Cooking for one somehow seems more complicated than it should be. Even though it’s just a case of halving a recipe designed for two if I’m ever cooking for myself I often find myself opting for a slice of toast rather than anything more involved. But toast isn’t really that filling for dinner and no matter how much jam you spread on I’m not sure it’ll count as one of your five a day. That’s where this simple beef and chard ramen comes in. It is easy to scale up or down, you can use almost anything that you have in your kitchen and it doesn’t take much time to put together.
I made this stew on New Year’s Day. I can’t think of many things as warming and comforting as a big bowl of slow cooked food. My beef stew with horseradish dumplings was made up of almost everything I had leftover in my fridge and cupboards; happily simmered away with some beef shin. A delicious, make-the-most-of-everything, homely stew for four people. Trust me on the ingredients; one or two may sound a little out of place but they really add to the dish.
You will need (for four):
Enter my knowledgeable butcher. I had heard that hanger (or onglet) steak was a cheap alternative that is normally used for slow cooking. Unfortunately there was no hanger available as it was all frozen, but not to worry, as I was assured that a few slices of topside would be a good substitute. My butcher took off a few thick steaks from the topside and butterflied them for me, I couldn’t wait to give it a try. The topside came in at £12.95 per kg whereas sirloin would have been £24.50 per kg.
Is it just me that is prone to insatiable food cravings? When I get one I am unsatisfied (and sometimes unapproachable) until I have devoured my wanted meal. It could be cheesecake, fizzy cola bottles or pizza but most recently I had a desire for steak and I wasn’t going to stop until I’d eaten one. It can be a little awkward in some situations to try and explain to those near you that the reason you are frowning, grumpy and on edge is because you desperately need some smoky bacon crisps. I had my mind set on a juicy steak with peppercorn sauce and thank goodness that I only had to wait a few days to fulfil this particular culinary requirement. Any longer and I’d have probably alienated all my friends.
You will need (for two):
250g beef mince
1 medium onion
A splash of Worcestershire sauce
2 small carrots
1 small kohlrabi
Salt and pepper
Burger accessories like cheese, lettuce, buns etc.
Start by making the burgers. Finely chop the onion and add about a third of it to a bowl with the mince, Worcestershire sauce and some salt and pepper. Squeeze all of this together with your hands until well mixed and then form into burger shapes. Fry the burgers in a little oil until cooked.
While the burgers are cooking put the rest of the onion into another bowl and peel and chop the carrots and kohlrabi to the same size as the onion. Stir all of the vegetables together in the bowl with a good dollop of mayonnaise and a little salt and pepper.
When the burgers are almost ready I like to add a thick slice of cheese while they’re still in the pan so it starts to melt. Assemble your burger how you see fit; I would always opt for plentiful gherkins.
You will need (for two):
150g beef cut into strips
A few tbsp flour, seasoned with salt, pepper and cayenne
A few large purple kale leaves, cut into thin strips
1 large chilli, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
4 spring onions, sliced
3 tbsp dark soy sauce mixed with 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Noodles to serve
Get a wok on a high heat and add about 1cm of groundnut oil. While the oil heats up mix the beef with the seasoned flour until it’s all coated. When the oil is smoking add the beef and fry for about a minute or until cooked and crispy. Remove the beef from the wok and place to one side. Pour away any excess oil but leave a little to cook the vegetables.
Add the kale to the wok and fry for about 30 seconds before adding the chilli, garlic and spring onions. After a minute or so add the soy sauce mix and then put the beef back in. Serve on top of some noodles.
A tip: this stir fry tastes great because everything is cooked in smoking oil but this can lead to slight choking as the kitchen fills with smoke. I would put the extractor fan on full blast and tape down any toupées.
Fortunately the two little plants that managed to battle the elements (and the neighbours heavy pawed cat) were rather heavily laden and so I had enough to make a meal. They are such a dark colour and look so lovely in the garden it was a shame to pick them. The plant is also a fantastic purpley green.
I topped and tailed the beans and steamed them gently. I was hoping this would retain some of their purple colour but, unfortunately, they went entirely green! I find that beans are extremely happy with a little lemon juice. I melted a little butter and fried some chopped shallot then squeezed in a little lemon juice to sharpen it up.
What you will need (for four to six portions):
- Braising steak (at least 500-750g)
- Seasoned flour
- Vegetables of your choice – carrots, swede, onions, leeks, pasnips – a few good handfuls of each
- Potatoes – 4-6 medium
- Red wine (1 small glass)
- Stock (750ml)
- Oil and seasoning
Cut up the steaks and roll them in seasoned flour. Fry them in a pan that you can also then put in the oven. Keep all the goodness in one place. I am not fortunate to own one of these modern day contraptions.
Get chopping! It’s not that bad once you get going and you get lots of goodies to go straight into the compost bin. It’s true when they say you don’t get something for nothing.
Into my cauldron of lusciousness I added a healthy (large) glass of red wine, a stock cube (I know, I’m sorry) and some water. I threw in a bay leaf for good measure and a load of seasoning. I find when I think I’ve seasoned enough, I season some more.
What you will need (for 2):
- Stir fry strips or other thinly sliced steak
- Vegetables of your choice, I used onion, garlic, ginger, sweetcorn, carrots, spring onion and spinach
- Soy sauce
- Lemon or lime
- Oil, preferably vegetable or groundnut
- Salt and pepper
I was lucky enough to strike up a conversation with the lady from Challow Hill Meats and she told me the story of her stir fry strips. She explained to me that when cutting the sirloin and the fillet off she was left with all these bits of meat. They used to go into the meat for stewing etc. Then she put them up for sale as I buy them now and I couldn’t be more pleased. The perfect amount of meat, of excellent quality and cut, ready sliced and for £1.84. Who can moan about that?
To make the most of these little bits of loveliness I let them marinate in salt, pepper and soya sauce while I cut up all my vegetables.