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“Empty supermarket shelves and cooking for two meant I had to plan ahead more”

“Empty supermarket shelves and cooking for two meant I had to plan ahead more”

Just before lockdown officially started, I made the decision to move back to my family home in Leeds. Mealtimes for me had previously been squeezed into a busy London life but being back home has allowed me to slow down and actually think about food a bit more.

I found I had much more time on my hands and instead of becoming fluent in French (like I thought I would) I actually spent much more time planning, preparing and cooking meals with my mum. Especially in those first few weeks when everyone was panic buying and we suddenly didn’t have the luxury of being able to buy ten different types of pasta, instead facing empty shelves in the supermarket.

It was an interesting period for us. I always like to use up all the food I buy and normally cooking for one makes that easy enough to do, but we really had to think about using everything in the house because we didn’t know if we were going to be able to get anything from the shops. This is why I’ve really enjoyed being part of Hotpoint’s Fresh Thinking campaign, as with a little bit of inspiration and know how, we can all do our bit to reduce food waste and think differently about the food we choose to eat.
“I introduced my mum to tofu!”

“I introduced my mum to tofu!”

Moving back in with my mum gave us the opportunity to spend more time cooking together which isn’t something we’d normally do. I am vegan and my mum very much isn’t, but I’ve managed to get her to try tofu which is probably one of my proudest achievements during lockdown.

We discovered that a lot of the recipes she used chicken for could be substituted for tofu. I’m hesitant to say that she’ll be doing this once I’ve departed, but it’s been nice to have opened her eyes to the possibility.

Another thing that has been a revelation for me is discovering baking. I’m far too impatient for it usually but I’ve been cooking some vegan desserts through lockdown. I discovered you can make vegan tiramisu using tofu which is delicious. You can also whisk the water from chickpeas (aquafaba) to make vegan chocolate mousse, which was really tasty.

“People are living on very little and having to make creative meals that stretch further”
“People are living on very little and having to make creative meals that stretch further”

The period at the beginning of lockdown where we didn’t have the ease of access to food which we’ve become so accustomed to was eye-opening. I’m so privileged that this hasn’t been something I’ve experienced before, and that it was short lived. From my work as a volunteer project leader for the charity FoodCycle, I know that the inability to access food - for various reasons - is a daily reality for some people, but it was the first time I’d experienced it first-hand. Before lockdown, I would go to the FoodCycle project in Peckham to help cook for over 60 people using food that would otherwise go to waste. We have many of these set ups around the UK where people come together, not only for the food, but for the social aspect too which is as important because many of the people who attend are socially isolated. But this all changed during lockdown, as group gatherings were banned. FoodCycle were able to adapt very quickly and began not only delivering food parcels to those in need, but offering check-in and chat phone calls to people who would normally attend the FoodCycle project – I’ve been having weekly phone calls with people who would usually attend our centres and it’s been great to be able to still reach out to people who may be feeling isolated.

“Get creative to reduce food waste”
“Get creative to reduce food waste”

Being part of FoodCycle has definitely made me more mindful of the way we shop, prepare and eat our meals. One of our main aims is to prevent food waste, so it’s something I keep in mind and have been able to educate my mum on too during lockdown.

The one piece of advice I would give from my personal experience is don’t be afraid to mix things up. I’ve learnt so much from the other volunteers at FoodCycle, and their ability to rustle up the most amazing meals from would-be waste food.

It’s taught me to think more creatively when following recipes – if I don’t have a particular ingredient for a recipe, I’ll now find a substitute from the fridge or cupboard and chuck it in. As I’ve realised tofu can be tiramisu, butternut squash can become mac n’ cheese!

See tips on how to reduce food waste
SPINACH AND TOFU CANNELLONI BY SOPHIE WHITEHEAD
SPINACH AND TOFU CANNELLONI BY SOPHIE WHITEHEAD

"I’m always optimistic about the amount of spinach I’m going to get through, meaning that I’m often left with a sad bag of it lurking at the back of the fridge. This is a great way to use it up, as well as any leftover bread that’s going stale. I’ve realised just how versatile tofu is during lockdown, and it’s featured in many a dish that I’ve cooked – from tofu scramble to tiramisu! It’s the star of the show again here, and I genuinely don’t think anyone will miss the cheese in this vegan adaptation of this delicious Italian classic." - Sophie Whitehead

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