Me - Could you recommend a dish from Luxembourg I should try while I'm here?
Luxembourg barman - No. There aren't any.
Well, that about sums it up.
I’ve been in Luxembourg for five days with a new production at the Theatre de la Ville and have so far succeeded in not eating a single meal out. I’ve multiple motivations: the above conversation; being broke; wanting to take advantage of my tiny but functional studio Airbnb apartment; needing to get a grip on my calorie intake after two excessive weeks of cheese and wine consumption in France (a recurrent theme in my life). Plus, the best restaurant anyone has found so far seems to be serving vacuum packed meals reheated in a microwave.
I've got my own microwave.
I’m always confused when I arrive in a rental apartment and it looks like no one has ever used the kitchen. Apparently people have actually lived here, but there wasn’t even any way to make coffee when I arrived. What?! I know. My host, Fabrizio, told me there was some instant in the cupboard and I politely suggested he might like to offer an alternative option.
And so began my daily requests for kitchen supplements. Fabrizio has proved so far to be thoroughly good natured and obliging. Perhaps (I hope) it’s a relief to have somebody living here who finally wants to exist like a normal, civilised person. Maybe he’s used to bankers with a big budget for takeouts. And who have Nespresso machines at the office.
After the filter coffee machine, my next sheepish request was for some plates. The few already on offer were either large bowls or side plates. Am I being unreasonable? I think not. Eating an omelette out of bowl is just wrong.
The oven is too clean. As if nobody's ever used it. Next on the list was an oven dish, which arrived yesterday. I stumbled across a lovely fruit and vegetable market the other day so I’m looking forward to roasting some lovely Autumn veg this weekend and making some nice oil spatters from grilled corn on the cob.
I bought a third mug myself as I didn’t want to be too pushy. It’s almost impossible to make coffee for one with a filter machine, so I wanted to be able to ask some of my colleagues around for a cuppa. I'll take it home with me when I leave.
I’m working up towards asking for a SECOND wine glass (surely drinking alone is frowned upon?) and a lampshade for the floor light. Yep, at the moment it’s just a bare bulb.
Who has a bare bulb as a floor lamp? And no, it’s not one of those trendy filament lamps. It’s just a really bright bulb. And I’m allowed to ask somebody over for a glass of wine, aren't I? Or DS for that matter, who happens to be arriving on the late train from Paris tonight. I haven't told Fabrizio.
So, back to my low budget, no fuss, healthy meals for one. These recipes are all super simple - hopefully they'll offer some inspiration and a few handy tips. Gold dust.
Lentil, squash, beet and goat cheese salad
Makes 2/3 servings, 5 minutes prep, 60 minutes oven time
vegetarian / gluten free / nothing fancy / autumn / winter / easy peasy / on a budget / party / salad
This salad always makes me happy. It's hearty, healthy and delicious.
Raw beetroot - 1 large, peeled and chopped into chunks
Lentils - 1/2 cup
Vegetable stock cube - 1 (optional)
Squash - 2 small, halved and deseeded
Goat cheese - 100g
Lemon - 1/2
Herbs - add whatever you have handy - fresh parsley or coriander, or dried oregano work well
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Spread the beetroot onto a roasting tray with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.
Drizzle the squash with olive oil and season. Add to the roasting tray and cook for a further 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, boil the lentils in a cup of boiling water* with the stock cube (this will give them more flavour if you're short on fresh herbs and seasoning). Cook according to the packet instructions until tender and all the liquid has evaporated.
Divide the ingredients up between 2 or 3 portions and dress with a drizzle of olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
*Always use double liquid to solid ratio when cooking lentils, quinoa or rice.
Mushroom and herb omelette
Serves 1 (just double the quantities for two), takes 15 minutes
vegetarian / easy peasy / ready in a jiffy / nothing fancy / perennial / main / gluten free / on a budget
The most important thing to have here is a decent, non-stick frying pan. I used button mushrooms but throw in whatever type you like.
Garlic - 1 clove, peeled and halved
Butter - a knob
Mushrooms - a large handful, sliced
Eggs - 2, beaten
Fresh parsley - a handful, chopped, with the stalks
Dried oregano - 1 tsp (optional)
Fresh parmesan - a few large shavings (optional)
Fry the garlic and mushrooms in a the butter in a large frying pan over a medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper.
Beat the eggs in a bowl and season with salt, pepper and parsley.
Once the mushrooms are nicely browned, remove the two pieces of garlic from the pan and discard. This is a good trick to flavour pan fried vegetables without getting too much of a garlic hit (in consideration of my stage-fellows).
Pour the eggs over the mushrooms and swirl the pan around to evenly distribute. Wait for the eggs to cook through and add the parmesan shavings at the last minute. Serve immediately, sliding the omelette onto the plate and folding it half. Serve with a green salad.
(This is a cheat's omelette as traditionally you should remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside before cooking the eggs and adding the filling at the last minute. If you're using a large pan this is certainly an easier option, though it won't give you that lovely, runny centre).
Quinoa, courgette, tomato and feta salad
Serves 2, takes 20 minutes
easy peasy / nothing fancy / summer / autumn / ready in a jiffy / hands free / gluten free / dairy free / salad
Another healthy and satisfying salad. Be creative with your vegetables - roasted squash is lovely, or asparagus and peas when in season. This is just an early autumn example.
Quinoa - 1/2 mug
Vegetable stock cube - 1
Garlic clove - 1, peeled and halved
Courgette - 1, cut into rounds
Tomato - 1, chopped
Feta - 60g
Fresh herbs - a handful, chopped (anything goes)
Chili flakes - a dash (the ONLY spice in Fabrizio's kitchen)
Olive oil - a glug
Lemon - 1/2
Cook the quinoa with the stock cube in a mug full of boiling water according to the packet instructions. When it's done, all the liquid should have evaporated.
Meanwhile fry the courgette and garlic in a little olive oil on a medium high heat until nicely coloured. Discard the garlic halves.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Apple, beetroot, chicory and blue cheese salad
Serves one, takes 10 minutes
done in a jiffy / gluten free / vegetarian / autumn / winter / nothing fancy / hands free / party / starter / salad / on a budget
No cooking involved here. Just a lovely, simple combination of colours, textures and flavours. Usually I'd add walnuts but one of the cast is allergic to nuts so there's a ban in the theatre! Add a handful in the safety of your own home. Celery is a nice substitute for chicory, too.
Balsamic vinegar - a dash
Mustard - 1 tsp
Olive oil - a dash
Apple - 1, cored and roughly chopped. I like Braeburn.
Chicory - 1, sliced
Cooked beetroot - 1, roughly chopped
Blue cheese - a small handful, crumbled
Mix the balsamic and mustard together in a glass and then whisk in a dash of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl, add the dressing and toss to combine. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.