With leaves changing from lush green to burnished gold and silky conkers litter the ground, I can’t help but look forward to cosy nights in with hearty, comforting recipes to fill my belly as I countdown to Christmas. When the weather turns cold, my birthday month (September) is over and the mornings and evenings get darker, all I want to eat in the evening is a bowl or plate of something comforting.
A warming dinner can banish the cold and feel familiar and nourishing. My favourite things to eat at this time of the year are pies, stews and soups; the kinds of recipes to cook long, low and slow. The scent gradually spreads throughout the house, tempting and delicious, and I count down the minutes until the meal is ready.
My favourite meals are not only warm but rich, full of spices and cooked with love. I’ve added two recipes below, a spicy, smoky chilli and a hearty chunky chicken pie.
Chunky Chicken and Mushroom Pie
With a rich gravy, chunks of chicken and earthy mushrooms, this is my ultimate chicken pie to come home to on cold nights. I have cheated slightly and used ready-made pastry here, as it is much quicker, especially after work. It also means it’s much quicker to get to the end result – which is a very tasty one!
Serves 4, cooking time 1 hour
3 chicken breasts
300g chestnut mushrooms
½ cup of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 30 mins
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp plain flour
chicken stock pot or stock cube
small bunch of thyme, leaves only
1 tsp nutmeg
salt & pepper
1 pack of ready to roll puff pastry
- Preheat the oven to 180˚
- Cut the chicken into large chunks, slice the mushrooms roughly. Remove the porcini from their soaking liquid, and chop. Keep the soaking liquid.
- Using the porcini soaking liquid and stock cube or pot, mix in boiling water to make ½ pint of stock.
- Fry the chicken in the olive oil to brown the edges.
- Mix in the mushrooms and porcini. Cook for a further 5 mins.
- Coat in the flour and mix in well.
- Add the stock, nutmeg and thyme. Cook for a further 15 mins or until the sauce has thickened to gravy consistency.
- Roll out the pastry just larger than your pie dish.
- Add the filling to the dish, and top with the pastry. Fold over or trim off the edges of the pastry. Cut a small hole in the centre to allow steam to escape.
- Optional – paint with milk to give a shiny finish to the pastry.
- Bake for 20-25 mins, or until the pastry is risen and golden.
Smoky Chilli con Carne
Spicy has always been one of my favourites, and this recipe is a fail safe way to cheer me up and warm me up on a cold night. The ancho chilli adds extra smokiness and spice, and while it’s not essential to making a chilli con carne, it does make a good one! This recipe works equally well for beef mince, Quorn, beans or vegetables – the flavour is delicious with any option!
Serves 4, cooking time 40-50 mins
500g beef mince
2 peppers (red, yellow or green)
1 clove garlic
1-2 fresh chillies (optional)
beef stock pot or stock cube
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
Tin of kidney or pinto beans
1 dried ancho chilli, soaked according to the packet instructions
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 squares dark chocolate
Salt & pepper
- Roughly chop the peppers, peel the garlic and finely chop the chillies if using. Drain the ancho chilli and finely chop.
- Fry the mince until browned, mix well to break it up into small pieces.
- Add the peppers, garlic, ancho chilli and chillies, if using.
- Add the tomatoes and stock cube or pot. Rinse the tomato tin with cold water and add in.
- Add the beans, spices and chocolate and mix well.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins – 1 hour – the longer it cooks, the better the flavour.
- Serve with rice and grated cheese for an indulgent treat.
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