Cooking a la Coronavirus – Part 2

by Jan

VegetablesWhen I go shopping I take a mental note of what is left in the fridge, and buy meat and/or veg which can match up with it, so that I don’t waste it. Then I can work out an idea or recipe. For example, if you already have some potatoes and carrots, you could buy some other vegetables, and bake them in the oven with some herbs, or spices. Zaatar is a very nice Middle Eastern spice mix. Don’t crowd the roasting dish because they won’t roast and go brown; they will merely steam. If there are leftovers, the next day you can have them as a salad with some rocket and your homemade French dressing.

Otherwise, you can search online where there are thousands of websites full of recipes using the items you have a lot of, for example, tinned tomatoes, and tomato pulp. You will find lots of recipes using tomatoes from various cuisines: Italian, Mexican, Spanish, Indian, Middle Eastern, and many more.

Similarly, there are lots of recipe ideas online for using: chick peas, beans, lentils. With these pulses it’s better to actually start from the dry product. You just soak them over night refrigerated in a lidded container. Then drain and simmer them in clean water until they are soft enough to be included in the dish you’re planning to make. If there is too much, just freeze them in a lidded tub.

Also, there are loads of recipes using:  pasta, rice, haloumi, vegetables.

As the body needs protein, it’s a good idea to use: eggs, mince and other cuts of meat, and fish. But don’t forget soy beans, which incidentally have lots of protein, and you can do anything with them.

A good idea is to buy some ‘unloved’ fish. The Australian Marine Conservation Society has a Good Fish Project which has enlisted leading Australian chefs who have given up on unsustainable seafood.

You must read the recipe before you start cooking. If there is a term you don’t understand search for it online. Follow the recipe exactly, and you’re less likely to end up in a shambles. Be careful with seasoning eg. when you add chilli, start with a smaller amount than the recipe says, mix it in then taste it, as it might be just enough. Remember, you can put it in, but you can’t take it out J

Once you’ve cooked the dish several times and you’re feeling confident, then you can try different herbs, spices and flavourings.

Cake cooking is a different matter; you must always stick to the recipe because the ratio of ingredients is extremely important. Otherwise it won’t work.

One-pot meals are relatively easy, and especially good in winter. Luckily, there is no shortage of online recipes for: stews, braises, curries, and mince dishes such as spag bol.

With winter approaching, soups are easy and healthy. What I do with soups is simmer, for example, a few lambs’ shanks with barley, or a bacon hock with split peas. When cooked, shred the meat and put it back in the pot. Scoop into tubs and freeze. When you defrost it, dice and simmer a mixture of fresh vegetables, then add some of the soupy meat mixture and reheat. Season to taste.

One of the easiest meals you can cook is roast chicken with vegetables. Again, there are plenty of recipes online. Make sure the chicken is well cooked, because if it is underdone, it’s not good for your health. If there are leftovers, you can use them for salads and sandwiches. Throw the carcass into a pot and make some stock, which you can freeze, then use to make soups or to simmer some meat and vegetables.

Snacking is a very easy way to eat, but your body would like it better if they are healthy snacks. Just toast you favourite bread or some flatbread or roti. Spread on something delicious, such as: pâté, cheese, hummus, baba ghanoush, taramasalata etc. And on the side of the plate a pile of salad. Quick, delicious and healthy.

Just a tip: one of the most important things you do when cooking is to sharpen your knives fairly often. A blunt knife is more dangerous than a sharp one, because you apply more pressure when using a blunt knife. The test of a sharp knife is if it can cut a tomato without pressure.

Apart from the day to day necessity of cooking meals, your time in the kitchen could be used to explore new ideas, such as using indigenous foods:

Or you may like to consider other aspects of food and cooking.

Breadmaking is very satisfying. I know this because I used to work in a bakery. If you do it at home, it’s like therapy without the problem, and there are all sorts of different breads. Here are a couple of tasters:

While I’m cooking I usually have an interesting radio program going, or a podcast of a missed program.

Apart from the day to day physical acts of cooking, there is an opportunity to consider changes for a better food world:  I recently read an article about the Great Food Transformation set out by EAT-Lancet. This group want a global shift towards healthy dietary patterns, large reductions in food loss and waste, and major improvements in food production practices.

Linked with this, there has been a recent rush for vegetable seedlings at nurseries. A bit like the run on toilet paper, but a lot more rational. So if you are lucky enough to have a patch of dirt out the back, you could do a lot worse than planting something in it. If you need any how-to information, Gardening Australia website is the best source.

Apart from recipe books, there are loads of books about issues concerning food, and the production and consumption of it. Here are a few recommendations:

In Defense of Food – Michael Pollan

The Way We Eat Now – Bee Wilson

The Getting of Garlic – John Newton

Fair Food – Nick Rose

The Ten (Food) Commandments – Jay Rayner

These are a lot more interesting than Instagram J