I know that the last thing anyone needs right now is someone else writing about what they have been eating, cooking and baking during lockdown. I think that my Instagram feed is about 75% banana bread at the moment, which is of no interest to be as I don’t like bananas. About 20% is sourdough starters, because suddenly everyone is an artisanal baker, ready to throw down a challenge to the likes of Lionel Poilâne. (Poilâne died in the early 2000s, so probably won’t rise to the challenge. There’s a bread pun in there…)

So, I feel that this post about food really isn’t necessary, except that even when not in lockdown, I spend a lot of time focussing on food. I like to blame my Italian family for it, but I think it’s just that I love everything food has to offer. From planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, serving up and then eating, the whole process is one that I love.

And so, I’m sharing some of my most recent baking and cooking efforts, mostly because I am a lazy baker and cook. By that I mean that I look for the simplest of recipes that will yield the most impressively delicious results. This means that those who I share my food with think that I am far more expert that I really am. I’m not ready to correct those misconceptions yet.

Baking

My current baking output is out of control at the moment. In normal, non-pandemic times, I bake cookies and biscuits every Sunday, so the kid has something sweet to take in her lunchbox and share with friends. I post pics of the end product (and a timelapse cooking video) on my socials with the hashtag #AndOnSundaysWeBake. Occasionally, I may bake something another day during the week.

All bets are off in the time of COVID-19 and so I needed a new hashtag: #AndOnEveryFuckingDayWeBake is far more accurate in these extraordinary times. The  neighbours have been getting deliveries on their doorsteps, and I’ve discovered small batch baking, or become super-efficient at halving recipes to make just enough for one morning tea, or after dinner treat.

I rarely follow recipes – I just make things up as I go along. But I’ve tried to find similar receipts along the way just in case you suddenly have a burning desire to get in the kitchen and create.

Amaretti

Literally a ten minute back up resulting in delicious and fancy biscuits. You can use any citrus or other flavouring. These ones were orange. Similar recipe can be found here.

Apple, cinnamon and walnut bread

Banana bread can go fuck itself, but give me a decent apple bread any time! Add cinnamon and you are halfway to curing your diabetes. And everyone knows that walnuts are a superfood (bullshit), so really, this loaf should be found in a fancy, overpriced health food café. Similar recipe can be found here.

Focaccia

I bake bread now. And this focaccia was sublime. I’ve made it a few times to serve with whatever soup I’ve had cooking on the stove all day. Similar recipe here.

Sparkly cupcakes

When your neighbours celebrate a special anniversary while in lockdown, it’s compulsory to make them cupcakes that sparkle in the sunlight. Nigella’s basic cupcake recipe never fails.

Brownies

And more from Nigella. Here, her emergency brownies can be knocked up, and out of the oven ready for you to eat in half an hour. Put the kettle on. Recipe here.

Cornflake biscuits

This is a pretty good pantry staple item recipe. All crunchy and crispy and downright delicious with an afternoon cuppa. Similar recipe here.

Anything citrus

If it’s got lemon, orange or lime in it, you can bet I want to make it.

I’m calling these biscotti all’arancia e cocciolato and they look rather impressive. But really, they’re just orange shortbread dipped in chocolate, but jeez they tasted great! Similar recipe here.

Did I mention I love lemon? This cake is a lemon loaf, with lemon syrup and then lemon drizzle because triple the lemon is always the best. Similar recipe here.

But possibly my favourite was this mandarin loaf which contains two whole mandarins thrown into the food processor for the most intense mandarin-y flavour and then more mandarin zest and juice in the icing. Similar recipe here (just replace the orange with mandarins).

Cooking

A combination of weather cooling down, the day getting darker earlier and the whole lockdown thing has meant that I’m looking for foods that are comforting, and take ages to cook, just sitting on the stove for hours for their flavours to develop.

Sauces

Last week’s Bolognese sauce cooked for over six hours and then was decanted into take away containers for the freezer, the neighbours and that night’s lasagne. Find whichever bolognese recipe works for you. Just don’t add zucchini.

And the end of Summer signalled the end of our basil plants, so I whizzed all that was left up and made pesto. Even with the warmer weather becoming a distant memory, the taste of summer will still get a few more outings with the little oil-topped jars of verdant pesto goodness waiting in the fridge. No recipe, but basically, just add basil, parmesan, toasted pine nuts, garlic, salt and olive oil to food processor and blitz. Great to stir through pasta and veggies, or dollop on top of soups.

Pies

Look, it’s true that I made shepherd’s pie last week just so I could sing ‘A Little Priest’ while prepping it. But it was so worth it, because it tasted great! I wouldn’t even know where to start with a recipe, but I just sweated off some finely diced carrot, onion, celery and garlic added some lamb mince, stock, and simmered the crap out of it for a while. I then added other veggies that needed to be used up (some peas and corn) and then poured into a casserole and topped with mashed potato. Make swirly patterns on the potato and then crumble some panko crumbs over the top. Bake until all crunchy and bubbly and it looks like this:

And chicken pie is a perennial favourite around here. A little maths humour on top because I’m a nerd. Find whatever chicken pie recipe works for you!

Pasta e ceci

My kid has never, not once, never eaten pasta out of a can in her life, and yet, decided to tell me that my pasta e ceci which used Rustichella d’Abruzza Anellini looked like SpaghettiOs. I don’t really care, because it was beyond delicious and everyone had seconds. The recipe was from Smitten Kitchen.

So that’s how I’ve been spending my time in the kitchen. No banana bread to be found (I didn’t include the zucchini bread I baked, but that was wonderfully delicious slathered with soft salted butter), but lots of other things. We are all going about our lockdown experiences in ways that work best for us.

For me, that involves being around food. I guess a big part of it is wanting to nourish myself and my family because it’s something that I can do, and I know I can do it well. There is so much other uncertainty, but when I start to cook and bake something, I know exactly how it is going to turn out.

I have noticed that my reaction to hearing or reading something upsetting and stressful is to walk into the kitchen, open the pantry and start to load ingredients on the kitchen bench. I plug in my firetruck red Kitchenaid stand mixer, and off I go. ‘Nothing bad ever comes from creaming together butter and sugar’, I think to myself, as I become hypnotised by the paddle spinning around. My breathing slows down and my anxiety levels diminish. And cake! Soon there will be cake.