It’s often taken as a given that those who love to cook also love to have a table of people to feed. And while that is, of course, the case, there’s also huge pleasure to be had in the table for one. The absence of a crowd gives space for all the senses to be alert, heightening the awareness at every stage of preparing, cooking and sitting down to eat a meal. It’s sort of blissfully delicious, really.
Bistro-style chicken salad with parmesan dressing and crisp prosciutto (pictured top)
This is one to set the table for on a weekend lunch. Poached chicken, crisp prosciutto, crunchy leaves and a creamy, cheesy dressing: it’s dinner for one, à la bistro, coming your way. Red-and-white checked tablecloth optional.
Prep 10 min
Cook 40 min
1 tbsp cider vinegar
½ tsp caster sugar
Salt and black pepper
40g pink radishes, trimmed and sliced into very thin rounds
2 slices prosciutto (25g)
1 large chicken breast (180g), boneless, skinless and trimmed of fat
4 tsp mayonnaise, shop-bought or homemade
½ tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp dijon mustard
½ small garlic clove, crushed
1 baby gem lettuce, cored and leaves separated (75g)
2 tbsp mint leaves
1 tsp olive oil
Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/375F/gas 5. Put the vinegar, sugar and a tiny pinch of salt in a small, shallow bowl, stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the radishes, mix to combine and leave to pickle gently, stirring every now and then, while you get on with the rest of the dish.
Lay out the prosciutto on a small oven tray lined with greaseproof paper, then bake for 15 minutes, until starting to crisp up. Remove, leave to cool and crisp up completely, then roughly crumble by hand.
Put the chicken and a teaspoon of salt in a small saucepan and pour over enough water just to submerge the chicken. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pan, turn the heat down low and cook, undisturbed, for seven minutes (or up to nine minutes if your chicken breast is on the larger side). Lift out the chicken on to a carving board (discard the poaching liquid and leave to rest for five to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, very finely grate three-quarters of the parmesan into a medium bowl (I use a Microplane). Add the mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and a very generous grind of coarsely cracked pepper, and beat until smooth. Add the lettuce and a small pinch of salt, toss to coat, then transfer half the dressed lettuce to a shallow bowl and top with half the mint and half the pickled radishes (without their pickling liquor). Repeat with the remaining salad, mint and pickled radishes.
Cut the chicken breast into 1cm-thick slices, then sprinkle lightly with salt and a generous grind of coarsely cracked pepper. Use the side of your knife to pick up the whole breast and lay it on top of the salad, separating the slices slightly. Drizzle the top of the chicken with the oil, grate over the remaining parmesan and serve sprinkled with the crumbled prosciutto.
Sausage ragu lasagne
This has all the delights of lasagne without all the prep time or the making of numerous portions. And you don’t have to worry about missing out on getting a nice, crisp-edged corner piece, either. To make this vegetarian, swap the sausage for firm tofu or mushrooms.
Prep 10 min
Cook 45 min
Serves 1 with leftovers
1 tbsp olive oil
4 sausages, casings removed and discarded (250g)
1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped (50g)
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped (70g)
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked to get ½ tsp
10g oregano sprigs, leaves picked to get 2 tbsp
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
200g crushed tinned tomatoes
Salt and black pepper
3 sheets fresh lasagne (130g)
125g buffalo mozzarella
Put a 17cm saute pan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil, sausagemeat, carrot, shallot, thyme and three-quarters of the oregano, and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes, until lightly golden; use the spoon to break up the sausagemeat into smaller pieces. Add the garlic and fennel seeds, cook for two minutes more, until fragrant, then stir in the tomatoes and cook for five minutes until bubbling.
Add 200ml boiling water to the pan with a good grind of pepper and a half-teaspoon of salt, turn down the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and looks glossy. Heat the grill to its highest setting. Fill a medium saucepan with a litre of water, add a tablespoon of salt and bring up to a simmer. Add the pasta sheets, cook for two minutes, then drain in a colander.
Tear or cut the lasagne sheets in half, then stir them into the ragu. Simmer for two minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is soft and nicely coated in the sauce. Using a spoon, lift and arrange the sheets so they sit in folds, like little handkerchiefs nestling in the sauce. Roughly tear the mozzarella and place between and on top of the layers of lasagne.
Put the pan under the hot grill for five to seven minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and some of the lasagne sheets have crisp edges. Serve straight from the pan with the rest of the oregano scattered on top.
Apple and cinnamon toast cereal crumble
This works as well for a weekend breakfast as it does for dessert. If you like, swap the apples for ripe pears and the cinnamon toast cereal for any similar cereal you have to hand.
Prep 15 min
Cook 40 min
2 granny smith apples (300g), cored, peeled and each cut into 6 wedges (220g)
15g soft light brown sugar
1½ tsp lemon juice
10g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
60ml double cream
For the rum raisins
2½ tbsp rum
½ tsp light brown sugar
For the cinnamon toast crumble
50g cinnamon toast cereal
10g soft light brown sugar
25g unsalted butter, cut into 1½cm cubes
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp flaked salt
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Put the apples, sugar, lemon juice, butter and half the vanilla in a 15cm ovenproof saute pan and mix to combine. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring once halfway, until softened but not falling apart.
Meanwhile, make the crumble. Put the cereal, sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl and use your fingertips to pinch the butter cubes into the mixture, roughly breaking apart the cereal at the same time, until you’re left with a rough crumble. Remove the apples from the oven and turn down the heat to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Top evenly with the crumble mixture, then return to the oven for 10 minutes, remove and leave to cool down slightly for about five minutes.
Meanwhile, put the raisins, two tablespoons of rum, a half-teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt in a small pan and put on a medium heat for two minutes, until the raisins are plump and the rum is slightly syrupy.
Finally, whip the cream and the remaining half-teaspoon of vanilla to soft peaks. Dollop the cream on the hot crumble, spoon over the raisins and their syrup, dribble the last half-tablespoon of rum all over the top and serve warm.