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.

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Maneesh Flat Bread with Baba Ganoush / Chunky Chilli con Carne

Laura (girlfriend and occasional fussy eater) hates minced meat and lamb. Minced lamb, don’t even go there. If I ever suggest eating mince, I get a face that looks like I’ve just asked her to swallow slug pellets. Apparently its the texture.

I, on the other hand, think mince is one of the greatest comfort foods available to mankind. Spag bol, shepherd’s pie, chilli, lasagna, moussaka, meatballs, tacos etc. Needless to say, its a bone of contention and I frequently find myself, like a thief in the night, rustling up a bolognese sauce if she’s ever away for a weekend to get my fix.

As hideous things like Quorn substitute don’t even bear thinking about, I’ve been forced to do some bobbing and weaving to find some of the favourite recipes above, but adapted for mince-racists. We had some marked success with this Cheese and Bacon Lasagne but I’ve been meaning to make the title dish (Chunky Chilli con Carne) ever since I had it at a mate’s house a while back. The key to the dish being its use of chunks of braising steak rather than mince.

I’m aware I haven’t mentioned the bread yet and that this is rather arse about face as its in the photo above. I made these two dishes separately, the bread and dip for a (slightly laborious) Saturday afternoon snack and the chilli for a slow-cooked Sunday dinner, but in retrospect I think they’d partner really well as a starter/main for a shindig.

Browned stewing beef - is there a more promising sight?

Browned stewing beef – is there a more promising sight?

But back to the chilli if I may. I normally find Ramsey’s recipes a little on the arduous side for home cooking as they involve too many ingredients/steps. However, this one was pretty straightforward and bloody delicious.  I’d say its more of a cross between a beef bourguingon and a chilli as it uses half a bottle of wine. Ramsey wants you to use Pinot Noir (flash bastard) but I just dumped in some Gallo left over from having people round the night before (cooking minesweeping = classy).

Coriander creme-fraiche offsets the cayenne pepper like a TOWIE reem

Coriander creme-fraiche offsets the cayenne pepper like a TOWIE reem

I like my spice and this was pretty bang on. If you prefer things a bit milder, I’d put less cayenne in the beef marinade to start with though. Critically, it passed the Laura taste test and I have to say it was much better than a regular CcC, although is more of an effort.

Baba ganoush - the poor man's caviar

Baba ganoush – the poor man’s caviar

Apparently (according to Paul Hollywood) Maneesh bread has been around for thousands of years in the Middle East. I can see why they persevered with it. Its bloody tasty.  Hollywood has put the recipe online here.

Likewise with the Baba ganoush, quick/easy to make and full of flavour.  Just roast some aubergines and mash it up with salt, plenty of garlic, tahini, parsley, lemon and oil. Job done.

I did have a bit of a mare with this though as by the time I actually finished the bread/ganoush I only had time for few mouthfuls before going out for dinner. It was fairly rank reheated the next day. Eat it fresh and don’t store it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sneak a lamb chop before Laura finishes watching Revenge…