Cooking for one is tough. Whether it’s a permanent status in your life, or the family have buzzed off on hols and left you on your own for two weeks, there are issues when it comes to finding dinner for yourself.
It is actually the easiest to eat out, especially if you live in a city. Nobody will look twice at your table for one, and you can read/stream/scroll with impunity without offending anyone’s sense of manners (as long as you keep the sound to yourself). Plus, you can go out for the kind of food yours sniff at: no need to worry what’s on kids’ menu, no problem with partner’s aversion to seafood or reluctance to try out the new sushi place.
But we can’t go out all the time (if you can, go away – you have no need to read on). And cooking one person’s portions is awfully hard to get right.
First, the recipe ingredients: all very well to say scale them down but how do you scale down the salt amount? Or one egg that goes into meatballs? And what to do with the remaining half a pound of mince? You can cook the usual portion and freeze, but then you condemn yourself to two weeks of meatballs – completely not fair.
Soups are even worse: I have tried in the past to cook one portion of leek and potato soup, and failed (had to eat it for three days in a row). Vegetables are as bad: a head of broccoli will feed at least two so half of it will languish in the fridge for ever.
The next problem is pans. Suppose you do want that one meatball (or chop, or fish fillet, or steak), you’ll quickly find that all your frying pans are far too big.
And finally, the motivation or lack thereof. There’s no point in cooking for one, just for me - not worth it, can’t be bothered if it’s just myself. But that’s a very wrong attitude – unless the single state is very transient, you risk veering towards ready meals and that’s a very bad move indeed.
I don’t often have the opportunity to cook just for myself but am very experienced at cooking to individual menus, having lived in my day with a couple of fussiest eaters on Earth. Plus, I do test most of my recipes on myself before I feed them to people, so I do have a feel for one man meals.
So let me throw a handful of ideas your way. Frittata is the type of dish you can riff on for ever, swapping broccoli for peas, cheese for ham or mushrooms. Omelettes are even simpler, be it spinach or cheese and mushrooms, and if you chop up some cucumber and radish (good one-person salads) on the side, it will make a full meal.
When you get bored of eggs, treat yourself to a perfect fillet steak or a duck breast with pineapple. That’s an advantage of being on your own: you only need a small amount of luxury articles.
Chicken fillets turn out to be convenient again, this time in a single person’s context. In the recipe for chicken and halloumi with peach salsa just use one fillet, and if there are leftovers, make a couscous chicken salad another day.
Tins are your friends, especially if you’re vegetarian. A tin of chickpeas will make a perfect single serving of tomato, chickpea and feta traybake, and a tin of beans – a delicious veggie chilli.
Instead of boring jacket potato with cheese, bake a sweet potato and have it with tahini butter. Wrap a single salmon fillet with blue cheese in foil. Grill a lamb neck fillet or pan fry sticky mackerel. And cook lots of rice, then freeze it in portions. It will make a quick job of fried rice and as a side dish for a beef stir fry it will always come in valued.
The problem, and I admit it’s huge, is when it comes to cake. But then desserts can always be shared or given away. Still, there are mini lemon and almond ring cakes, mini Breton cakes or bars, which keep. And anyway for now, in summer, a fruit fool or a play on Athens (Eton) mess theme will do great for pudding. Happy single cooking!