When I first started writing recipes, I thought you were supposed to grab a bunch of ingredients and just fly around the kitchen working out how to make things. How wrong I was. The recipe writing process is far more academic, and most writers (myself included) will write full recipes even before the first ingredient is chopped.
There are lots of different directions a recipe can take – you can change the cooking method, the key ingredient or surrounding ingredients, give it a spin off another related dish – so what ends up being published can often be just one option among many.
This is great news for anyone who likes a recipe, as it means that instead of just one meal it can become a whole collection of dishes that are "same same, but different".
Good Food recently published its 50 most popular winter recipes of all time and thanks to you all, there were quite a lot of mine in there.
I've picked five of my favourites, in no particular order, and I thought because you liked them so much, too, I'd give you a few different ways to change them up.
There isn't much that beats a classic roast chook, but certainly there are ways to make this suit your tastes to a tea. Here are some ideas:
- Rub the skin with dark soy sauce. I do this with all my roast chickens now. Often I'll even sprinkle the skin with a bit of chicken salt before roasting, too.
- You can change the stuffing, too. Add some crumbled sausage to it. Or fried mushrooms. Or switch the breadcrumbs for cous cous and add sultanas and even some nuts.
- One thing I didn't include with this recipe was a gravy. To make one replace the lemon in the trivet with celery – I find roasting chicken with lemon can make the subsequent gravy too lemony – and while the chicken is resting place the roasting tray over heat and add a few spoons of flour to the pan. Fry the flour mixing it through the stuff in the tray until it starts to catch on the base, then add some white wine and stock a little at a time to avoid lumps, mixing it into a nice thick gravy. I add a dash of fish sauce or Vegemite to it to boost the umami, then pass it through a sieve to remove the vegetables. Taste the gravy and adjust the seasoning as necessary (very important).
- Also try: 45 next-level roast chicken recipes
Chicken would work well in this vegetarian stroganoff pasta bake (recipe here). Photo: William Meppem
This vegetarian stroganoff pasta was only published three years ago and it's already the third most popular Good Food winter recipe of all time.
- Try baking this with lasagne sheets instead of penne. Par-boil the dried sheets (I always do this even if the packet says you don't need to) and layer it with the stroganoff and layers of bechamel and bake it for 35 minutes at 160C fan-forced (180C conventional).
- You could remove the carbs altogether and roast the florets from 2 heads of cauliflower on lined baking trays for 30 minutes in a 200C fan-forced oven (220C conventional). Transfer the cauliflower to a baking dish, cover it with the stroganoff and cheese and grill it
- If you wanted to add meat to this, I'd go for chicken instead of beef. A few chopped chicken thigh fillets added in with the mushrooms would be perfect.
Potato rosti topped with creme fraiche, dill and flaked trout (recipe here). Photo: Christopher Pearce
This potato rosti (pictured right) nearly broke the Internet it was that popular. I often serve this as an accompaniment for roast chicken as it's super easy and doesn't take up any oven space, but there's a lot more it can do.
- Treat this like a meal instead of a side and dress it with all kinds of toppings. Try smoked salmon, sour cream and chives for something classic, or perhaps mix some horseradish into sour cream and spread it over with a bit of roast beef, pulled brisket, or even sliced steak, and watercress. How about topping it with roasted onions and crumbled blue cheese?
- Of course, you can also change what goes into the rosti. Substitute a third of the potato for celeriac, parsnip, or chopped brussels sprouts. Perhaps mix some grated haloumi or cubes of stretchy mozzarella into it for a cheesier version.
- More rosti tips
- Also try: my celeriac and spring onion rosti
- Also try: Jill Dupleix's rosti with blue cheese and bacon
Parma meets meatloaf (recipe here). Photo: William Meppem
I genuinely love meatloaf and I feel there's a lot more we can do with it. This is the little recipe that could and almost without fanfare it's rocketed up the leaderboard.
- Replace the 2 cups of breadcrumbs with 300 grams of crumbled tofu. Trust me. You won't even taste the tofu but it makes the meatloaf more moist, and reduces the carbs (if you're into that kind of thing).
- Leave out the tomato sauce and slather the whole thing with your favourite barbecue sauce instead.
- You could certainly add a lot more vegetables to this, too. Leave out 500 grams of the mince and replace it with 700 grams of grated vegetables such as carrot, mushrooms, zucchini, cabbage etc. Fry them off to with the onions, remove a lot of the liquid, and crack in a couple of eggs to help the mixture bind.
Bubble, bubble, no toil, no trouble: Whole chicken and vegetable soup (recipe here). Photo: William Meppem
Winter is definitely soup weather, and this is one of the easiest. It's pretty obvious why this one is so popular, but the secret is boiling it hard rather than simmering it.
- This is a great way to use whole grains. Throw a cup and a half of farro in at the start with the chicken, or use pearl barley or lentils, or a cup of brown rice. Or increase the amount of tomato passata and put in some short pasta towards the end of the cooking time and you've nearly made a chicken minestrone.
- You could add a few chicken sausages at the end of boiling and reduce to a simmer for a further 10 minutes so that the sausages cook through, or replace the chicken altogether and use pork ribs instead.
- One of my favourite things to do with chicken soup is to borrow a technique from Danish cooking and add some small dough dumplings to it. Place 100 grams of butter in a saucepan with a cup of water and bring the water to the boil. Add in 2 cups of flour, 3 eggs and a bit of salt and mix it into a dough. Roll the dough into small balls and drop into the soup to simmer until they float.
- For a super shortcut to a bit more flavour, you could use a roasted whole chicken from the supermarket instead of a raw one, and cut the cooking time to 20 minutes.
- Also try: my new roast chicken brown rice congee