I have been thinking about ways my blog can be useful during these weeks of lockdown. A few weeks ago, I put together, for my April newsletter, a list of recipes that are easy, tasty and straightforward. If you didn’t get the email, you can now find my recipe ideas in this post.
I have cooked at home a lot more in the past six weeks of lockdown that ever before, as I am sure many of you have too. At first, I was mostly preparing salads, soups, eggs, couscous with veggies, and a lot of pasta. After a few weeks of eating the same dishes, I’ve been getting more creative in the kitchen. I’ve been trying new recipes from favourite food bloggers and writers such as Smitten Kitchen, Rachel Roddy, Jamie Oliver, Emiko Davies, Yotam Ottolenghi. And I’m finally making the most of all my cookbooks that are usually just gathering dust on the shelves!
The dishes listed below are some of my favourites made with pantry items like pasta and rice, grains and pulses, potatoes, and tins. Resourceful recipes with big flavour and short ingredient lists. Nothing too extravagant or time-consuming, but these are simple meals that will keep you and your family well fed for a few hours.
Even if you are not a home-cook, I urge you to spend an hour or two every day making your meals. Cooking gives you something else to focus on; it distracts you from the news and keeps you away from your phone; it keeps you active (trust me, standing at the kitchen counter is a physical activity); finally, creating a dish from scratch gives instant gratification!
Castelluccio lentils with oven-dried tomatoes & gorgonzola
The Castelluccio lentils with oven-dried tomatoes & gorgonzola recipe is one of my favourite savoury recipes by Yotam Ottolenghi. Lentils (as all other pulses) are inexpensive, long-lasting, versatile, and nutritious – in one word, perfect for the lockdown. I have made this dish many times over the past three years since I first found the recipe on Plenty cookbook. It’s perfect for a light, healthy meal with my husband or as a side dish to roasted chicken or grilled fish.
Carrot and Chickpea Soup with Crunchy Masala Chickpeas
Here’s a friendly reminder to make soups. Soups are great! Not only they are full of nourishing vegetables that your body needs, they are cheap and low effort to make, and they can be prepared in batches. This Carrot and Chickpea Soup with Crunchy Masala Chickpeas is a flavourful, hearty, and warming meal that’s made with almost exclusively pantry staples. Top it up with crunchy masala chickpeas: chickpeas from a tin coated with oil and spices and then oven-roasted.
Sweet Potato, Gruyere & Rosemary tart
This Sweet Potato, Gruyere & Rosemary tart has become my go-to recipe for evenings when I just can’t be bothered to cook a full meal: it’s cheap, easy and quick to prep, and tasty. What makes it great is the winning combination of sweet potatoes with the nuttiness of Gruyère and the pungent flavour of rosemary. The recipe itself is a variation of an Italian tart with potatoes and fontina, so you can play around with the ingredients depending on your taste. Serve it with a fresh salad of lettuce, rucola and cherry tomatoes.
Butternut Squash and Coconut Red Lentil Dal
If you have a slow cooker at home, this Butternut Squash and Coconut Red Lentil Dal is a great dish to make with it. It takes just 20 minutes to prep the veggies and 8 hours to cook on low setting. I like to make it on Sunday morning, then I leave the slow cooker on for the day and in the evening I have a tasty meal ready. This recipe will easily feed a family of four (and maybe leave you with some leftover for another day). Serve it with naan bread or basmati rice.
Roasted Cauliflower Salad With Puy Lentils & Halloumi
This Roasted Cauliflower Salad With Puy Lentils & Halloumi is a delicious, balanced and vegetarian dish that is perfect for both summer and winter days! The original recipe is with cauliflower, roasted lemons, pomegranate seeds, crushed peanuts, parsley, mint and a simple tahini dressing. You can make different variations of this lentil salad using whatever vegetables and herbs you have in the fridge. I like to top the dish with grilled halloumi, but if you don’t want to eat dairy you can replace the cheese with pan-fried prawns.
Linguine with Slow Cooked Chicken Sauce
Last but not least, here’s a pasta sauce recipe that you can make with the slow cooker: Linguine with Slow Cooked Chicken. Combine chicken drumsticks and thighs, leave them to cook slowly overnight or throughout the day, with chopped tomatoes (from a tin) and splash of the red wine. The result is a rich and aromatic pasta sauce that my husband and I both love. I always use long pasta (like linguine, tagliatelle or spaghetti) because twirling my fork around in a plate full of linguine gives me joy! But short pasta works well in this dish too: choose rigatoni, conchiglie or penne rigate.