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One Man, One Meal: Cooking for One

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One Man, One Meal: Cooking for One

Dining solo? We chat to three culinary experts in Cape Town to bring you some great recipe ideas, perfect for those dinner-for-one occasions 

Last Update: February 14, 2017

There are many great things that one can do alone. Reading a book, listening to music and even exercising are all awesome activities designed to be done by yourself. Cooking, however, is whole different ball game and in the kitchen one can be the loneliest number of them all.

Finding a recipe that is suitable for a single serving (and that doesn’t waste too much of your time or create too many dishes) can be a big ask. It’s often a good enough reason to rather opt for a bowl of cereal or a takeaway dinner. And so, sharing in your frustrations and in hope that we may be able to help you next time you dine alone, we catch up with three renowned culinary experts in Cape Town who each share an awesome dinner idea suitable for one.

Siba Mtongana
Although many will recognise Siba Mtongana from the popular food-inspired international TV show ‘Siba’s Table’ on Food Network channel DStv channel 175, Siba’s CV includes being a multi-award winning freelance food writer, celebrity TV chef and national food judge. Her empathy for the underprivileged, especially young children sees Siba working as an ambassador for FoodBank South Africa, an organisation that helps fight hunger and malnutrition in our country. She also volunteers at the Etafeni Day Care Centre in Nyanga, Cape Town. Believing her calling is to be an agent of change in Africa and the world, Siba is an inspiring foodie expert with a great idea for dinner for one.

In her own words…
“I wanted to go for a typical American feel for dinner, but with a SIBA-LICIOUS twist. I just love the flavours of the cobb salad with its rich American flavours, and beautiful ingredients, like blue cheese, salad leaves, boiled eggs, chicken, etc. and thought it would work perfectly as a burger. It is easy, tasty comfort food – perfect for one!”

Cobb Salad Burger with Virgin Pomogranite Mojito
Ingredients
1 Chicken breast
1 Tbls Gorgonzola blue cheese
2 Cocktail/tooth sticks

Wet rub
1/2 Tbls cumin
1/2 Tbls brown sugar
1/2 Tsp medium curry powder
1/2 Tsp cayenne powder
1/2 Tsp Dijon mustard
1 Fresh garlic clove, chopped
1/2 Tbls canola oil
1/2 Tbls apple cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serve with
2 Slices bacon
1 Tbls maple flavoured syrup
1 Sesame seed sourdough bun, buttered
Boiled egg

Dressing
1 Tbls sour cream
1 Tbls mayonnaise
1 Tbls buttermilk or sour-milk
1/2 Tsp lime juice
1/2 Garlic clove, crushed
1/2 Tsp very finely chopped onion 
1/2 Tbls coriander, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar, for taste

Salad
1/4 Cup mixed baby lettuce leaves
20 g Watercress, most stems removed
1/4 Avocado halved and sliced
1 Tomato, sliced

Method
For the egg

  1. Place in a saucepan of cold water, cover and bring to the boil.
  2. Remove the saucepan from heat and allow the egg to stand for five minutes for a soft boiled variety.
  3. Remove from the saucepan using a slotted spoon and peel over running cold water. Cut into slices.

For the dressing

  1. Mix the ingredients together and shake well.

For the chicken

  1. Make a small slit on one side of each chicken breast and stuff with the blue cheese. Secure with cocktail sticks.
  2. Mix the rub ingredients together and rub the chicken. Grill for six minutes each side until cooked through. Set as upside to rest for five minutes.

For the bacon

  1. Place the bacon directly onto the grill and cook for five minutes a side until it starts to brown. 
  2. Brush maple syrup on one side and turn. After a minute brush on the top and turn. Both sides now have maple syrup on it. 
  3. Allow a minute or so to caramelise the bacon and then remove from the heat. Let cool and crisp.

(Tip, if using the oven, place the bacon on a baking sheet and bake in an oven at 200 degrees Celsius for about 15 minutes until it starts to brown. Brush it with maple syrup and give it another five minutes. Take it out to cool and crisp.)

For the bun

  1. Cut the bun and butter the insides, place on the braai with the buttered side down for four minutes until golden and crispy.

To assemble the burger

  1. Place the buns opened on a board, top the bottom halves with lettuce, watercress and tomato slice.
  2. Now top with stuffed chicken, bacon strips avocado and egg.
  3. Drizzle with dressing, lid on, burger stick in and serve.

Virgin Pomegranate Mojito
Ingredients
1/4 Cup water
2.5cm Piece ginger
1/4 Cup caster sugar
1/2 Cup raspberries
3/4 Cup pomegranates
5 Mint sprigs
1 Lime, cut into wedges
Approximately 3 ice blocks, crushed
3/4 Cup fizzy or soda water

Method

  1. Heat the sugar, ginger and water in a small saucepan, stirring continuously until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Simmer uncovered for five to eight minutes until it thickens slightly and reduces in amount. Allow it to cool.
  3. Divide the raspberries, mint and lime wedges between glasses. Pour two tablespoons of the sugar syrup into each glass.
  4. Using a wooden spoon or muddler, crush the mixture to release the juice and oils of the fruit and mint.
  5. Top each glass with crushed ice, fill with a mixture of cold pomegranates and fizzy or soda water. Serve and enjoy!

Nicolas Charalambous
From a young age Nicolas Charalambous was always observing and interfering in the kitchen affairs of his Greek grandmother. This nurtured his desire to make incredible food that people love. After a food-inspired trip around Europe, Nicolas studied at the prestigious Silwood School of Cookery, obtaining his Cordon Bleu Grand Diploma. Working at some of Cape Town’s best restaurants under the tutelage of Chef Peter Tempelhoff at The Cellars-Hohenort’s Greenhouse and at Mondiall, Nicolas blossomed and has recently stepped out on his own journey. Having experienced his foodie talents at the popular underground eatery [spasie] we knew he would be a great addition to our solo dining cooking team!

In his own words…
“This has been my go-to meal throughout my life. I have just added a few touches here and there and played with the cooking method from when my mom used to make us roast chicken. It’s healthy, full of protein and good hearty vegetables. There are leftovers for lunch the next day to make a great sarmie and you keep the kitchen relatively clean by only using two pans!”

The Ultimate Roast Chicken with my Favourite Veg
Ingredients
For the chicken, leeks and veg
1 Free range chicken
1 Lemon, quartered
1 Onion, quartered
2 Carrots
2 Celery sticks
1 Garlic bulb
Olive oil
Bunch of thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley
3 Large leeks
2 Sweet potatoes
100g Butter, softened
Sea salt
Pepper

For the crispy kale
30ml Olive or coconut oil
Half a bunch kale, thinly sliced
Salt
2 Tbls cottage cheese 

Method
For the chicken, leeks and veg

  1. Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Pre-heat the oven to 240 degrees Celsius.
  2. Give the vegetables a wash and roughly chop the onion, carrots and celery. Crush the garlic bulb to release the cloves and mix in with the vegetables. Dress with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Trim the leeks and wash very well. Cut down the middle and set aside. 
  4. Cut the sweet potatoes into wedges and set aside. 
  5. To prepare the chicken, rub the butter all over and even get some under the skin by carefully loosening the skin from the meat. 
  6. Season the chicken very well with the sea salt and pepper.
  7. Stuff the chicken with half the quartered lemons and herbs. Add the other lemon quarters to the vegetables.
  8. Place the vegetables at the bottom of a deep roasting tray and place the chicken, on its side, on top of the vegetables. Layer the leeks around the chicken. 
  9. Place the chicken in the oven and turn down to 200 degrees Celcius.  
  10. After 30 minutes of cooking, add the sweet potatoes to the dish. 
  11. After 20 minutes turn the chicken onto its other side. After another 20 minutes turn the chicken breast side up and for the final 30 minutes turn the chicken breast side down. 

For the crispy kale

  1. Heat the olive or coconut oil in a sauce pan and add the kale and season with salt. Cook until wilted and crispy. 
  2. Drain on kitchen paper.
  3. Place onto serving plate with spoonful of cottage cheese.

Finish the chicken

  1. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for five to 10 minutes. 
  2. Carve the chicken, dish up some sweet potatoes, vegetables, leeks and the roasted lemon quarters.
  3. Save the rest of the chicken and vegetables for lunch!

Jenny Morris
Founder of the Giggling Gourmet catering and special events company, Jenny Morris knows a thing or two about cooking. She is also an author, magazine writer, radio and TV presenter, celebrity chef, accredited international food judge, teacher, caterer and culinary tour guide (phew, that is a lot!). Having hosted an array of cooking shows on the international Food Network channel, together with the accolades mentioned above, Jenny is just the foodie to help us with our cooking for one predicament!

In her own words…
“In my experience I have found that when people cook for one, they can't seem to be bothered to cook different elements to a dish owing to the fact it takes too much time and effort. This means they often don't eat a balanced meal. The one gripe I always hear from my single friends is that despite the fact they shop with good intentions, they often end up throwing away half of their fresh produce because they haven't had time to cook it all.

I find that a stir-fry ticks all the necessary boxes because you can include a wonderful selection of vegetables and protein in one dish. It might seem a little pricey to buy pre-packed vegetables ready for stir frying, but then you will not have to throw anything away. Not to mention, all you then need to do is just add the protein of your choice. It is that easy!”

Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry
Ingredients
1 Small onion, sliced
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 Tbls fresh coriander, chopped
1 Large skin and boneless chicken breast fillet, cut into strips
250g pre-packed mixed stir-fry vegetables 

2 Tbls oil
1 Tsp brown sugar
Ground white pepper
1/2 Tsp ground cumin
2 Tbls soy sauce

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan with a heavy base and sauté the onions for three minutes while stirring.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger and fry until fragrant. Add a little water if you see that the onions are catching to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Now stir in the chicken strips with the brown sugar, white pepper and cumin, and cook, stirring for one minute.
  4. Add the soy sauce and vegetables, and cook until vegetables are just fine – by letting your vegetables retain some of their texture you won’t overcook them. If need be, you can add a little more water to prevent the chicken and vegetables from sticking.
  5. Allow the chicken to cook all the way through – or to your liking – once complete, take off the heat and enjoy!

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For more awesome foodie options, check out some of our other recipes ideas.

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