-cooked on Friday night for the Sabbath. “It sits [on a hot plate] all night long, thick and heavy, and by Saturday morning you are losing your mind because it smells so good, but you can’t have any until it’s time,” he says. Yotam Ottolenghi’s oxtail with everything stew takes its cue as much from chamin (or cholent, as the Ashkenazi Jews call it) as from a good old French cassoulet, and requires an oven simmer of 12 hours.
The Michelin-starred Andrew Wong’s char siu involves a six-hour marinade and lengthy oven roast followed by a six-hour steep in sugar syrup. For his pork shoulder, meanwhile, Ottolenghi makes a marinade with Szechuan pepper with citrus and pomegranate molasses and leaves the joint in the oven all night. Jane Baxter, by contrast, uses fewer aromatics, instead drying the meat overnight to ensure perfect crackling.
If you have spent the past six weeks of lockdown nursing a sourdough mother into bubbling life, take things up a notch and bake a chocolate-studded loaf. Sliced hot and slathered in mascarpone, it is enough to make anyone weep. There are several recipes online – Jennine Walker’s is simple; Shiao-Ping on The Fresh Loaf gives more complete instructions.
The other viral iso-baking trend. Here, it’s not just the lengthy proving that racks up the hours, but the level of detail that goes into decorating them. You want a good basic recipe (Felicity Cloake or Rachel Roddy, say), a wealth of pretty veg and a good eye.
As Lokokitchen’s Lauren Ko put it recently:“Don’t try this at home, kids. Or do because it will occupy you for approximately 469632154239 hours.” Ko has mastered the art of the geometric pie, an edible cross between string art and high-stakes tiling. Other decorative pie accounts to ogle at include Thida Bevington, Julie Jones and Jo Harrington. To start, get a hold of some rhubarb and a protractor, and make Bevington’s pink herringbone number.
A Bake Off showstopper
Baking will take as many hours as you can put in, really, as Kim-Joy’s two-tiered lavender lemon curd fox cake proves. The Spanische windtorte was one of 2015’s technical challenges: it will see you spooning oversized meringues, shaping fondant violets – replete with stamens – and piping Swiss meringue borders on it. So much sugar to get lost in.
The 20-hour apples
In his 1999 reference tome, Desserts, the pastry chef and chocolatier, Pierre Hermé, gives a recipe – for the Melody cake – which is almost 10 pages long. One of the cake’s seven layers is comprised of wafer-thin apple slices slow-cooked in butter and sugar for 10 hours, then rested in the fridge for 10 more.
Even Edd Kimber’s fauxnut is an undertaking. I think if you’re going to give this deep-fried, ganache-filled, laminated butter dough with champagne glaze a go, you really ought to try Dominique Ansel’s original recipe.
This only takes 10 minutes to prepare – but it’s the overnight press in the fridge that makes it sing. You gouge out a boule of bread, then fill it up with layers of deli meat, cheese, salad and pickles. Put the lid, as it were, back on, wrap tight in clingfilm and foil, then weigh down with something mighty heavy. Just the kind of celebratory door-stopper you will need once we’re allowed to spend the day picnicking in the sun.
If you have 10 days …
Cure some egg yolks (they make superbly savoury rice toppings) and make candied fruit. You can glacé wedges of citron, slices of orange, halved and stoned stone fruit, stalk-on cherries, whole clementines or even a pineapple with its crown intact. To be sure, it is the very definition of non-essential cooking. But what with the wildly protracted escapist prep time, the glistening jewel-like hues and the luxe touch even the smallest sliver gives whatever you pop it on, making a batch of fruits confits truly is a kind of holiday. Arrange in old-school muffin cases under cellophane wrappers with little gold ties, and pretend it’s August in Aix-en-Provence.