10 recipes designed for winter’s chilly weather

By / Food / December 12th, 2017 / 2

Yay for puddings and pies, soups and stews, custards and creams, hot savouries and slathered-on sauces. Welcome blessed winter, the season that by its very coldness gives us a chance to plunge guilt-free into the rich stuff that bakes and bubbles in our kitchens, makes the season sing, warms the cockles and lards out cuddly comfort.

Who knows why this leap into gravy and other soul-embracing food happens, but we can only guess that it really is the cold outside that temporarily turns our biologic body clocks away from the endless compulsory salads and sandwiches of summer, and gets us delving into the potential of Dutch ovens, slow cookers, spring-form pans and all of the other tools, techniques and containers that let us craft and cook the best of soulful, satisfying and unabashedly sinful nosh.

Speaking of tools and rich tastes, why don’t we pause for a moment and bake a couple of trays of butter-rich shortbread, just to have around. So simple: flour, icing sugar, cornstarch and lots of butter to bring it all together. And if you’ve never piped cookies through a bag, this is your chance. It’s quick and there’s a consistency to your cookies. The bag will become an ongoing kitchen tool, and you’ll feel like a pastry chef.

Quick switch. For most of my life, I’ve made meat pies at this time of year. Top and bottom pastry with a filling of ground beef, onions, mushrooms and a well-seasoned gravy to bring it all together. They’re the best. I keep the filling on the sloppy side. It’s not a chunky, possibly-dry steak and kidney. We had un ami français over for dinner one night and I made one — big as always — in one of my Emile Henry dishes. Served it with roasted seasonal vegetables— parsnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi, spuds and cabbage from the garden. Our guest delightfully proclaimed, “This is the only tourtière I’ve ever been able to eat. Tourtière? I didn’t know I’d made one.

And remember soup. Being that it’s cold outside, I shamelessly return again to my prize-winning Winter Warmup, a soup that intentionally incorporates root vegetables, those full-of-flavour babies that linger long in the garden, suck up goodness from the enfolding soil and come to the kitchen as bundles of satisfying sweetness.

The season just past blessed us not just only “yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red” leaves to rake, but also with snappy, shiny apples. Time for strudel. (I cheat on the puff pastry.)

And slow cooking is really the easiest way to make a mighty meal. Get it started as you’re heading off to work, set it on low and come home to a cooker full of ready-to-eat. Bite-sized beef of a lesser cut, onions, potatoes, beans that you froze in small bags at the height of the season, mushrooms, carrots and any other bits from the bottom of the fridge that need a home. Top it all with chicken stock, season as you wish and you’re done. Any leftovers can be frozen as meals for another day. Slow cookers are versatile: I’ve cooked bean dishes, curries and stuff with “heat.” Taste triumphs in the slow cooker.

As an aside, my partner has been pushing a paleo diet in recent times. Google it, and make it a possible resolution for 2018. In the meantime, as winter winds howl, and windshields need a morning scrape, revel in the familiar and the fab of wonderful winter.

my tourtière

As with many recipes, this one included, there are purists. This is a meat pie with a fancy French name. And, as I said above, keep your mixture on the sloshy side. The quantity of ground beef and vegetables needed will depend on the size of your baking dish. Pair it with mashed potatoes if you wish, and some mixed vegetables. Something red and robust would be my choice for a wine.


1 cup lard (or butter, if you wish)
2 cups flour
1 egg
1 tbsp vinegar
2-3 tbsp cold water

Cut the lard into the flour and mix to the consistency of corn meal.

Mix the egg and vinegar together and add to the flour-lard mix. It will begin to look like pastry. Add just enough water to make it pastry. Don’t overmix.

Remove from the bowl and shape into a ball. I always use the pastry at this stage but others leave it in the fridge for an hour or so first; I won’t argue.

Roll out the pastry and line the bottom of your dish. You should have enough left to cover the filling and seal the edges


500 g ground beef
1 large onion, diced
6 large mushrooms, diced
900 ml beef or chicken broth
1 tbsp flour
Salt and pepper
Herbs of your choice
Splash of Tabasco sauce
Splash of soy sauce
1 egg yolk

Fry up the ground beef, onions and mushrooms until the mix has browned. Empty the pan into a bowl. Deglaze the pan with broth, then add that to your mixture. If needed, add more broth to the bowl to keep the mixture almost fluid.

Return the mixture to the pan. Mix the flour with 1/2 cup water. Add the salt, pepper and herbs, followed by the Tabasco and soy sauce.

Simmer on low for 30 minutes, taste and adjust seasoning. Let the mixture cool, then spoon into the pastry-lined dish.

Cover with the remaining pastry and seal and crimp with your thumb and forefinger. Make some holes in the pastry with a fork to let air escape. Your tourtière is ready for the oven.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F, brush the top of the pie with egg yolk and bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown. Winter wonderful.


This recipe was a standard for years on the side of the Canada Starch box, cornstarch being one of the recipe’s principal ingredients. Triple or quadruple for larger quantities. If you’re piping, a bit more butter will make things easier.

1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup flour, sifted
3/4 cup butter

Preheat the oven to 300˚F.

Sift the cornstarch, icing sugar and flour together in the bowl of a mixer. Blend in the butter to make a soft, smooth dough.

Pipe the dough about 1 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. If you’re making your cookies by hand, flatten with a lightly-floured fork.

Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until the edges are slightly brown. Be careful as you pack them away, they are very “short.”

baked beans

The list of ingredients below is more or less accurate. I would probably add a touch of sage and thyme. Don’t let the beans dry out. Wet beans are the way to go, with a loaf of bread and endless cold beer. Then go far into the cold wilderness to spare the suffering of others.

2 cups small white beans
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 tbsp dark molasses
3 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Lean bacon

In a medium-sized saucepan, cover the beans with cold water and soak for one hour. Don’t drain the water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender.

Preheat the oven to 250˚F.

Drain the beans, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the beans, reserved water (or use 1 cup beer) and remaining ingredients to a greased baker. Decorate with lean bacon (my choice) and bake, covered, for 6 to 9 hours — overnight works best. If the beans dry out, add a little well-seasoned stock, or bean water.

apple strudel

You could make “scratch”’ pastry for your strudel, but my choice is to use store-bought puff pastry. (I know, it’s cheating.) Granny Smith apples work best for this recipe.

1 1/2 kg apples
Juice from 1 lemon
60 g raisins soaked in rum
200 g melted butter
100 g sugar
2 tbsp vanilla sugar
100 g bread crumbs
Pinch of cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
Melted butter, for daubing
Icing sugar, for dusting

Peel and seed the apples. Slice very thin and dribble with lemon juice. In a bowl, combine 2 tbsp raisins and 1 tbsp vanilla sugar. Brush the pastry dough with half of the melted butter, using the rest of the butter to fry the breadcrumbs.

Combine the crumbs with the remaining vanilla sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle overtop the pastry. Distribute the apple slices evenly overtop the pastry.

With the help of a clean dish towel, roll up the pastry. Make sure the ends are well closed. Place the strudel on a greased baking tray.

Brush with the beaten egg and bake in a preheated 350˚F oven for 30 to 40 minutes, occasionally brushing with melted butter. When done, let the strudel cool and then dust with icing sugar. Serve warm or cold.

winter pudding

It was a custom at our place to load puddings like this with small change. Seriously. Maybe an incentive for the kids to eat more? (Don’t swallow them!) So, you can, if you wish, wash some nickels and dimes and add them to the final mix. In inflationary times, you may even wish to consider loonies and toonies!

1 cup soft bread crumbs
1 cup raisins
1 cup currants
1 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup citron peel, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup treacle or molasses (I’ve also used maple syrup)
1 cup milk

Mix together the bread crumbs, fruit and nuts; dust with a small amount of flour. Stir together in another bowl the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. In yet another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the molasses. Alternating with the dry ingredients, add the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Fold in the fruit, nuts and bread crumbs.

Fill a greased bowl, or individual moulds filled two-thirds full and cover with foil. In a water bath, steam in a 350˚F oven until done, 1 to 2 hours for small moulds or 3 hours or for a large mould.

Serve hot with a sauce, whipped cream or ice cream. If you make this pudding ahead of time, reheat by steaming for 2 to 3 hours. To serve, invert the pudding so it comes out of its mould and top with a holly sprig.

creamy dijon chicken

Serves 1 to 2

Another way to make the most of versatile chicken. Scale this recipe to serve more people.

225 g chicken breast
3 tbsp chives, finely chopped


3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
120 ml dry white wine
250 ml whipping cream
3 tbsp Dijon mustard

Melt the butter in a frying pan, then stir in the onion and garlic and sauté for 1 minute on medium-high heat.

Add the wine, stir and cook for 1 minute more. Reduce the heat, add the cream and cook until reduced and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the mustard. Maintain the sauce at about 140˚F until ready to serve.

The chicken breasts can be baked in a 350˚F oven until cooked and golden, but are much better done on the barbecue (if you want to wait till the summer). Ladle on the sauce and sprinkle with chives.

Match: Serve with potatoes, vegetables and a cool Chablis.

seafood gumbo

Serves 6 to 8

For a couple of weeks in the ‘80s, my daughter Tracy worked as an entertainer on a Mississippi riverboat — all the fascinating way from New Orleans to Natchez. She mailed me this recipe on a postcard. Chowders? Gumbos? The right stuff for December. You can use freshly-cleaned crab or fresh or frozen lump crab meat, but it is nice to have the claws and a few chunks from the body in the gumbo. File is powdered sassafras leaves. It’s a thickener, so don’t overdo it; a tablespoonful is about right. If you can’t find file, add thinly sliced young, tender okra at the beginning instead.

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 lb shrimp
1 lb crab meat
1 lb oysters, with oyster water
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp file
Tabasco sauce, to taste

In a large pot make a roux by browning the flour in well-heated vegetable oil. Lower the heat and gradually add 2 litres of water. Add the onion, garlic, pepper and parsley and cook for 30 minutes.

Add the crab meat and the bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce and seasonings but save the file. Cook for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and oysters. Cook for about 5 minutes more on high heat until the oysters begin to curl. Do not overcook the shrimp and oysters.

Cut the heat, add the file and serve. Add Tabasco sauce, if desired.


Don’t be scared. It’s wonderful to present this rich stück for dessert and say it’s a recipe you got from Beethoven’s mother, or stole from a cook in a place in the high Alps or … pick your own fib.

1 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cardamom, crushed
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp cottage cheese
6 tbsp soft butter
6 tbsp ground almonds
1/4 cup currants
2 tbsp lemon peel
1/4 tsp almond extract

Place all the ingredients in a bowl. Crack the egg into the centre and mix by hand. Roll the dough into an 8″ x 10″ rectangle then fold it over to make a 4″ x 5″ rectangle.

Bake at 325˚F for 45 minutes. Glaze while hot with 3 tbsp icing sugar blended with 1 tbsp soft butter.

rich custard

3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
4 egg yolks, well beaten
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup whipped cream

In the top of a double boiler, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Mix milk and cream together. Gradually stir in the milk-cream mix. Cover and cook mixture over boiling water for 8 minutes without stirring.

Uncover and cook for about 10 minutes more. Add the egg yolks and butter. Continue to stir and cook for 2 minutes more.

Remove from the double boiler, cool, stirring occasionally to release steam. Once mixture has cooled, add the vanilla and fold in the whipped cream. Chill the custard. It will have the consistency of heavy whipped cream.

winter warmup

I created this soup years ago, put together with end-of-season vegetables from the garden. When it’s cold outside, break out the memories of summer!

6 large carrots, diced
2 large onions, diced
1 large potato, diced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cardamom
6 cups chicken stock
Dash of Tabasco sauce
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground pepper
Soy sauce and salt, to taste
Handful of finely chopped fresh or dried herbs, such as oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme
1/2 cup whipped cream, to serve
Blue cheese or Stilton, to serve (optional)

In a pot over medium-high, simmer and sweat the diced vegetables in the butter, olive and sesame oil. Add the curry, cardamom, ground pepper, Tabasco and Worcestershire and herbs.

Add the stock and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.

Blend the mixture in a food processor, then season to taste with salt and soy sauce. The soup can be served now or frozen for later. Before serving, stir in the whipped cream. Do not allow the soup to boil. As an extra touch, add a knob of blue cheese or Stilton to each bowl. If you wish, a minute or so under the broiler will work extra wonders.


Our West Coast wordsmith Duncan Holmes likes to cook all parts of the meal—hot and cold apps for the eyes; big, generous mains, where timing, color and taste come together on sparkling, white plates—and there’s always enough for seconds. But it’s at dessert time when he really shines. Not with precious fancy dancy, but with a melt-in-your-mouth-pastry apple pie. Granny Smiths, of course, and French vanilla ice cream.

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