Main dish

Things I've cooked while in lockdown

Like most people (who don’t have kids) I’ve recently had more time on my hands and can think of no better way to use it than by trying out new recipes.

My weeknight cooking used to involve coming home from work, getting something quick and easy on the table (pasta), then getting on with my evening. Now everything's different and new, untested recipes are no longer confined to the weekends. These are some of my favourite things that I’ve cooked recently.


Vietnamese Noodles with Lemongrass Chicken

The chicken is magical. I cook it on my griddle pan and it makes an almighty mess but I don’t care because it tastes amazing. Charred, sweet and salty, the chicken is perfect with a light, bright salad and vermicelli noodles. I recently bought a super-sized bottle of fish sauce as I’m racing through it due to cooking a lot of Thai and Vietnamese food. I’ve also ordered a splatter guard.

Chicken Chasseur

I tried my first Chicken Chasseur at a brilliant supper club and have been dreaming about it ever since. Before this recipe I hadn't cooked chicken legs but I’m a total convert; they're delicious, well priced and, for some reason, seem really elegant to me.

I used a James Martin recipe and had a taste while it was cooking. It was good but not like the chasseur at the supper club… until the sauce reduced. Sweet, rich and deeply flavoured, it has almost a third of a bottle of wine in it, which is fine by me.

I served this beautiful chasseur with an equally elegant jacket potato. I'd intended to make mashed potato the Lorraine Pascale way, by baking the potatoes and scooping out the insides, leaving the skins to be loaded with cheese and other tasty things but ultimately I couldn’t be bothered. The second time around I served the chasseur with steamed potatoes (in the photo), which are better suited for this dish but not as tasty, in my opinion.

Apple, Sultana and Cinnamon Muffins

I like to bake muffins that are low effort and don’t contain too much sugar. For me, 100g total is good, give or take. These apple and sultana muffins from the BBC Good Food website ticked the boxes and lived up to their positive reviews.

Someone called Harry left a tip on the original recipe, which suggested dicing the apples rather than grating them. This was a very good idea as it made the texture of the muffins far more interesting. I topped the muffins with flaked almonds and a tiny sprinkling of demerara sugar (no more than 10g across the lot) because in the BBC’s picture they look pallid.

The muffins seem like they’re going to taste healthy but they don’t. They’re sweet, light, more-ish, quick to make and freeze well; they’re a new favourite. I sent the recipe to my mum and she approved too.

Bread Maker Pizza

I’m still working on this one. I’ve had three goes during lockdown and the pizzas were nice but there’s room for improvement.

  • My first batch used strong white bread flour and the ‘pizza dough’ setting on my bread maker: 6/10.
  • The second used 00 flour and was better: 7/10.
  • The third batch used a sourdough starter, 00 flour and the ‘rustic sourdough’ setting on my bread maker but I didn’t give the dough a second rise so it was quite tough: 5/10 but there’s potential.

For the sourdough base, rather than baking it in the oven I cooked it in a frying pan and finished it under a hot grill. I think this might work well if you have a cast iron pan that gets really hot but in my regular frying pan the base took a while to cook, which contributed to the toughness.

My next pizza will use the same dough as the third batch but I’ll give it a second rise and bake it in the oven. If that doesn’t satisfy then I’ve got Meera Sodha’s plain flour no rise pizzettes to try and if I still haven’t cracked it I’ll give up and phone Papa Johns.

I read that you can’t expect to create a restaurant quality pizza at home because professional pizza ovens are constructed to be very hot on the bottom to crisp the base, and cooler on top so the cheese doesn't burn. I understand this but it doesn’t stop the anticipation that one of my attempts might produce a world class pizza rather than, “Well, this is fine... and think of the money we saved by not ordering a takeaway”.

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