Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or underused ingredients.
Inspiration, imagination, motivation - all can be in pretty short supply when it comes to cooking and you live alone. You will often feel that there is quite simply no point in spending a great deal of time and effort in the kitchen, particularly on a weeknight, cooking a meal which no one else is ever going to see or enjoy. The temptation to pop a ready meal in the microwave or pick up some fast food on the way home from work will often be overwhelming. This will seem to be the option granting you the most time each evening to spend relaxing in front of the TV, surfing the Web, or perhaps even reading a good book.
There are, however, a number of benefits associated with cooking for one in this situation. Some are obvious, some perhaps not so obvious. This page is not only about defining these benefits but looking at how they can be harnessed by almost anyone to very best effect.
But I Can't Cook! - The Principal Objection?
Is this something which you have just said to yourself? If so, the reality is that you almost certainly do have the latent ability to cook - you simply haven't learned how to use it yet. Think about some of the things you do every day in life. Can you drive a car? Swim? Ride a bicycle? What about the simple fact that you're reading the words on this page? Are these all things you were born able to do, or did they require to be learned (perhaps painstakingly) over a period of time?
Cooking is no different. Just remember to start simple and develop your talents through time and you will soon be laughing at the fact you once doubted your own ability.
Soups are a Great Way to Start Developing Your Cooking Talents
#1 - Cooking at Home Will Almost Certainly Save You Money
How much do you spend at the moment each week or month on fast food or supermarket ready meals? Take a minute or two to come up with an approximate but realistic figure. The simple fact here is that you may well be able to not only reduce that sum by cooking at home but half it or even better! Is there something you could better spend that cash on?
Check the list of ingredients on a ready meal box or think about what is in your fast food purchase. Check the prices of those ingredients in your local supermarket and think about how you can combine them at home at a fraction of the price. Search online for recipes and cooking instructions in this case. You will always find more options than you are ever likely to be able to use.
Menu Option #1 - Fish Pie with Herb Buttered New Potatoes
Fillet of whiting or other white fish
14oz can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp dried dill
2 slices of bread (circa 4 tbsp breadcrumbs)
2oz cheddar cheese
Small new potatoes
Salt and pepper
A fish pie will perhaps more commonly consist of two or more types of fish in a bechamel sauce, topped off with fluffy mashed potatoes. This very different alternative, however, is equally delicious and represents the perfect portion for one person.
Get your oven on to preheat to 375F/190C. Add the potatoes unpeeled to a pot of cold, salted water and bring to a boil, before reducing to a simmer for around twenty-five to thirty minutes until soft.
Pour the tomatoes in to a saucepan and add half a teaspoon of the dill. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well and put on the heat to reach a simmer.
Chop the fillet of whiting in to six to eight even sized pieces. Spoon some of the tomato sauce in to the base of an individual pie dish and lay half the whiting pieces on top. Add more sauce, the remaining whiting pieces and finally the last of the sauce. Sit the dish on a baking tray and cook in the oven for fifteen minutes.
Grate the bread and cheese. Add to a small bowl, season and mix together. When the fish is ready, take it from the oven and scatter the bread and cheese mix over the top. Place it under an overhead grill for a couple of minutes until browned and the cheese is melted.
Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot with the butter and remaining dill. Swirl the pot to coat all the potatoes evenly.
Plate the pie and arrange the potatoes alongside and your meal is ready to enjoy.
#2 - Home Cooked Food is Likely to be Considerably Healthier than Fast Food
It is a fact that many fast foods and prepackaged meals come with a number of ingredients which you would not expect or desire. This can include an excess of salt, sugar or saturated fat but can also represent a number of artificial colourants, preservatives and more which are less than beneficial to your health and can cause you long term problems.
While these issues are becoming ever more prominent in the media and many food producers are taking account of concerns raised, there sadly do remain others who don't give a monosodium glutamate for your health, so long as you continue to enjoy and buy their products. By cooking at home with fresh ingredients, you can eliminate or at least control the level of these ingredients in your food and reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, strokes and other long term ill effects on your health.
Menu Option #2 - A Bacon Sandwich to Rival a Fast Food Burger
12” wholegrain bread stick
4 medallions of back bacon or normal bacon rashers/slices
Generous handful of rocket/arugula
4 slices of camembert cheese
2 rings of pineapple (canned in pineapple juice)
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable or sunflower oil for frying (if applicable)
When you think of a bacon sandwich, what do you think of? A few bits of bacon, stuck between two slices of buttered bread? While that may be (and is!) a very tasty combination, it is not difficult to take a bacon sandwich beyond such levels of simplicity. Think about other ingredients you like, or perhaps which ingredients are added to your favourite burger combination, and simply apply them to a bacon sandwich. That is all that has been done in this creation.
The bacon can be shallow fried or grilled, in either case for a couple of minutes each side. The bread should be halved horizontally and lightly toasted on the opened sides.
The rocket leaves/arugula should be laid on the bottom half of the bread followed by the bacon, camembert slices and halved pineapple rings. Salt should not be necessary due to the salt in the bacon but black pepper should be added before the top is laid in place and the sandwich served.
Note: This was very fresh bread. If the bread is a day or two old, you may wish to drizzle each half with olive oil immediately after it is toasted.
#3 - Eat Only the Ingredients and Food Combinations You Enjoy
Do you ever find yourself about to buy a ready meal or fast food preparation and notice with disappointment at the last minute that it contains an ingredient you can't stomach? Even worse, have you ever bought something and got it home to make this discovery only when it's painfully too late? This could relate to anything from a relish on a burger to a particularly strong flavoured minor ingredient in a curry or stew.
When you buy basic ingredients to cook at home, you essentially eliminate this risk altogether. There is no doubt that what goes in to your meal is only what you put there and what you are going to want to eat. You still have to combine those ingredients and cook them effectively but you have taken a very positive step along the right track.
Menu Option #3 - A Pork Chop with Fried Egg and Chips
1 pork chop
1 large egg
Salt and white pepper
Portion of homemade chips to serve
Pork chops are not only very tasty, they are really simple to cook in a variety of different ways. One of the quickest ways of cooking a pork chop is to shallow fry it in oil. This pork chop and fried egg is served with homemade chips but a variety of vegetable accompaniments could be substituted.
Pour about a tablespoon of oil in to a small frying pan and gently heat. Season the pork chop on both sides with salt and white pepper. Fry on a low to medium heat for about eight to ten minutes each side until done. Remove to a heated plate and cover with foil to rest for a few minutes while the egg is fried.