With Christmas indulgence over for another year it’s time to raid those store cupboards to cook up some nutrition-packed meals – and what could be easier than one pot cooking, making meals quick, easy to prepare and convenient.
Casseroles and stews are the ideal winter meals to warm up the family on a cold winter’s night whilst ensuring they’re still getting vital portions of their five-a-day and maintaining a balanced diet. You could also try a spicy tagine to bring some exotic warmth to the dinner table.
Time is of the essence when trying to juggle a hectic lifestyle, which is why one pot cooking is an excellent option for busy parents. With little preparation time, a casserole or stew can be popped straight into the oven or onto the stove for a slow cook, while you can catch up on the other tasks of the day.
Whether you’re looking to feed the hungry family or entertain friends for a post-Christmas get together, here is the solution with a variety of hints and tips from nutritional experts including Amanda Ursell, Lyndel Costain and celebrity chef James Martin.
Pinto & pumpkin casserole with a cheese and herb crust
- 500 g (1 lb) pumpkin (or butternut squash), peeled, deseeded and chopped
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced
- 1 green pepper, de-seeded diced
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried basil
- 1 x 400 g can vegetable soup
- 1 x 420g can pinto beans, drained
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh parsley, chopped
Cheese and herb crust:
- 1 small baguette
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh thyme, chopped
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh parsley, chopped
- 85 g (3oz) Parmesan, grated
- Place the butternut squash in a large pan with about 600 ml (1 pint) water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until tender. Using a hand blender or food processor, puree the pumpkin with the cooking liquid so that you have a fairly thin puree.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic and peppers and cook over a moderate heat for 5 minutes.
- Add the basil, canned soup and canned beans. Bring to the boil, stirring, and then simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin puree, lemon juice and parsley. Spoon the bean mixture into a baking dish.
- To make the crust, cut the baguette into thin slices and brush with olive oil. Arrange on top of the bean mixture and scatter over the herbs and Parmesan.
- Place the dish under a preheated hot grill for 4 – 5 minutes until the bread is golden brown and crisp.
Rich lamb and apricot stew with Mediterranean cous cous
Preparation & cooking time: 1 hour and 35 minutes
For the lamb and apricot stew:
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp Cumin seeds
- Two garlic cloves, crushed
- 300g lean lamb (neck fillet or leg)
- 1 x (400g) can plum tomatoes
- 1 x (390g) can Eazy onions
- 1 x (300g) can apricots, drained
- 1 x (400g) can chick peas, drained
- 1 x (400g) can aduki beans, drained
- 150ml Lamb/chicken stock
- 1tsp cinnamon
- 1 pinch salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
For the couscous:
- 2 tbsp flaked almonds
- 1 (480g) jar roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips
- 450g cous cous
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
- Salt and ground black pepper
- Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan, add the cumin seeds and fry for 2 minutes.
- Add the cinnamon, easy onions and garlic, stir and cook gently for 5 minutes.
- Add the lamb and cook until browned.
- Add the tomatoes, drained apricots, chick peas, aduki beans, tomato puree and enough stock to just cover the meat.
- Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer on a low heat for 1 hour, or until the lamb is tender. Stir every 20 minutes, adding a little more stock if necessary.
- Heat a frying pan; add the flaked almonds and dry-fry, tossing all the time until light brown. NB: do not leave unattended as the almonds will burn very easily.
- Prepare the cous cous as per the instructions. Transfer to a large dish and fluff up with a fork.
- Add the peppers, herbs, lemon juice and seasoning, stir well, transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.