Cooking for one means no limitations, no borders, and no-one morosely pushing “green stuff” around the plate. Cooking for one means fulfilling one’s creative impulses with the added benefit of having no-one to witness the occasional disaster. Cooking for one is liberating.
To start, as well all did, with the egg: The omelette is the single’s best friend. It may take a practice run or two but there is nothing complicated about the omelette; it’s economical and the entire operation takes about five minutes. The filling could be as mundane as cheese or as delicious as a combination of shrimps and asparagus. A scattering of parsley and a slice or two of deep red tomato and you have as pretty a dish as you could wish for. Scrambled eggs (cooked very, very slowly to retain the creaminess) topped with smoked salmon make a sophisticated Sunday breakfast. Hard-boiled eggs can be turned into egg salad, or, with tuna, olives and anchovies, used to create a credible salad nicoise. Eggs Benedict (toast or muffin topped with ham, poached egg and a creamy sauce) is a fine recipe.
The potato: This is my personal stand-by. A potato boiled in its jacket, or oven-baked if the oven is being used anyway, with a salad of baby spinach leaves topped with crispy bacon is my idea of a fine meal. Then there is the potato casserole, the potato fritter, potato salad, the potato and bacon omelette.
Steak: Do not be tempted to buy tiny steaks. A large steak is juicier and tastier and can be used up in several ways. Day 1: grill steak to your taste, cut off enough to satisfy your appetite, add salad and a baked potato. Day 2: Slowly fry onions and add left over sliced steak strips and a splash of wine. Day 3: Douse strips of steak in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, season and serve on a bed of crisp lettuce. Add tomatoes and spring onions and serve with crusty bread.
Fish: Many people find the idea of frying fish quite daunting but, as long as the fish is coated in either batter or simply dipped in flour, so that it doesn’t dramatically lower the temperature of the oil, can be cooked in about eight minutes. Or make a complete meal in foil with your piece of fish, thinly sliced potato, onion and tomato and enjoy not having to wash up.
One of the great joys of one-person cooking is that expensive ingredients can be purchased without sacrificing the kids’ school shoes. Balsamic vinegar, the best soy sauce, a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, fruity olive oil and smoked salmon are pricy items but can be purchased one item at a time until a stock is built up.
Set a place for one, light a candle and pour a glass of chilled white wine and eat a meal fit for a king.