Ten weeks of Lockdown and for the first time, this week, I could celebrate my single, solo-living status: the government announced that as part of the gradual easing of restrictions people living alone could now form a social ‘bubble’ with one other household. While before I could go round to my son’s and sit in their garden at a 2-metre distance, I can now legally go into their house and even hug them. And with gorgeous little grandsons of 5½ and 2½, that’s a very big thing.
Fortunately there was no need to agonise over who to ‘bubble’ with. Only people living alone can do this; couples can’t and nor can two families ‘bubble’. I immediately saw how fortunate I was that I’m the sole single grandparent living near my son and his family; my daughter-in-law’s family are in North Wales. My daughter lives in Worcestershire, so again, not a practical bubble companion. I observed all this with some relief for we are only allowed to form one social bubble: how difficult it must be for some people to have to choose between one parent living alone over another; one child rather than another. It must also be difficult for some people living alone and choosing friends to ‘bubble’ with, but luckily for me, with my son a clear choice for my bubble, there’s no risk of me upsetting friends.
Yesterday we met for a walk by Twickenham Riverside and stopped at Corto Deli to buy takeaway coffees, babyccinos for the boys, and pastries to eat, and then found a bench by the River Thames to sit and enjoy our morning treat. Eel Pie Island was opposite us, a famous music venue in the 1960s where groups like The Who, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and many others started out playing.
Ducks, geese (Canadian and Egyptian varieties), and graceful swans, floated past. Small boats chugged along the river, their outboard motors seeming to strain with the effort; canoes and kayaks with serious rowers glided past, just a faint plashing sound as their oars rhythmically hit the water. Pre Lockdown, the family and I regularly met for a morning coffee on Saturdays but somehow this small step back towards a more normal life again seemed incredibly special.
It was decided that we’d have a Sunday meal together. We don’t really ‘do’ lunch – eating a big meal halfway through the day never appeals. It always seems like the second half of the day is lost to the after-effects of a big meal and most likely some alcohol. But with two little ones, supper needs to be quite early – around 6.00pm. Jonathan offered to barbecue; I offered to take lamb mince and some chicken breasts out of my freezer and make a couple of our favourite Moro recipes.
I used to live by Moro cookbooks. For years I thought of Moro as one of my favourite restaurants but for many reasons – certainly not a bad meal – I just haven’t made it back there for a few years. Moro East, Moro the Cookbook and Casa Moro are three of my most used cookbooks. Their worn appearance and a proliferation of those little sticky coloured tabs poking shyly out from the tops of pages, is testament to my addiction. It was therefore with considerable surprise that I discovered that I’d never put their ‘chicken with tahini marinade’ and ‘lamb kofte’ recipes on the blog. As a family, we’ve cooked them so many times we barely need to check the recipes when we make them. The chicken is actually a chicken wings recipe for the barbecue but I’m firmly a chicken breast person, despite the current obsession with chicken thighs for cooking. But do feel free to swap in thighs or wings for this:
Barbecued Chicken with Tahini
- Chicken (I used 3 large chicken breasts but thighs or wings are great too)
- 2-3 garlic cloves, grated and mixed with 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons tahini paste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl, then add the chicken. Turn the chicken over (best done with your hands) and make sure it’s well coated with the marinade. I kept my breasts whole, to be sliced once barbecued, but you can cut them into smaller pieces and put on kebab sticks, if you like. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave for at least an hour before cooking. If you make it well ahead of time keep in the fridge but bring out to come back to room temperature before barbecuing.
Lamb Kofte (makes about 16)
- 400g lamb mince
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallot
- good pinch of dried chilli
- 2 garlic cloves, finely grated and mixed with 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- about 2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped (optional – see below)
- freshly ground black pepper
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl by hand (don’t be tempted to put in a food processor or you’ll get a paste, which won’t work). Once everything is well mixed together, take spoonfuls of the mixture and roll into small balls with hands greased with a little oil. I actually weighed mine! (Yes, dedication to accuracy here 😉) I worked out I could make 16 balls of 27g each.
The original Moro recipe has 750g of mince and so I adapted the measurements a bit. They make larger kofte, more sausage shape, that they work onto skewers. They also use fresh chillis, which I didn’t have, but normally use, so I just guessed an amount of dried chilli. Neither did I have fresh coriander so I just left that out (I’d thought I’d pick some parsley from my garden supply but forgot until it was too late!). The message here is only that don’t worry about getting it all perfect. It’s a pretty adaptable recipe and as long as you more or less follow the original then it will all be fine.
I made some Glorious Grains & Roasted Vegetables to go with it all, but some roast potatoes and a green salad would be great too. Sometimes I make a couscous or freekeh salad, or perhaps fattoush, to accompany this kind of meal.
It was so lovely to sit round the table, en famille again. Large doors opened onto the still warm garden, glasses were raised, for it was our own small celebration of the good things in life.