Quarantine Diary: Week 6

Sunday 26th April

Feeling tired and sluggish again this morning. Kid was up at 2.30am-3am and again around 5ish, and then got up at 6.30am, so it was quite a broken night. Had a nice video call with the family and then we walked up to the garage to get more milk. Started another batch of dough off to rise that we’ll cook tomorrow, though my waistline is not loving the new addiction to bread… Might take half a loaf over to the neighbours tomorrow so we’ve only got half a loaf to eat…

Swept the floors, had lunch and then went off for another mega-long walk as the weather is so lovely and it’s due to rain next week.

This time we went down another new path and discovered an amazing local nature reserve that I had no idea was there! It was beautiful, and I reckon the kid walked nearly 4km! She was walking for almost 2 hours straight which is astonishing. One really positive thing about this lockdown is that she is getting much better at walking further and further distances and we have pretty much given up using the buggy now that she’s not napping anyway. I am really enjoying discovering all these amazing spaces right on our doorstep. If there hadn’t been a lockdown I’m not sure I would have ever discovered them!

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Quarantine Diary: Week 5

Sunday 19th April

Forgot to mention that we finally started getting post again on Friday, after nearly two weeks without, though still no letter from Boris as yet.

Today we are trying bread attempt number 2: A packet of ready-mixed bread dough from the shop (tomato and cheese flavour) that you just add water to. They ended up spreading out but not rising upwards much, so we got some very wide, flat rolls, but these ones were much lighter and fluffier than the last attempt!

The weather is lovely and sunny again so we managed a little bike ride round the park this morning and another nice walk in the afternoon up to the golf course. It was definitely busier today – we saw a lot more people out for walks, not sure if it was the nice weather or the fact that it’s a Sunday or a bit of both. But everyone was very good about distancing and staying well away from each other. By the time we got home I realised I had walked 6km today (though she did some of that on her bike) – which is probably more than we’ve done for a week! We are both tired out, and hopefully will sleep well. Continue reading

Quarantine Diary: Week 4

Sunday 12th April (Easter Sunday)

After crashing out utterly exhausted at 9.30pm last night, the kid was up at 1am and took an hour to get her back to sleep. Crept back up to my bedroom at 2am and 15mins later she woke up again and started screaming so I caved and just brought her into my bed, but we were both restless and slept very little the rest of the night. Woke up knackered again, but some good news – my lovely neighbour had her baby yesterday!

I managed to place a few easter chocolates around the living room and garden before I went to bed last night so we started off the morning hunting down chocolates (with a lot of help and pointing from mummy!) followed by the inevitable argument about how many she was allowed to eat for breakfast and by 9am a full scale sugar crash. We had a nice group call with some family and then a little bike ride round the park, and thankfully after that we both napped which helped a lot.

In the afternoon we ate lunch (and some more chocolate!), bounced around on the trampoline a bit, and called a couple of friends to say hello, and then dug out the paddling pool and drove it over to a friend’s house, as she wanted one for her daughter and we haven’t got space for ours now that we have the trampoline in the garden anyway, so I dropped it off for them to use (hoping it doesn’t have a puncture!).

Been watching the live stream of Jesus Christ Superstar on youtube this weekend, and it’s really good. Plus Mary Magdalen’s theme song is my perfect anthem for this lockdown – it’s catchy and has exactly the right message – “Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to problems that upset you. Don’t you know everything’s alright, yes everything’s fine, and we want you to sleep well tonight….”

Went to bed at 10.20pm so the kid decided to wake up at 10.30pm. Got back into bed at 11pm and the kid woke up again at 2am. Back into my bed again, but might need a new strategy tomorrow night – maybe I’ll move back downstairs again or sleep in her room for a bit and see if that helps. I just can’t be bothered with all the stumbling up and down stairs half asleep at the moment, much as I have been enjoying sleeping in my big comfy bed again.

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Perfect Gravy

This is adapted from my friend’s recipe, which itself was adapted from a Heston recipe, so apologies to Heston!

Ingredients:

  • Shallots (approx 5 or 6 or 250g ish), finely chopped
  • 100g butter
  • 150ml wine (the recipe says white, but I think red, white or sherry would all work)
  • 1tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cider or white wine vinegar
  • 500ml Beef stock (you can either use fresh stock or make it up from a cube or pot)
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic (not in the original recipe but I bloody love garlic in everything), crushed or finely chopped
  • 20g parsley, finely chopped (I just used a handful)
  • 20g chives, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. Melt the butter on a low heat and gently sweat the shallots and garlic for 10 mins or so until golden brown (you need them starting to caramelise to get the sweetness)
  2. Add the wine and boil until reduced by about 3/4 volume.
  3. Stir in the mustard and mix well before adding the beef stock
  4. Boil and reduce it further by about half
  5. Reduce the heat, and add in the herbs, lemon juice and vinegar

(Note at this point mine was tasting very sharp as I had not got much sweetness from the onions so I added a tiny bit of sugar, and then used a hand blender to zhuzz up the onions into a smooth sauce. It made it a slightly odd greyish colour but brought back all the sweetness and oniony flavour.)

At this point you can check if it needs salt or pepper, but bear in mind stock can be very salty so taste it first! You can also use cornflour to thicken it, though I think whizzing up the onions with a hand blender makes it thicker anyway so you may not need to thicken with flour.

Then all you need to do is add in any meat juices from your roast chicken/beef/lamb etc and voila! It’s the best gravy I’ve ever made, and now I have a load of little tubs in my freezer so I can have it any time I want! Yum!

Quarantine Diary: Week 3

Sunday 5th April

Quiet day today. I’m feeling much better and sure that it was all in my head, or at least psychosomatic, and not virus-related. Just fear and stress and tiredness.

We did some yoga and some children’s workouts (Andy’s Wild Workouts on Iplayer is great for little kids). Hoovered the house and changed the bedsheets. Sat in the sun in our tiny garden. Took the kid out for a little ride on her bike, and watered the plants. Watched a silly movie with friends in the evening. Ordered a few more random toys and bits and bobs to help keep the kid entertained. My neighbours must think I have a serious shopping addiction based on the number of amazon boxes piled up outside. And they would be correct.

Made a daal with sweet potato and some sweetcorn fritters, and started planning more meals for the week, working out what we might need and by when, as we’ll need to do another run to the supermarket this week. Continue reading

Quarantine Diary: Week 2

Sunday 29th March

Clocks went forward. Spent most of the night wondering if the cats would be retaliating after the kid peed all over the sofa and marked her territory, and whether or not we would be heading into full on pee wars. God I hope not.

Washed a few more curtains. It’s surprisingly enjoyable even though they look exactly the same afterwards, (I’LL know how clean they are). Had the plumber back after it transpired they had not successfully fixed the leak in the bathroom at all. Hoovered. Wondered if my car battery will die from lack of use. Decided to do more online shopping and have a look at summer clothes for the kid – I love Boots Mini Club stuff, but discovered that there is a queue to get onto their website now and there were LITERALLY 271,000 people ahead of me in the queue. Astonishing.

Ate leftover cauliflower cheese and pasta with veg, and planned a few more meals to cook next week. Continue reading

Jamie’s AMAZING Chicken Tikka Masala

I LOVE a good chicken tikka masala, it’s my favourite curry by far, but there are so many crap restaurants out there, and here in Oxford in particular I find most of them pretty awful – the kind of thing that comes in a neon red/pink sauce and tastes horribly sweet and you can’t even imagine what ingredients might have been used….

However I found a few years ago a really good Jamie Oliver recipe which makes curry for about 20 people, and today I decided to try a slightly different version which serves 4 (a different but similar Jamie Oliver recipe) and it was A-MAZING.

Like, properly the best curry I’ve ever made – DELICIOUS.

His original recipe is here, I have just written it out here for your convenience with a few notes – try it, you won’t be sorry! Continue reading

Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles

Got this recipe from a free magazine at the Co-op a few weeks ago, and it’s also on their website.

They were surprisingly delicious and truffley, and a good thing to make if you’re stuck at home and need a treat (assuming you can find the ingredients).

Ingredients:

  • 40g toffees
  • 50ml double cream
  • 200g 85% dark chocolate broken into pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder/desiccated coconut/ground pistachios or alternative things to roll them in!

(I found this really really super dark, so ended up adding a lot more cream than the recipe suggests. I think next time I would try half dark half milk chocolate maybe for balance – they were MEGA rich in the end, though this may have been because I doubled the amount of cream!).

Steps

  1. Put the toffees into a saucepan on a low heat and stir occasionally until melted (I was very impatient with this part but they do go eventually)
  2. Stir in the double cream and then add the chocolate, keeping on a low heat, stirring gently until melted and smooth
  3. Take off the heat and stir in the salt, then transfer the mixture to a bowl and leave in the fridge to cool for at least 4 hours (I tried after 3 hours but it wasn’t enough – this def needs the full chilling time).
  4. Once cool, lay out your toppings on plates and make small balls and roll them in the topping of your choice. (The original recipe suggests oiling your hands but this didn’t work at all for me – my hands were so warm they melted in my hands almost immediately and it all got VERY messy. I found it easier to use a spoon to squish and roll the ball shape first, so it didn’t melt too much while I was making the balls).