Life in the Loire on lock-down. Friday 27th March. Day thirteen.

I woke up with a start this morning. I was dreaming and in my dream I was shopping for essentials. In my basket were avocados, chocolate, crisps and onions. What does this say about me?

So, the big news of the day is that Boris has it! Hardly surprising. If you’ve been watching what’s been going on in parliament in the UK these past two weeks you’ll be aware that the social distancing thing was definitely not in place for politicians. I was just shuddering at the thought of Dominic Cummings taking control of the country.

I had a chat with Charlie (youngest son) in the UK who has been furloughed (a mandatory suspension from work without pay). In these exceptional circumstances the Government is stepping in to pay 80% of workers’ salaries.

What’s the difference between being furloughed and being laid off? Furloughed employees have the expectation that they will return to work. Many, many people are in the same situation. We just have to hope that eventually things will resume as normal.

Another bright sunny day here and another sleepless night for growers as the temperatures teeter around 0°C.

Another trip to the supermarket is on the agenda this afternoon. We’ve been trying to go as little as possible but lunch was scraping the barrel today. No bread in the house we thought. Ah hang on. There’s some in the freezer. Some really nice nutty, dark seedy bread. That’ll do nicely.

You know when you leave things in the freezer for too long they start to get ‘freezer burn’? Each small slice had a large white border that snapped when you put any pressure on it. Lunch was a rather sad looking sandwich made using said bread with generous amounts of mayonnaise to get the filling to remain in place. I bet you wish you were here!

The good news for the day is that we did eventually find paper for the printer. Ok, it’s cream not white but I don’t think the accountant will worry too much about that. It means I can print off all the paperwork to file our last year’s accounts. Hmm, they will be very different to this year’s sadly.

Nigel was cooking tonight. He pan fried some magret de canard (duck breast) and served it with a spicy sweet potato mash.

Pan fried magret of duck with spicy sweet potato mash

For two people you need one large or two small sweet potatoes. Peel them, cut them into chunks and boil in salted water until tender.

In a frying pan, melt 25g of unsalted butter and then gently sweat 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic with a tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary and a finely chopped red chilli. You can add more chilli if you want it fiery or less if you prefer it milder.

When you sweet potatoes are cooked, drain them and mash them with a potato masher or squish with the back of a fork. Then pour the garlic, rosemary, chilli butter into your potatoes and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can make it in advance and reheat gently in the oven or the microwave.