When my son was a tiny baby I visited a wonderful inspirational friend who had once been my teacher I was exhausted and frayed at the seams. She cooked me the most delicious fish pie which nurtured me to the corners of my being. During lockdown I’ve made that fish pie and thought of her, in fact I think of her every time I make it. It’s become one of my go to, nurture for the soul, kind of recipes. Recipes are like pieces of your story that build up a picture of who you are, where you have come from and direct you to where you are going. Write them down so you can pass them onto to those you love in your life, the comfort and joy they will bring will know no bounds.
Pizza is not something I have made before at home. Indeed I’m not sure I even like it very much, not the type of pizza we get in a frozen cabinet at the supermarket anyway. But last year I met the most inspirational man who had set up a fabulous pizzeria in Chester market. Stile Napoletano is run by the wonderful Giacomo who hails from Naples. I spent a Saturday morning with him (before lockdown) talking dough, toppings and whether pizza could ever be good for you.
He explained to me that he prepares his dough as least 24 hours in advance and that helps with the digestion. He eats pizza everyday, and certainly looks good on it. He uses the best ingredients he can lay his hands on, fresh and seasonal. With an innate understanding of flavour the wonderful combinations just kept flowing.
So I took inspiration, I looked in my cookbook collection and found a recipe from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Fizz Carr. The dough was prepared in the morning, 10 minutes of kneading and any frustrations that I had that day were hammered out in the process. By lunch time the dough had risen and the pizzas took less than 10 minutes in the oven. My son said they were better than the ones we had bought in the past, not the ones from Stile I hasten to add. But I was definitely pleased with the result. Time is what lockdown had given me, time and a desire to break the monotony of another sandwich for lunch. To show my son that good food not only costs little, but tastes better the more love and attention you give it. So will I continue to make them post lockdown? I certainly will, maybe not on a Tuesday lunchtime as life gets back to normal. But what joy to take time to learn something new and nourish the soul in the process. I’ll also be checking out what Giacomo and his family have been doing during lockdown as they launch their new restaurant at 49 Watergate Street, Chester. Looking forward to reconnecting with him, as we begin to enjoy eating out together once again. Here’s to reconnecting with our wonderful small independent businesses that make eating out such a joy and to taking home their ethos and allowing it to make our lives richer in the process. Another slice of conviviality anyone?
Our local pub was not known for its food delights. Just before lockdown the owners decided to retire and the new owners took over at the worst possible time. The word started to spread on the village Facebook site that the new landlord was doing a much revamped menu for delivery only give that we are still under Welsh Covid restrictions. We have it a go. Beef and bone marrow burger, goose fat chips and a spiced jackfruit salad. Delicious and a brave improvement on the former fare. Will this Gastro pub to our dining room become a habit or will we brave the Swans tables when we can?
This July I should have been following Pearl Jam around on their European tour, hopping from the UK to Poland to Hungary to Switzerland. Obviously, things have turned out slightly differently.
This is not Krakow, this is Manchester.
One good thing about lockdown has been having more time to cook, to put on the radio and actually enjoy the process of making something. So, although I am disappointed not be in Krakow right now, I brought a little piece of Poland into my kitchen, and made some (very imperfect) pierogi ruskie.
These pierogi were made to the sounds of a live Pearl Jam bootleg – sadly not part of the accompanying video – in a bid to capture just a little bit of this lost summer.
(I’m not sure many people eat pierogi with hummus and edamame. Sorry, Poland.)
Lockdown provided much time for ruminative chewing and for trying out new recipes. Breadmaking is a time-heavy pursuit, but the aromas wafting through the house, more than make up for the hours spent kneading and proving. There is also a primeval satisfaction derived from feeling that after the brave delivery people have delivered your sack of flour and powder keg of yeast, you are self-sufficient, ready to feed your brood without venturing out into the cold and deserted streets.
tostada con tomates: garlic rubbed on toast with olive oil and tomatoes, made with sourdough toast delivered from Newcastle’s Grainger market whose stall holders banded together to do market deliveries throughout the epidemic
Andalucian cold rice pudding with cinnamon and dried tangerine dust; the rice pudding rice brought back from Spain , dated 2015…
Eggs and soldiers. First eggs from new milk round delivery from local Northumberland dairy. Half a dozen a week and I’ll continue to order after lockdown. Love the sound of the clink of clean milk bottles when I put them on the step each day.
Jesmond Dene wild garlic, picked just before lockdown and made into pesto that boosted many dishes throughout .
I bought 4 ‘luxury hot cross buns’ just before lockdown, made by the social enterprise Big River Bakery, Shieldfield, Newcastle. I resisted eating them straight away- the heavenly aroma of spices and orange was almost too much – popped them in the freezer and ate them on Good Friday . Well worth the wait and thanks to Andy Haddon and all at the bakery. Hope you can open your amazing project again soon https//big river bakery.com