Cooking · Food & Drink · Isolation

The joy of frugal food…

We’ve now been in lockdown for 28 days…

…and today I got myself into a proper funk. I didn’t even want to cook – that’s how bad it was.

I was thoroughly fed up – with the lack of freedom, lack of variety and lack of people.

Although I’ve become rather used to the new rhythms of life, today I moped.

I had beetroot in the garden that needed using up, I had lacklustre carrots and broccoli in the fridge and a fruit bowl of overripe apples and pears.

Up until now I’ve been religiously using every scrap of food in the fridge, in the pantry and in the garden.

But today I just couldn’t face transforming any of it.

This is so unlike me so it didn’t last long.

I had stern words with myself, rolled up my sleeves and made a pile of ingredients that needed using up on the worktop.

My mojo was returning.

During the past few weeks of isolation, one thing’s for sure, I’ve become far more frugal – in a good way – and I’ve fallen into the habit with ease.

I’m washing out freezer bags (for fresh batches of stock), saving milk bottles and jars (for homemade preserves and curds) and saving butter wrappers for greasing cake tins – all the things I remember my Granny doing.

And, the strange thing is, I’m not even thinking twice about it.

Up until today I’d been harvesting fruit and vegetable from the garden with gusto, making sure every last leaf and stalk is used or frozen. (I’ve always tried to do this but when Swiss chard has appeared on your plate three times in one week it was, historically, all too easy to disregard the next bunch that was ready to pick and move on to an alternative).

I know we’ve only been in this situation for a number of weeks but crikey, the days when we could potter out and shop for anything under the sun seem much further in the past.

I’ve made a conscious decision not to queue up outside a supermarket, but to get fresh fruit and vegetables from a stall in my village, to get flour and milk from a local farm shop and eggs from a drive through.

Of course I’m going to need to cave in eventually but I’m holding out for as long as I can.

Anyway, back today, I burst into action and set about making the most of the limp fruit and veg in front of me.

First up the beetroot.

This had been sitting in the sun, out of the ground, for three days and was really rather soft.

I wrapped it in foil and placed it in the oven to roast for a couple of hours. Tomorrow it will join a batch of homegrown rhubarb to make a fruity, earthy ketchup – perfect with barbecued meats.

Next up – yellowing broccoli and limp carrots.

Perfect for soup I thought – tomorrow’s lunch.

A bizarre combo you might think but if they work in a roast they will work here! (If you’re interested in making it the recipe is below).

What next, it must be the two browning pears.

I pulled out a pan and set some dates simmering in milk – the pears would form the base of an upside down, sticky toffee pear cake. Tonight’s dessert sorted.

Lastly, the apples.

With pork tenderloin on the menu, apple sauce it was.

The apples bubbled on the hob with cider vinegar, sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest – as the next sourdough loaf came out of the oven.

I had definitely tracked down my cooking mojo and it was firmly back in place.

Throughout our isolation there have been a number of dishes I’ve cooked which have stood out purely for how they’ve made the most of a few store cupboard ingredients.

Most memorably was the poached egg curry.

I’m with you – I too thought it didn’t sound the most appetising of dishes but it’s an absolute winner. It simply uses a coconut milk curry base in which the eggs are poached.

I’ve made chicken liver pate (livers from the freezer), baked eggs with chard (who knew bakes eggs were so delicious?) and kidney bean curry (made with dried beans).

I’m taking time to appreciate every nuance of the food in the house.

Food is far too precious to waste at any time, but particularly now.

It seems I’ve reverted to a simpler way of life where everything has significance.

I hope we are able to return to some sense of normality in the not too distant future, so we can see family, friends and be together again.

William Wordsworth once wrote that ‘plain living and high thinking are no more’.

For me, it has rather returned…

Broccoli and carrot soup

A perfect way to use up these glorious vegetables...

Course Soup
Keyword Broccoli, carrot, soup
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Kate


  • 1 head of broccoli (or whatever you have to use up) chopped
  • 2 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium potato peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves sliced
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 230 ml milk
  • salt and pepper


  1. Put the chopped brocolli, carrot, potato and garlic in a large saucepan

  2. Add the stock, thyme and nutmeg and bring to the boil over a medium heat

  3. Turn down to a simmer and cook until tender (about 25 minutes)

  4. Use a hand blender to puree the soup

  5. Return the soup to the heat and add the milk

  6. Check for seasoning and warm through

  7. Serve with a sprinkling of thyme and pepper on top

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