Clever cooking for one or two

Clever cooking for one or two

Clever cooking for one or two is a cookery book with recipes using ingredients that can be used one or two days in a row. Clever.

There comes a point in your life where you find out you actually enjoy cooking. With handy tips and basic creative recipes that show you how to re-use ingredients a few days in a row, ‘Clever Cooking for One or Two’ is a fine recipe book for students or people living with flatmates/partners/parents who like to be cooked for. Hurrah.

Suddenly, filling the kitchen with the warm nutty smell of baking bread seems a fine way to spend time. Suddenly, you look down in your shopping bag to see lentils and feta and pumpkin and you actually know what to do with them, and a part of you wonders what happened to the frozen meals, crisps and chocolate bars (it’s okay. They’re still there, tucked away under the star anise and coriander). Suddenly, you actually know what ‘jus’ means, and the name of the most evil-smelling fruit in the world (the durian, from south-east Asia, whose smell is so noxious that it’s been banned from a number of public places. Which is essentially good going for a simple, unassuming fruit).

Everything’s designed for ease and convenience in the first world. So where’s the satisfaction in having everything handed to you on a plate? And once you’ve saved so much time with microwaved meals and escalators and emails, what are you meant to do with the extra hours? Carry on with a bit more stress-inducing time-saving rushing around? Why feel so busy and rushed, when your life is meant to be more convenient than ever before? Why fit more stress into your day and call it a good thing?

No, cooking is a great way to break the system and do what people have been used to doing and enjoying for thousands of years, not what they’ve been sold as a great thing to do. Why not just stretch that time out? Enjoy it? Knead it like dough? Do things that take longer for the reward of having done them? Why not make your time more luxurious and relaxed, like time essentially wants to be?

Once you’ve taken on the cooking challenge and learned a few signature meals to keep you from starving (farmhouse soup, curry, other similar basics), it’s time to take stock of the situation.

1) Cooking with fresh ingredients is ideal but expensive. And if you buy something unusual and pricy for a particular meal, and don’t use the leftovers to make anything else because you don’t know how, it wastes money by going mouldy in the back of the fridge.

2) Cooking every day can be boring because you eventually hit on the idea of making a giant bean chili or curry that lasts for four days. And then you make it every four days for the rest of your life. And then you grow disillusioned with cooking.

What to do?

While it’s not alternative by any means, ‘Clever Cooking for One or Two’ is a very useful little book of recipes.

It operates on a few basic principles: Life is expensive, and if you’re trying to cook for one or two people on a regular basis, you want to buy fresh food, not too much of it, and re-use the ingredients over the next couple of days to make different meals so you don’t waste money or get bored.

It’s not vegetarian, but it recognises that vegetarians exist – the recipes include plenty of veggie unfussy meals like sweetcorn fritters for winter comfort eating, bean soups, clever eggs, potato stuff you haven’t thought of yet, mushroom risottos, omelettes and pasta dishes. For pescatarians there are also plenty of fish dishes. The only downside is it’s a dairy cookbook, so while there are vegan recipes, vegans are not as strongly represented in these recipes as everyone else.

‘Clever Cooking’ has various linked recipes that show you how to make a main meal one day and use all the leftovers in a pasta, soup or omelette the day after.

Some of the recipes are grand and designed to impress, but they’re in the minority – most of them are creative but basic, with ingredients that aren’t freakish. There’s no durian here.

The ‘Clever Cooking’ people are really big on freezing. If you’ve gone to a lot of effort to make a meal, then they encourage you to make too much of it then freeze it – they tell you what’s safe, and how to do it – so you can enjoy it again when you feel like it.

Best of all, each recipe comes with a Cook’s tip and a Shopper’s tip. These are designed to make you live cheaper and cleverer with food in the long run, regardless of whether you stick by the recipes or not.

Examples of cooking tips in ‘Clever Cooking’:

  • When making risotto, get the rice evenly coated with oil first to prevent it becoming sticky.
  • If you buy an avocado that needs a few days to ripen, place it next to some bananas to speed it up.
  • Cooked rice freezes well, so it’s worth boiling or steaming a batch then freezing it in handy portion packs.

Examples of shopping tips in ‘Clever Cooking’:

  • Once opened and drained, feta cheese packs don’t last long. Look out for tubs instead, because the feta cheese keeps longer.
  • Buy a small tub of cream for curries and use any leftovers stirred into pasta and roast vegetables.
  • Frozen vegetables are often higher in vitamins than ‘fresh’ ones, so keep a few varieties in your freezer.

The only way to get into cooking, or to learn more about it, is to do it. If you like cooking, the chances are you’ll have more than one cookery book. And this is a good one – not too specialised, with plenty of basics, an understanding that not everyone lives on meat and two veg, and handy tips.