Winter is when you want places to go without changing out of your trackies, drinks that unfailingly warm you from the inside out and dishes that come together with minimal time away from the heater. Winter is also when, notwithstanding all that, it is just sometimes better to leave town. Here with suggestions for all this and more, is the Good Food team.
David's Hotpot in Melbourne. Photo: Joe Armao
Eat: At Melbourne's David's Hotpot, the roiling broth in the DIY Sichuan hotpot is capped with a vermilion chilli oil slick. It makes comfy clothes (especially dark ones) not just sensible but mandatory.
Drink: Rodenbach Classic Flanders Red Ale (250ml can): A Belgian ale in the Cinderella zone: teetering between sweet and sour, not too heavy, not too light, and surprisingly good as a winter aperitif.
Recipe: Silverbeet refuseniks have been known to come around when served the leaves wilted down in a pan in which I've fried bacon, onion, garlic and chilli flakes, the mix loosened with chicken stock and pasta cooking water, and combined with penne and a spritz of lemon juice. Magic trick: hide a dollop of ricotta mixed with the lemon zest under the hot pasta and finish it with a snowfall of parmesan.
Wish I was there: You don't have to be an Instagram-famous murfer (mum surfer) to enjoy New South Wales' north coast. Sun, sand and good restaurants (Fleet, La Casita, Pipit (pictured), Harvest, Chupacabra) are all reasons to pack your linen wardrobe and fly north in winter.
When garlic bread meets cheese toastie. Photo: William Meppem
Eat: Anywhere that does a good ham-and-cheese toastie. I head straight to Macleay Street, Potts Point, where I have a choice of three cosy cafes: Zinc Cafe (followed with a big wedge of orange cake), Gypsy Espresso (add a coffee) and Jeremy & Sons (add chicken noodle soup). If I just can't face leaving home, there is always my garlic bread and cheese toastie.
Drink: Winter is all about the Boulevardier (the world's next Negroni). Equal parts bourbon, sweet (rosso) vermouth and Campari, it's rich and beautifully balanced, with the whisky adding an internal hug of warmth.
Recipe: My winter tray-bake warms the cockles. Just throw kipfler potatoes, onions, half-heads of garlic, quartered parsnips and carrots and wedges of pumpkin into the roasting tray, toss with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary and bake on high for an hour. Add a few thick Italian pork and fennel sausages and bake for another 20 minutes. Make a fast tomato sugo – can of chopped tomatoes, two anchovy fillets, spoonful of capers, chopped parsley or basil, glug of olive oil, some cumin or paprika, bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes – and serve with the snags and veg. (24 more traybake recipes.)
Wish I was there: Bed. Cuppa tea. Good book. I'm currently reading Call of the Reed Warbler by Charles Massy before seeing him at the Bendigo Writers Festival, August 9-11. It's a carefully considered call to arms for a new form of agriculture, in which we work with the land and not against it.
Trippa alla romana at Alberto's Lounge in Sydney. Photo: Christopher Pearce
Eat: My two favourite winter dishes are tripe and pasta, and Dan Pepperell of Sydney's Alberto's Lounge does a nice line in both. I particularly like his lush trippa alla romana, braised in tomatoey juices and boosted with butter chicken spices. Otherwise, it's the pappardelle alla bolognese with milk-braised veal and pork ragu. Or both.
Drink: I pretty much like all GSMs, but I LOVE Torbrek's The Steading from the Barossa Valley, produced from established grenache, mataro and shiraz vines, some well over a century old. This gorgeous, spicy, earthy red goes with just about any stew you can name. Trippa alla romana and pappardelle alla bolognese, ditto.
Recipe: In winter, I need food in a bowl. So I fill the bowl with zha jiang mian; Northern China's stir-fried pork mince with garlic, ginger and spring onions hit up with brown bean sauce and a touch of hoisin, served over a pile of thick chewy Shanghai wheat noodles. A topper of finely shredded cucumber for crunch, and I can see winter out.
Wish I was there: By the pool, thanks, somewhere warm and tropical – and ideally on the deck of a luxury cruise liner. I'm thinking the Genting Dream, which sails out of Singapore, so I can have lunch at a hawker stall, and dinner on board at Bistro by Mark Best.
Pumphouse Point on Lake St Clair in Tasmania. Photo: Supplied
Eat: I want hot dairy, any kind: the stretchy multi-cheese grills or the raclette over potatoes at Maker and Monger in South Yarra, the fondue at Bar Margaux, or custard, either with apple crumble at Pope Joan (pictured) or as a liquid-centred fondant at Laura on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula.
Drink: Doing Dry(ish) July I made hot apple cider (mulled juice), but it was too sweet so I switched to a 70-30 ratio of gingery kombucha and juice, mulling with the usual cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, cloves and orange peel. Apple cider vinegar and chilli adds a boozeless kick, or, spike with whisky for a real one.
Recipe: Gamey meat! It's born for winter braises. Get a goat forequarter (ask your butcher) and slow braise with tomatoes, onion, garlic, light (chicken) or dark (beef) stock, red or white wine (depending how heavy you want to go) and flavour to taste with maybe dates and spices like cinnamon or a caperberry, lemon and olive combo.
Wish I was there: I'm into the cold. At Pumphouse Point on Lake St Clair in Tassie you can dress like a bear, boot up, summit something and then eat and drink your bodyweight in the smallgoods, whiskies and wines from the in-room pantry and cellar with hot bread delivered on demand. Sit by the fire while the wind tries in vain to rip the roof off. Heaven.
Khao soi, a curried chicken noodle soup from northern Thailand. Photo: Shutterstock
Eat: Continental Deli's spaghetti and meatballs. Any spaghetti and meatballs.
Drink: All I ever want is a Gibson (gin and dry vermouth cocktail, pictured), year round. I pray for the day that every bar stocks a jar of cocktail onions, so I don't have to disappointingly drink my Martini with a twist instead.
Recipe: The only thing that stands between me and sickness during winter is what I've dubbed me "kill it with fire before it lays eggs chicken soup". Basically, you take four chicken drumsticks and eight chicken wings, brown off all the meat nice and slowly, then remove and fry a grated knob of ginger, half a head of garlic and around the same amount of fresh turmeric (also grated) in the chicken fat. Add a brown onion, cook till soft, add the usual celery, carrots, leek and any other things you have lying around, soften, add back in the chicken, cover with water and walk away for an hour or so while everything makes friends over a low-medium heat. Finish with a handful of fresh coriander, and pray for wellness. (26 interesting chicken soup recipes.)
Wish I was there: Chiang Mai, sweating out some really spicy Northern Thai food and sunning myself like a freshly fed seal by the pool.
Nautilus Resort, Rarotonga. Photo: Supplied
Eat: Sadly, I live outside 1800-Lasagne's inner-Melbourne delivery radius, so instead I'm leaving the house and warming up with wood-fired lasagne Wednesdays at Harley & Rose in West Footscray. A molten-mozzarella-topped slab comes in hot at $15 – add a cheeky carafe of wine for another $15.
Drink: Innis & Gunn Scotch Ale – an amber hued barrel-aged brew from my second home, Edinburgh, that's almost as warming (and strong!) as a single malt. Or make like the girl in the Old El Paso ad and have both beer and whisky in a boilermaker.
Recipe: Split lengthwise, wash and slice sweet little winter leeks and stash them in the freezer. Throw a handful in a pan with a big knob of butter for an easy burnt butter sauce to serve with store-bought pumpkin ravioli. Sprinkle onto mustard-kicked mash atop shepherd's pie before baking. Or use as the base of a speedy-ish risotto – don't forget the parmesan rind (frozen also).
Wish I was there: Not-cooking on the Cook Islands. I'll fly-and-flop onto a poolside lounge at Nautilus Resort in Rarotonga – preferably with a frangipani-garnished pina colada in one hand and a trashy paperback in the other.
Bouzy in Armadale. Photo: Supplied
Eat: I like to do my bit to keep fuelling the suburban wine bar boom by joining the black puffer jacketed army at Armadale's Bouzy Bar a Vins. There is no night so cold that French onion soup cannot fix it.
Drink: Gin. OK, I drink gin in all weather. My current favourite is Patient Wolf, made in Brunswick, with Fever Tree Light tonic (less sugar, see). On Friday nights I love to host gin taste testings, I line up four different gins and mix and match the garnish and tonic to suit. In blind tastings, Wolf more often than not leads the pack. Also, it's blood orange season: juice a couple, mix with Campari and ice. Heaven.
Recipe: Cured duck. It sounds fancy but this cooking method makes cooking quacker a doddle. Cosy your duck breast/marylands into a glass dish, tip enough sugar and salt in equal measure to completely cover the duck. Throw in some aromats like bay leaves or star anise. Cover and leave in the fridge for about 48 hours. Wipe off curing remnants, pan-fry duck skin side down until darkly golden and roast in a moderate oven for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Beetroot side-dish essential.
Wish I was there: Where I have just been: Broome. Because it's 31 degrees as far as the weather forecast can see and sitting in one of the Mangrove Hotel's cabanas overlooking Roebuck Bay (pictured) watching the gathering musk of sunset is my new happy place, before heading to The Aarli for steamed sticky beef buns. (Bonus Broome tip: Cartel Coffee gives most east coast cafes a run for their money – think live DJ).
Ploughman's lunch at Bar Botanica, Erina. Photo: Supplied
Eat: A snack in a sunny spot where kids can roam. My new destination is Bar Botanica, a grass-roofed mud hut on the NSW central coast that turns out top-notch ploughman's lunches and colossal sausage rolls. Plus: house-made gelato, a gin distillery next door and a bamboo grove for mini adventures.
Drink: Miso! With quick home-made Japanese pickles, for a #sobercurious umami hit.
Recipe: It's not fancy but nothing is easier than an iron-rich plate of tofu and greens. Slice firm tofu and some broccoli or Asian greens, stir-fry in oil, chilli, soy and sesame oil, then sprinkle with togarashi. Your lofo, vegan, low-carb supper is served.
Wish I was there: Byron's hinterland, hunting down old haunts, swimming under waterfalls and trawling markets with my little collectors in tow.
Black velvets in a basement at Bar Margaux, Melbourne. Photo: Chris Hopkins
Eat: The hip kids of Fitzroy North – and I – can't get enough of Good Times, the cosy pasta-slinging restaurant that really does live up to its name. It only opens three nights a week, but it always has at least one generously portioned $9 pasta on the menu, good garlic bread and $9 carafes of wine. The creamy carbonara's a cuddle on a plate, and the candlelight's kind enough to forgive the daggiest tracky daks. Heck, they're probably even cool. IDK.
Drink: Make mine a Black Velvet (a glorious Guinness and fizz combo) at Bar Margaux. In fact embalm me with it when I die.
Recipe: Crank your oven to max. Take a whole baby cauliflower. Parboil it. Cool. Sprinkle with sea salt. Pat with olive oil. Roast. When it's golden brown it's ready. A Salt Bae swoosh of salt, another glug of olive oil, grab a spoon and dive in. It'll never beat Miznon's (pictured) but it's still marvellous.
Wish I was there: In sunny England, at the cricket, watching Australia thrash England in the Ashes, as I sip Pimms and nervously nibble excellent pork pies, prawn cocktails and other good-to-go Marks & Spencer snacks in the outer. I know, ludicrous right? As if England will actually be sunny.
Archie Rose's first whisky release. Photo: Supplied
Eat: If you're eating dinner in bed, something has either gone very wrong or the planets have deliciously aligned like at Surry Hills' boutique Paramount House Hotel. Dial "5" for reception and you can have a tiffin set created by chef Mat Linsday sent to your room from the Poly kitchen downstairs. Damn straight you want to sloth around on flax linen and eat a smoked lamb sandwich (pictured). Paramount's room service menu also features a crudites, fried cheese, anchovy toasts and soft salted caramels. Winter blues, begone!
Drink: Archie Rose Rye Malt Whisky. It's here! Or at least, it was here. The first batch of aged rye from Sydney's first independent distillery in more than 150 years sold out within half an hour of its release last week. There's more coming to bottle shops and bars in September, though, when there will still be enough chill in the air to appreciate the whisky's creme brulee aromas and long herbal finish.
Recipe: I once told a girlfriend I was making vegetarian lasagne and she reacted to the concept like a cat to dry food. We broke up the next day, but not before I added leftover ragu to that night's dinner at her request. It ended up being the best lasagne I had ever made. Roast two eggplants and three capsicums until blistered and collapsing and remove the skin when cooled. Roughly chop and stew in a saucepan for 10 minutes with two bulbs of crushed garlic, a can of chopped tomatoes and splash of water. Fold a handful of toasted pinenuts through 500 grams of ricotta and see that last Sunday's ragu has been properly defrosted (Marcella Hazan's milk-braised bolognese is the gold standard here). Layer the eggplant mixture, ricotta, ragu and a few basil leaves under a fresh lasagne sheet and repeat this three more times, or potentially two or four depending on your tray size. Finish with a final layer of ricotta, some parmesan if you have it, and bake at 180 degrees for around 45 minutes until golden.
Wish I was there: I love winter because you get to wear all your cool jackets again, lemonade fruit is in season, and it's OK to eat a whole packet of Scotch Fingers and call it dinner. I don't feel the need to travel anywhere that's not the pub up the road. That said, London is bloody fantastic in summer and drinking madeira in the wild grounds of Hampstead Heath with an eccles cake and bacon sarnie is for all time. Pip pip.