Dishoom Sundays in Lockdown 2020

Awadhi Lamb Biryani in all its glory.

One of the more glorious traditions that has emerged during Lockdown 2020 for our family has been Dishoom Sundays.

For those of you unfamiliar, Dishoom is a legendary Indian restaurant in London with equally legendary queues (this was in the Before Inside Times, obviously, when we could do amazing things like eat in restaurants). It really didn’t matter what time you strategically decided to arrive to avoid the queue. You were going to have to stand in it, whether you liked it or not. But it was absolutely worth the wait.

Dishoom specialises in the food of Bombay, now known as Mumbai. Its cookbook provides recipes for all the Dishoom favourites, but also gives a hat tip to all of its favourite restaurants in south Bombay. As it happens, Tim lived in this exact neighbourhood for three months in 2017, so he was lucky enough to visit many of the restaurants and street vendors highlighted in the book (and we got to try a few too, when we visited). The Dishoom cookbook was published in September 2019 and was an immediate hit. Tim gave me the cookbook for Christmas, knowing how much we all love Indian food.

Kirstin and I even discussed the possibility of choosing “Dishoom” for one of our months, but it fell at the final hurdle, which was, “Are there plenty of recipes that we can make on a weeknight.” The answer to that is a categorical NO because while they are all utterly delicious, they also represent a serious investment of time. Like Grandma always said: It’s worth the wait!

But now that time feels irrelevant and weekend time in particular is just a construct, we’ve got all the time in the world to tackle some of these delicious gems. It also helps enormously if it’s a team effort, because like I said, it’s a serious investment of time. We’ve now made Awadi Lamb Biryani several times now. I mean, sure, it takes the entire afternoon, but this is what Dishoom Sundays are all about. Every time we have it, we all swoon at its deliciousness. (Needless to say, right now, that’s a very nice thing.)

In addition to some sort of main dish, we’ve also become dab hands at some of the Dishoom side dishes, including Raita, Chapati and Kachumber. They’re all excellent.

So now when we’re going to have Dishoom Sunday, we don’t even get into specifics of what we’re going to be making. Instead, we just announce the joyful day and settle in for a very delicious meal.

Dishoom Sundays: A lockdown tradition that will continue well past lockdown.

Dishoom Sundays in Lockdown 2020

“Bittersweet Brownie Shortbread” from NYT Cooking App

I think it’s probably time to give credit to the Lockdown 2020 heroes and heroines for our family.

  1. BT Broadband: After three full months of lockdown, it has not yet dropped, seized up or even buffered, even through all the working, emailing, editing, university lectures, sixth form classes, engineering final exams, Microsoft Teams meetings, Google Hangouts, Zoom meetings, Zoom classes, Zoom family reunions, Zoom cocktail hours, and more. Impressive. Truly.
  2. Buddy the Dog. Emotional support available 24/7 when we need it most. Also allowed us to leave the house at least once a day with a credible excuse. (Please don’t tell him he’s second on the list. He’s number one in our hearts. Pictures also available upon request.)
  3. Our mail carriers, delivery people, rubbish collectors and shop workers. A thank you isn’t enough. (Special shout out to the amazing food shops on Royal Hill in Greenwich, who haven’t let us down yet and are working harder than ever.)
  4. These shortbread brownies. I have been baking like a madwoman, (probably because I’ve felt a bit on the edge of insanity) with homemade baked goods (nearly always) available in the house, but these are in the No. 1 spot on the league table. Thank you, shortbread brownies.

Not only have I made batches for us, but I’ve made some for friends, neighbours and anyone who I thought could use a butter-sugar-chocolate boost. Everyone’s reaction has been the same: “Oh, wow. These are amazing.” When they ask why, I tell them it’s very simple: anything with more than a pound of butter in it is bound to be delicious. And they are.

The only tip I have to share with you regarding these delightful concoctions is to expect them to disappear far quickly than you anticipated, and then get ready to bake another batch.

If you’d like to make these yourself, click through this paragraph to find the recipe on the New York Times Cooking website.

“Bittersweet Brownie Shortbread” from NYT Cooking App

“Rainbow Sprinkle Cake” from NYT Cooking App

How’s your global pandemic going? Last Friday and Saturday was eventful for us: we had a Quarantine Birthday (happy 17th birthday Nicholas), an American university commencement via Zoom (congratulations Gianna) and a Facebook Live wedding from California (congratulations Taylor and John). Given that all those happy occasions happened within a span of 48 hours, all I can say is: Whew.

As per tradition, the birthday boy (or should I say young man) was allowed to pick whatever cake his heart desired. For the second year in a row, he picked this cake, from the New York Times Cooking App. Having made it for him last year, I made a few adjustments: I doubled the recipe (because it made too small a cake for our liking the last time) and I used my own cream cheese icing recipe, simply because it has never failed me and after several disastrous outings with other recipes, I just return to that one like a trusted friend.

Another thing to know is I did NOT use European Union-approved sugar sprinkles for this. Oh, no. The vibrant colours you see in the sprinkles above can only be attained by using good American sprinkles, where they continue to use all the chemicals so you can get the fun colours. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make, as the EU-Approved sprinkles only use natural colourings, so they end up being a bit insipid, especially after you bake them.

(Sadly, after stocking up enthusiastically on American sprinkles in 2018, it looks as though our stash is now dangerously low. Not sure what I’ll be able to do about it given the current travel situation. I might have to see if I can secure an intermediary. This is important, because honestly, those sprinkles look and taste about a thousand times better than the ones we can get here.)

The cake was a smashing success. The picture above doesn’t really do it justice, but it was great. Our philosophy to get through this with good food and good times continues.

If you’d like to see the recipe, click through here to find it on the New York Times site. I’m sure it’s good even with European sprinkles, but remember to double the recipe to get three 9-inch layers.

“Rainbow Sprinkle Cake” from NYT Cooking App

“Grilled Cheese Sandwiches” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

We’re in Day 8,754 of Lockdown 2020, or at least it feels like it. My lack of posts does not at all reflect the amount of cooking I’ve been doing. In fact, sometimes I feel like all I do is cook. With one son who’s 20 and another who’s 16 (17 later this week), I cannot adequately describe the amount of food I need to cook, keep on hand and plan for every single day.

The one thing I am adamant about, however, is that breakfast and lunch here are strictly self catering. I make sure that we’ve got the supplies on hand, but I’ve got enough other work to do that I can’t drop everything and make something special in the middle of the day on top of the (pretty nice) dinners I’m making every night. I’ve made this clear.

The self-catering proviso also dovetails nicely into my ongoing project to teach the boys how to be better cooks. So I was more than happy to demonstrate the other day when Andrew (20) asked me to teach him how to make a good grilled cheese sandwich/cheese toastie.

Ever since I used this recipe from Food52’s Genius Recipes, I’ve never tried another method. Also, I should make clear that I haven’t had to refer to the cookbook again. The genius hack is this: spread mayonnaise on the outside of the bread (rather than butter) before you start to grill it. The cheese you pile in the middle is down to personal preference, but I tend to use a mix of cheddar and mozzarella. Since the lockdown has begun, I’ve learned to keep bags of grated cheese on hand for this exact purpose– and also for quesadillas, which really are just a grilled cheese in a tortilla.

In any case, now that Andrew is adept at making his own, he’s been doing it more regularly. We could say he is the Pandemic King of the Toasties in this house. Nicholas, for his part, would be Pandemic King of the Quesadillas, because he likes them better. No matter. They’re both happy and healthy, and you can’t ask for much more these days.

“Grilled Cheese Sandwiches” from “Food52 Genius Recipes”

“Pappardelle with fennel sausage ragu” from “Trullo”

Borough Market, a 15 minute train trip from us has been the source of many a foodie adventure. It’s easy to pop up there and find oysters for a meal. Or curious fruit and vegetables I often have to ask advice about. A few years ago, it was also where the London Bridge Terrorist attacks occurred. For a while the restaurants and market were closed, boarded up. There were little reminders of the tragedy that struck in a place of happiness, the fence that was crashed into, the hastily shut restaurants. I remember travelling around London at that time; there was a strong police presence but also that determination from everyone that everything would be OK. When Padella reopened I was jubilant. My favourite Italian restaurant outside of Italy was finally serving its delicious pasta again!

Of course with Lockdown, it’s all closed up again. When this is all over, which restaurants will have survived? All those livelihoods affected. It’s incredibly heartbreaking. London will look so different. It will feel so different. It will BE DIFFERENT.

And so late last week I started to source all the ingredients to make this recipe as my way to feel close to London before Lockdown. It is my favourite of Padella’s. I always made a point of ordering it when we visited. (although seriously who would have thought it would be that difficult to find sausage meat, but there you go?).

This recipe really is a labour of love. It takes HOURS!
It is worth every single second if nothing else because it was a lovely distraction from it all. But especially the toasted fennel and chillies. And also the soffritto. And also GAH ALL OF IT.

And to all those London Restaurants and the people who work in them and for them. This pasta was made with you in my thoughts. I think of you often and I hope to see you soon. xox

“Pappardelle with fennel sausage ragu” from “Trullo”

Lockdown 2020

Maureen: The world is in lockdown, but we’re still going to cook. Because we can’t do much, but we can feed our families.

Kirstin: Exactly.

Maureen: It seems like an odd time to be reviewing cookbooks, so we decided to take off for the forseeable future and just highlight recipes we love or that we’re cooking right now. It seems a little bit frivolous.

Kirstin: At the same time, cooking is such a huge thing.

Maureen: It certainly is one way to keep us all sane.

Kirstin: I keep getting distracted while I cook, but I know I will get there.

Maureen: But we’re all going to have to figure out how to cook without being able to nip out to shop and get certain ingredients. Or if we’re running low on stuff. This is going to be hard, especially since that’s how I cook– deciding on the day and then hitting the shops for what I need.

Kirstin: It’s like playing music. I can’t just sit at the piano and make it up. I need the sheet of music in front of me.

Maureen: The plan this month is to post stuff that’s getting us through this, from cookbooks we’ve already done. Whatever is going to get us through all of this. Who knows how long it will last, so Lockdown 2020 might (or probably will) be longer than one month long.

Kirstin: We have plenty of cookbooks in our house, so we might find new classics, too. Let’s get through this together.

Maureen: Stay healthy! Stay safe!

Lockdown 2020