6 comforting one-pot recipes for autumn nights, whether you like chicken, rice or vegetarian dishes

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On cold, dark evenings, all we want is to throw a load of delicious stuff in a pan – and these one-pot dishes are the ultimate comfort food recipes. 

After a long day, we don’t want to be faffing around with complicated recipes – especially when it’s chilly outside. Instead, we want simple, straightforward dishes that require nothing more than chopping up a load of ingredients, bunging them in a pan and letting the oven (or the hob) do the rest.

As a general rule, one-pot dishes are high on rich flavours and heady aromas (if there’s a better feeling than opening the front door to the smell of something delicious bubbling away in the oven, we’re yet to discover it). But they also tend to be relatively low on effort – and even lower on washing up. Which, when all you want to do is collapse in front of one of autumn’s best TV shows, is a definite plus.

The key to successful one-pot cooking? A proper pot, ideally a deep, glossy, cast-iron number. The perfect pot will work as well in the oven when making cassoulets, casseroles and bakes as it does on the stove for stews, soups, tagines and carby dishes. (Seriously – if you’ve never tried one-pot pasta, rice and noodle dishes, you’re missing out.) 

In an ideal world, your pot will also look so good that you’ll want to keep it on display on the hob at all times, rather than stashing it in a cupboard with the rest of your cookware. Le Creuset remains the dream (prices start at £99 for an 18cm round casserole dish), but there are great alternatives out there too. Stylist’s food editor Jenny Tregoning rates Sainsbury’s cast-iron casserole dishes, which come in orange and cream, and Argos does a lovely ruby red version.

Below, we’ve gathered some of the best one-pot recipes from two of our favourite female cooks working today, whether you’re looking for chicken, rice or vegetarian dishes – or even one-pot desserts. Monisha Bharadwaj’s new book, Indian In 7, is a collection of brilliantly accessible, super-speedy recipes that all require just seven ingredients, with an entire chapter dedicated to one-pot Indian cooking.

Diana Henry’s new book From The Oven To The Table, meanwhile, contains nothing but one-pot recipes – including beautiful, stress-free dinner party-ready main courses and desserts. Happy cooking. 

  • One-pot recipes: Indian tomato rice

    Gucchi tamater ka pulao (mushroom, carrot and tomato rice)

    Taken from Indian in 7 by Monisha Bharadwaj

    This easy recipe needs nothing except a salad or some natural yogurt on the side to make it even more satisfying. Oyster, shiitake and chestnut mushrooms give it a rich, intense flavour, so if you want a milder-tasting dish, it’s best to use closed cup white mushrooms.

    Clean the mushrooms thoroughly by washing them and patting them dry with a tea-towel. Although some recipes say that mushrooms should just be wiped as they can absorb water during washing, here, they are cooked in liquid so washing them won’t matter.

    When cooking rice, don’t stir it too much as this can break the grains and make the rice stodgy.

    Serves 4

    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 1 teaspoon medium chilli powder
    • 3 teaspoons tomato purée
    • 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
    • 100g mixed mushrooms (such as oyster, shiitake, chestnut or closed cup white mushrooms), washed, patted dry and sliced
    • 200g basmati rice, washed and rained

    Heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil in a heavy-based pan and fry the onion on a high heat for 3–4 minutes until it starts to turn golden. Add the garlic, reduce the heat to medium and fry for a further 3–4 minutes.

    Add the chilli powder and cook for a few seconds, then stir in the tomato purée. Mix in the grated carrot and mushrooms, then tip in the rice and mix well.

    Pour in 400ml boiling water and season with salt. Stir once gently and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for 12 minutes, without lifting the lid. Turn off the heat and leave it covered for a further 5 minutes to finish cooking in the steam.

    Remove the lid, fluff up the rice with a fork and serve hot.

  • One-pot recipes: chicken and potato stew

    Kozhi ishtu (south Indian chicken and potato stew)

    Taken from Indian in 7 by Monisha Bharadwaj

    South Indian cooking is known for its use of aromatic spices, such as black pepper. In Kerala, chicken stew is a breakfast dish that is traditionally served with ‘appams’ or hoppers – lacy pancakes made with rice and coconut – and is often eaten on Christmas Day.

    If you like, you can add carrots and peas for more fibre, or throw in two or three fresh green chillies along with the onions for a bit of heat. I prefer the lovely fragrance of black pepper that shines through, making this a simple yet delicious meal.

    Serves 4

    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 10 fresh curry leaves or 15 dried ones, chopped or crumbled
    • 1 large potato, peeled and finely chopped
    • 300g skinless chicken breasts, chopped into small pieces
    • 1 teaspoon freshly crushed black pepper
    • 300ml coconut milk

    Heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil in a saucepan, add the onion and fry over a high heat for 3–4 minutes, stirring from time to time, until it starts to soften.

    Add 2 teaspoons of ginger-garlic paste (page 26) and cook for a minute. Add the turmeric and cook for a further minute, then stir in the curry leaves.

    Tip in the potato and cook for 3–4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potato pieces start to become translucent.

    Now add the chicken, season with some salt and the black pepper and mix well. Cook the chicken over a high heat until it is sealed all over and looks white not pink on the surface.

    Pour in 200ml boiling water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 12–13 minutes until the chicken and potato pieces are almost cooked.

    Pour in the coconut milk, return to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2–3 minutes until the chicken and potatoes are tender – you should be able to easily cut through a piece of potato, and the chicken should be white and hot all the way through when you cut a piece in half.

    Serve hot, with rotis.

  • One-pot recipes: rice with prawns

    Hara jhinga pulao (herby green rice with prawns)

    Taken from Indian in 7 by Monisha Bharadwaj

    I always butterfly prawns to enhance their juiciness and to get rid of the dark coloured ‘vein’ that runs along their backs. This vein is the prawns’ digestive tract, and I remove it because it can look unsightly, affect the taste of the dish and I’d rather not eat the contents of a digestive tract.

    You can also use the smaller prawns for this dish as they retain their moisture, but I’d still devein them. You can also substitute the king prawns with cubed chicken breast or thigh meat.

    I’ve given an option of 2–3 fresh green chillies, depending on whether you like a hotter or milder dish.

    Serves 4

    • 1 onion, sliced
    • 2 handfuls of fresh coriander
    • 2 handfuls of mint, woody stalks discarded
    • 2–3 fresh green chillies, roughly chopped (seeds and all)
    • 200g basmati rice, washed and drained
    • 200g fresh raw king prawns, shelled, deveined and butterflied
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    Heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil in a heavy-based saucepan and fry the onion over a high heat for 3–4 minutes until it starts to golden.

    Meanwhile, tear the coriander (leaves and stems) and the mint leaves into a blender.

    Add 2 teaspoons of ginger-garlic paste and the chillies and blend to as fine a paste as possible, adding 200ml cold water to turn the blades smoothly.

    Add the rice to the onion, stir gently a few times to mix and then add 200ml boiling water. Stir in the green herby paste.

    Add the prawns and season with salt, mixing lightly. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer on the lowest setting for about 15 minutes, without lifting the lid.

    Turn off the heat and leave the pan covered for a further 5 minutes to finish cooking the rice in the steam.

    Remove the lid and run a fork through the rice to loosen it. Serve the rice mixture hot, drizzled with the lemon juice.

  • One pot recipes: Diana Henry's baked rice

    Baked rice with green olives, orange, feta cheese & dill

    Taken from From the Oven to the Table by Diana Henry

    A blueprint for baked rice. Just stick to the same quantities of rice and liquid, the same size of pan and the same oven temperature and you can produce endless variations. Change the herbs, use spices, or add nuts and dried fruit.

    Serves 8

    • 300g (10½oz) basmati rice
    • 3 tablespoons extra virgin
    • Olive oil, plus more to serve
    • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
    • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
    • 850ml (1½ pints) boiling chicken or vegetable stock
    • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
    • 100g (3½oz) good-quality green olives, preferably pitted, roughly chopped or left whole
    • 150g (5½oz) feta cheese, crumbled
    • Leaves from a small bunch of dill, roughly chopped, any coarse stalks removed

    Preheat the oven to 190°C fan (400°F), Gas Mark 6.

    Wash the rice in a sieve in cold water until the water running through it is clear, to remove the excess starch, then leave it in the sieve to drain.

    In a 30cm (12in) ovenproof sauté pan or shallow casserole, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions over a medium-low heat until they ’re soft and pale gold.

    Add the garlic and cumin and cook for another 2 minutes, then add the rinsed and drained rice, orange juice and boiling stock. Season.

    Bring to the boil on the hob, then transfer immediately to the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour.

    When there are 10 minutes to go, break up the crust that has formed on the top and stir in the olives. By the end of cooking time, the rice should be tender and all the stock absorbed.

    Scatter the orange zest, feta and dill over the top, drizzle with olive oil and serve. You will find that the rice has formed a delicious crust on the base of the pan.

  • Roast salmon & green beans with cornichons & mustard crumbs

    Taken from From the Oven to the Table by Diana Henry

    They’re not cheap, but salmon fillets do mean an easy supper, as they cook so quickly. Roast green beans were a revelation to me the first time I tried them (American chef and lover of vegetables, Joshua McFadden, got me into them).

    If you want to serve these beans as a side dish, roast them as directed here, scattering the flavoured crumbs over them at the end.

    Serves 4

    • 500g (1lb 2oz) green beans, topped but not tailed
    • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
    • 4 salmon fillets, 175–200g (6–7oz) each
    • 50g (1¾oz) breadcrumbs from coarse white bread (such as ciabatta or sourdough)
    • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
    • 3 tablespoons drained and chopped cornichons
    • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
    • Finely grated zest and juice of ½ unwaxed lemon

    Preheat the oven to 190°C fan (400°F), Gas Mark 6.

    Put the green beans into a roasting tin or – even better – a shallow ovenproof dish that you would want to serve from, too. Toss them with a little of the oil and some seasoning.

    Brush the salmon fillets with oil as well, season, then set them on top of the beans. Roast for 12 minutes.

    Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan. When it’s hot, add the breadcrumbs and fry briskly until golden, then add the garlic and cornichons and cook for another minute.

    Take the pan off the heat and stir in the mustard, parsley and lemon zest, mixing together well.

    When 2 minutes of cooking time remain, spoon the breadcrumb mixture on top of the salmon and return it to the oven.

    Squeeze the lemon juice over the top of the fish and serve.

  • One-pot recipes: sour cherry pudding

    Sour cherry, rose & cardamom brioche pudding

    Taken from From the Oven to the Table by Diana Henry

    I apologize. I nearly always include a recipe for bread pudding in my books, because I keep making new versions and am always in love with the latest incarnation. Get good fat dried sour cherries for this (and make it with fresh cherries when in season).

    The combination of cardamom and rose water is heaven, but don’t overdo the spice. It should feel as if cardamom has ‘walked through’ a dish, leaving its perfume behind; it should never dominate.

    Serves 8

    • 125g (4½oz) dried sour cherries
    • About 100ml (3½fl oz) unsweetened pomegranate juice
    • 300ml (½ pint) double cream
    • 300ml (½ pint) whole milk
    • Pinch of sea salt
    • Seeds from 2 cardamom pods, ground
    • 3 large eggs, plus 1 large
    • Egg yolk
    • 150g (5½oz) caster sugar
    • 250g (9oz) brioche loaf
    • 35g (1¼oz) unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 teaspoon rose water, or to taste
    • Squeeze of lemon or lime juice
    • Icing sugar, to dust

    Put the dried cherries in a small saucepan and add enough pomegranate juice to just cover. Bring to the boil, then take off the heat and leave the cherries to sit and plump up (they need at least 30 minutes, but longer is fine).

    Bring the cream, milk and salt to the boil in a heavy-based saucepan with the cardamom, then leave for 15 minutes off the heat.

    Beat the eggs, egg yolk and sugar together. Pour the warm milk mixture on to this, stirring constantly.

    Slice the brioche, butter it and layer it in a 2 litre (3½ pint) ovenproof dish, scattering the soaked cherries and any leftover pomegranate juice on as you layer the bread (try to get most of the cherries under the bread, or they might burn).

    Add some rose water to the eg g and cream mixture – not too much – and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, then taste it. You should be able to detect the rose water, but it shouldn’t be too strong. Brands differ in strength, so you have to taste and decide if you need a little more.

    Pour the egg and milk mixture evenly over the layers of bread. Leave the pudding to sit for 30 minutes; this will make it lighter.

    Preheat the oven to 180°C fan (375°F), Gas Mark 5.

    Put the dish into a roasting tin and carefully pour enough boiling water into the tin to come about one-third of the way up the sides of the dish. Bake for 40–45 minutes, or until puffy, golden and just set on the top.

    Leave to cool slightly – the pudding will continue to cook in the residual heat for a while – then dust with icing sugar before serving.

Indian in 7 by Monisha Bharadwaj (£17.99, Kyle Books) and From The Oven To The Table: Simple Dishes That Look After Themselves by Diana Henry (£25, Mitchell Beazley) are out now.     

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Photography: Gareth Morgans; Laura Edwards 

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