Cooking and entertaining were at the heart of everything foodie Sarah Tuck loved to do until her life shifted in 2016. "My kids headed off to university, and my husband left; I felt like I no longer had any purpose in life," she tells MyDomaine. As someone who once found joy in recipe creation, the founder of Stuck in the Kitchen says she barely wanted to eat. "I have always shown my love for people by cooking for them, but when I found myself on my own, I just had no energy or inclination to cook (or eat) for at least three months."
Now, almost a year later, Tuck is poised to launch her first cookbook, Coming Unstuck, a collection of recipes that helped her get through this difficult period, and reignite her love for great food. "I realized it was my responsibility to take care of myself, give myself a bit of love, and to show others how to do it with minimum fuss and maximum flavor," she tells us.
The key to loving cooking for one, she says, is shifting the way you think about mealtime. "I can now let my mood rule my choices without having to consider anyone else's needs—at first I found it sad, but now I find that aspect a real treat." As for her top tip? Don't skimp on nice napkins and dinnerware. "One thing I would suggest is making your experience special—no takeout containers! I always use good china and glassware as if I was serving dinner to a guest."
Dining solo? Start with these hearty, delicious meals made for one.
Salmon Pizza for One
Ingredients for the Pizza Dough:
4 cups high-grade bread flour
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1 1⁄2 cups tepid water
1 tsp. caster sugar
1⁄3 oz. sachet dried yeast
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Ingredients for the Salmon Pizza:
1⁄3 cup grated mozzarella
1⁄3 cup finely grated parmesan
3 1⁄2 oz. sliced smoked salmon
2 oz. buffalo mozzarella, drained on a paper towel
1–2 tbsp. capers
1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1 small lemon, quartered (optional)
Mix flour and salt together in a bowl. Put water in a jug, whisk in sugar, gently stir in yeast, and leave to sit for five minutes until the mixture has a frothy top. Add olive oil, and then either mix by hand or use a mixer with a dough hook to bring the dough together, and knead for five to 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Put into a bowl greased with a little extra olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and leave to sit in a warmish spot for 45 minutes. Remove from the bowl, knock the air out, and knead a minute or two further. Divide it into four balls, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for at least two hours. Each ball will make one largish pizza—I always save a few pieces for (ahem) breakfast.
Preheat the oven to 450°F, and put an oven tray in to heat up (or use a pizza oven or pizza stone if you have them). Sprinkle a little flour on a piece of baking paper, roll the dough out directly onto it, and then pop it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the grated mozzarella and parmesan over the pizza base, and then top with smoked salmon. Tear the buffalo mozzarella into tablespoon-size chunks, dot over the pizza, and then season with salt and pepper. Carefully slide the prepared pizza onto the hot oven tray, and cook 12 to 15 minutes until golden. Sprinkle with capers and dill, and then squeeze a bit of lemon juice if you like. Serve with a green salad and a glass of your favorite wine.
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, trimmed, halved lengthways and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large agria (floury) potato, peeled, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 quart good-quality chicken or vegetable stock
1 head broccoli, chopped into florets
1 cup frozen peas
4 oz. baby spinach leaves
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup basil leaves (reserve a few for garnish)
1⁄4 cup mint leaves
1⁄2 cup natural Greek-style yogurt
1⁄4 cup dukkah
Heat butter and oil in a large pot over medium heat, and cook onion and leek for 10 minutes (season with salt during this time). Add potato and garlic, cook for two to three minutes, add stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook 15 to 20 minutes until potato is soft.
Add broccoli and peas, and cook for five minutes, add spinach, and remove from the heat, allowing spinach to wilt—give it a poke of encouragement. Fresh off the heat, transfer to a food processor. Add cream, basil, and mint, and whizz again until smooth, taste for seasoning, and add sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with a swirl of yogurt, some fresh basil leaves, and a sprinkling of dukkah. Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two days.
7 oz. sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
7 oz. squash, peeled, deseeded, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 1⁄2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. runny honey
1 tsp. cumin seeds
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup uncooked brown rice (or quinoa, freekeh, or couscous)
1⁄2 cup caramelized onions
1⁄2 cup basil pesto
1 avocado, halved, chopped
2 tbsp. dukkah or chopped roasted almonds Cilantro to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F, and put the vegetables in a baking dish. Top with oil, honey, and cumin seeds, and season well with salt and pepper. Swirl around to combine, and then bake for 20 to 25 minutes until cooked through. Meanwhile, cook rice according to packet instructions, and drain. Stir through caramelized onions, pesto, sweet potato, and squash. Fold in avocado, and serve immediately with a sprinkling of dukkah. This quantity serves two, but I often eat it two nights in a row or nibble at leftovers for lunch for the next few days.
If I'm preparing rice, I'll often cook up a large batch and freeze the leftovers in one-cup portions ready to nuke for the next time I want to whip up dishes like this.
Sarah Tuck's cookbook, Coming Un Stuck goes on sale September 19.
What's your go-to recipe when cooking dinner for one?