Cooking for Wan: The Art of Cooking Solo

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I often get asked whether it’s difficult to cook for one (or rather, get told it ‘must be difficult’) and to be honest, no, it’s the easiest thing in the world. There’s no one else to please apart from me and if I want to eat just a massive bowl of mashed potatoes for dinner there’s no one there to judge. Until I decide to post it on Instagram anyway. Cooking for just me (and occasionally Pepperoni the cat) is an indulgence and because there’s no one else to consider, I can be as crazy as I want with the ingredients that I have in my fridge. On that same note, if I only have instant noodles in the pantry, that makes a hearty meal for Wan too.

I’m not going to lie though, being in lockdown has brought with it some challenges for me as a solo cook. Anyone else finding having to cook EVERY. SINGLE. MEAL. exhausting? Some days have been a real test of my culinary creativity and there have been times when I almost convince myself that a couple of gins constitutes dinner. It doesn’t help that I can’t bring myself to eat the same thing more than two days in a row. I had to force myself to finish the batch of curried potato and corn soup I made one week for lunches – by day 2 I was ready to give up and banish it to the freezer ready for another week but I soldiered on. I ended up putting just the one portion in the freezer which I see as an accomplishment.

That’s another thing about lockdown cooking – I have become almost obsessive about  food waste. Over the course of the 18 months leading up to Corona, I had managed to completely change my supermarket habit from 1 big weekly shop (which always meant something got chucked) to maybe 2-3 small shops per week of ‘top up’ fresh fruit or veg as and when I needed them. This meant that I bought food with intention, specifically for recipes I intended to cook. Before I would always be stuck with a courgette going rank in the fridge because I had bought it out of habit. No one likes a sad, forgotten squishy courgette. Doing the smaller, more frequent shops made me realise that I don’t actually consume that much food over the course of a week. Any meal that I create always leads to at least 1 extra portion, or 5.

Food budgeting has gone a bit out the window too. As someone who lives by themselves, I try to eat within reasonable means – I am only feeding myself after all. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of frugality here and there if it means I can go and get my favourite burger from OPM (WHO DELIVER BY THE WAY) every now and then. However, as I am avoiding shops during Coronadays I’ve had to go back to my weekly shopping habits as I am getting groceries delivered. Weekly shops have actually turned into grocery deliveries every 2-3 weeks, with fruit and veg box deliveries in between. After 7 weeks (or has it been 7 years? not sure), I *think* I’ve got it nailed. A lot of extra thought and effort has gone into making sure that I am not massively over my usual grocery budget and that I am making the absolute most of the fresh produce I have.

With these thoughts in mind, I thought I would share a little recipe I tried this week…

I ordered a delivery of salad vegetables this week, thinking I am a bit tired of potatoes and carrots that seem to appear in every veg box combination that I’ve ordered so far. To my surprise, I had a bunch of beetroots! Beetroots are great – roast them, boil them, they’ll be delicious. But what really struck me were the leaves. They were nearly 2-foot in length and beautifully purple! SURELY I could stretch out the beetroot by eating the leaves too? Fast-forward 10 seconds and a quick google, I found that you can treat them as you would spinach or chard. YAS I LOVE SPINACH. And one of my favourite ways to eat spinach? Smothered in garlic and sesame oil.

A while back I became a bit addicted to Maangchi on YouTube. I know I am not the only one. She is my go-to for all things Korean-food related. Her recipes are easy, tasty and look beautiful. So much umami! In my search for the other Korean recipes (I KNOW I CHEATED ON MAANGCHI), I came across Seonkyoung Longest who has a recipe for Sigeumchi-namul (a Korean spinach side dish) so I thought… why not try this with the beetroot leaves? I’ve made a couple of adjustments but generally the recipe goes:

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 bunches of beetroot leaves (or spinach or chard)
  • 1/4 tsp salt or 1 tsp soy sauce
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 a spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  1. Wash your beetroot leaves thoroughly, they can be a bit muddy.
  2. Boil water in a saucepan large enough for your beetroot leaves – don’t forget to add some salt to the water. When the water comes to the boil, add the leaves and let them cook for 1-2 minutes (this will depend on how young/old your leaves are). You want the stalks to be tender but not squishy.
  3. Drain the leaves and steep in cold water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, squeeze the leaves to remove excess water. Cut the leaves into 1 inch lengths and set aside.

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    Chop, chop, chop

  4. In a bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, sesame oil, garlic, spring onions and sesame seeds.

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    Mix, mix, mix

  5. Add the beetroot leaves and give one more mix – tada! Fin.

This side dish is not only delicious and nutritious, it is also perfect for adding variety to ‘mix and match’ meals for those who get bored of eating the same thing more than twice (i.e. ME). It’s also frugal and means the whole beetroot gets used so that nothing goes to waste. Serve it with a rice, or do as I did and combine it with other vegetables on a bibimbap!

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Bibimbap – a selection of mixed veg (and meat) on top of a bed of rice, served with a fried egg on top!

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With an egg! It’s not complete without an egg!

 

Some more Cooking for Wan to follow…

Thanks for reading, happy cooking!

xxx

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