• Javier García Tornel making pasta while on lockdown in his Madrid apartment. (Zoë Erskine and Javier García Tornel )Source: Zoë Erskine and Javier García Tornel
With several countries in lockdown or social distancing, people are cooking to fight boredom and bring joy to their day.
Audrey Bourget

20 Mar 2020 - 1:31 PM  UPDATED 21 Mar 2020 - 5:53 PM

Across the world, people quarantining and isolating to manage the COVID-19 pandemic are cooking up a storm. 

In Madrid, Zoë Erskine and Javier García Tornel temporarily shut down their Melbourne-style café, Saint Georges, after the Spanish government declared a national lockdown from Saturday 14 March.

It happened quickly. They had plenty of customers last Wednesday, but on the weekend, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a lockdown for 15 days, though it's likely to last longer. 

How to eat fruit and veg in the coming months
Fresh, frozen, canned or preserved; we asked experts about how to get your fruit and vegetable intake over autumn and winter.

Essential services like supermarkets, bakeries and butchers are still open.

Tornel explains, "They've [the government has] implemented new rules. Now, when you go to the supermarket, you have to queue outside and leave two metres between other customers."

He bought some of his favourite ingredients before the lockdown and goes food shopping as needed.

"Because we're stuck at home and bored, it's something that kills the boredom."

Erskine says, "Javier went full gourmet! We thought, if we are going to be stuck at home, we're going to do it right.

"There's a little Italian shop close to our house so he got fancy cheeses, canned tomatoes, dry pasta and different flour and semolina to make fresh pasta. We also got nice seafood."

Javier García Tornel picked up a few of his favourite ingredients at a local shop before the Spanish lockdown was declared.

To avoid going to the supermarket every day, they've created a menu for the week, which includes tom yumPeruvian roast chickenKorean BBQfalafel and pasta alla puttanesca

"Usually, during the week, Javier will whip up something quick for dinner. But now that he has all the time in the world, he's like, 'I can try this and that, and things that take time'. And because we're stuck at home and bored, it's something that kills the boredom, it's better than vacuuming," says Erskine, laughing. 

Javier García Tornel making pasta while on lockdown in his Madrid apartment.

While they're making the most of the situation, they still find isolation difficult.

"We're going bananas," exclaims García Tornel, whose next project is to make rice flour noodles.

How to support Asian food business during the coronavirus outbreak
Asian food businesses are struggling across the country, so what better time to get out for a meal and give some of our local favourites some support. We've got the hit list sorted, just don't forget to hashtag #iwilleatwithyou.

In New York, there's no lockdown yet, but many businesses like gyms and restaurants have closed.

Sydney-born Adam Moussa has been working from the East Harlem apartment he shares with his husband since last week.

He's done a lot of batch cooking (pulled pork, beans, etc.) and baking. As a senior social media manager for Eater, he buys and receives a lot of cookbooks, which are getting a good workout.

"So far I've made the salted maple pie from Sister Pie and crispy hazelnut cake from Alison Roman's Nothing Fancy," he says.

"My job has me sitting at my computer all day, so it's very easy to babysit a bake." 

"But in flipping through my books and thinking about what to bake next, I want something snacky and homey so we can be taking bits off it over a day or two without feeling overwhelmed by sugar.

"So that likely means a tea cake-like Helen Goh's lemon poppyseed one from Sweet (I have made that a dozen times and it is the most soothing cake I can imagine)."

He also wants to use the extra time at home to learn something new.

"I plan to practice pâte sucrée and make a custard tart, which takes care of both my desire to build new skills and my need for something nostalgic."

"I plan to practice pâte sucrée and make a custard tart, which takes care of both my desire to build new skills and my need for something nostalgic like I grew up with in Sydney (shout out to the Glenorie Bakery custard tart, which I have eaten hundreds of since early primary school).

"Also planning to practice tortilla making at some point, which is something I've always thought about doing but never actually bothered with since there's a wealth of great Mexican food around me."

Mexican tortilla with chicken and feta

This egg omelette does double-duty as breakfast or dinner. It's the perfect option for those on a reduced-carb intake plan.

Cooking and sharing online

You might have noticed more people sharing photos and videos of their home cooking over the last few weeks. Cakes, bread, pasta and stews that are comforting and easily made with pantry staples seem especially popular.

Even some of the world's best chefs, like Massimo Bottura, are sharing online.

Encouraged by his daughter Alexa, the Italian chef has launched #KitchenQuarantine. Every night at 8 pm CET (6 am AEDT), he goes live on Instagram from his family home, making dishes like tortellini alla panna, Japanese soup and Thai curry. 

"This is not a cooking show, it's just a way to share with people from all over the world," he explains in a video.

In Australia, Sharon Flynn goes live on The Fermentary Instagram page #FermentTogether. So far, she's made brined carrots, milk kefir and beet kvass.

While we're well aware that baking a cake won't solve everything, it is proven to have positive effects on mental health. So we've put together a bunch of recipes, which might help you feel a little better:

10 sweet and savoury ways to embrace Sweden's love of a beautiful bun
Swedes love buns and so do we! From sticky cinnamon buns to cream-filled semlor, here are ten faves.
15 + dishes to impress your Persian mother-in-law
Dishes to cook if you want an in with your new Persian family.
50+ nourishing dinners you can make with pantry staples
Look to the pantry and the freezer... here's what to cook with it.
How to make bread while you sleep (and why it works)
Fresh, homemade bread loaves are easier than you think, all you have to invest is time.
8 recipes that will make you wish you had an Irish granny
Conjuring up warm hugs and kitchens full of the heady smells of baking, these recipes are all family treasures.
These comfort dishes are our eternal kitchen heroes
From chicken soup to 'the cake that cures everything', the dishes we love, again and again and again.

If you do crave food you haven't cooked yourself, many of your favourite restaurants have turned to delivery and take-away so you can support them safely. 

Love the story? Follow the author here: Instagram @audreybourget and Twitter @audreybourget