Quarantine cooking dishes to make to prolong the time between grocery shopping trips include everything from ragu alla Bolognese, which can be used with pasta and lasagne, to chili con carne that can be stretched to make a good old bowl of chilli, quesadillas and nachos. These are the meals to cook to extend the time between stressful supermarket shopping trips if you’re taking social distancing seriously.
You’d think that getting some fresh air and going shopping would be a relaxing diversion after more than two months of social distancing and staying at home. But we’re finding our weekly supermarket shopping trips to be stressful due to some people’s lackadaisical attitude towards COVID-19 – whether it’s expats who think that they’re invincible, even though they’re in a high-risk category, or tourists trapped here who aren’t wearing masks, despite government advice to the contrary.
That means that our quarantine cooking strategy has been firmly focused on meal planning that includes dishes to make to prolong the time between grocery shopping trips. Recipes for dishes that can be stretched across several meals are what we’ve been cooking – dishes that extend the time between supermarket shopping trips, that mean we don’t have to leave home for a week or even ten days, are dishes that spark joy.
Because of this tactical meal planning, we’ve been able to schedule our grocery runs with military precision. Since we started quarantine cooking in early March, we’ve been meal planning (which I loathe, but more on that in a minute), carefully budgeting, shopping wisely, and choosing protein to freeze and defrost a few days later.
While freezing and defrosting might be normal for many of you, here in Cambodia we have never had the need to do so: fresh local markets are filled with an abundance of beautiful produce from here and neighbouring countries, and we have some excellent supermarkets close by and open long hours, so we do as the locals do and shop on a daily basis and buy fresh seasonal produce to cook that day.
So why do I loathe recipe planning? Well, it’s just two of us in our apartment and I want to go to the supermarket (sadly, it’s sensible to avoid the bustling local markets for now) and see what’s fresh and in season, and decide then and there what to cook based on the ingredients that inspire me.
There’s no need for me to cater to the whims of a family with disparate palates and dietary requirements. My sister-in-law’s children have different tastes: “Luka likes spicy food but not veg. Jarrod doesn’t like salads, but will eat anything else. ‘Madam’ isn’t a huge meat eater but will eat salad and veg all day long,” she tells me. Wow. It’s bad enough that our cat Pepper is a fussy eater.
However, since we decided to stay at home and social distance after the coronavirus began to spread around the world, we’ve been quarantine cooking dishes for Grantourismo, recipes that we want to test for the Cambodian cookbooks we are writing, and frugal comforting favourites that we can stretch out over several meals to put off a supermarket shopping trip for as long as possible. Because none of us need any more stress in our lives right now.
So here are my recommended quarantine cooking dishes to make to prolong the time between grocery shopping trips.
Quarantine Cooking Dishes to Make to Prolong the Time Between Grocery Shopping Trips
These quarantine cooking favourites are aimed at extending the time between grocery shopping trips to reduce the stress of supermarket shopping as much as save money.
Ragu alla Bolognese
We all have time to make ragu alla Bolognese properly now during this period of quarantine cooking. Unless of course you’re an essential service worker, then I wish I could make this for you. The three-hour cooking time for my ragu alla Bolognese sauce is easier to achieve than ever now that we’re all staying at home and have so much time on our hands. We use this sauce for a few dishes: first we serve it with tagliatelle, then perhaps another pasta, then we use it to make a lasagne. You can pad out your ragu with a tin of tomatoes before you make lasagne. We like to eat this with a simple salad of cherry tomatoes and lettuce which need to be eaten within a couple of days of purchase. Your fresh fruit and vegetables are your most important asset, don’t let them go to waste.
Chili Con Carne
When it comes to quarantine cooking, this chili con carne recipe is right up there with the ragu alla Bolognese as a staple comfort food dish in our kitchen during these challenging times. It’s another dish that takes three hours to cook but it is well worth the effort. We usually just have a big old bowl of chilli with salad on the first night. On the second night we have Lara’s ultimate nachos with all the extras. The day after that we usually make quesadillas for lunch and that should just about finish off the batch. If you have a big family you can just double the amount of chili con carne you make. You can also save money by making your own easy red tomato salsa, which is way better and less sweet than the cloying ones in the supermarket that could not be further removed from chili in Mexico or the USA if they tried.
We absolutely love curries here in Southeast Asia (obviously) and we can get all the ingredients to make fantastic curries so obviously they frequently feature on our quarantine cooking meal plans. Living in Siem Reap, we love a great Cambodian chicken curry as well as a Saraman beef curry, which is similar to the Thai massaman curry. And naturally we adore all the Thai curries. One of the great things about a curry is that it actually tastes better on the second day so we usually steam double or even three times the amount of rice we need to eat with our curry leftovers. We can then use anything that is left to make our Chinese special fried rice, which we might then enjoy over a couple of days. Note, of course, that you can skip the prawns if, like us, you’re on a tight budget right now.
When it comes to making curry pastes, we always prefer to pound our own when we have the time. But the store-bought versions are really great value if you don’t have the time and they actually taste pretty good as long as you cook the pastes out in a little vegetable oil first. However, just like making sourdough, if you’re quarantine cooking and you’re not going to try to make your own curry pastes from scratch right now, you probably never will. It’s very satisfying, so why not give it a go? When it comes to coconut milk, as we’re not going to the local markets at the moment, we’re not using fresh coconut milk and we’re finding the tinned coconut milk to be perfectly, so no shame in that.
Quiche and Frittatas
My sister-in-law, Felicia, reminded me how quiches and frittatas are perfect for quarantine cooking as they are easy to cook, they are so inexpensive to make, and they’re fantastic served with a salad as well. And if you need to stretch them further (or are feeding teenage sons), you can serve some crusty bread or sourdough toast on the side. I don’t really make quiche much; for savoury pastries I prefer making meat pies and sausage rolls but a frittata is a favourite in our Cambodian kitchen and we usually get three meals out of one frittata. First, we serve it for dinner, and then we get brunch and lunch from it. Our favourite is a chorizo and caramelised onion frittata. It’s brilliant with a salad for brunch, or with a glass of white wine for lunch, because is anyone getting up for breakfast any more?
I think for many of us staying at home, pasta probably features pretty heavily on our quarantine cooking meal plans. We have a few favourite pasta recipes that we love, such as my carbonara, although we can’t really get guanciale at the moment, so bacon is working perfectly fine. We buy bacon in a 1 kg pack, separate it into the portions that my recipes require, which we pop into freezer bags (generally in lots of 8 bacon strips) and freeze until the morning that we need them. I’ll generally use four strips of bacon to make carbonara and then might use the rest for BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) sourdough sandwiches.
Our next favourite pasta is spaghetti alla puttanesca. We always have tins of tomatoes and anchovies and jars of black olives and capers in the pantry, even when we’re not quarantine cooking. These ingredients are also fantastic for making pizzas. We’ll also buy broccoli rabe if we see it and some locally produced Italian herb sausages that we’ll pop in the freezer to make this orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe recipe. Bucatini all’amatriciana is another recipe where we’ll use bacon instead of guanciale, and it’s another favourite pasta that requires little more than a basic tomato sauce that’s spiced up with a little chilli powder.
If you’ve been quarantine cooking we’d love to hear from you and find out what dishes you’ve been making that you can stretch across several meals. Do let us know in the comments below, on social media or by email. As you can see, we’ve been doing a lot of cooking, so we’re always looking for new recipes to try.