Locking down good cooking

Imagine you're in a kitchen from earlier times, and get those family recipes out. Photo by William on Unsplash

Lockdown is an opportunity to embark on a gastronomic quest to improve your foodie status from the comfort of your own home. Gather recipe books and go online to support local chefs for appetite-wetting live shows and recipe challenges.

My mother always told me the road to hell was paved with good intentions. And, as mothers so annoyingly are, she was right. Not necessarily about me going to hell; rather that there’s a perpetual list of things we mean to do but life gets in the way. Ironically, these are so often the things that make our souls happy. Then Covid-19 arrived (or hit, rather), bringing with it a lockdown … and 21 days to do all the things on our checklist, whether it’s the bog standard “to do” version or the more elusive bucket list.

Sitting at home, thoughts inevitably turn to food – eating, cooking, poring over recipes. Inspired by Sudi Pigott’s book, How To Be A Better Foodie, I decided to make my lockdown a gastronomic quest to improve my foodie status. The good news is this can be easily done from the comfort of your own home, surrounded by snacks which are obviously entirely for motivational purposes.

Yearning for a meal out (forbidden fruit and all that)? A little altruism goes a long way. Remember the restaurant you’ve been dying to eat at but you haven’t yet got there? Drop them an email and ask if you can buy a voucher to dine out post-lockdown. It’s a win-win really as the restaurant industry has been hard hit with enforced closures.

Now is the time to organise your recipe book or file if, like me, you still work on an old-fashioned manual system. File your recipes away systematically, or type them up to save electronically (on your laptop or the app of your choice). If you hanker for the nostalgia of handwritten recipes, scan them onto your phone so you have a backup copy. Speaking of which, now is a very good time to hit family up for recipes for dishes that evoke delicious childhood memories. Nothing like the possibility of a life-threatening illness to cajole an older family member into passing on their treasured recipes. And, if you are low on family contributions, you can invest in some South African culinary culture with Share: A Century of South African Community Recipes (Random House, R350), by Errieda du Toit. (Read TGIF’s Electric Frying Pans & Cremora Tart)

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, get busy on social media. Follow your favourite local eateries or foreign Michelin-starred ones; it’s very gratifying to see how many chefs are posting impromptu home cooking sessions and recipes that are mindful of using pantry ingredients for hearty home cooking. Massimo Bottura, chef-patron of one of the world’s top restaurants, Osteria Francescana, has dubbed his Insta home videos “Quarantine Kitchen” while super-talented South African chef David Higgs (with occasional cameos from his dog) also takes to Insta daily with dishes like “larney custard” and “stewy lamb broth thingy”. The dishes are as unpretentious as he is in his crazy slippers, and he also replies to questions that are posted. 

The 9th Avenue Bistro in Durban has posted photos of dishes, challenged people to recreate one at home and submit a photo, and the winner will receive a R1,200 voucher. And Salt Rock-based chef Justine Huizinga who owns the vegetarian-friendly Beetroot and Bear has invited followers to send her a list of ingredients and she’ll devise a recipe. 

When you feel it’s time to showcase your cooking prowess, join the Facebook page The Locked Down Cookbook. Started by chef, restaurateur, forager and general enigma Marco Nico, it’s an un-intimidating forum on which to share photos and recipes of what you’re currently cooking at home, which includes one person having built a fire pit to cook in. And, speaking of photos, download the free app, Foodie – Camera for Life, which has specific food filters. Et voila!

Everyone loves a freebie, and Yuppiechef has made its cooking school bundle available at no charge for a limited time. The various courses are presented by industry heavyweights such as Pete Goffe-Wood, Franck Dangereux and Kamini Pather and cover myriad topics. From mastering meat, which includes knife skills, and advanced barbecuing to baking, breakfast favourites, sauces, making your own craft beer and chocolate creations with a Lindt master chocolatier, you are well and truly covered. Each course is broken down into lessons that have quick, easy-to-follow video tutorials, notes and recipes. And you can click through to view and buy all the tools used in the lesson (these are obviously only for delivery after lockdown).  

Yuppiechef is the proverbial candy store to epicureans, and the good news is that it’s currently delivering essential food stuff so you will find staples like olive oil, pastas, spices, baking ingredients and coffee. If you’re serious about upgrading the status of your pantry, immerse yourself in more unusual offerings like the Jimmy Public salt slab for cooking and curing and the molecular gastronomy section with ingredients like neutral popping candy. Just add these to your wish list for post-lockdown delivery.

Neighbourhood chat groups can be a great source of info (the grapevine may as well have some benefit) about small businesses that are still operating as essential services. Tucked away in Durban North is Bartho’s Fish Co. where brothers Daryl and Brett Bartho are going out on their commercial boat to supplement what they’re able to get from suppliers. Just across the road, owner-run Hope Meats continues to sell meat that is aged correctly and free of growth hormones, additives and antibiotics. There is full traceability as they breed their own stock of cattle and sheep on a family farm, and pork and chicken comes from small suppliers with the same ethos. In Glenwood, the much-lauded Glenwood Bakery is still selling and delivering their artisanal breads and other baked goods. Even if you don’t live in their ’hood, it is worth following them on Facebook for their witty posts and off-beat humour. 

Get to know and support other small producers who are still operating and could use the business during lockdown. Favourites are Dargle Valley Pork Products and Waters Meat. Both are based in the Midlands but they deliver to the main suburbs in KZN and, as they’re in the same family, you can order both together. Dargle Valley Pork currently has great value lockdown boxes and free delivery on orders over R500.    

Located in Kloof, Founder Foods specialises in wholefoods directly from source. Currently all orders over R200 are being delivered to certain areas and aside from dry goods (speciality flours, ancient grains, superfoods et al) they are also supplying fresh produce, delicious dairy items (from Midlands-based Farm 2 You and Gourmet Greek who have lost over 60% of their business due to hospitality industry closures) and frozen bread from The Glenwood Bakery. If you aren’t in their delivery area, sign up on the website to access loads of healthy recipes. Hupu in Westville liken themselves to shopping at a farmers’ market as they have personally sourced fresh produce, meat and artisan goodies from small, local suppliers. They are currently operating, so download the app or order online.

And, if you still have hours to while away, you could plan, or tend to, your vegetable garden, upskill your kids’ cooking (remember they may be the ones feeding you in our old age) and don’t forget those celebrating birthdays during this time. Send them vouchers or hampers from producers and restaurants that we want to see on the flipside.  

It may take 21 days to break a habit, but it seems like we have been given the perfect opportunity to create new ones. Yes, it may improve your foodie cred. Yes, I may finally be able to prove my mother wrong. But, more important, let’s learn to love and support local – beyond lockdown. DM


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