Usually by November each year, I have the whole next year planned out… as far as racing, travel and how I’ll use all my holiday days is concerned anyway. Last November we were on our honeymoon gallivanting around Philippines, Vietnam and Laos thinking that this year, we’d be racing the Manchester Marathon, traveling to Miami for Alexandra’s Bachelorette, Saint Petersburg over Easter, home for Patrick and Alexandra’s wedding, a birthday surprise for my Mom’s 60th in August, and a reserve of holiday days saved to move house.
Race – Home – Travel – Buy a house. That was the 2020 plan. But as we all know, 2020 had different plans for us all.
On March 13th we started working from home full time. On March 23rd, England declared a nationwide lockdown which had all non-essential business close. There was limited ability to socialize/get out of the house all the way up until the 4th of July.
As many people did with so much time at home – we cooked/baked/ate our way through it. So, here are my favourite food moments during lockdown!
Dan’s Birthday Lock-In
Dan’s birthday was on day 2 of lockdown – everyone was in the stockpiling craze and toilet paper was like gold. Since we weren’t able to plan anything else for a birthday celebration some how we still managed to make it feel like an occasion. When Dan saw these steaks for the first time – he looked like a kid in a candy shop. And we paired it with one of my favourite wines. Thanks to Meat NW5 for delivering!
Learning how to make bagels
Seeing Phoenix and Andy make bagels was the initial inspo here. Phoenix sent me the recipe she has from FEAST: an edible road trip for Montreal Style bagels. The first time I made them, Dan and I ate all 12 bagels within 6 hours. They were SO good. We are slowly getting better at pacing ourselves and leaving some for the next day… but it is hard considering how good they are.
One of the lockdown highlights was when Dan organised a “Bagel-Off”. I think he just wanted me to make more… He called in guest judges: Tom Wales, Billy, Age Girl and himself rated the presentation of each bagel. The cooks: Phoenix and Andy, Ash, Simon, Ann and Tony and Myself. Simon definitely should have won #scandal
Eggplant/Aubergine – from hater to lover
Our Oddbox delivery was a highlight of the week during lockdown. Getting a mixed bag of wonky or surplussed veg we learned a lot of new recipes and consumed a ridiculous amount of apples and cabbage that were in season. Eggplant though…. I thought I hated eggplant, but I just didn’t know how to cook with it.
- Babaganuche (picture on the left)
- Cut the eggplant in half and scar. Drizzle in olive oil salt and pepper
- Bake for 30 minutes
- Scope out from the skin and blend with oil, garlic, salt, cumin, lemon juice
- Baked Fries (picture on the right)
- Cut the eggplant into figures (leave skin on) and salt well to dehydrate, leave for 20 minutes
- Dip in egg, and then coat in a mixture of breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper
- Bake for 20 minutes
- Eggplant Parmesan
- Same process as above but rather than cutting in fingers, cut the eggplant so you end up with round slices
- While the breaded eggplant is baking. Prepare sauce
- Let the eggplant cool off then layer in a pan with sauce and fresh mozzarella
- Bake for 15 minutes
After the red meat sweats provoked by Dan’s birthday feast, we tried to limit our meat consumption a little bit. Actually this was pretty easy to do because it was hard to get any meat from the butcher. So we started eating lots of delicious fish from the local fish monger in tufnell park…. hake, tuna steaks, salmon, king prawns, lobster, squid, mussels. It’s been delicious.
This was one of our all time favourite lock down meals – one we’ve made a few times now. Fish Tacos – made with pan fried cod cheeks. Garnished with avocado, sriracha mayonnaise, lime, tomatoes, red onion and cilantro.
Quarantine cook-off’s & Family FaceTimes
Every week, we picked an ingredient and made something with it. It was a cross-Atlantic virtual competition to keep us busy during the week and connected in isolation. I loved it. Especially as lock down eased a little in Canada and everyone could get together but me!
Favourite quarantine cook-off moments:
- When the ingredient was potato… and the day before our cook-off someone driving past asks for directions. He said he’s coming from Covent Garden Market selling his “Freedom Spuds”. To thank us for giving him directions he tossed us an actual sack of potatoes. PERFECT timing.
- When the ingredient was mango… but our grocery order was delivered day-of with mango substituted for papaya. I was disqualified but the papaya salsa was DELICIOUS and something I’ll definitely make again (details below).
- All the times we used Paw Patrol merch to sway the vote our way by getting my Nephew on our side
Sunday’s were the best. We had a call at 3 to catch up with the Johnsons. We’re still doing this call and I love it! A call at 6 for the cook off. And a pub quiz with the Augello’s… favourite question from Dan’s quiz “Name 5 sweaters that Dad’s had for over a decade” Hahaha!! Poor Tony!
Backyard social distanced pizza party
As lockdown started to ease and we could have social distant visits outside, Marcus and Helen’s garden was (is…) a second home. This was the first social meal we had in almost 3 months. BBQed pizza – everyone had to pick their own toppings. Dan buckled under the pressure and made dough balls lol
Thank goodness for lee barry
In the height of lockdown a bottle of wine every couple of nights was pretty easy to get through. Between that, all the food, and none of the usual steps you’d get in from commuting etc., there was a high risk of gaining the “Quarantine 15” ! Thank goodness for Lee Barry.
Our swimming crew has been getting together for YEARS every Friday to swim and afterwards we’d go to Look Mum No Hands for breakfast. It’s be a ritual that I’ve been involved in for 5 years now. Closing down all the pools in the country didn’t stop us from getting together Friday mornings – thanks to Lee!
Lee created circuit training sets we branded “Lee Barry” (influenced by Barry’s Bootcamp). We get together and do them virtually on Zoom. My favourite week was the playlist called “Britney vs Christina” haha. Without LeeBarry, my jeans would be feeling way too tight!
Even now that pools are back open and we can get together to swim again, we still dial in to our “Lee Barry” workouts. I love it!
Getting back to normal (sort of)
Stores, restaurants and bars have been open for a couple weeks now. Queues can be large… booking ahead is necessary everywhere you go. But it’s nice to be able to gather in small groups again. I don’t mind a queue. As far as travel goes, we can travel more freely again. At least in Europe…. but there’s no direct flights to Toronto and 2 weeks of quarantine on either side would still be required.
Even just seeing the city come to life again feels nice. You forget how much energy you can get from other people.
We’re sill working from home for the foreseeable future – but I prefer that. I need more time to figure out how Phoenix made these dumplings (Cookbook: Meera Sodha EAST)!!!