Solo food: 5 fast, fantastic ideas


Solo food: 5 fast, fantastic ideas

ANNELIESE BURGESS shares ideas for quick food in a bowl when it's just you who needs to eat. From a genius all-in-one steak salad and seared rice with tahini and horseradish to a parmesan stock with a ‘green' toastie and the best bean stew that will ever cross your lips.


FOR the first time in 23 years I live alone. And for someone who loves cooking for others so much, the solo food business is quite something to get used to. Since I have freed myself from breakfast, my first meal is around noon when the day is already at full speed. Then I don't want to have to fuss in the kitchen.

I'm looking for something fast. I'm looking for spicy. I'm looking for flavour. And preferably something I can eat in a bowl with a spoon or a fork.

Inspiration, ideas, recipes

Lately I've been cooking a lot from Food52's Big Little Recipes. Small recipes with big taste. Here are three of my favourites.

#1 Steak Caesar with two-for-one dressing

I find myself eating less and less meat and avoiding supermarket meat that I know comes from feedlots. I only prepare this if I know the steak comes from free-roaming cattle. The genius concept is that there are only five ingredients that together become the marinade for the steak and the dressing (parmesan cheese, anchovies, lemon juice, olive oil and black pepper). The thin strips of steak are served on crunchy lettuce leaves. The recipe recommends romaine salad but I'm obsessed with  Woolworths' Crunchita.

Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

#2 Parmesan stock with a ‘green’ toastie

I keep all my parmesan rinds in a bag in my freezer, and when I have enough, I make this delicious light golden stock and keep it for quick bowl food.

It couldn't be simpler. Cut the cheese rinds into smaller pieces, add water and let them simmer on the stove for about an hour and a half (a good ratio is eight cups of water for one cup of rinds). Add salt to taste.

In this recipe, the light parmesan bouillon is served with a piece of good bread fried until crisp in a pan with olive oil and smeared with a clove of garlic. Softly fried garlicky greens are spread on top of the bun. (The original recipe calls for escarole, an Italian bitter leaf, but endive works just as well, or even plain spinach. I always have a frozen pack in my freezer.) The green stuff is crowned with a cloud of finely grated parmesan.

This version of the parmesan broth calls for extra ingredients such as onions and celery for even more flavour but I really like the simple, clean taste of the two-ingredient version.

#3 Seared rice with avocado and horseradish tahini

Cook the rice of your choice (brown rice works best) as you normally would. You need about two cups of cooked rice for a solo meal. Divide in two. Keep one half warm and “sear" the other half. Heat oil in a pan, and when it is very hot spread the rice over the bottom. Do not stir until the bottom of the rice is crispy and brown. The recipe says it should take between five and eight minutes. Turn the flat piece(s) over in the pan to give the other side about 30 seconds of high heat. Then break the “rice cake" into pieces.

Cut the avocado into strips or cubes or both. Now make a quick horseradish tahini cream with 3 tablespoons of tahini, 2 tablespoons of water and 4 teaspoons of prepared horseradish that you can buy in any supermarket.

Dish a mixture of the soft rice and the seared rice in a bowl. With the avo. And horseradish tahini cream on top. A perfect bowl of food.

# 4 The 2 + 40 minutes tomato soup

Another hit is a genius tomato soup recipe I stumbled upon the other day in the podcast of Deb Perelman (Smitten Kitchen) and J Kenji López-Alt (Serious Eats, The Food Lab, The Wok). 

You need a heavy-bottomed pot that can go in the oven. Fill it with a cup of cream, three to five fresh, whole tomatoes (and add that bowl of cherry tomatoes that are sadly hanging around in the fridge for better days). The more tomatoes, the more tomatoish. The less, the creamier. Decide for yourself where on the sliding scale you want your soup.

Add an onion, roughly chopped into chunks. Keep the peel. And then I add two or three whole cloves of garlic. And a few sprigs of thyme that I fish out later.

In the oven. On high heat (about 180ºC) for 40 minutes or so. The cream will separate and brown a bit, which is exactly what you want. Cream with an immersion blender. And then, for about two minutes of work, you have the most delicious tomato soup that I have made so far. Eat as is or with crispy fried croutons. But this soup really only needs a little good olive oil on top.

# 5 The best beans. Ever. Ever. Ever.

I've written about this before in FOMO, but I've since become so obsessed that I have to sing this simple dish's praises again. I make it at least once a week.

I saw it on the @alexandracooks Instagram account and have made it with various dry beans, from chickpeas to borlotti beans and my precious stash of West Coast butter beans. The chickpeas keep their shape better, the beans give a creamier result.

Eight cups of water for every two cups of beans (no overnight soaking required). Add half an onion (I just use a whole one, cut in half with the skin on), a bay leaf or two, a teaspoon of chilli flakes, salt, pepper and a quarter of a cup of olive oil. Cook on the slow cooker's highest setting for between eight and 10 hours. If you put it on in the morning, you have dinner for less than a minute of kitchen effort.

When the beans are ready, scoop out the bay leaves, thyme and onions, taste if salt or pepper is needed and scoop into your prettiest bowl. Eat with finely chopped parsley or torn coriander. Or a dash of smoked olive oil, or chilli oil, or sherry … as the Lord leads you.

Magical alchemy happens in the pot and this bowl of food is deep and rich and meaty, but at the same time light and clean and healing.

I eat it as is. But maybe you want to serve it with some mushy polenta.

Great tip

Somewhere along the line I started using onions with skin on when I cook a stew or soup or a stock. There is flavour and colour in the skins. But mostly the peel comes off and I store it in a bag in my freezer (remember to wash the onions before you peel them — there's the issue of toxins if the onions don't come from your own garden).

If I have a large batch of peels, I dry them in my dehydrator (or on a baking sheet at the oven's lowest setting) then pulverise them in my food processor or spice grinder. This gives you a delicious, mild onion powder. If you want to turbocharge the taste, grate some onions, dry and process them in the same way and mix with the peel powder. Better than anything you'll find in the stores!

If you don't feel comfortable with free-wheeling, look at these instructions from Food & Home magazine.

Pantry talk

I use more and more avocado oil these days. It is packed with healthy fat and antioxidants. It has a mild taste and is fantastic for homemade mayonnaise, for example, but also has a high smoke point (250°C) — olive oil's is 191°C — which means it is an excellent pan oil.

♦ VWB ♦

BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION: Go to the bottom of this page to share your opinion. We look forward to hearing from you.

Speech Bubbles

To comment on this article, register (it's fast and free) or log in.

First read Vrye Weekblad's Comment Policy before commenting.