Good Food Blog
Cold weather cookingPosted at 12:57PM, 09 January 2009 by Stuart Walton - Food and wine writer
It is now officially cold enough, isn't it? The Department for Work and Pensions may still be quibbling about whether it's sufficiently chilly in your area to trigger heating assistance, but anybody who forgets their hat or gloves when they go out could put them right. It is agonisingly cold, minister.
More than ever in times like these, we need to feed ourselves sensibly and economically. Barely had I got back from my Christmas and new year break than I reverted to my default setting and made an enormous batch of chilli con carne .
Lean steak mince seems to be on half-price offer everywhere. Bung in a can of tomatoes, an onion, plenty of chopped dried chilli and a generous dash of cumin and bubble it all up with decent beef stock. I'm agnostic about the red beans, I have to admit, but if your sauce is vibrantly spiced enough, you could do a Delia and throw in some Heinz Mexican Beans without making the dish taste too tinny.
Kept sealed in the fridge, it gets better each time I revisit it, reheating just as much as I need. Anything Indian-spiced, or something like an arrabbiata sauce for pasta, behaves in exactly the same way.
Sustaining carbohydrates are good too. Mashed potato made with hot milk and butter (none of your olive oiling, please, in the dead of the northern winter) goes with all kinds of dishes, not just sausages. I like it with a fillet of peppered mackerel heated through in the oven, and accompanied by shredded leeks stewed in butter and garlic.
That's not to say that the odd hint of sunnier climes and sunnier times won't cheer you up. Paint the surfaces of pork loin steaks with a mixture of red pesto, torn basil and grated Parmesan or (slightly cheaper) Grana Padano, and grill. Turn, coat the other side and grill again. That's good with mash as well.
What could be more enticing to look forward to than a pie? Soften some leeks, mushrooms and onion in a big pan for 20 minutes or so, add any leftover meat from Sunday's roast and a little stock, and then decant it into an ovenproof dish. Cover it with rolled-out, shop-bought puff pastry, brush with beaten egg and give it 40 minutes or so in the oven. Serve with chopped runner beans or carrots, and a new potato or three if you feel you need them.
That just leaves the drink. The high-street retailers are teeming with discounted wine in January. Look beyond the big brands (Jacob's Creek, Blossom Hill, Gallo and Yellow Tail), and try something unfamiliar. Big strapping Spanish Tempranillo, such as the spice-tinged, berry-fruited Clos Ventana 2007 from Navarra (Tesco, reduced to £4.15 till February 3), is just the thing to keep the icicles away.
What are your favourite winter dishes?