Luscious lockdown pancakes!

Like many of you with young children and/or caring responsibilities, I’m finding myself becoming more of a professional juggler than ever before. I’m working yet home-schooling three young children – whilst managing my rehab and physio following my syndesmosis (ankle) reconstruction surgery in late February.

But in other ways, life is much quieter than it once was. I’m no longer commuting from North West to East London, or racing two children to their school and the other one to her nursery. I’ve stopped being chief chauffeur, no longer ferrying our fabulous three respective playdates, swimming lessons, football, after school clubs, ballet lesson, etc. There are no theatre trips, dinners or socials with friends and family. Other than a daily bike ride or walk I’m not going anywhere – and neither is anyone else. This is of course immensely sad but gives the amazing Mr R and I an incredible opportunity to have a lot of amazing and meaningful family time, playing and making things together each day in ways we otherwise would not have had the time for.

Then there’s of course the cooking and baking. We’re eating pretty healthily each week. I’m enjoying finding ways of using up leftovers, and having the time at weekends to try new dishes and the odd treat. I have some rye flakes coming in my online shop in a couple of weeks, which I’m going to attempt to grind into flour so I can make a sourdough starter (I’ve heard it works much better with rye flour so am holding out then before making it – watch this space!).

Juggling cooking and baking with everything else can be hard sometimes. On a bad day there’s very little cooking and a “picnic” of finger sandwiches and raw veg in the garden. This works well when we have glorious weather, but the fabulous three become less fabulous and rather unimpressed when it’s freezing cold outside – my attempts to keep the food mess outside for a few extra minutes don’t always work!

But on a good day my fabulous three love “home economics” with Mummy and we make something in the afternoon together as one of their school “lessons”. I like to think it combines their and my favourite core subjects – maths (weighing), science (mixing different substances, heating etc), English (reading and following a recipe), art (our creations often look pretty!), law (we have to follow the recipe’s “rules”!) and socialising (it’s great fun!).

As you might have seen from my Instagram posts some family favourites we have made include:

  1. 1. lemon curd (a huge success gastronomically speaking, but no one liked it as much as I’d hoped. I need to convert our huge quantity of lemon curd into iced lemon biscuits etc at some point!); 
  2. 2. lemonade (yes, I over-stocked on lemons one week!); 
  3. 3. banana cake (a regular addition, whenever I have overstocked on bananas and have many over-ripe and otherwise inedible bananas to use up)
  4. 4. fish curry;
  5. 5. tuna patties;
  6. 6. homemade pizza (we make the dough together and once risen the children like to each decorate their own pizza);
  7. 7. strawberry milkshakes;
  8. 8. Yorkshire puddings;
  9. 9. Challah (we try and make this delicious bread every week when we can);
  10. 0. Crepes; and
  11. 1. American-style pancakes.

As a treat, my children love American-style pancakes at the weekend. I use a Nigella Lawson recipe which makes up a dry pancake mix, that way we always have plenty in the cupboard to whizz up for another day:

For the pancake mix

  • 600g flour
  • 3 x15ml tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 40g vanilla or caster sugar (I make my own vanilla sugar – just leave a vanilla pod in a sealed jar or Tupperware with sugar. You can make cinnamon sugar by doing similar with a cinnamon stick and sugar. The result is delicious!). Mix the ingredients together and store in a jar.

When you’re in the mood for pancakes, you then just measure out 150g of the above pancake mix (shake it first), adding and whisking together 1 egg, 250ml semi-skimmed or full-fat milk and 1 x 15ml tbsp of melted butter.

I use a crepe pan to cook the pancakes, but a griddle or frying pan would also work well. I rub the pan with some butter or oil first, but you don’t have to. You then drop small circles (1.5-2 tbsp)of the batter into the pan. I can manage 4-5 at once in my pan, but doing 2-3 at a time is also fine. When bubbles start appearing on the surface you simply flip the pancakes over so that they’re golden brown on both sides. The trick is to have the pan on a medium heat – if it’s too hot then the pancakes will burn a bit and dry up. I keep the made ones on a plate under a tea towel until the whole batch is ready: that way they stay the right temperature!

The children eat the pancakes with vast quantities of fresh fruit and some maple syrup or honey. I like to convince myself that the fruit makes up for the unhealthier side of having pancakes for breakfast! Plus, our 6 year old will “only” (really!) eat eggs when they’re within crepes, American pancakes, cakes and biscuits, so what else am I to do?!

So there you have it. Delectable, American-style pancakes. Super quick and easy to make yet they are exciting,  impressive and taste utterly delicious. It’s a wonderful start to a lazy Sunday morning in lockdown. Plus they look so good you can “pretend” you’re having brunch at a fabulous café somewhere – Café Hannahcity in our case!

Covid-19 I: Your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution WILL BRING US VICTORY – #stayathome


We’ve unfortunately always had so many wars and revolutions, each with their own propaganda machine to engage our support.

The Great War, World War II, the Vietnam War (did you know Vietnamese people call this the American War?), the War on Terror, etc. Each with a big and powerful title, which aimed to inspire us to passionately believe that a fight and its sacrifices were worthwhile.

War of some sorts has always been part of our lives. I grew up in the 1980s, taught that the next war would be nuclear or perhaps chemical in nature, with whole communities, countries or even continents destroyed. I remember my grandparents talking about air raid shelters, evacuation and relying on the London Underground network for protection against bombs in the 1940s. I recall the fear which ensued following the IRA bombs in the 1980s and 1990s.  Then the horrific 9/11 attacks (during which I was in Washington DC) and the July 2005 bombings (which took place two days before I left London to go backpacking for six months). My children have rehearsed terrorist/knife/gun attacks at school, being told they have to hide from “a big dog” that has escaped in the grounds – with no mention to them of course of why they are practising this surreal and disturbing scenario.

But now we have a new war to fight. This time not between different countries or areas but right across the globe. Our civilians are being “targeted” by a common enemy, a coronavirus, and our doctors and essential workers have become our “soldiers”. No country or person is immune. Instead of arms we rely on ventilators and grocery delivery vans for survival.

“Coronovirus” pervades every news headline, along with Government slogans to motivate us to “#stayathome”, “#beahero” and “#protectthenhs”. There is no other news. Right now nothing else matters – politically, socially, economically – it is as if there is no other fight or thought right now.

Perhaps we should therefore call this the War on Coronavirus? Or the Corona War? Or Covid-19 I (allowing for Covid-19 II, III etc for further waves?!)?

This also gets me thinking about some powerful 1939 World War II posters I like:

Your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution WILL BRING US VICTORY

and (which you’ll know well I’m sure!):




These slogans are extremely powerful and motivating, but isn’t it also deeply disturbing that words from 81 years ago carry such resonance today? A different context yet still so relevant. Perhaps we should adapt these posters,  adding the words “Stay at Home” at the end of each one, and pin them up on our windows?




We’re in “designated survivor” territory. What next?

Have you ever watched any of the films or series which deal with designated survivor territory in some form or another? From Dave to Designated Survivor there are plenty of examples in fiction of this happening. They always filled me with intrigue but seemed sufficiently far from reality to not require me to delve too far into “what this would mean” in the UK context.

But now it’s official, we’re now in “designated survivor” territory. Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister, is in hospital in intensive care and Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, is “deputising” for him.

The UK’s constitution does not really cover what should happen in this kind of situation. Our political system is not a presidential one, the Prime Minister is simply the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons. The Conservative Party currently has a large majority and so forms the government, which the Conservative Party’s leader then heads as Prime Minister. There is no formal deputy within our constitution to take over should Boris or become incapacitated. There is also no guidance in the Cabinet Manual covering this point, and little precedent.

In some ways it was perhaps easier for the Labour Party in the early 2000s. When Tony Blair had treatment for a heart condition, John Prescott stepped in for a few days. But he had been elected by the Labour Party to be its deputy Prime Minister, and voters broadly understood what this meant when they cast their ballots for Labour. This isn’t the same as having a formal constitutional role, but it perhaps helped justify Prescott deputising for a short period.

There’s no useful other historic precedent either. In June 1953 Churchill’s stroke was kept out of the newspapers and our public knowledge. The political practicalities and requirements were dealt with behind closed doors.

Poor Boris. The first Prime Minister we’ve only ever called by his first name and who, like him or loathe him, now feels like part of the UK’s furniture.

Of course I very much hope Boris recovers in the next few days. But if he doesn’t, what then?

Dominic Raab is – putting aside his Brexiteer tendencies – a competent politician who will undoubtedly have no difficulty in stepping into Boris’s shoes. He will have countless civil servants and advisors supporting him and no harm to the country will be done by not having Boris at the helm. Yet yesterday he confirmed that he does not have “prime ministerial responsibility” and decisions will currently need to be made collectively by the Cabinet. This has raised concerns about a “political vacuum”, e.g. in relation to issues of national security.

But if Boris does not recover, even with a large majority and a pandemic to be dealt with, some in the Conservative Party may have their knives ready to get out over the next few weeks. They may demand that a “new leader” be chosen from their ranks. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this happens: there are too many senior Tory politicians with a deep thirst for power for it not to. But this would be catastrophic for the country right now, politically and economically but also for the public psyche. Amidst a Coronavirus pandemic we need confidence that our leaders are 100% focused on fighting the virus, not each other.

Let’s all hope Boris makes a full and swift recovery, so the wranglings of ambitious Tory MPs and the 1922 Committee (the Tory committee which elects its leaders) can remain silent.

But once Boris recovers and the country has also, we need to have a full and frank discussion about what this has all meant for our parliamentary democracy and our constitution. Unthinkable as the current situation was, it did happen. Which means we ought to plan for the future make sure as a country we are better equipped to deal with crisis situations. This includes thinking about whether our laws ought to include provisions for what happens if the Prime Minister is unable to act.

If we do deal with this point, then perhaps the very nature of what the Prime Minister’s role is has to change. We need to acknowledge and accept that the role has evolved considerably over the past 100 years. The Prime Minister has immense power, yet is not a formal constitutional role with the checks and balances of a presidential system. In order to protect our political and economic system, we need as a country to consider whether this is right. Maybe it would be more appropriate to include provisions in our laws for what a Prime Minister is and how someone takes over if he/she is ill or incapacitated – and who that someone should be.

In the meantime, recover soon Boris. For yourself, your family, the UK and ultimately for the stability of our political system.

This article was written morning of on 7 April but was updated to refer to statements made that evening and now links to a news story from 8 April on this same topic.

Give me liberty or give me death!

“Give me liberty or give me death!” John Wilkes wrote and cried out in the late 1790s (complaining about the state of the English voting system, but hang in there!).

It’s now 2020 and quite the opposite is true. If our governments allow us our liberty then this will cause more people to die. Our democracy cannot protect us by setting us free. Instead it must do the reverse, forcing us into a strange and surreal existence where we must remain trapped in our homes, only “allowed” out to buy essentials or for a short walk or run each day. Even then human contact with non-immediate family/housemates is forbidden.

This was all ironically much easier in China: it’s much easier to control a pandemic if you can can lock people in their homes or use force to make them to go to hospital. In a democracy you’re much more reliant on people to choose to comply with the rules, which makes it much harder to successfully lockdown the population – and so more likely that this pandemic will continue for much longer in Europe and the USA than it has in China.

More from me on the wider political and socio-economic implications another day I hope – when I don’t have three (wonderful but intense) children climbing on me as I write!

When staying in is the forced new normal

There is so much to write about the global situation right now, but it also makes me wonder on a micro level how this world crisis is affecting my own family.

Just over two weeks ago I had suspected Covid-19 and we didn’t leave our house for fourteen days. The strangest part of this for me was how normal our new reality quickly became for my children (aged 4, 6 and 8), and how quickly they adjusted to their new and more limited lives.

Staying in become the forced new normal and before long some of our children likely won’t remember our pre-lockdown lives. Within just a couple of days my older two children stopped asking when they’d next see their friends, go to a restaurant, a museum or on holiday. My youngest still regularly chats about all the places we are going to visit “soon”, but seventeen days in even she has stopped asking when she can have a play date with her best friend. I wonder how long it will be before she completely forgets her nursery, our usual life outside our house and our proper non-virtual time with her extended family and friends? The thought that this is very possible makes me cry whenever I think of it.

I also think a great deal about my children losing so many months of their childhood. Being unable to see their grandparents, their cousins, all our beloved family and friends for so long really hurts. Also, whilst I appreciate that they will no doubt have wonderful times at home with us and each other during this lockdown, what we do at home does not replace the rich lives they usually lead at their fabulous school and nursery.

Four to six months at home is a very long time. My daughter will likely never return to her pre-school (before starting school) and my boys will miss so many special school memories (sports day, school fete, school plays etc). I’ve lost precious 1:1 time with my youngest before she starts school – our Fridays (my usual non-working day) together were magical and we both so miss that special time together. The cancelled family holidays too: Eurodisney, which we’d been counting down to for months, Center Parcs etc. Who knows when we will be able to re-book these for. Then there’s the simple everyday stuff – the walks to school, the lazy weekend brunches, supermarket visits, Cubs, piano lessons, Monkey music classes, swimming classes etc. Of course all of this will still be here when the lockdown ends but my children will all be that bit older, as will I, and I doubt life will ever be quite the same again when this ends. This is time we will never get back and I feel a real sense of loss about it.

But I have to push on through this sadness and focus on what I have right now and how brilliant it is. I’m extremely fortunate. I think of those without what I have, eg families struggling in tiny flats without a garden, toys, school resources or even essential food supplies; people who’ve lost their jobs. I’m stuck here at home but I’m with the four people I love the most in the world and we have so much to say to each other and to do together during this time. My husband and I have our jobs and interesting challenges there to work through. And we have the (virtual) support of our amazing family, friends and colleagues, which is a massive comfort during such times.

How are you and your children coping with the lockdown? I hope you’re all adjusting well. Do comment below and let me know, I’d love to hear your experiences!

* the picture is my 8 year old’s representation of the Coronavirus in Aquabeads.