It will be a year that none of us will ever forget, but for all the wrong reasons. The Covid-19 pandemic wrought emotional and economic destruction for so many, but there’s no denying its epoch-defining importance, in our lives and in our kitchens. As we prepare to bid goodbye and good riddance, ckbk rounds up the recipes that defined how and what we ate in 2020 – and what we are looking forward to in 2021.
The world awoke to a new decade on January 1, 2020 with high hopes (and possibly sore heads), still mostly in a state of blissful ignorance of the impending virus. In that calm before the storm, healthful kale recipes were still generating lots of traffic, with recipe searches on Google overtaking even ‘hangover recipes’ for the first week of the year.
In the UK, Britons woke up to the reality of Brexit. The UK was officially no longer part of the European Union, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson was making much of the proposed trade deal between Britain and the EU, which the former journalist had taken to describing as ‘oven-ready’ (trade negotiations carried on for a further year).
Our collection of oven-ready chicken tray bakes are reliable, and most take less than an hour, start-to finish.
Darkening coronavirus storm clouds continued to gather on the horizon. Taking pleasure in simple things, people took to making pancakes. Pancakes were the sixth-most Googled recipe search in 2020, and February 25 (Shrove Tuesday) also marked Pancake Day in the UK. Getting familiar with the concept of cooking from-the-pantry recipes is a skill that will stand canny cooks in good stead in the months that followed.
Our collection of pancakes from around the world shows that, from fluffy to flat, and sweet to savory, there’s a pancake for everyone.
‘Lockdown’ became the breakout word of the month on Google Trends. In Britain, people took to socially distanced clapping from their front doorsteps to thank NHS workers for looking after the rising numbers of Covid-19 patients.
Putting their baking skills to good use, locked-down cooks turned to baking comforting, waste-minimizing banana bread and posting their creations on social media, causing a banana bread frenzy. Fortunately, there are lots of ways of making banana bread, as you’ll find in our bumper banana bread collection (it has cakes and muffins, too).
Supermarkets struggled to keep their shelves stocked with staples, from dried yeast and flour to toilet paper and dried pasta, and the world developed a collective obsession with sourdough. Baking bread became the anxiety-quelling hobby of choice, and Instagram feeds spilled over with images of bubbling sourdough starters and handsomely burnished loaves, their crusty exteriors cradling the airy crumb within (and the bigger the holes, the better).
Lockdown continued and we all began hankering after much-missed pleasures that were previously taken for granted, such sitting down at a table in a restaurant an ordering a much-loved dish delivered to the table by someone not wearing a face mask. Forced to close their doors to eat-in customers, restaurants ‘pivoted’ to delivering finish-at-home meal kits and restaurant-quality meals for home-delivery.
This was takeout food as never experienced before – and let’s hope we never go back to cold pizza stuck to its cardboard lid. Here’s a collection of restaurant favorites you can easily make at home.
As the pandemic continued, the list of cancelled sporting events around the world grew. In the US, the 2020 Major League Baseball season was scaled back drastically, leaving many baseball fans bereft. For anyone still with a hankering, our collection of ballpark fare to make at home is just what you need.
In the UK, the 2020 Wimbledon Championships were cancelled, resulting in a glut of strawberries: each year, some 28,000kg of strawberries are consumed over the two-week period (strawberry jam-makers had a field day). Tennis fans are keeping fingers crossed for Wimbledon 2021. In the meantime, ckbk has hundreds of strawberry recipes to make when June rolls around again.
When lockdown happened back in March, anyone with a spare patch of ground and green fingers decided to grow their own vegetables. By high summer, vegetable patches were overflowing with beans, zucchini, squash, eggplant… Some creative types turned their hand to combining their newfound bread-making skills and their beautiful vegetables into an edible art form, and #focacciaart became a social media sensation.
Use Ruth Clemens’ Rosemary & Sea Salt Focaccia recipe as your starting point and let your imagination run wild.
With travel bans in place the world over, August was the month of the staycation. All that could be done was to look on the bright side: no need to go to the airport and sit in a cramped airplane for hours.
With a few carefully chosen recipes, a bottle of wine or two and a bit of imagination, it was possible to bring the flavors of the Mediterranean, Japan or South-East Asia into your own kitchen. No passport required.
For those vegetable-growing newbies who had such success with their vegetable patches, September brought home the true meaning of the word ‘glut.’ It turns out that there is a limit to the amount of zucchini a family can eat, and that you can give away to people if you want to remain friends.
Fortunately, the pickling and fermenting trend that turned kimchi into an international culinary megastar has continued to bubble along, so turning those cucumbers, cabbages, peppers, and tomatoes into pantry staples for the coming winter slotted in nicely to the grow-your-own lifestyle.
As October rolled around, it was clear that Covid was planning to hang around longer than we had all hoped. There was only one thing for it, and that to fully embrace the joys of comfort food.
Where you come from, and where your ancestors come from, defines what each of us craves as the comfort food of choice, but there are some recipes often involving lasagne, melting cheese (especially if it’s grilled cheese sandwiches), meatballs, potato bakes and chocolate – all fully qualify.
With winter biting at our heels, November arrived amid grim news of further lockdowns. Fortunately, Great British Bake Off was there to provide much-needed solace and diversion.
Yet there was drama and intrigue during Dessert Week’s Technical Challenge. Tasked with making a whole lemon wrapped in suet pastry, sprinkled with sugar and steamed for hours (aka Sussex Pond Pudding), some contestants complained they didn’t have enough time to do this 18th- century British dessert justice.
Being time-poor is not such an issue for many these days, and this Sussex Pond Pudding recipe might just be your dessert discovery of 2020.
More time spent indoors and more televisual light relief, this time from Nigella Lawson’s new BBC show Cook, Eat, Repeat. In Episode 5, Nigella nearly caused an international incident with her tongue-in-cheek pronunciation of microwave as ‘meecro-wa-vay’. Much-maligned, the microwave is a kitchen tool like any other, and if it’s good enough for Nigella… It’s also very handy for cooking everything from Lemon Curd Porridge to Ghanaian fufu dumplings.
‘Microwavays’ aside, the dish of December was undoubtedly the Scotch egg. As British politicians debated about whether pubs could remain open, the argument hinged on which establishments serve ‘substantial meals’ – with Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove (a Scot, as it happens) holding up the example of the Scotch egg.
For those who don’t know what a Scotch egg is: you are in for a treat. Try every recipe in this Scotch egg collection and you will be a convert to the cause. Scotch egg cognoscenti: you can make them all too; have them for a starter or a main course – the choice is yours.
Back in March, when we rolled out our We Can Cook Through This initiative during the first wave of lockdown, we had little idea of the massive impact Covid-19 would have on our lives, our economies, our careers, our schools, our high streets, and on the bars and restaurants run by so many of our friends in the hospitality trade. Many lives have been tragically cut short by the virus, and the collateral damage has also been immense.
With so many previous aspects of normal life on hold, cooking for ourselves and our immediate family and cohabitants has taken center stage. At times, the relentless need to cook at home has created kitchen-fatigue, and we have struggled to motivate ourselves to cook yet another meal.
We have been heartened, though, to hear from so many users of ckbk who have told us how coming across a trusted cookbook recipe, whether it be a kitsch old family favorite from the 1970s, or a trendy new street food dish, has helped to make life just a bit more bearable. For all of us, the discovery of a new book, a new author, a new dish, or a new ingredient is a way to stay motivated.
As we turn the corner into 2021, in the short term things look tougher than ever, but with vaccine roll-outs underway worldwide, there is at least light at the end of the tunnel. Cooking food at home for ourselves is important, but it isn’t everything. As humans we love social gatherings, we love restaurants and we love travel – and these things help to inspire our own cooking.
Cooking for celebrations with friends and family
Visiting friends and family, and having them cook for us (for a change!)
Discovering new restaurants (and revisiting favorite haunts)
Traveling to foreign countries and trying new dishes
Meeting for a relaxed drink without worrying about a curfew
Let’s hope it’s not too long before they are all back on the table.
The ckbk team