As chilly winter nights start to draw in, there is nothing more inviting than a steaming pot of something delicious on the kitchen table.
And while many spend a fortune on napkins, tablecloths, flowers and foliage, great cooks would argue that all you need is that one big classic casserole dish for a stylish, but understated, kitchen supper.
‘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: An array of Le Creuset kitchenware – the cast-iron pots are still made at the original French foundry in 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.’
Though casserole dishes can be expensive, they are a worthy investment as the best ones will last a lifetime.
Make sure you opt for dishes that work on the hob and in the oven, and look good enough to bring straight to the table for serving.
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.
The company that has heralded the trend is Our Place, which is loved by celebrities from Oprah Winfrey to Cameron Diaz and, at one point, had a 50,000-person waiting 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 has a non-toxic, non-stick lining, meaning it can allay 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 was first created in 1925 and its cast-iron classic dishes are still made at the original French foundry in Fresnoy-le-Grand, north of Paris.
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, having graced the grand kitchens of stately homes for centuries, are the ultimate status symbol.
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. Plus, it looks beautiful on a table.
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).
So what are you waiting for? Tuck in.
What your home needs is a… sheepskin cushion
The White Company’s bolster and square cushions in mink, pictured, cost £60 and £70 respectively
A cushion has two functions: comfort and decoration. The sheepskin design amply serves both uses, making a room seem cosier, and giving it that Scandi look which is more fashionable in winter.
Your home needs this item as feeling snug takes on a new importance in the darker months.
If you want real sheepskin, it is more expensive. Graham & Green has a floor cushion in eggshell and taupe (£175) and a rectangular cushion for a bed or sofa in the same subtle shades (£69).
The White Company’s bolster and square cushions in mink cost £60 and £70 respectively, while a long-haired Tibetan square cushion in ivory is £80.
The ‘faux’ alternatives are cheaper and come in many colours. Next’s square Arctic cushion (£24) is available in blue, pink, cream, grey, navy blue, red, sage green, silver, teal and yellow.
Matalan’s £9.60 Mongolian cushion comes in charcoal, cream, pink and yellow.