We currently live in very strange and sobering times. I have three school-age children at home, and my husband and I are doing our very best to remain positive for them. While by no means following an exhaustive regime of learning, we are doing our best: PE, a bit of online maths, reading books – sometimes to each other, playing Scrabble. We have also embarked on an enormous 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. All of this constitutes, broadly, our timetable of education while school remains shut.
As for me, I am a chef and a food writer, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am enjoying this enforced time spent only at home, I am finding the time we do spend together in the kitchen, cooking our daily meals, to be really quite joyous. More than ever, and this is something I have long been a fan of, the kids are beside me in the kitchen as we begin our day – the new normal – and I am very thankful for the small patch of garden we have beyond the kitchen door.
It goes without saying that food and cooking covers the topics of a child’s education with broad and enriching brushstrokes. Numeracy with weighing and measuring of ingredients, literacy with the reading of recipes, history and geography – a how and why and where in the world – for the origin of certain ingredients.
Through cookery, there is also, for me, one of the finest practical assets I can bestow on my children as they grow up: to be able to cook wholesome and interesting meals for themselves on a sensible budget and in a workable time frame.
These recipes all use store-cupboard ingredients as their base, and in most cases extra portions are made to use in the next day’s dish. Now is the time to channel a steely creativity in all your home cooking. And, as ever, taste, taste and taste.
I took the photographs for this feature on my iPhone in the garden – they are by no means professional. But we live in unusual times, and when they pass we will all surely have learnt something new about ourselves and how we cope with our day-to-day lives. For me and my children, cooking together is helping a great deal.
Baked potatoes with beans and tinned tuna
This easy and fulfilling meal is the perfect way to use up tinned tuna.
Prep time: 20 minutes | Cooking time: 1 hour 35 minutes
- 8 large baking potatoes (you’ll use 4 tomorrow)
- 60ml olive or sunflower oil, plus extra for rubbing
- 500g dried beans, such as black turtle or borlotti, soaked overnight, or use 3 x 400g tins of beans
- 1 head of garlic
- 2 tsp dried oregano, or more to taste
- 1 tsp dried chilli flakes, or more to taste (optional)
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon, or use bottled lemon juice
- 200g good-quality tinned tuna, drained
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.
- Rub the potatoes all over with some oil and salt and bake for 50 minutes to one hour until tender.
- If using dried, soaked beans, boil them in plenty of water until tender, about 45 minutes to one hour. Separate the garlic cloves (leaving them unpeeled) and add them and a teaspoon of salt to the beans for the last 15 minutes of the cooking time, then drain the beans and set the garlic cloves aside.
- If you’re using tinned beans, wrap the whole head of garlic in foil and pop in the oven beside the potatoes for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse the tinned beans, and warm them through in a pan.
- Whatever beans you’re using, keep half of them warm. Store the rest in a container in the fridge for Wednesday’s recipe.
- Squeeze the flesh from the garlic cloves and add this to the warmed beans, along with the oil, oregano, chilli flakes (if using), lemon juice and zest. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
- Remove the potatoes from the oven when cooked through. Allow four of them to cool and save for the next day.
- To the other four, pile in the warm, dressed beans and top with the tuna to serve. Feel free to use more olive oil, lemon juice, chilli flakes and oregano to season, and serve.
Patatas bravas with garlic mayonnaise
This uses the leftover baked potatoes from Monday’s recipe, and stars a fried egg if you have any eggs. Half of the tomato sauce will be used in tomorrow’s recipe.
Prep time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 45 minutes
- 4 cold baked potatoes (skin on), chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 120ml olive or sunflower oil, plus extra to fry the eggs
- 2 onions, finely diced
- ½-1 tsp chilli flakes, or use powder, to taste
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp red wine or sherry vinegar
- 2 x 400g tins tomatoes
- 2 tsp smoked paprika, plus a bit more to serve
- 1 tsp toasted ground cumin
- ½ tsp sugar, any kind
- 100g mayonnaise
- Eggs to fry (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas 7. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
- Toss the potatoes with four tablespoons of oil and plenty of salt and pepper, then bake on the tray for about 20 to 25 minutes until piping hot and well coloured, turning crisp at the edges. Turn them over halfway through if you like, giving the tray a good shake to distribute.
- Meanwhile, fry the onion in four tablespoons of olive oil for eight minutes over a moderate heat until soft and translucent. Add the chilli and three quarters of the chopped garlic and cook for a further minute, then add the vinegar and cook until it evaporates.
- Add the tomatoes, paprika, cumin, sugar and half a teaspoon of salt, and simmer for about 15 minutes until thick and rich, then check the seasoning, adjusting
- as necessary. Blend until smooth.
- Mix the remaining garlic into the mayonnaise. Add a grind of black pepper and thin with a splash of cold water if you want to.
- Fry the eggs, if using, to your liking, and dust with paprika if you like.
- Keep half of the tomato sauce in the fridge for tomorrow’s recipe. Spoon the rest on to plates. Top with the potatoes, garlic mayo and an extra dusting of paprika. Add the eggs if you’re having them, and serve.
Black bean patties with rice and smoked chilli tomato sauce
If you made Monday’s baked potato recipe with other beans, you can still use those leftovers here. It doesn’t matter if they’re not black beans.
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 15 minutes
- 2 red onions, finely diced
- Sunflower or olive oil, for cooking
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 500g leftover cooked beans from Monday’s recipe, or 2 x 400g tins black beans, drained
- 100g rolled oats, plus more to sprinkle on top
- 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted then ground
- 1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted then ground
- 1 tbsp flour, if needed
- 300g long grain, basmati or brown rice, or quinoa
- Leftover tomato sauce, from Tuesday’s recipe
- Chipotle in adobe, chipotle hot sauce or chipotle flakes (or any chilli), to season
- Sour cream, to serve (optional)
- Pickled jalapeño peppers, or sliced chilli, to serve
- Cook the onion in a tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan over a moderate heat for eight minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for two minutes. Remove from the heat and set to one side.
- Meanwhile, blend or mash three quarters of the beans to a coarse purée, then place in a bowl and add the remaining whole beans, oats and spices. Mix well, seasoning to taste.
- Add a tablespoon of flour if the mix is too wet to handle. Shape the mixture into four patties or burger shapes about 2cm thick and place on a tray or plate. Sprinkle each with a few oats. Put the patties in the fridge to firm up for an hour or so.
- Cook the rice or quinoa as per the instructions.
- Season the leftover tomato sauce from Tuesday with the chipotle or chilli; the sauce should be quite smoky and fiery. Warm the sauce in a pan to serve.
- Heat a large non-stick frying pan with enough oil to cover the surface and fry the patties over a moderate heat for about three minutes until crisp, then flip and cook on the other side for three minutes.
- Remove from the heat and serve with rice or quinoa, chilli tomato sauce, sour cream, if you have it, and the pickled jalapeños.
Puy lentils, pasta and parmesan
Make use of heart-healthy lentils and dried pasta in this flavourful supper.
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 55 minutes
- 500g green or brown lentils
- 4 bay leaves, fresh or dried
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
- 3 sticks celery, finely diced, optional, leeks good too
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme, sage or rosemary, finely chopped, or use dried herbs
- 3 tbsp olive oil, plus more to serve
- 300g small pasta shapes, or broken up spaghetti or linguine
- Parmesan, finely grated, to serve (optional)
- Chilli flakes, to serve (optional)
- Cover the lentils in a pan with 1.5 litres of water and add the bay leaves and half the garlic. Simmer for 20-40 minutes, depending on the lentil variety, until tender and cooked. Keep an eye on the pan and top up with a little more boiling water if necessary. Don’t let them get too mushy.
- Meanwhile, cook the onion, carrot, celery and any herbs you have in the olive oil for around 10 minutes, until softened. Add the remaining garlic and cook for two minutes until fragrant, then season to taste and put to one side.
- Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water as per the instructions on the packet, until al dente. Drain and reserve about 100ml of the cooking water.
- Keep half of the lentils, with any cooking liquid, covered in the fridge for tomorrow’s recipe.
- Combine the remaining lentils with the cooked vegetables and pasta, adding some of the reserved pasta cooking water if necessary to loosen. Season to taste.
- Divide the mixture into bowls and top with the parmesan, an extra drizzle of olive oil and some chilli flakes if you like.
Lentil dhansak with roti
Yesterday's lentils, transformed.
Prep time: 40 minutes | Cooking time: 50 minutes
For the roti
- 500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- ½ tsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 300ml water
- 40g butter, oil or ghee, melted
For the dhansak
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 40g sunflower oil, butter or ghee
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger, or use frozen
- 1-3 tsp chilli powder, depending how hot you want it
- 2 tbsp garam masala, plus more to serve
- 1 x 400g tin tomatoes
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Cooked lentils from Thursday’s recipe
- 150g frozen spinach
- 1 tsp brown or any sugar
- 1 lemon
- Yogurt, to serve (optional)
- To make the roti, mix the flour with the sugar, salt and water to form a soft dough. Cover and put to one side to rest for five minutes, then knead the dough for a couple of minutes until smooth and cohesive. Separate into eight pieces.
- Roll each piece on a lightly floured surface into a circle about 15cm in diameter, then brush the top of each circle with a melted butter, oil or ghee. Roll each one up with fat inside to make a cigar shape, then coil this up into a snail shape. Press down with the palm of your hand and roll each spiral of dough out again into a circle about 15cm in diameter. Place each circle on a piece of greaseproof paper until ready to cook.
- Fry the roti in batches in a very hot, dry, non-stick or cast iron pan over a moderate to high heat until beginning to char in small patches, then flip the roti over and repeat on the other side. Place in a bowl covered with a clean cloth while you cook the rest of the roti. Cover well and keep warm while you make the dhansak.
- Fry the onion in the oil, butter or ghee over a moderate heat for 10-12 minutes until very soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and ginger, 1 tsp salt, the chilli powder and half the garam masala and cook for one minute more until fragrant.
- Add half of the tomatoes (keep the rest in a container in the fridge to use in Saturday’s recipe), and the cinnamon stick and cook for two minutes until rich and thick, then add the cooked leftover lentils along with 200ml of water. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent any lentils sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the spinach, sugar, and the juice of half the lemon to the dhansak and cook for five minutes to heat through the spinach, adding a splash of hot water if required.
- When ready to serve, check and adjust the seasoning, and sprinkle the remaining garam masala over the dhansak to serve.
- Serve with the roti, the remaining lemon cut into wedges, and yogurt on the side if you like.
Coconut crusted prawns with tostada, refried beans and salsa
Prep time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 35 minutes
- 2 red onions, 1 thinly sliced, 1 roughly chopped
- 2 limes (or oranges or lemons)
- 4 peeled garlic cloves, left whole
- 2 large tortillas, cut into roughly 20 small triangles
- Sunflower or vegetable oil, for cooking and deep-frying
- 200g tinned tomatoes (kept over from Friday’s recipe)
- Chilli flakes or powder, to taste
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 x 400g tin black or kidney beans, or use dried, soaked and cooked
- 50g panko breadcrumbs or dry breadcrumbs
- 50g desiccated coconut
- 100g self-raising flour, or plain flour combined with 1 tsp baking powder
- 20 prawns, defrosted if frozen, patted dry with kitchen paper
- Hot sauce, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.
- Boil the sliced red onion in just enough water to cover in a small pan over a high heat for two minutes, then drain. Mix the sliced onion with the juice of half a lime (or orange or lemon) and a pinch of salt and leave to one side.
- In a dry frying pan over a high heat, or using the grill set on high, dry-cook or char the roughly chopped onion and the whole garlic cloves for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly charred and soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Slip the skins from the garlic.
- Toss the tortilla wedges in about 1 tbsp of oil and spread in a single layer on a flat baking tray. Roast in the oven for five minutes, or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Coarsely blend the charred onion and garlic with the tinned tomatoes. Stir in the juice of half a lime, the chilli and add salt to taste. Put the salsa in a bowl and set aside to serve.
- Add the cumin and paprika to the beans and season to taste, then mash with a fork or blend to a coarse purée. Place in a small pan over a moderate heat and warm through a little. Keep warm to serve.
- For the prawns, mix the breadcrumbs and the coconut in a wide bowl. Heat 3-5cm of oil in a deep-sided saucepan to 180C.
- Mix the flour with 1 tsp salt and 120ml cold water to form a thick batter, then stir in the prawns, mixing well to coat.
- Dip the prawns four or five at a time in the breadcrumbs and coconut, then fry for two minutes on each side, flipping them gently in the boiling oil with a slotted metal spoon until golden brown and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper while frying the rest of the prawns in batches.
- To serve, smear the beans on the tostada, add a prawn, a dollop of salsa, squeeze of lime, the pickled onions and a dash of hot sauce to taste.
This delicious Spanish twist on a classic will be hit with the kids.
Prep time: 20 minutes | Cooking time: 35 minutes
two toad-in-the holes, to serve four
- 8 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil or lard
- 6 eggs
- 200g plain flour
- 300ml milk
- 4 cooking chorizos, sliced on an angle about ½cm thick
For the peas
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 300g frozen peas or broad beans
- Preheat the oven 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.
- Divide the oil or lard between two roasting tins approximately 25 x 18cm, and place in the oven. The fat must be very hot to stop the batter from sticking.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and flour, then add the milk in a steady stream, whisking all the while to form a batter. Season to taste then transfer to a jug.
- Carefully remove the tins from the oven and immediately divide the batter between the hot tins. Add the sliced chorizo and quickly replace the tins back in the oven to cook for 25 minutes. Don’t open the oven door in this time. After 25 minutes, the toad should be well risen, puffed and golden brown.
- While the toad is in the oven, cook the peas. Add the oil and garlic to a saucepan set over a moderate heat, and cook the garlic until just beginning to sizzle and turn golden. Add the peas, season to taste and heat through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve with the toad.
And for dessert...
No-churn evaporated-milk ice cream with orange and vanilla
If you can freeze your mixing bowl, all the better, as the colder the equipment, the quicker the mixture will freeze, ensuring it is well aerated.
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus freezing
four, with enough for leftovers
- 1 x 410g tin very cold evaporated milk (the colder it is, the better it whips)
- 120g caster sugar
- Zest of 1 orange or lemon
- Vanilla essence to taste (I use about ½ tsp)
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- Put a metal bowl or container in the freezer ready to put the ice cream into.
- Whisk everything together with an electric whisk until the mixture has roughly doubled in size.
- Pour into the cold metal bowl or container, cover and freeze for at least two hours. If freezing overnight, remove from the freezer for 20 minutes before serving.
READ MORE: Essential kitchen kit for self-isolation