On the rare occasion that I find myself home alone for the evening, cooking dinner for myself goes out of the window. I know that for many people, getting into the kitchen after a hard day’s work is their way to unwind, but I am usually rather grateful for a night off. If I’m feeling particularly energetic, I will grill myself something to put atop a salad; if I really can’t be arsed, it’ll be marmite on toast or a trip to the chip shop (Seamasters on Forest Hill Road, just in case you’re interested).
I spend a lot of time cooking for others; whether it be a supper for Ollie and I, lunch for friends, or a birthday cake; and I love it, but I’ve always felt that there is no point in cooking an entire meal just for me. When I was a student and Ollie spent large chunks of time on tour, I would make a pot of something and live off it for three or four days. Some people might be horrified by this, but although I love cooking, I also love the thought of spending a whole evening watching Netflix and doing minimal dishes, from time to time. It seems I’m not the only one. Many of my friends, especially those with children, will seldom cook a meal when it is just for them.
I was reading an old article by Jay Rayner on the idea of cooking for one. He argued that this was the perfect opportunity to cook things exactly as you want them, without having to consider anybody else. He cites putting more heat in a Thai curry and sea salt on chocolate ice cream as his lone dining guilty pleasures. For me, being home alone is the time to eat the kind of crap that others would turn their nose up at if you presented it as dinner. For example: I have one of those toasters with an egg poacher on the side, and love to poach a perfectly circular egg and put it in a split and toasted English muffin with two slices of slappy American cheese and a load of ketchup. Pretty filthy, but so good.
This weekend Ollie was on his stag do and I was home alone. Ordinarily, I would have stocked up on all kinds of junk and bookmarked some trash TV on my subscription services, but the image of the wedding dress I have to squeeze into in a little over a month was hanging over me like a giant warning sign. ‘Dinner for One’ needed a new, healthy makeover.
When rooting through the cupboard for inspiration, I found a little pot of Mexican spice mix that I made back in February. On sticking my nose in, I realised that it hadn’t lost its potency and, although I initially thought it would be ace in a grilled cheese sandwich, I decided to use it as the basis of something healthier. When mixed with chipotle paste, lime juice and soy sauce and a little olive oil, it became a very punchy marinade for a lone chicken breast. To accompany this, a summery salsa of ripe avocados and even riper tomatoes, mixed up with lime juice, chilli and garlic. A very virtuous meal if ever there was one.
Chipotle Chicken with Avocado-Tomato Salsa
½ tsp Mexican spice mix
1 tsp chipotle paste
- Juice of 2 limes, separated
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 chicken breast
- 1 medium avocado, diced
- 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 3 spring onions, finely sliced
- 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Salt and black pepper
- Salad leaves
In a small bowl, combine the Mexican spice mix, chipotle paste, juice of one of the limes and the honey. Place the chicken breast in a wide shallow bowl and pout over the chipotle mixture. Use your hands to coat the chicken and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least an hour.
In the meantime, make the avocado-tomato salsa. In a large bowl combine the avocado, tomatoes, spring onions, chilli and garlic. Pour over the lime juice and gently stir until the ingredients are well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill in the fridge until needed.
Put a griddle pan over a high heat and, once hot, grill the chicken until cooked through.
Arrange the salad leaves in the bowl. Slice the chicken breast diagonally and place the slices on top. Spoon the salsa over the chicken.