I was itching to put my really sexy-looking new casserole pots by Emile Henry to good use – and doing a spot of one-pot cooking seemed like the perfect solution. One-pot cooking can can seem pretty straightforward but you still need careful preparation in order to get the best results; it's not really a case of just bunging it in a pot and hoping for the best.
If you are using meat for your slow, one-pot cooking then it's worth looking at some less obvious cuts. I've been doing a lot of research recently with my butcher on finding alternative cuts to cook with. For example, the nuggets of meat that get cleaned out from between the forerib make delicious casserole meat. Cuts like the feather blade, flank, neck, shin and cheeks are all also great slow-cooking cuts and more readily available than, say, oxtail or brisket. Flavourful cuts are crucial when slow-cooking and if you tried any of the mutton recipes a few weeks ago, you will know exactly what I'm on about. Steak and kidney pie, for example, should certainly not use steak; you should pick a cut that benefits from long slow-cooking instead.
Over the years I have collected several pots from all over the world which lend themselves to one-pot cookery. However much cookery varies around the globe, we all love one-pot cooking – mainly because there's only one thing to wash up at the end of dinner!
Sea bream on fennel and potatoes
I love fish just simply cooked on the bone, and this method allows you to have your fish and two veg in one pot. I've suggested using sea bream here, but it's up to you what fish you use; sea bass would also work well or maybe a large red mullet. Anything that will hold its shape. You may need to use a couple of fish, depending how many you are feeding.
1 large sea bream, weighing about 1-1.5kg, scaled, trimmed and gutted
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A few sprigs of rosemary
2-3 large baking potatoes, peeled
1 fennel bulb
1/2tsp crushed fennel seeds
500ml fish stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Thinly slice the fennel using a mandolin or very sharp knife, and do the same with the potatoes, then season them with the fennel seeds and salt and pepper. Lay the potatoes and fennel in an ovenproof dish, then pour over the fish stock and bake for about 45 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and beginning to colour.
Make about 4 or 5 incisions with a knife in the flesh of the fish then season, scatter on the rosemary and drizzle with the olive oil. Then lay the fish on the potatoes. Return to the oven for about 25-30 minutes until the fish is just cooked, then serve immediately.
This is not the type of biryani you find in your average curry house, which is unfortunate, because a well-made biryani has a lot going for it. Most of the ones I've ordered in curry houses tend to look like leftovers that have been heated up with little love and are possibly aimed at the late-night lager brigade.
When I made a lamb biryani a few years back my mate Niru's mum, who is Sri Lankan, commented to her son that she had never heard of a biryani that involves sealing the lid with chapatti-type dough during cooking. Well, Malar, nor had I, until I did a bit of research and discovered what I think is a great idea. Once Jason Lowe and I had shot this week's column, I had the biryani delivered round to her house and left the dough off. I haven't heard back yet, so I hope Malar hasn't developed indigestion. Where pheasant is concerned, I don't think that the bird lends itself to a straightforward roast, as it can be a little dry, even if you time the roasting to perfection. There are lots more imaginative things you can do with it – including this recipe for a delicious pheasant biryani.
I'm even going to use the same pot to prepare a stock from the bones; and anyway, I believe that we should all be supporting the Love Food, Hate Waste campaign (www.lovefoodhatewaste.com – you can't just throw stuff in the bin before you've got maximum flavour out of it.
2 pheasants with the breasts and legs removed
2 litres chicken stock (or a couple of good stock cubes dissolved in that amount of boiling water)
30g fresh ginger, scraped and finely grated
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2tbsp garam masala
1/2tsp chilli powder
4 small green, medium heat chillies, finely chopped
A good pinch of curry leaves
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp cumin seeds
The seeds from 12 green cardamom pods
2tbsp chopped coriander leaves
2tbsp chopped mint leaves
500g basmati rice
4 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
100g ghee or butter
250ml thick natural yoghur
A good pinch of saffron strands, soaked in 2 tablespoons of hot milk
Cut the breasts of the pheasant into four, then separate the drumsticks from the thighs by cutting at the joint. Remove the thigh bone with the point of a knife and cut the thighs in half. Chop the drumstick in half with a heavy chopping knife and cut the carcass into pieces. Heat a tablespoon of the ghee over a medium flame in a large oven proof pot with a lid. Fry the pheasant bones for a couple of minutes, then add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 45 minutes, then strain through a fine meshed sieve and wipe out the pot.
Meanwhile, mix the pieces of the pheasant in a stainless-steel or non-reactive bowl with the ginger, garlic, garam masala, chilli powder, turmeric, chillies, cumin, curry leaves, cardamom, coriander and mint.
Cover and marinade in the fridge while the stock is cooking.
Wash the rice a couple of times in a bowl
of cold water, until the water is clear, and drain in a sieve. Pour one-third of the hot stock over the rice and leave.
Heat the ghee in the same pot and fry the onions on a medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, stirring every so often, until they are golden brown. Remove the pieces of pheasant from the marinade and reserve the marinade, then reheat the ghee and fry the pheasant on a high heat, lightly browning them. Add two-thirds of the stock, yoghurt, browned onions and any marinade that's left and cook on a low heat for 25-30 minutes until the pheasant is tender, then remove from the heat. Spoon the rice over the meat, then spoon over the reserved ghee and saffron-infused milk.
Pre-heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Put the pot over a high heat for a couple of minutes to bring the contents to the boil and transfer to the oven for 40 minutes.
Mutton tagine with quince and chick peas
Mutton really lends itself to this style of slow cooking. The end result is going to be far superior than using lamb, as mutton has a slight gaminess to it that the spices will complement perfectly.
I've used mutton shanks here, but you could also use pieces of neck fillet, or chops or shoulder, though obviously the cooking times will change.
4 mutton shanks, trimmed
2tbsp, olive oil
3 medium red onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
30g root ginger, peeled and finely grated
1/2tsp ground mace
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp ground cardamom
A good pinch of saffron
2tsp tomato purée
11/2 litres chicken or lamb stock or 2 stock cubes dissolved in that amount of water
2 quince, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 x 400g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 pickled lemons
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Season and lightly flour the mutton shanks then brush them with a little oil, place in a tagine or another good ovenproof dish and roast for about 30-40 minutes until lightly coloured. Remove them from the dish and put them to one side.
Add the rest of the oil and cook the onions in all the spices for about 5-6 minutes over a medium heat, stirring every so often until they are soft and beginning to colour. (You may need to add a little water if they are sticking to the bottom.)
Add the tomato purée, stock and quince, and bring to the boil. Lower the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
Add the mutton, cover, and cook in the oven for 1 hours, then add the chick peas and return to the oven for another hour or until tender. It's difficult to put a cooking time on braising cuts so it could take a little more time, depending on the age of the mutton.
Serve in the tagine if you have one or whatever you have cooked it in, and serve with steamed cous cous on the side.
Peppery beef flank stew with shallots and celery hearts
This is a comforting and traditional Tuscan stew that certainly hits the spot at this time of year when the evenings are starting to get cold. I've used the classic dish as a base and added celery hearts, whole peeled shallots and potatoes here, but a selection of root vegetables would also work very well.
1kg beef flank, cut into rough 2-3cm pieces
300ml red wine
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2tbsp olive oil
2tbsp tomato purée
1tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
11/2 litres beef stock
16 shallots, peeled
1 head of celery
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
Season the pieces of beef, then heat a tablespoon of oil in a large heavy ovenproof dish on the stove. Lightly flour, then fry the pieces of meat on a high heat for 3-4 minutes, turning every so often until lightly coloured (you may need to do this in a couple of batches). Add the red wine, garlic and tomato purée, pepper and stir well. Add the beef stock, bring to the boil, cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours.
Remove the outer stalks from the celery and chop to about 10cm from the root. Quarter the celery heart and add to the stew with the shallots. You can use the rest of the celery for a soup. Continue cooking the stew for about another 1 -2 hours or until the meat is tender. Check the seasoning and serve.Reuse content