Monday, March 14, 2022

Living well in challenging times #6....home is your Covid-cocoon....

Hubster and I are recovering from a case of Covid. Note that we are triple vaccinated and so very thankful for being so. We could have easily been very much more severely impacted without the vaccine.

He brought it home first, becoming unwell two weeks ago, and subsequently testing positive. I remained supportive and upbeat for a whole 48 hours, before likewise, testing positive. For us, this meant lots of lounging around, sleeping for  up to 16 hours a day, and being eternally grateful for our well-stocked pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Home was our cocoon, literally.

We didn't feel much like eating anything but home made chicken soup, which we had in abundance in the freezer, and my homemade Le Rice copycat. Here's that recipe in a few sentences...

Le Rice copycat (luxurious creamed rice)

In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup arborio rice, with 1 1/2 cups full cream milk powder, 4 cups of water, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. 

Bring to a simmer, stir to separate the rice grains, pop on the lid, and switch off the heat.

 If you have an electric cooktop, the stored heat will continue to cook this, so long as you don't peek and release the stored heat from the saucepan. 

Leave for several hours, to allow the rice to cook, swell and become tender. If after a couple of hours (or if you have a gas cooktop like I do), the rice is still al dente, give it another blast to bring it up to heat, and leave it for another hour or two.

If it still looks liquid-ish, you need to let it sit for longer. The rice should be tender and plump, with very little liquid remaining. It will continue to swell when refrigerated, believe me. Scoop into dishes and chill before eating.

Once we started to feel better, this salmon and pasta dish came together magically one night, giving us some relief from chicken soup.

One pot Salmon and Kale Cream Pasta

One serve

Throw a handful of gluten-free penne pasta into a cup of vegetable stock, in the bottom of your wok or saucepan. Add three handfuls of shredded kale. Put the lid of the wok on, and let that simmer for about five minutes. Stir, add half a teaspoon of minced garlic, and rest a defrosted piece of pre-seasoned salmon on top of it all, adding a little more water.
Put the lid back on, and let that simmer for another 6 to 7 minutes. Check the salmon for doneness, and remove it to your plate.
Turn the heat up to allow most of the remaining liquid to evaporate, and added a drizzle of pouring cream, stirring well. Let that reduce a little, then transfer that to your serving bowl, breaking the salmon up over the top.

Truly scrumptious.

Let's also talk about my gluten free scones (biscuits) pictured at the top of the page.

I have never baked scones. Instead I've baked a series of rocks which the family refused to consume, and which could have easily been used as brick edging in the garden. Especially once we became Gluten Free. Whilst Covid-ised, I had time to research, and research I did.

And behold...success at last! AND gluten free!

Here's what I did:

Best ever Gluten Free Scones

Having conducted my highly scientific research, I determined that the Lemonade Cream Scone method, was the best solution, and decided to use my very expensive gluten-free flour, which I hoard, like gold, for those recipes that require a high proportion of flour to other ingredients. I think I’ve had this bag of Caputo gluten-free flour, since Mother’s Day 2020, when we were briefly released from Covid-captivity, to celebrate Mothers Day at a local notable park. There is also a notable delicatessen nearby, where I pounced upon this flour when I saw it, having heard about it previously. At $24 for a one kilo (2.2lbs) bag, it’s worth hoarding!
So, duly armed with quality weight-for-weight-may-as-well-be-gold gluten free flour, a can of Sprite (lemonade), a bottle of thickened cream, and a few teaspoons of baking powder, I went to work.
Here is my (note the proprietary nature of that pronoun 😁) method:
Chill everything and by everything, I mean bowl, utensils and ingredients.
Heat oven to 210C fan forced.
Prepare a smallish tray or cake tin with baking paper, as one secret I learned via my research, was to nestle the scones close to one another, to aid rising.
Choose a scone cutting implement. I used a stainless steel cup, which I regretted as I didn’t register that the sides sloped inwards. A straight sided glass or proper scone cutter would have yielded a more authentic scone shape.
Dust bench liberally with GF flour.
Sift 3 cups flour and 5 teaspoons of baking powder into the chilled bowl.
Stir with a chilled knife to combine.
Add 1 cup of well chilled thickened cream.
Add 1 cup of equally well chilled lemonade, observing with satisfaction the fizzing (it’s the little things right?).
Stir quickly with the cold knife to barely combine. It will be a sticky dough, but that’s what you’re after.

Tip the sticky dough onto the floured bench, dust your hands well with flour, and pat it down a little. You want the dough thick, because the nature of the scones is that they don’t actually rise that much in the baking. Mine was about 3 to 4 cm thick.
Cut each scone, being careful not to twist your cutting implement, as this impedes the rising, due to twisting of the edges of the dough. You probably already know this. I kind of did too. But now that I am scientifically informed, I’m going to present it to you as a new fact (LOL). Lift each scone onto your prepared baking tray with a chilled spatula.
NOTE: I chose to do large scones, in preference to small ones, as I believed there was less potential for them to turn into slabs of concrete. My own small tip.
Gather the dough together, pat into a thick slab, and continue cutting, until you run out of dough. I just formed a scone shape with the last piece of dough, and nicked the sides vertically with a sharp knife in several spots, (yes another trick I learned in my Covid induced research), and to be honest it rose just as much as the ones I’d cut with the cup, so go figure.
Brush the tops with a little more of the cream to encourage browning.
Bake for 12-18 minutes until golden and sounding hollow when tapped.
Eat them hot, with the traditional jam and cream, or condiments as per your preferences, or chill/freeze for later. I successfully reheated one from chilled, for five minutes in a hot oven this morning, for breakfast.
I’m ridiculously chuffed. The French chef, who works as a support worker with disabled son, declared the scones absolutely delicious, ate two and a half, and commented that he could not believe that I had accomplished them with gluten-free flour.

Meanwhile, you know me. I didn't let a little case of Covid deter me from dressing nicely.

And given the success of my scones, having conducted extensive research, I will now apply my research efforts to rose growing, and see if I can improve my success there!

We survived Covid well. 

We were triple vaccinated, had good stores, a comfortable home, and streaming services to keep us occupied. 

We laid low, slept when we needed to, made no rush to return to normal routines until we improved, and kept to ourselves. 

We did not 'enjoy' the experience, but we now know, that if we should become unwell again, we can be cocooned at home quite pleasantly.

I trust that should you become unwell, that you will fare equally comfortably.

Try the scones! You'll like them, I promise!