Some people would sooner cater a dinner party for a dozen than cook for just one person. Which may go some way to explain why so many microwaveable meals-for-one are sold in this country.
Personally, I like cooking for myself. I make sauces that I can store in the freezer and then can quickly defrost, so I can have a nice dinner on the hop. Open my freezer and you'll find endless ziplock bags of keema curry and bolognese sauce, flat-packed thinly so they defrost in no time in warm water. I also have good-quality raw prawns, peas and diced pancetta for a quick pasta dish, which I can throw together with some quick-cooking pasta. Moroccan brik pastry for my favourite breakfast, brik a l'oeuf, which is a sort of pastry packed with eggs and other fillings. I even keep ready-made, high-quality Chinese dim sum dumplings, which can be cooked from frozen.
The trick to eating well when you are dining alone is to plan ahead. Cook things that can be easily frozen and then combined with your store-cupboard favourites to produce something tasty and good for you.
Chicken and chorizo salad
You can buy chicken under-fillets – or mini fillets as they are sometimes called – very cheaply in most supermarkets these days. Freeze what you don't need in small bags and defrost them when you need.
1 red pepper or a romero pepper
3 mini cooking chorizo, halved lengthways
3-4 mini chicken fillets or under-fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small or half an avocado, skinned and stoned
A good pinch of cayenne pepper or paprika
A few leaves of cos or gem lettuce, washed and cut down into even-sized pieces
A few sprigs of coriander
For the dressing
The juice of the rest of the lime (above)
1tsp chilli sauce (preferably Linghams)
1tbsp olive oil
Quarter the red pepper and remove stalk and seeds. If you are using a romero then leave it whole. Cook under a very hot grill on some foil with the skin up for about 10 minutes or until the skin is black. Transfer to a bowl and cover with cling film and leave for about 15 minutes, so the skins can easily be removed.
Mash up the avocado with a fork and season to taste with salt and the cayenne pepper, then mix in a good squeeze of lime juice. Whisk all of the ingredients together for the dressing, and season.
Gently cook the chorizo in a frying pan or on a ribbed griddle for 3-4 minutes, then season the chicken fillets and cook in the oil from the chorizo.
To serve, slice the chicken into three pieces then toss with the leaves, chorizo, peppers and dressing. Season and arrange on a serving plate then spoon the avocado into the centre and scatter the coriander on top.
Steak au poivre
A real classic and simple to cook for one. Use your favourite steak cut and serve it with salad or new potatoes.
1 steak of your choice
Sea salt flakes
Vegetable or corn oil for frying
2-3tsp coarsely ground or cracked black pepper
A good knob of butter
1 shallot, peeled, halved and finely chopped
1tbsp brandy or cognac
3-4tbsp double cream
Season the steak with salt then press the pepper into the surface. Lightly oil a frying pan and cook the steak for 2-3 minutes on each side for a rare finish, depending on the thickness of the cut. Remove the steak from the pan, cool the pan down a little then add the butter and shallots, stir in the pan for 10 seconds on a low heat. Then add the brandy. It may flame, so beware, then pour in the cream and simmer until it's thickened. Serve the sauce poured over the steak.
Trout with almonds
A classic that is easy to make at home.Plus, trout are pretty cheap to buy and are very underrated.
1 whole trout, gutted
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Flour for dusting
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
A couple knobs of butter
1tbsp flaked almonds
½tbsp chopped parsley
Juice of half a lemon
Season and lightly flour the trout. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the trout for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove and keep warm. Add the butter and almonds to the pan and cook on a low heat for about a minute or until the almonds begin to colour. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice and remove from the heat.
Transfer the trout to a warm plate and spoon the almond mixture over.
Aubergine with black bean sauce
A great spicy vegetarian dish.
1 medium aubergine, cut lengthways into six or so wedges
Flour for dusting
1tbsp vegetable oil
1tbsp sesame oil
For the sauce
2tbsp light soy sauce
100ml vegetable stock
A small piece of root ginger, peeled and grated
1 clove of garlic, peeled and grated
1tbsp rice wine
1tbsp Chinese salted black beans, rinsed
1tsp cornflour dissolved in a little water
1 red chilli, finely sliced on the angle
2 spring onions, finely sliced on the angle
A couple sprigs of coriander leaves (chop the stalks finely and reserve for the sauce)
Lightly flour the aubergine, heat the two oils in a frying pan, and fry the aubergine on a medium heat for a few minutes, turning the pieces as they are cooking until lightly coloured. Put the soy sauce, stock, ginger, garlic and rice wine in a pan and bring to the boil. Stir in enough of the cornflour mixture until it thickens, then turn the heat down and simmer for a minute and add the black beans.
Simmer for another minute and remove from the heat. To serve, reheat the aubergine, add the chilli and spring onion to the sauce, and simmer for around 10 seconds. Transfer the aubergine to a warmed plate, pour the sauce over and scatter the coriander on top.
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