I am a big fan of the Law of Diminishing Returns. A 20% effort equals an 80% return. That additional 20% – i.e. the 20% that tips you into the realms of utter perfection and makes up the difference to the full 100% – requires a further 80% effort. Worth thinking about.
I apply this law to cooking. A lot. I don’t (often, anyway) make puff pastry from scratch: I buy it from the supermarket and then focus on an irresistible filling to go with it; likewise, I don’t make my own fresh pasta – but I will spend time and take care with the sauce.
In keeping with this philosophy, I am very keen on recipes that can be cooked in the one pot. This cuts down on washing up and all washing up related anxiety – which I suffer from. Severely.
What makes me even happier still is when the pot is handsome enough to cook from and serve from, directly at table. I can – literally – feel my washing up anxiety fading away.
So, here are the five pieces that I have in my kitchen and use all the time:
1. Pretty Pie Dish. Pan fry a tasty filling and top with ready made puff pastry. Shove in the oven, and lay the table. When your guests arrive, you can produce a golden pie in one glorious – almost verging on smug – ‘I am a domestic goddess’ moment. And the frilled rim on this one makes me inexplicably happy.
2. Authentic Paella Dish. Paella is one of my favourite go-to meals for last minute, or lazy, entertaining. Rice and whatever you have in the store cupboard in one big, festive pan. Serve with Spanish beer, in the bottle with a wedge of lime stuffed into the bottleneck. 80% Perfect.
3. Classic Cast Iron Le Creuset Casserole Pot. These are investment pieces. Our pot belonged to my mother before I stole it off her. They will last you a lifetime and are worth the (hefty) price tag, but if you’re not quite ready to make the plunge – Sainsbury’s do a great cheap and cheerful alternative. Think pot of warming minestrone brought to the table with rustic bread and chunks of cheese on the side. And smile.
4. Colourful Tagine Dish. I often make tagine when I am cooking for large numbers, and serve with warm flat breads and a chopped salad. I also sometimes use the bottom part of the dish as a salad bowl or serving plate. That’s not what it’s for, but it works well. Love multitasking cookware – and love this plum colour too.
5. Sophie Conran Roasting Dish. This is probably the one kitchen item that I use the most. Roast potatoes, baked frittata, shepherd’s pie, roasted sausages with sage and chicory. You name it, it goes in the pretty pan, into the oven, then out and straight on to the table.