Sometimes we’re low on time, energy, or a mix of the two, so these recipes are perfect for popping into one pot, letting cook, and serving up with ease. Valentina shows you how to make deliciously healthy one pot meals

With the first cooler evenings arriving to remind us that autumn is not that far away, here is a selection of energy saving, simple and deliciously tasty one-pot meals that all have a warming hint of spice about them. All three dishes are low-fat, high fibre, high protein and spicy – so I thought it would be interesting to explore the qualities of the different spices that I used for these one-pot dishes. 

We use spices to add instant flavour to a dish and to define the cultural identity of a specific dish. Our repertoire now includes so many cuisines where spices are essential: Indian, Mediterranean, Cajun, Middle-Eastern, Asian and Mexican. Unquestionably, spices undoubtedly do also bring health benefits, and originally many recipes may have included specific spices because of this as well as to simply add flavour, but generally speaking since they are only eaten in tiny amounts, their contribution to your daily intake is minuscule – unless you eat them really regularly!  

In my recipes this month, I have used cumin, cinnamon and coriander for subtle spicing, plus three versions of chilli to add real fire to the various dishes: Ground chilli, paprika and cayenne. 

Chunky chicken and chickpea soup

3 – 4 tsp vegetable oil 

700 g boned, skin -off chicken thighs, halved 

1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced 

2 medium sized carrots, peeled and thinly sliced 

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced to a puree 

1 tsp ground cumin 

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 

800ml chicken or vegetable stock 

400g canned chickpeas drained and rinsed 

3 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley 

Sea salt, and freshly milled black pepper 

  1. Heat the oil over a medium-high heat in a large, heavy bottomed pot. 2.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown on both sides in the hot oil for about 6 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pot and set it aside. 
  3. Add onion and carrots to the pot and fry them gently until soft, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and the spices. Stir and cook together for another 2 minutes, then return the browned chicken to the pot and bring it back to heat for a minute or so, then pour over the stock and bring to the boil. 
  4. Reduce the heat to a medium simmer, add the chickpea and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes. 
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper, stir through the fresh parsley and serve.  

 Mixed bean chilli

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil  

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped  

1 red pepper, de-seeded and membranes removed, finely diced  

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced  

1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes  

2 tbsp tomato puree  

2 x 400g cans mixed beans drained & rinsed  

1 x 200g can sweet corn, drained or equivalent frozen (defrosted before use) of fresh corn sliced off the cob 

1 tbsp maple syrup  

1 heaped tsp chilli powder  

1 tsp smoked paprika  

1 tbsp paprika  

1 tbsp dried oregano  

1 tbsp cumin  

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper  


For the guacamole

4 cloves garlic, peeled 

2 ripe avocados, halved, peeled and stones removed 

Juice of 1 small lime 

¼ tsp ground cumin 

Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper 

A pinch of cayenne for sprinkling 

To serve

Rice, jacket potatoes or crusty bread  

Guacamole, shop bought or freshly-made 

A handful of fresh coriander, washed, dried and roughly chopped  


  1. Heat a large pan or cast-iron casserole dish over medium heat. Add the oil and once hot, the onion and red pepper. 
  2. Sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic and season everything with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, mixed-beans, sweet corn, honey/maple syrup, the spices, sea salt and lots of black pepper. Swirl a little water round the can from the chopped tomatoes and add that in too. Stir well and bring to the boil. 
  4. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and let the chilli gently bubble, uncovered, for 15 minutes and then cover and simmer for a further 15 minutes or until thickened and reduced. Taste and adjust the seasoning according to taste.
  5. To make the guacamole, crush the garlic until pureed, the scoop the avocado into a bowl with the garlic and stir together. Add lime, cumin and pepper, mash together with a fork and then top with some salt.
  6. Serve the chilli with boiled rice, jacket potatoes or crusty bread and topped with guacamole sprinkled with lots of fresh coriander. 

Valentina Harris’s food column – September 2022 edition – shot for Platinum Magazine.

Easy prawn jambalaya


2 tbsp vegetable oil 

2 onions, peeled and chopped 

6 celery sticks, sliced  

200 g wholegrain basmati rice 

2 tsp mild chilli powder 

1 tsp cayenne 

2 tbsp ground coriander 

1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed 

2 x 400 g tinned tomatoes 

1 yellow and 1 red pepper, both de-seeded, membranes removed and flesh roughly chopped 

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped 

2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves 

400 g small peeled raw prawns, thawed if frozen 

3 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley  

  1. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan. Add the onion and celery, and fry for 5 minutes to soften.  
  2. Add the rice and the spices, and then pour in the tomatoes – then re-fill the empty cans with water and pour in the water. 
  3. Bring to a simmer and add the peppers, garlic and thyme. 
  4. Cover the pan tightly with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender and almost all the liquid has been absorbed.  
  5. Stir in the prawns and cook briefly until just cooked, then add the parsley and stir through. Serve at once.