Often the food we see presented by food writers, that appears online and in print, doesn’t reflect what we actually can and do eat. Think of all the food you’ve eaten with relish in your life: greedily, hungrily, drunk or stone cold sober. How many of those meals were picture perfect, perfectly presented according to a recipe? Some, I’d wager. But not most.
No food writer can predict what you want to eat for dinner, especially when your options are limited. What we turn to in times of stress or sickness can unite us – shared memories of century egg and pork congee or beans on toast with grated cheddar – but it’s also highly individual.
We can’t always control what we imprint on or feel a connection to. For me, it’s Baxter’s Scotch Broth, with M&S mini submarine rolls spread with Lurpack. My Nana would make that for me when I was repeatedly sick with tonsillitis as a kid, and I still crave it whenever I’m feeling sorry for myself.
Everyone has their own go-to meals too, made up of what tends to lurk in their cupboard, or at the back of their fridge. I almost inevitably end up eating a bowl of rice, with homemade kimchi and a fried egg when I can’t be bothered to go shopping. For you, it will be something different.
In isolation in major cities like Leeds, we are quite lucky that we probably won’t have to rely on pantry meals. Most of us can order a food delivery online or sweet-talk a friend into picking up some broccoli. Our pantries vary so much, even when the title of a food blog promises STORE CUPBOARD INGREDIENTS ONLY – UNDER FIVE INGREDIENTS, we’ll inevitably be missing something. The weight of what we eat next isn’t a struggle because of what’s going on in our cupboards, but because of what’s going on in our heads. And I can’t predict what will best help you with that.
What I can do, though, for anyone self-isolating out there, is offer some soups for when it’s cold and raining and you’ve spent the whole day sleeping and studying in the same place. I’ll give you an easy bread recipe that will impress all your friends and give you toast that actually tastes of something. And I’ll give you a fool proof recipe for chicken that isn’t dry.
These recipes aren’t going to make isolation easy, but hopefully they’ll make it just a little bit more enjoyable.
- Sandwich bread
I know that sourdough is all the rage at the moment, but the truth is as someone who has been unhealthily obsessed with bread for several years, good sandwich bread is what I love to make the most. It’s so much better than anything you can buy, genuinely fun to make and simple! Lockdown day 11 project? Sorted.
This recipe is perfect for students as it doesn’t require any fancy equipment: https://bellyfull.net/homemade-sandwich-bread/
Much like many of my favourite recipes, this is somehow so much more than the sum of its parts. The pasta thickens the water slightly, in way that isn’t entirely dissimilar to spaghetti hoops (apologies to any Italians reading). Deb Perelman’s recipe here has you top the whole thing off with a little bit of garlicky oil; while that may sound fancy, it’s no harder than cooking an onion and really makes you feel like you’re on Masterchef. Give it a go – you probably already have all the ingredients in.
Oops, I snuck a salad recipe in… I know, I know it’s cold and you’re in need of something cozy but this is such a great basic salad recipe I couldn’t resist. Honestly, I don’t know how many times this salad has brightened up a slightly sad meal. If you’re making a frozen pizza or cooking some breaded chicken in the oven, this is just the thing to have on the side. It adds some acidity, brightness and vitamin C with barely any effort.
This is one of my favourite things to make hands down. You can top it with an egg and vegetables, or just have it as it is. It’s so much cheaper, and healthier, than instant noodles and basically no more effort. If you’re vegetarian, just use vegetable broth instead of chicken and swap out the lard for season oil. I often prefer it that way.
These really are just the easiest granola bars. I’ve been making variations on them for years, and they are such an easy snack. I often switch out the dates and almonds for prunes and walnuts, because I’m retro like that.
This is actually a Chef John recipe, and it’s a great way to cook really delicious chicken. I like to make a little batch, and then work through it over several lunchtimes. Don’t worry too much if you don’t have the exact ingredients – maple syrup can be swapped out for honey, the “Asian chile pepper sauce” means pretty much anything with a kick you have hanging around, and the rice vinegar can be swapped out for any neutral vinegar (white wine vinegar, apple cider etc.). It’s a very forgiving recipe.
Header image credit: Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less