Melissa runs the food and recipe project Fowl Mouths. In 2014, she started a supper club, serving Japanese comfort food that grew into a successful pop-up, which only ended after the birth of her daughter in 2018. She’s been a vocal advocate for the promotion of black and minority ethnic people in food, and now provides advice on all aspects of the industry. @fowlmouthsfood.
March marks one year since the first lockdown. Amid the difficulties, more time at home brought new experiences – especially in the kitchen. The way we eat changed for many. We became more adventurous with more time to embark on projects we’d previously shied away from, especially baking and fermentation. Sourdough bread, sauerkraut and pizza were lockdown favourites. But why not take it a step further and try making these dishes at home, too?
Homemade pizzas were a big thing. Perhaps it was down to the dearth of options after all hospitality businesses shut down in the UK’s first lockdown. Or, maybe it was because everyone was already making sourdough – and it was only a small leap to go the whole hog. There was also a proliferation of at-home pizza ovens as people got really serious about knocking out a decent margherita, rather than ordering a takeaway. Try Good Food’s pizza recipes.
Try instead: LAHMACUN
Lahmacun is a topped Turkish flatbread and an absolute delight. The name means ‘meat with dough’ (derived from Arabic) and it’s also found in Armenia where it is called lamadjo. While I’ve listed this alongside pizza, these are resolutely not that, though some call it ‘Turkish pizza’ and there are similarities. Lahmacun tends to be thinner and more crisp, with toppings added before baking at a high heat. Those toppings generally include cumin-spiced minced lamb, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onion – the embodiment of where the Med meets the Middle East.
Everyone’s favourite lockdown staple – as long as they could get hold of some flour – was sourdough. The basis of a good sourdough is, of course, a starter made from flour and water and utilising natural yeasts to come alive and ferment over time. The bread has a wonderful tang and chewiness.
Try instead: INJERA
This fermented, soft, spongy savoury pancake is the national dish of both Ethiopia and Eritrea – it’s incredible. Its base is a flour made from teff, a poppy seed-sized ancient grain that grows in both countries. The batter for injera is fermented over a couple of days, giving it a slightly sour taste. It’s cooked into a large round, similar to a pancake, with tiny holes across its surface. These form perfect receptacles for the various stews and curries that sit on top of it in piles, for you to tear at with your hands. All the different juices combine, making every mouthful a delight. What makes this dish so special is that it symbolises the very thing that has been absent from us for too long – being able to share and enjoy food with a big group.
Like pizza, foods from East and South-East Asia saw a surge in cook-it-yourself during lockdown, as people had the time to experiment and familiarise themselves with new techniques and ingredients. Lots of people turned to noodles, especially hand-cut noodles that are relatively easier to grasp than hand-pulled. We enjoyed them in dan dan noodles, in ramen and cooked with meat.
Try instead: IDIYAPPAM
Also known as string hoppers, these rice ‘noodles’ are a favourite in Sri Lanka as well as areas in south India. Versions are also enjoyed in Singapore and Malaysia. At its most basic, a batter made of rice flour is squeezed through a holed contraption called a sev sancha, then steamed in piles. The little bundles are served with stews and curries, and sometimes other ingredients are added to the batter, including mustard seeds. You can buy a sev sancha online for less than £10.
4. Confit potatoes
There is no denying that these rectangular layered, crispy potatoes are perhaps the best treatment for spuds, ever. They are a labour of love, but one thing a lot of us had over this last year is more time for kitchen projects. First, you must slice potatoes thinly, then layer in a tray, cover in a fat – ideally beef dripping, in my opinion – bake, chill, slice, then fry. But it’s worth the effort.
Try instead: PATACONES
These are green plantain, sliced thickly, fried, squashed and fried again – ridiculously moreish, unbelievably crispy, and a walk in the park compared to confit potatoes. They can take around 10 minutes to make, and seconds to devour. I’d suggest serving them alongside a breakfast of tomatoes, scrambled eggs and avocado, but they rarely last long enough to make it to a serving plate.
5. Banana bread
Banana bread was such an ubiquitous presence over lockdown that it even spawned a parody song, sung to the tune of Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping (I Get Knocked Down). Relatively easy to make and only needing easy-to-source ingredients, it was possible to make with children or quick enough to knock up for a fast sweet fix. Perhaps most famous (and delicious) is chef and author Milli Taylor’s one – known simply as BBBB (brown butter banana bread) made with rum-soaked raisins. Try our gluten-free banana bread recipe.
Try instead: BUN & CHEESE
The Jamaican baked spiced loaf is made with stout, cinnamon, mixed spice and dark sugar, giving it depth and a malty, rich flavour. It’s traditionally served with a slice of cheese and is an Easter staple. It’s a derivative of hot cross buns, having been taken over to Jamaica by English colonisers in the 17th century.
While our movements have been restricted over the last 12 months, kombucha ‘mothers’ have been moving around the country with relative freedom, posted by fermentation fanatics to newbies. The ‘mother’ is also known as a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and is the foundation of a kombucha. Sugar and tea is added to a vessel with a scoby, and over the next few days the scoby enables fermentation. The result is a sour drink with complex flavours and reputed health benefits. A secondary fermentation can be done using fruit to create carbonation – making the kombucha fizzy.
Try instead: ELDERFLOWER CHAMPAGNE
Elderflower champagne. Now this isn’t actually champagne – only fizzy wine made in the Champagne region of France using specific techniques can use that name. But, fizzy elderflower is an easy and delicious drink to make, and not too dissimilar from kombucha in that it is fermented to create bubbles – but without the need for a scoby. Elder trees are everywhere in the UK, and getting out to pick them is a real delight.
This fermented cabbage is associated with Germany and eastern Europe, but it actually has roots in China where workers building the nation’s Great Wall survived on a diet of cabbage and rice. The cabbage was added to rice wine, becoming fermented and prolonging its life. The trend was brought to Europe where salt replaced the wine. In recent years, sauerkraut’s popularity has taken off in Britain thanks to its health benefits linked to probiotics.
Try instead: KIMCHI
This Korean dish follows the same basic principles as sauerkraut – fermenting cabbage to create a lactic acid solution that lends a sour taste – but it includes more flavours, namely a Korean chilli called gochugaru, which is now easily accessible in the UK through online retailers. As well as the cabbage, carrots and daikon are used, as well as garlic, ginger and spring onions. It’s the perfect accompaniment to almost every meal imaginable, and once it’s really aged and tangy, it’s brilliant in kimchi fried rice. Try Good Food’s speedy kimchi recipe.
Easy to make, delicious, healthy and best of all, enjoyed by (most) children. There’s a lot to love about hummus, which is why it was a kitchen mainstay over the last year. Chefs, cooks and cooking hobbyists were very keen to shout about their way being the best way, but the most important thing for most is just how quick it is to whip up a killer batch, and make a meal with just a few other ingredients.
Try instead: RICOTTA
Homemade ricotta is surprisingly easy to make. I started making it myself when I couldn’t buy any that matched what I’d grown used to in Malta, where every shop sold the freshest by weight. All you need is milk and an acid – I use cider vinegar while others prefer lemon juice. Heat it to just before boiling, remove from the heat then add the acid. Once stirred and cooled, drain it – that’s ricotta. Try it with pasta, or mix through grilled courgettes and lemon.
More from Melissa…
7 new comfort foods you should try
10 exciting ingredients to try in 2021
10 game-changers: food greats everyone should know about
Best ever food podcasts
Cajun-style prawn cocktail
Mango & coconut trifles
Turkey curry patties
This article was published on 16 March, 2021.
Portrait: Samer Moukarzel, Photographs iStock/Getty Images Plus, Fotographiabasica/Getty Images