Cooking for one in lockdown? Adam Liaw shares his solo meal strategies and tips

Adam Liaw
No, you don't have to eat this red wine mince every night of the week, but you can keep it interesting and make it ...
No, you don't have to eat this red wine mince every night of the week, but you can keep it interesting and make it stretch across multiple meals. Photo: William Meppem

QUARANTINE COOKING

You have to feel for those in lockdown with a lot of mouths to feed, but under those conditions feeding one mouth is no picnic either (and not just because you're not allowed to have picnics). 

Fending for yourself is more than just a matter of cooking whatever you want. You need to fight off apathy, a lack of motivation, a desire to avoid any more cleaning than is absolutely necessary and still try to produce food that's going to keep you as healthy and happy as you can be under the circumstances. 

The good news is that cooking for one doesn't need to be boring or repetitive. You don't need to have leftover bolognese seven nights in a row.

Here's a roadmap to help you out when going solo in the kitchen. 

Start with basics

I lived alone for almost my entire twenties and fed myself three meals a day. Breakfast was often an egg and sliced tomato on a piece toast, perhaps with a sausage or bacon. I packed a lunch for the office that was usually crudites, cheese and fruit, and then in the evenings dinner was soup, grilled fish or a simple stir-fry.

You don't have to put all you eggs in one basket, but eggs are your friend.
You don't have to put all you eggs in one basket, but eggs are your friend. Photo: William Meppem

Clearly this was in the days before food delivery apps, but what made it possible (even easy) was spending a bit of time on basics. Most Sundays I'd make stock, prepare some simple vegetable sides or pickles and put on a pot of rice. 

That meant that during the week the stock could be turned into soup in no time at all.

Alternatively I could just grill a piece of meat or fish in a few minutes and put it together with some vegetables.

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A pot of rice, a loaf of good bread or a stack of pita has fed civilisation simply for millennia. With basics at your disposal, putting together a meal is simple.

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Adam Liaw recipe : Salmon with green vegetable sauce
Photograph by William Meppem (photographer on contract, no restrictions) 

Adam's green vegetable sauce works with salmon (pictured), steak and pasta (recipe here) Photo: William Meppem

Multipurpose v single plates

Your strategy for solo cooking should include both multipurpose dishes and single plates for single meals. 

A multipurpose dish such as a pot of red wine mince can be turned into pasta, served on toast, on a baked potato, or even crack a few eggs into a small pan of it and serve that with crusty bread. Stir some mince with oyster sauce into noodles, or have it on rice or in lettuce wraps with some kimchi. 

For single plates think of grilled fish, meat or simple stir-fries (such as this basic tomato and egg number).

Multipurpose dishes don't have to be eaten all in a row. You can refrigerate or freeze portions of them to eat days, weeks or even months later. Interspersing your multipurpose dishes with single plate dinners avoids the boredom that can come from eating the same thing again and again, but it also means you are less likely to suffer the fatigue that can come from having to make a meal from scratch every single night. 

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Adam Liaw recipe : Ploughman’s Salad
Photograph by William Meppem (photographer on contract, no restrictions)

Adam Liaw's Ploughman's salad makes for a composed solo supper (recipe here) Photo: William Meppem

Add a side

Oeufs mayonnaise is one of my favourite French dishes and it's just hard-boiled eggs covered with a loose French-style mayonnaise. Having that for dinner is barely cooking at all, but one of the loveliest things about classic French cuisine is how a bit of bread and a crisp leaf salad can turn just about anything into an elegant meal.

A lightly dressed salad of pre-picked leaves is no hassle at all, but it can make all the difference. Or if you want your salad to be a bit more substantial, try something like this one

Banish from your mind the idea that eating something simple is cheating. Even if you're having a toasted sandwich for dinner, adding a salad on the side gives it the gravitas it needs to make you feel like you've fed yourself properly. Baked beans on toast may as well be cassoulet

Have a starter or a dessert

When cooking for one it's best not to put all your eggs in one basket. If you're only focused on the centrepiece of the meal there can be a tendency to overcomplicate it or to cook too much of it. Incorporating a simple starter or dessert can help with this.

It might seem counterintuitive to cook two or even three courses for one person, but simple courses that can be carried from one day to another will actually be easier than trying to cook a more elaborate main meal every night. 

Knowing you're going to start your meal with a little bowl of minestrone soup or finishing with a small piece of brown sugar, apricot and almond slice makes the process of deciding what to have for your main course an awful lot easier. Heck, you could even skip the main if you really wanted to.