For many in the UK, coronavirus-related self-isolation and/or working from home is a looming prospect. Whether you live on your own or in a shared house, being stuck inside for ages with little to do can drive the sanest of us nuts. What starts as a fun little way to “work from bed” and keep your PJs on might slowly unravel until, before you know it, you’ll furiously engaging with “Succulent Appreciation” Facebook groups for the thrill of human interaction while eating Marmite with a spoon even though you still have bread in your freezer.
Shit nutrient-free food doesn’t have to punctuate your days, even if you have to rely more on cupboard and freezer food. What you cook and eat might end up being the highlight of your dull, claustrophobic day, so just make sure it's not awful.
We spoke to chefs about what to cook if you’re trapped inside with cabin fever.
Marmite, Tahini and Beans on Toast
“I would suggest Marmite, tahini and beans on toast with Comte. Prepare your beans on toast in the usual fashion... Then whisk 1/4 tsp Marmite into 60ml tahini. Add a splash of lemon and whisk in approx 50ml cold water until it forms pancake batter type consistency. Drizzle over your beans, grate over comté. I'd add a little chopped coriander too if you had some to hand.” — Helen Graham, Bubala head chef
Khoresh Bademjan (Aubergine Stew with Tomatoes and Split Chickpea)
“This is an aubergine stew with tomato and split chickpeas. The recipe is vegan but you can serve it with lamb as well. Soaking of chickpeas is something that few people have the time to do normally, but with the onset of self-isolation, it's well worth making the effort to do so, as it greatly enhances the flavour of these pulses. The recipe is also designed to be nourishing and fragrant, with very few ingredients combining to create a much-loved home-cooked Iranian dish." — Marwa Alkhalaf, Nutshell restaurant founder
2 large aubergines
100g dried split chickpeas
1 tin chopped tomatoes or passata
1⁄2 teaspoon of turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
50 ml lime juice
Soak the dried chickpeas in water and refrigerate overnight. Cut the aubergine into large wedges, season with salt, pepper and paprika. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees until soft or fry in oil. Chop the onion finely, sauté in a heavy bottom pot with olive oil and a pinch of salt. When the onion is tender, add turmeric, salt and pepper. drain the chickpeas, add to the pot and mix until coated with oil and spices. Add 500ml of water, bring to boil then simmer until the split chickpeas are cooked. Add the aubergine and cook for another five minutes and adjust the seasoning. If the stew is too thick you can add more water. Finish with lime juice. Enjoy with plain rice or with flatbread.
Absolutely Basic Puttanesca
"Puttanesca is a store cupboard spaghetti dish that’s traditionally made from whatever is to hand; key elements include tomatoes, anchovies, chilli and olives, and whatever else takes your fancy. Jamie Oliver adds tuna to his, Nigella capers; I have dispensed with all of the additions and simply thrown this one in a pan.
"This recipe makes enough sauce for around eight portions; I freeze leftovers in an ice cube tray or in freezer bags for future use. It only improves with time, too, so do make it ahead and freeze it! It served two." — Jack Monroe , cookbook writer and activist
100g tomato puree
100g anchovies in olive oil
a good grind of black pepper
a dash of lemon juice
a pinch of chilli, flakes or powder
100g pasta, to serve
Pop everything in a saucepan – including the oil from the anchovies – along with 300ml water and cook for 20 minutes over a medium heat. Pour the sauce into a jar, leaving a quarter to a third of it in the pan.
Add the pasta and cook for ten minutes more, with a splash of water if required as the pasta cooks. That's it, really. It's called Absolutely Basic for a reason!
"The KimCheese toastie is a best seller at Wine & Rind, a one-stop cheese, wine and toastie shop. Kimchi’s widely publicised for it's immune-boosting qualities and it's bloody tasty.
I use a mix of cheddar, mozzarella and usually a dollop of Gorgonzola Dolce. As with all good toasties you need a decent stretch – this can be just as easily achieved with cheese from your local late-night off-license.
You want supermarket white, as square as possible. This is crucial to the working of the toastie machine and makes for an excellent skirt (the scientific term for the cheese and filling crisp that forms a seal around the edge). We've all got a loaf of shite white in the freezer, right?
As with all toasties, the golden crust is as important as the filling. The traditionalists say butter, in this case I'd go mayo. The fat content makes it brown quick and nice, and we've all got an old bottle of mayo at the back of the fridge. Save the butter for important things like potatoes.
There's hours of fun to be had digging around in the fridge, especially that top shelf reserved for old condiments and jars with one lonely pickle left in. Think of this as a fridge spring clean. This works just as well with any sharp pickles, hot sauce or chutney." — Holly Chaves, Wine & Rind owner
100g cheddar / mozzarella / whatever you got
2 Slices supermarket white bread
2 squirts of mayo
Mix all ingredients. Pile between the 2 slices. Mayo the outside. Stick in toastie machine (if you're not lucky enough to have a toastie machine, fry in a pan on the hob two mins each side). Eat.
Honey and Whisky Mackerel Pate
3 smoked mackerel fillets
200g cream cheese
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp English mustard
1 tsp horseradish sauce
1 lemon (juice and zest)
2 tbsp whisky (optional)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Full of Omega 3! Peel skin from mackerel fillets and remove any bones. Add to bowl with rest of ingredients and mix together until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste and then enjoy! Add a couple of teaspoons of whisky to give your pate a tasty kick (some say “a whisky a day keeps the doctor away”). Best served on lightly toasted sourdough bread. — Ricky Evans, The Ingredientist at Milroy’s of Spitalfields.
Spamsilog (Garlic Fried Rice with Egg and Spam)
“Spamsilog is a classic Filipino rice bowl. The word is an amalgamation of the dishes’ three main components: Spam, sinangag (garlic fried rice), and itlog (fried egg). In fact there are a number of variations and the name changes accordingly as the protein does, e.g cornsilog (corn beef) and tosilog (tocino a.k.a cured meat)." — Ferdinand ‘Budgie’ Montoya, Sarap chef and founder
2 cups of leftover day old plain steamed rice
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
1⁄2 teaspoon of salt
1 can of Spam or other luncheon meat brand
1 egg, cooked sunny side up
For the luncheon meat: Remove the Spam from the can and cut the spam into 1⁄4 inch thick slices. In a large non-stick pan, heat a small amount of cooking oil over medium-high heat. When the oil gets hot, carefully place the spam into the pan one piece at a time. Fry the spam for three to five minutes on each side or until it turns a light brown colour. Remove the luncheon meat from the pan then place them on paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
For the garlic fried rice: Next heat a clean frying pan over medium heat. Add one tablespoon of cooking oil followed by two tablespoons of minced garlic. Cook the garlic until it begins to turn golden brown. Add the rice to the pan and quickly toss and mix with the garlic and oil. Break up any remaining clumps of rice with a spatula. Stir and mix the rice continuously to avoid scorching. Cook the rice for about five to seven minutes or until the rice is hot and well blended. Add a little salt to taste then continue to cook for an additional five minutes. Transfer the garlic fried rice to a plate along with the cooked luncheon meat and fried egg!