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?