I must confess that I am having a better Covid-19 lockdown than most people. I am in Dorset, with the sun shining, and flowers and plants in bloom. As this is in the middle of the countryside, there are no restrictions on walking. I can stream movies and plays, and have a huge stack of unread books awaiting my attention.
What else could I want? Well, decent restaurants, for one. Our bit of Dorset has never shone for its culinary diversity or excellence, but there are a few eateries around that merit the odd visit, and that’s one pleasure I have to do without.
As we cannot entertain, and cooking for two is not much fun, I have fallen back on comfort food that’s quick and easy to prepare. Eggs are a great standby, especially if you can get organic, free-range ones. Luckily, a farmer sells her wonderful fresh eggs as well as her chemical-free vegetables. Though we have to drive half an hour, it’s well worth the trip. My vegetarian step-daughter, Tabitha, is visiting us after completing a fortnight in self-isolation. She taught me a Turkish egg dish that is easy to make.
It goes like this: grate a half kilogramme of tomatoes and slice a couple of long, sweet chillies plus an onion. Gently sauté in a mixture of olive oil and butter; crumble some feta cheese on top; add cumin seeds, chilli flakes, salt and freshly ground pepper and quickly stir to get an even consistency. At the very end, add four unbroken eggs into the pan. Now, you can either scramble the eggs, or fry them whole. It is a great lunch for two, when eaten with fresh and thick bread. But I think parathas would be good, too.
Pasta is also worth stocking up on. A few weeks ago, I wrote about a very simple sauce consisting only of garlic, olive oil and some chilli flakes. Here’s another easy recipe:
Try these simple and easy-to-cook dishes to beat the blues of social isolation
While the water is boiling for the pasta, heat some good olive oil with a tablespoon or so of lemon juice. Before you squeeze the lemon, use a grater to remove the outer zest, but without the inner white pith. When the pasta is cooked al dente or just right, drain and place in the serving bowl and pour the lemon juice and oil in and toss. Now sprinkle the grated zest on top along with Parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot for a light summer lunch.
I hadn’t eaten baked potatoes in a very long time, having consigned them to childhood memories. But the other day, we found that we had a couple of large spuds eminently suited for the oven. They took a long time to turn soft, but after they did, they were delicious, as I had made a deep cross on them and introduced an unhealthy amount of butter into the cuts. Salt and pepper on top, a bit of salad on the side, and another simple meal ready.
As I have said before, eggs are very versatile, and can be cooked in a variety of ways. For breakfast, I use asli ghee to fry cumin seeds and chilli flakes, taking care not to burn them. Next go in a couple of eggs, the pan is covered and the heat is lowered. This ensures that the eggs are done on top to achieve an evenly cooked dish. Around three minutes ought to be enough. A little practice should get the timing right.
Luckily, there are several farm shops around us that permit us to vary our diet. Fresh fish is delivered at home, and a wonderful website (www.frenchclick.com) sends a wide selection of cheeses, pates and other French goodies. So all in all, I’m not having a bad lockdown, foodwise, and am so grateful for these small joys.
Published in Dawn, EOS, May 24th, 2020