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Food: How to cook your way through lockdown

Sharing daily recipes as swift and simple to make as they are delicious and nutritious to eat, Tine Roche’s lockdown cooking blog, #whatsforsupper, is fast developing a following. The Cambridge Cookery MD talks to Alice Ryan

- What was the inspiration for #whatsforsupper and how does it work?

I have worked six days a week, as well as most weekends, for many years. That has taken its toll on my own home-cooking, which has not been particularly inspired, for obvious reasons. For me, this enforced quiet time has re-energised my love of cooking. It has been really wonderful to cook the way I like best - from simple ingredients already in my freezer, fridge and pantry. Thinking about what to cook for supper from around midday is a joyous thing.

- What kind of dishes can followers of the blog look forward to cooking?

All my recipes are quick and easy to make. Many have less than five ingredients. They are fad-free; it’s a mix of classic techniques based on my classic training as a chef, so it includes things such as bread making and making Béarnaise sauce which both, by the way, fall into the quick-to-make category. It’s some of my favourite food. I always cook with seasonal ingredients, as what’s on the market is my inspiration, and I find real joy in making delicious food from unassuming ingredients like potatoes, tomatoes, pasta and eggs.

Tine Roche has launched a corona cooking blog, #whatsforsupper (33653876)
Tine Roche has launched a corona cooking blog, #whatsforsupper (33653876)

- The corona crisis is prompting people to both learn new and hone old culinary skills - we've heard lots of stories of people taking up bread baking and so on. That's got to be a good thing, hasn't it?

Yes definitely. Taking time to reconnect with real, homemade food is so important and will improve people’s health no end. So many of us normally rush through life and survive to a large degree on ready-meals, either from the shops or via delivery. We seem to have lost touch with the simple pleasure of preparing a meal.

I also think that we have forgotten what homemade food tastes like. It’s actually very different from processed food which has been made to seduce us - it is packed with salt, sugar and additives to get us hooked and coming back for more.

Fresh, homemade food is high in nutrients and therefore has a high immunological value. Fresh fruit and veg, whole grains and non-processed animal proteins play a very real and active role in boosting our immune system. I don’t need to point out how topical that is now that we look at the effect of COVID-19 on those with impaired immune systems.

Nutritious food should be available to all. I think that it has never been more urgent than now to puncture the myth that healthy food made from scratch is unaffordable to some. It is much, much cheaper than ready-made food. It makes me really frustrated to see and hear this false mantra repeated over and over.

Cooking from scratch is not only the cheapest way to eat, it is also by some considerable margin the most healthy way. There is no doubt in my mind that it won’t be long before we are told about a very real link between COVID-19 and poor diet. A severely compromised immune system, reduced lung and heart capacity are all symptoms of poor diet.

- There's something singularly comforting about preparing - and sharing - a home-cooked meal, isn't there?

Yes! It is what all keen cooks share. I know it’s not the case for everyone, and I feel sorry for those who derive no particular pleasure from cooking. Cooking is a great example of mindfulness - a mechanical activity which requires a bit of the brain to be engaged but allows the rest of the brain to wander and access unmined areas, almost in the same way as, for me at least, running does. By allowing the brain to freewheel, you find new solutions to problems; totally unexpected ideas pop up and, in the case of cooking, you have also enjoyed a creative process.

- The blog is also a way to keep connected, isn't it?

Very much so. When we closed down, which I decided to do five days before lockdown, it felt like a major amputation. I run two businesses: the café and the cookery school. In the café I am used to having baked cakes and bread and prepared for lunch by the time our first regulars walk through our door and my front-of-house manager Teresa has got the coffee machine up to speed.

In the the cookery school, where I have run classes, hen parties and team building events for local companies for more than 10 years, together with the same amazing team of Leiths and Cordon Bleu-trained chefs, we are used it being packed, hearing people laugh and enjoying themselves and, of course, constantly breathing in delicious smells. This has been my life for more than a decade, so to say that closing has been a huge loss is no exaggeration.

- Could you share an example #whatsforsupper recipe, to get us started?

I think my favourite food and style of cooking is best represented by one of the least complicated recipes, pasta with freshly made roasted tomato sauce. I do share classic cheffing techniques in most of my blogs, such as how to poach an egg, make a five-second scramble and, in the case of this recipe, how to purée garlic, but the cooking is simple and quick.

I chuck some cherry tomatoes in the oven to roast, and cook some into a sauce in a pan on the hob. Both batches are cooked in less than 10 minutes before I combine them. The tomatoes cooked down on the hob are flavoured with fresh basil, tomato concentrate and sugar. The recipe also explains how to cook perfect pasta, which is not necessarily a given.

* Find Tine’s daily recipes at https://cambridgecookery.com/whats-for-supper/

* For more inspiration, follow @ccscafe_ on Instagram and search ccookeryschool on Facebook

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