Cooking for One
Cooking just for yourself should not be a chore. Instead, it is an opportunity to practice what skills and techniques you have learned or are still learning in the privacy of your own home without the pressure of having to satisfy an audience.
It should never be the case that just because there will only be one person eating it, there is no need to strive for perfection. Every time you enter the kitchen with the intent to make some food is an opportunity to hone your skills. Knowing that you can cook delicious meals for yourself will also do wonders for your confidence when it comes to preparing dinner for guests. In fact, even when you are cooking for guests, you’re usually still cooking for yourself too. Keeping this in mind can help to alleviate any nervousness about large operations.
If you are apprehensive about cooking for yourself because you don’t know enough recipes to keep things interesting then the only solution is to buy a cookbook and start experimenting. Disasters may ensue but that’s all part of the learning process. Persistence will be richly rewarded.
Lots of people, particularly urban professionals, now live alone. In this situation, it’s tempting to eat out or get a takeaway rather than going to the trouble of cooking yourself some wholesome, nutritious food every night.
One reason for this is the problem that buying perishable food for one person is not very economical. It means buying small amounts regularly and therefore a lot of shopping trips. It also makes it almost impossible to take advantage of bulk discount offers on fresh foods as they will spoil before they are eaten. But there are ways around this.
Counter-intuitively, one of the keys to cooking for yourself is to never just cook a single portion. If you are cooking anyway, it is easy to make two or three times more than you need and stick whatever is left over in the fridge for the next day, or even the day after. Re-using leftovers in novel ways is another of the challenges of cooking for one.
Making cooked vegetables into a casserole or curry can yield surprising results and uneaten pasta can be made into a pasta bake. Obviously, there are sensible limits on how long cooked food can last before it needs to be thrown away. Keeping the kitchen and fridge clean will make an unfortunate case of food poisoning less likely but if in doubt, throw it out.
For those living alone with access to a freezer, cooking a big batch of hearty soup once a month and storing most of it is an amazingly cheap way to make time saving sustenance. Curries, chillies and stews are all also suitable for this kind of treatment.
Even making a large pot of pasta sauce and freezing some for another day can pay dividends when you want to eat in a hurry. Doing this also means that you don’t absolutely have to cook meals from scratch every night. It’s always important to label any frozen foods clearly so you can keep track of what was made when.Dried and tinned goods can also play an important role in the larder of the solitary cook as they will last much longer in the cupboard. With just a few basic items in stock, a potentially huge range of dishes can be tackled.
Essentials might include:
- Pasta – comes in all shapes and sizes and is quick to cook.
- Rice – or quinoa, millet, couscous or any other grain.
- Chickpeas – or beans, lentils or any other pulse. Dried varieties are better but tinned are quicker to cook.
- Tinned Tomatoes – the basis for a great many sauces and soups.
- Dried Herbs and Spices – with a few selected jars of these, even the simplest food can be given amazing flavour.
- Sauces and Condiments – Anything from mustard to hoi-sin to harissa. These will last a while and can provide that instant extra dose of flavour or texture to a dish.
In short, cooking for one is a chance to broaden your horizons and test your creativity. The only pressure you are under is your need to make something that will satisfy your hunger. The personal reward of learning, or even mastering, a new dish will remain long after the food itself is eaten.