As chilly winter nights start to draw in, there is nothing more inviting than a steaming pot of something delicious on the kitchen table.
Even though many people spend a lot of money on napkins, tablecloths and flowers, great cooks would argue you only need one large classic casserole dish for a stylish but understated kitchen meal.
‘I’m a big fan of one-pot or one-tin cooking,’ Rukmini Iyer, author of The Quick Roasting Tin: 30 Minute One Tin Dinners, says.
Iconic: A selection of Le Creuset Kitchenware – Cast-iron pots still made at the original French foundry Fresnoy-le-Grand north of Paris
‘It makes life so much easier for me knowing that my main course is all made in one pot or tin, ready to warm through and stick on the table for everyone to help themselves.
‘With a beautiful one-pot dish, as a hostess I don’t get frazzled trying to plate up restaurant-style or warm up six serving dishes to hold the contents of six saucepans. A massive one-pot looks warm, inviting and generous.’
Although casserole dishes can be costly, they are worth the investment because the best ones will last a lifetime.
You should choose dishes that are easy to cook on the stovetop as well as in the oven.
The choice of pot has become so important that a new trend has emerged in the past year, the ‘panfluencer’; yes, people who show off cookware online.
Our Place is the company that pioneered the trend. Oprah Winfrey, Cameron Diaz, and other celebrities love Our Place. At one time, there was a 50,000-person wait list for its inaugural cookware product the Always Pan.
Queen of dishes
The latest release from Our Place is the Perfect Pot, which claims to be a stockpot, Dutch oven, saucepot, roasting rack, steamer, strainer and braiser, all in one (£140).
Lightweight: The Always Pan, £125 comes in a range of pretty colourways
It also comes with a nonstick, non-toxic lining. This can help to alleviate any health concerns. Plus, because the whole thing is a third of the weight of a traditional Dutch oven — it weighs 2kg even with the lid on — it makes transporting to the table a lightweight affair. Like the Always Pan (£125), the pot comes in a range of pretty colourways.
As you’d expect from the colourful Bake Off queen Prue Leith, her ceramic casserole dish is brightly-hued: the Prue Leith’s World Ceramic Casserole Dish for Lakeland is poppy red and made from a heat and flame-resistant ceramic, meaning it can be used on the hob and in the oven.
Designed with a chef’s know-how, the lid has been crafted with nodules that help any condensation droplets return to your food as it cooks, meaning no dried-out dishes (£42.99).
You can’t get more classic than a Le Creuset. Iyer’s favourite is a 30cm shallow almond Le Creuset (£245), which she uses to serve anything from ‘a spiced lamb keema shepherd’s pie with a crisp saffron potato topping, a Singapore-style roast chicken on rice or a simple one-pan orecchiette with roasted tomatoes and Parmesan’.
Le Creuset, which was first created in 1925, is still made at Fresnoy-le-Grand (north of Paris) by its cast-iron classic dishes.
But it’s not the only cast-iron brand; the Nordic brand Fiskars has a cast-iron casserole dish with a birch wood lid that looks stylish on the table and has a 6 litre capacity — perfect for winter stews with friends and family (£194.99, Selfridges).
Cambridge-based cookware company Crane, meanwhile, has a cast-iron dish made from 30 per cent recycled materials with a specially formulated matt black enamel that is free from toxins (£135).
Super shiny steel
Professional chefs, including Melissa Hemsley, love the brand GreenPan; its Barcelona Evershine casserole dish features a three-layer stainless steel design with aluminium core which heats up quickly and evenly, and a Thermolon Infinity Pro ceramic coating that means food doesn’t stick to the sides (£130).
Meyer’s stainless steel casserole dish, part of a new range inspired by Scandinavian and Japanese design (£64.99) has a stainless-steel body, with heat-resistant silicone handles. In addition, the pot’s bell-shaped curve helps prevents spills and boil-overs, plus, it’s fine to put in the dishwasher.
Copper pans have been the ultimate status symbol, having graced stately homes’ grand kitchens for centuries.
Copper is great to cook with as it has a greater level of thermal conductivity than most other metals — about 60 per cent higher than aluminium and 2,000 per cent higher than stainless steel — meaning it heats up quickly.
It is also naturally antimicrobial, a huge plus when we’re worried about infections spreading. It looks beautiful on a plate.
Borough Kitchen has a traditional copper pan, lined with stainless steel for durability, with beautiful handles that take it to take centre stage on your kitchen table (£349). Cooking with the copper does not have to cost a fortune — Wilko has its own range including the copper-effect tri-ply 20 cm casserole pan (£16).
What are you waiting for?! Get in there.