Recipe Ideas For 2 From A Cool Food Writer & Home Cook

Aussie-born food writer and home cook Bre Graham is known for her colourful comfort food and simple tablescapes. Her new cookbook ‘Table for Two’ features 80 recipes for just two people – whether you’re cooking for your mum, best friend of partner. Here, she explains how to elevate everyday meals and shares three of her favourite dishes to try at home.
By Sherri Andrew /

Homesickness propelled me into cooking when I left Australia. It was a way to keep everything I missed about home and family close. Cooking is the best way I know to communicate love – it doesn't matter if it's just a plate of food for myself or a three-course meal for someone else, I can feel closer to the people I love through food. There’s something quintessentially Australian in my cooking style – lots of fresh herbs, seafood and everything with a touch of citrus – but I grew up in Singapore, so there's an influence of South East Asian ingredients too. However, my main influences come from Greece, Italy and France.

Over the last two years, I’ve been cooking just for my boyfriend. Cooking and making mealtimes feel as special as possible became such a focus for me during the pandemic, as did dreaming of sharing meals with the people I missed back home. Looking back over my life, some of the most important food moments happened at a table for two. I think sharing a meal that you've cooked for one other person is a really special thing and the recipes, essays and menus in this book capture those moments and will hopefully inspire you to create your own.

My top tip on cooking for two is to take pleasure in the cooking process and decide what you’re going to eat together. That usually depends on what you’re both craving. I’m a self-confessed control freak in the kitchen, but there are certain meals I love making with someone else; involving the other person can be really fun. My kitchen always has butter, fresh herbs, garlic, pasta and wine, so a simple meal is often my go-to.

One dessert that always impresses is my COLLAPSING CHOCOLATE CAKE. A failsafe but special choice.

Simple is sexy, so I like to make a quick pasta like my smoked chilli and vodka rigatoni for date night. I also like to make a ball of fresh pasta dough as it’s fun to roll out pici together (like fat spaghetti). Serve this with a slow-cooked tomato, olive and anchovy sauce for a super easy but delicious meal.

I’m a big believer in shop-bought shortcuts, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you're pressed for time, buy a pre-made dessert, pick up some posh fresh pasta and make a quick brown butter sauce, or order a takeaway and top it with some fresh rocket and burrata to make it feel fancy.

One of my favourite recipes from the new book is banana fritters with ‘drunk’ chocolate sauce. It’s something I only make for the most special of occasions. I’m also a big fan of slow-cooking, so I love the lamb and cinnamon stew. I can be lazy and have a long bath before serving it, followed by my salted honey madeleines and a glass of something sweet. One dessert that always impresses is my collapsing chocolate cake. A failsafe but special choice.

Setting the scene at home doesn’t have to be fancy. Try simple things like turning the TV off, putting soothing music on, lighting some candles and setting the table. Focus on the conversation, cook something that’s easy but impressive (the title of the first chapter in the book) and everything else will follow. If you do want to transform your table, candlelight is key and I love a crisp white tablecloth or vintage linen. You want the practicality of eating to be the most important thing, so everything else has to add beauty without getting in the way. I also like little posies of flowers cut short so they don't block your view of the other person.

My idea of a good dinner playlist is usually an eclectic mix. I like to play everything from Dean Martin to SZA to Van Morrison and Haim. Next time you're out at a restaurant and love the music, take note and create your own playlist inspired by how you want the meal to feel.

Table For Two: Recipes for The Ones You Love by Bre Graham (DK, £20) is out now.

Visit Waterstones.com.


Feeling Inspired? Here Are Three Great Recipes To Try

ISSY CROCKER

Prawn & Pistachio Tagliolini

Serves
2
Total Time
13 Minutes
Ingredients
250g of dried tagliolini, or other long, thin pasta such as angel hair
200g of raw prawns, peeled & deveined
1 huge handful of fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp of pistachio butter
60ml of extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp of sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp of salted butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
Method
Step 1
Cook the pasta in a big pot of boiling salted water following the packet instructions. Just before draining the pasta, scoop out a mugful of the cooking water and save.
Step 2
While the pasta cooks, in a blender or food processor, blitz the basil leaves, pistachio butter, olive oil, salt and lemon juice until smooth.
Step 3
Cut each prawn in half lengthways so that when you twirl the delicate strands of pasta, you’ll be able to get both prawn and pasta on your fork. Melt the butter in a sauté pan on a medium heat, add the garlic and prawns and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the prawns turn pink.
Step 4
Pour a little of the pasta cooking water into the basil and pistachio mix and blitz again until combined.
Step 5
Add the drained pasta to the sauté pan with the basil and pistachio mix and toss together with the prawns and a little more of the pasta water, if needed. Pile the pasta high on 2 plates to serve and season with black pepper.
ISSY CROCKER

Slow-Cooked Lamb & Cinnamon Stew

Serves
2
Total Time
5 Hours
Ingredients
500g of diced lamb (I like to use leg or shoulder)
4 tbsp of olive oil
½ large white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ tsp of dried oregano
1 tbsp of tomato purée
200ml of red wine
1 small cinnamon stick
½ tsp of dried chilli flakes
1 bay leaf
A small strip of unwaxed lemon peel
400ml of passata
1 handful of black olives, pitted
300g of white beans from a jar, drained
100g of feta, crumbled
1 handful of roughly chopped parsley, or leaves left whole
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Method
Step 1
Start by generously seasoning the lamb with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil on a medium-high heat and fry the lamb in batches, a third at a time, until golden brown all over. Remove the lamb from the pot with a slotted spoon and put on a plate to one side.
Step 2
Add the onion to the pot and fry in the olive oil and lamb fat for a few minutes or until it starts to colour, then add the garlic. When the onion and garlic have softened, add the oregano and tomato purée and cook for 2-3 minutes, until everything starts to caramelise and catch on the bottom of the pot.
Step 3
Pour in the red wine to deglaze the pot, making sure you scrape all the good bits from the bottom. Add the cinnamon, chilli, bay leaf and lemon peel, then return the lamb to the pot. Pour in the passata and 400ml of water and stir until combined. Pop on the lid and simmer for 3 hours on a low heat, stirring every now and then to make sure it’s not sticking on the bottom.
Step 4
Take the lid off for the last 30 minutes of cooking and add the olives and white beans. Stir everything together and continue.
Step 5
Spoon the stew into 2 bowls and scatter over the crumbled feta to cook until heated through and parsley before serving.
ISSY CROCKER

Perfumed Panna Cotta

Serves
2
Total Time
6 Hours 30 Minutes
Ingredients
200ml of double cream
3½ tbsp of whole milk
1 vanilla pod, split & seeds scraped out, or 1 tsp of vanilla paste
60g of caster sugar
1½ sheets of gelatine
½ tsp of rosewater
2 rhubarb stalks, trimmed & chopped into equal-sized pieces
A little finely grated orange zest
Juice of 1 orange
Crystallized rose petals, to decorate (optional)
Method
Step 1
In a small pan, gently warm the cream, milk, vanilla and 3 tbsp of the sugar on the lowest heat for 10 minutes, until infused. Stir occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves and does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Take the pan off the heat.
Step 2
Add the gelatine to a large bowl of cold water and let it soak for a few minutes until soft. Remove the gelatine from the water and stir it into the warm milk mixture with the rosewater until dissolved.
Step 3
Pour the mix into 2 x 125ml moulds or small glasses. Pop them in the fridge where they’ll need about 6 hours or so to fully set.
Step 4
Heat the oven to 160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Place the rhubarb in a baking dish and sprinkle over the remaining sugar, the orange zest and juice. Roast the rhubarb for 15 minutes, until tender but it still holds its shape. Set aside to cool completely.
Step 5
To serve, gently dip the moulds or glasses into warm water to help ease the panna cotta out onto serving plates. Serve with the rhubarb and, if you’re feeling fancy, a single crystallized rose petal placed on top.

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