My attempts to Marie Kondo the house haven’t shifted my drawerful of collected recipes. Some kitchen-smudged and handed over by harried but kind chefs, some beautifully typed up and presented in envelopes from hotels, and more recently scrawled down in my travel notebooks. My Creole crab tarts are the result of a trip to North Carolina; my coconut rice and crispy chilli tofu recipe is inspired by a dish I had while travelling in Indonesia; and my shrimp and grits are the result of trips to Tennessee and California.
Ovens are not a traditional cooking method in many food cultures. For Thai and Indian dishes, the spice-paste and onions are carefully fried in a pan until the oil separates before you’re allowed to add any further ingredients. But I love the luxury of leaving food to cook without my attention, and didn’t want to lose out on the incredible flavours that you get in recipes from these countries. While the authentic versions, which may require several pans and different steps, are unquestionably delicious, the idea behind converting these into one-tin dishes was to make life easier on those days when you just don’t have the time or inclination to stand in the kitchen stirring.
When there are other things requiring attention – children, dogs, deadlines, friends arriving for dinner in 20 minutes – much as I love food and have a keen interest in traditional world cooking, if I can knock out a globally inspired dish that’ll have family and friends amazed at the complexity of flavours, while I rather smugly know there’s only one tin and a tableful of wineglasses to wash up after they’ve left, then I’ll happily do that.
If in doubt, go large. Pyrex lasagne dishes, ceramic dishes, the bottom half of a large Le Creuset, enamel tins, stainless steel tins, even the big tray that comes fitted in your oven as standard all work well for these recipes. Just bear in mind is that you need to use a tin large enough for all your vegetables to fit in a single layer. If they pile up on top of each other, the ingredients underneath will steam, not roast, and may not cook in the time specified. Grains that go underneath the veg in stock aren’t as fussy, and meat can sit on top of veg, if needed.
Korean-Style Aubergines With Spring Onions & Sesame Rice (Serves 4)
In the traditional Korean dish, aubergines are steamed for just seven minutes before you gently stir in the red pepper and sesame dressing. In this version, I let the oven steam the aubergines, while fresh basmati rice and cabbage cook underneath for a simple and filling all-in-one dish. Gochugaru, or Korean red pepper flakes, are easily available online, at specialist shops, and even miraculously on Amazon – they really make the dish, and once you have a jar, you’ll find yourself scattering the flakes on everything (scrambled eggs are my favourite).
- 200g of basmati rice, rinsed
- 2 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
- 2 leeks, or 1 small Chinese cabbage, thinly sliced
- 400ml of vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp of sesame oil
- 2 aubergines, cut into 1.5cm slices
- 1 tsp of sea salt flakes
- 3 fat spring onions, very thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp of sesame seeds
For the dressing:
- 15g of Korean red pepper flakes
- 30ml of sesame oil
- 30ml of rice vinegar
- 30ml of soy sauce
- 5cm of ginger, grated
- 1 clove of garlic, finely grated
Preheat the oven to 210°C fan/230°C/gas 8.
Tip the rice and garlic into a wide lidded casserole dish or a medium roasting tin, then evenly cover with the sliced leeks or Chinese cabbage. Pour over the vegetable stock and sesame oil, then lay the aubergines over the top in one layer. Scatter over the sea salt, cover with the lid or very tightly with foil (this is important, or the rice won’t cook properly), then transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the dressing ingredients together. As soon as you take the tin out of the oven, remove the lid or foil and dress the aubergines with the red pepper dressing.
Scatter over the spring onions and sesame seeds and serve hot.
Peach & Dulce De Leche Cake With Meringues & Cream (Serves 8)
In Uruguay, the original version of this cake is known as chajá – layers of light, fluffy sponge soaked in peach syrup, whipped cream, dulce de leche, peach slices and crumbled meringue. My version incorporates the dulce de leche and fresh peaches into an olive oil cake – serve it warm out of the oven, with crème fraiche or lightly whipped cream alongside.
- 225g of olive oil
- 225g of dulce de leche (you can use tinned Nestlé caramel, sold next to the condensed milk)
- 50g of caster sugar
- 4 free-range eggs
- 225g of self-raising flour
- 1 tsp of baking powder
- 3 under- to just-ripe peaches, thinly sliced
- 175g of dulce de leche (this is the remaining caramel in the tin)
- A handful of crushed shop-bought meringues
- Crème fraîche or lightly whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C/gas 4.
In a food processor or by hand, mix the olive oil and dulce de leche together with the sugar until well combined, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour and baking powder, then pour into a 26cm by 20cm roasting tin or cake dish.
Arrange the sliced peaches over the batter, then transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
Melt the remaining dulce de leche in a pan until smooth and pourable, then drizzle this over the warm cake. Scatter with a handful of crushed meringues, then serve with crème fraîche or lightly whipped cream alongside.
Notes: As this cake contains fresh fruit, if you are not eating it on the day you make it, store it in the fridge. I like to warm it up slice by slice in the microwave – 30 seconds on high.
Chermoula Roasted Tuna With Peppers, Chickpeas & Raisins (Serves 4)
3 colourful pointy peppers, halved
1 medium aubergine, cut into eighths
1 red onion, cut into 1cm slices
300g of cherry tomatoes, with their vines
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
4 nice thick tuna steaks
100g of raisins
100ml of warm water
A handful of flaked almonds
- 45g of fresh mint, leaves only
- 1.5 tsp of ground cumin
- 1.5 tsp of ground paprika
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 3 tbsp of olive oil
- A pinch of sea salt
- 1 preserved lemon or half a lemon, zest only, and 1 tsp of white vinegar
A handful of fresh mint
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/gas 6.
Tip all the chermoula ingredients into a blender and blitz until combined. Taste and add a little more salt as needed.
Tip the peppers, aubergine, onion, cherry tomatoes with their vines and the chickpeas into a roasting tin large enough to more or less hold the vegetables in one layer. Mix through three-quarters of the chermoula, making sure to coat the vegetables evenly, then transfer to the oven and roast for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, spread the remaining chermoula all over the tuna steaks, then return them to the fridge to marinate. Don’t wash the blender – tip in the raisins and water, stir and set aside.
Once the vegetables have had 40 minutes, tip in the raisins and liquid. Remove the tomato vines, squash down the tomatoes, then lay the tuna over the vegetables. Scatter over the almonds, then return to the oven for 10–12 minutes, until the tuna is just cooked and the almonds are crisp.
Scatter over the mint and serve.
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