With increasing numbers of households (especially in urban areas) consisting of one person, I am surprised that there is a dearth of interesting books catering to the solo cook-eater. Most of those that I have come across belong to one of types - either the 'grill one chicken breast and serve with salad' or the 'cook the following, divide into four containers and freeze three of them for later' type. As I said, not very interesting.
Living alone was an extraordinarily unusual situation in past times, so inspiration for the solo cook is unlikely to be found in old cookery books, isn't it? I decided to test the idea.
I think the theory held up well. I gave up looking, in the end. About all I found were the following recipes - and, frankly, the batch of oyster soup recipes require some determined advance stock-making, so I am not sure they would qualify in most folks' minds. I guess freezing individual portions of stock would work though, wouldn't it?
Ardrishaig Savoury (for one person)
1 slice of square pan loaf, toasted and buttered; 1 tablespoonful grated cheese; 1 salt spoonful mustard; pepper, 1/2 oz butter; 1 dessertspoonful milk; 1 poached egg.
Place poached egg on centre of toast. Heat butter and milk in stew-pan. Mix cheese, mustard, and pepper, and stir quickly into the butter and milk. Place round poached egg on toast and serve hot. Garnish with parsley.
The Practical Daily Menu, C.B. Peacock (1927)
Oyster Soups.—(Each of the following is calculated for one person).
(a). The English Soup.—Take one pound of good lean beef, half a pound of raw lean ham, much parsley, and carrot roots, and a few onions ; cut all in very small pieces, and burnish it into a dark-brownish colour with spices, bay-leaves, whole pepper and butter: after having boiled this with water for five hours, pour it through a hair sieve, and then put to it a little brown flour, and two ounces of Sherry or Madeira, and after having boiled again for an hour, take all the fat clean off, and put into it the oysters with their beards and liquor, and with cayenne pepper; all this is to be boiled up again, and then served. This soup is to be recommended, especially in winter when it is very cold. For invalids, the wine, spices, and pepper are omitted. This soup is valuable for convalescents, being very strengthening and nourishing.
(b). The American Soup.—Take half a pint of good fresh milk, or cream if possible ; three ounces of good butter; boil this together, beat it up with the yolks of three eggs, and put into it six or twelve oysters with their beards and liquor; boil this up again, and in serving it up put into it a little cayenne pepper and a few drops of lemon juice. This soup is delicate ; but no prejudice ! Everybody must try it first. For invalids, butter, eggs, and pepper are omitted.
(c). The Holstein Soup.—Take good beef-stock, one-eighth of a pound of Sherry or Madeira, burnt flour, and proceed as with (a) ; and then beat it up with the yolks of two or three eggs. (The beard and the liquor must always be made use of, as they impart the strongest flavour of the oyster.)
The Oyster: where, how, and when to find, breed, cook, and eat it; Herbert Byng Hall (1861)
Quotation for the Day.
“You will never get out of pot or pan anything fundamentally better than what went into it. Cooking is not alchemy; there is no magic in the pot.”
'Dishes & Beverages Of The Old South' Martha McCulloch-Williams (1913)
While only from the not so distant past of 2009, this is a really lovely cookbook for "single" cooking...
The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones.
My favorite recipe is on pg 193 - Baked Polenta with Vegetables! An amazing vehicle for using those last end bits of veggies & cheese left residing in the fridge at the end of the week.
Delia Smith's "One is fun" is another good one - based on a BBC TV series she did some years ago.
Kate (Derby, UK)
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