Book reviews by Mobilism's Book Review team
Jun 29th, 2019, 12:03 pm

TITLE: Solo: The Joy of Cooking for One
AUTHOR: Signe Johansen
GENRE: Non-Fiction, Books > Cookbooks, Comfort Food > Quick & Easy Meals
PUBLISHED: 25 Jan. 2018
RATING: ★★★★☆

PURCHASE LINKS: Amazon iBookStore

Review: We live in an age during which meditation and mindfulness are all the rage, and whilst many roll their eyes at the notion of self-care, how many times have you thought ‘Why bother cooking when I’m alone?’ because cooking for one is too much effort. Let’s face it, you don’t want to be buying extra ingredients and go grocery shopping, rather just pick up some microwave meal deal, or packed sandwiches... It might not be the warm, cosy meal you wanted on your night in but it is calories.

I have had to face the conundrum a couple of times when I had to cook for myself solo, and felt lazy to make the effort. I was out of my fave go-to instant ramen; I ended up making Cacio é Pepe, a 4 ingredient pasta dish for myself. They say necessity is the mother of invention; I beg to differ. I say it’s laziness! Pick up any cookbook and you will see that the recipes mostly serve 4-5 people; they’re all aimed to captivate the audience who are cooking for family and friends. It’s surprising that we do not have more cookbooks whose market audience are people who live alone or cook for just two people. As I was eating my pasta for one, it struck me that, there should be more cookbooks which aim at cooking for one, hence I ended up with Solo by Signe Johansen.

To quote from the book
Nigel Slater once wrote: ‘Cooking for yourself is simply a matter of self-respect’ – an act of kindness to yourself, that nourishes both mind and body. So, rather than asking why you should bother cooking for yourself, try reframing your thinking: start with the assumption that looking after yourself is an essential act of kindness, and suddenly cooking a few simple dishes doesn’t seem like such a chore. It’s rewarding, meaningful and can be fun.'

Signe Johansen is a Norwegian chef who's trained at Leiths School of Food and Wine in London, worked in several of the UK’s top restaurants and already has two successful books Scandilicious and How To Hygge: The Secrets of Scandinavian Living. Signe’s, Solo: The Joy of Cooking for One is beautifully photographed and designed in a simple manner, the cookbook includes 80 simple yet scrumptious and uncomplicated recipes, many of them no-cook fast food and one-pot dishes to motivate you to cook more for yourself.

The chapters are divided into Light Bites and Things on Toast, Easy Weeknight Suppers, One-Pan Wonders, Make Ahead, Salads, Mezze and Tapas, Simple Pleasures, Lazy Weekends, and Sweet Things. There are also sections on useful kitchen kit, kitchen staples, and Signe's favourite fresh ingredients. A tactical approach to kitchen kit, she cites her micro-plane as a great tool for helping use up odds and ends: ‘Ginger, garlic, citrus zest. A good peeler is her other hint — ‘great for turning firm veg into ribbons without a spiraliser. Just because you’re cooking for yourself, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be attractive according to her. Solo also includes big batch recipes that you can make and enjoy throughout the week. Signe also recommends doing an inventory every couple of weeks of what’s in your cupboards, fridge and freezer.

Although the author is Norwegian the recipes are from around the globe such as the Middle East, Europe, Japan, Korea, India, and Latin America. I like the ‘Variations’ that are given at the end of each recipe, to jazz it up and play around with. For example, the roasted cauliflower recipe, she has given six variations to the original recipe, four of them just by changing the spice used; the recipe becomes, Moroccan, middle eastern, Indian, and Italian! Her mushroom on toast recipe is very similar to my favourite mushroom bruschetta recipe, the minor only differences are I use any mushrooms available at the store and shallots along with the garlic.
Wild mushrooms on toast

    2 slices of sourdough bread or bread of choice
    25g butter, plus extra to serve (optional)
    1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil, plus extra to serve (optional)
    1 sprig of thyme
    150g wild mushrooms, wiped clean and roughly chopped
    1 garlic clove, finely chopped or thinly sliced
    small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
    splash of lemon juice or vinegar
    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toast the bread so the slices are nice and crisp.
Heat the butter and oil in a medium frying pan over a medium-high heat until the butter is foaming, then add the sprig of thyme (this flavours the fat), followed by the wild mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper, remove the thyme sprig, and cook until the mushrooms are golden brown and a little caramelised. Keep tossing them so they don’t burn on the bottom of the pan.
Turn down the heat to low. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute, then add the parsley and a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to add a little vibrant acidity.
Drizzle a little oil on your pieces of toast or spread them with butter and top with the wild mushrooms. Eat immediately.

– A little heat from the chilli, cayenne or Tabasco wouldn’t go amiss.
– Adding a tiny amount of Marmite/Vegemite to the pan gives depth of flavour to the mushrooms,
– Vary the herbs: rosemary, oregano and basil would all work instead of the thyme or parsley.

Solo is an extremely useful cookbook to have if you cook for one or two people; admit it, scaling up the recipe from one to two people is far simpler than dividing the recipe given for four.

Solo, I believe, is an excellent addition to any person’s library, whether he or she isn’t cooking now but wants to cook, used to cook but has become lazy and must get back into the habit, or learning to cook on your own now that you don’t live with your parents.
Jun 29th, 2019, 12:03 pm