Winter Warmers

Winter has officially arrived, and with it comes crisp mornings and cool nights. It is a time of year I really enjoy as the crisp air is so refreshing for our bodies and minds. And most importantly the cooler weather allows us to enjoy heartier meals, warm puddings and red wine.

The change of season marks a change in the fruits and vegetables that are available for us to enjoy. Cool weather fruits such as citrus, rhubarb, pears and apples are at their prime right now and can be enjoyed in the following ways…

Citrus is perhaps the king of winter fruit and presents itself in a variety of guises such as oranges, lemons, limes, mandarins, and grapefruit. Citrus is heralded for its vitamin C, most of which is contained in the peel and pith, so I encourage you to include the zest in your baking, or combine lemon or orange zest with parsley and garlic to make a simple gremolata that will lift the flavours of any winter stew.

Rhubarb is divine roasted with some sugar and the juice and zest of an orange …

Simply take a bunch of rhubarb and cut each stalk into 5cm pieces and lay them in a roasting dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar and moisten with the juice and zest of one orange. For some warmth you could add some slices of fresh ginger or a stick of cinnamon. Cover the dish with foil and bake in a preheated 180C oven for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and gently stir. Return to the oven for a further 5 minutes or until tender but still holding its shape.

Serve in individual ramekins (we think these ones by Le Creuset are pretty cute) with thick cream or yoghurt, or spoon over your morning porridge. Here I have sprinkled the rhubarb and yoghurt with my favourite toasted muesli for a quick and easy breakfast or dessert.

Poached Rhubarb and Yoghurt Pots
A simple dessert or breakfast idea.

Or, you may wish to make a simple crumble to sprinkle on top. This is my favourite crumble recipe …

100g butter, melted
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander

Method:
Place flour, brown sugar, rolled oats,coconut and spices into a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Sprinkle clumps over your chosen fruit base and bake in a 180C oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden and crunchy.

Rhubarb’s tartness lends itself to savoury dishes too. Next time you are roasting a joint of pork, stew some rhubarb and apple together to serve alongside.

Pears arrive in an assortment of varieties during the Winter months. The moody beurre bosc is fantastic for poaching as it holds it shape so well. The William variety is the all-rounder – leave it in the fruit bowl to ripen and you will be rewarded with a sweet and juicy treat with just the right amount of crunch.
For a savoury twist, add some finely sliced pear to a peppery rocket salad, add some shaved parmesan and dress simply with olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Just delicious!

Winter Beauties!
Winter Beauties!

Apples are at their best right now. Try to buy from a reputable source to ensure freshness and quality. Our closest apple growing area is Stanthorpe, about 3 hours drive away. Keep your eye out at the local markets for apples from this area – in this way you will be eating as locally and seasonally as possible.

Fresh from the tree!
Fresh from the tree!

I used my much loved Le Creuset cast iron casserole to cook a delicious and hearty beef and red wine casserole this afternoon. It filled the house with the most wonderful smell and after a few hours of cooking on the stove it was delicious. We served it with risoni (small rice shaped pasta) instead of the usual mashed potato and it was a lovely combination, along with some just blanched zucchini.

Beef and Red Wine Casserole beginnings
Cook this combination of ingredients in a casserole for a few hours and you will be rewarded!

I just love winter veggies for their colour and nourishing qualities. Many winter veggies are root vegetables, meaning they grow beneath the soil – think carrots, beetroot, celeriac, parsnips and potatoes to name a few – reminding us that Winter is a time to turn inward, to hibernate and slow down. Our days are shorter, encouraging us to spend time indoors and rest a little more.

I love to roast a big ol’ tray of mixed winter vegetables with rosemary, garlic and thyme and a generous slug of olive oil to protect and lubricate the vegetables while they cook. These can be served alongside your chosen meat or turned into a delicious vegetable tart. Winter vegetables really are versatile and offer us the nourishment we need at this time of year.

Roast Vegetable Tart
Delicious chunks of roasted vegetables give this tart great texture!

Although many of us don’t like the cold I encourage you to rug up and enjoy walks along the beach or around your neighbourhood. I find the clear air makes everything look sharper – the green of the trees is more green and the blue of the sky more blue. Take the time to cook slower dishes, allowing the heat from the oven to warm your home. For soon enough the warmth of Spring will be upon us.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my post about winter produce. I hope you feel inspired to take a walk in the fresh air, then return home to transform your winter produce into heartwarming, delicious dishes for family and friends.

Happy Cooking x

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