Millions of Australians are in quarantine and, with a high demand for food deliveries, perhaps the best thing you can do for a friend or neighbour in this situation is arrange to deliver them a meal.
Sophie Hansen, author of A Basket by the Door: Recipes for comforting gifts and joyful gatherings says cooking for another - be it a full meal or a jar of biscuits - is the most thoughtful act of all.
"It shows someone you care enough to set aside Sunday morning to make a chicken pie for them," she says.
"That you care about their wellbeing. And that, however tired, sad or sick they might feel, someone is watching out for them."
That should be our daily mantra in these times.
And we love the idea of Annabel Crabb's pantry challenge gratin. Stop rushing to the supermarket, people, and cook with the food you already have in the back of the cupboard. Her book, Special Delivery: Favourite food to make and take, co-written with Wendy Sharpe, is full of useful recipes for these times.
Here are a few recipes for you and your friends. Be kind.
Pantry challenge gratin
In the weeks before my partner Jeremy and I moved back to Australia from London, we enforced the "pantry challenge", whereby every meal had to be cooked using something in the cupboard, so we could run our pantry reserves down to nix. For no good reason I can think of, I had at some stage bought a five-kilo bag of quinoa, so that went into tuna patties and some sort of quinoa sushi, to which I'm afraid Wendy was repeatedly subjected. Anyway, there's no quinoa at all in this recipe, but it does mostly use things you might have lurking in your cupboard. Great for when friends drop in, as they say - or, more saliently, very good for whipping up and sticking in a basket for baking on-site in the home of another. This gratin is very rich, so we've sized it as a side dish.
It goes well with many things; some Puy-style lentils or a crisp green salad is a good idea too.
1 leek, well washed and outer green leaves discarded, finely chopped
olive oil, for frying
a little white wine or water, if needed
175g cooked cannellini beans
75g crème frache or sour cream
2 1/2 tbsp cream
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 x 335g jar white asparagus, drained
30g coarse fresh breadcrumbs
50g finely grated parmesan
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Preheat the oven to 160C.
2. In a frying pan over low-medium heat, fry the leek in the smallest amount of oil, adding a little white wine or water if it starts to stick. When the leek has wilted a bit, take the pan off the heat and mix in the beans. Mix the two creams with the mustard until smooth. Take a shallow baking dish about 20 x 15cm and spread about a tablespoon of the cream mixture over the base. Lay the asparagus spears on top, spoon over the leek and bean mixture, then pour over the rest of the cream mixture.
3. Combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan and parsley, then sprinkle over the gratin. (Just by the by, I recommend having a secret stash of this gratin topping in the freezer, ready to sprinkle at a minute's notice - it is also good on lasagne and other baked pasta dishes.) Bake your gratin for about 25 minutes, or until it is crispy, with bubbling cream underneath.
To transport: Par-bake the gratin for about 15 minutes and leave to cool prior to transporting, then finish cooking at your destination, just before serving.
Scandinavian cinnamon buns
If you are incapable of walking properly in those supposedly comfortable Swedish wooden-soled sandals, and that Arne Jacobsen chair is out of your budget, do not despair. These aromatic sweet breakfast treats are an accessible, affordable and tasty road to Destination Scandi-chic. That said, they are a somewhat long road; they need to be started the night before.
1 tsp active dried yeast
45g caster sugar
70ml lukewarm water
200g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
40g butter, plus extra melted butter for glazing
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon, plus a little extra for dusting
icing sugar, for dusting
1. The day before, mix the yeast, one tablespoon of the sugar and the water in a medium bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in half the flour, then leave to stand for about an hour, or until roughly doubled in size. (This first step is not strictly necessary. You can just let the yeast activate with the water and sugar for five to 10 minutes; however, in my experience, you end up with a fluffier bun if you make this pre-dough beforehand.)
2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining flour with the salt and cardamom. When the pre-dough is ready, add it to the flour, along with the egg. Mix until you have a dough.
3. Put the butter between two sheets of baking paper and bash it with a rolling pin to soften it. Fold the butter into the dough and knead until fully incorporated, then cover and rest for 10 minutes. Knead the dough again, then cover and rest for another 10 minutes. Repeat once or twice more, until you have a firm, smooth ball of dough. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. (I realise all this may seem time-consuming, but it is easily incorporated into a quiet evening of box sets, podcasts or late-night radio.)
4. Next day, knock back the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured bench. Flatten the dough into a rectangle about 25 x 10cm. Brush with the beaten egg, then sprinkle over the remaining sugar, followed by the cinnamon and raisins. Roll up the dough into a long sausage, like a Swiss roll, then cut into slices about 2cm thick - you should get about 12. Nestle the slices into a greased 23cm baking dish or tin, cover with a tea towel and leave until roughly doubled in size, about one to one and a half hours.
5. Preheat the oven to 200C and sit a heatproof bowl or roasting tin on the lowest shelf. Put the buns in the oven, pour a cup of water into the bowl or tin; quickly close the door afterwards and reduce the temperature to 180C. Bake the buns for 10-15 minutes until golden, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. While still warm, brush with melted butter, then dust with icing sugar and a little more cinnamon.
To transport: Although best eaten warm, these cinnamon buns are good for a few hours after baking. Carry in a basket (so the warm buns don't steam and become soggy) and cover with a clean tea towel to keep fresh en route.
Makes about 12.
- Images and text from Special Delivery, by Annabel Crabb and Wendy Sharpe. Photography by Rob Palmer. Murdoch Books, $39.
Apple, fennel and pork sausage rolls
These sausage rolls are excellent for smoko break, lunch or dinner. If serving them as a main meal, add a big salad full of peppery greens and a spicy tomato chutney like the one below. Make up a double batch of sausage rolls and freeze them (uncooked) in long logs, ready to bake from frozen, and you'll be ready to feed the hungry hordes in minutes.
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 granny smith apples, cut into small pieces
1 red onion, diced
500g pork mince
1 tbsp thyme leaves
3 sheets butter puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, lightly whisked
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp sea salt
quick tomato chutney (see below), to serve
1. Melt the butter in a heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat.
2. Add three-quarters of the fennel seeds and the apple pieces and cook for a few minutes or until softened. Reduce the heat to low, add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
3. Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
4. In a large bowl, mix the pork and thyme with the cooled apple mixture, and season with salt and pepper. Take a third of this mixture and place it on one of the thawed pastry sheets, making a sausage shape along the bottom third of the sheet. Roll as tightly as you can to create one long sausage. Repeat with the remaining pastry and pork mixture.
5. If you're freezing the sausage rolls at this point, wrap them in plastic wrap and pop them in the freezer. Otherwise, onwards! Using a pastry brush (or your fingers if you don't have one), brush the egg over each sausage roll. Sprinkle the sesame seeds, sea salt and remaining fennel seeds over the top.
6. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the sausage rolls are golden brown.
7. Cut into pieces and serve warm or at room temperature with the tomato chutney.
Quick tomato chutney
Chop 1kg tomatoes and 4 red onions. Seed and chop 2 bird's eye chillies (or to taste). Combine the tomato, onion and chilli in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in 1 1/4 cups firmly packed soft brown sugar, 1 tbsp sea salt and 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar. Bring to the boil and cook, stirring often (so you don't burn the base of the pan), for 40 minutes or until the chutney is thick and glossy. Divide among sterilised jars and seal.
Makes about 4 cups.
Cherry and rose petal jam
1 tsp pectin (see note)
1kg ripe cherries
2 handfuls unsprayed rose petals
1. Put a couple of small plates in the freezer. Pour the sugar into a large bowl and add the pectin, whisking so it's well distributed.
2. Now get started on pitting the cherries. (I splurged a few years ago and bought a $20 cherry pitter. It comes into its own every December and I highly recommend any cherry lovers buy one - you'll thank me!)
3. Place the pitted cherries in a large saucepan and pour in the sugar.
4. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze in the juice and pips, then gently stir to combine. If you have a sugar thermometer, attach it to the side of the pan.
5. Bring the mixture to a slow simmer. Once the sugar has melted, bring to a rolling boil. Cook, stirring every now and then so the jam doesn't catch or burn on the bottom, for 10 minutes or until the temperature reaches jam setting point - 105C. If you don't have a sugar thermometer, do the "plate test": after about 10 minutes, drop a teaspoon of the jam onto one of the plates you put in the freezer, wait for about 10 seconds, then push your finger through the middle of the jam. If it wrinkles and resists a little then it has reached setting point. If the jam is still runny, cook it for another five to 10 minutes before testing again.
6. Remove from the heat and stir in the rose petals. Ladle the jam into sterilised jars, filling each right to the top. Screw on the lids tightly and invert the jars onto a board covered with a tea towel (inverting the jars helps create a seal).
Note: Adding pectin is optional, but with low-pectin fruits like cherries (and strawberries, blueberries, peaches, pears, figs, etc.), I usually just throw in a little extra so I don't end up with a syrup rather than a jam. You can find pectin in most supermarkets or online via preserving websites.
Makes about 3 jars.
Notes on jam making
* The faster jam is made, the fresher and fruitier it tastes, which is why it's best to make small batches of jam - it's easier to cook faster in small quantities.
* Slightly underripe fruit is best to use in jam, because it will have more acidity.
* Use a pan with a wide base so that the fruit cooks more evenly and, again, faster.
* Sterilise the jars before you start - I wash mine well in a hot dishwasher, then heat them in a 180C oven for 15 minutes.
* You can tie up the lemon pips in a piece of muslin if you want to remove them before bottling. Don't leave them out entirely, as they add lots of good natural pectin that helps the jam set.
* When jars and bottles are sterilised properly, the preserves reach setting point before bottling, and they are stored in a cool, dark place, jams should have a shelf life of at least nine to 12 months, and cordials of six weeks. If you're in any doubt at all, store them in the fridge.
- Images and text from A Basket by the Door, by Sophie Hansen. Photography by Sophie Hansen. Murdoch Books, $39.