The past six months have been charged with countless anxieties, from sterilising deliveries to whatever gobbledygook the government might next advise and (in my case) shielding a small child. But in our household, nothing has tested frayed nerves more than the production line of unwashed dishes following meal after meal made at home. They are the guaranteed proverbial last straw.
The appeal of cooking from a single vessel (and so minimising that pile of washing up) has never shone brighter. Often, one-pot meals are associated with meat cooked low and slow in the colder months. But these one-pot wonders are meat-free and can, in most cases, be made year-round.
Sweet, salty and spiced
“Ingredients spend a long time together, resulting in rounder, more comforting flavours,” says Yotam Ottolenghi of his traybakes. That’s certainly the case with his chickpeas with carrots, dates and feta recipe, its flavours as plump as the chickpeas themselves: carrots and dates softened and sweetened, then accented with sharp lemon, salty feta and a holy trinity of “C” spices – cinnamon, cumin and caraway.
Speedy solo supper
With a single frying pan and its succinct list of ingredients, Meera Sodha’s tofu with tomato, sweet soy and greens redefines cooking for one into something infinitely more head-turning than eggs on toast. One pan and, even better, one plate.
Check your pulse
Rachel Roddy’s Roman white beans and wilted greens recipe is largely a store cupboard concoction with a verdant hit from chard, spinach, turnip tops – whatever greens you have. It’s a meal in itself or a happy companion to buttered toast, a fried egg or, if you’re carnivorously inclined, caramelised sausages.
So many of Roddy’s recipes are one-pot wonders – do look at her archive for inspiration. These braised lentils are another favourite, one cooking session yielding two meals: the first with pasta, the second with a frilly fried egg.
You’ll find two for the price of one here, with Anna Jones celebrating the most portly of pulses, butter beans, alongside kale, tomatoes and walnuts. The beans take on the bronzed appearance of fried potatoes – rather magnificent next to the bright reds and greens of the neighbouring ingredients. She also details a sliver of a recipe that offers a hearty meal with her one-pot orzo with beetroot, thyme and orange – and with a hue of which Prince would be proud.
One pot, four seasons
Tagines are named for the vessel they are traditionally cooked in – although this is not essential, as Felicity Cloake shows in her perfect recipe, which uses another pot that gave its name to a meal, the casserole. It’s a brilliantly adaptable premise: any vegetable, depending on the season, with a choir of spices, nuts, dried fruit and olives, cooked covered for an hour. Cheekily, this recipe does require a small extra frying pan for the butter and almonds that are added at the end. Given it’s a quick recipe that feeds six, I think we can allow it.
All buttered up
Olia Hercules’s serdakh, an Azerbaijani dish of aubergines and tomatoes, is deceptively simple, its vibrant flavours coming from key ingredients at the peak of their season; an almost unreasonable dose of garlic (10 cloves); and clarified butter, which is added generously at three different stages of the modest cooking time (about half an hour). This one demands good bread to mop up the juices and fresh, crunchy vegetables such as cucumber as a sidekick to the buttery richness.
The only paneer you need
Once you have had Romy Gill’s paneer, there’s no going back. Combining Bengali spice mix panch phoron with honey and soy sauce, it epitomises toothsome. This recipe takes “one pot” perhaps a little too literally – yes, it uses one cooking vessel, but you’ll also need a blender for the chilli paste and something to marinate the paneer in. But it’s very easy! Just half an hour marinating and five to six minutes in a frying pan, and boom, that’s one tasty pan of joy.
One veg wonder
Who needs a pot when you can cook in a pumpkin? This biryani from Meera Sodha uses the flesh of the squash as both an ingredient and a cooking vessel, imparting not only its unctuous sweetness (which pairs so well with spice) but moisture, helping all its ingredients on their way to becoming so much more than the sum of their parts.
A key dish in Ethiopian cuisine is stew – perhaps the ultimate in one-pot cooking. These are usually served as a spread alongside injera – fermented teff flour pancakes – and are often vegan-friendly. I really like this cabbage, carrot and potato number cooked in turmeric and lots of garlic, not to mention Ottolenghi’s berbere lentils and tomatoes.
In the past few years, shakshuka has enjoyed a growth in popularity in the UK. It’s a Middle Eastern breakfast staple in which eggs are poached in a spiced tomato sauce. But the actor Stanley Tucci, also the author of two cookbooks, makes a Calabrian version taught to him by his father. All you need is a deepish frying pan, tinned plum tomatoes, four eggs, olive oil, an onion and seasoning. It’s a winner, as Alan Rickman agreed when Tucci made it for him.