Ways of cutting down on the washing up are always welcome - us chefs are serial offenders when it comes to making pots and pans as dirty as possible in no time at all without a thought about who's going to wash the damned things up. And our pans are generally way past dishwasher treatment by the time we've finished with them ...
When I'm cooking at home I always have it in the back of my mind to save on dishes and washing-up time, but the sink seems to fill up in no time - especially when photographing dishes for The Independent with Mr Lowe.
With our busy lifestyles, one-pot cooking has to be the way forward. Sadly, the old-fashioned one-pot dishes like stews, soups and hot pots have been replaced with a modern incarnation - one-packet ready meals.
There are many ways to execute great one-pot meals without creating a pot of heavy wintry stodge; on my travels around the world I have obsessively collected interesting pots that are the perfect vessels for a one-pot feast.
Chicken and veg in the pot
About a year ago I was given a fascinating terracotta pot by James Sayell of Sayell Foods in Hoxton (020-7256 1080). He told me that his terracotta manufacturer in Spain had made it specially for a French customer to cook chickens. It's an ingenious thing and Mr Lowe said it reminded him of the Antipodean beer- can chicken recipe - a strange creation in which you "stuff" the bird with an open can f of beer which bastes it from the inside. The great thing with this pot is that you just stick your chicken, stuffed with herbs and garlic, on the protruding cone in the centre of the dish, and place your potatoes and vegetables round the bottom so that they catch the juices as the chicken cooks. The following method uses just a normal terracotta dish or roasting tray.
1 good quality free-range chicken weighing about 1.2-1.5kg
1 large turnip, peeled and cut into large 2-3cm chunks or wedges
2 medium parsnips, peeled, quartered and cut into rough 2-3cm chunks
10-12 Jerusalem artichokes, peeled
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm thick slices on the slant
3 large red onions, cut into 6 wedges with the skin left on
10 cloves of garlic, skin left on
Any other seasonal root vegetables such as swede or celeriac
A few sprigs of rosemary and thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4tbsp olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Arrange the vegetables and garlic cloves in an ovenproof dish, season and spoon over half of the olive oil. Then put the herbs into the cavity of the chicken, season and brush with the rest of the olive oil. Place the chicken in the pot with the vegetables and cook for 1 hour, basting 2 or 3 times during cooking and turning the vegetables so they colour evenly. To serve, cut the chicken into joints or carve the meat and serve with the vegetables.
Ragout of wild mushrooms
This is a lovely seasonal dish to serve as a simple starter with some crusty bread, or it could double up as a vegetarian main course if you leave out the bacon. It also makes a luxurious accompaniment to a main course. If you're a keen forager, you should be able to find a few different mushrooms available in the woods now, depending on where you live; or you could use a selection of cultivated or imported wild mushrooms.
16-20 small shallots, peeled
80g pancetta or thick cut streaky bacon, cut into 1/2cm cubes
4tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
250ml vegetable or chicken stock, or half a good quality stock cube dissolved in that amount of water
500-600g meaty and firm wild mushrooms such as ceps, girolles or pieds de mouton, cleaned and left whole or cut into large chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp chopped parsley
A couple good knobs of butter
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. In a thick-bottomed saucepan, gently cook the shallots and pancetta in the olive oil on a medium heat, stirring occasionally until they begin to colour. Add the garlic and stock, cover and cook in the oven for about 20-30 minutes until the shallots are soft. Add the mushrooms, season and continue cooking in the oven for another 15 minutes until the mushrooms are tender. Remove from the oven and place on the stove on a medium to high heat and add the parsley and butter and cook for 4-5 minutes until the liquid has emulsified and thickened slightly. Serve immediately or keep warm with the lid on until ready to serve.
Venison shanks in Pedro Ximenez
The lamb shank has become the popular restaurant and gastropub cut of meat over the past decade. It's the perfect cut for braising and you also have that good-looking bone for presentation. The shank from the venison is also starting to make an appearance in shops specialising in game and it's a good example of how to make good use of the whole beast, instead of offering just the haunch and saddle. If you can't find or pre-order a venison shank, then a braising steak cut from the leg will do. Good game dealers include Ben Weatherall from Blackface ( www.blackface.co.uk), Furness Fish and Game in Ulverston, Cumbria (01229 585037; they also operate from London's Borough Market), Sway Butchers in Lymington (01590 682302) and Allen and Co in London W1 (020-7499 5831). Cooking venison with Pedro Ximenez (a rich fortified wine from Andalusia) or sherry imparts a really nice rich and unusual flavour to the sauce. I recommend using a pressure cooker for a dish like this, as it cuts the cooking time in half, but you probably will only fit two, not four, shanks in a pressure cooker.
4 venison shanks weighing about 400g each or 4 thick venison leg steaks weighing about 250-300g each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3tbsp vegetable oil
4 red onions, peeled and finely chopped
6 juniper berries, finely chopped
300ml Pedro Ximenez or medium sherry
1 litre beef stock, or a good stock cube dissolved in that amount of hot water
1 small to medium celeriac, peeled and cut into rough 2-3cm chunks
Pre-heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Heat the vegetable oil in the oven in an ovenproof dish or casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid. Season the venison pieces and roast them for about 35-40 minutes, turning them halfway through cooking, or until they are nicely coloured. Remove the venison and put to one side.
Reduce the oven heat to 175C/gas mark 4.
Put the casserole dish on a low heat with the butter, onions and juniper berries and cook gently for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add the flour, mix well, then gradually stir in the Pedro Ximenez and hot stock, stirring well to avoid lumps forming. Bring to the boil, add the venison, cover and return to the oven. Cook for 2 1/2-3 hours or until tender; it's difficult to put an exact cooking time on braising cuts, so check the meat after 2 hours.
Transfer the pieces of venison to a plate and keep warm. Simmer the celeriac in the sauce on a low heat for 8-10 minutes until tender, then remove them from the sauce with a slotted spoon. Continue simmering the sauce until it's thickened then return the venison pieces and celeriac and gently reheat to serve.
Autumn fruit and nut crumble
There are lots of autumnal fruits and nuts around now which make up the ingredients for a tasty one-pot pudding. You can use a mixture of fruits like pears and apples; if you've frozen or preserved plums, damsons and blackberries, even better. You could even use some of the imported plums which are appearing in our markets now. Our English nuts, with the addition of some oats and pumpkin seeds, make an interesting textured topping and you can have fun creating your own bespoke topping from whatever you have in your store-cupboard or larder.
1kg ripe pears and/or cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into large chunks
6-8 plums, quartered and stoned (or any preserved autumn fruits)
3 tbsp caster sugar
For the topping
80g cold butter, cut into small pieces
160g plain flour
90g soft brown sugar
60-80g shelled nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, coarsely chopped
3tbsp pumpkin seeds
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. Mix the pears, apples and plums with the sugar in an ovenproof dish, cover and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Rub the butter and flour together to a breadcrumb-like consistency. Add the sugar and other topping ingredients; mix well. Remove fruit mixture from the oven and scatter the topping over the fruit. Bake for 30-40 minutes until nicely coloured. Serve with thick cream or custard.
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