Now would probably be a good time to disclose that I have had anxiety issues for twenty years. Like my girlfriends they tend to come and go in waves, and like my girlfriends the worst ones bring an overwhelming sense of dread, headaches, nausea, and heartache. I joke, because that’s how I deal with these things, but it’s not nice. Over the last two decades I’ve tried CBT, medication, and paid for shrinks. It works. Sometimes. Other times I’m the same pent-up arsehole. The last month or so hasn’t been nice; the media is awash with bad news, keen to tell us the latest death numbers, projected death rates, what isn’t stocked in supermarkets, symptoms, possible symptoms, the latter an issue that anyone with anxiety will tell you is a problem. When the worry takes over the brain you get sweaty and hot and the chest tightens to the point you can’t breath and you feel like you have to cough, even though you know inside you don’t. And if you have just read that last bit thinking the same is happening to you, please message me for my number. I’m here to talk.
I’ve made a recent decision to not mention either of the C words online. In these torrid times you can be part of the panic or part of the positivity, and I know which one I want to choose. So I give to you ‘Pan-Demics’, a likely short series of easy recipes from chefs and bloggers which use (mostly) stuff you’ll (likely) have at home. First four are below, please let me know if you try them at home and how they end up.
1) Jamie Desogus of Harborne Kitchen. Onion Broth
This is so simple but one of the most pleasing things coming out of our kitchen at HK, we like to keep things as simple as possible and not impart any unnecessary flavours so use water as our base. We have also made this with meat and vegetable stocks as the base which adds another dimension.
15 brown onions
No that’s really it
(Roscoff’s makes the best broth but availability isn’t likely in supermarkets. Italian white onions are also good, but seriously this is delicious with a big standard brown or Spanish onion)
Peel and then half your onions, leaving the root on so they stay in halves, this is important.
Sear off the flat side of every onion in a deep stock/sauce pot with the rapeseed oil, you will not have enough room to do them all at once so work in batches and put to one side on kitchen towel to drain while finishing the other onions. You are looking for an extremely caramelised brown onion.
Once all onions are seared, wipe any excess oil from the pan, but leave the caramelisation from the onions in the pan.
Place the onions back into the pan and top up with water so all the onions are covered.
Bring to a simmer, and let simmer but not boiled for 40 minutes, then remove from the heat and let sit with a lid for 2 hours.
Top back up with water and bring back to a simmer for 20 minutes then again let sit with a lid for 2 hours.
Remove lid and skim any oil (if any) from the top of the liquid
Next remove all onions from the pan and discard, this may seem wasteful, and you can use the onions for a purée if wanted however they have lost all flavour to the stock and no longer have any value.
Pass the stock through a fine strainer and simply bring to the boil and reduce.
How far you reduce is up to you – keep it light and add to a gravy, reduce to a syrup and finish with pepper and cream for a steak sauce, or in between as we do in the restaurant.
We finish the broth with a minus 8 vinegar to add some balance and acidity.
2) Nathan Eades of The Wild Rabbit. Potato, leek, and wild garlic soup.
I collect wild garlic on my daily walk. It can be found alongside most riverbanks. This is a simple recipe, but remember to integrate waste: use the leftovers in other meals and put the potato skins in the compost bin.
1 leek (washed)
300ml veg stock (branded is fine)
150g of wild garlic
Start by separating the leek top and saving it for later. Slice the onion and leeks into the same size, use a peeler to slice the potato. This will mean they all cook at the same time. In the largest pan you have sweat the veg in 1 tablespoon of veg oil. If you have bay leaf and/or thyme add them at this stage. Add a generous pinch of salt and sweat for five minutes, until the veg starts to cling to the pan. Add the stock to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the veg is tender. Add the wild garlic, cook for 20 seconds. Blend. Eat with crusty bread. Tres Bon.
3) Jonathan Swain of Plate Licked Clean. Tuna spaghetti
This recipe isn’t fancy or intricate or even- brace yourselves- ‘Instagrammable’, but it is easy, quick, tasty and strangely comforting.
Spaghetti (other pastas are available, but this works best with a long thin shape)
Two tins of tuna in oil
Garlic (3 cloves for me, but however much you and your fellow isolationists can bear. Besides, garlic kills C***D I saw it on Facebook. And that’s SCIENCE.)
Chicken stock (warm, ¾ pint)
Get your pan of heavily salted water on to boil. Heat a little of the tuna can oil – you’ll fry your garlic in this. Give the rest to the cat. Have the drained tuna ready to go. Slice your garlic. Not Goodfellas prison-style thin, you don’t want it to burn. Fry your garlic on a medium heat until it starts to soften. Add the tuna. Stir. Throw in a good scattering of the dried parsley and a few hefty grinds of the black pepper. Raise the heat and gradually add the warmed chicken stock, stirring, so that the mixture stays bubbling away. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain and reserve a few tablespoons of the starchy water. Add it to the tuna mixture. Add the spaghetti to the sauce (not the other way round) and toss over a low heat for 30 seconds. Another grind of black pepper won’t hurt about now. Enjoy. It’s great the next day, too.
4) Chris Wiggin of Canoodle. Wild Garlic and Porcini Polenta
3 cups of polenta
3 teaspoons sea salt crystals
100g Unsalted butter, diced
Coarse ground black pepper
Handful of fresh wild garlic leaves
1 cup dried porcini
Extra butter and olive oil for re-heating
Bring 3 litres of water and salt to the boil. Gradually pour in polenta whilst whisking. Lower heat and continue whisking whilst adding the diced butter. When polenta becomes to thick to whisk, transfer to wooden spoon. Continue cooking for about twelve minutes, stirring frequently unless all the polenta grains are soft. Meanwhile, trim wild garlic of stalks, wash thoroughly and finely chop. Place dried porcini in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and allow to rehydrate for a few minutes until soft. Pour porcini stock into polenta and finely chop porcini. Add a good grind of coarse black pepper and adjust salt if needed. Add wild garlic and porcini and stir thoroughly. Pour in a non-stick 12 x 8-inch baking tin and allow to cool completely. Once cold turn out onto a board and slice into 16 2”x1” portions. To serve heat some extra butter with a tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan and cook the polenta slice on all sides for about five minutes until heated through. Note, this makes enough polenta for an Italian family, but you can of course reduce the quantities.