We are having a stormy night tonight. The rain is falling heavily, and the inky sky explodes in a fury of lightning and thunder. The dog has taken refuge in the laundry, and I am grateful we are safe and warm. My mind turns towards the coming cold and all those delicious soups, roasts and stews that make autumn and winter such cosy and homely seasons.
Late last year, I submitted a piece for the winter issue of the Simple Living Collection. My piece was a simple reflection on the importance of slowing down, paring back, and taking time for rest and quiet. I offered three simple, nourishing recipes that make the most of the cold season. I thought it would be nice to provide those recipes to you too.
These are the recipes I return to time after time for their universal appeal, ease of preparation, affordability and nourishing qualities. The three following recipes will warm your body and soul and allow you to get on with the things you love. You are probably familiar with roasting a chicken! There would be few who have not experienced the joys of that time-honoured dish. But perhaps the sausage meatball soup and shin of beef casserole with dumplings will offer a change of scenery.
In any case, I hope these recipes hit the spot. Enjoy!
Sausage meatball soup
Simple to prepare, nourishing and warming, soups are an obvious choice for winter. Made with minimal ingredients and allowed to simmer away on the stovetop unattended, they are the ultimate in simple cooking.
This sausage meatball soup is a real boon to the busy cook, with all the flavour delivered by the sausages, particularly if you seek out good traditional style pork sausage. The base of onion, garlic and good bone stock enriches the soup, and the inclusion of ginger is warming and assists digestion.
From this simple base, you can add as many or as few seasonal vegetables as you like, and you can season it simply with salt or enhance the flavour with a splash of soy sauce or fish sauce. Below, I provide you with my favourite version of this soup. I like to cook some noodles in the broth towards the end of the cooking time for added energy and kid appeal, but you can leave that out. Alternatively, serve it with a scoop of hot steamed jasmine rice.
500g good quality pork sausages (Italian style fennel is ideal)
2 tablespoons of oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
3-4 brown or shitake mushrooms (fresh or reconstituted dried) finely chopped (optional)
Large nob finely grated ginger
2 litres of good homemade chicken (or duck) stock
Good pinch of sea salt
Splash of soy sauce (to taste)
Splash of mirin or dry sherry and a good pinch of sugar
1-2 of one or more of the following vegetables, peeled, halved, and thickly sliced:
kohlrabi, daikon radish, mild tasting radish, turnips
1-2 bunches of choy sum, base trimmed off, washed and drained
2 bundles of dried udon noodles (don’t be tempted to add more, or you will end up with a thick, gluggy soup)
6 soft yolk boiled eggs, shells removed and halved (if your chickens are still laying!)
Heat oil in a large (4L) stockpot over low-medium heat. Add the onion and stir until translucent, then cook the mushrooms (if using) until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and ginger until aromatic, then turn the heat up to med-high and remove the sausage meat from the casings in meatball sized lumps directly into the pot. Move around the base until browned all over. Add the harder vegetables, stock, salt and soy sauce, mirin, bring to a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are tender (approximately 30 minutes). Ten minutes before serving, bring the soup to a gentle boil and add the bok choy and the dried noodles. Cook until the noodles are just tender. Serve up in bowls, adding a couple of egg halves to each bowl. Feel free to add a spoon of chilli jam or your favourite relish or pickle.
Shin of beef casserole with dumplings
What is not to love about a steaming bowl of tender, slow-cooked casserole? Casseroles are the perfect dish for winter as they turn all those cheaper, tougher cuts of meat and the sturdy winter veggies into a luscious meal full of goodness and warmth. The oven is on for a few hours, warming the kitchen, and you are free to sit back with your loved ones, play a board game or enjoy some quiet knitting or reading while the oven does all the work.
I like to use meat on the bone for casseroles as the marrow adds richness and extra nourishment. These are typically cheaper cuts making it a more affordable way to feed a large family. Not to mention it tastes incredible.
For a special treat, and to give the casserole a “like Grandma used to make” appeal, bake some dumplings on top in the last 15 minutes of cooking. Adding extra veggies can extend the dish, meaning you can dispense with the dumplings altogether. However, serving up a herby, pillowy dumpling to mop up the gravy on the plate is the ultimate comfort food. It also makes a complete meal. Fewer dishes, less to clean up, more time to spend being with your loved ones and doing the things that bring you joy.
4-6 / 1.5-2kg osso bucco (depending on size)
500ml good homemade chicken or beef stock
2 tablespoons oil or butter/ghee
1-2 teaspoons sea salt, to taste
2 onions or leeks, cut into large dice
4 crushed garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 carrots, cut into large slices
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
500g wedge pumpkin, cut into chunks
Splash apple cider vinegar
Big tablespoonful honey, mirin, pear juice concentrate, apple butter
Splash of tamari (optional)
2 heaped tablespoons butter or ghee
Large bunch of spinach washed well, rinsed and chopped, or other seasonal greens.
300g (2 cups) self-raising flour
30g (2 tablespoons) butter, chopped
Handful chopped herbs (parsley and soft thyme leaves are good)
¾ cup (180 ml) milk or buttermilk
Make dumplings like scones. Cut or rub the butter into the flour (or use a food processor) until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix through the herbs, and add enough milk to bring the dough together into a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly until smooth. Press out to about an inch thickness, and cut into 5 cm rounds.
Preheat a conventional oven to 150 degrees C (300 degrees F).
Heat the oil/butter in a flameproof casserole dish (a baked enamel cast iron dish is ideal) over medium-high heat. Brown the osso bucco on both sides and remove. Lower the heat and add the onion and one teaspoon of salt. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the garlic and carrots, and continue stirring. Add the remaining veggies and return the meat to the pot. Pour over the stock, and add the splash of cider vinegar, the sweetener, the tamari if using, and the butter or ghee. Place the lid on the pot and put it in the oven for 2-3 hours until the meat is tender.
Remove from the oven to add the greens, check for seasoning, replace the lid and return to the oven for 10 minutes. In the meantime, make the dumplings. Increase the heat to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F). Remove from the oven and place the dumplings evenly over the top. Return the pot to the oven uncovered and continue to bake for 15-20 mins until a skewer inserted into the centre of a dumpling comes out clean. The meat will have completely relaxed, and you can easily pull it away from the bone. Don’t forget to remove the marrow from the bone and mix that through. Serve and enjoy!
Roast chicken and veggies
Roast chicken is more about method than technique, and there are as many versions as there are cooks. It seems ridiculous to call this a recipe at all. But, sometimes recipes fall out of favour or habit, and a reminder is all that is needed to steer us back again. I love roast chicken as it requires minimal preparation, utilises the whole animal, which is a more honest and sustainable way to eat meat, and once it goes into the oven, it takes care of itself.
The long roasting, rendering of fats, and the mingling of flavours from the veggies and the juices released from the meat create a flavour explosion. Drizzle it with some olive oil or a smear of butter and a generous sprinkle of salt to achieve a deliciously crisp skin. You can also add a few sprigs of hardy rosemary or thyme and half a lemon or a splash of homemade flavoured vinegar to the cavity for an enhanced flavour profile. You will need a large baking dish to accommodate the chicken and all the veggies to allow them to cook without steaming in their juices.
You can extend the meal for extra nourishment or stretch the meat further by stuffing the cavity with a seasoned bread mixture. A spoonful of stuffing alongside the roasted chicken and veggies is one of my most treasured childhood food memories and one that, even now, I relish.
My mum always served a roast chicken with gravy, and she still does. I like shortcuts and choose to drizzle the pan juices over the top. Delicious!
1 whole, unseasoned chicken (approximately 1.8kg)
6 medium to large potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
A large wedge of pumpkin, sliced into 6 pieces (leave the skin on unless it is particularly tough)
3 onions, halved
2 parsnips, peeled and quartered lengthwise (opt)
Preferred oil (I prefer extra virgin olive oil), butter or ghee
Herbs of choice (opt)
A good vinegar or half a lemon (opt)
Seasonal green vegetables to accompany.
Easy stuffing (opt)
3 slices of bread, broken into small pieces
½ finely chopped onion
Salt and pepper
Some chopped herbs, or a sprinkle of dried (rosemary or thyme work particularly well, but tarragon is also good)
Preheat a conventional oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).
Clean out and dry your whole chicken and place directly on a large baking tray breast side up or on a roasting rack, if preferred. Stuff the cavity with the stuffing mixture, or stuff with herbs, a sprinkle of salt, and half lemon or a splash of vinegar. Place all the veggies (except for any softer greens you intend to serve) around the chicken and drizzle the whole lot with oil or dot with butter. Sprinkle with salt and put it in the oven. Cook for approximately 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hour until the chicken thighs pull away from the bird, turning the veggies halfway through, if you remember. If you think the breasts are drying out, place a piece of foil loosely over the breasts. Allow resting for 15 – 30 mins before carving and serving. Enjoy!