In this strange new world we all find ourselves in, there is something delightfully calming and grounding about familiar rituals and everyday activities. Cooking, for me at least, is one of those. While we might not have access to the abundance of ingredients we are used to, there is still plentiful food in the shops and, with a little creativity and love, we can transform even the most basic meal into something that punctuates our days at home with joy.
As Easter weekend approaches, a time we may previously have celebrated with loved ones, this comfort feels even more important. Friends and families may not be gathering, but we can still mark the occasion by laying the table (even more importantly if it is just for one) and sharing our love in more inventive ways. Could you do a doorstep Easter meal (with appropriate hygiene precautions, of course) for a vulnerable neighbour, or family member? A video call during lunch? Send homemade Easter cards with a handwritten recipe included? Just a couple of ideas…
Rest assured that most recipes – including the following – can handle a few ingredient swaps (or omissions), perhaps with the exception of baking, where culinary alchemy is a little more precise. Limitations often encourage the most wonderfully original new dishes. Some of the best dishes ever created were happy accidents. So, rather than worrying about not having the exact list of ingredients that a recipe suggests, be confident to use what you do have, and you may well be pleasantly surprised.
However you are celebrating this weekend, I send you the most enormous amount of strength, courage and love.
Instant Tomato & Cannellini Bean Soup
This incredibly simple and nutritious recipe doesn’t involve any cooking. It uses ingredients that are (hopefully) easy to get hold of – or are already in your cupboard. Simply throw everything into a blender, whizz, then gently warm in a pan. It’s a lovely starter to your Easter meal, or a great quick lunch any day of the week.
400g good-quality chopped tomatoes, plus 200ml of cold water to rinse them out
400g cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 spring onion, roughly chopped
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
½ tsp sea salt
1 tbsp cider vinegar (substitute white wine, sherry vinegar, or lemon if needed)
A handful of fresh basil leaves (parsley or chives work well, too)
Freshly ground black pepper
Ingredient swaps: If you don’t have cannellini beans, try butter beans, mixed beans, or chickpeas. If you don’t have tinned tomatoes, use fresh ones, or a jar of tomato pasta sauce.
- Put all the ingredients (including the cold water) into the blender, and blend until completely smooth.
- Add a little more water to adjust the consistency, if needed. Either chill or heat to serve.
- Then simply grind fresh black pepper and drizzle some olive oil.
Slow-Cooked Lamb Tagine
Lamb is, of course, an Easter classic, and this delicious tagine makes a little go a long way, with the addition of a few store-cupboard staples and vegetables. Serve with whatever veg you have to hand, perhaps with some rice, couscous, quinoa, or potatoes on the side to make it into a more substantial meal. It also freezes brilliantly if the quantities are more than you will need.
900g diced lamb (large 3–4cm dice – ask for chopped leg, or shoulder, if you’re buying from a butcher)
1 large aubergine, cut into 1cm cubes
1 red pepper, deseeded and diced
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
400g of chopped tomatoes, plus 200ml of water
1 tbsp tomato purée
- Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker and mix well together.
- Cook on medium for six hours (or for seven to eight hours on low).
Peanut Butter Cookies
These cookies are incredibly easy to make and great to include little helpers, too. Containing just four basic ingredients (no flour required), they make a nice addition to a cup of tea and, of course, are lovely for an Easter-day treat. My daughter loves to make these with me, and they can easily be cut into Spring-like shapes if you have cookie cutters.
Makes 10–12 cookies
250g peanut butter
150g sugar of choice (I use coconut)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ tsp vanilla powder
2 tbsp chocolate chips (optional)
Ingredient swaps: If you don’t have peanut butter, or prefer to use a substitute, Tahini, hazelnut butter and almond butter work well, too.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6 and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
- Put all the ingredients into a bowl and stir well to combine.
- Spoon tablespoons of the mixture on to the lined baking sheets, leaving space for the cookies to spread. Bake in the oven for eight to 10 minutes.
- Leave to cool on the trays, then move to a rack to cool completely. They will keep in an airtight tin for up to three days.
All recipes are taken from Simply Good For You by Amelia Freer, which is available now (Michael Joseph, £22). All photography by Susan Bell.
For more healthy store-cupboard or batch-cook recipes, visit Amelia’s website.