I love summer. I’m a summer girl. I love wearing lighter clothes, being able to work outside, it being light until late, and feeling the warm sun on my face. I also like that parenting always seems a little bit easier in the summer. There are no dull days in; you can just throw them outside, or take them to the park for a bit to burn off some energy. I don’t like winter. I hate being cold, which I nearly always am, I hate giant heating bills, and I hate wet feet. I hate that there’s always mud on the carpet and that the car is always filthy. I hate driving in the rain, and I refuse to drive in the snow. I’m just not a fan.
I don’t mind the first bit too much. Because there’s still some excitement. The kids go back to school, everything feels a little new, and there’s Christmas to plan for. For us there are also birthdays and our wedding anniversary, and me and husband always try and get a little break on our own around our anniversary, so it’s ok. Then, once Christmas has gone, it’s just cold, grey and dull and that few months until spring seems to last forever.
But, one thing I do love about autumn/winter, is the food. I love soups, stews, casseroles and big warming meals. I quite happily eat them all year round, but sometimes in summer, it is just too hot. In winter, it feels so good to curl up with a giant stew or to have a homemade soup simmering in the background all day. The house always smells amazing; I bake more fresh bread, we all gain about a stone, as we fill up on comfort food. A stew beats a salad any day in my book. So, I just wanted to share some of my favourites with you. These are the recipes that get me through the cold days. The ones that I look forward to while I’m suffering along with my poor freezing fingers.
Pasta bake is one my favourite meals, and I really do think it works whatever the weather. In the summer lots of colour with peppers and onions works great with a big bowl of salad, but in the winter, there’s nothing more comforting than a massive bowl filled with carbs and cheese. We’re really bad and have it with bread and butter to make the best sandwiches ever! My chorizo and chicken pasta bake is my favourite, and always a popular recipe.
Cottage pie is one of those things that always tastes so much better when you make it yourself. It’s filled with flavour, warming, easy to make, and even better, you can easily pack plenty of veg into it. This is a firm family favourite in our house. I tend to make it in a massive batch and freeze a whole pie for another day.
What’s more warming than a chilli? As long as you get it right. I’ve had a few disasters and ended up with more than one chilli that’s been far too hot to eat! But, when you get it right, it’s perfect. My favourite part is always the beans, so I actually enjoy a 5-bean chilli at least as much as the meaty version. Chilli is always best if you simmer it and let the flavours develop. I secretly always think the leftovers the next day are even better, especially on a big fat baked potato with loads of butter and grated cheese.
Pork and Cider Casserole
Pork and apple is such an amazing combination. It always reminds me of Autumn for some reason. Especially when it’s in such a wonderfully warming casserole. This is a proper throw it all in a pan and let it cook meal. The house smells fantastic all day, and then you get to eat it, which is even better.
I love Greek food. I’ve published quite a few of my favourite Greek recipes. Most of them make me think of summer holidays and sunshine, but Stifado is the opposite. It’s a big warming casserole filled with veg and meat and loads of fruity Greek flavour. I love serving this with heaps of mashed potato because creamy mash makes everything better.
When it comes to a classic stew, I keep it simple. Leftover beef from a Sunday roast, veg and stock, simmered together in a big pan and served with homemade bread. Husband makes dumplings when he’s here, but mine are never quite as good, so I tend not to bother.
Leek and Potato Soup
I love homemade soup. It’s one of my favourite things in the world, especially with big crusty bread. I like red pepper and tomato, sweet potato, mushroom, parsnip and apple and loads more, but leek and potato is my absolute favourite. It’s super simple to make and tastes so fantastically creamy. I tend not to like store-bought leek and potato, there’s too much leek for my liking, so mine is much more potatoey.
I’d never had fish pie until a few years ago. Now, I love it. Especially with a hard-boiled egg in the middle and plenty of cheese on the top. The best thing about a fish pie is that whatever fish you’ve got, works. Just throw it all in and bake. Perfect.
Pork and Chorizo Casserole
I love chorizo; it’s one of my favourite flavours. It’s spicy, warming and the texture is amazing. It’s also super versatile. It’s great in a salad, but also fantastic in a casserole. This one has so much flavour, and it’s super simple. A fantastic winter warmer.
Toad in the Hole
Ah, toad in the hole. My Yorkshire puddings are improving; it’s taken me a long time to master it. But, my toad in the hole is never as good as husbands. This is probably the kid’s favourite winter warmer. They love sausages and Yorkshires, so throw them together, and they’re there. We serve with mash, peas and gravy for the perfect stodgy meal. One of those that you can’t move for an hour after.