Eight ways to beat Melbourne's lockdown blues this week

Cakes from Chic de Partie are perfect for friends who are celebrating their second consecutive locked-down birthday.
Cakes from Chic de Partie are perfect for friends who are celebrating their second consecutive locked-down birthday. Photo: Supplied

News doesn't get more confronting than this week's. A deeper, longer lockdown hit many of us hard. But it paled in comparison to the sight of those trying desperately to flee Afghanistan. Wherever this week finds you hurting, here are a few small ways to beat the lockdown blues.

Have a go

Projects? They were so lockdown 2020, right? Perhaps, but research shows that structured activities are a genuinely useful way to break destructive thought patterns. Need inspiration? One of the best new food publications to rise out of COVID, Have A Go, is here to help.

Written by chef Jo Barrett (who, along with Matt Stone, cooks at the inspiring Future Food System project at Federation Square) and photographed by Jana Langhorst, each $20 magazine tackles one food project you might have put in the too-hard basket.

Beginning with feta cheese, they have also tackled mozzarella, croissants and sourdough breadmaking. This time, it's the soothing art of making salami.

Need a project with your kids? Want to make something that will only get better being locked away in a cupboard? Have a go. The website even sells things like cheese cultures to help you on your way. haveagoseries.com

The Age, news, 30/08/2019. Photo by Justin McManus.
Afghan gallery has been introducing Melbourne to Afghani food for over 30 years.
Mixed Chef.

Mantoo and grilled eggplant fom Afghan Gallery. Photo: Justin McManus

Support the Afghan community

This is the big one. While donating money to aid organisations may feel fruitless while Afghanistan is in such turmoil, you can lend support to the incredible local organisations that have always held the Australian Afghan community up.

Fitzroy's 40-year-old Afghan Gallery Restaurant was established by the inimitable Dr Nouria Salehi, to provide work, community and a place to practise language skills for newly arrived Afghan asylum seekers. It also helps fund the Australian Afghan Development Organisation, which has education and training programs in Kabul and surrounds.

Like all Melbourne restaurants, COVID has hit the business hard. In recent weeks, it hasn't been feasible to trade. But in light of the unfolding situation, Homaira Mershedi (Salehi's niece, who runs the restaurant) is reopening.

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If you live within five kilometres, order the restaurant's signatures – mantoo (spiced lamb pastries) finished with a sharp tick of yoghurt and herbs; sadzi, a thick spinach curry; slow-cooked eggplant fesenjan and a range of their spice-laden mixed kebabs – and funds will assist the AADO's emergency relief fund on the ground in Kabul.

To make your money count, order direct (rather than through a delivery app) by calling the restaurant on 03 9417 2430 and pick up from 327 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

Beyond your limits? The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre meals program is a triple win. Stock your freezer with everything from Afghan pumpkin and sweet potato bishak pastries, to the Moroccan chickpea soup harira (or simply donate a $15 pay-it-forward meal) and you will also be giving employment hours to refugees, providing a meal to a vulnerable Melburnian through ASRC's charity networks, and supporting the organisation's advocacy work.

The meals are available for pick-up (within five kilometres) or delivery. meals.asrc.org.au.

Zahara Valibhoy runs cakes and pastry business Beurre from her home. Pre pandemic she specialised in engagement, wedding and birthday cakes but has had to pivot during lockdowns to tiny vaccine-themed cakes. 13th August 2021 The Age News Picture by JOE ARMAO

One of Zahara Valibhoy's vaccine-themed cakes. Photo: Joe Armao

Send a sweet lifeline

Locally, the deeper lockdown is no joke either. Don't know what to say to a glum friend? Want to encourage vaccination? Say it with cake.

If all the scientific and medical reasons for getting vaccinated somehow haven't had you rushing for your jab, try this: local artist and pastry chef Zahara Valibhoy, of Beurre Cakes & Pastries, is selling $45 post-vaccination celebration cakes. They come in three flavours (chocolate, cream cheese and Biscoff), vividly emblazoned with lines such as "Good jab!" and "Yay, science!". Truly, the shot in the arm we need. beurre.com.au

Boozy Brioche from Chic de Partie.
For Good Food, August 24, 2021

Chic de Partie's ode to Tipsy Cake. Photo: Supplied

Reaching for the top shelf for someone's second consecutive lockdown birthday? Former Dinner by Heston Blumenthal chef Aidan Robinson runs Chic de Partie, and among his creations is a croquembouche (that famous tower of toffee-fused profiteroles) and an ode to the boozy, syrup-and-custard-soaked brioche Tipsy Cake that was his former employer's signature. Based in the CBD, it's an on-demand service that offers delivery. Order via instagram.com/chicdepartie; website chicdepartie.com coming soon.

This week is your last chance to get a seasonal truffle treat from Kitty Bakes. Catherine Chan is making the last of her intensely fragrant black truffle-infused cheesecakes. Get in while you can. hello@kittybakes.com.au

Need a hand?

Giving might not be possible for you right now. In fact, you might be in need of a meal and a chat. Jessi Singh's restaurants (including Daughter in Law and Mr Brownie), and in Thornbury, 1800 Lasagne are regularly organising meals for those in need. Keep an eye on their socials for support.

We might be here for a while longer yet, Melbourne. Don't give up. Give back, and give yourself a break.