Cooking for one can bring serious satisfaction – especially if you try this dish

Stephen Harris
The Beatles may not have understood loneliness, but Stephen Harris is all for the solo supper - Andrew Twort

The story of the Beatles seems to be getting more and more remarkable as time goes by. One of their greatest songs, Eleanor Rigby, has intrigued people for years, partly because of the main character’s perfect name. Paul McCartney thought he had made up the name by compounding Eleanor Bron, who had worked on the film Help!, with Rigby & Evens wine shop in Bristol where his then girlfriend was in a play.

This kept people happy until, many years after the song was written, someone noticed an old gravestone with the name Eleanor Rigby in a churchyard near John Lennon’s house, about 20 yards from the spot where Lennon and McCartney had first met at a church hall in 1957.

The song is also remarkable in that a couple of millionaire songwriters in their early 20s should worry about “all the lonely people”. In the world of food, we just casually write our recipes for four or six, without much thought for the roughly eight million people who live on their own. I am not suggesting that these people are all lonely but it seems that 15 per cent of households in the UK are made up of people on their own, and yet I don’t think I have ever written a recipe for one before.

On a personal level, I remember when I’d moved back from London to my home town of Whitstable in 1996 and I was living on my own, I walked to the butcher’s at the end of my road to buy some lamb chops for my weekday lunch. The sun was shining, and the springtime sea air was clean and crisp. This seemed so far from getting the packed London Underground in the dark from Wood Green to Russell Square. It felt so liberating tucking into my lamb chops on my own, during the week.

I still like to cook lunch for myself occasionally: I find pre-cooked supermarket meals strangely unsatisfying. I say “strangely” because they are often very well made and perfectly tasty. But somehow they just don’t satisfy me. Perhaps this is because for me, cooking food, with the sense of anticipation it creates, is part of enjoying it.

Today’s recipe for one is simple but it contains the interesting idea of rendering the fat from the pork chop by cooking it on its side first. This is why it helps to get a thick chop with the skin removed. If you cook it this way, the fat thus released can then be used to cook the chop in the normal way and then the leeks.

Cooking vegetables in animal fat is very “on trend”, so you can sit back and enjoy your lunch in the knowledge that someone will be copying your idea on MasterChef or The Great British Menu sometime soon.

If you want to reduce your fat intake, just pour some of the fat from the pan – but I subscribe to the Nigella theory that eating fat is like “moisturising from the inside”, so I keep it. It also has so much flavour.

It is easy to turn this into a meal for two by just standing two chops on their sides in the pan and leaning them against each other. In other words: if Eleanor Rigby ever invited Father McKenzie to eat they could simply double the amounts given here, and enjoy a properly cooked lunch without having to resort to a supermarket ready meal.