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Meals for one

meals for one

Cooking for one can often feel like a challenge, especially when most recipes you find in a cookbook or on the internet have a minimum portion number of two. There are, however, many advantages to solo dining - you've got the freedom to eat exactly as you please and the leeway to budget without worrying about anyone else. So whether you need a little guidance on how best to portion your dishes or some simple recipes to whip up without a fuss, here's our handy guide on creating the perfect meals for one.


Shopping for one

Shopping for one means that you can forego the big weekly shop (at last, the pressure's off!) and leisurely scour the local corner shop or farmer's market for gems to experiment with. You can also take pleasure in the fact that you can eat exactly what you want, when you want it and contemplate treats like those pricey posh puds or a wedge of your favourite cheese. The trick is to shop thoughtfully and plan meals ahead to ensure that you buy ingredients that can be used to make a variety of different dishes without there being any waste.


Keep it simple

Most of us like to eat well, even if we don't want to slave over a hot stove for hours. Looking forward to a delicious dinner is one of life's pleasures, and it's a good habit to maintain. The secret is to go for recipes that are simple and speedy, whether it's a quick and easy pasta dish, a warming soup or even a good old-fashioned omelette with a glass of wine. And you don't even have to cook at all. It's perfectly possible to put together an instantly satisfying cold supper that requires little preparation, like a hearty salad - also ideal for using up those extra veggies.


Slow food, minimum preparation

slow cooker risotto

Even dishes that take a while to cook often require minimal preparation time, but best not forget that timer! There are also a variety of slow cooker recipes to try, which are ideal after a long day at work or out and about, and will definitely make for more than one meal.

Gransnetters say:

"Before I went for my walk this morning, I put a skinned chicken leg, one large potato cut into cubes, some carrot, leeks, onions and mushrooms in a big pan, made stock with two chicken stock cubes, added garlic, black pepper and a very small amount of salt and when I got back I put it on to simmer for a couple of hours and added macaroni and tinned peas for the last 15 minutes. It was absolutely delicious and will make my main meal for at least another day - possibly two more days if I eat it with some French bread."

Top tips for making meals for one

1. If you can't be bothered to cook, don't!

The important thing is to eat well, so make sure the fridge is full of tasty ingredients. That way you can put together a healthy and delicious meal without thinking about it - or even having to cook.

2. Remember to freeze any leftovers 

When you cook stews, soups or tagines, make enough to freeze the leftovers into small portions. Ideal for solo suppers, and if guests arrive unexpectedly just defrost as many as you need.

3. Seek out recipes for cakes or puddings that keep for a while

Relish the opportunity to please yourself, and eat what you really like, without having to worry about finishing the entire thing in one sitting. 

4. Compile a list of recipes that you can cook on automatic pilot 

And stock up on the staples you need for them. Always have a jar of good pesto or pasta sauce in the cupboard and the ingredients for a salad or stir-fry in the fridge. Chutneys, sauces and condiments are also useful for lunchtime sandwiches or light meals.


Recipes for one

meals for one

If you are cooking for one, but find it difficult to portion and plan, these recipes - handily created by celebrity chef Sam Stern - are ideal for transforming leftovers into not one, but two lovely meals. Some food is just too good to share... 


Salmon parcels 

Buy two salmon fillets, cook both in this recipe and use the leftovers in the one below. Add horseradish to these little steamed parcels. It cuts beautifully across the rich oils of the salmon.


  • 200g new potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • 2 salmon fillets, about 110g each
  • 4tsp horseradish sauce
  • 10 thin slices of peeled cucumber
  • Knob of butter
  • 1–2 tsp torn fresh parsley and/or dill
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Cut any large new potatoes in half, then boil or steam them for about 15–20 minutes until cooked through.
  3. Meanwhile, place both salmon fillets on a sheet of foil or baking paper in the centre of a baking tray. Season with salt and pepper, then spread the horseradish over them with a knife. Top with the cucumber slices and pull up the sides of the foil or paper and fold over to seal the salmon in. Cook for 12–15 minutes or until the salmon flakes easily.
  4. Drain the cooked potatoes and toss them with the butter, parsley or dill, and some salt and pepper. Serve with one of the salmon fillets (this also goes brilliantly with a side salad or green beans). Allow the other salmon fillet to cool, then refrigerate until ready to use.


These can then be turned into... Simple salmon paté

salmon paté

This recipe couldn't be easier and makes a great light lunch or snack.


  • 1 leftover cooked salmon fillet from above recipe, skinned
  • Half tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche or cream cheese
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Flake the cooked salmon fillet with a fork, then place it in a bowl with the other ingredients. Mash and mix with the fork until well combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  2. Serve on hot buttered toast or crackers.


Beef and ale pie

Buy a 300g rump steak, cook in this recipe and use the leftovers in the next one. A pub classic, this pie takes under an hour (which is super speedy for a pie with such depth of flavour) and anything left over, with the addition of cabbage and potato, transforms into gutsy bubble and squeak cakes. 


  • 300g rump steak
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 150g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
  • Handful of fresh thyme, stalks removed
  • About 150ml beef stock, plus extra if required
  • 150ml ale
  • 1⁄2 tbsp plain flour
  • Small knob of butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • About 100g ready-made puff pastry


  1. Trim any fat off the steak and cut it into 5cm chunks. Put a heavy-bottomed saucepan or casserole dish over a medium heat. Season the beef all over with salt and pepper and coat it lightly in olive oil. Once the pan has some heat, stick in the beef and quickly seal. Once browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside.
  2. Adjust the heat under the pan to low and add the butter. Once it is foaming, add the onion and a pinch of salt. Fry until soft and golden brown, about 5–8 minutes, stirring regularly.
  3. Now add the mushrooms and cook for a further 2 minutes. Then add the stock and the ale and slowly sprinkle in the flour whilst stirring to avoid lumps.
  4. Bring to the boil, then add the beef. Simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, or until the beef is tender. Add more stock if the sauce becomes a little too thick.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pastry on a floured board to a square 10cm wide and 1cm thick. Place on a greased baking tray and when the beef has just 10 minutes to go, stick the pastry in the preheated oven. Cook for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
  6. Ladle three-quarters of the beef into a bowl and top with the golden pastry hat. Allow the remaining beef to cool, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use in the next recipe.


With leftovers for... Bubble and squeak cakes

bubble and squeak

They’re easy to double up if you have enough leftover stew.


  • 1 heaped tbsp leftover beef stew 
  • 850g cabbage, shredded and cooked
  • 150g mashed potato (use leftovers from another meal, or make it from scratch)
  • 1–2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Small knob of butter
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Chop the bits of leftover stew into smaller pieces. Combine with the cabbage and mashed potato and season with salt and pepper. Form into a patty and coat them in the seasoned flour.
  2. Heat the butter and olive oil in a saucepan over a medium–low heat. Add the patty and cook for 3 minutes each side or until golden brown and piping hot inside.
  3. Serve with a fresh salad.


These recipes are taken from Too Good To Share: Cooking for One by Sam Stern, published by Quadrille and available online and from all good booksellers. 










Images: Too Good To Share and Shutterstock