As much as I don't want to talk about it, I can't ignore the elephant in the room, which is this virus. Now, Michael and I are both working from home (technically I'm on maternity leave, but blogging and worrying about the birth count as work I think) and keeping us both focussed is proving to be a challenge. Ok, let's be honest, he's pretty busy so is quite focussed anyway, I'm the one who keeps drifting off into something else.
I am upset because I thought my maternity leave would be me getting the house ready, meeting up with mum/pregnant friends to talk about our journeys, maybe even going for nice walks in the countryside or by the sea. Sadly, it's not to be. Our "Prime Minister" has advised that pregnant women are in the high risk category and should self isolate for the foreseeable future. I don't normally pay much heed to what he says but I am not a medic, and there are women out there who have much higher risks in their pregnancies than I do. So I am going to stay put for the time being unless I have medical appointments.
I saw something circulating social media yesterday that said: "Remember, when Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote King Lear". Which makes me stop and focus on making the best of a bad situation. I'm in a position now where I CAN get my house ready for a baby to come into it. I'm lucky enough that I know how to cook and I have the resources to cook nutritious food that also tastes pretty good. And while there are people out there who are selfishly panic buying, there is also a lot of good being done.
People who are not necessarily being forced into quarantine are taking it upon themselves to make sure that their friends, family and neighbours are ok. Making sure that they have enough food, that they're getting social interaction (even if it's through a window) and making sure that their prescriptions are being picked up. My faith in humanity is not yet completely lost!
One thing I did notice before I was told to keep myself to myself was that of all the things people were panic buying, there were a lot of dark green vegetables still ready for the taking. So, if you're worried and want to get as many vitamins as you can, my advice is to stock up on cabbages, broccoli, spinach, kale, green beans... and you can buy all of this frozen as well as fresh.
The recipe I'm giving today is not necessarily a meal but it is incredibly useful, I've found. It's a recipe for vegetable stock and I promise you it makes any sauce-y dish I make just a little bit more rich and full of nutrients. I use home made stock cubes in soups, curries, pasta sauces and oven dishes that call for stock cubes. They are not as concentrated as the ones you buy in the shop so for flavour you would need a couple more than recipe you're following would suggest.
Home Made Vegetable Stock
There isn't an ingredients list for this per se, but I advise keeping all of your veg scraps in a bag in the freezer until the bag is full. This includes, herb stems, any vegetable peels, vegetable cores as well, onion and garlic skins... just make sure you give it all a good wash before you add it to the bag/take it off the vegetable.
1 bag veg scraps (as detailed above)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
3 star anis
1 tsp peppercorns
5 cardamom pods
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
2 bay leaves
Handful of dried mushrooms (if you have them in the cupboard. They're too expensive to buy just for this)
Add everything to a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and fill with water from the kettle. Simmer on a low heat for at least two hours. Check the water level every so often and top it up slightly if needed. If you're using hobs where it's too hard to control the temperature, you will need to check the water level often.
After two hours, the liquid in your stock should be a deep rich brown. If you would like it browner, leave it to simmer longer - I normally simmer mine for 2 / 2 and a half hours.
When the liquid is completely cooled, strain it into a measuring jug or something with a spout. Use this to pour it into ice cube trays and put in the freezer. Once frozen, you can empty them into their own bag or tub or just leave them in the trays.
Alternatively, before you freeze it all, you can keep some back and use it as a base for soup.