4 healthy and simple one-pot wonders
Right now, I’m pretty into hearty dishes prepared in just one pot. I like to call these recipes “one-pot wonders” because, no matter what time of year, I reckon any time you combine healthy ingredients into a comforting meal that leaves hardly any dishes is a good time. Plus, from a nutrition perspective, one-pot meals get two thumbs up from me.
Most one-pots include a little more fat and many are cooked in bone broth. Bone broth is nature’s ultimate multivitamin. I make a big brew of bone broth in the slow cooker once a week and section it up into portions (often freezing the leftovers as it only lasts about three to four days in the fridge) and, that way, we can have a bit of broth each day.
There are many health benefits from bone broth. First, your body is receiving minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, silicon, sulphur and other trace elements in a highly absorbable form.
Slow cooking also breaks down the collagen in the bones to gelatin and regular natural gelatin intake has been found to reduce stiffness and alleviate joint pain. Bone broth is also fantastic for the health of your skin and, most importantly, helps to heal your gut.
The reason gelatin works so wonderfully well on the digestive system is that it improves gut integrity and digestive strength by enhancing gastric acid secretion and restoring a healthy lining in the stomach.
“I’ve always enjoyed the comforting nature of roasting, braising and stewing my food … The method is so basic and versatile.”
Gelatin also absorbs water and helps keep fluid in the digestive tract, promoting good intestinal and bowel health. These healthy intestinal cells prevent leaky gut, which is often the root of many food intolerances, allergies, inflammatory conditions and autoimmune diseases.
Along with the inclusion of bone broth in many one-pot recipes, I’m also a big fan because the method is so basic and versatile. You can throw any different combo of seasonal vegetables, herbs, spices and broths (or water if you haven’t had a chance to make a brew) together then add some free-range, grass-fed or sustainably caught animal protein. If you’re stewing, try cheaper cuts of meat such as gravy beef, chicken thighs or even offal for those with a more adventurous palate.
Combine in a cast-iron pot, slow cooker, pressure cooker, saucepan, casserole dish, wok or even a roasting tin and simply cook all ingredients.
It’s a formula that’s been working for humans ever since our ancestors learnt how to cook with fire around 1 million years ago. According to Reay Tannahill’s book Food In History, men used reptile shells and the stomachs of animals they had killed as vessels in which to boil liquid and we knew how to boil water long before the invention of pottery (about 6000 BCE). Indeed, Darwin himself considered fire to be one of the two most significant achievements of humanity and the importance of cooked food in human evolution is also explained in Michael Pollan’s excellent book Cooked.
If you realise that paleo eating is all about balance by taking the best from our ancestors and mixing it with the best of 21st century nutrition, it’s no surprise that one-pot meals are a great way to support this lifestyle. It’s for this reason I wrote my most recent cookbook, One Pot Favourites.
You see, ever since I first got on the tools as a young chef, I’ve always enjoyed the comforting nature of roasting, braising and stewing my food. Long hours in the kitchen often meant that, in my 20s, my slow cooker was my go-to because I could come home from work to a healthy meal.
Funnily enough, not much has changed. At home, we love preparing a meal in the slow cooker. It gets a real workout. Don’t have a slow cooker? No worries. Simmer a stew on the stovetop or create family favourites in a casserole dish or tagine in the oven.
I also wanted to share with you some of the more unusual one-pot recipes I’m enjoying: recipes for whole roasted cauliflower with almonds and dukkah and a wild mushroom “risotto” with chestnuts and truffle oil that uses cauliflower as its base. I promise these vegie dishes will go down a treat at your next dinner party.
The reason I use cauliflower so often in my recipes is because it’s a great replacement for rice and because, as it’s a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower has many health benefits. It’s a good one to eat a couple of times a week because it helps to detoxify and reduce inflammation in the body thanks to its high levels of vitamin K, a direct regulator of our inflammatory response. Cauliflower also contains lots of vitamin C and manganese, which are two important conventional antioxidants.
Meanwhile, mushrooms contain a number of valuable nutrients, including protein, enzymes, B vitamins (especially niacin) and vitamin D2. Mushrooms are an excellent source of antioxidants in general as they contain polyphenols and selenium. I like to use different types of mushrooms in my dishes because each variety has its own unique flavours and health properties.
I’ve also recently been spending a bit of time in the US filming the third series of a show I present called Moveable Feast. I love the chance to do this gig because I get to hang out with really passionate chefs who share with me their food adventures and family recipes.
I love reinventing some of these classic recipes, which is how I created Prawn Perloo. Using the famous dish from Southern US called perloo, I replaced rice with cauliflower and created the paella-like meal by simmering spices, cooking vegies and then adding broth and some protein. In my recipe, I’ve included hearty ingredients such as paleo pork sausages and oysters to pack the dish full of as many vitamins and minerals as possible.
You could use any seafood really, be it mussels, clams, squid, fish, scallops or even crabs. Better yet, if you’re having loved ones over for a big feast, chuck ‘em all in. What I love about the dish is that you serve it up family style at the dinner table.
I’ve also shared some of our family’s weeknight favourites, such as braised ginger chicken. Ginger is a spice we use almost daily in our household. It has been used since ancient times to aid digestion, alleviate nausea, morning sickness and travel sickness and to reduce inflammation in the body.
I love it paired with poultry and some fresh Chinese leafy greens. I’ve used bok choy in this recipe but you can use whatever leafy greens you might have on hand, such as silverbeet or spinach. This is a wonderful warming dish you can make from a whole chook or use thighs, drumsticks or marylands instead.
There’s honestly so many different flavours you can create through slow cooking, braising, stewing and roasting in one pot and I hope I can encourage you all to incorporate this method into your weekly cooking routine. One pot meals are a wonderful way to get a healthy meal on the table that supports the health and wellbeing of your body.
Now you’ve got the formula, it’s time to get into the kitchen and start experimenting with your own favourite one-pot wonders.
Cook with love and laughter,
Wild Mushroom “Risotto” with Chestnuts & Truffle Oil
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Almonds & Dukkah
4 healthy and simple one-pot wonders
Preparing a hearty dish in a single pot is a wonderful way to harness the nutrients and flavours of your food, and save time on washing up into the bargain.
- 3 tbsp coconut oil or good-quality animal fat
- 4 paleo pork sausages
- 2 onions, chopped
- 200g ham, finely chopped
- 1½ red capsicums, chopped
- 1 jalapeño chilli, deseeded & chopped
- ¼ tsp chilli powder or a few pinches cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 3 thyme sprigs, leaves picked & finely chopped
- 500g uncooked cauliflower rice (chop raw cauliflower in a food processer until it resembles the texture of rice)
- 2 silverbeet leaves, stalks removed, leaves chopped
- 250mL chicken bone broth
- 12 large raw prawns, shelled & deveined with heads & tails intact
- 20 freshly shucked rock or Pacific oysters
- Lemon wedges, to serve (optional)
- Melt 1 tablespoon of the oil or fat in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook, tossing occasionally, for 8–10 mins until almost cooked through. Remove the sausages from the pan, place on a chopping board and, when cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Add remaining oil or fat and onion to the pan and sauté for 6–8 mins until the onion is translucent. Add the ham, capsicum, chilli, chilli powder or cayenne pepper (if using) and smoked paprika and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 mins until the capsicum is softened. Season with salt and pepper.
- Reduce heat to medium, add tomato, garlic, parsley and thyme and cook for 4 mins until the tomato has broken down slightly. Add sausages, cauliflower rice and silverbeet, pour in broth and stir. Place prawns on top in a single layer, cover and cook for 3–4 mins until the prawns change colour. Flip the prawns over then scatter the oysters and cook, covered, for 1 min until the oysters are heated through and the prawns are just cooked. Season with salt and pepper if needed.
- Serve with lemon wedges on the side if you like.