Because I tend to be quite extroverted in the company of others, people are often surprised that I like to be alone. In fact I desperately need to be alone, to recharge and recover, and I love it. I’m not necessarily very good at it, though, as I shed all trappings of civilization in the space of two days if left to my own devices. I spend time reading and drinking tea, while debris accumulates around me, food expires in the fridge and flowers wilt in the vases.
After about a week, I realise that this approach is not sustainable and try to join the civilization again by washing about 87 tea cups, picking the clothes off the floor and maybe even making proper food. It’s very hard to motivate myself to cook for one person, so I need to come up with stuff that is a) extremely easy to make b) while not being a sandwich and c) somehow still a bit exciting. I also try to include an element that is at least semi-healthy (whole grains or one serving of vegetables), but mostly I’m thinking that having real food instead of tea and biscuits is already progress.
Anyway, here are three ideas I often turn to:
1. Sushi wrap. I’m sure the Japanese will shudder when they’ll read on, but I love this easy-to-assemble dish. The only part that requires some effort is preparing the sushi rice (my method: a little bit more water than rice, bring to boil, turn the heat low and keep it like that for 10 minutes, then take rice off the heat and keep under the lid for another 10 minutes, add rice vinegar to season). After that, you just wrap the rice and whatever you fancy into a nori sheet – I like these slimmer ones on the picture. It tends to be avocado and salmon for me and I’m not sorry – it’s a genius combination and good for you, too*. Now for the little bit extra: in addition to wasabi and soy sauce, I use umeboshi paste to flavour my rolls. This salty-sour-sweet pickled plum puree turns the humble rolls into something special. I would also love to use my smoked soy sauce, but I’ve run out and don’t know how to get more.
2. Pasta. Well, isn’t that original, darling, I hear you say. Fair enough, but I do have some small tricks. First, I like to use fresh pasta, as it’s super quick to cook. Second, a pesto sauce is one of the easiest ways to create a pasta dish, but my recommendation is to go for an unusual variety: maybe with wild garlic or sundried tomatoes. It automatically feels like you have made an effort by choosing something less common and more expensive. I currently have a (shop-bought) jar of pistachio pesto and if I’m feeling really motivated, I’m going to roast a long red pepper in the oven (you just cut them in half and leave them there for 45 minutes) and slice it on top of the pasta. The green and the orange-red would look splendid togehther, methinks. The other option that always works is pasta with quickly fried mushrooms and truffle oil to add some glamour.
3. Garlicky prawns. You take a handful of raw prawns and a handful of halved cherry tomatoes, toss them with good olive oil, garlic paste, lemon, parsley and salt and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or so. Also, you buy some really nice white wine for the prawns, but realise that if you are preparing them in the oven rather than on the pan, it’ll maybe not work that well and proceed to drink the wine yourself. Result. (A very dark secret of mine: sometimes I make this recipe with cooked prawns, just to warm them trough and have that garlic flavour. You have to reduce the oven time, though, so that the prawns don’t turn gummy.)
If all else fails, some gorgonzola and manchego – or whatever cheese you like – with nectarines and cherries and fresh bread also qualifies as proper food in my book and makes a very elegant lunch.
What do you cook when you’re on your own?
*If you add some wakame salad, you have two of your five-a-day covered.