One pot meals

Whomever thought that prawns and chicken would be a good marriage was a genius. It sure as hell wasn’t a natural concoction since both could kill you stone dead if they weren’t a peak condition or if they didn’t actually kill you they could make you wish it were so.

Since I got the crock pot in January I’m back exploring the ancient tradition of the one pot cooking. I must make something very clear, recipes are only for guidance. In fact unless you want to convert yourself into a slave you are vastly better off reading then find alternatives for three-quarters. The only exception is baking. There, because you aren’t so much cooking as chemistry and so is very unforgiving should you deviate.

There are certain things required in all kitchens, a salt, an acid, a sweet, a hot and an oil. These are the core items. And it doesn’t matter what or where you are cooking these things are what make up the base. I think most would agree with these. It is the next level that may cause problems. To me there are few meals that won’t gain from a twist of black pepper. And near all gain from a coin of ginger. Anchovies are a must. As is Worcestershire sauce. Good tinned tomatoes, life is just too short for peeling and de-seeding at home. There are a few other things that generally fit to cooking the world over.

Next you have the herbs and spice. It’s in this I must say the Irish English Scot and Welsh person is somewhat unlucky.  Meah, in a way. We have good quality food that generally keeps for a few days. And in our climate this has been the case always. But what it means is the needful of spice to help prolong the shelf life of meat isn’t here historically. This is true for olive oil also. That, when I was growing up was a pharmacy product, from there it went to the really really expensive shop like Harrods. It wasn’t ’til the last ten years it is widely available.

Yes we had herbs. Mint, horseradish, thyme, rosemary and sage, chives and parsley. Hardly an exhaustive collection. But there is still nothing like a chicken roast with stuffing made with sage thyme and hazelnuts. Unless it is a rib roast done slowly so it’s cooked to a point then served with horseradish. So we weren’t bereft by any means. But still, but still. There was nothing like the first encounter with Indian food. Chinese food that’s made for Chinese people is good too. Not so much the concoction imported to the west. Spanish food along with Portuguese if you avoid their fixation with pig is brilliant too. In a way with both of them what you are getting is an earlier import from India via Goa. Malay via Malacca, and the spice islands, and China via Macau.

Anywoos;

Olive oil,

salt

onion,

garlic,

two chicken breasts per person or whatever part of the bird suits. Thighs are tasty and cheap.

Fry off on the hob.

Then chop two medium courgettes and an aubergine, mushrooms and a pint of shelled prawns.

Two tins of peeled tomatoes, chopped.

Then three anchovies and two chopped medium chilli peppers.

Squeeze half a lemon over all.

fill with water or stock about an inch below the level of the veg

Cook all for one hour. Then remove from oven.

By this time everything should have shrunk into an almost mush. Any bones removed then for you are now making space for a top up with about a pint or more of water. Once this water is in, up-end a cupful of washed brown rice, soaked over night. Brown for you want it to stay integral and not disintegrate. And I see no reason paprika cannot be switched for turmeric. Red yellow whatever. And really how much yellow will you get with the tomatoes anyway. Now, you need to be very careful with the salt. You are better to salt the pot initially with about a teaspoon worth. This for the veg and the meat.  Now the rice will suck every bit of salt and liquid into itself. You can go one of two ways. Either salt on the table or buy two pints of fresh unshelled langoustines (big prawns)and place or scatter over the surface and cover with a lid to steam.

Now you can buy a paella cooker. And if I ever win the big lotto, if I ever do the big lotto, it’s on the list. But until then a big pot will do the job. I must issue a warning about this dish though. If you haven’t a family that can tuck into it at one sitting you should freeze it once cool.  You see it’s a dish that requires volume to fix itself into a burst of flavours. You are dealing with the better part of a gallon.

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10 Responses to One pot meals

  1. Sage says:

    I do a lot of one pot meals–but mostly in slow cookers that I don’t mind leaving at home simmering all day. I like the prawn/chicken combo idea.

    • V.H says:

      Yes you could leave the rice out and have fresh bread with olive oil for an all day cook the rice would become atomised starch no matter how hard. But the reason I go for brown rice, well two reasons. One, it stays together while you continue cooking another hour. And two, it is vastly easier to get. The bombe rice is well below the radar.

  2. Kimberly says:

    Over here there used to be that stereotype about English food being bland and grey, and I never put it together with not needing the spices to keep it tasting better longer. That makes a lot of sense.
    I’m someone who does follow a recipe more than not. The things I make without one have evolved over time from something I once made with one. Although I love to cook, I’ve never been someone who can open up the fridge and pantry, pull something out, and make an amazing meal. I like the idea of that, but am usually not brave enough to veer off on my own worried about ruining it.
    Your chicken with sage/thyme/hazelnut sounds good and so does the chicken and prawns dish above, although minus the prawns and anchovies. I will try both.

    • V.H says:

      Aye, the taste and flavour is the extra you get from spice. Mostly it either halts or reduced bacterial growth. Or take sour milk, yoghurt nowadays. If you submerge chicken in it you will hold chicken for near as long as it will keep in a fridge. But dust it with spice then roll it in oil and the oil will create a barrier to air and the spice will hinder bacterial growth.
      The shift away from a recipe is something you develop out of necessity. If you live 40 miles from the shops and you want to cook something you have to go ‘genre’ ‘in the tradition of’, ‘a nod towards’. Such the core idea might be ‘A’ but by the time you’ve added and subtracted the result would be utterly unrecognisable.
      You chop up the nuts small. Buzz them. You could add a bit of lemon zest and peel. But that would be a today ‘add’. Not of the tradition. Hazel btw, as we don’t have a ready supply of other nuts like chestnuts or walnuts.

  3. Kelly says:

    Well, you lost me at shrimp. I’m not a seafood person.

    Olive Oil as a pharmacy item? That’s interesting.

    I use recipes as guidelines, usually always tweaking it one way or another to suit my own taste or that of my family. It was such a freeing experience when I realized one didn’t have to be followed exactly!

    • V.H says:

      I wouldn’t be over the top with prawns either. But the mix of the chicken works.

      Yeah, it was used to soften ear wax.

      Freeing is exactly it.

  4. Ed says:

    We do slow cooker meals a lot during the winter months but not so much in the summer. We especially use it to cook up any of the tougher less desirable cuts of meat that we don’t want to cook any other way. If you slow cook anything long enough, it will become tender and tasty!

    • V.H says:

      Yep that’s true. And it also keeps more of the weight too. You don’t lose as much as you would with high heat.

  5. Shrinky says:

    I may well toss that recipe in the pot, it sounds well worth the try. My poor old ma was a lousy cook, bless her heart, so it took me years of trial and error to learn the basics of cooking. Mind, after so many years being obliged to serve up a tasty evening meal for 6, I’ve got to the point I could probably do it blindfold by now – it’s more for fresh inspiration I turn to the cookbooks these days – no, I rarely follow the precise instruction either, as I prefer to add my own twist to a meal, I’m guessing most of us do after a while.

    • V.H says:

      Most of us have been to someplace and eaten something really delightful but when you pull the thing apart you realise it you’d never find most of the stuff. But you could replace with the nearest gettable item. Soon you have the above which has the meat mix of a Spanish dish and some of the spice but it has about 20% of the ingredients. It’s rare you really cock things up. Unles you over do Bay or mix Basil and Oregano.

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