There’s nothing I love more about this time of year than the excuse to eat copious amounts of comfort food. Last week I pulled out my slow cooker from the back of the cupboard and my Tesco delivery was full to the brim with root veg and carbs of all varieties. And perhaps the odd calorific pudding.
I always remember the smell of cooking that would envelope me as I walked up the side of my childhood home after school. My mum has always been the queen of traditional hearty cooking, and comfort food for me not only means a satisfied stomach, but also family time, the safety of home and a celebration of our traditions.
But as much as I love a shepherds pie or a beef stew, over my years of cooking I’ve also discovered that I’m a fan of dishes with a modern twist on the traditional classics. Or dishes that are influenced from other parts of the world. Thanks to my good friend Jamie Oliver (I wish), it’s no secret among those who know me best that I like my dishes with a good dose of chilli and heap of garlic.
So here are three of my go-to winter recipes that are perfect for the cold evenings and are full to the brim with flavour.
Southern sausage stew
I like to think of this as a posher and much healthier version of bangers and mash. It has all of the gratification of the traditional classic but is packed with veg and has a brilliant hearty flavour. If you don’t like your dishes too spicy, just reduce the cayenne pepper to half a teaspoon and omit the chilli. It still packs a punch without it.
Ingredients (serves 6)
- Sausages (about 3 per person)
- 1 onion , peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 red pepper , deseeded and roughly chopped
- 1 green pepper , deseeded and roughly chopped
- 1 yellow pepper , deseeded and roughly chopped
- 2 sticks celery , trimmed and roughly chopped, yellow leaves reserved
- 4 cloves garlic , peeled and chopped
- 1-2 fresh red chillies , deseeded and finely chopped
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme , leaves picked (or one heaped teaspoon of dried thyme)
- 1 heaped teaspoon paprika
- 1 heaped teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2-3 heaped tablespoons plain flour
- 1 tablespoon white wine or cider vinegar
- 750 ml chicken stock
- 400 g tinned chopped tomatoes
- long-grain rice , cooked, to serve
- 3 spring onions , trimmed and finely sliced
Fry the sausages until they’re nicely brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add your onion, peppers and celery and cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes until softened.
Stir in your garlic, chilli, thyme, and spices and fry for another 2 minutes.
Stir in your flour and vinegar and after a couple of minutes add your browned sausages, chicken stock and tinned tomatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes until the gravy thickens.
Serve with rice on the side and sprinkle over the chopped spring onions and any reserved celery leaves.
Vietnamese pork noodle soup
I’m a bit of a fan of an asian broth and don’t think you can beat a dish that you can slurp for that instant ‘at home’ feeling! It’s probably not something you’d choose to cook on a first date, but my hubs is pretty used to me splattering this all down me as I suck up the noodles…But perhaps not everyone’s as messy as I am?? And yes, we also pick up the bowl to drink the last of the broth. What can I say, it’s yummy!
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
- 275g pork fillet, cut into thin discs and then fine strips
- 2 x 15ml tablespoons lime juice
- 2 x 15ml tablespoons soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 2 x 15ml tablespoons fish sauce
- 250g ramen noodles
- 1 x 15ml tablespoon garlic oil (or a clove of garlic)
- 6 thin or 3 fat spring onions, finely sliced
- 1 x 15ml tablespoon chopped fresh (or frozen) ginger
- 1 litre chicken stock (good-quality cube or concentrate is fine), preferably organic
- 300g beansprouts
- 175g baby pak choi, torn into pieces
- 2 teaspoons chopped red chilli
Put the strips of pork into a bowl and add the lime juice, soy sauce, paprika and fish sauce, don’t let it stand for more than 15 minutes.
Cook the noodles according to packet instructions and refresh in cold water.
Heat a wok and add the garlic oil, spring onions and and ginger for a minute, then add the pork and its liquid.
Cook for 2 minutes then add the chicken stock and bring to the boil.
Once the pork is cooked through, add the beansprouts and pak choi.
Arrange the drained noodles into bowls, ladel over the soup and scatter with chopped chilli to serve.
Spicy meat gumbo
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and this is one of the first dishes I cooked for the hubby. I think I’d already won his heart by then, but it definitely earned me some extras brownie points! The base flavour of this is similar to the southern sausage stew and is inspired by America’s deep south. It takes a while to cook, so I always make a large batch that will feed us for two evenings. In Jamie Oliver’s own words, you have to dedicate some time to getting the roux the right (peanut butter) colour. But it’s definitely time well spent.
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
- 4 chicken thighs, skin on
- 4 chicken drumsticks, skin on
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- olive oil
- 400g chorizo, thickly sliced
- 4 rashers smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped
- 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped
- 4 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp. plain flour
- 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 kg sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
- 4 fresh bay leaves
Season your chicken with salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne. Put a large pan on a high heat and fry the chicken, sausage and bacon for around 15 minutes. Remove the browned pieces of meat and leave the fat in the pan.
Add the onion, peppers and celery and fry until softened, then stir in the flour. Keep stirring the roux until it gets nice and dark (around 10 minutes)
Add the garlic, meats, thyme, bay leaves and sweet potato and stir and fry for a further minute.
Pour in the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for around 45 minutes.
Taste and season if necessary. Divide the gumbo into bowls over rice and scatter over spring onions and parley to serve.
What are your favourite winter recipes?
Southern Sausage Stew and Chicken Gumbo recipes taken from Jamie Oliver’s America
Vietnamese noodles soup recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen