One is the Loneliest Number (Part Two)

True story: I walked past Jay Rayner the other day whilst house hunting around Herne Hill.

It was the weekend of the Lambeth County Fair in Brockwell Park. I’m sure it was much to his displeasure that we did not engage in conversation as he headed east and I west to Britxon, ships passing in silence on this scorching hot day. It looked like he had put on a little weight since I had last seen him on the telebox but was still striding onwards with relish, curly black locks soaring majestically behind him.

Definitely would have made a good Death Eater

I don’t cite that he had put on a little weight as a criticism. I’m dead impressed that someone in his profession doesn’t need to be carted around like Pearl the Vampire from the original Blade movie. I would certainly need to be.  Although I suppose Peter Griffin look-a-like Charle Campion is on a slippery slope.

Sorry for the low-blow Chazzer

Anyway the point to this being that seeing Jay Rayner reminded me that since my first entry into this article series, I read a great piece by him in the Guardian about the pleasures of cooking for yourself entitled Cooking for one: it’s food with someone you really loveI’d recommend reading the whole thing but wanted to highlight this part:

‘Don’t get me wrong: I like cooking for other people (and if any of my family are reading this, really darlings, nothing gives me more joy than keeping you fed). But cooking only for yourself, well now, that’s the real deal. I am always baffled when anyone announces they don’t bother bashing the pans about if they are the only person who needs to eat. My conclusion is they’re not greedy enough. Cook for others and, however appreciative, there will always be something they don’t like…Cooking for yourself is…a culinary event without compromise.’

And with that endorsement under our belt, we push on!

One-pot Chicken Pilaf

Speed: 25 minutes
Cost: £7 approx
Taste/variety of ingredients: Pretty uninspiring stuff, but was good to have chicken thighs instead of breast whilst the other half was out for dinner (yes, chicken thighs are a new addition to the malleable blacklist).
Leftovers: Another portion, tucked neatly between 2 eggs and an Innocent smoothie the fridge.

Link to recipe in title above. Fairly average tasting although weirdly got better as it cooled down. I wonder if leaving the lid on at the end for a bit once the spinach has been added to let the flavours stew in together would have brought it together more.

Could also definitely have done with some lemon juice, coriander and a dollop of creme fraiche stirred in at the end. Did liven up with a good dose of cayenne pepper which helped. Still good amount of veg and protein for a very quick, inexpensive and easy dish.

Sri Lankan & Spanish Omelette

Speed: 12 minutes
Cost: £9 approx
Taste/variety of ingredients: Yes, it’s an omelette, but its the best omelette I have ever made and possibly consumed. Details below.
Leftovers: None

All the ingredients below featured but it was the mix of good quality chorizo (Bath Pig) and green chili that really made it sing. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the contents of a Spanish omelette (potato, onions) but we got quite hooked on Sri Lankan omelettes during our hols last year. Its basically just a thin omelette with tons of chili. Beaut.

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One is the Loneliest Number (Part One)

I was absolutely positive that a Simpsons episode existed where Homer moped down the street with this song playing in the background. After thirty fruitless minutes spent searching on YouTube for the video to insert, I’m still not convinced I’m wrong. If anyone knows which one I mean please let me know, its driving me insane!

Anyway that aside, I wanted to start what I hope will be a string of themed posts around a subject that I’ve struggled with over the years – being bothered to cook a proper meal when you’re on your tod. My aim being to create a collection of tried and tested recipes for the solo chef with the following criteria to dissuade away from the usual suspects of the stir fry, pasta or ready meal:

– Quick to make. Ideally 20-30 mins all in, no more than 50 mins.
– Cheap
– Tasty and varied in ingredients/cuisine
– Doesn’t rely on just cooking more and eating half the next day.
– Also, not a marked point, but stuff that uses up store cupboard items is always a bonus as a money saver as per the two recipes below.

Points one and two are self-explanatory but I think three and four are just as important. When you walk into your high street supermarket, the sheer range of different cuisines available at only a five minute blitz in the microwave does make for tough competition for aspiring home solo cooks. People will always be tempted to pay for convenience.  On point four, you can always get creative with leftovers to make new dishes and this is obviously a great way to save money. However, as I sit mashing my keyboard at work, usually by noon I’m giving serious thought as to what I’ll be eating that evening and I’m not often inspired by eating the same basic meal two evenings in a row.

So without further ado…

Pork with Garlicky Bean Mash

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Speed: 25 minutes
Cost: £9 approx
Taste/variety of ingredients: Good chunk of pork made a change for mid-week plus garlicky bean mash was delicious and not something I’ve ever made. Healthy alternative to mash tatties.
Leftovers: None (but I did eat both pork loins like a boss)

Really simple, quick and nutritious to make. I also had some leftover tomatoes and carrots that I grilled and boiled respectively. Cost is a little higher than I’d hope for single service but it wins out speed, taste and the no leftovers. Can see how few ingredients needed below.

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Shepherd’s Pie Potatoes

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Speed: 50 minutes
Cost: £4.50 approx
Taste/variety of ingredients: As mentioned before, mince for me is actually a bit of a treat so I lapped this up. Although the ingredients won’t win any prizes for novelty, it is a clever way of making a single service Shepherd’s Pie, essentially using the potato as the baking dish.
Leftovers: Decided to cook the rest of the mince pack at the same time, will sling on some spag later in the week no doubt.

Bit more labour and time intensive than the first recipe but basic and cheap to make. Little stodgy for the summer but would be perfect with a glass of red wine on a cold winter’s eve.

2013-06-18 18.54.47On an entirely unrelated note, check out these badass Gaming Cakes. Rock and/or roll.