9 worthwhile cooking projects to keep you busy during lockdown
Most of the time, we’re after quick, easy and instantly gratifying recipes that solve the time-poor struggle often associated with weeknight cooking. The situation now, however, is a little different as we find ourselves looking for activities to fill the time (between meals – anyone else?).
That’s where these recipes come in. They’re slightly more time-intensive, require you to master specific skills and all have an element of wow-factor about them. These aren’t 30-minute meals or quick-fix creations; they’re cooking projects that result from a true labour of love. And we guarantee that you absolutely get out what you put in…
The skill: learn to make laminated pastry
The recipe: Gail’s Bakery’s cinnamon buns
Laminated dough is made by folding butter into dough multiple times to create a ‘flaky’ effect; the most common types being puff pastry and croissant pastry. It’s utterly delicious, but a little time-consuming, which is what puts many people off making it from scratch. If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge however, we urge you to give it a go – specifically in the form of these crisp, sugar-coated cinnamon buns from Gail’s Bakery. There’s so much joy to be had in achieving those perfect swirls and the satisfying crunch elicited from biting into their crunchy exterior. Serve with a strong coffee – there really is no other way!
The skill: learn how to make fresh pasta
The recipe: Orechiette with mushrooms, eggs and tarragon
Learn how to make fresh pasta at home with the help of chef Jun Tanaka in this step-by-step guide. We’ve chosen orecchiette because it doesn’t require a pasta machine and the ingredients list is super straightforward – all you need is pasta flour, semolina and salt. Once you’ve mastered the technique, serve up this bite-size pasta shape with Jun’s rich mushroom, Madeira and cream sauce, topped with a single egg yolk.
The skill: learn how to caramelise (onions)
The recipe: Lyonnais potato cake
We get it – no one really has the time to properly caramelise their onions. It’s usually a 10-minute job, helped along by the addition of sugar or balsamic vinegar to get that sticky-sweet effect. No, true caramelisation takes time – a concept that many of us struggle to get our heads around on even the quietest of weeks.
Here, Michel Roux Jr caramelises his onions over a low heat for 45 minutes until they have released all their natural sugars and turned a gorgeous golden colour. They’re then mixed with crème fraîche, cooked potato, nutmeg and an egg and baked until crisp around the edges. It’s a triumph.
The skill: learn how to make fresh gnocchi
The recipe: Creamy sausage gnocchi
Unlike fresh pasta dough, homemade gnocchi doesn’t require any special equipment or chilling time, which makes it an easier alternative if you don’t fancy the former. Learn how to make these fluffy Italian dumplings from scratch with this recipe by James Martin, then serve them up with his creamy sausage, chilli and radicchio sauce.
The skill: master swiss meringue buttercream
The recipe: lemon, blueberry and coconut cake
What actually is swiss meringue buttercream, we hear you ask? It’s a fabulously light and pillowy concoction made from whipped egg whites, sugar and butter. Firstly, egg whites and sugar are whisked together over heat until the eggs are cooked and the mixture is stiff, similar to a basic meringue recipe. It’s then whisked with butter until light, fluffy and pliable.
Great British Bake Off 2019 finalist Alice Fevronia‘s mesmerising lemon and coconut layer cake is enrobed in the most mesmerising swiss meringue blueberry buttercream. If this blue beauty doesn’t persuade you to give it a try, we don’t know what will.
The skill: learn proper slow-cooking
The recipe: Soy braised pork belly
One of the best ways you can cook meat is through slow-cooking. The fattier the cut, the better, as the slow process and low temperature is what encourages the tough tissues to break down and become meltingly tender – pork belly, duck, lamb shoulder or beef brisket are all good choices.
Try Matt Tebutt‘s soy braised pork belly, which is marinated in ginger, Chinese five-spice and sugar and cooked in a soy broth for up to 3 hours. He serves it simply with rice and greens, but ”it’s also delicious crisped up in a pan or served cold and thinly sliced in a salad”, says Matt.
The skill: try your hand at deep-frying
The recipe: Paneer and pea samosas
Technically, homemade samosas require multiple skills. There’s the making of the pastry, the frying of the spicy filling, plus mastering the folding technique to ensure none of the inside escapes. Not to mention the moment of truth – the deep-frying bit – where you discover whether your triangular parcels were properly sealed in the first place… There might be a few hurdles to this spiced Indian snack, but you’ll be so pleased you made the effort once you taste them. Make Chetna Makan‘s paneer and pea version – it’s one of her favourite flavour combinations (and ours too).
The skill: learn curing
The recipe: cured salmon with crème fraîche and dill
Curing is an easy way to impart delicate flavour into food, but does require a bit of time management – usually you want to start the process a day before you’re planning to eat it. Try this simple cured salmon dish from Sparrow restaurant in Lewisham; it’s stunning to look at and doesn’t require many ingredients. Serve simply with crème fraîche and some crusty bread to complete the dish.
The skill: learn how to confit
”Confit is a classic French technique in which fish or meat are submerged in fat and cooked over a low heat, giving it a beautifully soft texture. The herby chutney and pomegranate and pistachio chaat cut through the dish’s richness” – Ravinder Bhogal
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Put this technique to the test and serve up Ravinder’s bejewelled confit salmon recipe.
Want more? Find 6 Dishoom recipes to satisfy your cravings during isolation.