Lockdown Has Shown Us That Cooking Is Essential Food For The Soul

Cookaway founder Nidhi Verma says lockdown has taught many of us that cooking is much more important than we realised.

Cooking at home

by Nidhi Verma |

Nidhi Verma is the founder and Indian chef behind the food platform & recipe box brand The Cookaway, connecting adventurous cooks with leading chefs and bringing joy to the home cooking experience. Nidhi believes lockdown has helped us discover a new world of adventure, comfort and fun in our kitchens that we didn’t even know we needed…

I think lockdown has taught many of us that cooking is much more important than we realised and something we can all be doing more mindfully when the new normal finally arrives. Kitchens have almost became a sanctuary over the last year as millions of us turned to home cooking and scratch cooking on a regular basis. We had more time at our hands to plan our meals, eat better, try new things, replicate our favourite restaurant meals and reduce food wastage by making the most of what was available in our fridge and larder cupboards. Families have cooked and eaten together more than ever before and for me personally it’s been pure joy to see the kids gets involved in cooking too and this has resulted in our 12-year-old becoming a very confident cook.

I spent most of my childhood in the north of India, in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh at the foothills of the Himalayas. My father was in the Indian Army, so we travelled regularly and explored the ingredients and spices used in different regions. There was no convenience or processed food – everything we ate was cooked from scratch and had a strong connection to the place it came from and the people who prepared it. Years later, it was this connection and authenticity that inspired me to start my own cookery school.

Nidhi Verma
©The Cookaway

I moved to London with my husband in 2005 and cooking Indian food has been one of the things that has helped me to stay connected to my family and my cultural heritage. Even when I’m franticly busy running a start-up business, juggling family life and childcare, I naturally make time to enjoy preparing a delicious home-cooked meal at least once a week. I believe the simple yet precious art of preparing home cooked food is a skill we can all benefit from.

During my cookery classes so many people would tell me that learning to prepare Indian food at home had changed their entire outlook on cooking. It seemed crazy to me that so many people would turn up to my classes, have the time of their lives and then tell me they hadn’t cooked a proper meal at home in weeks, or even months. I quickly realised that my cooking classes were offering people more than a few handy cooking skills, they were acting as a way for people to take a step back and reconnect with a love of all that comes with preparing a special meal and sharing it with others.

When lockdown hit and everyone immediately started baking banana bread and creating more experimental dishes at home it was another clear sign that people had been missing the chance to spend more quality time in the kitchen. When we all started using video conferencing to socialise with friends and family, the worlds of cooking and socialising quickly collided and virtual cook-alongs became a weekly highlight for many. People found the inspiration to cook but were also able to connect with others, learn new skills, explore different world cuisines and rekindle a passion for good food that had perhaps gotten lost as convenience replaced mindful cooking in our busy, pre-Covid lives.

A hybrid post-pandemic world

I guess the question on everyone’s lips at the moment is: ‘What happens to home-cooking when we’re out of lockdown?’ As the working world shifts to accommodate more flexible, remote working opportunities and as we finally have some support with childcare outside of our own homes, I’m hoping we’ll all be able to hold on to the lesson we’ve learned about balance and make more time for the things in our lives that are important. Of course, we’ll be raring to visit restaurants and socialise outside of our homes, but we’ll also crave the creativity, peace and sense of control that comes from cooking a delicious meal.

The technical knowledge that we have collectively gained during lockdown, coupled with advances in services that have made it even easier to get hold of ingredients, access recipes and chat live with chefs has turned home cooking into another form of entertainment.

Lockdown has shown us the joy and importance of home cooking and given us an even easier way to do it. Cooking is so much more than food artfully arranged on a plate, it helps people explore new cultures and traditions, remind us of our travels, support mental health, connect and share a passion with others, celebrate special occasions – or turn a normal day into a special one.

Nidhi Verma is the founder and Indian chef behind the food platform & recipe box brand The Cookaway, connecting adventurous cooks with leading chefs and bringing joy to the home cooking experience.

Gallery

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
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CREDIT: Mindful Chef

One of the newest and best companies leading this trend is Mindful Chef, set up by Giles Humphires and Myles Hopper (below) in 2014. London based, these cool cats set out to provide a super healthy meal-kit service delivering Paleo based dinners to people's doors. (In case you need reminding, Paleo is mainly fish, meat and vegetable. It's one of the most good for you diets out there right now). Co-founder Giles tells us, 'We only use responsibly sourced, organic meat, fish caught by local day boats and organic veg from Devon. The veg is pulled out of the ground on Friday and on your doorstep on Sunday. We are reinventing the process as we believe veg shouldn't sit in supply chains for weeks.'How It Works: Mindful Chef have partnered up with Eversfield Organic Farm in Devon to deliver a box of produce once a week to your doorstep. Mindful Chef have a No Processed Food Rule, so the ingredients are as fresh as you can get with nutrient-dense British vegetables. With the ingredients and recipe cards you can rustle perfectly portioned Paleo dishes. Giles and Myles tell us, 'After a few weeks of healthy home cooking, our customers report feeling leaner, with better skin, brighter eyes and feeling more alive!' Highlight meals include: Walnut & mustard beef, orange, beetroot & watercress salad, Salmon & courgette skewers with fried endive and sweet potato mash and Spiced pork baby fajita gem wraps with a coconut & lime dressing. Prices from £24. Yum!

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
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CREDIT: Gousto

Working with well-respected brands like Yeo Valley and Woodlands Farm Gousto are passionate about creating exciting, colourful, healthy meals. Highlights include, Dill and Courgette Fish, Daikon Curry and Pulled Chicken Salad. Prices from £29.99.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
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CREDIT: Hello Fresh

Sourcing their fish from Mayfair Fishmonger James Knight which has reportedly supplied Clarence House for years this Meal Kit Service is truly a royal affair. Not only do they do the Classic and Veggie Boxes they also provide a Family Box for up to 5 people. Ideal! Prices starting from £31.98.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
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CREDIT: Green Box

Green Chef is the first UK recipe box to offer a fully keto meal preference, in addition to four other diets: lower carb, balanced, vegan, and vegetarian. Customers will have complete flexibility to mix and match recipes from different meal preferences, so mealtimes are always full of variety and inspiration, and healthy eating is fun. For three meals a week for two people, each meal comes to £5.95 per serving plus £3.99 shipping.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
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CREDIT: Simply Cook

In addition to their healthy low-calorie Discovery Box, Simply Cook also does a box suitable for those of us that are gluten-free. Offerings include Cod and Chorizo Broth, and Firecracker Chicken are just a couple of the Coeliac ready recipe kits. Prices from £10.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
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Award-winning plant-based meal delivery service, allplants offers start from £4.99 per person per meal, making them a perfect choice for vegetarians, vegans or anyone who's looking to reduce the amount of meat in their diets. They deliver five days a week, so you can choose a delivery slot to fit in with your life: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
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CREDIT: Japan Centre

Japan Centre, one of the largest and most influential Japanese stores in Europe, has launched easy to make DIY at home kits. What could more healthy than fresh fish, avocado and edamame peas? The DIY kits available include DIY Sushi Rolls, Poke Bowls, the UK's first authentic Sakura Cherry Blossom & Matcha Cookies and Sake Flight.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
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CREDIT: Riverford Organic Farm

Winners of The Observer Ethical Award five years in a row, Riverford's 100% organic Recipe Boxes offer an easy way to enjoy seasonal recipes each week – including low plastic, seasonal stars, plant-based (vegan) recipes, comforting family favourites and more. Each has easy step-by-step instructions and exact quantities of every organic ingredient, so there's no food waste. All with free delivery straight to your door. Prices from £12.45 for a meal for two.

Pollen + Grace
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One of our favourite meal delivery kits to date, Pollen + Grace, make ready meals feel gourmet. They're all healthy, vegan and of course... delicious. With yummy breakfast pots, veg boxes packed with protein and fibre, and heatable meal boxes delivering serious feel-good fakeaway vibes, enjoy healthy meals without the hard work. Available to buy in various supermarkets in store and online.

The Pure Package
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The most luxurious healthy meal kit out there, The Pure Package, is definitely a cut above the rest when it comes to quality and quantity food. You can choose from packages like training support, weight loss, healthy eating and longevity, as well as all of your specific diet requirements like vegan or vegetarian. Testing out the 'training support' diet for three days, I was more than satisfied with the high quality of the food and the range of meals available. The addition of snacks made the diet all the more fulfilling and certainly aided my training schedule. Seriously, this meal kit might be a treat, but it's a treat you deserve. Prices start from £49.95

Planthood
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Another delicious plant-based option, Planthood delivers restaurant-quality meals to your door. There are also many gluten-free options. Think dishes such as tender tofu bites, tossed in a tandoori marinade of garlic, ginger, lemon and spices, roasted until charred, then smothered in a cool minted yoghurt, tangy pickled red cabbage and fresh spinach. All wrapped in a freshly baked, pillowy soft garlic and herb naan. Prices start at £28.80 per week.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
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CREDIT: Rick Stein

Stein's at-home delivery service sends customers a pre-prepared three-course meal for two people, packed full of stunning Cornish produce. Example starters include grilled scallops with hazelnut and coriander butter, moules mariniere and homemade mackerel pate with sourdough toast and fresh leaves. Mains include their signature Indonesian seafood curry with rice and a crisp green bean salad, a whole Lobster thermidor; and even a Ribeye steak from Cornish butcher Phillip Warren. Round things off with a classic Sticky toffee pudding with Cornish clotted cream or a chocolate pave. Available for national delivery from £35 for two people.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
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CREDIT: Iberica

A veritable spread comes from Iberica restaurants, put together by Michelin starred chef, Nacho Manzano. The celebration box starts proceedings in true Spanish style with a selection of tapas, including bread and extra virgin olive oil speciality olives, pan con tomate, charcuterie, salads of anchovy adorned tomatoes and a cheese board of 5 Spanish cheeses. Main dishes include grilled octopus, tomato spiced prawns, and the centrepiece of a leg of milk fed lamb, herb-marinated and ready to finish at home. Dessert is a crowning Gloria Cheesecake. With simple instructions to finish preparing your meal, escaping the gloom of a winter's day via Asturia Spain can be delivered right to your door. Available for national delivery and local collection, £50 per person.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
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CREDIT: London Gastro Boy

Ex Pétrus, Fera and Roganic Andy Bowler launched Indulge Dining last year - it's an exceptional fine dining meal kit delivery service offering not only Michelin star quality food, but also the ambiance: no styrofoam containers or lukewarm food in sight. Everything comes carefully packaged and with specific instructions, making it incredibly easy to recreate a restaurant-quality meal at home. This is a must get treat for a special occasion at home.

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