I love the ‘new normal’

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We’ve never eaten so healthily as we have since we went into lockdown in mid-March (no, we didn’t wait for Bozo to announce it). We’re eating more fresh fruit and veg than ever before, even if the weekly fruit-and-veg box route means I’m cooking up some strange combinations. There’s been nothing that hasn’t worked so far.

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As part of my birthday present in May, I got a copy of Antonio Carluccio’s ‘Vegetables’. One of the first things I did was to see what he suggested about turnips. He maintains the only thing you can do with them is purée them. So we’ve been discovering the joys of neep puréed with Normandy butter (while I can still get it), a pinch of sea salt, fresh-ground pepper plus a soupçon of whatever else I grab from the spice rack – anything from garam masala to nutmeg. Nectar of the gods.

Antonio also has a recipe that uses up not only cabbage but stale bread, and is delectable. 

As for cabbage slow-sautéed in butter and red wine!

Carnivorous OH gets weekly deliveries from our local butcher & fishmonger.

I’ve cured my angst over the national shortage of dried yeast by buying a matured sourdough starter & thus acquiring another pet that needs regular 
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In short, I’m pretty damn happy with our curtailed lifestyle, at least as far as food goes. And I’m even finding time to do plenty of writing.

No more expensive and disappointing meals out – and I’m sorry, but Britain really doesn’t do ‘eating out’ well. I don’t like to pick on my home area, but it’s where we used to eat out most.

Several local and localish places pride themselves on their cuisine. One in particular seems to labour under the illusion that vegetarians favour food with the consistency and flavour range of cardboard. Another, which is rather up its own backside because it has a chintzy, country-house vibe, responded to my remark that surely the chef could whip up an omelette for any of my veggie visitors who didn’t fancy veggie-burger or pre-frozen, catering pack veg lasagne, with, ‘Only if he has the ingredients’. Ye gods. A chef without eggs and a cheese grater?

What a contrast to many of the places we’ve eaten abroad. I have particularly fond memories of a tiny restaurant several streets back from the smartest avenue in Lisbon (we’d shunned the eateries on that street not on the grounds of price, but because they were overcrowded and had very pedestrian menus). We ended up in a place that looked as if the owners had put a few extra tables in their sitting-room. Our fellow-customers were mostly workers still in their working gear. The menu was, predictably, solely meat and fish dishes, but they produced a salad and a superb omelette for me without the batting of eyelids and heavy sighs such a request would produce in most of the places we’ve eaten here. A three-course meal for two of us (including carnivore OH), plus coffee, plus a carafe of a very acceptable house red, cost well under €20.

I could cite similar experiences in cities all over Spain, Italy, France and Portugal.

If one good thing comes out of the extended hiatus in Britain’s ‘hospitality sector’, I’d hope it might be that it raises its game considerably and starts to focus on good-value, honest cooking using local, seasonal ingredients. And apologies to all of you who already run such establishments: I’m just sorry I haven’t happened upon you thus far.

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