Comfort food


In Europe the change in seasons is not just marked by a change of wardrobe, it is also evident at the fresh-produce stalls, and in the kitchen. Winters’ finest produce, such as globe artichokes, root vegetables, quinces and citrus fruits are all on display. Meanwhile rich, hearty cuts of meat, slow-cooked stews, and baked puddings feature on the menu at home.

Lamb Shanks

Moroccan lamb tagine:

1 chopped onion

1 chopped carrot

1 large aubergine cubed

3 cloves of crushed garlic

5 cm piece of crushed ginger

1 can tomatoes

1 can drained chickpeas

1 handful chopped dried apricots

1 cinnamon stick

1 clove

2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 pinch of chilli flakes

1 pinch of paprika

500 ml beef stock

4 French trimmed lamb shanks


Put all ingredients in an oven proof dish or tagine, cover in stock and allow to cook covered for two hours. Check seasoning, adjust with salt and pepper and cook for another hour uncovered. Serve with couscous and fresh coriander.


Seafood Pie

Not too fishy, yet incredibly tasty, this seafood pie is simple to create and even easier to devour. We used Careme traditional butter puff pastry – a sensational product that takes this pie to new heights. It is available in the freezer section of most good delis.

Serves 4

1 sheet traditional butter puff pastry

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Bunch of English spinach, carefully rinsed

40g butter

40g flour

500ml fish stock

2 more tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 sticks celery, finely diced

1 onion, finely diced

200g vongole (pippies)

200g mussels, de-bearded and scrubbed

100ml white wine

200g firm white fish, cut into bite-sized chunks

200g green prawns, peeled, de-veined and cut into three pieces

Handful of parsley, picked (stalks reserved) and roughly chopped

Handful of chopped caper berries or capers


Preheat oven to 180°C.

Bring fish stock (you could use chicken stock in a pinch) to the boil in a small saucepan. Turn the heat down and simmer on the back of the stovetop until needed.

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan and cook garlic for a few minutes. Add spinach; cook until wilted, then remove to a plate and set aside in a warm place.

Using the same pot heat another glug of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat, add celery and onion and cook until soft (about 7 minutes). Turn up heat and add white wine, parsley stalks, vongole and mussels and seal with the saucepan lid. You will hear when the shellfish have popped – the steam will overwhelm the saucepan lid with a whoosh. Remove from heat when majority of the shells have opened (some will never open – these are no good and should be discarded). Discard parsley and set aside opened shellfish to cool in liquid. When cool enough to handle, scoop the meat from inside the shells dropping the flesh back into the reserved liquid (this will keep them from drying out and the reserved liquid will add fantastic flavour to the pie). Be careful to catch and reserve the tasty ocean juices that have been trapped inside the shells too.

Trace around the pastry using the top of your pie dish as a guide (you can also serve the pie in the saucepan it was cooked in – use the saucepan lid as a guide). Brush the pie with egg mix and place on a piece of baking paper. Place in a pre-heated oven and cook until golden – about 30 minutes.

Melt butter over low heat in a new saucepan. Make a roux by adding flour and cook gently for five minutes, stirring constantly without colouring (you want to eliminate the taste of flour). Add fish stock, half a cup at a time, stirring carefully after each cup to make sure it is incorporated, stirring until smooth with each addition. Simmer on low for another five to ten minutes to ensure the flour is cooked through. Season well with salt and pepper.

Add reserved shellfish along with the reserved liquid and rest of the contents (cooked onion and celery) of the pot. Stir gently to combine. Roughly chop reserved spinach and add to the pie mix. Add chopped fish and prawns. Stir gently until the fish is cooked through. Just before serving stir through chopped parsley and caper berries.

Check seasoning and then top with pie lid before serving.

Tip: transform this delicious seafood pie into a chicken pie by substituting all the seafood with 1.2 kg of chicken thighs (each one with skin removed and chopped into 12 bite-sized pieces). Use chicken stock instead of fish stock and zest of half a lemon instead of the caper berries. Simply brown the chicken pieces in the onion and celery mix, add wine and cook for a few minutes before setting aside. Continue as per seafood pie recipe, adding chicken pieces and liquid before the spinach. This pie will need to cook in the oven – so place pastry over the top of the pie and paint with egg wash. Place pie mix in the oven and bake at 180°C for 25 minutes, or until bubbling and hot through to the bottom.

Bread and Butter Pudding 

It is the panettone that takes this recipe to giddy heights. A traditional Italian Christmas treat, panettone is dotted with candied orange and lemon peel and studded with raisons. You can substitute brioche or stale white bread and some rum-soaked currants.

Serves 6

3 cups milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus some for greasing the ramekins

1 cinnamon quill

½ cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon

Pinch of salt

8 slices panettone (you could use brioche or stale white bread instead)

3 eggs


Preheat oven to 180°C.

Warm milk, butter, cinnamon quill, sugar and salt over low heat in a small saucepan. When the butter has just melted remove the mixture from heat.

Butter six individual ramekins with remaining butter. Cut or tear the panettone into strips about as big as the head of your wooden spoon (slightly larger than bite-size). Place the bread into a large mixing bowl.

Remove the cinnamon quill and pour the hot-milk mixture over the bread. Let it sit for a few minutes, submerging the bread pieces that rise to the top.

Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl then stir through the bread and milk mixture.

Arrange the bread and liquid into ramekins. Sprinkle remaining sugar over the top of the puddings. Place the ramekins into a large baking dish and carefully pour hot water around them stopping about two centimetres from the top of their rims.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until a thin-bladed knife inserted into the centre comes out clean – the centre should still be slightly wobbly. Place the ramekins under the grill for 30 seconds to caramelise.

Serve with cream or ice cream.

Short ‘n’ Sweet Warmers

Kick-start your morning with a hot bowl of porridge enhanced with dried fruit or golden syrup. Adding sultanas, or chopped and dried apricots or figs, will provide a natural and healthy sweetness to the porridge. Alternatively, try substituting half the water in the cooking instructions for milk, or add a tablespoon of golden syrup for a real treat.

Make stunning apple, quince and ginger crumbles by cooking finely sliced apple and quince in a couple of tablespoons of butter, a tablespoon of caster sugar, and a little ground ginger. Make a crumble mix by rubbing together flour, melted butter and brown sugar until you have a crumbly, dough-like consistency. You can add oats, sultanas or chopped walnuts to add texture to the crumble.

Recipes: Libby Travers

Photography: Stephen Ostrer


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