Cooking During Corona

The ASDA is stripped; the Co-Op is empty; and everything in Londis is suddenly ten quid. Yikes. What do you do? And when you can get something off the shop shelves, what do you get? I am aware that this advice may be bittersweet or completely EFFIN useless when there is literally nothing on the shelves. I will try to do a mix of “When You Manage To Get To A Shop That Is Stocked”, “When There Is Not Much Option In Shops”, and “What You May Find in the Back of Your Cupboard”.

Here are some quick tips on trying to stay well-fed during this pandemic. Apologies for dietary restrictions that some of this advice may not adhere to; I am also something of a fussy eater so this is limited; and this is not meant to act as a be all end all, this is just if you need a touch of inspiration because every time you look at your cupboards you get an existential crisis.

  • Spreads: Jams, Nutella, peanut butter. They work with all forms of bread. I personally eat these as a meal during an existential crisis, there’s nothing like some chocolate spread on a bagel to make you forget the horrors people are facing and your inability to do anything about it!
  • Oatmeal and porridges: again, versatile, add as much as you want for more of a meal, they last a while, and can have syrups and fruits included to make it a bit more interesting.
  • Potatoes: one medium potato is enough for one person per meal. They can be chopped up into chips (boil them first for 10-20 minutes, cover a baking tray in tinfoil, oil them up, pinch of salt, pepper, or whatever other spices you have, done after about 15 minutes); they can similarly be scalloped (slice them into disc shapes, add a little oil to a plate, microwave for five minutes, shifting them about occasionally, spice however you like at the halfway point- I suggest garlic granules if you have some, then blast them in the oven for about ten minutes); you can bake them (this allows for a fuller meal, with toppings like beans, cheese, or whatever you can find in the cupboard), roast (my personal favourite, again I recommend boiling potatoes before they get put in the oven just so they’re softer), or mash them (bit of butter, splash of milk, you’re sorted!). If you’re chop them and they’re not too soft, I recommend rinsing them in cold water to stop sticking. For fluffier roasties, toss them about in a colander as you rinse them. Potatoes are extremely filling, they suit most dietary requirements, and they’re so delicious. I’m not just saying this because I’m Irish.
  • Curry Mixes: these are easy recipes that you can adjust to your supplies. They don’t need meat; they don’t need veg, although if you have both this does enhance them. You can get them in pots, jars, sachets, and you can stretch them to about four meals. They save well from my experiences. I usually go for a Thai Green Curry; however, this does require coconut milk/cream which may be low in supply. They come in a range of spice levels. These can work well with meat substitutes as well, and if you can find poppadum, naan bread, or pitta (lets be real, any bread, who’s judging our choices in the time of corona) it bulks out your meal.
  • Pasta Sauces: I suggest pesto purely for its versatility. It goes in sandwiches (especially a good toasty), it can be mixed with pasta and literally whatever else you have in the cupboard (I’m partial to a bit of sweetcorn, some halloumi, and chicken when I can get my hands on it), it works really well with meat substitutes, and there’s a variety of pesto types. Tomato passata is also good and can be used to bulk out curries as well.
  • Cheese: it is filling, there are many types, and it is versatile. I recommend mozzarella; it can be eaten cold in a bruschetta style, it can be added to sandwiches, it can be melted with pastas, and it also goes very well in a toastie. Halloumi, if it is available, is also a nice alternative, and when fried (don’t add any oil, just straight in the pan) it can be a meal onto itself. If you can get sweet chilli sauce, it’s a winning combo. Cheddar is always a favourite, again with different intensities. All these can be added to pasta dishes.
  • Noodles: these are always the last to go among the carbs. They can be stir fries, chow meins, plenty of dishes that work with rice will also work with noodles. I find they are more temperamental, but a tip is once boiled, add them into whatever fried dish you’re accompanying them with. They benefit from the flavour, otherwise they can be bland, and the frying makes them firmer.
  • Soup sachets: salty as they are, one box is cheap and does about ten servings of soup. If you can get some bread, add in any veg or meat that you may have, it makes for a fuller meal.
  • Meat substitutes: as many of our veggie and vegan friends have shown us on socials, meat substitutes are the last to go. While we don’t want to bogart all their options, it would be a good time to try and take the step towards a meat-free diet and try out some recipes. It is expensive, especially for the nice stuff, but there is a variety of options and usually they are an exact substitute, going into the recipes just as meat would. My personal favourite is the Quorn chicken burgers.
  • Baking kits: stay with me here. Most baking kits require just an addition of water, sometimes eggs or milk, but many just need water. The baking section is probably the last place people will go to, and hey who’s going to judge you for having a batch of brownies as a meal? There are also simpler recipes, like flapjacks, that can be made healthy by the addition of fruits, or maybe tastier by adding syrup, various extracts, and chocolate. Even if you have oats at home, you could make them for yourself quite easily.
  • Tortilla Chips: are halfway to Nachos. Cheese, mince, jalapenos, whatever veg you may find? Even if you just have something to dip them in, be it hummus, guac, or whatever you can find, no one is really going to judge you at this stage.
  • Loaded Fries: Need to make a portion of fries a whole meal? Tomato passata, a bit of cheese, then any other topping makes pizza fries. A bit of mince, cheese, passata makes nacho fries (this works well if you cooked them in the scalloped way I mentioned above). Pesto can be added; cheese; sliced meats; meat substitutes; beans; literally anything in your cupboard.
  • Stews: If you can get the ingredients, these are very simple recipes that I recommend you find from the experts online. BBC Recipes is the best for offering easy to follow instructions and basic meal-types. Beef stews are is the easiest example, they are filling and rich in taste, and can be done with minimal other ingredients.
  • Frozen Fruit and Veg: if you can, get these. Raspberries, blueberries, summer fruits; peas, broccoli, and sweetcorn. They last longer and it means you know you have that healthy fall-back. I say this, however I am a Green Giant patriot through and through and stockpiled the tins before corona virus was even a thing, so pardon the note of hypocrisy here.
  • Other parts of the animal: if you’re accustomed to cooking with breasts and fillets, have no fear in branching out to other parts of animals. Chicken thighs are the obvious example, but different cuts of beef, different animals even if you aren’t used to the likes of pork or duck. Most meals that require chicken can be replaced with turkey, other birds, and if it says fillets you can also use thighs.

These are simply the things I grab for (I managed to get a few frozen pizzas, too, but I know this was a luxury on my part). This is a tricky time and the last thing anyone wants to worry about is an empty stomach. If you have any easy recipe ideas, why not comment for others to see.

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