Coping with/ Cooking in confinement

                      By any stretch of the imagination.....a Quattro stagioni omelette? 

Dear Diary: I was reading that according to the Office of National Statistics, 45% of people in Britain said they used baking as a coping mechanism during the first lockdown. It figures. You couldn’t open Instagram without seeing someone's sourdough starter or perfected banana bread recipe. And if you’ve found that cooking (and, more importantly, eating) delicious food has helped you cope with the pandemic, then there could be some science behind it. Studies have found that doing something creative each day can go a long way towards happiness and satisfaction.

It has been a very weird time to be a food blogger. What content can I make that actually makes a difference to people, and honestly? It feels so good to have been creating content of any sort that hopefully people find genuinely useful and can make just a little bit of a difference.But the thing that is so difficult is what slant should that content take? That is always the question I ask myself. I sit in front of a jumble of images on a computer screen, blind to what people want to read. As a food blogger I rarely get responses more than the occasional Yum!! or  like on facebook.The Scottish reader in Notting Hill Gate who sometimes leaves a comment when it is a recipe that includes pork. The larger than life lady from the privileged classes in Horsham ( now of Mozambique ) who smarts at any criticism I might make of the government she supports. The email late at night from a Portuguese reader in Lisbon who questions whether the size of cake tin I specify is correct. Mostly comments are positive and reassuring but there is always the virulent Guardian reader who spoils it all with a "you call that overcooked brick-like thing a tortilla? ni de coña! cheers" I actually feel a sense of achievement when I have a nice golden brown char on my tortilla when I serve it, cheers to you too. Apart from this banter there is not a lot of real engagement.Anyway, thanks for all of the reading over the years, I feel very inspired at the moment to create "whatever" sort of stuff you would like. So here’s to the next few years ( I hope ) of us sharing a few more (easy) yums! Hurrah! Back to the point. A year of mental and economic stress has made coping and mindfulness even more of a persistent message.At times, our homes may have felt like prisons. Its like we´re in the cockpit encountering  turbulence, riding a storm of emotions we’re not used to confronting during these unprecedented times. Most notably loneliness, depression, hostility, futility, and helplessness come to the fore. 

"even the word pie is comforting"
I keep a diary and I wrote down a few things that helped me get through the last lockdown, which I’m now applying to the current one. I’ve been reading about how people around the world have survived difficult lockdowns and how it was for them and this has been really useful for me.
Has time lost all meaning for you? lockdown has given us cultural permission to break with convention, the shock of Covid-19 lockdowns and the regime of staying/working from home has caused our sense of time to collapse. These days, it is hard enough to remember what day of the week it is, let alone what month? One day melds into the next. Before this virus, we had reassuring rhythms such as public holidays, school terms, college semesters and the daily commute. A season is presumed to start on a fixed date ( June 1, say, for summer ) for me it has become defined by heat.If it is 36º it must be a Wednesday in July?
Seasonal produce as well gives me distinctions between one month and the next. I see strawberries in the market and realise its almost February, even these b......s  can deceive you if clement weather ripens them early or rain destroys crops.The difference between“going out” and “staying in” has taken on a whole new meaning. Staying in can become the new going out if you play your cards that way, and this is where cooking can throw one a lifeline. Cooking for me has been a salve, a way through darkness and anxiety and a way of keeping sanguine. 2020 was for me a year for trying out new recipes, for others it was a year of eating toast alone. Julia Child once said  

"I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes
I even put it in the food"
1978 publicity portrait of Julia Child in her kitchen

this seems quite pertinent in the present situation.I took her advice only today and added a glug of port wine to my soup!! Not to mention how many in front of the television later.
2020 was not, on the whole, a year for feeding friends and trying out new recipes on a grateful crowd. What I really yearned for was to go to expensive restaurants and be indulgent, or go to other peoples houses for dinner. It soon became clear that was not going to happen.
So I thought I’d share some things that I do, that kept me sane, while I adjust to the new reality/ what reality /no reality yet again.In the last lockdown many of us were brought together by sharing recipes such
as spicy butternut squash pasta and peanut butter bread.There’s something moving in these sparks of digital community.
Recipe commenting involves a group of people, most of whom have followed the same set of instructions and then returned to report on their results, to ask questions and to opine on the experience. Recipe comment sections confer a built-in common interest, at the very least, in pursuing the same cooking project.Sometimes reassuring,sometimes not,sometimes even disheartening,depending on the comment.
I came down the other morning to find my phone flashing up a recipe for Fried Za´atar eggs with lemony yoghurt, Not my cup of breakfast tea really!! Generally I find solace in these small sentiments and enjoy following online threads of newspaper articles. Online trivia can be fun,taking part in silly polls and quizzes like  "Hot Guys Vs. Appetizers" Would you rather "Role play with Regé-Jean Page in the bedroom?" or "Enjoy free salsa delivered to your house for a month?"
Would you rather "Gaze into Timothée Chalamet's sweet eyes?" or "Wake up to a mountain of deviled eggs by your pillow?"
In both cases surprisingly the appetizer got the higher percentage!! A night in the arms of one of the Jonas brothers however took the vantage point over a trip to Italy for a charcuterie board of fresh bruschetta and paired wines. You gotta larf ?
One online find that has kept a smile on my face and now downloaded I turn to it over and over again 

Jerusalema Dance Challenge: Dominican nuns, Trujillo-Spain.
Everything from taking a walk to going to the supermarket can be tense and fraught, so think of something to amuse yourself while standing in a queue. The other day I was applauded by my fellow neighbours as I took the chance to get one´s steps up while waiting my turn at the post office. Unknowingly I had been the  source of amusement for the rest of the queue and achieved more benefit than had I been on a treadmill for that 20 minutes waiting time.The situation is evolving and my hunch is there will be more stringent measures put into place, a feeling shared by everyone I’ve spoken to here.
Unlike last spring, I now have enough cooking chocolate, flour, and sugar, to last for a couple of months. (If hunch has it, this lockdown is likely to continue through the spring.) For the record, I’m not a hoarder. Because of what I do, I always have a few month’s worth of baking ingredients on hand because, well…you never know, do you? Last time I was caught with my cocoa powders down, Quelle catastrophe in my line of work.
Many people are dealing with with that tiresome phrase "pandemic fatigue". Wearing a mask, being afraid to touch everyday objects, unable to eat in restaurants or have a drink at a bar, not being able to travel, nor being able to see friends and family, has been taking its toll on everyone. Earlier last week, I fell into one of those little depressions, those grey pockets.I got my casserole out and cooked up a storm of a pork casserole,That cheered me up no end and distracted me from missing the brightness and aroma of last season´s soft fruit.Recently I googled "What to cook if you are bored of cooking"
 and stumbled on something I would never have dreamed of in a million years a Quattro staggioni omelette (above) a signature dish from the great Tom Kerridge, who would have thought of that eh? Even better its ingredients consist of mainly stock items so no trip to the shops needed,except perhaps the mushrooms.
If you like me have mountains of cookbooks that you have bought over many years that you barely look at now. They just sit on shelves judging you and reminding you of your tendency to waste money.
Well, with little else to distract you in the days ahead, why not open some of those cookbooks up and see if they contain anything that tickles your fancy?  If you are feeling really stumped, another option when it comes to cooking is to use the great sage that is the internet to match the ingredients you have in your house after that joyless, panic-fuelled sweep of the supermarket last week with recipes that might use them. There are loads of sites that provide such a service but one of the best is It is ridiculously simple to use. Add whatever ingredients you have to hand or would like to cook with  and it will instantly give you some excellent ideas. Feed the site parmesan, onions, milk, garlic, potatoes and whatever and see what it comes up with.  Have I done it yet? Have I heck,

No, but I will.
Every morning, make a list daily of what you want to accomplish that day.It helps create some sort of discipline otherwise you spend the day "lounging in your caftan planning a brunch."
Organize something…and use everything.So in the name of anti-gaspillage (being
against food waste) and fun, dig through your cabinets and refrigerator and see what you can come up with to use all those odds and ends.“Now’s the time!” to go through your refrigerator and freezer,scour your larder/pantry/cupboards/cabinets and gather together all those bits and pieces, cans, cartons, jars, bottles of everything thats been sitting around waiting for the right time...NOW.
Give yourself a break. Dont be hard on yourself.We are told to “be strong,” which is indeed a worthy goal. But it’s hard when there’s a global pandemic, global leaders are saying "no matter what" and blurring the lines between truth and reality, and neighbourhoods and businesses are in upheaval, adding to global feelings of frustration
while the virus has turned our lives upside down.
I´m off for a walk to experience nature and see the good things around me, catch you later..... 
Quattro stagioni omelette  

Serves 2-4

250ml passata
2tbsp tomato purée
4 garlic cloves, grated
6 large free-range eggs
1tbsp dried herbes de Provence 
Extra-virgin olive oil, to trickle
25g butter
A large handful of black olives (about 100g), pitted
4 slices of Parma ham
8 baby artichokes preserved in oil, halved lengthways
4 piquillo peppers preserved in oil, halved lengthways twice
200g button mushrooms, quartered
2 balls of mozzarella (about 125g each), drained
2 tbsp oregano, basil
or rocket leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the tomato sauce, warm the passata, tomato purée and garlic in a saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer to reduce until the sauce is thick; this will take about eight to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, season to taste and leave to cool. 

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6. In a bowl, whisk the eggs together with the dried herbs and some salt and pepper. 

Heat a little oil in a 24cm non-stick, ovenproof frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the butter and, when it has melted and stopped foaming, pour in the egg. Stir until it is almost fully cooked, removing the pan from the heat when the omelette is still a little runny and wobbly in the middle. 

Gently spread the tomato sauce all over the omelette. Arrange the olives over one quarter, the ham in another quarter, then place the artichokes in the third quarter. Fill the last quarter of the ‘pizza’ with the mushrooms. Trickle over some olive oil. 

Roughly tear the mozzarella and scatter over the top. Place the pan in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the egg is fully set. Remove from the oven and scatter over the oregano or basil leaves. Grind over some pepper and serve immediately. 
VERDICT: Very clever indeed and a refreshing change from a bready pizza dough.It doesn´t have to be Quattro stagioni either ,once you´ve got the gist of the omelette base the worlds your topping,pepperoni ,margherita, ,romana ,veneziana,,giardiniera, oh dough nut.


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