Nights in are more likely to happen in January than at any other time of the year.
You’re home, it’s dark, it’s cold outside, you’re tired and you’re all partied out. But you still want a treat. A reward for slaying the tedium of yet another day in the long march to spring. But one that comes without labour or expense. What to do? What to do?
Let us help. Roll out your pot and ready yourself for one of our one-pot wonders.
Sweet cherry tomato and sausage bake
This really is one of my favourite dishes of all time: it has colour, deep intense flavours, aromatics, plenty of moppable sauce and good meaty bite. It’s impressive brought to table with a heap of steamed mashed squash – something about the orange of the squash and the red of the tomatoes, and hunks of torn crusty bread.
You can’t even really describe this as cooking, it’s really more assembly. Other than slicing the garlic it’s simply a case of tucking everything in together into a roasting tin. But oh, what results.
In the autumn I make this with all manner of multi-coloured homegrown tomatoes, the last pick, but it will make even trays of supermarket Spanish grown cherries sing. It is the finest end a shop bought tomato can have.
2 kg lovely ripe cherry tomatoes, mixed colours if you can find them
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh bay
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
12 higher-welfare Cumberland or coarse Italian pork sausages
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Get yourself an appropriately sized roasting tray, large enough to take the tomatoes in one snug-fitting layer. Put in all your tomatoes, the herb sprigs, oregano, garlic and sausages. Drizzle well with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Toss together, then make sure the sausages are on top and pop the tray into the oven for half an hour. After this time, give it a shake and turn the sausages over. Put back into the oven for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how golden and sticky you like your sausages.
Notes: Recipe originally from Jamie at Home, by Jamie Oliver. I always make extra in the hope that there will be some left over to be chopped and served as a sauce for pasta the next day. Even this doesn’t guarantee there are actually any leftovers….If you can lay your hands on some Ballencrief Italian and Auld Alliance sausages you’ll be laughing.
Lamb shanks with mustard and mash
This dish is lip smackingly good winter fair, a rich unctuous pot of glistening hearty meat falling off the bone and rich shiny gravy to soak into pillows of soft mash.
It needs a good long spell in the oven – it will not be harmed if it spends even longer basking in the warmth. The prep is minimal making it the perfect candidate for a weekend supper at home, just sling it in the oven, retire fireside with a glass of ruby red wine and return sometime later to a delicious feast.
lamb shanks – 2
onions – 4 small to medium
bay leaves – 3
sprigs of rosemary – 2 or 3
vegetable or meat stock – 250ml
red wine – 250ml
garlic – 3 cloves
grain mustard – 1 heaped tbsp
To serve: mash potato and a bit more mustard
Set the oven at 160C/ Gas 3. Warm a couple of tablespoons of oil in a roasting tin large enough to take the meat snuggly, then seal the lamb on all sides of the hot oil. The fat and the cut end of the lamb should take on a little colour.
Peel the onions, slice them in half from root to tip, then each half into quarters. Add them to the lamb with the bay leaves and the leaves from the rosemary sprigs. Pour in the stock and red wine. Peel the garlic cloves and squash them flat with the blade of a heavy knife. Drop them into the roasting tin with a grinding of salt and some course black pepper. Cover the dish with foil, place in the oven and bake for an hour and a half.
Half way through cooking, uncover the dish and stir in the mustard, turning the lamb as you do so. Cover once more and return to the oven. Serve with mashed potato and a bit more mustard.
Notes: Recipe originally from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries. I generally substitute Dijon mustard for the wholegrain simply because I like to give my taste buds a good twang.
Risi e bisi
This classic Venetian dish has been a staple in my home for longer than I care to remember. In Venice I’m sure it’s served in delicate portions spooned into broad, shallow bowls as a starter but at my table it arrives in greedy proportions as the main event. Mostly with a green salad and sometimes with a bit of pretty pink, oven roasted salmon.
As with most things familiarity breeds…well not contempt but certainly a lack of respect for the purity of the dish. I’ve been know to omit ingredients – often the bacon if I feel we’ve had a nitrate overload, and the butter in a concession to restraint, or I substitute them – I’ve used chorizo instead of pancetta which would send Venetians to a watery grave but does the trick if you don’t have pancetta and your taste buds feel more dead than alive.
You do need to be on hand to stir the pot but actually standing in the warmth of a sweet smelling steamy pot on a January evening can be quite a pleasant experience.
300g of frozen petit pois
2 slices pancetta or unsmoked bacon, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1.5ltrs light meat or chicken stock (if you use stock cubes please omit the salt)
250g Arborio rice
salt and pepper
2tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
4tbsp grated parmesan
Fry the pancetta or bacon with the onion in half the butter and the oil until the onion is soft. Cover with a little hot stock and simmer for 5 minutes.
Pour in the rest of the stock and bring to the boil. Add the rice, season (if using stock cubes – and it’s not a crime – please omit the salt), turn down the heat and cook gently, stirring occasionally to release the starch in the rice until the rice is almost tender but still has a bite. The rice should retain a soupy quality like a very loose, liquid risotto – what the Italians call a minestra.
Meanwhile blanch the peas in boiling water, remove before fully cooked. Drain, and add to the rice when the rice is almost cooked. Cook the rice for a few more minutes until tender.
Turn off the heat, stir in the remaining butter, the parsley and cheese.
Notes: recipes adapted from the original source in Claudia Roden’s Food of Italy.
If you know of anyone needing culinary inspiration for January please Like and Share using the social buttons.