Too often, Ed Smith argues, recipes focus on feeding a crowd or cooking as a couple and overlook the joy that can be had in shopping and cooking for one. In a monthly series, he looks to redress this imbalance by taking the best of the Market’s offering and using it to come up with a recipe for one, that leaves minimal leftovers. This time: fish, chips and curry sauce
When I’m shopping around the Market for just me, one of the things that nags most is that I can’t get involved in all the glory ingredients that are tailor-made for group feasting: the ribs of beef, the whole pork bellies, the large fish, big squash, quarters of stilton. I’ve an appetite that could be described as greedy, but these things are beyond even me. Yet at the same time, I don’t want to survive only on single fillets of fish, a solo steak or chop, or mini punnet of mushrooms. To eat just those things feels a bit reductive at a time when everyone’s talking about nose to tail, fin to gill and root to fruit eating.
All is not lost. In fact, last week I was perusing the counter at Shellseekers Fish and Game, and the whole-fish options for a solo eater were plentiful—and wallet-friendly too. There were piles of fresh sardines and herrings. There were bream and red mullets to feed one person, skate wings ready to go (not the whole fish, of course, but its on-the-bone nature ensures a similar vibe), and there were also a good number of incredible dab and plaice.
In the end I was drawn to the latter. Whole grilled turbot, john dory and brill are a bit of a ‘thing’ in London restaurants at the moment. But for one, a small plaice (around 500-600g before trimming) is frankly as satisfying (not to mention very economical). Moreover, roasting a flat fish in the oven is a really easy and effective way to cook; the ratio of effort to satisfaction for a solo eater is a positive one.
When craving calls
What to have with it? I grabbed a bunch of relatively bulbous spring onions from Chegworth Valley—these would act as a trivet and then become a no-work bit of veg in the finished dish—and then headed to Spice Mountain, where the curry spice mixes caught my eye. Curry spices and fish is one of my favourite things, and a number of their pots work really well with seafood. I’ve used their Sri Lankan and Thai green curry mixes with seafood before, but the Keralan option stood out to me on this occasion; subtle enough to work with the gentle flavour of plaice, but also with a colour reminiscent of chip shop curry sauce—what’s not to love?
Which turned my thoughts to a sauce, rather than a spice rub. That sauce could’ve been made just with a little cream or water and butter, but I saw a block of Indonesian creamed coconut near the spices and it struck me what a good larder option this is for solo eaters: rather than open whole tins of coconut cream every time a recipe (or craving) calls for it, you can simply grate 20g or so into a bowl and cover with 100-200ml boiling water to make the amount you need. The rest of that block can go back in a cool cupboard until you next need it.
A whole roast plaice with roast spring onions and a coconut curry sauce… almost perfect, but perhaps missing a final flourish. So, I headed back to Shellseekers and bought just a handful of clams (another good thing about the Market is you can buy exactly the quantity you need), which would add an additional briny quality to that sauce. Some chips on the side, and there you have it.
Frankly, I was delighted I didn’t have to share it.