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Food for Thought: Cooking in lockdown

Top tips from us, as well as local independent traders Food Works, Birdhouse and PJ Taste.

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This is a time like no other and for some of us food may have become a topic which we have mixed feelings about, whether that's due to a change in routine or because food shopping now takes more planning.

Online options worth exploring include veg boxes from Regather and Beanies, and a click and collect service at Seven Hills Bakery for bread, pastries and veg. Use the City Grab app to find more local favourites and order meal deliveries and fresh produce to your door, including milk, butter and ice cream from Our Cow Molly, ready meals from PJ Taste, and baked goods from Roses the Bakers.

This month we've brought together tips and advice to help inspire you with recipe ideas, different techniques to try at home and alternative ingredient suggestions, if you can't get your usual products.

We also have some creative ideas from a selection of Sheffield's independents.

Building up your store cupboard repertoire is useful for now and in the future. Tinned foods can be used to make nutritious, easy dishes. Try tinned anchovies with tomatoes, chilli, garlic and olives for a puttanesca-style pasta. Use tinned sardines for an omega 3 boost and serve with salad leaves and a selection of colourful fresh vegetables, like beetroot, spring onions and tomatoes.

Tinned soups are great for a lunch option and you can give them a little twist by adding some toasted cumin seeds. You can also make a soup more hearty by adding chickpeas, and if there's any leftovers you can use these to make your own hummus. Simply blend with garlic, tahini and lemon juice.

Chickpeas are great in a veggie curry and chana masala is the perfect comfort food. You'll need onions, chilli and tinned tomatoes, then add a bought curry paste or use a blend of garam masala, cumin, ginger, coriander, mustard seeds and turmeric.

Experiment with other types of beans. If you have dried butter beans you can cook these in a slow cooker without soaking. Simply cover with water and cook for 8 hours. Alternatively, you can soak overnight and cook on a simmer for 1 hour or so until tender. Add the cooked beans to roasted veg and top with feta for a Mediterranean-style meal. Serve with salad.

If you're struggling to get rice or pasta, try other grains like couscous or bulgar wheat, and embrace lentils. They're full of protein, and you can use dry or tinned, add them to salads and soups or make a spicy daal. Red split lentils work well for this and the secret to the flavour is the 'tarka'. This is a blend of spices fried in oil which is stirred through the daal at the end of cooking. You can use cumin, mustard seeds and chilli flakes or a shop-bought curry paste. For a smoother texture, blend the daal to your preference.

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Explore using other root vegetables like Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac or swede to roast or mash. Make the most of stems and leaves, try roasting cauliflower and broccoli leaves in oil, cumin and salt.

Try making your own slaw and dips. For example, beetroot and cabbage with lime and chilli will give you a punchy side dish. Puree broad beans (you can use frozen) with garlic and oil to make a vibrant sandwich filling. Try cooking frozen peas and mash with olive oil, then add mint, crushed garlic and chilli. Serve on toast with a fried egg.

We'd recommend batch cooking. Roasting a tray of vegetables is worth doing every week and you can then use them in a variety of dishes. Use whatever you have in - peppers, courgettes, cauliflower, broccoli (including the stalks) parsnips and aubergines. Drizzle with oil, season and maybe add herbs and spices for extra flavour. Store in the fridge (or freezer) and add them to salads, pasta, stews or soups.

If you can't get tinned tomatoes, you can cook down fresh tomatoes. Firstly saute onions in a pan, then add the tomatoes, season and simmer on a low heat for 20-25 minutes. Making a big batch of tomato sauce will give you a base for other dishes like pizza, chilli or pasta. Just portion the sauce into containers for the freezer and use when you are ready.

Soda bread is one of the easiest breads to make as it doesn't require proving or kneading. All you need is plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt, and just add water, yoghurt or buttermilk. You can use wholemeal flour and add spices or seeds if you want to explore flavour combinations.

To make flatbreads, you only require flour and water, which you mix into a dough, roll into balls and leave to rest. Flatten them into shape and cook by heating a dry frying pan or griddle. They will only need a few minutes either side.

Try making your own spiced fries by par-boiling sliced potatoes and baking them in a hot oven with a scattering of paprika or garam masala. Try squash or sweet potatoes for alternatives, if you can't get potatoes.

Baked sweet potatoes are lovely with a herb butter like chill, lime and coriander, or you can switch the butter for yoghurt if you want a healthier option. You can also use any other herbs depending on what you can get. Mint and lemon work well, or keep it simple with chives and black pepper.

Staying on the potato theme, check out Blend Kitchen's Instagram feed for inspiration. Chef Chris Hanson is regularly sharing videos and in the potato one, he shows you how to use a jacket potato to make potato skins, fishcakes and potato croquettes.

How to make your food last longer is something that we will all find useful. Check out Love Food, Hate Waste's food storage A-Z to search for an ingredient and find out the best way to store it. Top tips we learnt include that cooked aubergine can be frozen, as can all citrus fruit. Just cut into slices and store in freezer bags or add the juice into ice cube trays.

Here are a few more top tips...

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The Food Works

If you get takeaways, save the tubs. Batch cook a large chilli or stew and transfer to the empty containers to freeze for homemade ready meals.

Make veg stock with leftover ends of veg or peelings. Boil down, cool and pop into an ice cube tray for your own homemade stock cubes.

Leftover vegetables can be blitzed into soups or baked into a frittata with eggs and served cold for lunch the next day. For more inspiration take a look at The Food Works YouTube channel.

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Birdhouse Tea Company

Our hack for this sunshine weather is our ice-olation tea pops. Strawberry laces tea and elderflower cordial frozen into pop molds.

Or if you're bored of using bananas to make banana bread, slice them and freeze, then blend with some macha for a healthy ice-cream.

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PJ Taste

Try making nettle and potato soup. It's likely to be the quickest and most nutritious soup you can make with a few ingredients. All you need is one large potato, a good-sized bowl of nettles and a stock cube, plus olive oil or butter.

Nettles have been used for centuries to detoxify the body, boost energy levels after the long winter and improve the nutrient uptake of the gut.

Why not switch up your breakfast by swapping breakfast cereals and toast for eggs? Omelettes or scrambled with mushrooms or ham, bacon or quality sausage can help keep the mid-morning hunger at bay.

Eggs are a high quality protein and they're rich in selenium, Vitamin D and B vitamins. You can order eggs, Moss Valley bacon and sausages for delivery from us via the City Grab app.

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