Welcome to September’s Observer Food Monthly

Oh, the utter luxury of dining alone. A table all to oneself, with no one to demand your attention or interrupt your thoughts. Just you and, perhaps, a book. There are honestly few things I cherish more.

I enjoy eating with others, of course. Who wouldn’t? But I also make sure there are plenty of occasions when I get to book a table for one. Travelling alone – possibly the best kind of travel of all – means I get to eat alone quite often, especially in hotel dining rooms, where I find one tends to be treated rather well indeed. In this issue of Observer Food Monthly, Clare Finney explains that dining alone is now more popular than ever and explores the reasons why.

Jay Rayner has been getting back to basics. “All cooks, however competent, have a kitchen skill that defeats them,” he writes (with me its poached eggs – I can’t even look at them, let alone cook them), and with Jay it is a classic bechamel. His unfailingly splits, but he has a trick up his sleeve for getting the perfect sauce for his cauliflower cheese.

We have a beautiful story for you from novelist Shahnaz Ahsan who tells us of the food she cooks with her husband for their son – sometimes dishes from her Bangladeshi heritage, other times a taste of his traditional Ashkenazi Jewish food. But also dishes with elements of both.

Claudia Roden’s Book of Jewish Food had a big impact on Ahsan’s cooking and this month we have an extract from Roden’s new book, Med, a celebration of cooking from around the Mediterranean. We asked some of our best-loved cooks for their favourite of her recipes, including haricot beans with clams, Moroccan chicken and onion pies, and a red pepper and tomato salad. Oh, and we have a collection of recipes from my new book too, available online from Monday. These include a sweet potato “shepherd’s” pie, a Basque-style cheesecake, and a shellfish and pasta feast.