Chris Gordon’s self-isolation cooking diary: Week 2

Chris Gordon is our events and programming manager extraordinaire, as well as our monthly food and gardening columnist. Here is the latest instalment of her self-isolation cooking diary.


One bright sunny afternoon with a little time on my hands I emptied the pantry, wiped those shelves down with pure disgust at my family’s filth, and popped everything back in wonderfully themed allotments. So satisfying, even more so than reorganising the Tupperware cupboard.

I learnt that we hoard walnuts and own, for some reason, a truly enormous can of artichokes. Using a Reading’s favourite, Preserving the Italian Way as my guide, I grilled the artichokes, ate a couple with a glass of wine, waited until the rest were cooled and popped them in jars filled with olive oil, garlic and bay leaves. This should see us through some dark times. I noted with pure delight that Mr Demaio also includes in his excellent reference book a recipe for soap. Perfect for those who have 6 kilos of oil (or, as suggested by Pietro, pig fat) and a kilo of caustic soda lying around. So far, we are good on the soap front, but it’s always good to have a backup plan.

My marvellous bloke coated the walnuts with toffee using sugar, water and a quick fearless hand. These morsels of delight are a completely delicious way to finish a meal He was influenced by Annie Smithers, who uses French cuisine as a guiding force in her recipes. And by the by, walnuts are in season right now.

As part of our ongoing commitment to using family time at home well, our adult kids have been cooking for us. There was even a night when we all earmarked recipes from cookbooks. It was truly a sight I could not have imagined. There does remain a tendency for them to use many, many kitchen utensils and to fret a little if we don’t have the exact ingredients in our reach. However, we are also seeing innovation and tenacity. Truly as parents, we can ask for no more.

Using Oats in the North, Wheat in the South – a wonderful cookbook about to appear on our shelves – my son created sweet biscuits with a particularly good moreish flavour. The bickies were all types of lightness and kindness. They were reminiscent of an Arnott’s Nice biscuit, but in this book are called ‘English Tea’.

My daughter’s cooking adventures remain epic. She demands colour and movement in her meals, and has found the perfect resource for her imagination: poke bowls. There is something about fresh herbs, lemon and lime juice, and fish that just make me feel better. It is as if the ingredients are spinning magic. She brought to the table a delicious meal of rice and barramundi that looked almost too good to eat. If you’d like to try this at home, I recommend Poke.

And don’t forget to buy fresh herbs when you head out on your shopping day. It makes all the difference to a meal, and that can completely change your head space.


Look out for further updates from Chris over the coming weeks.

Preserving the Italian Way

Preserving the Italian Way

Pietro Demaio

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