Tag Archives: basics

Chicken Noodle Soup (or, Notes from the Pandemic)

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Chicken Noodle Soup is always good for whatever ails you.

I recently learned that the Beaford Archive, in North Devon, is asking for help to document the day-to-day life of people’s experiences during the pandemic. They are looking for photographs which answer the question:  “What are you experiencing right now?”

Everyone’s setting will be different. You may be at home with children, or with your parents, or caring for someone. You may be a key worker, or helping the  neighbourhood, or working the land. All our lives are changing in ways great and small, and whatever you’re experiencing is worth saving and sharing with future generations.

I’m so pleased that they are doing this. The quotidian life is the one that we rarely see in history, but to me it is what makes history come alive. How people manage their day-to-day existence can be fascinating when you realise just how different it can be from town to town, country to country, century to century. Or in this case, month to month.

In our little corner of South Devon, we are more or less into our fourth week of lockdown (the kids, The Author, and I all started on different days), and we have been able to stay isolated and safe very easily. We are very lucky to be living in this beautiful, rural area, but the enforced seclusion has taken its toll on all of us in various ways. Noteworthy events from last week include:

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Rosemary Focaccia (or, How We Should Wing It)

Focaccia 7x7

Focaccia baked in a square tin – this one looked the best, but the flavour was not as satisfying as the thinner versions, which have a higher oil to bread ratio.

What do the following three things have in common? Continue reading

Pasta with Tomato and Bacon (or, Cooking for One)

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When I was little, I loved the nights when my mom would go out and my sister and I would be allowed our choice of a frozen TV dinner. Sometimes we would even be allowed to eat it in front of the TV, but mostly we had to sit at the kitchen table, napkins in our laps, milk at the top edge of the placemat, and eat it as we would a homemade meal. (In other words, even though the dessert was included in the foil tray, we had to save that for last.)  Continue reading

Making Ricotta Cheese (or Everyday Kitchen Miracles)

Students preparing Fresh Ricotta and Broad Bean Ravioli

Sometimes I feel that cooking is an act of faith.

In life, there is no guarantee that what you’re doing will end up the way you want it to. Even if you do the same thing, day after day, you might not get the result you are looking for. There are so many changing factors. It’s a total crapshoot.

With cooking, following a recipe will give you some assurance, but still, the variables that get thrown at you can change the outcome. I was thinking about this because I have just gone through a few weeks of intense cooking for various events, and each time, various obstacles were thrown in my path over the course of creating the meal. It was a little worrying. When you are catering for 120, you can’t afford to start over (time-wise, money-wise, sanity-wise) if something goes wrong.

Take ricotta, for instance, which I have made four times in the past 2 weeks. Ricotta is a very simple cheese to make. You bring milk (cow, sheep or goat, or all three if you want) to 190F – or just before it starts to boil – and then you add the vinegar. Stir it a bit, let it sit, then strain it, and voila! You have just made a lovely, fresh ricotta cheese. Or maybe not. Continue reading

My 10 Top Tips on How to Make Things Taste Better

There are a few things going on to make these carrot cupcakes delicious, most notably the addition of air.

The Author was teaching The Poppet how to play guitar. His instructions? “Just pick it up and play along with a song you like. That’s how you’ll learn.”

Well, I think I might have a thing to say about that. First of all, if you don’t know how to do something, how can you start doing it? Secondly, how do you get the confidence?

I was thinking about this because it’s similar to telling someone how to cook something. When you’ve done it for a while, it seems pretty easy. “Cook till done.” “Bake till the loaf sounds hollow.” But what does “hollow” mean with a loaf of bread? Continue reading

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

all-done!I think bread is a very good place to start.  Almost everyone (99% of UK households) loves a good loaf of bread, but almost no one makes it themselves.

And do you want to know a secret? It’s not hard to make a loaf of bread. It’s not even particularly time-consuming. But if you haven’t done it before, or if you’ve tried and it hasn’t worked out the way you’d intended, it can be daunting.  Continue reading