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  • Anna Berrill

How to make good meals without loads of washing-up

Traybakes, one-pot pastas, soups and stews are your best pals if you want to avoid a load of dirty dishes

I’m fed up with domestic drudgery. Which meals generate the least washing-up? Hannah, London

You’re speaking Roberta Hall-McCarron’s language, Hannah: “There’s so much prep and washing up at work, I try to keep things really simple at home,” says the chef/owner of The Little Chartroom in Edinburgh. A broth, she adds, is a good place to start: “That could be chicken or veggie stock, or go down a more Asian route with coconut milk and Thai curry paste.” Hall-McCarron then chucks in whatever vegetables takes her fancy, adding them to the pot according to how long they take to cook, maybe some meat or fish, too, and noodles or rice. “Not only are you getting all the flavour from the broth going into everything you put in the pot, you’ve also got only one pot to wash up afterwards.”

A similar tactic is endorsed by Merlin Labron-Johnson, chef at Osip and The Old Pharmacy in Somerset. “When I want to avoid washing up, my go-to dinner is a simple soup. There’s something very satisfying about the act of throwing lots of ingredients into one pot and letting them simmer away.” He usually punts for leafy greens, such as kale, tearing them in by hand “to avoid chopping”, and adds tinned beans for bulk without contributing to the dirty dishes.

Traybakes are also a godsend for keeping the sink from overflowing. To build the best, follow food writer Anna Jones’ six-step plan: pick a “main vegetable” (800g winter roots, say, or chopped butternut squash), then a soft one (for example, 200g spinach leaves or half a jar of roast red peppers, chopped) and put in an oven dish. Add substance (a tin of butter beans or chickpeas, or torn bread), liquid (100ml stock or white wine), herbs and a “flavour boost” (lemon or orange zest, and/or a teaspoon of hot smoked paprika), then bake “until the vegetables are soft and golden”.

According to Ferdinand “Budgie” Montoya, chef-owner of Sarap Filipino Bistro in London, every home should have a rice cooker: “You can just put everything in, press ‘cook’ and that’s it.” One regular go-to at Montoya’s house is chopped ginger, garlic, jasmine rice and chicken stock (“or water and stock cubes”), which he mixes before laying “two boneless chicken thighs skin side down on top and a stick of lemongrass that’s been bashed to release the flavour”. Once cooked, he stirs through chopped coriander and spring onion tops. “For a little condiment, finely chop coriander stems, chilli, garlic, ginger and spring onion [the white part], then stir in soy sauce, vinegar– I use Filipino coconut vinegar, but apple cider or white-wine vinegar would work – rapeseed oil, sesame oil and salt.”

One-pot pastas, in which the sauce is made from that magic pasta cooking water and whatever ingredients you’ve chucked in, are also only a quick boil away. A personal favourite is Jones’ kale, tomato and lemon spaghetti from A Modern Way to Cook, for which she puts the pasta, halved tomatoes, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and boiling water in a pan and brings to a boil. Turn the spaghetti with tongs every 30 seconds or so for six minutes, then lob in some kale or spinach and cook for another couple of minutes. Top with a sprinkle of parmesan, and these are carbs you’ll want to curl up with – and with minimal washing-up for afters, too.

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