The seasons have officially turned we are now in winter mode, it is time to think about changing what we are serving for dinner. This time of year is all about winter warmers. Think full-bodied stews, casseroles and soups that are full of seasonal veg. Most of these types of dishes are even better the second day and leftovers are the perfect lunch. Saving you both money and time and impressing everyone with your delicious flavours, what’s not to love! Kitchen & Dining Buyer and self-confessed food-addict Julie is going to give you some ideas here on how you can make the most of your cookware and ingredients this season…
When I think of Winter Warmers I immediately go to casseroles and stews. As the Kitchen and Dining Buyer, I have an unhealthy interest in Cookware and cooking in general. I love weekend batch cooking for the week ahead, trying new recopies and techniques. Cooking is my hobby and I spend lots of time on it; reading about it, watching back to back episodes of The Great British Bake Off… However, I am about to become a busy mum of one with less time to devote to cooking. Therefore I have been turning my thoughts to filling the freezer!! Batch cooking and one pot dinners are going to be my new best friend. These Winter Warmers are perfect for freezer cooking and getting organised.
I have also been encouraged to include more seasonal and sustainable meals into our weekly menu. With the increased focus in the news on environmental issues, this is something I have been trying to focus on. Meat-Free Mondays are a simple change that we could all make. Something else to consider is food waste and food miles. The recipes I am going to look at here are all based on seasonal vegetables. Firstly though, tools of the trade.
Buy Better and Buy Less is the key! Invest in good pieces of cookware and they will serve you well for years.
Something that all kitchens should have is a proper Cast Iron Casserole. You will use it constantly and wonder how you survived without it! We stock Le Creuset both online and instore and they really are the cream of the crop. Carefully maintained a good quality Le Creuset casserole will last you a lifetime. They are more economical to cook with as you never need to cook at higher temperatures. I use mine for a variety of recipes and use it at least twice a week. I have even baked bread in it! One of my favourite recipes right now is this Chicken and Caramelised Apple Casserole. Apples are perfectly in season at the moment and this dish is perfect to fend off the cold of winter.
To care for your Cast Iron, never use sharp objects to cut food inside in it. Always use lower temperatures, higher temperatures can damage the interior leading to food sticking. Take care when moving from hot to cold, a hot pan should never be out in cold water, or you risk cracking the pot. Cast Iron is freezer safe, but never put a casserole from the freezer into a hot oven. Instead, put the casserole from the freezer to the cold oven and then allow the lot to heat up gradually together. Following these basic tips means in the long run, what seems an expensive purchase will work out to be excellent value.
Good saucepans are another kitchen staple and I would always include a larger size. I use this Dura Forge stockpot to make my Winter Veg Curry. At a very generous 5.7 litre capacity this is perfect for batch cooking soups, stews and curries. I love a good non-stick interior for this kind of cooking, it’s easy to clean and the thick sides means you get a good heat distribution. It is suitable for all types of hobs and is oven safe to 180 so you can gently reheat your dishes in the oven the next day. This is a very scratch resistant range, but again, no sharp or metal tools. Always use silicone or wooden, we have a lovely set of utensils that are a combination of silicone and wood. These will ensure that your non-stick interior remains so for years to come.
Stainless Steel has the edge on Aluminium cookware when it comes to meals that need a longer cooking time because it holds heat very well. That is why I would always have a set of Stainless Steel pans in the house, this one from Circulon with its high shine exterior will look good in any style of kitchen. It is also oven safe to 200 degrees allowing you to cook at higher temperatures safely. This set includes a 25cm skillet, I personally love this for making a wonderful side dish which is perfect at this time of the year. Simple Sauteed Cabbage is easy to make, quick and tasty. It is my go-to green at this time of year! Nobody thinks of cabbage as being exciting but cooked in this way you won’t return to boiled soggy cabbage of old.
The key is to invest in the best cookware that you can afford and then take good care of it.
SEASONAL WINTER VEG
- You might think that this time of year is not so good for fresh vegetables, the days are cold, the nights even colder… However, there is a real variety of gorgeous produce available right now to be used! Some examples include, the humble Potato, root vegetables such as Swede, Parsnip and Carrots are just coming into their own. Beetroot, Cabbage, Onions, Broccoli and the staple of Christmas Dinner, the Brussels Sprout are all now appearing for sale fresh from the farm. So why not try one meal a week that is based on fresh local vegetables. Your pocket and the planet will thank you for it!
- Always consider seasonal vegetables for your side dishes. I know we all love our exotic baby sweetcorn and roasted vine tomatoes but aim for one or two seasonal dishes a week. At this time of year, there is nothing like a creamy root vegetable mash. Why not try making Mushroom Risotto, mushrooms are in season all year round and are an excellent source of plant-based protein.
You have invested in good quality cookware and are caring for it correctly, that is money saved in the long run. You are including more seasonal vegetables in your weekly shopping, saving more money again. But there is no point in then throwing half of that lovely fresh produce in the bin or compost bin every week. So what can you do? Firstly, make a meal plan every week. It will help you identify exactly what you need for every meal and help you avoid waste and overbuying. There are some tricks you can then use at home to avoid food waste. These herb keepers will keep herbs fresh for up to 10 days meaning you should never have to throw them away again. The OXO Greensaver range is another great gadget which helps to extend the life of your food.
These are just some hints and tips to get the best out of your cookware and food this winter. If you have any tips you’d like to share why not let us know in a comment below!