The UK (and indeed most of the world) is currently in Lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. In this country, the current rules are we must stay in our homes except to travel to essential jobs, exercise or get supplies. This has been in place since 23rd March, when Prime minister Boris Johnson ordered a drastic set of measures to restrict movement and reduce the spread of the virus. Fast forward 4 weeks, and little has changed in terms of restrictions, except that the initial deadline for the lockdown has been extended a further 3 weeks.
Lockdown has been a mixed bag. I am one of the lucky ones to still have a job, and one I’ve been able to seamlessly transition to working from home. Spending more time at home has meant spending more time with my new son Brandon, which has been great and something I’m very grateful for. Socially distancing has and will always be a little awkward as it feels like treating people with a wary distrust. But it’s starting to feel a little bit like the new normal. On the plus side, roads are quieter, the air is cleaner, and with Spring and warmer weather upon us there is a sense of optimism in the air, despite the everpresent feeling of sadness for the families of those who have succumed to the disease.
Among the inevitable temporary loss of certain hobbies—Chelsea, 5-a-side, bouldering—I’ve made use of the allowed 1 hour of daily exercise by running, pushing Brandon around Preston Park and cycling. All these activities have taken on a new sense of worth now that they’re the only thing keeping me from becoming a slob!
Cooking has been another thing I’ve started to enjoy even more. There’s a definite challenge with making the most of the ingredients you’ve got; certainly earlier on in the pandemic, amid fears of potential food shortages. Things have settled down now and mostly I’ve been able to get the supplies I need on a roughly weekly basis—albeit with significantly more planning than usual.
NB - I decided mid-way through to make this a 3-part post, as there’s so much food to show, and I didn’t want to skimp on anything. This first post will focus on dinners.
I talked about Gousto in detail back in September last year when I reviewed the food delivery service. Even before the lockdown came into force, there was a bit of a mad panic from everyone about where they were going to get their food from. Supermarket delivery slots were quickly snapped up, and people looked to mealkit companies like Gousto for another source of food.
Gousto were keen to reassure their existing customers that their service wouldn’t be affected, which was great to hear. At the end of March Gousto stopped accepting new customers due to the huge demand. They also quickly put in place measures to temporarily increase capacity and ensure more optimal courier deliveries. I’ve been seriously impressed with the speed of which some companies have mobilised to deal with the increase of demand of their service, all while adhearing to new social distancing restrictions.
We’ve been using Gousto for 3-4 meals a fortnight to supplement food bought from the supermarket. It’s a weight off my mind to be able to browse what is essentially a menu and order my meals for the next week.
Honestly I’ve been blown away by the quality of the recipes Gousto put out, and this has been appreciated all the more during lockdown. And the sheer convenience of having fresh, portioned food delivered to your door has never been better felt.
Where Gousto comes into its own is your binder of recipes from past meals. It’s like your own recipe book, except you’ve already made and eaten all the meals in it, so you know exactly what to expect both in taste and preparation. This has been a really useful tool during the Lockdown, especially in moments where enthusiasm for meal planning and research has dwindled.
Now, more then ever, a meal which can sit in a container in your fridge, ready to be heated up in the microwave feels like a lifesaver. So if you can motivate yourself to do some big cooks, your future self will fully appreciate it.
This one is actually vegan (if you omit the dairy toppings). I also added some sweet potato that needed clearing up, whcih worked really well. Chilli famously heats up really well, so this is a great dish to do a big warming pot of. You can get really creative with toppings to mix it up a bit too.
Falafel is such a brilliantly versatile, healthy and nutritious meal base. Great in a wrap, but equally as tasty with a salad dish or in a buddha bowl. I didn’t make a huge batch of these, but they easily did 2 dinners; and the recipe would be easy to stretch. The flatbreads in this recipe are game changing as well. A half portion easily makes 6 flatbreads—or enough for 3 meals for 2 people. I’ve loved having some dough balls in the fridge, ready to roll (😏) and chuck in a hot pan.
I’ve always loved Shepherd’s Pie, and it veganises amazingly well! This recipe uses lentils; a common substitute for meat. This actually made 6 portions in the end, so leftovers a plenty if you’re a pair. Slather it with simple Bisto gravy (yep, it’s vegan) and loads of green veggies to counteract the (let’s face it) brown.
Everyone seems to be baking bread at the moment. Time + a kitchen = baking! Of course, this helps if you’re able to get hold of flour and yeast; both of which have been at a premium since this started. Really though, what I’m obsessed with at the moment is a side of bread with your meal. It’s hardly revolutionary, but if you char it just right, it delivers the best flavour accompaniment to—dare I say—any meal.
Lastly, I can’t not mention the valiant effort our local Brighton eateries have gone to to working away feeding the 5,000 (and the rest!).
Big shout out to the Roundhill (due to reopen again this weekend — 25th April!), Laz in the Park, and The Flour Pot. Roasts, burgers, lasagne, cake, fresh bread and pastries—talk about keeping up morale!
We’ve also been fortunate to be able to continue to get a lot of our store cupboard dry ingredients from The Store up the road. The Store is now open for business, operating a 2-person limit at any time, and using pre-bagged dry portions. Once again, it’s amazing to see these local businesses adapting and continuing to trade under difficult circumstances.
Enjoyed in our front yard in the evening sun. A delicious, authentic and fresh lasagne from Laz Lasagna. They do deliveries every Saturday evening of lasagne and desert - check out their Instagram for more details!
The Roundhill Burger is a staple of The Roundhill Pub. This one we had delivered the week before lockdown; and from 30th April, it will be available once again as via collection from the pub (along with their buddha bowl and cauliflower wings)!
An absolute winner served in the pub, but just as delicious from a takeaway container (if a little crudely presented). We were lucky enough to get in on the roast action the Sunday before lockdown. The best vegan yorkshires in the world.
We’re also lucky to have 1 of the 5 Flourpot bakery stores just up the road from us. They’ve seamlessly transitioned into a collection and home delivery service for all their products, which is fantastic and a tremendous effort in these hard times. We’ve ordered their sourdough, vegan pastries, hot-cross buns and freshly ground coffee from them.
It’s a weird, scary time at the moment, particularly if you’ve been personally affected by the virus and the resultant effects on society. If you can, make the most of the increased time at home to get creative. Whether that be in cooking, crafts, music, fitness or whatever you’re into. Keeping yourself busy with something constructive, staying safe and doing your bit to help those less fortunate is how we’re going to stay sane and healthy in this crisis.