How to cook your best ever food in lockdown

Lockdown changed the way we cook and eat, as we turned to comfort food and got used to cooking without ingredients that were out of stock. As we enter Lockdown 2.0, Nigella Lawson brings some of the dishes she ate during the first lockdown to her new BBC Two series, Cook, Eat, Repeat.

“I think the reason a lot of people are nervous about cooking is that they think there is one perfect way and they are frightened of getting it wrong. Lockdown showed people who don’t consider themselves confident cooks that cooking is all about improvisation. You are not talking about showstoppers, you are talking about cobbling things together to make supper”, she says. So how did she find comfort through cooking, and what can we learn from her experiences?

Take pleasure in cooking – and sit down to eat

“We all learned over lockdown that thinking about what to eat, cooking it, and sitting down to what we’ve cooked really gave a focus to our lives that we were grateful for”, says Nigella. She’s quick to acknowledge that mood-boosting, warming dishes are “needed in a dark and difficult winter”.

While the recipes in the series were written before lockdown, she cooked many of them during those long months. In episode one, we see her making Noodles with lamb shank and aromatic broth. “This dish is something I’ve been making for a while, but it became very important to me in lockdown…. There’s something about the aromatic broth (which, incidentally, is incredibly simple to make) that makes you feel warm, safe and at peace. It shows the power of food to sustain us physically and emotionally.”

You can find Nigella’s comforting dish of noodles with lamb shanks on when the programme airs.

Make the most of leftovers

“No-one has a huge crowd… these days for obvious reasons, so a small scale, simple but special pudding is just right”, says Nigella. So what’s her solution in episode one? A chocolate banana pudding that’s perfect for serving two to four. It even microwaves well, so if you’re cooking for one you can reheat it the next day. The other great advantage of this gooey pud is that it makes the most of leftover tired bananas.

Cook everyday ingredients in exciting ways

You can make favourite ingredients feel new by cooking them in unfamiliar ways. “Up until now, I had thought the fish finger found its greatest expression in a fish finger sandwich”, says Nigella. So what changed her mind? Discovering the Fish finger bhorta – a bhorta being an Indian dish of fried and mashed vegetables – which she makes in episode one. “All the ingredients in this dish are familiar, yet the finished dish is for many of us so completely new”, she says. Even the humble red onion is transformed into crunchy, quick pink pickled onions for this meal.

Nigella transforms red onions into a quick pink pickle for her Fish finger bhorta.

If you can’t find your favourite ingredients, try new ones

Most of us have struggled to find some of the foods we eat regularly in the supermarkets. If you’re lucky enough to be able to pick up unusual ingredients in your shop, this is a good time to try them! Nigella introduces us to spicy gochujang chilli paste in her lamb shanks recipe, and transforms mac and cheese by adding cooked crab. Then again, these ingredients are so good, don’t wait until you run out of your favourites!

Keep looking for new ideas

We all have recipes we turn to again and again, but it’s fun to keep looking for new ideas. Nigella finds inspiration in many places, from delving into old cookbooks to exchanging ideas on social media – and creates exciting new dishes!

Cook, Eat, Repeat is on BBC Two on Monday evenings at 8pm from 9th November.