Simple recipes for single man with tiny kitchen
March 4, 2010 5:45 AM   Subscribe

Another cooking question. I'm living for a while in a small studio apartment with very basic cooking facilities: two electric hobs and a kettle. What simple, yet tasty and nutritious, recipes do you recommend?

More data: there isn't much I won't eat. I've been living on bread, cheese, and sliced meat for a few days and it's getting boring. I'm living alone and have very limited storage space, a fridge but no freezer. I'm in Germany so anything that uses traditional German ingredients would be great.
posted by jonesor to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Rice and beans, rice and stir fry vegetables, rice and boiled chicken, rice and beef gravy, rice and ?. Rice is almost as easy to make as slicing meat so have at it.
posted by JJ86 at 5:59 AM on March 4, 2010

you could always make some potatoes and sausage. boil cut chunks of potato for five minutes, drain, toss in a pan with some oil. add salt, pepper, and saute til they brown. Add some mince garlic, sliced onion, and a couple proper German sausages.

Stove top cooking has pretty much endless possibilities. You can saute (chicken, veal, beef, sausages), stew, braise, boil, steam, just about anything. Stir-fries as mentioned above are pretty simple, and offer endless variety.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:06 AM on March 4, 2010

Fish, fish, and more fish! I eat poached salmon or pan-seared tuna almost every day, and never get tired of it.
posted by aquafortis at 6:09 AM on March 4, 2010

My wife and I lived in a studio with a 2-burner hotplate (is this the same as 2 hobs?) for a couple of years. Most things can be made in a pot or pain. In fact, the only things we couldn't do was bake, though we obviously had to be creative about number of burners. Virtually any one-pot dish will work.

Is it practical to get a toaster-oven for small things you want to bake/roast?
posted by JMOZ at 6:17 AM on March 4, 2010

sausage and mash
pretty much any chinese recipe whatsoever can be made in a single wok
any form of stew or crockpot recipe repurposed as a one pan stovetop recipe. Even recipes that involve the oven can be done on the stove, if you have a good pan and a low setting (and it's a stew-type recipe).
when in Germany ages ago there seemed to be a lot of "boil in the bag" meals available, they would work.
If you buy a pan with a steamer section that goes on the top, you can steam veg over your rice or potatoes. Or do it the lazy way and throw the veg in with the rice or potatoes :-)
Chicken noodle soup (or fish noodle soup, veg noodle soup, etc)
Fish (as someone mentioned above)
posted by emilyw at 6:24 AM on March 4, 2010

Stews are your friend. So are soups.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:24 AM on March 4, 2010

I have a cookery book for dishes that can be cooked on the hob in just one pot, its a British book that I couldn't find on, but this one is similar.
posted by ellieBOA at 6:26 AM on March 4, 2010

Chilis, stews, goulash, or any one pot meal would be idea in this situation. Get a little bit of meat from the store, along with some veg, prep it all, and start combining. Canned veggies are ideal for this kind of thing.
posted by SNWidget at 7:00 AM on March 4, 2010

As emilyw suggests, don't overlook pan-fried steak. I make the best steak in the world (no really) by chopping up some carrots, onions, and celery, and pan-frying a steak with it in just a tiny bit of butter and some seasoning salt. It's a one-pan meal. I buy eye of round, petit sirloin, or top sirloin, and tenderize it with one of these.
posted by The Deej at 7:07 AM on March 4, 2010

Err, bread, cheese and sliced meat are pretty much the only traditional German ingredients.
Soup or stews are a good option.
Here's a very simple store cupboard soup:
1 small onion finely diced
or 1 leek finely sliced
1 small clove of garlic crushed
1 can (450g) chopped tomatoes
1 medium potato in smallish dice
1 small tin (227g) cannellini/borlotti/haricot beans
500ml stock
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

Saute the onions/leeks and garlic gently in the oil until soft and translucent. Add the stock and potatoes and cook on a rolling boil for 5-10 minutes until the potatoes are beginning to soften.
Add the rest of the ingredients, turn the heat down and simmer gently for a further 20 minutes or so until the potatoes are soft and breaking down into the soup.
Add other vegetables or meat as required. For example, Savoy cabbage is in season right now, so finely slice some of that and put it in 5 minutes from the end.

If you want fresh vegetables find out where the local Turkish community shops, they always have the best produce a lot cheaper than the German supermarkets.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 7:19 AM on March 4, 2010

You've got limited available resources, but if there's an outlet somewhere, a slow cooker quickly becomes your friend. Soups, stews, roasts, it can do it all and it cooks both meat and veggies all at once.

You set it in the morning, forget it for the day and come home to amazing meals. It's a lifesaver.
posted by Hiker at 7:21 AM on March 4, 2010

You might find this askme useful.
posted by threeants at 7:24 AM on March 4, 2010

Eggs In Hell - An impressively tasty and inexpensive one-pan recipe from the wartime cookbook How To Cook A Wolf:


4 tablespoons Olive oil
1 clove Garlic
1 Onion
2 cups Italian-style tomato sauce *(I used 3)
1 teaspoon Minced mixed herbs (basil, thyme)
1 teaspoon Parsley; minced
Salt and pepper
8 Eggs
Slices of French bread, thin, toasted

Slowly heat oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and onion, minced, and cook until golden. Then add the tomato sauce and the seasonings and herbs. Cook about fifteen minutes, stirring often. Into this sauce break the eggs. Spoon the sauce over them, cover closely with a lid, and cook very slowly until eggs are done, or about fifteen minutes. (If the skillet is a heavy one, you can turn off the heat and cook in fifteen minutes with what is stored in the metal.) When done, put the eggs carefully on the slices of dry toast, and cover with sauce. Grated Parmesan cheese is good on this, as is hot sauce.

(note: you can reduce the recipe, I just heat 3/4 c tomato sauce from a jar to make this for myself. It's also entirely customizable of course)

posted by lizbunny at 7:25 AM on March 4, 2010

It's an American cookbook, but Molly Stevens' All About Braising will give you excellent guidance in learning how to maximize this small space.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:04 AM on March 4, 2010

If you have a crock pot these recepies should keep you going.
posted by adamvasco at 8:30 AM on March 4, 2010

Err, bread, cheese and sliced meat are pretty much the only traditional German ingredients.

I don't know, I'd put "large chunks of meat in various sauces accompanied by dumplings or potatoes" pretty high on the list too, but I'm admittedly not familiar with North German stuff. Anyway, most German dumpling-style dishes are boiled in a pot on the stovetop - knödel and spätzle are delicious and totally do-able. (You can get pre-made dough for these at grocery stores, or make it from scratch, which tastes much better and I honestly don't think is much more work.) Any sort of boiled or fried (or mashed) potatoes should be easy to prepare with nothing but a pot or a pan. While some traditional recipes really do need an oven, some of the traditional meat recipes don't - the sauerbraten recipe I use, for example, mostly needs a stewpot or dutch oven. Similarly, stews and soups shouldn't pose any problems.

(Obviously the same goes for non-German stuff: dumplings and pasta and rice, stews, curries, stir-fries, braised, steamed, or sauteed stuff, etc.)
posted by ubersturm at 8:39 AM on March 4, 2010

Bean and sausage stew
posted by caddis at 8:51 AM on March 4, 2010

Even when I had four hobs, I only ever used two. One hob for boiling pasta (and/or rice, if you don't have a rice maker), and the other hob for cooking meat and vegetables.

For a 10-20 minute dinner for 1-2 people:

1) put on pasta to boil (set timer if you are forgetful like me and are likely to overcook it).

2) heat 25ml of oil in wide, deep frying pan (the kind with a 4-5cm edge is best) -- add whole/dry flavouring (garlic, onions, hot peppers, spices -- what ever you like -- curry powder), and cook that in the oil for a bit -- the oil brings out the flavouring. I do everything on high heat, because I'm impatient -- this works so long as you are constantly monitoring/stirring so that things do not burn.

3) A few minutes later, with the heat on high, add raw sliced meat -- beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, ostrich -- it really doesn't matter. If you are vegetarian, add quorn, tofu or chick peas. (Lentils work, but tend to cook down to a smush). Brown for flavour (don't need to cook through). At this stage you want to add any wet flavourings -- soy sauce, thai curry paste. (Though I add my hot sauce to the oil first.)

4) Add vegetables. Now here is where you can introduce VARIETY. Some nights I add chopped celery and then kale. Sometimes I would add fresh tomatoes and collard greens. Or vice versa. Or sweet bell peppers.

Cook just long enough to lightly cook the vegetables (lightly cooked usually taste better) and finish cooking the meat/protien. Serve over rice/pasta.

You now have a dinner with starch, protien and vegetables. My husband and I ate some variety of this basic recipe 4-5/7 nights a week (with one night of take-out and another night fried steaks or sausages). If you like tomato sauce, you can vary it by adding a can of diced raw tomatos to your meat before the other vegetables and cooking on med-high for 10-20 minutes to reduce it down to thick sauce. And obviously, there is great variety in what flavourings, meat and/or vegetables you choose.

I have become a convert to rice makers -- I don't know how generally available they are in Germany, but if you have a significant East Asian population, they will be available. You apparently can make pasta in a rice maker, but I haven't tried. More than just freeing up a hob, rice makers allow you to completely ignore your rice and never burn or over-cook it. (I have set off fire alarms making rice).
posted by jb at 8:55 AM on March 4, 2010

I realise my cooking may not be traditionally German -- but all of the ingrediants are easily found in Canadian, British and American stores -- it's basically reliant on raw meat, vegetables, and pasta/rice. If pasta/rice are not available locally, you could substitute bread or potatos -- or, if your stirfry is more sauce-y, do quick cooking dumplings on top.

Or, to be extra healthy, just drop the starch and fill up on protein and vegetables. (I don't know about Germans, but traditional Anglos tend to have a very starch heavy diet -- starchy breakfast, starchy lunch -- we don't need that much starch at dinner).
posted by jb at 8:59 AM on March 4, 2010

Do you have the space (and the money) to add a microwave oven? It's really not just for heating stuff up - there are some really good receipies out there for some astoundingly satisfactory meals. Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet is the bible on this.
posted by aqsakal at 9:09 AM on March 4, 2010

Almost everything I cook I make with only two pots, so don't feel held back. You can do a lot with that!

But when I lived in Germany and had the same set up, I made a lot of pasta. I'd buy elbow macaroni, boil it a bit short of al dente, drain and throw back into the same pot, add some vegetables I had chopped while waiting for the pasta to cook - my favorite combination was tomatoes and winterfeldsalat with liberal doses of pepper and parmesan. Just would heat it a tad and eat. A bit unusual maybe, but an easy one-pot meal!
posted by beyond_pink at 9:32 AM on March 4, 2010

Cous cous, quick to cook. Pasta and sauce (with veggies like celery, mushrooms, onion or shallots) thown-in, two hot plates should cover that if you have the pans. A single pan, toss in some cut-up tomatoes, potatoes, celery, mushrooms, add some lemon or Worcestershire sauce. Another option is frozen hashbrowns, toss in a beaten egg, sounds disgusting, but acually quite good. Those are my bachelor basics. In the morning, a bagel, slice of cheese, fried egg, and sliced ham or something. Don't forget bread and jam. Rice with some sweet and sour or soy sauce. All these are extremely easy to cook, even with one pan and a hot plate.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:39 AM on March 4, 2010

For quick and healthy, I make a soba noodle soup. I don't remember where I copied the recipe from, but this is the basics. I put whatever vegetables I feel like (roughly chopped baby bok choy, sliced mushrooms - anything that cooks fast). I also put in whatever meat (or none) - thinly sliced chicken, shredded already cooked chicken, this week I turned sausages into tiny meatballs. I also up the ginger a bit as I like it.

(serves 2)
250g soba noodles (though I use about 90g per person as this is the size the bundles of soba noodles that I buy come in and is plenty)
2 cups stock
1 cup water
1/8 cup miso paste (can't remember what color original recipe called for, I have white at the moment)
1/2 tsp ginger
1 cup spinach
1-2 spring onions

Cook noodles according to packet directions. Rinse with cold water. Combine stock, water, miso and ginger in saucepan, simmer 3 mins. Add chicken, cook 2 mins. Add spinach, cook 1 min. Add spring onion, cook 1 min. Taste and adjust seasoning (I've also added a dash of mirin). Put noodles in warmed bowls and ladle soup over the top.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:35 PM on March 4, 2010

Parcook and then pan-fry egg noodles, dose liberally with freshly cracked pepper, and top with any meat you fancy and have cooked on the other hob. The noodles can be stored sans refrigeration of course and don't require any other ingredients except boiling water and salt and pepper, freeing you up a lot. And they're versatile and comforting. They're a good template for all kinds of German food--if later you get ambitious with your meat cooking and end up with sour cream sauces, garlicky residual cooking oil and whatnot, your noodles will soak them up nicely. Yum.

And as mentioned, soup is everyone's friend. One pot, dump water/stock and any fresh produce you happen to have, bit of meat if you like, leftover greens, cheese or potatoes if you feel like's very forgiving stuff. The only caveat is soup tends to make a lot just by its "and the kitchen sink" nature ingredient-wise, and if you don't have a freezer you'll have to scarf it up by the week's end. But it's a consideration, anyway.
posted by ifjuly at 12:00 PM on March 5, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions.
Someone also pointed out this, via MefiMail: First Get The Pot.
posted by jonesor at 6:54 AM on April 6, 2010

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