Life in the Loire on lock-down. Tuesday 24th March. Day ten.

So finally the UK joins us in lock-down.

I spoke to my parents last night (thank goodness for Facetime) and they do seem quite worried by it all now. It’s funny. Until just a week ago they were still going out to play bridge with their friends and being rather resistant to the idea of hunkering down to look after themselves. I think the penny finally dropped last night with Boris Johnson’s announcment to the country. They realise that they are the most vulnerable sector of society (being 89 and 90).

Luckily my cousin Penny lives close by and is very kindly doing their shopping for them. They’ve developed a system whereby they leave a list out for her and she drops it off in the porch. They leave it there for a couple of hours and then take it in. It’s a relief to know there is someone near that can keep an eye on them.

They seem to have gone into overdrive spring cleaning mode in a house that is always immaculate anyway. I used to remember ‘helping out’ with the housework sometimes when I was young. I could never understand the point of ‘dusting’ as there was never any dust anyway!

When I was in my early twenties and my parents came to stay with me for the weekend it would take me at least a day to clean my flat. I’d be dusting and polishing, hoovering, cleaning the bathroom, mopping the kitchen floor, wiping out the fridge and scouring the oven. I was exhausted before they even set foot over the threshhold.

My Mum would look around and say “Well, everything looks lovely and tidy. I bet you’ve been working very hard to get it looking like that!” What? Moi? Rumbled!

I clearly didn’t inherit the fastidious gene. My brother got that one. Don’t get me wrong, I like a neat and tidy house (and a clean one) but I lack the obsessive compulsive gene.

We now have even stricter rules imposed upon us for taking excercise or walking the dog. We can now only venture outside for a maximum of 1 hour per day within 1km of our house. I’m sure this will have some dog owners scratching their heads. We used to take our lab out twice a day for a walk of about an hour.

It’s fine for us. It means we’ll be able to do a short turn in the vineyards for 20 minutes or so to stay connected with the professional world we work in (which seems to be receding into the distance) and get some fresh air. And we have our garden too. It’s much harder for those living in flats and appartments than it is for us.

It’s been a gorgeous day and we were able to sit outside this afternoon for our cup of tea (you can’t take the English out of the English). We listened to the blackbird singing in the tree and watched Pesto and Bigi (her friend from opposite), rolling around fighting and taking punches at one another. It reminded me of me and my cousin (the one I was talking about earlier that is being so helpful) when we were very young. We used to have fights where we would pull each other’s hair to the ground. We laugh about it now over a glass of wine! Happy memories!

I watched a live Instagram baking class after lunch which inspired me to make some grissini for our apero this evening. It was super easy and they were really delicious. Check out @breadaheadbakery. They are doing a live class every day at 2pm UK time and publish the required ingredients on their website in advance so you can get everything in. Today’s class is carrot cake and tomorrow is ciabatta and amaretti biscuits.

For around 12 grissini you need 250g white flour, 4g salt, 2g of instant yeast or 4g fresh and 160ml of room temperature water. You just mix everything together until it forms a dough and then knead it briefly for about 3 minutes. Preheat your oven to 200°C fan.

Let it rest for about half an hour then add your flavourings. I added some finely chopped fresh rosemary but you could add some olives or chilli flakes or cumin. Whatever takes your fancy. Then divide it into 12 equal pieces and roll into little sausages.

Divide into 12 (I made half the quantity) and leave for a little while

Leave them for 15 minutes or so and then roll them out into grissini about the size of a pencil. You can sprinkle polenta or semolina onto the work surface which gives a nice crunchy note.

Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt then pop in the oven for about 15 minutes. Brush with a little more olive oil when they come out of the oven.

Grissini fresh from the oven

I made an artichoke lemon and yoghurt dip to serve alongside. Half a jar of prepared artichokes, a couple of tablespoons of Greek yogurt, one clove of garlic finely chopped, half a teaspoon of salt and the finely grated rind of half a lemon blitzed to a rough purée using the hand held blender.

Have a go! They were easy and in a different league to the ones you find in the supermarket. Plus, if you don’t have yeast in the house you can still make them using just flour, water and salt. They’ll just be more crunchy and less bready.

I enjoyed a gin and tonic this evening as an aperitif with our grissini and then we had an everything left in the fridge in the wok kind of dinner. Chicken breasts, finely chopped carrots and cabbage, spring onions, garlic, ginger, a teaspoon of Thai curry paste and 200ml of coconut milk. I pushed everything aside and added one portion of instant ramen noodles to the pan for the last 5 minutes. Loads of fresh coriander at the last moment with a tablespoon of fish sauce and sweet chilli sauce to finish.

We drank a bottle of Sauvignon from Chateau de Nitray alongside. Fresh, light, fruity, grapefruity style. A good match.