Sometimes there’s nothing better than a sandwich. It could be a properly crusty, thickly sliced loaf filled with simple cheese and chutney, a bagel filled with pastrami, gherkins and mustard or some thin rye bread topped with smoked fish and herbs. I don’t think I could ever tire of something that you can just grab and eat with your hands. My salami and mozzarella open ciabatta is just the thing for a simple, no fuss, full of flavour dinner. Don’t tell anyone but I could have eaten all four pieces to myself.
I often make macaroni cheese, or some variation of it. I like to play around with adding vegetables, different cheeses or flavours in the sauce. This three cheese and cauliflower macaroni cheese is one of the most delicious I’ve made. The combination of Emmental (for sweetness and stringiness), Cheddar (for bite and cheesiness) and Parmesan (for savouriness) means you get the best of all the cheeses! And don’t worry, there’s a cauliflower in there too; to add a little vegetable healthiness amongst all that indulgence.
One of my favourite things to do in winter is to get outside early, ideally before sunrise, and drink in that crisp cold air. If I’m lucky there’ll be a few birds jumping around on the frosty floor here and there and I’ll wander up the hill to see the sun spread over the pale morning sky. There’s nothing like it. Usually I’ll only get to do this at the weekend and during the walk I have time to think about which of my favourite winter recipes to cook up.
Winter in my kitchen sees a change in the cupboards and fridge. There are oranges, tangerines and satsumas falling out of the fruit bowl, nuts in the cupboards and green leafy veg aplenty. We’re eating thickly sliced toast slathered in butter and topped with locally made jam to remember the summer fruits, cheap cuts of meat are simmering in the oven in a rich gravy and from time to time we’ll have a thick hot chocolate in front of the wood burner while we warm up our toes.
I love a straightforward dinner. However being straightforward doesn’t mean there’s any skimping on flavour. Grabbing a few ingredients out of the fridge and cupboards, chucking them in a roasting tray and miraculously taking the finished dish out of the oven at the end is the weeknight dream. My Greek chicken tray bake is a two tray affair (I know, slightly more involved than one tray) and really delivers on flavour. The flavours of Greece; oregano, tomatoes, olives make this a wonderful dish for this time of year.
Sometimes I make something like a veggie stew or pasta sauce and realise that it could become a delicious soup with just a little extra water. That’s exactly how this Tomato, Butterbean and Spinach Pesto Soup came about. I had made it as a sauce for baking with gnocchi, similar to this recipe, and I thought it would make a great soup; something a bit different from a normal tomato soup. And I was right. Full of flavour, colour and easy to make from a few ingredients you probably already have in the cupboards.
Slicing open a blood orange has an air of anticipation about it. Will it be intense purple almost throughout, have a few red stripes or actually be mostly orange? Whichever colour you end up with they all have the same fantastic flavour. I love cooking with blood oranges; adding a splash to a cocktail or baking them into something delicious. This recipe for blood orange posset was something I had never tried before and I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make. Just three ingredients are needed for a pudding that tastes so much more than the sum of its parts.
I always think cauliflower is at its very best when served with cheese. As much as I think this is still true I have been really enjoying roasting and frying it lately and this cauliflower and sundried tomato pasta is my current favourite way to eat cauliflower. Cheap to make, vegan, delicious and so fast to cook; we’re talking 15 minutes from fridge to table. If only all weeknight cooking could be like this!
You will need (for four servings):
- 300g pasta £0.30
- 1 small romanesco (or other) cauliflower, chopped into small florets £1.50
- 6 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped £0.30
- 2 small garlic cloves, crushed £0.10
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil £0.15
- Pinch saffron £0.50
- Salt and pepper £0.02
You’ll need a pan full of boiling water with a steamer to go on top. It’s no problem if you don’t have a steamer; you’ll just need an extra pan of boiling water for the cauliflower.
Just look at those Chioggia beetroot. Aren’t they beautiful? Not only do these beetroot, also known as candy beetroot, look brilliant their vibrant stripes can’t fail to cheer you up even on the gloomiest of days. These beetroot, horseradish and salmon sandwiches came about because I love the combination of earthy, sweet beetroot and fiery horseradish with smoked foods. That, and I fancied something for lunch that wasn’t just toast! Another great thing about this variety of beetroot is that you don’t need to clean the entire kitchen after peeling them; they have hardly any of the staining power of their deep purple cousin.
Citrus in January is obligatory as far as I’m concerned. Whether its limes, lemons, grapefruits, blood oranges or, if you’re lucky, bergamot lemons there’s always got to be something citrussy in the kitchen. That sharp hit of acidic, fresh taste is just what I need on these cold, grey days and if that lifting flavour can be added to a cake then it’s all the better. This Upside Down Lime Cake was born out of necessity; my need to be greedy and a need to use up all the limes I had in my fruit bowl.
There’s always something leftover at this time of year; some sort of ingredient hanging around in the fridge that needs using up. I’d bought some baby onions for making a boeuf bourguignon and had half the pack left. I thought about slicing them and lightly pickling them but I then realised I also had some leftover cheese. You can never go wrong with cheese and onion so half an hour later we were tucking into roasted baby onions with cheese on toast.
You will need (for two):
- 12 (ish) baby onions, peeled
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- 4 slices white bread, the crustier the better
- Leftover cheese, grated
Put the onions and rosemary into a baking dish and drizzle over a little oil and salt and pepper. Roll the onions round in the dish so they get well coated in the oil and seasoning.