Here we go again. I'm one of those unlucky inner westies confined to their Melbourne postcode.
Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says my neighbours and I have to cop it on the chin – by the end of this, make mine a double (chin).
This new lockdown feels more limiting than round one. It's as though we're the naughty kids who have been put in time out, but I've not misbehaved. Given all the talk of class warfare, my class has been punished with detention while the rest of the school plays in the yard.
Note to marketers: those geo-targeted "So you're in lockdown..." ads clogging my social feed are of no comfort. I'm well aware I'm locked down, thank you very much. And ditto that memo to mates carelessly posting their carefree outings and dinners out.
Thankfully I sated my craving for a perfect chicken parma at the pub, which, after three months cooped up, was far superior than I remember. I also treated myself to a proper cafe brunch with perfect poachies and a flat white with far more flourish than my recently acquired home espresso machine can muster.
My COVID-19 hot spot is a black spot for takeaway, aside from the usual suspect fast food chains at a nearby mega mall. This time around, I'm hesitant to pop over to my neighbouring suburbs for Melbourne's self-described and deservedly-titled king of laksa; a ginormous smoky barbecue chicken pizza from Slice Shop in Footscray; or a wood-fired lamb shoulder feast from Harley and Rose.
I can't quite justify a walk to my beloved Cannoli Bar across the nearby river and suburb border, on the paltry premise of exercise. And I am forced to re-reschedule my haircut appointment for yet another four weeks' time, sigh.
Though I despair, here are some practical #quarantinecooking pointers I will be implementing in round two of lockdown, which those of you living in other postcodes may find useful, too.
Neil Perry's beef bourguignon with mashed potato and crispy sage (recipe here). Photo: William Meppem
All of the carbs
Now that it's officially winter, I will embrace the carbs, completely guilt-free. Winter warmers, come at me. Pasta bakes, stodge and slow-cooked stews with a splash of wine served atop creamy, dreamy Dutch cream potatoes mashed with Guillaume Brahimi-levels of butter. Speaking of butter, I'll be burning it, too.
I'll be wearing stretchy pants and stretching my meals. Think a big pot of scotch broth with bone-brothy goodness thanks to lamb shanks; saving the shredded meat for a riff on Karen Martini's deluxe shepherd's pie (the dollop of Dijon mustard in the mash is a game changer). Day-old risotto morphs into panko-crumbed arancini balls with a molten mozzarella core. Shredded roast lamb shoulder gets another look-in as a pumpkin soup topping. And roast chook becomes a not-so-regal laksa or a burrito or coronation chicken sandwich filling…
Neil Perry's deli sandwich. Photo: Christopher Pearce
Things on toast and sandwiches with the most
Last lockdown, I perfected the corner shop classic salad sandwich, replete with pickled beetroot and boiled egg. Next, I'll master Neil Perry's towering deli sandwich and maybe move onto a vinegary, pickle-heavy American-style hoagie or muffuletta, layered with all the sliced meats imaginable.
Food snobbery begone
I resisted the familiar bog-standard spaghetti bolognese last time around, switching it up for Julia Ostro's lush beef short rib ragu. But the old faithful will be on high rotation this isolation. (Hot tip: slap the sauce in a jaffle with mozzarella and parmesan.)
White chocolate and roasted macadamia blondie squares. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Baked to order
Yes, I am a cliché, and succumbed to banana bread, but no more! Instead, squares of freezer-friendly blondies and brownies, and logs of bake-as-I-wish cookie dough, in readiness for when that 3pm snack attack inevitably comes a calling.
Plant those woody wintry herbs
I'm feeling as flat as some flat-leaf parsley, so why not plant some alongside sage, rosemary and thyme (might as well keep the Simon and Garfunkel gang together)? They'll be there for me in times of need, ready to harvest for crispy sage garnishes on aforementioned burnt butter, thyme-roasted mushrooms and bouquet garni aka little herby bouquets lurking in the depths of my Le Creuset.
Eat your veg(ie box)
Now that I can't frequent my local-ish farmers' market, I'll order a box of vegies instead, if only to prevent me from subsisting on potatoes alone. If all else fails, I'll chuck it all into an okonomiyaki (thanks Danielle Alvarez) or a pot of mystery minestrone along with any pasta-shape dregs from the hopefully-not-ransacked-again supermarket shelves.
And I'll be drinking the entirety of my subscription wine box, too. Cheers to my comrades in the lockdown zones – I salute you.