Andrew Levins is no stranger to cooking food, but as a nightclub DJ, Saturday night dinner would usually involve Chinatown noodles rather than making pizza at his Northmead home. Since social distancing measures were introduced in March, however, the 35-year-old father of two has been spending a lot more time in the kitchen.
"I'm trying to get to the supermarket about once a fortnight for a huge shop, which means planning ahead for more than 40 meals," he says. "We're eating a lot of noodles, rice and pasta, and I've become an expert at wok frying beer-battered fish for burgers and tacos to keep the kids happy."
With restaurants closed and food budgets tightening, the Levins household is one of many Australian families cooking more meals, sourdough and sweet things than ever before.
Data supplied by Google shows online recipe searches have skyrocketed by 50 per cent to reach all-time high in the past 30 days, while social media is rife with images of novice bakers presenting first loaves like newborns. "#QuarantineCooking" is a major trend on Instagram.
"People are cooking in a way I haven't seen in my lifetime," says 41-year-old Good Food columnist and television host Adam Liaw.
"You have to be incredibly practical in the kitchen now. Of course, you can still order takeaway dumplings, for example – and I have some in my freezer – but the idea that you have to cook more often because you have to, not just because you like to, is something most of my generation hasn't previously experienced."
Google data indicates Australians have been most keen to cook homely, rustic recipes since social distancing restrictions began.
Excluding Google searches for hot cross buns, which spike every year at Easter, the five most searched recipes over the past 30 days in Australia were banana bread, pancakes, pizza dough, bread and cookies.
Dalgona coffee topped the list of trending recipe searches over the same period. (That is, Google searches with the highest spike in traffic). The whipped mixture of instant coffee, sugar and hot water became an internet sensation when it was popularised by Korean YouTubers in March and can be made with the barest of pantry staples.
Also trending was damper, quince jam, gnocchi, brownies, (Filipino sweet bread) pandesal, cinnamon rolls and carrot cake. The damper revival is potentially because the campfire bread doesn't require store-bought yeast, a hard-to-find supermarket item with home-baking on the rise.
"Bread has dominated recipe-related searches over recent weeks," a Google spokesperson says.
"With some baking staples in short supply, data reveals Aussies are also searching for workarounds and alternative ingredients. Search interest for 'how to make baking powder' spiked by 340 per cent in the past 30 days, while 'how to make bread without yeast' spiked more than 200 per cent."
Levins' first children's book, Pumpkins and Aliens, was published by Penguin in March and tells the story of Nelson, a young boy who hates vegetables until he discovers they can provide him with superpowers. The author says the most rewarding part of cooking through the pandemic has been watching his children become less fussy about food too.
"Our kitchen is bang in the middle of our living room where my three-year-old daughter, Tilly, plays all day, so she's seeing us prepare everything in front of her. She refused to eat green vegetables earlier in the year, but the other night she told me chickpeas were her favourite."
Meanwhile, Archie, 6, has been making waffles with his father. "He's great at cracking eggs and measuring flour," says Levins. "Both kids are excellent at getting food all over their clothes while cooking."
Liaw, a father of three, has also enjoyed teaching new kitchen skills to his young children.
"Before [the pandemic] I would often make cupcakes and other fun stuff with my kids," he says. "Now I'm applying them to things such as muffins, which we can eat for breakfast over the next few days. We're making food for the purposes of meals rather than just for fun."
"It's not about survival, as people can still buy food from the shops. But it has become really apparent that knowing how to cook basic things, such as bread, can be a mechanism for improving your way of life."
Top trending recipes over the past 30 days in Australia
- Dalgona coffee
- Damper recipe campfire
- Quince jam
- Persimmon recipes
- Brownie recipe easy
- Carrot cake
- Cinnamon roll
- Banana pancakes
Most searched recipes over the past 30 days in Australia
- Banana bread
- Pizza dough
- Slow cooker recipes
- Chicken recipes