Nigel Slater’s simple store-cupboard recipes for lockdown
It is taking forever to do the food shopping. At first, finding a time when the queues will be at their shortest; joining the queue, suitably distancing myself from the next shopper, then, when finally inside the shop, trying to avoid getting close to others mulling over which piece of Parmesan to buy. And then, I start all over again at the next shop.
To reduce my trips to the absolute minimum (I’ve been taking lockdown very seriously) I have been raiding my own store-cupboard at home and hunkering down on the carbs I have in store. I have probably eaten more beans, pasta and rice during lockdown than I did in the whole of last year. But that has been a good thing, reminding myself of dishes I may not have cooked in a while; stuff that might initially feel a little unseasonal, yet is strangely just what I need in times such as these. Much-loved recipes, cheap ingredients and food that offers a sense of comfort and familiarity.
I have dug out a number of archive recipes that have fitted in quite neatly with this new way of life. All rely very much on what is in the cupboard, with a few bits and bobs from the shops: a butternut squash cooked on the hob with butter beans and thyme; some crisp cakes of chickpeas and spinach (the greens came in my veg box but I could have used frozen); onions with miso butter that we ate with rice and a cheddar and potato mash that we’ve tucked into with sausages, and on another occasion, with asparagus.
I can’t find plain flour for love nor money, so I have been baking apples with marmalade and the dregs of the sherry bottle instead, and yesterday made a version where I mashed the apples after cooking and stirred them into whipped cream to make a version of fruit fool. I may be in lockdown, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to do without pudding.
Butterbeans, pumpkin and thyme (pictured above)
Any gold-fleshed squash is suitable for cooking in stock. It is a good idea to brown the pieces first, so the caramelised notes lend a sweet depth to the broth. I use butter beans for their beefy texture, but haricot beans or cannellini are suitable here, too.
Sausage and cheddar mash
Potatoes, especially the large baking variety, have been a godsend during lockdown. I have been making mountains of mash, very often with cooked greens or chopped, crisply fried bacon folded in. A great favourite has been this one, with crumbled cheese and roast shallots.
Chickpea and spinach cakes
Once the cakes have rested and firmed in the fridge, they should be lifted carefully into the sizzling oil using a palette knife, then left to form a thin, golden crust on the bottom before you attempt to turn them. Fiddling with them as they cook, although tempting, will result in them breaking up in the pan.
Onions with miso and rice
Roast onions, bronzed by the oven, are one of those side dishes I have elevated to that of a main course, either by stuffing them with goat’s cheese and thyme or by serving them with a sauce, rice and a crisp accompaniment. The sweetness of their outer layers is a contrast to the deep, savoury quality of miso, and with a bed of brown rice this becomes a most satisfying dinner.
Baked apples with sherry and marmalade
There is something pleasing about basting food as it cooks, about spooning the cooking juices over it as your supper bakes. I do this two or three times during the 45 minutes or so it take the apples to bake. The sauce will thicken to a jammy consistency on the hob later.