Wednesday, December 1

Flying solo, can you dig it?

Sorry, but I heard Isaac Hayes on the radio, "Shaft, ..........can ya dig it?" I suspect it sounds slightly less groovy from a slipper wearing trackie clad white chick in her thirties than Mr Hayes, but Pru thought I was pretty funky.....

Anyway, I am also digging my latest library find, a great book called Alone in The Kitchen with an Eggplant. It is a collection of essays by various food writers on the subject of dining alone, and it is fascinating.

I rather enjoy eating by myself, but being married for the best part of twelve years has limited my opportunities a bit. While I am not complaining ( we still quite like each other, and can spend many happy hours discussing the cat, the hole in the ground and why I spend so much money on food) I occasionally like to eat with just myself for company. Perhaps if this wasn't a choice I would feel differently, but as it stands a solo supper is quite a treat.
It was interesting comparing my attitude to some of the authors, but I did disagree with Laura Calder (which surprised me as I love her show French Food at Home) about dining alone as something to avoid at all costs? I love cooking, and really enjoying expressing how I care about people through food (sorry, I know that sounds corny, but there you go) but surely you can only do that if you also care about yourself? So how better to be nice to yourself than with something yummy to eat? I would hardly call that tragic......
  I was home alone the other night, and harvested the mighty crop of veges pictured. Actually that is one benefit of the single supper, not trying to make two zucchini, a couple of radishes and a some peas feed a crowd. I picked up two lovely lamb cutlets from the butcher I my way home, the rest was garden or pantry staples, and it was really good.  
Herb Lamb Cutlets with Spring Couscous, Griddled Zucchini and Lemon
Firstly rub your lamb with a mixture of the following
A crushed garlic clove, chopped finely
A splash of olive oil
a pinch of ground cumin
a pinch of chilli powder
Couple of springs of lemon thyme, chopped
A sprig of rosemary, chopped
Salt & pepper
While it marinates for a few minutes, pour boiling water over a 1/2 cup of couscous. I pour enough water to come about a cm over the top of the grains, this seems to leave it cooked but not gluggy.
Add salt generously, a chopped spring onion, a couple of chopped radishes, as many peas as you can squeeze out of their pods, and a few pine nuts if you have them. Cover with a plate, and leave to cook for about 10 mins.
Heat up the griddle pan (or grill) and slice a couple of zucchini thinly. Brush with some olive oil and place on your griddle pan until charred and soft. Put on a plate and squeeze over some lemon.
Now cook your lamb on the same pan (I love reusing pans, makes me feel so clever and organised,plus less washing up for the solo diner...) until it is charred, but still pink inside. My cutlets took about 3-4 minutes per side.
While they rest, fluff your couscous with a fork and add a knob of butter or a glug of really good EV olive oil, pepper and chopped parsley, then spoon onto your plate. Put the zucchini on top, and the lamb, with a sprinkle of mint and a spoonful of plain yoghurt. Serve with a glass of something delish and a proper napkin. YUM.
I followed this with a bowl of strawberries sprinkled with a spoon of icing sugar and a couple of tiny drops if balsamic vinegar. Tell me that isn't better than a bowl of cereal , Mr PK's solo dinner of choice............?
I first experienced restaurant solo dining on my first ever trip abroad on my own. We were living in London at the time, and for my thirtieth birthday the whaneau clubbed together and sent me to Ballymaloe Cooking School for a week, what an adventure! I had to fly to Cork airport (my fear of flying was much worse then, so this was a big step in itself...) pick up my rental car and find Ballymaloe House where I was staying. The school is a couple of miles away, so then I had to find that as well. I was off to a flyer when I drove completely the wrong way out of the airport and was halfway back to Cork before I realised........nuptials were not just a way of avoiding solo eating, they were a way of not spending my entire life hopelessly lost.

Anyway, Ballymaloe House is amazing, but on my first night I realised I would have to go down to the restaurant and myself. My friend Tiff happened to ring just as I was contemplating this, when I voiced my concerns (will I look like a total saddo?) she advised me to take a book and imagine everyone else in the room had no clothes on. To this day I cant quite figure out how this was supposed to help, but she travelled for work on her own, and I deferred to her expertise. Armed with Harry Potter and wearing all my jewelery because I couldn't figure out the safe I descended to dinner.
It was just lovely. The staff seemed to take extra care, Myrtle Allen, the owner, and a star of Irish cooking actually came and sat down for a chat and the lovely Scottish couple at the next table asked me to join them for coffee after dinner. And I could watch everyone else in the room, without having to try and appear to be listening to what the person sitting opposite was saying. Every night I enjoyed six courses of glorious food (imagine if I did the 12 week course, I'd have to get an extra seat home....) , then at the end of the week joined Tiff for a couple of days in Cork, she was most impressed with my adventures.....
Would I dine alone at a restaurant in my home town? I have been thinking about it recently and have decided I would like to give it a go. Have you ever eaten in a restaurant on your own? What about solo dining, any special treats you enjoy?

My other solo treats, in no particular order...

A steak, cooked rare and slathered with blue cheese (Mr PK loathes the stuff) with salad
Stuffed potato, often with a blue cheese involvement.......
Mussels cooked with white wine (or cider), cream , parsley and garlic
A Ponsonby Pie-Chicken & Vege (even though it gives me indigestion, sigh...)
A bowl of steamed  Jersey Bennes, with salt, pepper, loads of butter and mint......
Fresh corn on the cob, slathered in butter, salt, pepper and a little bit of chilli (I have to eat this solo as I make such a mess of myself it puts other people off their supper....)

I still have two more fab salads to post, and Mexican corn...yep, back to Mexico , just briefly.


  1. like you I rarely get to eat alone but it is never as fancy as yours, my fallback is 'tuna toasts' a tin of tuna, sliced gherkins, mayo, rocket, tomato, beetroot mixed together and put onto a piece of toast !!! don't know why its always the same ... maybe its because I always have those things hanging around ... i need to be more adventurous...

  2. I have just spent 4 months travelling solo so thus ate a lot on my own. I do miss hearing the yum, yums when I make my own food.

  3. Great post! My partner is away overseas for a couple months and all of a sudden I've found myself cooking for one quite often. I think the nicest thing (other than doing something just for yourself) is actually having leftovers to pack for lunch the next day, since normally unless I make a huuuuuge batch Eric'll eat up whatever's left!

    I find dining out alone while on holiday but I must say in Wellington if on my own I tend to stick to cafes where I can spread out a newspaper or read a book comfortably and nibble without feeling out of place. Guess I need to work up the courage :)

  4. I will have to put that book on my list of reads for summer. I have eaten solo many times when travelling on business, I can't bear to think I will miss out on new cuisine just because I am alone. I too took a book to read! Now on my regular trips to Sydney I invite the office girls to the apartment I stay in and cook for them, last time they got a Gnocchi class! Dining alone at home....most likely a bar of Green & Blacks Butterscotch and a cuppa!


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