Quinoa and Pepper Salad

img_4599tThis has become one of my staple lunch options. It’s straightforward and fairly quick to make, and you can switch the different items based on what you’ve got around. This recipe is based on Anna Jones’ ‘At Your Desk Salads’ (from A Modern Way to Cook) – which is an excellent chart of ingredients in six different categories that you can mix and match to create a salad. So the base of this is quinoa, with pepper, spring greens, cornichons, pumpkin seeds and a pesto dressing. I won’t list all of the various options here, but another variation I’ve done recently is brown rice with carrot, lettuce, sesame seeds, capers and a soy sauce/maple syrup dressing.

A Modern Way to Cook has rapidly become one of my favourite cookbooks. In the past I have bought recipe books and cooked one or two things out of them, and then they just sit on the shelf, very occasionally used. So for a while I have refused myself cookbook purchases because it’s not worth paying about £25 for a couple of recipes. This time though, I found the book in the library, and I took it for a test run before investing. For the longest time I didn’t even realise my library had cookbooks, and now I know I think I will always borrow before buying. We cooked out of A Modern Way to Cook pretty much solidly for a week, and I realised that it was going to be a worthwhile investment, because there’s so many new, different (and quick!) recipes to try. Not eating meat has meant I’ve had to invest a fair amount of time into looking at what else I can eat that is good for me, balanced and healthy, and this book is possibly one of the best I’ve come across (also Ottolenghi’s Plenty, which will be discussed at a later date).

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Cooking for One

Day of food joy #lunch #pasta

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Cooking for one. It sounds like something sad and lonely, someone without a partner, family or friends to cook for, but often it’s just a fact of life.  For the last 2.5 years I’ve lived with housemates, but we haven’t cooked together or for each other, so I have cooked for myself every evening. I love to cook, I love making the effort to cook a delicious meal even if it is just for myself. Over that time I’ve also stopped cooking meat for myself, which has presented a challenge in finding new things to make. My friend has recently moved, and she, like me, lives with someone else, but is cooking for herself. We’re in our mid-20s, don’t earn much (or anything at all, in my case), but we want to eat well and we don’t have the luxury of spending a lot on food, nor can we afford to waste it.

So few recipes cater for cooking for one. I know the obvious thing is to just reduce the quantities, but so often that means using bits and pieces of vegetables and trying to work out something inventive to do with the leftovers, or having to eat the same thing several nights in a row, which is tedious. Recently I ate tomato and lentil soup for lunch four days in a row because I had vegetables to use up and I was trying to save money. By the third day I was truly sick of it. This is how things often are when you’re just cooking for yourself. But it shouldn’t be. Food should always be awesome, even when cooked in smaller portions. This is what I’m looking for, for my food to be exciting every day, even when I’m trying to use stuff up.

I’m going to start writing my dissertation in a few weeks, which means a stretch of about 3 months where I have plenty of work but no pressing deadlines. I’m going to start thinking a lot more about how I cook for myself, and because it will be almost summer there will be loads of amazing vegetables coming up soon. This will be my new challenge – to find more variety and excitement in cooking for one, and writing about it here. Watch this space.