It's a shock to me to realise how much my domestic standards had slipped, and it took this lock- in to bring it home to me that since the children grew up, I had all but forgotten about cooking. Giving myself any excuse that came to hand, I issued myself a pass on making supper pretty much every night.
Well there has been a complete turnaround over the past 3 weeks, and no mistake.
Instinctively Margaret and I know we need to keep to a pretty regular routine of mealtimes, for fear of going feral, and we are both quite keen on our food,and also trying not to let the consumption get out of control, what with living and working in closer proximity to fridge and toaster than usual... So whilst breakfast is usually toast and coffee, lunch salad and maybe a spanish omelette which M is very good at making; supper is ideally a bit more of an event.
And as I said, I'm woefully out of practice.
At first I felt a little bit daunted, I hope M didn't notice this, but as she is writing essays diligently and coping with the confusing anti climax of final university exams, without exams- well, it seems fair that I deal with this challenge most evenings.
What to make? That's the central question, bouncing about in the back of my mind during the morning, which I try to use gainfully, maybe at my desk; while my computer is buffering my gaze strays out of the window and I arrange meals in my head, rotating pasta, rice, potatoes and other more exotic carbs. As always, I read lots of recipes, but I'm still revisiting my old round of familiar suppers when it comes to deciding what to cook every evening during this quarantine, which already feels as if this might go on indefinitely.
And it's worth explaining that neither of us is keen on bulk buying or advance planning, and we keep stores low, and try not to shop more than 3 times a week. The garden is utterly unproductive, yielding only bay leaves and sage. Moreover whilst neither of us is vegetarian, we don't feel inclined to eat much meat.
Last night I cooked Dal and Rice, and it was so delicious I will tell you how, because sometimes that's a useful prompt, because it is more evocative than a recipe.
I sliced a huge onion, a stray shallot, a piece of root ginger, some wizened turmeric root and a couple of cloves of garlic into a heavy pan, and while they melted and turned golden over a low heat with a slosh of rapeseed oil, I crushed some assorted spices in a pestle and mortar.
This is a ritual Mum and I loved when we cooked suppers together - a friend used the photocopier at work to make her a pamphlet of curries and I have loved the sizzling of garlic and onion with fragrant cardomom pods, mustard seeds, fenugreek, cloves, chillis etc. ever since. Don't forget to add salt- crush it with the spices.
I added ground spices to the onions and stirred over the heat for a few minutes; then while the kettle was boiling I added half a sieveful of split red lentils, stirring them into
the onion mixture before covering with boiling water. Then I stirred occasionally and topped up the water as necessary until the lentils were soft.
I served this fragrant dal with rice (boiled with a bay leaf); spinach (cooked swiftly in a hot pan, a film of oil, and just the water left on the spinach after rinsing); a spoonful of plain rice -and mango chutney.
I got the rice quantity about right for once, so we ate it all at suppertime, but as there was leftover dal we had it for lunch and M made flatbreads to scoop it up with.
Tonight: macaroni cheese.