Written by Pauline Ng, Chief Editor
My residence is only 5 minutes’ walk from my mother’s. However I only have dinner with her twice a week and thanks to her tolerance as she is aware that I want to try out new recipes and enjoy the food I cook. Cooking for oneself and eating alone is going to be the future trend for the green-age group. In this article, I am going to share with readers some tips for cooking for oneself, with the flexibility of serving two persons if needed.
Cooking and eating utensils
No matter how big your kitchen is, you only manage to handle a few pieces of utensils. At our age, we cannot manage a frying pan or a pot which is too heavy. However we still need pots and pans which have a thick and completely smooth base. As far as possible, find utensils with a single long handle which makes it easier to handle during cleaning and serving. If you have an oven at home, do keep a medium large pan which can go into the oven for slow cooking and can be used on different types of stove especially the conducive type which is becoming the trend for elderly persons.
I still enjoy using heavy eating utensils, made of ceramic, as they give me the texture and the substance which will go well with the food I serve. The colour and pattern of bowls and plates always add a lot of fun to the eating process. There is no need to have a complete set of everything. Mix and match is the trend and you do not have to worry about any pieces being chipped or broken because a substitute can be easily found so long as it goes well with others. If eating alone, you do need a medium large bowl capable of holding everything together in one place as you are always tempted to eat in front of the TV.
Planning a meal
Even for cooking for one or two persons, you still need to plan properly. Sometimes you cannot finish all the ingredients which come in a pack. Or when you cook rice, you do not want to cook only one bowl of rice which is a waste of energy. Therefore you need to look at your schedule and see how many meals you need to cook within one or two consecutive days. Some food which can be prepared on the first day can be used for a second meal on the same day or the following day. As a result, fried rice and noodles in soup have become my most favourite recipes. There can be such a large variety of ways to cook with rice or to prepare a good soup base for noodles and vegetable hot pots.
The most difficult part of home cooking is shopping. We tend to buy too much as we are always worried about not having the ingredients in hand when we need them. This is the first thought we must remove from our minds. The greatest joy of cooking is being able to produce a good dish with whatever you can find in your kitchen. Fresh vegetables must be included in every meal and that is the only thing you should buy. Frozen meat can be used and kept in the fridge in small portions. Try to clean the fridge from time to time to remove foods which have expired.
Many people have the impression that the time used for cooking should correspond to the number of persons to be served. This is not true. Even cooking for yourself, it is still worth spending the time required for preparing a particular dish which can serve a larger group. For example, if you prepare a curry dish, there is no harm to prepare a larger portion and put them into separate food containers to be consumed in several meals. Another example is baking a whole chicken. The leftover can be used as cold cuts for salads or for sandwiches or noodle dishes. Do plan your meals properly and you will find great satisfaction in home cooking.
I elaborate below some tips in using leftovers of foods or foods which are about to expire.
Cooked rice for frying must be kept in the fridge at least for a few hours and should be basically dry and not soggy. Basic ingredients are finely chopped onion or shallot, a little crushed ginger, finely chopped green onion and an egg. To add a little more texture to the rice, one may start with frying finely chopped lemon grass and add a little lime juice and a pinch of sugar when season with salt and pepper. To make it more substantial, you can add marinated minced pork (with garlic and crushed chili), or cooked salmon shreds (with dill weeds), or finely chopped ham, sausages or other kinds of cooked meat. Use very little oil to fry the rice and do not add water. It is important that the rice should be dry and a little chewy.
Soup base or stock
I prepare soup base from time to time and keep it in a tightly sealed bottle in the fridge. The soup base can be used up to a week and it can be used as stock for cooking. When I check the fridge for foods about to expire, I can always pick up some onions, carrots, garlics, celery, lemon grass, etc. which are very good ingredients for preparing a soup base. I also keep the bones of chicken, pork ribs and sometimes shelves of shrimps after using the flesh for cooking. These are also good ingredients for soup base. A soup base requires at least 3 hours to cook but does not require constant attention. So it is a good way to utilize your time meaningfully when watching a movie, reading a book or simply answering your emails at home.