Healthy Family Meals
Cooking One Pot Meals
A One-pot meal is one which is cooked and served from a single pot, although some of the preparation may, but not necessarily, involve the use of one or more saucepans.
Many people think that one pot dinners are all the same:- stews, casseroles and other dishes on a similar theme.
But a soup can make a delicious healthy one pot meal and so can pasta or vegetable based dishes. Indeed, many one-pot meals involve cooking methods other than stewing or casseroling, such as braising, pot roasting or stir-frying.
Stewing or casseroling both refer to long, slow method of cooking food in a simmering liquid, when cooking a stew or casserole the meat is cut into small pieces and chicken can also be jointed.
People often have debates about the differences between a stew and a casserole, some say that a stew is called a stew because it is cooked on top of the stove and a casserole is called so because it is baked in the oven, but others believe that the only difference between the two methods is that casseroling refers to the dish in which the food is cooked.
While roasting is suitable for cooking larger joints of meat or whole birds, pot roasting is an ideal method for cooking smaller tougher joints.
The meat is browned first and then placed on a bed of vegetables in a pan. The dish is cooked, tightly covered, over a gentle heat or in a low oven.
Braising is usually used for smaller cuts of meat, whole birds or poultry joints. The meat is first browned and then placed on a bed of vegetables. A little liquid is added and then the dish is covered tightly and cooked slowly in the oven on a low heat.
Stir-frying is when finely shredded or thinly sliced ingredients are fried briefly in a little oil over a high heat.
The ingredients are quickly turned over and over to ensure even cooking. Vegetables are just tender to the bite and cooking times are kept to a minimum.
Many people often ask what is a Hotpot? Well strictly speaking it is a casserole that is topped with a layer or crunchy golden potatoes Like a Lancashire Hotpot. Although the term has been used to describe a number of meat and vegetable dishes with different toppings or indeed without any topping.
No matter how delicious a recipe may sound, the final result is often only as good as its basic ingredients. So when stocking up the larder for one-pot meals, it is wise to look for the best quality food available.
When buying vegetables, Egg Plants, for example, should be firm, with shiny deep purple skins and no wrinkles.
Cabbages shouldn’t show any signs of wilting and should have firm heads with closely packed leaves. Cauliflowers should be creamy colored and firm, with closely packed curds.
Look for bright colored carrots. Main crop carrots should be tender with no woody core.
New carrots should snap easily and have no green tops. Celery should have crisp stalks with no discoloration. Courgettes should be smooth and firm.
Leeks with withering yellow tops are not suitable buys. Avoid mushrooms that are limp, broken and look sweaty, and reject onions that are sprouting, pick those with firm, dry skins.
Choose firm turnips and parsnips, and firm and bright colored bell peppers. When picking potatoes, avoid those with sprouts, cuts and soft or green spots. Look out for unblemished tomatoes, avoid soft ones.
With many one pot meals which call for pot roasting, braising casseroling or stewing, cheaper cuts of meat are used and the results are extremely satisfying. So the best cuts are not essential which is great when your on a budget.
Long slow cooking will spoil fish, so pick the best available , that is look out for fish with firm flesh, clear shiny eyes, bright red gills and clean smell.
Fish Steaks, cutlets and fillets should have firm, closely packed flakes. Use Fresh fish on the day it is purchased.
Remember it is essential to avoid goods in cans that are damaged, and that means cans that are dented, or those that are bulging or have rusty edges. Do not open cans until ready to use and transfer left-overs to a sealed container and use on the same day.
Useful Equipment when Cooking your One Pot Meal..
Certain items of kitchen equipment are particularly handy when it comes to preparing one pot meals, and if you cook on a regular basis, it is likely that you will have several or more of these utensils.
But for those of you that are in the process of furnishing your kitchen, in addition to basic items such as Measuring Scales or a Balloon Whisk, it would be wise to include the following on your list of essentials.
Wooden spoons in two or three sizes for mixing.
A slotted spoon for transferring food from the frying pan to the casserole dish or putting it aside.
Sharp knives for preparing and chopping and a knife sharpener.
A ladle for serving soup and transferring liquids.
A Colander for draining vegetables, rice and pasta.
All of these are very useful Kitchen Tools, so too are an electric blender, food mill and sieve when it comes to making soups, plus kitchen scissors, snipping chives and cutting the fat off bacon.
Heavy based saucepans are a necessity too. Ideally you want one 1.3 litre/3 Pint pan, one 2.8 Litre/5 Pint or 3.5 Litre/6 Pint pan and one Milk pan which holds 1.2 Litre/2 Pints.
You will also need a large Frying Pan with a lid to use for browning the meat and vegetables before casseroling and for making a host of one- pot meals , such as Chili Con Carne, Or Stir-Fry dishes.
A flameproof casserole is also extremely useful, preferably one with heavy base. You may find, as time passes you need two sizes, one for serving up to four people, the other larger for entertaining. The pot should hold the ingredients comfortably.
A Wok, is not something you need to rush out and buy straight away, but if you do want to cook a lot of stir fry’s I suggest you get one which about 12-14 inches in diameter.
A Slow Cooker is an electric slow cooker it is a self contained cooking pot also known as a Crock Pot with its own electric element that’s designed to produce the slow continuous heat needed for casseroles. In a slow cooker, a casserole will take anything from 5 to 8 hours. But you must prepare everything before you go out or even go to bed the night before.
Busy cooks might also consider buying a Pressure Cooker. It cuts down considerably on the amount of time needed for cooking casseroles and as a consequence save on fuel. Some Fruit and Vegetables can over cook in a pressure cooker and the flavor can be sacrificed when casseroling cheaper cuts of meat which benefit from long slow cooking.
Serving One Pot Meals..
Sometimes it is hard to know what to serve with one pot meals , because pretty much they are what they are which is everything in the one dish. Well you can serve these delicious recipes on their ownor, to please hearty appetites and provide extra variety, serve them with a very simple accompaniment of your choice. Indeed, the possibilities are almost infinite.!
Try Bread Croutons, remove the crusts from slices of white bread and cut the crustless bread into 1cm / 1/2 inch cubes, Toast or prefeably, fry the cubes in a little butter or margarine, until crisp and golden. Drain on some Kitchen Paper and serve separately or sprinkle over the top.
Another particularly savory garnish for a meat and vegetable soup is a streaky bacon rasher or two, fried until crisp, then chopped or crumbled and sprinkled over.
Suitable vegetable garnishes are lightly fried, thin slices of mushrooms or onion rings, drained and sprinkled over – good for hot soups. For garnishing chilled soups, use strips of cucumber, carrot or celery.
Herbs also make attractive garnishes, try snipped chives, chopped mint, parsley or coriander.
Filling Extras:- Dumplings are a most welcome accompaniment for a meat and vegetable soup, and indeed turn one pot meals in to quite a substantial feast.
Salads are perfect partners with many fish one pot meals, Add sliced olives and radishes, tomatoes or try grilled mushrooms or tomatoes or pureed vegetables. Garlic Bread is also a delicious extra, especially with a fish stew.
With Meat and Poultry
Try boiled, baked or creamed potatoes or a seasonal vegetable cooked until just tender and tossed with a little butter, or offer plain boiled rice or egg noodles depending on the dish.
For stews, thick slices of chunky bread go well.
Scones, cut into rounds or triangles, make scrumptious toppings for casseroles, you could make potato scones, by adding mashed potato to the rubbed scone mix before cooking.
With Vegetables and Salads
As with soups, garlic or herb bread, or thick slices of wholemeal bread and butter, or warmed pitta bread – try the wholemeal variety which is a healthier option.
As before you may want to serve plain boiled rice or buttered noodles with your vegetarian one pot meals.
With Pasta and Rice
Try not to have any Garlic Bread as the pasta will be filling enough…. Try a variety of salads, and plenty of Parmesan Cheese.
Here are some Delicious One Pot Meals your Family will love.
Beef Stew and Dumplings
Pot Roasted Chicken with Lemon
Chicken and Rice Recipe
Spiced Lamb Tagine
Mushroom and Bean Pilaf
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