• Sally Feldman

Me, myself and iso

Pesto in progress
The remains of the basil

One thing I've learnt so far from this mandated self-isolation is that, no matter the digital socialising platform, I do not, and never will have, a good angle. I've tried holding the phone above me, below me, three-quarters on (from both left and right sides), and it is never pretty.

So, in the absence of those beloved germ-soaked and reflection-free human interactions of yesteryear, I've instead forged an intimate relationship with my fridge. We catch up, what, 40 times a day? And the only way it brutalises me in return is to proffer enough food to last two people for about a month.

Or at least that's the plan. Because, when work is taking a well-earned, albeit unwanted, rest, there's nothing for it but to think about one's next meal. And, while thinking about it, have a snack to tide oneself over.

I give that fridge five days.

There are strange things in there. A mountain of grapes, for instance - as though I were already confined to a hospital bed surrounded by get well cards and dahlias. There are also leftovers, because, now I've enough time to actually plan what we eat, in the spirit of the hoarding age, I'm making things that will last for more than one meal - plus snacks.

Which is why today, I had a sandwich for lunch that was so deliciously, weirdly rich, I couldn't finish it (no such bad thing, according to my bathroom scales). It contained last night's socially pragmatic, ultra-garlicky green beans, cooked to just the right amount of Greek sogginess; honey and harissa eggplant, a longtime favourite devised forever ago by the lovely Belinda Jeffery; Yalla hummus (because in my infinite food-planning wisdom, I forgot to buy tahini, despite having more chickpeas in the larder than Yotam Ottolenghi's had hot dinners); feta and iceberg lettuce. I feel sick just thinking about it.

Spinach, fennel and feta pie
The pie that would not die

There was a slab of spinach, fennel and feta pie in there, too, which these days I make not with filo, but butter puff pastry, because it stays crisp the next day. We had that with some of the leftover eggplant, which I'd cooked the night before to go with couscous, marinated goat's cheese and something crunchy (I can't remember what it was now, but by now, you can see why). The Silver Fox took the rest of the pie to work and promptly left it there, along with his tools, when he swiftly retreated from the 20-odd tradies-who-like-a-chat gathered in one, COVID-ready work site. While he has to go back to pick up his tools today, I've insisted he leave the pie (no matter how crisp) due to food-safety concerns. It contains egg, and cheese, and hasn't been kept in a fridge. It took some negotiation. The Silver Fox doesn't like waste, no matter how life-threatening.

And neither do I, so I've ripped up pretty much all the basil as it goes to seed in the garden and whizzed up some pesto according to the gospel of Saint Stephanie Alexander, of the Order of the Cook's Companion, the only bible I believe in. Some of it has been frozen, sealed with a loving kiss of olive oil on top; while the rest was duly lavished on orecchiette with prawns and broccolini (far more delicious than that might sound).

Nestled alongside it in the miscellaneous section of our Tardis freezer, where all manner of ancient yet still edible curiosities lurk, is a tub of Christine Manfield's indispensable and insanely good green harissa, which I've been making since the year dot, or at least when the recipe was published in the November 2014 issue of delicious. magazine. This, I slather on everything - roast chook, grilled fish, grilled flatbreads - or toss through couscous and rice.

Naturally, it's also fab on a sandwich. The Silver Fox has even been known to spread it on cheese on toast. But, then, he has little time for culinary authenticity. He does, however, have a good angle. More than one, in fact, the handsome bastard.