Weekend Bites: Cooking for one
Cooking for yourself just isn't fun. For a start, there's often waste.
Many recipes serve four, so even if you wanted to eat the same dish four days running, it would most likely be past its best. Freezing meals is a good idea, but we don't all have room to store for countless portion-sized lunch boxes of leftovers.
Shopping for one is a dearer pursuit too. Bags of carrots represent better value than picking out a few for your solo meal, ditto spuds, mushrooms, fruit etc.
The bigger the quantity, the better the value. With that in mind, it's no surprise to hear that single people, or those who live alone, often wished they ate better at home.
Some overdo it on the take-away front, knowing they can have a lovely curry delivered to their door without any food wastage (but at a cost). Others turn to ready meals.
While the offerings have improved hugely from the early days of microwave meals, there's no denying that a fresh, home-cooked meal is better for you than anything pre-made from a packet.
Happily, inspiration and a delicious repertoire are all wrapped up in this clever new book, Cooking for One, comprising over 90 recipes.
I've picked out a breakfast classic that doubles up as a great lunch recipe with the addition of some soft, creamy fresh goat's cheese.
The wok-tossed jasmine is a great way to transform store cupboard staples or leftover cooked rice into a tasty dinner. (If you're looking to spoil yourself, use freshly picked white crabmeat, but go easy on the flavourings, as you don't want to overwhelm its sweetness).
Finally, I've included a dessert for one, because we all deserve some spoiling too.
Recipes from 'Cooking for One', published Ryland, Peters & Small, €16
4 field mushrooms
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 slices sourdough bread
75 g/2½ oz fresh goat's cheese
Chopped tarragon, to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F), Gas 6.
2. Put the mushrooms, garlic and oil in a roasting pan. Toss well and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, until tender. Stir in the pine nuts and balsamic vinegar halfway through roasting.
3. Just before the mushrooms are ready, toast the slices of sourdough bread and spread with the goat cheese.
4. Place the mushrooms on top, stalk side up, scatter with the tarragon and serve immediately.
Figs roasted with pine nuts and fudgy Greek yogurt
2 fresh figs
2 tbsp Madeira
a small handful of pine nuts
1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
50g thick Greek yogurt
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F), Gas 6.
2. Cut the stalks off the figs and cut a cross in the top about one third of the way through. Stand them in a baking pan, pour over the Madeira and scatter with the pine nuts and half the sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes, basting occasionally.
3. Spoon the yogurt into a bowl and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Leave to stand for 10 minutes until it absorbs the sugar and turns slightly fudgy in texture.
4. When the figs are cooked and on the verge of collapsing gracefully, transfer them to the bowl next to the fudgy yogurt and pour over the hot sticky juices. Eat immediately.
Wok-tossed jasmine rice with crabmeat and asparagus
1 tbsp groundnut oil
½ small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
60g fine asparagus, cut into 2cm lengths, stalks and tips kept separately
½ tbsp light soy sauce, plus extra if needed
100g canned or fresh white crabmeat, well drained
125g cold, cooked jasmine rice
½ tbsp sweet chilli sauce
a dash of toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
1. Heat the groundnut/peanut oil in a wok or large frying pan until hot. Add the onion and stir-fry over high heat for 2-3 minutes, or until softened and golden. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a further minute.
2. Throw in the asparagus stalks and stir-fry for two minutes. Add the asparagus tips and one teaspoon of the soy sauce and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Stir in the crabmeat and cook over medium heat until heated through.
3. Mix in the rice, then pour in the chilli sauce, sesame oil and remaining soy sauce. Stir well until everything is thoroughly combined and the rice is piping hot.
4. Taste and add more soy sauce if you think it needs it, then stir in the chives and remove from the heat. Transfer to a deep bowl and eat immediately.
Ask the expert: What's the secret to perfect roast chicken?
“For most of us, roast chicken evokes strong childhood memories. It’s comforting and healthy as much as it is simple to cook. One of the first things to consider is the quality of the bird
An Irish free-range chicken is where to start. Not only do you get more meat from a free-range bird but its tastes much better.
Now, it’s time to think about seasoning. Chicken is one of the most versatile meats. Succulent and juicy, it absorbs almost any flavour well. Herbs and spices from all corners of the world go with it, but I think the simpler the better.
A really good chicken doesn’t need much seasoning, use salt and pepper for example and some olive oil on the skin to produce a crispy skin. For its centre, use a bay leaf or a bunch of herbs, such as tarragon, dill or lavender, tied.
A rotisserie is a super way to roast a chicken as the fat drips away and you get a lovely crispy brown skin, if you are roasting it at home, start the oven off at 200°C and drop it to 180°C about a half-hour into cooking. This will give the bird a lovely golden skin.”
Poulet Bonne Femme Irish free-range rotisserie chicken, ham, pork, duck and other meats are available seven days a week in Avoca Monkstown, Rathcoole and Suffolk Street. www.pouletbonnefemme.com