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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 15 November, 2019
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One-pot dinners: 6 comforting veggie casseroles ready in 30 minutes or less

Set your timer for a delicious early autumn meal.

Image: Shutterstock

THE KIDS ARE heading back to school, there’s a new chill to the evening sunshine and – it’s hard to type this one – the days are getting shorter.

With the arrival of September, as I start to yearn for cosy woollens, my cooking undergoes a corresponding change: the days for light summer salads are coming to a close but I’m not quite ready for the wintertime menu of meaty braises and rich stews.

These veggie one-pot dinners bridge that gap between seasons, easing you gently into the chillier months and making the most of 

All recipes serve four.

1. Butternut squash and sweet potato casserole (with optional cheesy crust): This is a hug in a bowl. If you have the time to add the cheese crust, you’ll really feel as if you’ve hit the comfort food jackpot. To start, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan that can also go under the grill. Add a chopped onion and a couple of sliced cloves of garlic, then season with salt/black pepper and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until soft. Sprinkle some smoked paprika over the mixture and cook for a minute until fragrant.

Chop one butternut squash and a large sweet potato into 2cm pieces. Add to the pan with a sprig of fresh thyme, a 400g can of chopped tomatoes and 350ml vegetable or chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Preheat your grill to hot, then place some thinly sliced brie on top of the casserole, and pop it under the grill for 4-5 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Use warm pita breads to scoop up all that molten goodness.

2. Rainbow dhal: Protein-rich, quick-cooking split red lentils are my storecupboard staple, cheap to buy and an easy starting point for a delicious meal. Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil in a large saucepan over a high heat. Tip in a chopped red onion, a couple of chopped garlic cloves, a tablespoon of grated fresh ginger and cook for about five minutes, stirring regularly, until your onion starts to turn brown.

Add a pinch of ground red chilli, a teaspoon ground turmeric and three teaspoons garam masala. Cook for 30 seconds, then add 225g red split lentils, a 400g tin chopped tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and add around a litre of water. Tip in 1kg of mixed chopped veg – eg carrot, courgette, cauliflower, pumpkin, parsnip, the more colourful the better! – reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables and lentils are cooked. Stir in two handfuls of fresh spinach leaves and season to taste. Serve on steamed rice, topped with chopped coriander leaves, natural yoghurt and lime quarters.

3. Potato and sweetcorn chowder: A chowder is simply a stew by another name. Frozen sweetcorn is a handy year-round staple but, if you can get your hands on fresh sweetcorn still on the cob (some info on how to prep it here), you’ll really taste the difference. Heat two tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add a diced onion, a finely chopped celery stalk and some finely chopped garlic. Then season well and fry for about five minutes, until it all starts to soften. 

Add 300g potato, peeled and cubed, stir well, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons plain flour. Cook for 2 minutes before pouring in 350ml milk and 350ml vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time, then add 200g fresh or frozen sweetcorn. Simmer gently for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. Season to taste, mashing a few potatoes into the chowder if it needs thickening. Optional – but very good – is the addition of 100ml of cream. Serve in deep bowls with a sprinkling of chopped chives and hunks of crusty garlic bread.

4. Roast autumn vegetables with feta: Chop, toss, bake, serve. This couldn’t be easier, and, depending on what vegetables you have on hand, it can be made in heaps of different ways.

To start, preheat the oven to 200 degrees, or 180 for a fan oven. Thickly slice an aubergine, two courgettes and two red peppers. Cut two red onions and a bulb of fennel into wedges. Mix together in a shallow baking dish with four roughly chopped cloves of garlic, two handfuls of cherry tomatoes, two tablespoons olive oil and two teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary. Roast for 15 minutes, stir, then add 200g feta and a handful of fat, juicy olives. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through and the feta is browned. Serve with couscous, spiked with lemon juice.

shutterstock_183984629 Source: Shutterstock

5. Coconut and peanut curry: There’s something about the combination of coconut and peanuts that makes me dream of tropical heat – this is especially good on damp, dismal days. Heat some coconut oil in a large saucepan and fry two sliced red onions over a high heat for a few minutes until they start to soften and brown.

Dice four carrots and one butternut squash into 2cm chunks and add to the pan. Finely chop two red chillies – seeds removed, for less heat – a couple of garlic cloves and 2cm fresh ginger. Sprinkle into the pan and cook for two minutes. Measure 200ml hot water in a large jug, add two tablespoons crunchy peanut butter, a teaspoon of tomato puree, the zest and juice of one lime, a tablespoon of Thai fish sauce and a dash of soy sauce. Whisk well together and pour over the vegetables with a 400ml can coconut milk. Simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked. Season to taste and serve sprinkled with coriander leaves and chopped roasted peanuts.

6. Mushroom stroganoff: Mushrooms and autumn – it’s a classic combination. Give it a try with any kind of mushrooms that you can find – you won’t be disappointed.

Heat two tablespoons of butter in a large deep frying pan over a medium heat and cook a finely sliced onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Tip in 600g sliced mushrooms – use a mixture of whatever you can source – and cook over a high heat until softened. Grate over ½ teaspoon of nutmeg and season well with salt and pepper. Add 150ml white wine or vermouth and bring to the boil. Whisk in 300ml sour cream and 1½ teaspoons of Dijon mustard. Reduce heat and simmer gently until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Serve over fresh egg noodles. 

shutterstock_1054638443 Source: Shutterstock

More: Sambos left untouched? 9 creative lunchbox ideas to please even the pickiest of eaters>

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About the author:

Caroline Hennessy

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