With the winter weather dragging on and colder temperatures feeling harder and harder to beat, we are all in need of that extra spot of comfort. This article is dedicated to all foods warm and cosy – from breakfast muffins to a hearty lasagne, and a pudding packed with fruit and spices to fill your kitchen with that already-missed air of festivity. So turn the oven on, snuggle up, and get ready for a journey through some ultimate winter warmers.
Breakfast: Banana muffins
For me, a warm and sticky banana muffin fulfils all my sugary cravings on a chilly winter morning. When baked fresh, their scent fills the house and has got to be the best thing to wake up to in these winter months. This recipe has been lovingly shared by a family friend, and can easily be adapted to a gluten-free diet too (simply switch the flour for a gluten-free alternative and add a splash of milk).
- 80g butter/margarine
- 180g soft brown sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 450g overripe bananas, mashed
- 200g self-raising flour
- ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees/160 fan-oven/gas mark 4.
- Cream the butter/margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Gradually beat in the eggs, then add the banana and beat again.
- Fold in the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
- Divide evenly between 12 cases and place in oven for 15-20 minutes.
- (Don’t forget to lick the bowl afterwards!!)
Lunch: Sweet potato and carrot soup
(4 - 6 servings)
For a winter lunch, I will always head back to soup. Serve with a thickly cut slice of sourdough, or a soft bread roll, and you’re good to go. Soup is so versatile and has so many variations that I promise you'll never get bored, and once you understand the basic art of soup making, the possibilities are endless and undeniably comforting. This recipe serves 4 - 6 but can be frozen and reheated, so is perfect for any students looking to batch cook a quick and easy fix in these colder temperatures.
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 500g sweet potato, roughly chopped
- 500g carrot, roughly chopped
- 25g root ginger, peeled and grated
- 1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
- Spring onion to top (optional)
- Put the oil and onions in a large saucepan over a high heat and fry for a couple of minutes before adding the carrots, sweet potato, and ginger. Fry for another 4-5 minutes.
- Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and leave to simmer for around 20 minutes.
- Remove pan from the heat, season with salt and pepper, then blend using a hand blender or food processor.
- Serve warm, garnish with chopped spring onions, and pair with a good slice of your favourite bread.
There are so many options when considering what the best winter dinner could be: cottage pie, sausages and mash, pasta bake - to name but a few. If I’m up for doing a spot of cooking, however, then this lasagne is always my go-to. It’s been adapted for a vegetarian diet, but you could quite easily swap out the soya meat-alternative for the real deal. Enjoy!
- 25g butter
- 25g flour
- 300ml milk
- 60g grated cheese
- 1 onion (diced)
- 250g soya mince (I use Linda McCartney)
- Half a jar of tomato sauce (e.g. Dolmio or own-brand alternative)
- Lasagne sheets
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees/160 fan-oven/gas mark 4
- Start by making your béchamel sauce: in a medium-sized pan melt the butter. Add in the flour and stir (it will become a dough-like consistency). Gradually add in the milk whilst stirring. Bring to the boil, add the grated cheese, and keep stirring until all melted. Set aside while making the mince.
- Fry the onions, then cook mince according to packet. Add in the tomato sauce, and stir to coat.
- Now time to assemble: Put half of the mince at the bottom of an oven-proof dish. Cover with a layer of lasagne sheets and then one third of the béchamel sauce. Put the rest of the mince on top, then another layer of sheets, and finally the remaining béchamel.
- Put in the oven for 45 minutes. Then cover with tin foil for a final 15 minutes.
- Serve immediately with peas or broccoli and garlic bread, if you like.
Pudding: Stewed cinnamon apples and custard
Sometimes making a crumble can be too much effort for the evening, particularly when the days are so short, so here’s a quick recipe that's far easier to whip up, but still gives you that romantic festive feeling from the cinnamon spice and creamy custard.
- 6 apples
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- Custard (to serve)
- Cut up the apples into small cubes (about 3 x 3 cm) and put in a saucepan on a medium-heat with lid on.
- Leave for around 20 mins, or until the apple has softened, then add the cinnamon and stir in.
- Heat up the custard and serve with the stewed apple immediately.
[Feature Image: Columbia Pictures / AJ Pics / Alamy Stock Photo]