You’d be forgiven for wanting to brush this year swiftly under the carpet and plough straight into 2021, leaving faded memories of fresh vegetable shortages, pasta stockpiling and store-cupboard cooking well behind you.
But what of all the family dinners and virtual cook-alongs, and the nation’s collective effort – once the stockpiling finally dwindled – to shop more mindfully and support local businesses? For many people, 2020 was the year that mealtimes with all members of the household around the table became a regular event, and one in which children were encouraged to take an interest in the kitchen.
Previously untouched cookbooks were cracked open to create something special – because with restaurants closed for months on end, we needed to get creative. The kitchen became the ticket to cancelled holiday destinations and the meeting point for Zoom dinner parties. And it was the source of many a social media trend (just think of all the sourdough and banana bread that was consumed, if not literally then digitally).
Even our columnists, and favourite chefs and producers, for whom food (whether making it, cooking it or writing about it) is a lifelong passion, discovered new things this year – about the importance of community, the significance of cooking for others, and that meal planning really can help to keep you sane.
Below, they share what they’ve learned in the kitchen, and reveal the tips and tricks that will keep them cooking into 2021.
Ravneet Gill, Telegraph baking columnist
“I usually spend my time rushing from one job to another and packing my weeks full of work, meetings and eating out. But this year forced me to slow down and appreciate those close to me. A lot of my lockdown featured my grandmother, Biji, with whom I formed a bubble.
Not only have we chatted so much more, but as I have spent more time in the kitchen testing and developing recipes, she has been a great person to have at hand, tasting my cakes, giving me feedback and kindly stepping in and washing up as I go! I have learnt so much more about her and her life; that’s one of the things I’m most grateful for.”
Melissa Hemsley, Telegraph Magazine food columnist
“2020 has reminded me how vital community is. I’ve enjoyed the connections with my local shopkeepers, and getting to know my neighbours, who have shared their home-grown veg with me or taken a big wedge of the mushroom tart I was testing for my Telegraph column.
Organising delivery logistics, or chopping potatoes for a kids’ community centre or homeless shelter (not to mention sharing half a panful of soup left over from recipe testing via the food sharing app Olio), has given me purpose. I shall be doing more of it in 2021.”
Keith Miller, Telegraph restaurant critic
“I discovered that pickling is fun! At home, we chopped up a daikon radish and did it kimchi-style with lots of salt, sugar, red chilli, garlic and ginger; and a head of mustard greens in a more ‘correct’ Chinese style.
“However, if you lack the patience required for the kind of cookery that entails just standing around waiting for something to happen, then I’ve got two words for you: Flat. Breads. Rachel Roddy’s piadine recipe online is more or less foolproof (take it from me) – and if you put two in the pan with cheese and ham (and maybe a few pickled mustard greens) in between, and weigh them down with a saucepan, you can achieve something akin to that longed-for Autogrill squashy-melty energy.”
Asma Khan, chef and owner of Darjeeling Express
“I never realised how a simple egg could give me so much joy. In the early days of the pandemic, I repeatedly found eggs missing from my food deliveries because of the demand.
I eventually discovered The Good Egg Fellas, which sends eggs directly from a farm. The arrival of this huge box of eggs reminded me of the monsoon in Calcutta, where I grew up – because when nothing else was available in the bazaar, you could always get eggs delivered from the farm to your house.
I spent a lot of mornings this year cooking eggs for my family in creative ways, which was an opportunity to be a mother again. Over the past few years, I hadn’t had meals with my children due to the demands of the business. The greatest joy was to be able to have breakfast with them.”