In my opinion, there’s no better way to perk myself up from the cold January blues than with comfort food. For many people, the phrase ‘comfort food’ has become synonymous with dishes on the heavy side - big carbs, fatty or extremely rich.
The notion of ‘guilty pleasures’ is never far away at this time of year. Such food can be utterly delicious of course, but at worst these dishes fall into the territory of stodge. In cold and dark evenings, we may hanker for something hot and filling but warming dishes don’t need to be fried and fatty.
Soups and stews
I love hearty soups in winter. There are several squash varieties that will warm the cockles of your heart – and ward off hunger pangs. Why not prepare a Moorish style soup that you can spice up with some cayenne, ginger and sherry. Garnish with crisp pancetta and toasted hazelnuts and you have one delicious winter warmer. Perfect with home-made bread.
My favourite winter mains have to be hearty beef stews with root vegetables and herb dumplings or creamy fish pie made with salmon, smoked haddock and large prawns with fresh parsley and a parsnip and potato crust. Mouth-wateringly good yet wholesome and comforting at the same time.
For me, the best desserts have to be my childhood favourites of fruit crumble with fresh custard or puddings of sticky toffee, baked rice or chocolate. Real chocolate in moderation is actually good for you as it contains antioxidants. Choose one with a minimum of 60% chocolate solids.
Try my hot chocolate pudding recipe:
Melt 75g dark chocolate with 75g butter, whisk in two whole eggs and 1 egg yolk along with 65g caster sugar, 30g plain flour and 5g cocoa.
Pour into greased oven proof moulds and bake at 180C for approximately 8-10 minutes.
The centre of the pudding should still be liquid once cooked, dust with cocoa and serve with sliced banana dusted with caster sugar and caramelised until golden brown with a gas blow torch (or under the grill) and your favourite ice cream.
Mussels are bang in season and a luxury food that costs very little money. They’re also surprisingly easy to cook and here’s how…
For a quick comforting supper dish for two, steam 1kg of cleaned Scottish mussels in a glass of white wine then remove from the shells (discard any that don’t open). Strain the mussel liquor through a fine mesh sieve and fast boil in a large pan until about one-third of its volume then remove from the heat and stir in a few spoons of parsley pesto sauce. Now add the shelled mussels with 175g of cooked linguine pasta and scatter with chopped parsley.
Serve immediately and enjoy with a glass of chilled Chablis.
The Kitchen Corner with Garry Watson of Gordon’s Restaurant, Inverkeilor by Arbroath.