Cooking in the COVID kitchen

By Jose Luis Romanillos, Consultant, Agent & Introducer at J.L.Romanillos Ltd

The enforced Coronavirus lockdown has meant that we have all been confined to our home spaces at a level we have perhaps never experienced before. In this piece, I look at the issue of home cooking and how we have been forced to spend more time in this key space in our homes, considering the importance that cooking and good food plays in our lives. I look at some innovations, tasty treats, tricks and money-saving menus - together with suggestions and dishes from our JLR network of clients, partners and friends. As well as some celebrity guest entries. Bon appétit! Que aproveche! Enjoy!

There are a few social activities in which I can totally switch off and let my mind relax and drift away. Activities which enable my mind to focus completely on something different, relaxing and interesting, thereby pushing away into a dark corner the current and ever-present thoughts and worries. Gardening, playing sports (cricket and golf) and cooking I would list as my top three. I especially love cooking, even though I would not call myself a particularly good chef. I cannot do any pastry, for example, and sauces (which I believe to be crucially important) are an enigma to me. I have four staple dishes I can produce to a decent level, however, which my dear mother taught me before I packed my bags and went off to University all those years ago. Those dishes are as follows: a proper Paella (Seafood or Chicken), Spanish Tortilla, Shepherd's Pie and a traditional British Sunday Roast. Those four dishes have got me through most of my life, and even led to me finding my wife. Of course, with all my travelling and business activities, I have over the last 10 years had very little time to cook. Until now. The Covid lockdown has encouraged me to find my chef's hat, dust it down, put it on and get active again in the kitchen. Not to mention my chef's apron - I even like to dress the part. In fact, it all re-started with some potatoes, in the very first week of lockdown…

It was a Monday Lunchtime. I remember the day well as it was momentous enough for me to write it into my daily diary. I was under strict instruction as No 2 washer-upper/sous-chef to prepare the vegetables for a fish pie my wife was making. This historically is my default Johnny role in the kitchen, playing a significant second fiddle to her 'Fanny Craddock', the great doyenne of TV cooking. As I was peeling the potatoes and sweet potatoes in readiness to make a rich mashed potato covering, it suddenly struck me that there were all those peelings left over, which would normally have been put in the waste or into the compost bucket. "Could I do anything with these peelings?", I asked myself. After a quick think, I suddenly took it upon myself to put them into a baking tray, cover them lightly with just salt and pepper, and then bake them for 40 minutes. The result was a spectacular and unexpected win. Dressed with some grated cheddar cheese, parsley and a good blob of mayonnaise, I had just created an amazing starter. Roasted potato peel crisps, or as I christened them: "JLR Thin Skins". I am sure these have been done many times before, in many households and cookery books, but it was a light-bulb moment first for me. My own sudden and spontaneous creation.

And for me, that summed up what is truly pleasurable about cooking for yourself. The process of thinking about food and preparing it really is all-encompassing, and there is no room left in the mind for other things. This is then followed by the satisfaction and pride of eating something you yourself have created - if it comes out well, of course. There is additionally the joy of seeing others share and enjoy your skills, which is what drives and inspires professional chefs, I am sure. Food gives pleasure as well and nourishment. And then, finally, there is the possible additional joy of feeling you have made use of some basic ingredients which you may even have thrown away. In these difficult times, both emotionally and financially, it doesn't get better than that - something pleasurable that actually costs virtually nothing to do, except for your basic ingredients and operating costs...

To be continued.

José Luis Romanillos MA TEP


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