Do you need a solo supper alternative to ham and cheese quesadillas or UberEats? Do you need to rethink what comfort food could be? Are you looking for a bowl of supper that can make you feel good and be made in less time than it takes to cue something on Netflix? I think I can help. These Meat and Three Veg Bowls are my flying-solo saviours. If you need the recipe stat, skip straight to the matching photo at the bottom. If you have time for some chat, read on.
These bowls are what I often make when I’m doing the solo thing.
(Nb, I am well aware of my privilege and think it’s useful to acknowledge upfront that solo parenting for any spell is a VASTLY different and easier kettle of fish than single parenting. Ok. Glad I got that out of the way).
While it can be tempting to live like a teenager while The Hungry One/spouse is away, I learned the hard way that some things are essential for morale. For one; eating a proper meal with lots of veg, some broth and a little bit of protein helps stop me getting sick. And considering how CONSTANTLY snivelling daycare germs streak into this house, that’s a good thing. Because this my friends, is a job without any sick leave. (The day my children are old enough to fix their own breakfast and bring poorly Mum a cup of tea in bed in the morning, I’ll be tempted to break into a rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus).
Here are some other hard-earned lessons for anyone flying solo for a spell.
Keep a few Netflix series which are bookmarked just for you. That way you don’t have to worry about ‘cheating’ on your spouse by watching ahead (and pretending when they return that you didn’t. The technology will always rat you out).
Make an effort to tidy the main living area of the house for five minutes before you go to sleep at night. It’ll make the mornings a lot less grim.
Keep a spare phone charged somewhere in the house. You don’t want to not have a landline, have your phone bizarrely go on the fritz and be alone in the dark with a child with asthma. It’s not great for morale.
Get out. Particularly on the weekends. Ballsily invite yourself along on other people’s weekend plans. Or invite people over. Cooking for a crowd is much easier than staring down a solitary Sunday with two tempestuous small-fry.
Get cosy with star charts. I’m not just talking about an occasionally-helpful-behavioural-modification tool to encourage children not go to the dogs if one parent is absent. I’m talking about for you. Did you make it through a week without distractedly getting speeding fine in a school zone while you were lobbing a teething rusk at the howls in the backseat of the car? Did you manage not to lose a child at the supermarket? Not lose your cool completely at a child in the supermarket? Star, star, star. At the end of the week if you’ve got five, crack a bottle of the good red.
Treat yourself to a babysitter. Get out of the house and see a movie/have a swim/go eat cheese with a friend. At some point you’re going to need to do this.
And make yourself some real food. My default one pan wonder is to either buy a piece of quality protein; a piece of nice fish, a small steak or a pork chop, or delve into the freezer for portions of slow roasted lamb shoulder or pulled pork that I’ve divvied up in preparation just for weeks like this. You’re going to want some broth. Sure, if you’ve made you’re own broth, that’s terrific. But if you haven’t then these days there are some pretty great broth-concentrates that you can buy in hipster organic food stores that will keep in the fridge and quickly add collagen and other immune boosting goodness, plus a great punch of umami flavour into your veg. My current favourite is Best of the Bone.
You’re also going to want at least three veggies; because everything is better in threes. My go to are Tuscan kale and courgette/zucchini and onion. Two of these are going to be sauteed and braised with some garlic. The other is going to be thinly sliced and quickly pickled with some apple cider vinegar and when kept in a tupperware will instantly add zip and sparkle to most of your meals for the week (try it with smashed avo on anything).
Then you’re going to want a condiment. I find making (or buying) some roast beetroot hummus at the cusp of the week is a great headstart to many a thing. To make it simply blitz together four small roasted beets (or vacuum sealed cooked beets) with a drained tin of chickpeas and a tablespoon of tahini.
To make it all come together simply cook or warm your protein and while it’s resting sautee and braise the veggies in broth in that same pan. Add the protein to the veggies, adorn with the beet puree, pickled onion and top with seeds. Eat out of a bowl. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Sleep well (ha. At least try to). And repeat.
There are endless ways you can vary this formula. Swap the Tuscan kale for Swiss chard, Chinese greens or kale. Switch the courgette for fennel, mushrooms or peppers. Add spices like smoked paprika, or ground coriander and cumin. Swap the broth for miso and take it in a Japanese direction. Add some soy and sesame oil for Chinese. Swap the pepitas for almonds, walnuts, pistachios or sesame seeds. Pickle some finely sliced radish or fennel instead of onion. But what you want is a comforting bowl of broth-softened veggies, a palm-sized portion of quality protein, a condiment, a pickle and something for crunch. That my friends, is my greatest hack for keeping on, keeping on.
That, and working internet. Without it, most bets are off.
Here are a few other things that are going on:
Celebrating: Some of the woman I love most in the world are currently expecting their first babies. With that in mind I’ve made ‘Poppyseed to Pumpkin’ the app, free on the app store for a spell. Send it to any of your expecting friends with a promise to make them something for the freezer (like the banana choc oat cookies, or the apple pulled pork, or butternut squash and black bean chilli), or just download it so you’ve got some of my favourite recipes on your phone at any point in time. See here.
Reading: This piece on what the contemporary science says about how to handle an unruly kid. We’ve had some challenges with Will in the last few weeks. Yes his Dad’s away. He’s started a new kindy. His asthma medication makes him pretty bonkers. His little sister is no longer a squishy log, but tries to steal his toys and likes to chew on our shins for kicks. I’m aiming for more empathy, more positive attention, less time out. Wish us luck.
Watching: There’s been a lot of Netflix in the past few weeks. I inhaled the entire first season of the new ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ and wept in every episode, bar one. It’s the loveliest reality TV since ‘The Great British Bake Off’. I’m also loving David Chang and Peter Meehan’s ‘Ugly Delicious’ (except I feel a bit conflicted about Azis Ansari’s presence in it, but am also loving the way it uses food as a tool to unite, rather than divide us). Similarly I loved ‘Seeing Allred’, about the life of firebrand feminist attorney Gloria Allred and her campaign against Bill Cosby (among others).
Listening: In Australia the ABC has just launched a kids radio app. The storytime section is great, but it’s the ‘Quiet Time’ section of soothing classical music that’s getting the most airplay over here. Thanks ABC. You’re grand.
Loving: I was given some Dharma Bums leggings for Christmas and I’m a convert. I’ve since got myself another pair, in the Asian Gardens print. I never thought I’d be a printed leggings kind of girl (well, not since I wore them with scrunchy socks, hiking boots and a thigh length jumper in 1995), but what do you know. They’re cheerful and oh-so-comfortable. See them here. (Nb, the sizes are SMALL. Go big).
Eating: Far too many hipster-honey joys. I made a large batch of them for a friends’ kids’ birthday party. I promptly forgot to take them to the party (numpty), so I’ve been making my way through 24 honey joys in the last few weeks. These ones are made with coconut oil, honey, a little bit of sea salt and cornflakes and are OUTRAGEOUSLY good when consumed with some dark chocolate and some dried cranberries when you’ve finally got the kids in bed. They couldn’t be easier; to make 12 just line a muffin tin with 12 patty cake liners. Preheat the oven to 160C/320 F. Melt together 100 g of coconut oil or butter with 4 tbsp of either honey or rice malt syrup. Mix it through 5 cups of corn flakes and add a good pinch of sea salt flakes. Portion into the muffin tins and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden, then allow to harden in the fridge until serving.
Meat and Three Veg Bowl
Serves one (but easily doubles)
70-100 g of cooked protein (pulled pork, shredded slow cooked lamb shoulder), or a small piece of salmon, sea bass, lamb backstrap, pork chop, steak etc)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut into slivers
1 small courgette/zuchinni, cut in half lengthways, then into slim semi circle coins (can swap for a double handful of mushrooms, half a fennel, half a red capsicum etc)
1 cup chopped Tuscan kale
3/4 cup of chicken or beef broth
2 tbsp beet hummus (or regular hummus)
1/4 red onion, cut into slim half moons and steeped in 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt for 10 minutes (or kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks)
2 tbsp pepitas/pumpkin seeds (or other nuts/seeds)
1 To make the quick pickled onions scrunch the onion slivers with the salt in your fingertips in a tupperware. Pour over the apple cider vinegar and scrunch some more. Put the lid on, give a shake and set aside until you’re ready to serve.
2. Season your protein (lamb/fish/pork/steak etc) with salt and cook in the fry pan until medium rare, ( if you’re using pre-portioned lamb shoulder or pulled pork you stashed in the freezer from an earlier, canny time then warm it), then set aside to rest while you prep your veg.2 Chop your greens and the rest of your veg into small, forkable pieces.
3 Add the olive oil to the base of your large fry pan. Add the garlic and the courgette and sautee for 3-4 minutes until the courgette takes on some colour.
4. Add the kale and sautee quickly to soften.
5. Pour over your broth and allow to come to the boil. Cook for a few minutes until the broth reduces and coats your veggies.
6 Transfer the veg and broth to a bowl, top with your protein. Add the beet hummus, pickled onions and seeds. Eat.