I am bored to tears of my own cooking. This is something I announce loudly to no one in particular every time I walk into the kitchen, perhaps in the hope that 84 dumplings from my favourite Chinese restaurant might suddenly appear before me. At the same time, I am hungrier than ever, and meals are imbued with almost spiritual importance: a hopeful point on the horizon to head towards each day.
Two chefs have guided me through this restless and ravenous time. The first is Rukmini Iyer, a food writer I became aware of a couple of years ago. Her cookbook, The Roasting Tin, comprises dishes made in a single oven dish: simply prep the ingredients, shove them in, wait and eat. I’m a vegetarian, so picked up The Green Roasting Tin. I became an Iyer evangelist, raving about her to anyone who came to my house for dinner. Her cheap, simple recipes are delicious and have, in lockdown, become more important to me than ever. I am writing this column between mouthfuls of her tomato orzo (key ingredients: vegetable stock, cherry tomatoes and orzo or other tiny pasta).
The second is Alison Roman – the New York Times cooking columnist beloved by trendy 20- and 30-something women everywhere. She has a huge Instagram following, and has published two bestselling cookbooks, Dining In and Nothing Fancy. A handful of her store-cupboard recipes have become so beloved that they are in certain corners of the internet simply referred to as “The Stew” and “The Dip”. My diet is now reliant on one of her most popular recipes, a versatile paste/pasta sauce that only requires shallots, tomato purée and a tin of anchovies, but is still rich and almost decadent: the opposite of boring lockdown cooking.
This article appears in the 06 May 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Remaking Britain