Cooking solo: Part Two

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I know it can be hard to motivate yourself to rustle up a respectable meal when you’re the one and only diner. So I’ve put together a bullet-proof weekday menu designed to take the hassle out of cooking for one. I promise you will eat like a king (or queen), save wads of cash and be the envy of your flatmates.

All you need to do is keep your store cupboard staples in stock, keep some flatbreads and frozen veg (peas and spinach are very handy) in the freezer, and pick up a few fresh ingredients on your way home a couple of times a week. I recommend you don’t try and buy all your fresh ingredients in one big weekly shop as you’ll end up wasting food.

All the recipes below can be adapted according to your own preferences and what you have in your cupboard / fridge. Once you have a handle on the basics you can improvise as much as you want with fresh herbs, extra veg and so on.

Weekday meal plan:

Mostly Meat-free Monday Your body will thank you for this reprieve from the weekend’s excesses…
Ingredients: Tinned beans (cannellini or butter beans are delish in this recipe), tinned tomatoes or passata, onion, garlic. A couple of bacon rashers (optional). Natural yoghurt or cheese (both optional).
To cook: Finely slice (or grate) the onion, fry (with optional bacon and / or garlic) in a little olive oil but don’t brown, add the beans (rinsed) and tomatoes. Simmer for 5-10 mins. Drizzle a little virgin olive oil on top and some sea salt / black pepper before serving.
Serve with: toasted wholemeal pitta or other flatbread. Grated cheese or a dollop of natural yoghurt if you fancy.

The version pictured below is made with flageolet beans, grated carrot and courgette (zucchini).

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Tuesday: Fish Get some omega 3 oils into you with a nice piece of salmon (or other fish).
Ingredients: salmon and fresh broccoli.
Tip: buy only as much fish as you need from the fish counter, don’t go overboard (ahem) with pre-packaged fish as it will go to waste.
To cook: rinse the salmon under cold water. Cut off a few broccoli florets. Place salmon and broccoli on a square of tinfoil, pour on some soy sauce or teriyaki sauce and a drizzle of honey if you like. Fold the tinfoil loosely and scrunch the edges together so it makes an airtight pouch and cook in 180 degree oven for 25 mins.
Serve with: rice or noodles.

Wednesday: Chicken Curry This will get you over the mid-week hump. You’ll probably have enough for at least 2 people so use it to “curry favour” with your flatmates or friends. But if you’re on your own the leftovers will taste even better tomorrow or the next day.
Ingredients: 2-3 chicken breasts (cut into chunks) or 4-6 chicken thighs, a medium onion, tinned tomatoes OR coconut milk, and 2 tablespoons of curry paste. You can add fresh green beans, but frozen peas or spinach are good too.
To cook: peel and halve the onion, then slice reasonably thickly against the grain. “Sweat” the onions over a medium heat in a bit of oil, then add the chicken and curry paste. Stir around for a few minutes then add a tin of tomatoes or coconut milk and green beans (cut into thirds). Simmer without the lid on for around 10-20 mins (less if chicken breast, more for thighs, and add another 10 mins if the meat is on the bone).
Serve with: natural yoghurt, leftover rice from yesterday or some naan bread. Chopped coriander looks great if you’re trying to impress someone.
Tip: your local Asian store will have the best selection of curry pastes. They last for weeks if not months in the fridge. Keep a stock of frozen naan or chappatis (also from from your Asian store) in your freezer. To heat them up just sprinkle with a little water and pop in a hot oven for 5 mins (naan) or 3 mins (chappatis).

Thursday: pasta bolognese
I think pretty much everyone has their version of this, but if not then here’s a good recipe. Alternatively here’s a step-by-step bolognese recipe. Don’t worry if the quantities seems like way took much, freeze half for next week and use your left-overs in tomorrow’s Chilli con carne.
Tip: check the fat content of the beef, under 10% is good, over 15% not good. Buy organic if you can. Frozen Quorn mince is a good veggie replacement for beef.

Friday: Chili con carne
Bearing in mind you’re likely to be either dashing out the door or arriving home ravenous in the early hours – you need something to sustain you that can be prepared in minutes (or seconds if you have a microwave!). Chilli is perfect as you simply throw a can of kidney beans (rinsed) into last night’s Bolognese sauce with a teaspoon of chilli powder or Tabasco (to taste), heat it up and wrap in a warmed tortilla or even munch away with some tortilla chips. Some grated cheese on top goes down well, and maybe even a bit of natural yoghurt or sour cream. Salad on the side if you can.

Trust me – this works.

Weekend cooking made easy to follow in Part Three.

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