A series of cooking related correspondences between me and Tori, recipes, recommendations and reading in the epistolary form.
The first in our series of pen-pal exchanges! Feels a little bit strange writing in an email what could be a spam of screenshots and text messages but in the spirit of isolation I am dragging out every task to fill the cavernous days/weeks/months that lay ahead of us. Each menial chore or quotidian activity that usually takes 10 minutes, now will take me an hour. This maybe seems quite annoying (possibly for the rest of my household), but when it comes to cooking, it means that recipes that would normally be reserved for a Sunday or a long weekend can now be made daily.
To get some recipe inspiration, I messaged all of my favourite chefs on Instagram to ask them what their longest recipe is, or their top slow-cook classic. Not expecting a reply from any of them, as this is something I often do when boredom strikes, and am yet to hear back from anyone.
So instead, I have compiled a selection of all of my favourite cookbooks and trawled through them to find some time-consuming recipes. (As I am typing this, I get a reply from Fanny Singer, daughter of Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame, and now I am euphoric. Fanny also has a new book out called Always Home, which is on my isolation reading list!).) Typically, I am extremely impatient, but I think I need to put my well-thumbed copy of Nigella Express away, and tackle something a little bit more lengthy.
Gizzi Erskine’s Slow is a good place to start, the tagline is “food worth taking your time over.” Everything from this book is great but would especially recommend the Aligot (page 84), a potato-y, cheesy, creamy delight.
Ruby Tandoh’s essays on food in Eat Up aim to make you fall back in love with food, as she recounts the simple pleasures of tea and marmite toast. The perfect isolation recipe though, definitely has to be her Three-day Whisky Gingerbread loaf cake. The cake takes time and TLC and hell of a lot of patience, but the result is a boozy wonder.
A new favourite is Laila Gohar (@lailacooks on Instagram), who is, in my humble opinion, the Queen of isolation cooking. Her hummus recipe details the slow and methodical peeling of your cooked chickpeas. Usually a practice that we skip when making hummus because who has the time? But now, who doesn’t? So, peel your chickpeas and revel in the smoothest hummus you’ve ever eaten. I can’t take all of the credit for this suggestion, as she was shown to me by my new best friend Fanny Singer, who also suggested anything that requires a long slow braise.
In this vein, Ella Risbridger, author of Midnight Chicken, got back to me and suggested her Ox Cheek Ragu, which she describes as ‘Bolognese: the scenic route.” She suggests serving it with homemade pasta if you want to be extra smug, and if you can’t be smug in front of your family, where can you?
Ella also suggests Jim Leahy’s no-knead bread, that I’ve seen doing the rounds on Instagram, it takes 24 hours and she says “it’s…unreal.” My attempts at bread so far have been misguided and quite embarrassing, so this one is next on my list.
Another slow cook suggestion came from Sunday Times Style food writer George Reynolds (truly, I am shocked at the number of people who actually replied to me!) A proper cassoulet, he says, should take three days, “if you do it properly and prep all of the ingredients (including the duck confit) yourself. There’s a great Felicity Cloake recipe in the Guardian – you may struggle to get some of the ingredients but as long as you follow the basic method you can’t go too far wrong.”
Slow cooking is all well and good, and I’m sure a slow-cooked leg of lamb would remedy any isolation blues, but as a vegetarian… can you confit a cauliflower?
If you have any veg isolation recipe suggestions for me, I would love to hear them..!
Eagerly awaiting your reply..