Two burners and a bar fridge: Five tips for cooking in a tiny kitchen

Tiny apartment kitchens have their challenges - small hobs included.
Tiny apartment kitchens have their challenges - small hobs included.  Photo: Supplied

I live alone and I love it. Most of the time. My flat is teeny tiny but cosy, quiet and safe. It has Melbourne's best cafe across the road and a great parma-slinging pub on the corner that both pivoted (shot) impressively during our soft lockdown. In other words: I don't have to cook much. And yes I'm sounding very smug.

But don't @ me, because quite frankly the kitchen – with its two-ring hob, bar fridge and minimal bench and storage space – kind of sucks. These 'modern' apartments are made for 'busy urbanites' who either eat out or get takeaway every night, or just eat toast or cereal, Seinfeld-style. Right urban developers? Wrong. If you love food you still need to be able to cook, even, especially, if it's 'just' for one.

You can cook your roast chicken and eat it too, even if you're only cooking for one.
You can cook your roast chicken and eat it too, even if you're only cooking for one.  Photo: William Meppem

Plus as this pandemic rolls on, my social life is obviously DOA, with not much sign of picking up. If I don't cook it myself, my next roast dinner might be months away. Shudder.

So, after six years of living in a comfy cupboard, I've had to become inventive. Here are some tips for space-challenged solo apartment-dwellers who want to eat, and drink well, too.

Yes, you can still eat a roast dinner. And live off leftovers for days after.

Some people seem to think roast dinners are difficult or should be reserved for Sunday lunches for friends or family. Wrong. It's one of the easiest meals to prepare. And you only need a roasting dish and an oven to cook it. Snuggle chopped up potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, whole cloves of garlic and whatever other veg you have lurking about around a whole chook rubbed with herby butter. Stick a lemon up its clucker and cook at 180C for an hour or two. The leftovers keep giving for days. Use the leftover chicken and/or veg in risotto, sandwiches, pasta. For recipe inspiration here are 33 roast chicken recipes.

A cast iron casserole dish will get you through many cooking situations.

A cast iron casserole dish will get you through many cooking situations.

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You only need a few pans.

Do you really need the whole kit and kaboodle? You can get by perfectly well with just a well-selected few. For me, my Le Creuset casserole dish (other brands are available, and cheaper) is as essential as my toothbrush, and has permanent pride of place upon my tiny hob. Yes, I cook a lot of casseroles, but it also works as a wok or large pan, and to store wraps (plus it looks cool, too).

You'll need a roasting tin for the chook (see above) but that lives in your oven anyway, hence takes up no space. Complement these with a smaller non-stick pan for eggs and quick dinners for one, a small saucepan for sauces and boiling eggs, a 20cm cake tin for emergency cake baking, and a big soup pot for, yes, soups, and you've got most of the more basic recipes covered. Which leads me to...

Ditch the benchtop blender and get a stick blender instead.

Don't get me wrong, I loved my Magimix back in the day, but right now it's just too big. My stick blender does the job for now, blitzing up those what's-left-in-the-crisper soups and whizzing up smoothies in no time. And the cleaning up is almost the best bit. Just a quick sluice of the blade under the tap and it's packed away in seconds. The same goes for my hand beaters for that (very) occasional baking mission.

Stick blenders are great for whizzing up soups from leftover veg.

Stick blenders are great for whizzing up soups from leftover veg. Photo: William Meppem

Don't scoff at microwaves.

I pretend it's just for my wheat bag but it really does come in handy for actual edible stuff. From heating milk for my coffee to rescuing leftovers, especially soup (there I go again, obsessed), it's a fantastic heat-over-hob alternative. I also soften butter, take the edge off crunchy broccoli, and yes, I admit, the odd cold pizza slice has found its way in there. And then there are mug cakes. Enough said.

Embrace the bar fridge and its tiny freezer.

Okay, I admit this one's been a challenge. But after six years I've learnt to stock it with just the essentials for the next few days – cheese obviously, some veg, some meat, milk, chilled prosecco ready to celebrate/commiserate any occasion – and shop as I need to. It can be done. But the lack of freezer space does leave me cold. The positive is you'll eat less ice-cream (or eat the whole tub in one go, whoops). But as long as your piddly freezer box gives just enough oomph to make enough ice cubes for a drink on the rocks at short notice, you'll be okay. And an Esky on the balcony is a handy back-up for an impromptu (socially distanced) get together. Just get one of your guests to bring a bag of ice and you're sorted, for a few hours at least.