Maddie's Top Lockdown Recipes
How are you all doing? Ready for normality back? I have been very 'up and down' lately, with the momentum and excitement of the first couple weeks of lockdown now past, it's taking a lot more energy to keep the mood up and now I'm just bored. I still feel grateful for the extra time that has been gifted, and am sure as soon as 'normal' life resumes I'll be wishing for lockdown back, but I can safely say now this has gone on long enough. Coronavirus - I'm done with you.
With all this extra 'free time', I have enjoyed getting back to cooking. Today's blog is about all about food. Have you enjoyed cooking more in lockdown, or can you not wait for all your favourite eateries to be back open again?
I've decided, off the back of my brunch recipes blog (which I really enjoyed writing), to write up some of the recipes I've encountered/created/experimented with during lockdown. I have really enjoyed cooking during this time; often, figuring out what I'll be making us for dinner gives me something practical to think about through the day. Food makes me very happy and is quite frequently the centre point of my day, as sad as that may sound it's true. Cooking a meal from nothing to something delicious is very therapeutic for me, and really is something everyone can do.
The following recipes are all simple and were very popular with my family (and me); like my brunch recipes, these are in many ways adaptable to your taste/diet/preferences. I have included a range of recipes, from main courses, to side dishes and sweet treats, so I hope something will take your fancy.
Without any further ado - the recipes!
My Rome-inspired Aubergine Parmigiana - plus the best marinara sauce
Melanzane alla parmigiana is a great dish from Southern Italy, consisting of fried aubergine slices, tomato marinara sauce, and lots of cheese, layered a bit like lasagne and baked in the oven. I call this 'Rome-inspired' (even though the dish is not technically Roman), as I wanted to emulate an amazing parmigiana I had a few times in one of my favourite restaurants in Rome, from my year abroad there. If you ever find yourself in Rome - try the melanzane alla parmigiana in Pizzeria Da Remo (photographed below), and treat yourself to a marinara pizza too, it'll be some of the best food you find in Rome.
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 white onion
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Dried and fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 180-200 degrees (depending on your oven, but you want it to be quite hot so as to get a good charred and bubbly effect).
Slice and dry your aubergine. I used one for this recipe and that made 2 small dishes, enough for a side dish for 5 people, but if you want to make yours more substantial, use two. It really doesn't matter how you slice the aubergine, but you want the pieces <1cm thick. To dry them out, soak them in salt for about 10 minutes, then rinse with water, and place on some kitchen roll/tea towel to drain of all water.
Meanwhile, start prepping your marinara sauce. Peel 2 large cloves of garlic, and peel one onion, slicing it in half. Add a good gulp of olive oil to a pan and heat. Add the whole garlic and onion halves to the pan, and fry them up until slightly cooked.
Now add a large teaspoon of tomato puree to the pan, along with a tin of chopped tomatoes, and 2tsps of dried basil. Season to taste.
Let this sauce simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
While the marinara sauce is simmering, fry up your aubergine. Get a frying pan and lightly drizzle in olive oil. Cook the slices on both sides until slightly charred. You will probably need to do this in batches as you don't want the slices to be overlapping in the pan.
When the marinara sauce has cooked for about 15-20 minutes, remove half of the onion (you don't want it to be too oniony, some may remove all of the onion but I think it added great flavour). Add the remaining mixture to a blender, along with a generous handful of fresh basil and extra seasoning (salt n pepper), blend until smooth. Give it a taste to see if it needs any additions.
All of the elements are nearly ready, now just prep your cheese. Slice your mozzarella, and grate your parmesan. You will need more cheese than you think, if you want it to be restaurant-quality.
Now you can assemble! Add a layer of marinara sauce to the bottom of your chosen (oven-proof) dish, top with a layer of aubergine slices, more marinara, and cheese. Keep going in this way: aubergine - sauce - cheese. When you get to the top, sprinkle generously with breadcrumbs.
Oven bake until the dish is bubbling nicely, and the top is just-charred. It will probably need about 30 minutes in the oven.
Something I didn't do was top with fresh parmesan at the end, and a bit of fresh basil - which I would really recommend to complete the dish!
Serve with a good glass of wine, and whatever else you want. We had ours with creamy gnocchi (recipe here), but you could have it with any pasta dish, meat, or even salads.
Homemade 'Baked' Beans
When I was studying at Warwick, my favourite eatery was a cute brunch cafe in Leamington Spa called Coffee Architects. Everything on their menu is to die for, they cater to all kinds of dietary requirements, they serve the best coffee and cake, and the overall atmosphere of their cafe and service was simply the best (think homely, aesthetic, warm- a true hygge* experience). Well, Coffee Architects make their own 'billy can beans' (photographed below), basically baked beans taken to a whole new level of deliciousness. CA is somewhere I miss at least once a day, so replicating some of their dishes is something I love to do. Here is my own take on 'baked beans taken to a whole new level of deliciousness', similar to their Billy Can Beans, but also very different, however, it is a recipe you could easily adapt or change to your liking or depending on what's in your cupboard. If you did want to try their Billy Can Beans, you can find the recipe on their Instagram page.
1 can kidney beans (Will also work with a variety of beans - borlotti, pinto, cannellini)
Mushrooms (I think I just used the classic white button mushrooms but chestnut/portabello would work too)
1 red onion
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 can chopped tomatoes
Handful fresh cherry tomatoes
Smoked paprika (1 tsp)
Garlic powder (1/2 tsp)
Dried mixed herbs (2 tsps)
Finely slice your onion and garlic.
Add to a pan, heated with a drizzle of oil. Fry up until softened and smelling delicious.
Meanwhile, slice your mushrooms into small pieces, and add them to the frying garlic and onion.
Once slightly cooked, add your herbs and spices (paprika, garlic powder and mixed herbs) and mix it up.
Now add a handful of freshly chopped cherry tomatoes, along with your tin of chopped tomatoes. Season, mix it all up and let it simmer for about 15 minutes to soak up all the flavours.
Rinse your preferred beans, and add them to your tomato sauce. Also add in a splash of lemon juice here.
Simmer the beans for a further 5 minutes.
Season again to taste if needed, and keep tasting throughout ensuring to add extra herbs/spices where necessary.
You want the beans to be nice and thick and very flavourful by the end of cooking. I had mine with some smashed avocado on toast and a helping of chilli sauce. These beans would also be great with poached eggs, or bacon and sausage - whatever you fancy really. You could also store these beans in the fridge for up to 3 days, so bulk cooking is a great idea.
Ramen is a Japanese dish, primarily consisting of noodles and broth. I have come up with a pretty simple version - so for any Asian-food connoisseurs out there I am sorry! The ramen photographed above was made using leftover duck made by my brother (so if you want the recipe for that you'll have to hit him up), as well as a homemade duck sauce (also made by my brother), however, the recipe is easily adapted to use up whatever ingredients you have.
Noodles (we used rice noodles)
Stock (cube, or homemade)
Rice wine vinegar
Duck (any form of protein - chicken or tofu will work well too)
Optional: Pak Choi, bell pepper, soft boiled egg, fresh chillies
Start on your broth. The longer it can 'brew' the tastier it'll be, and it is important to taste it throughout the cooking process. I pretty much put all the broth ingredients in at once: Add 1L of stock (well watered down, you may want to add water as you go), along with some slices of ginger, 1tbsp hoisin sauce, 2tbsp soy sauce, a splash of vinegar, and 1tsp dried chilli to a big pot and bring to the boil. Leave it to simmer.
While the broth is cooking, prep your toppings/garnishes. Prep your meat/protein option - this could mean frying up some tofu, or boiling it in your broth, or cooking some chicken thighs or breasts. In my case, I chopped up our leftover duck, adding it into the broth about 10 minutes before serving to gently heat it up.
Thinly slice your spring onion.
Slice up any vegetables you wish to add. A range of colours will make this dish gorgeous - try adding red peppers and pak choi (a type of chinese cabbage), and experiment with other veggies such as carrots, sweetcorn, seaweed or beansprouts.
Finally, cook your noodles. I cook mine separately to the broth, but you can cook it in the broth. Cooking them separately means the starch released into the water doesn't get mixed into your broth, making it cloudy. Drain your noodles once cooked, and add into your broth. Mix it all up with your meat and veggies.
Serve in a soup bowl, and top with spring onions, chillies, and a halved boiled egg. I like to add a bit of sweet chilli sauce into my soup, you could add extra hoisin sauce too. And there it is! This meal went down really well with my family, and because of the broth and all the bits and pieces it was extremely filling and satiating.
'Healthy' Honey Flapjacks
Everyone in lockdown seems to be on a banana-bread hype, am I the only one who's noticed this? Why? Bananas do not last long enough in my house to get them to bread-making ripeness! So, to go against the tide, I've been on my own flapjack hype. Those above were topped with dark and white chocolate, but today I've been making raisin and cinnamon flapjacks, so this recipe is totally flexible depending on your preferred tastes! The key ingredients for a basic flapjack are oats, butter, and golden syrup (except I use honey). Anything else can be added or taken away according to you.
250g rolled oats
150g clear honey
Optional: 20g flaked almonds, 20g dessicated coconut, 50g raisins, 1tsp cinnamon
Optional optional: dark chocolate for melting
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Add your dry ingredients to a mixing bowl (oats, almonds, coconut, raisins, cinnamon) and mix.
Melt your butter and add to the dry mix, along with the honey. Mix it all up until everything is evenly distributed. If you want you can melt the honey and butter together in a pan or the microwave first, just make sure it doesn't burn!
Line an ovenproof dish with baking paper, and add the mixture, moulding it into a nice rectangle a few centimetres in depth.
Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until golden.
Allow to cool on a cooling rack.
If you want, once cool, you can drizzle in some melted chocolate. I melted some white chocolate with a little bit of milk, and it seeped through the flajacks making them lovely and moist inside. I then added some melted dark chocolate too! However, if you want to keep them slightly 'healthier' you don't need the chocolate, they are tasty enough without it, but I have found them to come out slightly crumbly. Apparently blending up the oats a little bit first can help tie the mixture together a bit better - if you try this let me know how it goes.
To serve, slice into cubes, however big you want them, and enjoy!
I had to put this in, again avoiding the dalgona coffee trend zooming through the internet, but iced coffees are something I've really been enjoying in the hotter weather. A Frappe is simply a blended iced coffee, and again can be made to your preferred taste but this is the best recipe I've tried so far.
Sugar (or sweetener)
Milk (milk of choice - works great with cow's milk or oat milk, but any alternative will work!)
Boil some water and make a shot of coffee. Make about an espresso's worth of coffee (about 50ml), and sweeten it. Frappes are best sweet, but if you prefer them without then you do you.
Add a generous handful of ice to a blender, along with a glass of milk, and pour in your shot of coffee.
Blitz in the blender until smooth.
Add to a pretty glass, add a straw and take a pic for insta. Enjoy!
What have been your top lockdown recipes, have you enjoyed cooking more? Let me know!
If you do try any of these recipes, please let me know as I'd love to hear your adaptations, see your creations, and know what you thought about them. If you liked this post, give it a like and a share - it'd mean a lot to me.
Thanks for reading, see you at my next blog,
*Hygge - A Danish word to describe an essential part of their culture roughly meaning 'a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being'. Aka the best feeling in the world.
P.S. This year I am taking part of the 500km Virtual Runner challenge, running/swimming/cycling 500k over the year, as well as taking on lots of random challenges each month! This is all in support of Sarcoma UK, the national sarcoma charity that funds vital research and support for patients and their families affected by the rare cancer. If you want to support me, then you can donate whatever you can through this link. Even £1 would be greatly appreciated, and you can donate completely anonymously!! Thank you!