During this time, I believe we are all in training as ‘master chefs’ in our kitchens because we are enjoying our creative 'downtime' and appreciating locally sourced produce. Our local street markets may not be operating but we have been educated by popular cookery books and TV programmes enough to instill that boundless curiosity and ‘have a go’ attitude. Also they teach us about resourcefulness and what we can rustle up with what remains in our cupboards and fridges before we make our essentials list for the local supermarket or independent food shop visit. We adapt easily to what is around us and look forward to foraging in the fields and woods to create that blackberry and apple pie, mushroom soup or lemonade that our grandmothers used to make for us. Our attitudes to food are changing and we are grabbing that opportunity to learn about our local food producers and farmers who need our support and loyalty more than anything now. To write this blog, I called out, via social media community, to my friends to ask for their favourite recipes they are enjoying creating over the lockdown period, so here they are with contributions from Nottingham UK, Italy and USA. I hope you enjoy reading them and that they give you and your families that smiley, satisfied fulfilment when you make any of them yourselves. So have a go...and let me know of any outcomes! From textile designer Oksana Holbrook, also known as 'Pudding Queen at Sharing Sherwood', is her rustled recipe for Courgette & Lime Cake. Thank you Oksana, your straight-from-the-oven cake below looks very tempting!
Courgette and Lime cake
Makes: 1 (21cm) courgette cake
For the Cake
3 medium eggs
125ml vegetable oil
150g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
250g courgette, finely grated
For the icing
400g cream cheese
175g icing sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
40g pistachio nuts (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon lime zest
Preheat oven to 180 C / 160 C fan / Gas 4.
Beat together the eggs, oil and sugar in a large bowl until creamy. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate soda and baking powder and beat well.
Stir in the grated courgettes until well combined. Divide the mixture into the cake tins. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and carefully turn out onto a wire rack. Carefully peel off the paper lining and leave to cool. For the icing, beat the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth. Sift in the icing sugar and stir in the lime juice. Use a bread knife to level one of the cakes if necessary. Use 2/3 of the icing to sandwich the 2 cakes together, the levelled one on the bottom, and use the remaining icing to cover the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the pistachio nuts and lime zest.
Oksana tells me she has another experiment in the oven. Apple and sultana crumble with a crushed sunflower and goji berry topping instead of traditional crumble. Mmmm, Oksana, I think you ought to write a book entitled "Oksana's lockdown recipes" or other!
Pam Miller, fine artist, gave me her well used Olive Bread recipe by Liz Thomson. It's called "The 5 Ingredient Olive Oil Bread (No yeast required)". My son and I have produced this since. Super divine Pam, thank you...we're hooked on the Olive Bread!
Olive Bread Recipe & Method Add cup of any type of flour with teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir together in a bowl. Add 1/3 cup of warm water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil together in cup and mix. Then, stir all ingredients together. Cover bread board with a little flour and form into four or five patties whilst rolling them in it. Put a little olive oil in non-stick frying pan just to coat bottom. Cook all patties for 5 mins on each side. Best eaten straight away with margarine or butter! Georgeous with Flora! If you have any herbs, toss onto uncooked patties then cook! Enjoy!
Justin Donne, of Donne & Associates, gave me his delicious recipes for Mighty Meatloaf and Daily Smoothie. "I've always loved good meatloaf! Perfect for meal prep to have on hand for the week. 🙌🏼 Actually it was better cold the next day. So when I make it again next week, I’ll eat it the next day and not fresh from the oven! Swapped out some traditionally used ingredients for higher-quality options and the taste was on point. "
2 lbs ground meat (I used grass-fed organic beef)
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
2 tbsp coconut aminos
2 large eggs
1/4 cup no sugar added ketchup
2 TBSP Italian seasoning
1 TBSP sea salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup @primalkitchenfoods BBQ sauce
1) Preheat oven to 350 F
2) Mix all ingredients together well (except BBQ sauce) in a mixing bowl
3) Place meat mixture into a 9" x 5" glass or other type loaf tin
4) Top meat with BBQ sauce
5) Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes until cooked through.
Here’s the Smoothie recipe I have every day, using a high speed blender. Sometimes I exchange bitter greens 🥬. The energy from it means I haven’t had coffee or sugar in 7 weeks. No need.
Lee Meiser, editor & writer, in Ohio USA sent me this.
"Bruschetta made with olive oil, diced tomatoes, thinly sliced basil, balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, and 1 large baguette, sliced 1/4 inch on the bias. Oil bread & toast until golden on a large baking sheet, 10-15 min. Let bread cool, and top with tomatoes, basil, and vinegar. Simple. Marysia, do you like?"
Yes I DO Lee!!
Rita Mitchell, fine artist, Attenborough, sent me this tempting recipe for honey-glazed pan-fried haloumi. "Here is the lunch we had yesterday with the first pickings from the greenhouse of salad leaves." Looks so tasty Rita! https://nadialim.com/recipe/honey-glazed-pan-fried-haloumi/
Here's Katie Stewart's recipe for Banana Nut Bread that I've been making for yonks! But I don't use the nuts now. So much goodness and protein. My children love it and it was great sliced up and cling film wrapped for their school lunchboxes when they were young. The loaf is moist and keeps well. Serve it sliced and buttered. Loaves can easily be frozen too, and taken out to thaw and eaten at your leisure, or for that tea-party with family or friends.
Ingredients & Me
6 oz/175g self-raising flour
½ level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
4 oz/100g castor sugar
1 ½ /40g chopped walnuts
2 medium-sized ripe bananas
1 large egg
1 oz/25g butter or Flora, melted
Sift the flour, salt and mixed spice into a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar and walnuts. Peel the bananas and mash to a puree with a fork. Add to the dry ingredients along with the egg and melted butter or Flora. Using a wooden spoon stir to blend the ingredients and then beat thoroughly to mix. Spoon the mixture into a greased and lined small (7x4x2ins, 18x10x5cm) loaf tin. Spread the mixture evenly. Place in the centre of a moderate oven (350F, 180C, GasMark4) and bake for an hour. Turn out and leave until cold. Makes 1 small loaf. Double the ingredients if you wish to make in a 9x5x2½ ins loaf tin. (Referenced from my copy of The Times Calendar Cook Book by Katie Stewart, Reprinted 1979, The Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd, Copyright Times Newspapers Ltd 1975).
Here's Deborah’s Banana Oat Loaf I produced last week for the first time - tastes yummy! I know so because it was eaten by Marcus and I over a day and a half! Tip from Marcus: Toast two slices and smear with Flora!! Ingredients & Method. 1 cup packed brown sugar ½ cup vegetable oil ½ cup skimmed milk 2 large eggs 2 cups mashed bananas (3-4 medium sized) Mix all together in one bowl.
2 cups all purpose flour 1 cup old fashioned oats 1 tablespoon baking powder ½ tsp baking soda ½ tsp salt ½ tsp cinnamon ½ tsp nutmeg (I didn’t have any in stock) Stir together in one bowl. Then add both mixtures together in bowl. Wipe with loaf tin (9insx5ins) with oil using kitchen roll paper or line with parchment paper.
Pour the combined mixture into loaf tin. Put in the centre of a heated 350F oven for 1 hour. Take out and allow to cool. Then remove and place on a serving board and slice. Delicious with butter or Flora!
Patrizia Poggi at Villa Roncuzzi https://www.villaroncuzzi.it/en/ explained to me about the Italian classic and traditional sweet of Romagna... In Italy, the donut is a ring-shape cake which means a swollen ring and is therefore a donut with a hole. In Romagna, unlike the rest of Italy, the donut does not have the hole, but the shape of a small swollen loaf with grains of sugar on the surface, to be consumed for religious and patronal feasts or for family celebrations. But it can also be eaten for breakfast, immersed in milk, but above all at the end of the meal, soaked in Sangiovese wine. Pellegrino Artusi (1820-1911) born in Romagna and died in Florence, best known as the author of the cookbook La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangier bene [Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well], has two different recipes for the donut, number 606 and 607, called "donut or buccellato ". The first, richer and more complex, is designed for convivial occasions. The second is a donut, Artusi specifies "for a family of simpler [...] processing". However, both are not from Romagna, neither for the shape (because they are ring-shaped), nor for the ingredients used, but most likely with Tuscan inspiration. The basic dough of the Romagna donut, which testifies to the very popular character of the preparation, is made with the poor ingredients of the most common peasant tradition. They are the same that were produced in the countryside and that were never missing at home: eggs, flour, sugar, butter and / or lard. Simple ingredients that have allowed, however, to bring to the table a tasty dessert that will satisfy the tastes of the whole family, young and old.
Here are the ingredients for two donuts: 500 g of flour 1 sachet of baking powder 30 g of butter 30 g of lard 3 eggs 200 g of sugar (plus the one for sprinkling donuts) Grated lemon zest to taste Lukewarm milk to knead the donut In a large bowl, lightly whip the eggs with the sugar and add the grated lemon peel. Then add flour and yeast and mix. Melt butter and lard and once lukewarm add them to the mixture. Lastly lukewarm milk just enough to make the mixture soft and sticky. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, pour the mixture and shape the two future donuts with your hands. Sprinkle the donuts with plenty of sugar (or sugars) and bake at 180 degrees for 30-35 minutes. In any case, when they are golden on the surface and by inserting a toothpick it will come out dry, then the donut is cooked. Enjoy!! 😀 Awesome Patrizia, thank you! It will get us in dream mood thinking of a future visit to Romagna and to Villa Roncuzzi! I certainly can't wait to have a go cooking in your kitchen under your tutelage!
Gail Frost, of NHS QMC Hospital Nottingham, relayed to me one of her favourite recipes she has made during lockdown. Mim’s Apple Cake 10 oz Self Raising flour - 8 oz Brown Demerara Sugar - 2 oz Raisins or Sultanas 4 oz Margarine - 6 fluid oz Milk - 1 tsp Cinnamon - ½ tsp Salt - 2 large Eggs - 8 oz apples. Sift the flour, cinnamon, salt and add sugar, raisins and mix together. Melt butter and mix the eggs and milk to the recipe and then add the sliced apples. Cook on Gas Mark 4 for 1 hour in a loaf tin. Or double the mixture and put in a long deep baking tray and then cut into slices. Delicious! Thank you Gail and Mim!
Ramona Usher, historic buildings specialist, forwarded her two vegetarian & vegan recipes to me - Crispy Cauliflower Bites and Meatless Meatballs in tomato sauce. Crispy Cauliflower Bites One large cauliflower, cut into florets 4 cloves fresh garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped ginger, 2-3 birdseye chillies (red or green) chopped Two parts plain flour, one part corn flour (about 200g/100g I tsp each Ground coriander, fennel and cumin seeds, Chilli powder and paprika Salt and pepper to taste Mix with some water (add slowly) to produce a thick paste Drop the cauliflower in and make sure it is coated thoroughly Heat a pan of oil and fry dipped cauliflowers until golden.
Meatless Meatballs with tomato sauce
For the meatballs:
100g brown or red lentils (cooked as per pack instructions). Olive oil for frying. 1 red onion, chopped. 1 medium carrot, grated. 100g chopped spinach or chard. 3 garlic cloves, crushed/chopped. 1 tsp cumin. 50g breadcrumbs (I grate stale bread and put it in the freezer ready to use), 25 pine nuts.
2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp chopped parsley, 1 egg beaten (or cornflour - add until mixture thick). Fry the garlic, onion and carrot until soft. Add the spinach or chard and cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Take off heat and stir in breadcrumbs, pine nuts, lemon, parsley, lentils. Add the egg or cornflour until able to make balls that stick together. Put on a greased tray into a preheated oven for 12 mins.
For the tomato sauce:
Fry 1 lg red onion in olive oil with 3 cloves crushed/chopped garlic. Cook until soft. Add 2 tins chopped toms, 200 ml red wine, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tbsp harris paste, chopped parsley, squeeze of lemon juice. salt and pepper. Simmer for about 30 mins, add water if it gets too thick.
Add a tsp of sugar to the sauce as well!
Put the sauce in a glass dish. Put the meatballs on top of the sauce, part submerged. Put back in the oven for 5 mins.
Wonderful recipes Ramona, and great in-kitchen photos! Many thanks.
Well, I have thoroughly enjoyed compiling this blog so I wish to express my sincere gratitude to all my contributors : Oksana Holbrook, Pam Miller, Justin Donne, Lee Meiser, Patrizia Poggi, Gail Frost, Ramona Usher and Rita Mitchell.
Look forward to receiving your reactions and any comments or questions you wish to write underneath this blog. Have a safe and healthy lock down where ever you are in the world, enjoy creative times in the kitchen with your family, and please do send me any of your favourite lockdown recipes and photos. I'd love to hear from you. Thank you!
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Updated: Jul 8, 2021
I appreciate that many of us are fortunate enough to have gardens and can enjoy their natural growth and derive much pleasure during this corona virus isolation lock down. On Easter Sunday I posted on Facebook a series of photos of my garden and noticed how fast some of the plants and shrubs had shot up ‘Triffid’ style over the last two weeks. It prompted me to ask my Facebook community friends about their plants and which ones had shot up in similar fashion in their gardens, and to kindly post any comments and photos taken Easter Sunday 12th April and during this week. So here they are after my own garden photos below.
Below are photos of my garden and those of some of my friends near and far. It’s always good to receive comments about each other’s garden developments and how much surprise and real joy they give us.
My garden's fastest growth plants - Back yard - Euphorbia & Clematis Front yard - Pulmonaria
Well, my fastest growing plant must be the wine coloured clematis (below) which is shooting up about 1-2 feet a day! It grows so profusely that I have to contain its weight by stringing across the top posts a green metal wire to prevent the whole trellis of clematis collapsing forward!
Front yard photos below.
Oksana from Sherwood, Nottingham, said, "Wisteria all in bud. I hope I get some flowers this year." Lisa from Camberley, Surrey, said, "My Magnolia and Pieris! My pieris has been stunning this Spring, a real joy! xx" Wow Lisa, beautiful photos showing their magnificence!
Maeve from St Ann's, Nottingham, said, "Plants winning the growth rate prize are my Japanese anemones. I like the leaf shapes, because the flowers won't be appearing for a while."
She added, "Here's a more colourful bit, ignore the dying daffodils! They did last about a month though!"
Kate from Tollerton, Notts, said, "Lilies and peonies have shot up. This is a beautiful crinkly white flowered one (below) from Sarah Raven. I swear it’s grown a foot this week! My 'Molly the Witch' yellow flowered peony is coming up grand too, have been waiting years to see that in flower and there are 5 buds this year! Excited! 😊😊" Kate, I would love to see how your 'Molly the Witch' peony progresses so please do send me some photos in the following weeks!
Lee from Ohio, USA, said,
"My Magnolia tree is now blooming; Marysia, it’s going to snow again this week. Temperatures 37 degrees F with highs only near 42 degrees."
Such weather extremes Lee! This week here in Robin Hood Land, it's in the mid 60's degrees F.
Lee added, "Today it is 38 degrees F and will snow on Friday 1-3 inches. Not uncommon in Ohio.
We look forward to warm weather beginning May 10 - our Mother's Day. Then we are assured everything will bloom. Here's a photo of my Magnolia taken May 2019."
Suely from State of Bahia, Brazil, sent me these wonderful photos of her garden plants that are in abundant colourful flower! I've captioned each one with their names & stories (hover over photo to read). Thank you so much Suely!
Pam from Beeston, Notts, said, "My tête-à-tête' dwarf daffodils and pieris for you! xxx"
Teresa from West Linn, Oregon, USA, said, "I am sending a picture of the Camellias in our garden right now, SOOC shot, I haven't been out of the house in days, these are definitely the fastest and prettiest, outside of the Tulips, in our garden right now. :) " She added, "The weather here is very similar to England this time of year, part of why we love it so much, our connection to home, plants and weather." So beautiful Teresa, I really wish to plant a Camellia bush in my garden, but where to place it? In my front or back yard and near which wall? Maybe you can help me decide.
Below photo is from Patrizia Poggi at Villa Roncuzzi, near Ravenna. She said, "Our lilac has started to bloom!" Wow! Such beautiful colours, I can whiff the perfume from here!
Thank you very much everyone for your contributing comments and lovely photos; keep them coming!
I would love to hear from readers, wherever in the world you are, who wish to write a comment to me here below, or email me, or PM me on Facebook about YOUR fastest growers in your gardens and submit some photos; I will ADD them in this blog and re-publish, so a record is saved and archived on our website blog for a long time. Enjoy Nature at its best and the simple pleasures the outdoors can bring you. For those of you in isolation in apartments and houses (without gardens), and have internet access, you can see and roam many of the glorious national / international historic house gardens and public park lands via their webcams and website photo galleries. Here is a wide collection of links researched and sourced by ACT contributor and photographer Inna Schutts on her blog site “4 Curious Adventurers” - Exploring the World Digitally - digital resources for travelers trapped at home. https://4curiousadventurers.wordpress.com/2020/04/05/exploring-the-world-digitally/ Below - Midhope Castle, Scotland.
I really enjoy ‘traveling’ with Inna and her family and I’m sure you will too! I also look forward to hearing from you with any comments or questions, and photos, you wish to contribute and submit. Do enjoy your Springtime, or your alternative seasonal time in the world. Thank you! #staysafe #stayhome #stayhappy Marysia Zipser email@example.com Find me on Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn