I live alone and often find it difficult to get inspired for dinner. Recipes are always for four or more. Can I cut the ingredients into quarters?
You are not alone, Joe. It is this very situation that led Signe Johansen to write Solo: The joy of cooking for one. “It is more difficult to reduce a recipe than to expand it,” he sympathizes. Essentially, it’s an arithmetic challenge, and the recipes aren’t always divided neatly. The best thing to do, he says, is to completely forget about exact amounts: “Get started [adding ingredients] conservatively, then taste your way to a consistency and flavor you like. “
When it comes to inspiration, don’t give up either – we’re all exhausted. “Instead of thinking that each week has to be a dazzling cabaret of exciting dishes, start small and compromise,” says Johansen. That could mean ordering takeout one night and then cooking something the next. Writing a weekly menu will also help: “Make it on a Sunday, when you are relaxed. You don’t have to stick to it religiously, but it will make you think more carefully about what you’re buying. “
The benefit of cooking alone, of course, is that you just have to please yourself. This is a sentiment Itamar Srulovich, chef / co-owner, with his wife Sarit Packer, of London’s Honey and company, fully embraces when alone at home: “Sarit doesn’t eat spicy food, so that’s when I light the fire with Yotam Ottolenghi’s black pepper tofu Meera Sodha’s chili paneer. “Another Srulovich special is Nigella Lawson’s Marmite Pasta, made with just four ingredients (spaghetti, butter, kettle, parmesan). “It’s for the best, and it runs both sides of the line between garbage and personal care, it’s very fast and you do it in a pot; you could even eat it straight out of the pot, because there is no one else.”
Seafood is also a delight. “Cooking scallops for many people can be time consuming and expensive, but they are great for solo cooks,” says Johansen, “while smoked fish (mackerel, trout, hot smoked salmon) is great to have on hold.” . It’s also worth making friends with the freezer, for fish finger sandwiches with Nordic dill sauce, also known as “lots of herbs, anchovies, pickles, capers or whatever you have on hand to make a hot sauce.” Frozen sauteed (chopped onion, carrot, and celery) is another Johansen hack: “It’s really useful and something I’ve been using constantly since last March.” She sweats thawed soffritto in olive oil, adds herbs (dried or fresh) and a can of tomatoes, and you’ve got a quick base for soups, sauces, and stews.
Of course, there are some dishes that are best avoided. “Big cuts of meat are obviously more challenging,” says Johansen, “but a rack of lamb will give you the satisfaction of cooking something more festive.” Or a small trout, if you fancy fishing, ask a butcher and fishmonger for advice.
And don’t skimp on dessert. Srulovich wisely stores a batch of cookies in the freezer; her current favorite is a miso, walnut, and chocolate chip number. “Then you can cook them one at a time frozen. Well I say one … “
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism