This year, as we spent months locked down at home and eating out became less routine, our habits changed in weird and wonderful ways. Away from the prying eyes of colleagues or other diners, we were free to experiment with surprising combinations. And with shortages in the spring of our usual buys, an increased desire for comfort food and just plain boredom, some of these strange – but satisfying – meals have stuck.
Here, Guardian readers tell us about the oddest dishes they have made during the pandemic.
Stu, stay-at-home parent, Cheshire
We ordered a sandwich toasting machine at the start of lockdown. When it arrived, we didn’t have much to test it out with. There was a portion of uneaten lasagne in the fridge, so I divided it into four and made lasagne toasties. The feedback from the family was so good that we have made lasagne a dozen more times since, with at least half of those dedicated to toasties. We have extra cheese for the kids, an anchovy fillet for my wife and pickled jalapeño chips and sriracha for me. We can’t get enough of them. (I’ve put on a stone and my kids smell of oregano.)
Peanut butter beans on toast
Fred Wilson, restaurant manager, Newcastle
Due to a momentary lapse in concentration, I ended up with peanut butter on beans on toast. I would thoroughly recommend giving it a try, although I won’t be serving it in my restaurant. It had an almost satay-like quality.
Tomato soup pizza
Derek Taylor, retired social worker, Blackpool
It was two weeks after lockdown and I was really craving a pizza, but all the local pizza places were closed. I looked up a recipe for dough, but I didn’t have any flour because the shops had sold out. My missus had been making marzipan, though, so there was plenty of ground almond left over. I mixed it with egg and water into a dough and fried it on a skillet. All I needed to do next was take half a can of tomato soup as the sauce, spread it over the top and grill with lashings of wensleydale. It was not as bad as you would expect.
Smoked seafood and dried fruit
Starting in March, I began eating smoked seafood and dried fruit, in increasingly odder combinations. Now I love it. When we were asked not to leave our homes, I ate smoked mussels and dried sour cherries using a toothpick as my utensil. While others hoarded disinfecting wipes, I opened tins of bright-orange kipper and ate them with chewy dried Blenheim apricots. I inhaled smoked clams, creme fraiche and dried plums from my neighbour’s tree. I consumed flaked smoked salmon with figs and chives from my window herb garden. I already have a dehydrator. Now I wonder if I should invest in a smoker. Or maybe a fishing licence?
Super noodle special
Rebecca Williamson, history graduate, Glasgow
A bowl of Super Noodles with potato smiles and veggie sausages (arranged to look like a sacrificial ritual).
Raspberry stuffed vine leaves
Andrew, civil servant, London
Stuffed vine leaves from a can, dipped into raspberry jam. It almost reminded me of Swedish meatballs.
Adam, composer/sound designer, Bristol
It’s what my housemate calls “sad pasta” – something slightly pathetic, but also kind of comforting. It’s pasta combined with burger sauce. We make the burger sauce by combining mayonnaise, ketchup, hotdog mustard, garlic powder and brine from a jar of gherkins. Then we chuck a load of nutritional yeast on top. At lunch, we grab a quick bowl of sad pasta and watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Mashed cod’s roe with bacon
Nicola Miller, food columnist, East Anglia
I’m a total vinegarhead and one of my favourite chip shop orders is a battered cod’s roe, left until last when the batter is so baggy with vinegar it slips off the patty as you bite into it. At home, I don’t want to deep-fry the roe. My solution is to eat an entire can of Princes cod’s roe, mashed with white pepper, malt vinegar and salt. If I’m feeling fancy, I fry some streaky bacon until it is crisp and shard-like, because it makes an excellent vehicle for the transfer of cod’s roe to one’s mouth in lieu of cutlery.
Fish finger salad
Phoebe Juggins, civil servant, London
My best concoction was fish finger salad, made entirely from jars and the freezer (except for the lettuce). Little gem lettuce, fish fingers (chopped up), capers, olives, pickles, pickled red cabbage, mustard, balsamic vinegar, defrosted peas. Ate it sitting on the kerb in the sun while on a video call on my work phone.
Lime pickle apple slices
Ruby Kahn, IT consultant, Crawley
Braeburn apple slices topped with lime pickle and accompanied with cider vinegar Kettle Chips. Absolutely delicious, especially when the crisps are dipped in yogurt mixed with Encona hot pepper sauce and Norfolk mint sauce. This has served as a working-from-home lunch on a number of occasions, sometimes accompanied by pickled beetroot, instant minestrone packet soup and some tomatoes picked from the garden. A couple of celery sticks chopped up provides some crunch.