I’m freezing all my dressings now in an easy ice cube tray (see image below), making cabin fever practically enjoyable. Instead of lolloping to the shops with disproportionate urgency and an over-zealous face mask (I own a balaclava), now I just grab a frozen dressing and leave it to defrost within minutes.
These little flavour grenades are perfect on top of plain soups, rice, fish, toast, waffles, eggs, roasted veg or despondent-looking salads. No mess. No washing up. Just yumdingers in an ice cube, and less reason to go outside and shop.
All 4 recipes come from the Freezer Dressings chapter in Clever Batch cookbook, which I’m not supposed to be sharing with you for copyright reasons. But my publisher (hi Gill!) will understand I’m sure, given the current state of chasis we find ourselves in, and the drive to stay at home and out of the neighbourhood stores.
No freezer? No problem. They’ll store beautifully for up to two weeks in a fridge. Some light relief for the cabin fever.
Ocean vegetables are the biggest thing since Ron Burgundy’s sideburns. Calling them ocean veg is, of course, Oprah-fied. Here in Ireland we call them seaweed (but I’m with Oprah on this one – ocean veg sounds like a sultry Billie Eilish song rather than a slimy sea weed).
Nori, and its brothers and sisters in the world of ocean veg, can deliver a cargo of calcium for strong bones. Go nori! Not worried about your bones? You should be, especially if you’re female. One in four Irish women will suffer an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime. That number jumps to one in every two women over fifty. Jeesh.
10 sheets of nori (an ocean veg, and a sort of sushi paper)
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
1–2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar (or a squirt of lemon in a pinch)
1 tablespoon soya sauce
Up to 150ml water
Using a scissors, roughly chomp the nori sheets into bite-sized pieces. Migrate to a saucepan and add maple syrup, some brown rice vinegar and the soya sauce. If you are coeliac, you can find wheat-free soya sauce, called tamari. Leave everything to chillax for 20 minutes.
Add the water and cook on a gentle heat. Remove from the heat after 10 minutes or when the nori collapses into a paste.
Store in an airtight jar once cooled and keep for up to seven days in the fridge. Indecently tasty stuff.
In truth, a forgotten dishcloth would taste good in chimichurri. Serve with fried eggs, falafel, meat, fish, hummus, roasted veg. Anything, actually.
1 red onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 fresh green chilli, deseeded and diced (optional)
2 bunches of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
125ml extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano or thyme
I prefer stirring all the ingredients together. You can, of course, use a food processor to break it all up and marry the flavours, but the end result looks different – greener and thicker than if you were to stir the listed ingredients separately.
Mizzle over plain veg or excite an unsuspecting bowl of rice.
One blast of this butter will have you trotting like a fiery showhorse. There is electrifying happiness to be found inside cayenne pepper. It’s not simply the heat hot-wiring your dimples. It is, in fact, the active compounds within the pepper that tickle our feel-good endorphins (essential fodder for cabin fever, noh?)
Special Agent Capsaicin is responsible for this biochemical effect. Surprisingly, capsaicin’s real prowess does not lie within its antioxidant taekwondo moves. Capsaicin is a brilliant agitator. As we freak out to cope with the blaze of a hot chilli, for example, our body releases an armada of natural painkillers in direct response to the capsaicin content. These endorphins canter through our bloodstream like nectar in our veins. Is it any wonder why a Friday night Thai curry is so damn popular?
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 garlic clove, peeled
6 tablespoons butter or ghee, softened
1 tablespoon ground paprika
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of lemon
Pinch of fine sea salt
Pinch of chipotle chilli or cayenne pepper or chilli powder
Fire up a frying pan and dry-toast the coriander, cumin and caraway seeds until your nostrils start to party. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon to avoid scorching.
Transfer to a pestle and mortar or a coffee grinder and pulverise to a powder. Now beat in the remaining ingredients.
Spoon into a silicone ice cube tray, freeze until firm and pop into a marked freezer bag. It’s a thing of beauty.
When the mood beckons, pop a frozen cube of harissa butter on top of toast with eggs or you can snazzjazzle a boring soup.
White Miso and Garlic Butter
Hot melted butter, smashed garlic and a few teaspoons of sweet white miso paste will transform any tired vegetable into a sultan of seduction. Hell, even a tired flip-flop would taste damn good with this!
3 tablespoons ghee or butter
1 tablespoon white miso paste
1 garlic clove, crushed
Gently warm your ghee or butter until it’s runny. Whisk in your miso paste and crushed garlic. Mizzle over veg or crisp Cos leaves.