Plate up: Cooking in quarantine

By Valerie Ferdinands


It’s taken awhile to put pen to paper for my column.

I just can’t seem to concentrate with this hideous virus distracting me as I come to terms with life as we knew it, no longer being.

Our extended family awkwardly jumped on Zoom for the first time and it’s obvious we’re a microcosm of what’s happening in the community. We discussed postponing a wedding, the sadness of not seeing our elderly mother, real health challenges, worry about our family members on the front line, losing work and closing business down. 

Errol and I are coming to terms with the fact that we won’t be with our daughter when she gives birth to our first grandchild – a thought which makes me cry. 

During this time, I’m grateful to have support and connection and that my clinical psychologist brother is on hand for those of us needing strategies to keep anxiety and depression at bay.    

As I’m spending more time inside and need to be distracted from the stream of virus updates, I cook.

So, let me share what I have stocked in my kitchen to whip up quick, easy and healthy meals.

Pantry Supplies

Salt and pepper: Head for the salt, this super-preserver is my best friend in the kitchen for pickling, curing and cleaning my cutting board! I “pepper” everything and I can’t do without it; in India pepper is part of the Ayurvedic kadhas and used to rev up immunity.

Flour: Wholemeal and chickpea flour for gluten free.

Eggs: They’re probably the most versatile food in the world.

Chuck steak: For slow cooking or mincing.

Rice: Makes anything a meal.

Frozen peas & mixed vegetables: Yes, you may pooh-pooh this, but the convenience factor is ridiculously high.

Cans of dried beans: I usually have about a dozen of these in my pantry with chickpeas as my go to…

Pappadams: Such a great gluten snack and fabulous with Indian food

Bottled ginger & garlic: Fresh is best but bottled is convenient

Sugar & honey: Handy for baking to keep the kids occupied (a trial that may be worse than the virus!)

For a quick and easy meal:

Steam or cook a packet of frozen vegetables (I like to use a winter mix as it’s a bit chunkier).

Boil 2 potatoes with salt and one tsp of turmeric and cut into large cubes when cooked.

In a separate pan heat enough ghee or oil to cover the pan; add 2 tsp cumin seeds and fry; add 1 tbs crushed ginger, 1 tbs crushed garlic, 2 chopped chilis, 1 heaped tsp turmeric, 1 finely chopped ripe tomato, salt, pepper and sauté, stirring for about 3 mins without burning.

Add the tempered spice mixture into the vegetables and gently fold it through.

Squeeze over lemon juice and serve with rice, salad and pappadams.

Add some protein on the side if you want, e.g. leftover roast, sausages, chicken, or whatever you like.

As you would have guessed the community event “Disco on the Green” has been postponed. Thank you to those people who booked tickets; rest assured we now have everything in place to reschedule when it will be the party of the year! 

If you’re wanting some tips on cooking with spice don’t hesitate to email me, on – unfortunately due to time constraints, I can’t supply full recipes.

Keep safe and stay connected.