Updated: Mar 24
We made a big decision today (and we're already wondering if it is the right one!). We've been living with my parents, who are in their 70s, whilst we got ourselves sorted and so, with our 4 year old, Ernest, we are going into self-isolation with them until 14th April when we will have alternative accommodation. It's going to be pretty intense, but I'm planning to use the time for a different kind of grounding. My mum taught me to cook and my dad taught me to love walking in the fresh air, so I'm going to try to fend off the cabin fever by rediscovering those roots a bit - I might not get this chance again.
I'm kicking off by digging out my mum's cookery scrapbooks. She 's been making them since the seventies and I pored over them as a child. Now they seem like a snapshot of time, with some extraordinary recipes like Avocado Stir Fry topped with cheddar cheese. I love these books, they are as close as my mum will come to an auto-biography. The recipes are cut from magazines and pasted in so neatly - sometimes she makes notes or crosses things out, changes quantities or simply rates them - I always look out for her top rating "v v good". And sometimes she writes them in from scratch, passed on from a friend or relative, like "Aunty Mary's fruitcake" which I still make now (served with a slice of Wensleydale cheese or not at all).
This has been a really unsettling week for everyone and it feels like time to re-stabilise or 'ground' ourselves. Read a bit more about grounding here. Root veg is great for feeling more physically and mentally... well... rooted! They increase our stability, stamina and endurance. We seem to have bought all the potatoes, carrots and onions in the county (the Chalke Valley Stores has been incredible in this crazy time, managing to stay really well stocked with a great selection of local produce), so tonight is all about stew. If you've eaten at Custom Folkestone, you'll know that I don't really cook with meat, but I do make an exception for really high-welfare producers. My mum has bought some beef from local Cools Farm and we're eking it out in "Italian braised beef" from the scrapbook (Good Housekeeping circa 1985, with alterations):
500g braising steak
350g onion (roughly chopped)
2 large cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
1 bottle Chianti
2 tbsp tomato puree
15ml white wine vinegar
1 heaped tsp vegetable bouillon powder
salt and pepper
bunch fresh thyme or 2 tsp dried thyme
350g carrots (sliced)
350g potatoes and/or celeriac (cubed)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
75g chestnut mushrooms (halved or quartered)
1 can artichoke hearts (optional but recommended!)
Pitted black olives (to taste)
1. Cut the beef into cubes and place in a bowl with all the ingredients in the list down to thyme. Cover and marinade for 24 hours.
2. Strain off the marinade and reserve. Heat some oil in a large casserole and brown the meat half at a time, removing with a slotted spoon and setting aside.
3. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and saute until soft, then add the carrots and potatoes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute then add the marinade and tinned tomatoes. Replace the meat.
4. Cover the casserole tightly and bake at approx 160 degrees centigrade for 3 hours (or until meat is completely tender).
5. 10 minutes before serving add the mushrooms and drained artichokes and return to the oven. Sprinkle olives on top and serve with rice or polenta.