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Box set lined up? 7 delicious one-bowl dinners that are perfect for a night on the couch

Try comforting mac and cheese or a zingy beef stir-fry, from food writer (and Netflix fan) Caroline Hennessy.

MAYBE YOU’RE ABOUT to get stuck into series seven of Call The Midwife, or love admiring the ingenuity of the folk on Tiny House Nation. Or maybe you’re watching Dirty Dancing on repeat (just me?).

Whatever the plans, there’s a certain style of dinner I’d suggest adding to your kitchen arsenal as the evenings draw in: a one-bowl wonder of a meal that lets you focus on the screen at hand.

When you’re Netflixing – I’m sure it’s a verb by now – you’re looking for something that’s quick and easy to prep, offers good flavour, gives bang for your buck and can be eaten with just one hand.

These are all go-tos in my house, and each recipe serves four…

1. Macaroni cheese

A comfort food classic, you can’t beat a steaming bowlful of mac and cheese – especially when it’s made with just a few ingredients that you can pick up at any corner shop. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook 400g macaroni until al dente, just one minute below the package directions. Drain in a colander, retaining a cup of the cooking water. Put the pot back on a low heat. Add 250ml cream and 250g grated mature cheddar cheese and whisk until melted and smooth. Season aggressively with salt and black pepper, stir in pasta and mix well, adding as much of the reserved cooking water as needed for your desired consistency.

2. Beef and broccoli stir-fry

If you feel able to deal with chopsticks, this is a speedy supper that comes together in minutes. In a bowl, mix together sauce ingredients: 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 2 tablespoons rice or white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar. Heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil in a wok or large pan over a high heat. Add 400g thinly sliced beef, fry for 3-4 minutes until browned. Tip in 2 cloves thinly sliced garlic, 1 finely sliced red chilli and 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, stir well, add 250g finely chopped broccoli and fry for another 3 minutes. Pour over the sauce, and simmer until everything is coated in a sticky sauce. Serve with noodles, lime wedges and chopped, roasted peanuts.

shutterstock_59469880 Shutterstock / Joshua Resnick Shutterstock / Joshua Resnick / Joshua Resnick

3. Root veg wedges and hummus

The trick here is the contrast. The wedges are hot and spicy, crispy on the outside and fluffy within, and the hummus should be fridge cold. This is, hands down, my favourite meal to have while curled up on the couch. Preheat oven to 200C (180C). Scrub, but don’t peel, 500g potatoes. Cut into wedges and tip on to a large roasting tray. Peel 500g of mixed root veg (beetroot, parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes), cut into wedges and add to the tray. Toss with 4 tablespoons olive oil and a generous amount of your favourite spice blend. Bake for 35-40 minutes, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden. Serve with a generous dollop of cold hummus. You might not even need a fork.

4. Martha Stewart’s one-pot pasta (with a Donal Skehan twist)

Put pasta, veg and liquid into a pan – cook, stir, season, serve. This is an undeniably genius recipe from Donal Skehan, inspired by the one and only Martha. You might want to switch out the spaghetti for penne, or something a little more fork friendly, but otherwise it’s an instant classic. 

5. Lamb and feta-stuffed pita pockets

Don’t underestimate the power of a good sandwich, especially one that’s been baked in the oven. I use a Moroccan spice blend called ras el hanout in this dish but you can substitute garam masala (or even a pinch of ground coriander, according to The Stone Soup).

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan) Thoroughly mix 500g minced lamb with 100g crumbled feta, 1 finely chopped onion, 2 finely chopped cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons ras el hanout, a handful of chopped parsley and the juice of half a lemon. Season well. Slice 4 large pita breads open and divide the mixture between them, flattening it to cover the whole surface. Close the pitas. Brush both sides of the sandwich with a little olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes until the bread is toasted and the meat cooked through. Cut into wedges to serve.

6. Slow cooker black beans

If you have – or can get your hands on – a slow cooker, then you can come home to a pot of ready-to-go, gently spiced black beans that are perfect for serving over rice, no knife required. This recipe makes masses but the beans freeze well. Stick half in the freezer for next week’s movie night. Serve with rice, a dollop of yogurt, fresh coriander and thinly sliced fresh chilli. Find my own recipe in full here.

7. Brown butter parmesan popcorn

When all is said and done, a bowl of truly great popcorn can stand in for dinner at any time. Over a medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large, deep saucepan. Add 100g popcorn kernels and mix well. Cook, shaking occasionally, until the first kernel pops. Clamp on the lid, turn the heat to high and shake constantly until the popping stops. Do not walk away, you will regret it! Tip into a large bowl and wipe the pan out with kitchen paper. Add 50g butter to the hot pan and replace on the heat until it starts to brown. Sprinkle in ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, pour over the popcorn and mix well. Grate over plenty of parmesan and toss again. Dinner is served.

More: One-pot dinners – 6 comforting veggie casseroles ready in 30 minutes or less>

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