A Coronavirus Christmas #1

Regardless of any lockdown, the coronavirus pandemic means few of us will be enjoying an extended family Christmas this year, and opportunities to meet up with far-flung friends and relatives ahead of the holiday are getting harder to organise safely. I suspect a lot of presents will be ordered online and delivered via mail or courier and it’s entirely possible that our Christmas dinner ingredients will be arriving the same way. 

What follows is pretty much what I’d love to be given as gifts if I hadn’t already cracked and bought them for myself because of my out-of-control web-based buying habit. (Many of us have explored new hobbies during lockdown and it seems this is mine.) Continue reading

Mrs Portly’s Time Machine

I‘m lucky enough to live in an old and rather beautiful home. It’s Tudor, with the oldest part dating back to around 1500, although like most houses of its sort it’s been altered and added to over the centuries. We have witch marks on the beams, elaborate Elizabethan chimneys and parchment-written deeds which, sadly though responsibly, the previous owner donated to the county records office for their preservation. 

Living here has increased my interest in historical recipes and I thought it would be good to recreate some in a way that reflects the house and the periods it has lived through. Continue reading

Easing Lock-down

I understand the economic imperative, as one sarky journalist put it, of getting businesses with rateable values back up and running. I understand the joy of some of my friends in the restaurant industry, who’ve been struggling to make ends meet behind locked doors, at being able to earn a few quid at long last. I also understand the ones who’ve said: “Re-open? In these circumstances? Not likely!” Continue reading

Lock-down

My get-up-and-go has got up and gone. The irritating thing is that I can’t go with it. Lock-down affects us all in different ways. I don’t actually mind staying at home but I do miss the creative kick in the pants that cooking for friends gives me. It’s all too easy to default to beans on toast when there’s only two of you. Continue reading

Cultural Collisions in the Kitchen

I try to avoid treading on anyone’s toes when it comes to fiercely guarded cultural and culinary traditions, but when you’re trying not to waste food during lock-down, some strange combinations can result. If I was a famous chef there’d be people with pitchforks and firebrands at my door, or writing angry letters to newspapers, at least. Continue reading

Freezer Diving

What’s in your freezer? Probably less than there was a few weeks ago, thanks to coronavirus and shortages of some foods. You perhaps only have a tiny icebox at the top of your fridge but if you live miles from the shops like I do, the chances are that you have a fairly big freezer and you are unearthing a few surprises, especially if the label’s fallen off. Continue reading

Cabin Fever and Cooking With Kids

As I lay in bed yesterday, serenely drinking my fourth cup of tea, I pondered what recipes I could share with parents struggling to cope with having the kids home 24 hours a day. The answer? I can’t. I have no clue what special hell you’re going through. Continue reading

Don’t Tell Me To Keep Calm And Carry On, I’m Liable To Thump You

Frankly, if someone gave me a “Keep Calm” mug right now I’d probably feed it them. Forcibly. And I might not be fussy about which orifice I chose. I’m so cross about the hoarding, panic buying and general stupidity, I’m done with being polite about it. Continue reading

Valentine’s Day

I’m always a bit flummoxed by Valentine’s Day. What constitutes the perfect dish for a romantic meal? It’s so subjective. It’s often assumed that women will want something chocolatey and flowery and yet at a lunch with friends recently it was one of the men who plumped for the chocolate pudding. What of those of us who prefer savoury to sweet? It’s a quandary. Continue reading

January Blues and Green Shoots

I do not love winter. While other people are out making snow angels (or failing that,  fallen leaf angels, the hussies) I am sitting indoors doing my Victor Meldrew impression. I don’t like the long, dark nights and miserable weather and I can’t bear all the pious lectures we’re subjected to after the Christmas jollities. Continue reading