March 25, 2023


Food loaded for bear

The best comfort food for surviving a year of lockdown

Over the past 12 months, drastic changes have taken place in kitchens across the country. Worktops have doubled up as work stations and dining tables as classrooms, only for everything to be swept aside in the evening for further transformations of a culinary kind to take place; the kitchen has become a social hub (both in real life and via our laptop cameras), and the food we make has become a way to travel a world that is currently out of reach.

It has been no different for the country’s top chefs and food writers, either – as the poignant accounts shared across these pages will attest.

When it came to cooking, “2020 was the year of convenience,” admits cookbook author Sabrina Ghayour. Limited supermarket trips meant she had to think on her feet, resulting in unexpected meals.

For Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr, lockdown was about getting back to basics and celebrating the life of his father, Albert Roux, who died in January.

Hélène Darroze, who recently won her third Michelin star, used her time to cook her way back to her favourite family holiday, while chef Sat Bains delved into the archives of his childhood favourite family meals. And for cookbook author Skye McAlpine? It was cake that made life feel better.

Here they each share the recipe that has helped them stay sane during a year of lockdown.

Sabrina Ghayour

Cookbook author

“For me, 2020 was the year of convenience,” says cookbook author Sabrina Ghayour, whose lockdown has been made particularly hectic by the decision to move in not only with her mother, but her fiancé and his two sons. “Everything had to be make-do, quick and easy, crowd-pleasing and comforting all at once.”

Living in Yorkshire, 20 miles from the nearest supermarket, Ghayour has embraced the freedom that comes with being faced with having to make the contents of her freezer and store-cupboard into supper.

“I’ve learned not to be so precious with ingredients,” she admits. “I’ve always had a laid-back approach to cooking, but this year I took it up a notch.

“I’ve started rifling through jams, chutneys and sauces you probably wouldn’t use in everyday cooking, in a mission to ramp up flavour. You wouldn’t imagine the number of uses I’ve found for marmalade!

“Food snobbery has gone out the window. Us cooks are so spoiled for ingredients from far and wide that we become quite arrogant about them. I used to think, ‘I’d never use dried parsley’ – now it’s a staple ingredient. Tomato purée, curry powder and brown sauce have all had their airtime, boosting flavour when I simply can’t be bothered.”

And her tepsi kebab, a recipe from her most recent book, has provided the perfect base for experimenting. “It’s faithful, economical and ridiculously easy. I can’t stop making it, changing it up a bit each time.”

Simply by Sabrina Ghayour (Mitchell Beazley, £20) is out now. Order a copy from