It’s a phrase I’ve seen cropping up online with increasing frequency (and have also been guilty of using myself on occasion) – one pot cooking. I don’t think I need to take too much trouble to explain what it means but I’ll give it a go just in case – you put all your ingredients in one pot, you cook them and the idea is you’ll end up with a delicious meal. It’s evokes notions of easy preparation and comfort food – stews, casseroles, bakes – everything you could want from a winter dish.
But when does one pot go one step too far? I’m not going to knock the whole notion but occasionally I think some recipes are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. So what are the perils of the one pot and when does it all come together beautifully?
The thing that prompted this blog post was a picture I saw on Twitter at the weekend – it was a rather fetching shot attached to a recipe described as ‘One Pot Roast Chicken’. The recipe itself wasn’t a whole roast chicken but rather marinated joints attractively placed in a retro-looking enamel roasting tin alongside potatoes with their skins on and a various other vegetables, all garnished with sprigs of fresh herbs. So far, so food porn.
I had a quick look at the ingredients and the instructions, and they seemed pretty straight forward, in line with the whole ‘one pot’ ethos. I’m sure this would all taste lovely, but, and call me a traditionalist if you want, if you’re going to go the trouble of roasting vegetables and potatoes in particular, then some things you just can’t compromise on.
I’ve been guilty of cramming a few too many tatties on a roasting tin because I didn’t have room in the oven, or (and far more likely), couldn’t be bothered to find another roasting tin. And you know what? When you squeeze everything together in one dish it doesn’t taste half as nice. Your potatoes might be cooked but they certainly aren’t crispy and that goes for pretty much everything else. What are the things you love most about roast chicken with all the trimmings? The crispy, caramelised skin? The aforementioned fluffy-on-the-inside-crispy-on-the-outside roasties? I know it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it but a One Roasting Tin and a Baking Tray Roast Chicken is far superior to any one pot shenanigans and well worth the extra washing up.
So when does the one pot get it right? Well, I would say stick to stews, soups and casseroles. A good beef stew is achievable in one large stock pot, although technically, technically, you have to brown the meat off in batches which involves putting some aside in a separate dish. So does this mean it’s not a One Pot Beef Stew but rather a One Pot, One Bowl Beef Stew?
Let’s face it, there are very few dishes that you do justice to in just one pot. I’m all for buzz words that get people cooking but for those of you who’ve tried roasting everything in one vessel and remained distinctly underwhelmed, let me tell you, there is another way! It’s called cooking for flavour rather than trends taking priority! Forgive me if I continue to raise a sceptical eyebrow when faced with yet another one pot winter recipe and please be patient while I finish scrubbing the burned on bits off my many, many roasting tins.