Anna Jones’ one-pot recipes for carrot dal and a self-saucing pasta | The modern cook (2024)

One decent pot, a knife and a chopping board live in the cupboards of almost every kitchen. In this, my first column, I wanted to keep things simple. As a very new Mama, my cooking is more than ever about quick, simple suppers that nourish me, leave me licking my lips and don’t end with a sink full of washing up. Perhaps not the most romantic inspiration, but I think if we can make the everyday beautiful, we are on to something.

These recipes take the one-pan approach two ways. The first is a dal, which uses the one pan to layer flavour. Ingredients marching into the pan in a very certain order, creating layer on layer of flavour, building the sweet, spicy, sour, salty as each ingredient is added. This is something I find endlessly brilliant about cooking: that it is all about order. The same ingredients put into the pan slightly out of order will end up looking and tasting completely different.

The other is a spring pasta cooked, sauce and all, in one pan and briskly simmered, allowing all the flavours to meld and perform a quite brilliant pan-alchemy that leaves you with a plate of perfectly sauced pasta. I may be in trouble with the Italians. Sorry.

Anna Jones’ one-pot recipes for carrot dal and a self-saucing pasta | The modern cook (1)

This way of cooking pasta is a perennial feature in my kitchen. As the year passes and different ingredients come and go, I adapt the recipe to include what is looking wonderful at that time. In winter, it’s dark, leafy greens, chilli and garlic; in summer, it’s little tomatoes, spinach and herbs. But one constant is the zest of at least a couple of lemons – it lifts and brightens the pasta..

Two unfussy ways of cooking, which yield what I hope to be two very tasty suppers. More often than not in our house the pan makes its way to the table with a folded tea towel underneath and we pile food from the pan into our bowls. Whoever is on washing up will be very happy.

Quick carrot dal

This dal has its roots in south India. It comes together quickly but has rich layers of flavours – curry leaves, pops of mustard seeds, warming cinnamon – which might lead you to think it had spent more time on the hob. The turmeric and carrots make this a vibrant sunny-hued dhal, and on top lies a mound of sweet-shop pink radish pickle. Serve with poppadoms scrunched over the top for a welcome bit of crunch.

Serves 4
2 garlic cloves
2 thumb-size pieces of fresh ginger, peeled
2 green chillies
1 red onion, peeled
Coconut or vegetable oil
A small handful of curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
200g red lentils
1 × 400ml tin of coconut milk
400ml vegetable stock
6 carrots, peeled
2 large handfuls of spinach, washed, large stalks removed

Anna Jones’ one-pot recipes for carrot dal and a self-saucing pasta | The modern cook (2)

For the pickle
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
A handful of radishes
1 tbsp nigella seeds
A bunch of fresh coriander
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
A squeeze of honey or agave
Sea salt

To serve
Plain yoghurt
Cooked brown basmati rice
A few poppadoms

1 Grate the garlic, one piece of ginger, a chilli and the red onion. Put a large saucepan on a medium heat, add a little oil and add everything you have just grated. Cook for around 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft and sweet.

2 Pound the curry leaves, cumin and coriander seeds a bit in a pestle and mortar, then add to the pan with the other spices. Cook for a couple of minutes to toast and release the oils. Add the lentils, coconut milk and stock to the pan and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down and bubble away for 25–30 minutes. Meanwhile, grate all the carrots and add those too.

3 While that is cooking, make a little pickle to go on top. Finely grate the remaining ginger and other green chilli and combine with the lemon zest, then coarsely grate the radishes into the bowl too. Add the nigella seeds and half the coriander, the vinegar, honey and a good pinch of salt and mix well.

4 To finish your dal, take it off the heat, then stir in the spinach and allow it to wilt a little, stirring in the other half of the coriander and the lemon juice too. Pile into bowls and top with the pickle, some yoghurt and brown basmati rice. At the table, crumble over your poppadoms on top for extra crunch.

Meet the modern cook: Anna Jones | The modern cookRead more

One-pan pea, lemon and asparagus pasta

This pasta is a complete revelation. The sauce is magically made from the pasta water and asparagus as the pasta cooks – all in one pan. No fuss, one pan and a killer bowl of pasta.

The key to this recipe is to measure your water carefully and use the right pan: you need a large, shallow sauté pan or a casserole large enough to fit the pasta lying down. A large, deep frying pan or wok would work well too. Keep tossing the pasta as it cooks to stop it sticking, as there is less water than you might be used to. Make sure your pasta has an 8-minute cooking time – any longer will need a little more water and a little longer cooking.

I have made this with other interesting less traditional pastas such as corn, chickpea or buckwheat spaghetti. They are gluten-free, all have incredible individual flavours and make a welcome change if pasta is a staple in your house. You may need to add a little more water or cook for a little longer, use your eyes and instincts and taste your pasta when you think its nearly there.

I use sorrel here. It’s a bright green, lemony, almost juicy leaf that I love. Be sure to add it if you can get your hands on it. If not then add watercress. The flavour will be more peppery than the sprightly lemon tang of sorrel but both work beautifully.

Serves 4
400g spaghetti or linguine
400g asparagus
1 garlic clove
200g fresh podded or frozen peas
Zest of 2 large, unwaxed lemons
100ml olive oil
1 tsp flaky sea salt (if you are using fine-grain salt, add a bit less)
400g watercress or sorrel
A small bunch of basil or mint

1 Fill and boil a kettle and get all your ingredients and equipment together.

2 Put the pasta into the pan. Snap the woody bottoms off the asparagus and chop the stalks into ½cm rounds, leaving the tips intact. Put the tips to one side and throw the rounds into the pan. Finely slice the clove of garlic and add this too, along with the peas. Grate in the zest of both lemons and add the oil and salt. Add 1 litre of boiling water, put a lid on the pan and bring to the boil. As soon as it comes to the boil, remove the lid and simmer on a high heat for 8 minutes, using a pair of tongs to turn the pasta every 30 seconds or so as it cooks.

3 Meanwhile, remove any big stalks from the watercress. Once the pasta has had 8 minutes, take the lid off and stir through the asparagus tips and the watercress and tear in the herbs. Simmer for a final 2 minutes.

4 Once almost all the water has evaporated, take the pan off the heat and leave to sit for a minute or two, so the pasta can absorb most of the remaining water and form a lemony sauce. Tangle into four bowls and top with a little parmesan.

Anna Jones’ one-pot recipes for carrot dal and a self-saucing pasta | The modern cook (2024)
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