When talking about cooking for one I often hear people saying things like, ‘I just don’t really see the point when it’s just me, I’d rather just grab a few pieces of toast.’ Or, ‘I enjoy cooking if it’s for three or four people, but if it’s just me, then I find it a chore.’
When I was growing up, my house was, ahem, haphazard to say the least. Between the alcoholism, 100 decibel fights and tantrums there was however, always one solace – food. My mum was a fantastic cook and food was her way of giving other people pleasure. Food, cooking and eating were an event, something to be relished: At the least, meal times were a whirlwind of fresh ingredients, thrown together and eaten on the run, at best they were social events planned far in advance, with everyone getting involved in the preparation – be it pheasant plucking (dad), sauce stirring (me), plate laying (sister) and bowl licking (lazy brother). My sister and I still laugh that mum had a weekly shopping list with a menu for each night of the week, so if we peeked in her handbag on a Sunday, we’d know what we had to look forward to on Tuesday for example.
As a result I’m lucky to have a very healthy relationship with food; from poring over it in the supermarket to pulling it out of a garden pot, trawling recipe books, gutting, skinning and slicing, slow roasting and of course eating. Which is why for me, both eating as part of a group or entirely alone is something I cherish. Living with The Boy and having a hectic work/life schedule it’s rare however, that I get a chance to spend an evening shopping, cooking then eating entirely solo. But last weekend with The Boy on a stag do, Saturday night had ‘Me Time’ written all over it.
I should include a disclaimer here, that when eating solo I like to indulge in all the things I’m craving in one sitting. Which, whilst at University once famously (among my friends) meant baked beans, spinach, tortilla wrap and fish fingers. On Saturday this meant Chilli Fried Octopus, Pea and Mint Salad and Thick Cut Soda Bread with a blanket of butter. I’m not saying it’s an ideal pairing, but it worked for me. And that’s what Saturday was all about. Me + Food = Good Times & Happy Belly.
Chilli, Salt and Pepper-Fried Octopus
1 Octopus (mine was from Morrison’s Fish Counter)
1 Red Chilli finely chopped
Salt and P
Fresh Coriander and Lemon to garnish
Wash the octopus and and make sure all black ink is removed. Scrub to remove outer skin, which may become chewy when cooked. Slice into edible chunks, try not to be afraid of the tendrils, they are TASTY! Paper towel dry the squiddy, then coat liberally with salt, pepper and your finely chopped chilli. Use your hands to rub all marinade into the skin. Squeeze over half a lemon then throw into a hot oily wok and cook for three to four minutes. Roughly chop coriander and throw it all into a bowl. EAT.
Pea and Mint Salad
3 handfuls of garden peas (frozen are good)
Handful of rocket leafs
A handful of fresh mint
Quarter of a cucumber
One small ready cooked beet (without vinegar)
Throw peas in a pan of water, leave over the heat until peas start to rise. Remove from heat, drain and leave to cool. Chop beetroot and cucumber into small chunks. Once peas are cooled throw into a salad bowl and toss with the rocket and fresh mint. Squeeze over alittle fresh lemon, salt and pepper to finish.
Soda Bread and Butter
I cheated and just bought a nice fresh loaf. But if you did want to bake your own, this is a recipe I’ve used before.
Sit down, glass of chilled white wine, nice crockery, something good on the box and enjoy the fruit de mer of your labour. Who said eating for one was dull?
Tip: Try putting some of the salad and some of the spicy, lemony squid and sauce onto the buttered bread, fold it in half and munch. Deeelicious.