At last, a major slackening of Lock Down begins tomorrow. We are allowed to drink and eat inside pubs and restaurants. I’m not going anywhere thanks to The Fall. Instead I’m cooking up a storm; Slipper Moussaka with Creamed Feta, Chicken Escalopes with Guacomole, Roast Cod with Prosciutto and more.
My grandsons arrive at 11.15 prompt ready to help cook lunch for their parents. I’ve made a vat of their favourite sausage pasta sauce and plan to let them help me turn it into Sausage Lasagne. They take it in turns to help layer the pasta sheets with the sauce and I make plenty of béchamel to go between the layers and cover the top. I’d got ahead with that too, seasoning milk and having it at the ready in the fridge. There is Parmesan to grate and then Caspar, the eldest, who loves mango, sets to on a mango fruit salad with strawberries and orange, lime and orange juice. He learns how to peel an orange with a knife then squeeze out the juice from skin and core. The main excitement is Minted Leek and Feta Pasties. These are little 3-bite size puff pastries, the stuffing today is leeks which I’ve cooked to a molten mess, mixed with fresh mint from the garden and a crumble of feta. The idea is to hold the circle of pastry cupped in the hand, fill it, paint the inside edge with water then crimp together. They’re lined up on a roasting tray, then I quickly paint them with beaten egg (another helpful job) and pierce with a fork to make steam holes. I’ve also made Tomato and Capsicum Ketchup – halved tomatoes and Romano peppers roasted, liquidized, sieved and simmered to achieve the right consistency. These are very good with the pasties.
The rest of the Young Family arrive from the brand new Chiswick Cheese Market (third Sunday every month close to Chiswick Police Station, opposite M&S on the High Road) laden with cheese. Zach makes a cheese board and every cheese is a winner. Supper is baked beans on toast with harissa stirred into the beans. I would have preferred to add a lump of porky nduja but spicy harissa gives a similar chilli hit, delicious with soft-poached eggs.
I am supposed to be down in Margate on post Lock Down Restaurant Monday, lunching at Buoy and Oyster with my Blonde pals but I’m confined to barracks thanks to my back disaster. I find lamb or is it pork ragu in the freezer and make Slipper Moussaka with Creamed Feta. This is a lazy faux moussaka that begins by roasting halved, lattice-cut aubergine until soft, then piling ragu over the top, the whole covered with a thick béchamel laced with feta cheese and an egg yolk to keep it buoyant. It’s quite special and a bit different. The girls send me photos of them in bright, sunny Margate. Vow to plan a trip asap and lunch at Buoy and Oyster or Angela’s, the two seafood places I’ve heard are particularly good. My fridge vegetable drawer is overloaded with cabbage, so make Cabbage and Bacon Soup, enough for lunches for The B and me for the rest of the week.
Book a phone call with my Dr. I know there is nothing I can do except rest, keep mobile and quaff painkillers until my back sorts itself out but I want reassurance. My doc is brilliant and weirdly, the minute I hang up, I feel my spirits rise despite the fact that he tells me it could take 6-8 weeks for my back to repair itself. I’m still a bit lacklustre on the cooking front and cooking from freezer and diminishing supplies. Today I defrost 4 chicken thigh fillets and beat them thin between sheets of greaseproof paper to make Chicken Escalopes with Guacomole. I do love making guacamole, it’s such a pleasing thing to make (so long as you have a small, sharp knife) and so much better than anything ready made. Once again, I also find myself tumbling a box of M&S frozen frites onto an oven tray; there is something so good about hot and cold, creamy and chewy food and this plate has it all.
The Ocado delivery yields two particularly fine looking cod loin fillets. I’d ordered them for a fish pie but they looked so handsome, I decided to wrap them in prosciutto to roast with roast tomato halves and the last of the Tomato and Capsicum Ketchup I’d made to go with the pasties and lasagne we had for lunch on Sunday. Roast Loin of Cod with Prosciutto doesn’t really need a recipe, it’s so simple and so effective. I served it with peas and Cornish earlies (www.thecornishfoodboxcompany.co.uk) and Tomato and Capsicum Ketchup.
Back really so much better, so happily cooking again instead of cooking without pleasure. Make Pork with Sauerkraut and Caraway, an old favourite stew made with belly pork and sauerkraut from a jar. It smells wonderful as it cooks and is a simplified version of Bigos, a traditional Polish hunter’s stew. We had it with little jacket potatoes but any style of potato goes with it as does noodles.
Trying desperately to get a table at my local Vinoteca but they’re fully booked and we are on a waiting list. By 7.30 I’d given up, so decided to make a pie with the remains of yesterday’s faux bigos. I tend to keep a couple of ready rolled puff pastry sheets in the freezer. It defrosts quickly and makes instant pies, pasties and tarts. Crusty and golden, we have it with Cornish earlies and peas, a perfect supper as we watch the Martin Bashir saga unfolding.
Spent a day on Desk Tidy duty in preparation for a zoom British Library chat about home cooking with Georgina Hayden and Angela Clutton in the chair, as part of the excellent and exhaustive @britishlibrary Food Season. How the time flew by with lots of advice, tips, stories and recipe ideas. One caller suggestdc starting a home cook hub with branches all over the country where people can swap ideas and tips and much more beside. A new kind of Women’s Institute is a good way of describing it. Georgina said she’d tell Jamie Oliver about the idea – she has the big man’s ear, as she worked for him for 12 years. Just as the event finished and I switched off, son Henry showed up and we had a beer together in the garden rather than inside, so he could have a fag. Back in the foggy smoke of time, when I twigged my teenage boys had started to smoke, I decided to allow it at home but only in the garden. Henry is still at it and automatically heads outside when he wants a smoke. Later, my chap The B ordered a Chinese takeaway. It arrived very late, too late for us and was awful, so I won’t bother to go through the dishes or flag up where it came from. Actually, I will say that it was previously highly recommended Shikumen, the restaurant at the Dorsett Hotel Shepherd’s Bush. The only good dish, was a quarter of duck with pancakes and generous pot of plum sauce with plenty of spring onion and cucumber.