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Cooking for one – Part II

Possibly the two most important skills when cooking for one are imagination and division.

Let’s look at the second of those first, division. It’s a fairly basic skill and this will allow you to take a recipe meant to serve 4 and allow you to cook a single portion of it. Of course it can help if you have a handy way to convert measurements.

Thankfully Google does this and it’s really easy to use. Say you see a recipe that serves 4 and calls for 1 cup of wine. You could try to measure a quarter cup or you could go to google.ie and type “convert 1 cup to ml” hit search and here’s the result, now you continue dividing :)This doesn’t just work for cups either, you can convert almost any measurement just type “Convert xxx to yyy” and google does the rest, very handy.

It’s not always that simple of course and this is where imagination comes in, how could you roast a quarter of a chicken, for instance. In this case I can think of two options.

  1. Use a piece or two of cut chicken, say a chicken breast on the bone, or a few wings and a leg (you get the idea)
  2. Cook a whole small chicken and use the leftovers for sandwiches or salads or even an omelette.

And I’m only using the roast chicken as an example here, of course I’m not suggesting that you live on chicken, but it is a great example for imagination. When you roast a piece of chicken (or roast anything) you can rest it on some veg (peppers, carrot, parsnip and onion spring to mind) and you have your roast veg along with the chicken.

So cooking for one doesn’t have to be all about things you can make in advance and freeze in portions :)

Recipe: Red Onion Relish

Fresh Caramelised Red Onion Relish ready to be stored
Fresh Caramelised Red Onion Relish ready to be stored

Ingredients;

4 large red onions
1 clove of garlic
3 tablespoons of light muscovado (or brown) sugar
6 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
Olive oil

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Start by cutting your onions. I like to do a mix of rings, half moons, chunks and diced to give some variety to the texture. Also finely dice the garlic.

Get a large pan onto a medium heat, If you have a sauté pan with a lid this is your best option. Once the pan is up to temperature add a good lug of olive oil and get all the onion and garlic in, fry this gently for 4-5 minutes until the onions start to soften, then reduce to a low heat and cover them.

Continue to cook like this for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally so they don’t stick. Then add the red wine vinegar (I use a red wine vinegar with raspberry juice, for extra colour) and 2 tablespoons of muscovado sugar. Mix this together and cover again.

Let this simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until most of the liquid has disappeared, again stirring occasionally so nothing sticks.

Mix in the final tablespoon of muscovado sugar and cover for a further 10 minutes, at which point all the liquid should have disappeared – if not give it another few minutes.

When all the liquid has gone this can be served immediately with any hot meats (particularly wonderful with a plain rare steak) or allow it to cool and transfer it to a sealed container and store in your fridge to use cold on sandwiches, with cheese or pretty much any way you would normally use a relish.

Recipe: Apple and Gorgonzola Pizza

Ready to slice
Ingredients:

1 sprinkle of cornmeal
1 Pizza Base
100ml Italian Tomato Sauce
1 handful gorgonzola cheese – Finely sliced and crumbled

1 handful parmesan cheese grated
8-12 finely sliced apple pieces

Serves 2.

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Heat your oven to the maximum temperature with your Pizza stone inside.

Once up to temperature, sprinkle the stone with cornmeal and place your Pizza base on the centre of the stone. Quickly spread a generous amount of sauce up to roughly half an inch from the edge.

Crumble the gorgonzola over the sauce, sprinkle the parmesan over the top to fill in the gaps. Then arrange the finely sliced apple (about 8-12 slices is usually plenty) over the top.

Bake in the oven for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown, sprinkle with oregano, slice and serve.

Italian Meatballs

I love my Italian Meatballs, so does Elly and not to blow my own trumpet but most people who have eaten these have described them as awesome and asked me for the recipe.

La scala by night, Milano, Italy
Via Wikipedia

So after promising it to so many people, I’m finally posting it today. I have a lot of e-mails to send out to friends with links (and apologies) to make up for broken promises :) Still the best things in life are worth waiting for.

Part of the reason that I’m posting this today is that it is an excellent main course for a special Valentine’s meal for two, you can do the preparation in advance and freeze them until the day in question, leaving time to prepare a fresh starter and/or an incredible dessert on the day.

For me Italian food is Valentine’s day, I mean what could be more romantic than a fantastic candlelit meal, some opera playing quietly in the background, the one you love across the table with the candlelight reflecting in their eyes and you serving them a fantastic home cooked meal?

Over the two next weeks, I’ll be posting a starter and dessert to create a Valentine’s menu that will not be easily forgotten. So get cooking and freezing now, it’ll give you more time to enjoy the evening with the special person in your life.

Green Pasta

Pesto is a dish that I had never heard of until a friend served up a bowl of green tagliateli to me back in my student days. Up until then my knowledge of Italian food was limited to Pizza, Spagetti Bolognese and lasagne. So a green pasta dish raised an eyebrow and the inevitable “what is this?”

Basil leaves (Ocimum basilicum).

After a brief explanation of what it was made from and assurances that it wasn’t going to kill me, I took my first tentative taste and was pleasantly surprised by the flavours. From then on a jar of store bought pesto and dried pasta could nearly always be found in the kitchen, as it was a virtually effortless meal i.e. boil and drain the pasta, stir in a few spoons of pesto, eat.

My pesto recipe is very much off the cuff, there is very little in the way of exact measures and the final product is completely dependent on tasting as I make it, adding a little parmesan or oil and tasting again until I am happy with both the taste and consistency.

Also this is fun to make, you get to bash stuff up in a pestle and mortar and the sense of satisfaction that you get from tasting and blending the flavour until it’s exactly what you want, is well worth the effort.

Pesto is a great all-rounder, just stir some into some hot fresh pasta and you’ve got lunch or dinner, spread some on a savoury sandwich, a few splashes across a pizza… the list goes on and on.

It’s also worth noting that this recipe will keep for a week or more once stored in an airtight container in your fridge, which means you can make your pesto at the weekend and have it any night of the week.

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