Cooking for one: a culinary conundrum

I’m flying solo this week. My other half is off doing something blokey with the boys and it’s caused quite a culinary conundrum. What to cook? I don’t usually have a problem planning the menu for the week ahead (yes, i’m anal enough do that). I often have to strike off ideas, or relegate them to the next week’s list (I have one of those as well), they’re so plentiful. However, this time around i’ve struggled to string two meals together, never mind a week’s worth. 

At first I saw my partner’s absence as an opportunity to cook all those things he doesn’t like. I’ve been longing for prawn and saffron risotto for weeks. I fry off the prawn shells to make stock, which stinks the house out, but is the foundation for a seriously good dish. But the other half turns his nose up at risotto. And who makes risotto for one person? Unfortunately, reheating leftovers of a larger portion is culinary sacrilege, so risotto is off the menu.

Soup is another personal favourite that is snubbed by the boy. But i’m uninspired to whip up a hot, slurpable number as we hurtle headlong into summer, and cold soup just doesn’t wet my whistle.

My partner doesn’t share my love of the humble spud, which usually rules out a shared, low-key dinner of stuffed jacket potatoes  that the Brit in me adores. But even the idea of baking a fist-sized spud until its skin is parchment crisp and cramming it with an incredible filling doesn’t appeal. I over-dosed on plain old jacket potatoes (hold the filling!) recently after a two-week, troublesome stomach bug left me with no appetite, followed by a craving for very bland food. So spuds are scrubbed from my one-person menu, too.

I’m not sure what the culinary equivalent is of writer’s block, but i found the prospect of cooking for one restricting rather than stimulating. Compounding the issue was the fact that some dishes needed to be easy to prepare for a substantial lunch before work, or easily edible during a desk-bound evening shift.

I turned to a new cookbook for stimulation: the Lonely Planet’s Food Lover’s Guide to the World. Between us here’s what we came up with.

Saturday dinner: barbecued steak with chimichurri sauce

I picked up a perfect sized, 28-day, dry aged, pasture fed eye fillet from The Free Range Butcher at Sydney’s Orange Grove Market this morning. The Argentinian chimichurri sauce  is heavy with garlic and chilli — two of my favourite ingredients. I’ll serve the steak with some wilted garlicy spinach from the garden and perhaps a butter-smothered corn on the cob.

Sunday night: eating out 

Monday lunch: dandan noodles

In my book, noodles are food for the soul. So I detoured through Chinatown before work yesterday to pick up some of the ingredients for this spicy Szechuan number. Now i’m all set for a noodling session that promises to spice up my lonesome Sunday night.

Tuesday lunch: buckwheat galettes

These delicious nutty crepes are a tradition in Brittany, France, which is where my family originates from. I’m thinking of filling them with caramelised leeks and dabs of fresh goats cheese. It will put to good use one of five leeks that are as thick as baseball bats and crying out to be turfed from the garden.

Wednesday & Thursday dinner: empanadas

These Argentinian stuffed parcels of spiced minced meat are perfect hand food for the desk-bound worker. I’ll have them with  tomato salsa, but not the other perfect accompaniment — a chilled beer — unfortunately.

Friday lunch: kousa mehshi (stuffed grey zucchini)

These lovely Middle Eastern numbers are inspired by a cooking class i participated in at Almond Bar last week, as well as the vendor who was selling small baskets of these lovely small zucchini at the market this morning. They’re stuffed with minced meat, onion, capsicum and tomato and baked in a tomato and mint sauce. When i replicated the dish after the class my partner was non-plussed. This week, the pleasure will again be all mine.

What do you relish cooking for yourself? And do you find cooking for one restricting or stimulating?

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18 Comments

Filed under Reflections

18 responses to “Cooking for one: a culinary conundrum

  1. Wayne heeley

    Hi rachel,
    I do it all the time, of course. I like to cook a nice pasta or curry. Something that I can several times during the week, and which will improve in taste after a couple of days.

    Right now I’m making a bucatini all’amatricina for the week ahead. Simple to make, and just boil the pasta when I want to eat it and reheat the sauce. Takes about 15 min.
    Wayne

    • I bet your bucatini all’amatricina will be lovely. I, too, love to cook curries and pasta sauces … and usually have the fridge/freezer well stocked with them. The problem is i just feel so uninspired and unmotivated to cook for myself. I’ve just had cheese on toast for dinner. I almost just had cheese and crackers, but thought i’d best put a little effort in! Might go for a second round!

  2. Hi Rachel, interesting post and great menus. With Peter travelling often, I am many times cooking for myself and I find one pot or one pan dishes are a favourite. This is when I cook a steak or pork chop for myself and throw mushrooms, eschallots, apple, potato or other veggies into the pan to cook alongside the meat. Easy peasy and filling too.

  3. Y

    Pretty ambitious and delicious sounding menu! I can never be bothered to cook for one. Partly because of the low return, when you factor in the washing up, but also because my love of cooking stems from being able to feed others, not just myself.

  4. Eha

    I have been alonesome for quite awhile and absolutely love it foodwise: what I want when I want! Heaps of salads one more ‘adventurous’ than the next. Marinated or dryrubbed steaks, chops, fish on the grill to go alongside. Lots of wholemeal pasta and all the food blogs you and I visit provide interesting dressings/sauces. Yep, a wonderfull curry or Burmese or Ethiopian ‘stew': don’t much like leftovers, but they are best on days 2 & 3 & 4 anyways. Baked filled mushrooms etc etc . . . And I have laready tried the grey zucchini from the Almond Bar: loved it and made enough to share!!!!

    • Ah yes, i’m looking forward to my stuffed zucchini this week. You are quite the culinary adventurer – and i have no problem when i’m cooking for other people … just not quite as enthused about doing it just for myself!

  5. Love the look of that menu! You could do a round-up post after the week is done. I’d certainly be interested to see all the goodies you cooked up!

    • I’m finding it’s very easy to make excuses not to cook for myself. On Saturday night i procrastinated for so long, i eventually decided it was too late to start anything and had cheese on toast! Last night i was at a friend’s book launch and grabbed a bite out with some friends afterwards. Tonight i finished work a little early … so had no excuse! However, i did water the garden extensively, walk the cat around the block, and answer a few emails first. Once i got down to cooking, though, i quite enjoyed it. And more importantly, i enjoyed the meal i cooked for myself. But i still much prefer cooking for others – those who appreciate it, that is. I’m sure i’ll try to talk myself out of making the effort again tomorrow. However, i’m one step ahead of myself, if i do. I’ve already made the empanadas … they just have to be popped in the oven!

  6. Oh that is an inspired menu! When I am cooking for one I usually turn to my usual suspects – soup, something on toast, pasta or a salad. You have inspired me to think a little harder next time. I would love to get your recipe for the galette, it sounds beautiful.

    • Well, i have to admit i fell off the wagon yesterday and reverted to cheese on toast! However, i pulled my socks up tonight and cooked my steak with chimichurri sauce, garlicy wilted greans from the garden (spinach and rainbow chard), and a hot, buttery corn on the cob. Thoroughly enjoyable, and so glad i made the effort! Will report back on progress later in the week ;-)

  7. i cook for one only all the time! i like to cook a “big something” on the weekend, like risotto, casserole or pasta dish, that i take to work for my lunch or have when i get home if i’m too tired. if it tastes great, i honestly look forward to eating it over and over! other than that “big something”, i cook two-portion serves thru out the week so i have “one for tonight and one for tomorrow night”.
    but there’s nothing wrong with cheese on toast – it is, i believe, a luxury that people-with-partners envy! (as in, “i wish i could have cheese on toast for my dinner, but my husband/fiance demands a proper meal”) – that and cake-only for dinner.
    look forward to hearing more of your solo culinary adventures.

    • I agree that cheese on toast (& also stuffed jacket spuds) are ‘luxury’ that people in relationships envy on the menus of single people. I know this because i am usually the person coveting those low-key meals while my partner expects something more substantial!!

  8. I don’t mind cooking for one. i find I like different things from Mr NQN anyway. he loves pastas and heavier things whereas I'[ma fiend for salad :)

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