Is there anything more soothing for the soul and utterly satisfying for the belly, than winter comfort food? With the introduction to the new season comes a whole new host of seasonal foods, from warming soups to classic sweet treats. Whilst the freedom to travel around the world may be physically limited, when it comes to recreating some traditional autumn dishes, the possibilities remain endless.
Cooking truly allows you to embark on an aromatic journey and transport your senses around the globe from your very own kitchen. One day you could be indulging on the heady scents of cumin, turmeric or coriander, the next, enveloping the warming aromas of fresh nutmeg and cinnamon. The mouthwatering possibilities are endless, so without further ado, here’s our top pick of warming seasonal recipes for the colder season and beyond.
With its traditions in Northern Italy, Pumpkin Risotto (Risotto alla Zucca) brings the best of seasonal ingredients to your plate, and grows in popularity as the autumn months take hold. It is most commonly found in the Lombardy region thanks to the fruitful supply of the pumpkins that grow in the medieval Mantua.
Utterly comforting, this feel-good dish is the ultimate in Italian home style cooking. For centuries, risotto has been revered for its versatility and the ease with which it blends with all sorts of ingredients, and the pumpkin or butternut squash companionment is no exception. Finding its roots in an ancient dish of the peasant tradition, it is certainly the simplicity of the dish that makes it such a firm favourite with gourmands the world over, and undeniably one of the best warming foods for wintertime.
400g of peeled pumpkin
400g of rice
80g of butter
1 litre of vegetable broth
Grated Parmesan to taste
Pepper to taste
1) Prepare the pumpkin by cutting it into cubes. In a pan, sauté the finely chopped onion with 50g of butter.
2) When the onion is golden, add the pumpkin and cook for 1/4 of an hour, turning from time to time and adding broth if necessary.
3) Add the rice and stir to flavour for about 5 minutes. Pour in the broth a little at a time and continue cooking, stirring frequently.
4) After about 15 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and add the remaining cold butter and Parmesan, stirring vigorously.
5) Let the risotto rest for 5 minutes in the covered pan, then serve hot adding a grind of black pepper and a drizzle of raw oil.
A fermented and seasoned side dish favourite in South Korea, kimchi can be served with most any meal. Whilst the most common vegetable to pickle is cabbage, there are actually a variety of over 100 different vegetables that can be fermented in brine and made into kimchi.
Having originated during the Three Kingdoms period when the preservation of food for the long, harsh winters became so important, kimchi became the go-to fermentation food product. This was its first known use, but in the 16th century, the first chilli peppers arrived from the Americas—providing the final ingredient to give kimchi its signature spicy flavour. This iconic blend of cabbage, garlic, ginger, red chilli peppers, vegetables, fish sauce, and often seafood, became a Korean culinary staple.
You may be surprised at the number of ways in which kimchi can be consumed: with rice, to make fritters, a stew, add to eggs, as a wrap for fish or meat, or even to use the leftover liquid to add flavour to any dish you wish. It takes versatility to a completely new level!
1 large Chinese leaf cabbage (700g), washed, quartered and cut into 3–4cm wide slices
50g fine sea salt
4–6 garlic cloves (20g)
20g fresh root ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
20g gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes)
150g mooli (Chinese radish), peeled and cut into 3mm-wide strips that are around 5cm long
5 spring onions, cut into 3mm-wide strips that are around 5cm long
100g (approximately 1 medium) carrot, peeled and cut into 3mm-wide strips that are around 5cm long
1) Put the cabbage in a mixing bowl and separate using your fingers. Arrange in layers, with a little salt sprinkled between each layer. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave to stand for 2–3 hours. The cabbage will soften and become limp, and should be sitting in a pool of water when you return to it. It will have reduced in volume by about a third.
2) Drain the salted cabbage in a colander, then return to the bowl. Cover with cold filtered water and swirl the cabbage around, then set aside to soak for 10 minutes. Drain in the colander and return to the bowl. The cabbage should taste slightly salty. In a blender or pestle and mortar, grind the garlic, ginger and chilli flakes to a paste.
3) Add the mooli, spring onion and carrot to the cabbage and tip in the chilli paste. Wearing disposable, or clean, new, rubber gloves (to protect your hands from the chilli) thoroughly massage the paste into the vegetables. You can do this with a spoon, but it is less effective.
4) Spoon the cabbage mixture into the clean jar until it comes up to just under the top of the jar. There is no need to pack it too tightly but you don’t want too much air to reach the surface of the vegetables. Cover with the lid and fasten securely.
5) Leave in a cool, dark place at room temperature (around 18–20C) for 2–3 days. If your room is warmer, the kimchi will ferment more quickly. Taste the kimchi. If it tastes spicy, sour and slightly cheesy with a good umami flavour, it can be transferred to the fridge to slow down the fermentation process.
A dish that completely encapsulates the concept of winter comfort food, French Onion soup has storied origins and is most traditionally prepared with the use of onions, beef, beef stock, butter, flour, salt, pepper, and Comté cheese on top, often served with croutons or a slice of bread.
In the earliest history, the soup was often prepared by labourers or workers who could not afford more expensive ingredients—since onions were widely available and easy to grow it became a popular meal. There are two theories as to where the famous soup originated and both involve King Louis XV. One says that on his return from a hunt, he saw his cupboards were empty apart from a few ingredients like onion and butter, and so the iconic broth was devised. Another claims that he got the idea for the recipe from the Duke of Lorraine, who upon tasting the onion soup at an inn, found it so tasty, that he asked the creator and managed to copy down the entire recipe.
Regardless of its real origin, it is now seen as an iconic part of French cuisine, having transcended class distinctions, and can be found across Paris and on the menus of gourmet restaurants.
1 tbsp olive oil
1kg onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp sugar
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tbsp plain flour
250ml dry white wine
1.3 litre hot strongly-flavoured beef stock
4-8 slices baguette (depending on size)
140g gruyère, finely grated
1) Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan. Add the onions and fry with the lid on for 10 mins until soft.
2) Sprinkle in the sugar and cook for 20 mins more, stirring frequently, until caramelised. The onions should be really golden, full of flavour and soft when pinched between your fingers. Take care towards the end to ensure that they don’t burn.
3) Add the garlic cloves for the final few minutes of the onions’ cooking time, then sprinkle in the plain flour and stir well.
4) Increase the heat and keep stirring as you gradually add the wine, followed by the beef stock. Cover and simmer for 15-20 mins.
5) To serve, turn on the grill, and toast the bread. Ladle the soup into heatproof bowls.
6) Put a slice or two of toast on top of the bowls of soup, and pile on the gruyère. Grill until melted. Alternatively, you can cook the toasts under the grill, then add them to the soup to serve.
A festive staple that Brits either love or hate. The trusty mince pie can be found pretty much anywhere in the UK once the Christmas season starts to get under way—which seems to be earlier and earlier every year—and is a sweet treat few can resist. Today, it is made with dried fruits and spices, but once upon time, they weren’t always so sweet. In medieval times, they were actually made with mincemeat, usually mutton, but oftentimes beef, rabbit, pork, or game. At the time mincemeat was developed as a good way to preserve meat without having to use salt or smoke it. These days (thankfully) they’re filled with a mixture of dried fruits and spices in a sweet shortcrust pastry cup and most often served with some fresh cream or icecream.
With its modern, sweet interpretation, came a variety of ways to bake a mince pie. You’ll often find them with latticed, iced or with different-shaped cutter tops, but they all combine in a delightful treat that serves your tastebuds delectable flavours of rich fruits and spices, and really is the epitome of Christmas.
1 large jar of mincemeat (about 600g)
2 satsumas, segmented
1 apple, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
little icing sugar, for dusting
For the pastry:
375g plain flour
260g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 large egg, plus 1 beaten egg for glazing
1) Place 375g plain flour and 260g softened unsalted butter in a bowl and rub together to a crumb consistency.
2) Add 125g caster sugar and 1 large beaten egg, and mix together.
3) Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and fold until the pastry comes together, be careful not to over mix.
4) Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 10 mins.
5) Scoop the large jar of mincemeat into a bowl and add 2 segmented satsumas, 1 finely chopped apple and zest of 1 lemon.
6) Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.
7) Roll out the pastry to 3mm thick.
8) Using a round cutter (about 10cm), cut out 16 bases and place them into muffin trays. Put 1½ tbsp mincemeat mixture into each. Brush the edge of each pie with a little beaten egg.
9) Re-roll out the pastry to cut 7cm lids and press them on top to seal. Glaze with the beaten egg, sprinkle with the extra caster sugar, then make a small cut in the tops.
10) Bake the mince pies for 15-20 mins until golden brown. Leave to cool before releasing them from the muffin trays and dusting with a little more icing sugar before serving.
Essential Spanish comfort food, paella embodies the collective nature of its culture and is now cooked all around the world. With many variations of this famous dish, all culminate in one true fact—Valencia is the home of paella.
Since rice was introduced by the Moors centuries ago, Valencia became one of the largest natural ports in the Mediterranean, and subsequently, one of the most important rice-growing areas in the country. Traditionally cooked over an open fire in a paella pan, from which the dish gets its name, the most authentic recipes follow the Valenciana way—a meat-based rice dish with bajoqueta and tavella (varieties of green beans), rabbit, chicken, sometimes duck or snails, and garrofó (a variety of lima or butter bean). Nowadays, it can contain a variety of meats, including fish and seafood. Hearty and utterly delicious, whether you need a centrepiece for a celebration, or simply are craving a taste of flavourful Valencian cuisine, paella is your go-to.
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
125g fresh chorizo sausage, casing removed and diced
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast fillets, diced
350g uncooked Arborio rice
1.25 litres (2 pints) chicken stock
100ml white wine
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
1 pinch saffron
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 squid, cleaned and diced
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
75g frozen garden peas
12 large prawns, peeled and deveined
500g mussels, cleaned and debearded
generous handful chopped parsley
8 wedges lemon to garnish
1) Heat olive oil in paella pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and pepper; cook and stir for a few minutes. Add chorizo, chicken and rice; cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 of the stock, wine, thyme leaves and saffron. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes; stir occasionally.
2) Taste the rice and check to see if it is cooked. If the rice is uncooked, stir in 1/3 of the remaining stock. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally. Stir in additional stock as necessary. Cook until rice is done.
3) Stir in squid, tomatoes and peas. Cook for 2 minutes. Arrange prawns and mussels on top. Cover with aluminium foil and leave for 3 to 5 minutes.
4) Remove the foil and sprinkle parsley over the top. Serve in paella pan garnished with lemon wedges.**
Synonymous with Thanksgiving, autumn, harvest, and the festive season at large, pumpkin pie is the crème de la crème of North American celebrations. This top dessert recipe for winter is baked in a single shortcrust pie casing with a spiced, pumpkin-based filling which gives it its iconic orange-brown hue, and is often mixed with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, and cardamom, topped with a lashing of whipped cream. Although the association of pumpkin pie with America is so prominent, it is actually not until the early 19th-century that the recipes appeared in Canadian and American cookbooks, or that it became a common Thanksgiving dessert. The hearty treat gained such popularity that it can now be found as a flavouring for many other food products, including sweets, cookies, ice cream, pancakes, and even seasonal beer or ale, but to truly appreciate its deliciousness, it must be experienced in its authentic form.
For the pastry:
175g plain flour
125g butter, cold and cubed
40g caster sugar
1 medium egg yolk
For the filling:
2 medium eggs
100g caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ginger
275g tin pumpkin puree or pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
200ml evaporated milk
double cream or crème fraîche, to serve
1) To make the pastry, put the flour and butter into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (alternatively, rub the butter into the flour using your fingers). Add the caster sugar and briefly whiz (or stir) to combine. Next add the egg yolk and 2tsp water and pulse (or stir with a blunt-ended cutlery knife) until the pastry comes together. Bring pastry together into a disc with your hands, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30min.
2) Lightly dust a work surface with flour and roll out the pastry and use to line a 20.5cm (8in) round, roughly 4cm (1½in) deep cake tin. Prick base with a fork and chill for 20min.
3) Preheat oven to 200°C (180°C fan) mark 6. Line the pastry case with a large square of baking parchment, then fill with ceramic baking beans or uncooked rice. Put the tin on a baking sheet, then bake for 15min. Carefully remove the parchment and beans or rice, return the tin to the oven and bake for 8min, or until the pastry is cooked through and feels sandy to the touch.
4) Meanwhile, in a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs using electric beaters until pale and fluffy, about 3min. Fold through the sugar, spices and pumpkin until combined. Gently mix through the evaporated milk. Pour into cooked pastry. Reduce oven temp to 180°C (160°C fan) mark 4. Return the tart to the oven and cook for 45-50min or until the filling feels lightly firm. Leave to cool completely or serve just warm with some double cream or crème fraîche.
Taking its name from the pot that the dish is cooked in, classic tagine dishes include combinations of lamb with dried prunes or apricots; chicken with preserved lemon and green olives; with dates and honey; or fish with tomatoes, lime, and cilantro, all slow-cooked in the iconic terracotta pots. In the medinas of Marrakech in Morocco, they truly come to life, with a clay tagine never far out of sight. The versatility of this dish, means that it can also be enjoyed as a solely vegetable-based meal. The best tagine dishes mix sweetness with a sour taste, considered delicious amongst Moroccan cuisine. Dating back to the times of Harun al Rashid, who was a ruler of the Islamic empire, the dish has evolved through a range of influences. The introduction of new spices has meant that there are now many different variations that can form a classic tagine, and we can’t wait to try one!
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground black pepper
1½ tbsp paprika
1½ tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1.1kg/2½lb cubed lamb shoulder (5cm/2in chunks)
2 large onions, grated
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp argan oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
570ml/1 pint tomato juice
2 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
115g/4oz dried apricots, cut in half
55g/2oz dates, cut in half
55g/2oz sultanas or raisins
85g/3oz flaked almonds
1 tsp saffron stamens, soaked in cold water
600ml/1 pint lamb stock
1 tbsp clear honey
2 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1) Place the cayenne, black pepper, paprika, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon into a small bowl and mix to combine. Place the lamb in a large bowl and toss together with half of the spice mix. Cover and leave overnight in the fridge.
2) Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas mark 2.
3) Heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp of argan (or vegetable) oil in a large casserole dish. Add the grated onion and the remaining spice mix and cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes so that the onions are soft but not coloured. Add the crushed garlic for the final 3 minutes.
4) In a separate frying pan, heat the remaining oil and brown the cubes of lamb on all sides then add the browned meat to the casserole dish. De-glaze the frying pan with ¼ pint of tomato juice and add these juices to the pan.
5) Add the remaining tomato juice, chopped tomatoes, apricots, dates, raisins or sultanas, flaked almonds, saffron, lamb stock and honey to the casserole dish. Bring to the boil, cover with a fitted lid, place in the oven and cook for 2-2½ hours or until the meat is meltingly tender.
6) Place the lamb in a tagine or large serving dish and sprinkle over the chopped herbs. Serve.
A Canadian favourite like no other, poutine originates in the French-Canadian province of Québec, where the colder climate benefits from this delicious dish, believe it or not, slang for “a mess”. But don’t let that description mislead you—prepared with french fries, cheese curds and brown gravy, the dish is hailed for its comforting powers and many a Quebecer or visitor can be found indulging in a piping hot bowl of the stuff on an evening or as morning comfort food.
Many put the birthplace of this tasty concoction in Warwick in 1957, where the story goes that a truck driver requested some warming food. Fernand Lachance combined hot French fries with cheese curds and declared what a “damn mess” it would make, and et voilà.
1 tsp. olive oil
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 tsp. english mustard
1 tsp. Marmite
125g beef mince
1 1/2 tbsp cornflour
750ml beef stock
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
5 large Maris piper potatoes, cut into 1cm (½in) wide chips
200 g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1) Heat oil in a large pan over a medium heat and cook onion until softened, about 10min. Stir in the mustard and Marmite.
2) Turn up heat and add mince, fry until brown all over. Mix in cornflour, followed by stock and plenty of seasoning. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 30min. Uncover and simmer for 15min to reduce.
3) Meanwhile, preheat oven to 220°C (200°C fan) mark 7 and bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
4) Line a large roasting tin with baking parchment and add the oil. Heat in oven. Parboil the chips in the boiling water for 3min. Drain well and pat dry with kitchen paper.
5) Carefully add chips to the hot oil, turning to coat. Season. Cook for 20min, then turn them and continue cooking for 15min more until golden and crisp.
6) Serve chips in bowls topped with the mince mixture and Cheddar.
Pan de Muertos, otherwise known as ‘bread of the dead’ is a type of pan dulce often cooked on the lead up to the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico. The classic recipe incorporates sweet bread with star anise or flavoured with orange flower water or orange zest. The crosses of bread that sit on top are supposed to represent crossbones and the delicacy’s roundness represents the cycle of life and death. They are traditionally laid out at altars where it is believed spirits of the dead absorb its essence after their long journey back to Earth.
With Day of the Dead on the 2nd November 2020, baking a traditional pan de muertos seasonal recipe is a perfect way to discover this distinctive sweet treat. More modern versions of this brioche-like dessert place fillings like cream or hazelnut-chocolate cream into the bread. Whichever way you choose to bring this sweet bread to life, ensure you enjoy it alongside your loved ones, in the spirit of the Día de Muertos itself.
At Casa Decu in Mexico City, Day of the Dead is celebrated by hosting an Altar de las Ofrendas at the hotel, with a delicious Pan de Muertos served for all guests.
500g strong white bread flour
14g instant yeast
100g caster sugar
5 eggs large (4 for the dough, 1 for glazing)
Zest from 2 oranges
2 tsp. orange extract
60ml lukewarm milk
160g butter softened
200g dark chocolate
Extra butter and sugar for coating 2-3 tbps. of each
1) In a mixing bowl, weigh out your flour before adding the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl. You don’t want the yeast and salt to touch at this point as it can retard the yeast’s activity. Next, add the sugar and mix all of your dry ingredients together until fully combined. Make a well in the centre of your dry ingredients.
2) Now, add in your eggs, orange zest and extract; and milk. Break the softened butter into walnut-sized pieces and dot it around the bowl. Mix until a sticky dough is formed with no leftover flour in the bowl.
3) If you have a stand mixer, knead the dough with a dough hook attachment for 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pulls away a little from the side of the bowl. Tip onto a floured surface and knead a couple more times to smooth the dough. If you don’t have a stand mixer, knead on a floured surface for 15-20 minutes, until the dough is springy and the surface of the dough is smooth. Cover your dough with a damp tea towel or a clean shower cap, and leave to prove in a warm room for 1 hour.
4) Once proved, knock back the dough and tip onto a floured surface. Reserve about a third of your dough for the ‘bones’ (around 300g of dough, if you like to weigh your dough) and portion the rest into 70g pieces.
5) Turn your dough into balls: place a dough ball on the work surface, make a cage over the top of it with your hand. Applying a little bit of pressure, move your hand in a circular motion (like you’re polishing the work surface). The dough should roll around beneath your hand to form tight balls.
6) Now you need to form the ‘bones’ or huesitos for each Pan de Muerto. Start by splitting the 300g of reserved dough into 24 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a log a bit wider than the width of your four fingers. Next, splay out your index, middle, and ring fingers and place on top of the log so that your middle finger is centred in the middle. Roll the dough back and forth so that the areas under your fingers flatten and the bits between get bigger. The result will be a bead-like structure with four bumps.
7) Lay two ‘bones’ on each dough ball in a cross design.
8) Leave to prove for an hour and remember to preheat the oven to 200°C after half an hour has passed. That way, the oven will be ready to go just as the bread has finished proving.
9) Once the dough has undergone its second proved, glaze the Pan de Muerto with beaten egg and bake on the middle shelf for around 40-45 minutes. They should be quite dark on top and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
10) Leave to cool fully. Meanwhile, melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a pan. Brush each Pan de Muerto with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar (you can colour your sugar by adding 1-2 drops of food colouring, if you like.)
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