Cold weather comfort food

PUBLISHED: 12:25 21 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:54 20 February 2013

Cold weather comfort food

Cold weather comfort food

Ruth French looks at food fit to sustain as well as warming places to eat in the chilly winter weeks still to come

Ruth French looks at food fit to sustain as well as warming places to eat in the chilly winter weeks still to come





Theres no room for munching on a grissini stick in mid-winter. Whatever our build or constitution, we all need to keep warm and nourished at this time and that means proper, hearty food.
Some of the best dishes around can be as economical as they are filling and nutritious, which is good news for our pockets what with the recent fuel bill rises and the unusually harsh winter.
Take lentils for instance. The split, orange variety are still good value for money and are quick and easy to cook. Requiring no soaking, theyll make a wonderful soup if boiled with some stock to which youve added fried onion, carrot, tomato and fresh herbs.
Try including some bacon pieces too and a little pinch of nutmeg or some spices.
Using lentils as a base, you can add whatever you like and itll produce an amazing dish thats high in protein with or without meat thatll banish winter ills and chills.
One of my favourite ways to feel replete in the winter kitchen though is to cook a cassoulet.
There are of course a million French versions all claiming to be the authentic one but the truth is that it developed as a peasant dish and as such, probably derived from myriad regional, rural recipes.
No matter though because the original, whatever it is, offers a great base for my East Anglian version. Rub a large, deep casserole dish all over with some raw garlic and then fry some Suffolk pork belly slices and neck of lamb with some carrots and onions, a bay leaf , some thyme and three cloves until the meat and vegetables are browned all over.
Add a litre of any stock and simmer for 40 minutes. Layer the meat and vegetables in the casserole dish, reserving the remaining stock. Now add some cooked/tinned duck and accompanying fat or some cooked chicken thighs and some goose fat. Intersperse the meat with a tin of cooked cannelloni or other beans. Cover with the reserved stock. Now top all of this meat with some good Newmarket sausages (either Musks or Powters who only use traceable pork from our region) that have been fried with yet more onions and garlic.
Throw in another tin of cooked beans, a couple of fresh, quartered tomatoes and season with salt, pepper, and pinch of mixed spice. Pour on just enough red wine to barely cover. Finish with a thick layer of breadcrumbs and dot with butter.
Cover and cook in a moderate oven until the browned meat is cooked through (usually about an hour) and the liquid is all but gone and the breadcrumbs are both sticky, crisp and golden. Serve with a warm winter salad, crusty bread and a full burgundy.



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