Keep the cleaning up to a minimum with one-dish meals for Sundays. By Grant Allen.

Sunday is not the day to be creating excess dishes to wash, fussing over elaborate serving styles or spending too much time at the stove. I am fully in favour of putting something together, leaving it to cook by itself and, if at all possible, taking it straight from the oven to the table. Make a dish that everyone can help themselves to and which minimises the washing-up aftermath. Winter meals are well suited to this brief. One-pot dinners can be slow-simmered, braised or baked and their rich tastes and sticky textures make us feel warm from the inside out.

Bony lamb braise

Use lamb shanks, hocks or lamb knuckles. Allow at least one per person.

In a good-sized baking dish make a layer of chunky-cut onions, leeks, celeriac or celery and carrots. Add crushed garlic, a red chilli and thick slices of lemon.

Sit your meat on top of this and season well with salt and pepper, and smoked paprika if you want.

Just cover this with liquid stock, or stock cubes, into which you have mixed a good dollop of tomato paste.

Add well-rinsed canned beans. I used one can of chillied black beans and one can of lima beans. It really depends what's in the cupboard.

Cover tightly with tinfoil then pierce a whole in the top and put into a moderate oven for at least 1½ hours. When you take it out the meat should be falling off the bone and all the juices should have formed into a glorious sticky sauce. Serve as is.

I accompanied this with yams and parsnips roasted in a foil-lined dish (for easier washing up) and some roughly chopped silverbeet sauteed in butter and oil. Add some sultanas plumped up in lemon juice, and a pinch of dried chilli flakes at the end. Put this with your roasted vegetables and serve. Plain boiled potatoes and wilted spinach would be just as good.

Any leftovers can be turned into a great soup by discarding all the bones and adding the remains to a pot of soup lentils.

Pumpkin soup

The hardest part about this is cutting the top off the pumpkin to create a lid. Then scoop out the seeds until you have a solid internal wall leaving the flesh intact. Sit the pumpkin in a large baking dish and fill with a milk/cream mixture. Add as much grated tasty cheese as you like, lots of salt and pepper and maybe some grated nutmeg. Put on the lid and place in a moderate oven for a minimum of two hours. The amount of time you'll need beyond that depends on the size and variety of your pumpkin. Before serving you could scatter the top with croutons and chopped parsley. Take to the table with a ladle and soup bowls and let everyone help themselves. The flesh of the pumpkin will have softened to the point where as you scoop out the liquid it creates a luscious, rich soup.

Soft polenta with pork sausage, pork ribs and tomato sauce

This recipe comes from Italy: A Culinary Journey published by Harper Collins in 1991. I bought the book after my own culinary journey to Italy where I discovered soft polenta. It is substantial and this recipe will serve eight. Serve it on a big platter. I use a glazed terracotta plant pot base from the garden centre.

The ragout

Finely chop two large onions, one celery stalk, one large carrot and two cloves of garlic. Saute the veges in a third of a cup of olive oil in a large pot until golden.

You need nine to 12 pork sausages and eight pork ribs cut in half to give 16 pieces. As a staunch supporter of the SPCA's Blue Tick scheme I used Freedom Farm pork products and you should too.

Peel three of the sausages and add them to the vege mix, breaking them up with a wooden spoon and browning them over a moderate heat. Thoroughly prick the remaining sausages, add to the pan with the ribs and brown all well. After 10 minutes add a cup of dry red wine (optional).

Add two cans of peeled tomatoes and their juice, season well with salt and pepper and, turning the heat down, allow to simmer and reduce for 1½ hours . Check for seasoning and add chopped parsley.

The polenta

This is the only laborious part - assign the task to a minion if you can. If you are not using instant polenta, get eight cups of water boiling in a large saucepan adding a teaspoon of salt and a big dob of butter or lard. Stirring with a wooden spoon, pour a thin stream of 3½ cups of polenta into the liquid and stir for at least 30 minutes. The volcanic porridge-like polenta is cooked when it comes away from the side of the pot while stirring. Pour the soft polenta on to your serving plate and spread it to the edges. Fill the centre with the ragout and grate as much parmesan cheese as you can afford over the top. Serve with pride. If you have to, you could have a green salad as well but a bottle of red wine would be better.

Leftover polenta

Line a dish with cling film. Press the soft polenta into the dish, sprinkle with more grated parmesan and allow to set. Next day, turn out the firm polenta, cut into wedges or fingers and fry or grill to use as a substitute for staples such as potato or rice.

Cook's tools

Braising vessels The top of the line in braising cookware has to be Le Creuset. This is heirloom shopping and what could be a better inheritance than the family casserole dish. Expect to pay up to $600 for a serious traditional French inter-generational piece, totally presentable at the table and a status symbol in your kitchen.

I found another classic French brand Emile Henry Poterie Culinaire, for $175 at Rhubarb outlet store (ph 09 550 5901).

However, you can braise in a well tinfoiled baking dish - it just may look a little more rustic.

Check TradeMe and Mission shops for some great vintage New Zealand pottery, lidded dishes that are totally suitable for this kind of slow cooking and work well as both your cooking and serving dish.

Treat them with care and you will have a lifetime of use.

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