Welcome to the Lockdown: The Game of Survival. The game that no-one asked for and is more similar to the Sims than Resident Evil. Whilst the initial lack of supplies (most notably toilet roll) seemed to suggest we were entering The Apocalypse, it has since become clear that this is actually a Domestic Housewives version of Contagion. We have plentiful supplies, although not enough Ocado slots, our neighbours have irritatingly decided to start talking to us for the first time and we’ve all (perhaps somewhat inevitably) turned to alcohol as the best method of coping with the feeling of claustrophobia.
We’ve found that contrary to expectations our social lives have exploded, albeit virtually. Thanks to the likes of zoom, houseparty and skype, friends who we haven’t seen in months are keen to ‘go’ for a virtual drink. In fact, there are many unseen benefits of this lockdown. The possibility of FOMO is reduced to nothing and there are no travel restrictions to attending 3 different parties in one evening. Dating has become easier; a virtual dud date can be disposed of by the click of a mouse rather than an insincere excuse or mumbled promise of date number two. Although as all singles will empathise, it hasn’t made it easier to find a lasting connection, turns out a picture doesn’t tell a thousand words. But that’s another blog post on the perils of modern dating and the internet. And of course, you save an absolute fortune on meals out, expensive drinks and travel, not to mention clothes as most of us won’t be wearing much other than workout clothes/ pyjamas for the next few months.
Whist all that extra time you save on travelling during the week could be spent on exercise, all that time you save not socialising at the weekend can be spent can be focused on eating and drinking things you actually want, rather than where your friends are or what’s on the menu. Drinking at home no longer becomes frowned on, but a celebration you can look forward to. That evening meal that was a pain to cook when you got home from a long day is a welcome break and meals become less grab and go and more prep and slow. We may not need to move to wartime rationing, but we are finally more than aware what is in our cupboards and prepared to use it up. When a PRET lunch is no longer an option, you might finally use up those sardines you once brought ‘just in case’. Or who knows, you might discover what on earth that chutney you have in the back of your fridge tastes like. (spoiler alert: if it’s been there for more than 8 weeks, that would be – not very nice).
On a more serious note, this is a chance to train a generation of home cooks. Most people I know will cook the same meals day in day out unless they want to use a recipe. In which case they will go out, buy the exact ingredients and then throw the rest of that avocado leaf pack away. What we should be doing is reusing and reinventing dishes. With the current restrictions meaning we can’t venture out more than once a day, we are all trying to be more conservative about what we buy and we are more aware of what is in our fridges than ever.
Maybe with us all at home the amount of food waste the UK produces will reduce dramatically? The UK produces an estimated 14 million tonnes of food waste each year, according to the European Commission. Although how much we care about their opinion depends on the way the next stage of the Brexit talks go. Perhaps when we don’t have any alternative sources of food, we might be more likely to eat all the food in our fridge pre-sell-by-date rather than throwing it out post.
In the spirit of reuse and revitalise here are two recipes that use near to identical ingredients to inspire you to use what’s in your fridge.
Pesto chicken pasta (serves 2)
2 chicken breasts, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Half a packet of fresh basil, roughly chopped
150g cream cheese
2 large tomatoes, chopped into squares
100g grated parmesan
1. In a saucepan, add a little oil and add your chopped garlic, sliced chicken breast and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 5-6mins on a medium heat until cooked through, stirring throughout.
2. Add the cream cheese, basil and tomatoes. Stir, season and set to one side.
3. Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water and drain, reserving c.75ml of the cooking water.
4. Return the sauce to the heat and add the spaghetti and reserved cooking water. Add the parmesan and mix together.
Baked Mediterranean chicken (serves 2)
2 chicken breasts
6 garlic cloves, 2 finely chopped
Half a packet of fresh basil, finely chopped
100g cream cheese
4 large tomatoes, chopped into chunks
100g grated parmesan
1) Mix the cream cheese, parmesan, half the basil and the finely chopped garlic. Season and set aside. Cut a slit in the chicken breast and open it up into a pocket. Stuff each breast with the cream cheese mix. Press to close.
2) Preheat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Mix the chopped tomatoes with oil, remaining garlic cloves (whole) and season.
3) Place the chicken in an oven proof dish, drizzle with oil and pour over the tomato mix. Roast for 20mins until the chicken is browned around the edges.
4) Serve with salad and crusty bread or roast potatoes.