Cooking in Quarantine with @ollyscooking

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Read Time: 4 minutes

As our pubs, restaurants and local takeaways have closed, cooking at home is essential. However, we must move away from notion of ‘cooking for necessity’ and view cooking in quarantine as something to be enjoyed! We have been given the gift of time, so now is the time to be creative (but resourceful) with what you have in the kitchen.

We are now approaching week 4 of lockdown, and as we are being told to leave our houses less and less, many people are asking what they cook with the limited ingredients they have in their cupboards. The answer to this is simple!

It’s not about what you have, it’s how you use it. Don’t meticulously fuss around recipes and feel defeated when the supermarket has nothing you ‘need’. Instead, use recipes to simply inspire you, and create something new with the ingredients you can get hold of! It’s important that we try to make the best of this situation, and being forced to improvise in the kitchen should be seen as advantageous for your culinary skills – it’s what all top chefs are actually trained to do – so think on your feet and enjoy it! 

Don’t worry about the end product so much, it doesn’t matter if you mess up just enjoy the process! As with any skill, practice makes perfect. Remember, it’s only you and your family who are going to be eating what you come up with. 

How I improvise in the kitchen

  • First things first, I look in my cupboard and choose one thing that I know I would like to use. I always plan outwards from this. This will be the foundation of your meal.

  • Secondly, I ask “what do I know pairs well with this ingredient?”. If I have a tin of chickpeas that I know I would like to use, I will look for ingredients that I can use to recreate Middle Eastern flavours, for example. * Look at Samin Nosrat’s diagram ‘the World of Flavour’ and you cannot go wrong!

  • Then, I use what is in my cupboard to try fill in the gaps. For instance, I know I have an old jar of tahini and lemon, so can make a creamy humus. I then look for things to bulk out the meal – I have a bag of flour, so I’’ll play around with making some yummy flat breads! I next look at the vegetables I have in the fridge – I have an aubergine, a red pepper and a courgette. Choose one or two of the vegetables at most, the ones you feel you can play around with the most. 

Time to get really creative

  • Think about how you can make each ingredient as delicious as it can be! Think about different cooking processes; for instance, don’t roast everything, don’t fry everything, keep some things fresh and think about creating different textures! Think about the levels of sweetness, saltiness or smokiness, and think about how to balance all the flavours you have used together. For instance, I have a creamy humus so maybe try to create something crunchy – I love crisping up some chickpeas in the oven with olive oil and salt. I also love roasting pumpkin seeds to add a new crunchy component to each dish!

  • To finish your meal, taste it and ask ‘is everything in balance?’. If the dish is too rich, add a squeeze of lemon; if it is too acidic, add some yoghurt, cream or fresh mint! Really, these little steps at the end go a long way! Asking final questions and readjusting your meal accordingly is the best way to develop your palate.

    *Remember, don’t over complicate things! Take things slowly and start small, and doing this will stop you feeling overwhelmed and keep you in your comfort zone.

  • Another way to think about food creatively is to see ingredients in ways you might not have before. As a task, when next cooking, use what you might normally see as an off cut to make what you have go further!

  • For instance, turn your carrot peels into crispy carrot crisps to top a nice salad dish, roast your broccoli stalks with olive oil and salt to serve next to your chicken, and shred your cauliflower leaves with mayo, mustard and lemon juice into a nice coleslaw to put on your jacket potato! Doing this can help you think outside the box whilst also minimising food waste at a time when we need to be more resourceful!

  • There you have it, a quick and easy method to follow when cooking for you and your family this quarantine. Check out @ollyscooking for more deliciously, homemade recipes.

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