Winter warmers: a cold-weather survival guide

Adam Liaw's slow-cooked oat porridge with apple, almond and maple syrup.
Adam Liaw's slow-cooked oat porridge with apple, almond and maple syrup. Photo: William Meppem

Unfortunately, humans haven't evolved with the ability to hibernate so we need to deal with winter. Luckily, Good Food has patented a 27-step process to make winter so cosy, delicious and rewarding that you may end up cursing the sweet, green shoots of spring.

1. Acquaint yourself with hot, healthy breakfasts

A hot breakfast makes you feel toasty and ready to charge out the door. Also, I'm pretty sure that if breakfast is healthy you can eat cake for the rest of the day. Porridge with poached fruit and yoghurt is my go-to winter breakfast and it's easy to vary to keep yourself interested (see recipe below). Black sticky rice pudding made with coconut milk is brilliant too, and don't forget simple pleasures such as a soft-boiled egg with buttery toast soldiers.

Porridge for one

1/2 cup quick oats

1 tbsp flaked or desiccated coconut

1 tbsp chia seeds

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 Jazz apple, grated

1 mandarin


3/4 cup boiling water

Brown sugar, to serve

3 tbsp Greek yoghurt

Mix oats, coconut, cinnamon and apple in a cereal bowl. Grate the mandarin zest into the bowl. Cut the mandarin in half and squeeze its juice into the bowl, too. Add the boiling water and stir. Stand for a few minutes while you make your coffee/tea/the school lunches. Sprinkle with brown sugar and top with yoghurt.

2. Start a tasty tradition

Invite a few friends for Scrabble, and cheese on toast. Do Christmas in July. Have a Friday night football and pizza roster among a few households.

3. Winter gardening

At this time of year the garden's sleepy and slow, and plants don't die under a baking sun just because you forgot about them for a week.

It's a good time to … plant onions, garlic, lettuce, spinach, rocket, Asian greens, fennel and strawberries and herbs such as tarragon, thyme and mint. And if you're convinced it's too cold out there, buy a box of mushroom compost and put it in a cupboard.

4. Join a cooking class

Cooking classes are entertainment as well as education - you don't need to promise to cook what you've seen. Just go, eat, flirt with the chef and, who knows, you might be inspired to put some of the kitchen tips into practice. See what's cooking at Trupp Cooking School.

Lamb stew with barley. Karen Martini SPOT ON recipes for Epicure and Good Food. Photographed by Marina Oliphant. Styling by Andrea Geisler. Photographed April 13, 2013.

Braised lamb stew with barley. Photo: Marina Oliphant

5. Have a basic one-pot oven dish at your fingertips

The oven can be an unblinking enemy in summer, pouring heat into an already hot kitchen. But in winter, I get Aga envy, say ''hearth'' with a longing sigh, and love recipes that include the words ''preheat oven''. Try Karen Martini's amazing braised lamb stew with barley.

My other 10 minutes-then-kick-back winner is adapted from a Brigitte Hafner recipe.

Chicken and chorizo hotpot

1 large chicken, cut into eight pieces (or use drumsticks or marylands)

1 fresh chorizo or other spicy sausage, thickly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 onion, sliced

2 red capsicums, thickly sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 tin crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup white wine

Flaked salt and pepper, to taste

3 bay leaves

Handful black olives,

A few big glugs of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 190 degrees. Toss all ingredients, except olive oil, in a baking dish, making sure the chicken ends skin-side up. Drizzle over olive oil. Cover with foil and cook for 90 minutes or so, removing foil after 45 minutes. Serve with crusty bread or polenta. (You can also chop up potatoes and add them to the dish and then you don't need bread or polenta.)

Serve 4-6

6. Become a super souper

If you're sick or sad, home-made soup is both medicine and hug. Make a big batch of soup then freeze half of it. Make cup-of-soup mixes by dehydrating finely chopped ingredients such as onion, silverbeet, parsley and bacon - use a slow oven or a dehydrator. Freeze. Rehydrate a tablespoon of the mixture in a mug of boiling water with rice vermicelli and a dash of soy sauce or a spoonful of miso.

7. Tidy and organise

The kitchen version of the odd sock is the container without a lid. I have no idea how this happens but happen it does and it's infuriating (please say it's not just me). Your mission: unite all containers and lids then recycle or chuck anything that doesn't have a partner. Do it. Let go. The missing bits are gone. They are not coming back.

After that, you may feel the urge to tackle other projects such as putting your herbs in alphabetical order and getting to the back of the fridge and pantry to see what's lurking.

8. Drop dinner off to someone

When you hear about a friend stuck indoors with the flu, make a pot of soup or casserole and drop it on their doorstep. You might even have a couple of care packages in the freezer for this purpose. The gesture is as healing as the meal.

9. Make hot drinks

A cup of tea in front of the TV is OK, a glass of wine is nice, but mulled wine and an episode or three of your favourite show is winter bliss. It's quick and easy and that nice Jamie Oliver has put a recipe on the internet for us all to try - you'll find it.

''Hot toddy'' is fun to say, as well as drink. Pour whisky, a squeeze of lemon juice and a dollop of honey in a mug. Add recently boiled water, a clove and a slice of apple (that's your snack for afters).

Retro favourite: Baked camembert cheese.

Retro favourite: Baked camembert cheese. Photo: Steven Siewert

10. Get cheesy

Baked camembert is unspeakably daggy but there are never leftovers so it must be good. Turn the oven to 180 degrees, unwrap camembert and put it in a ramekin or snug ovenproof bowl (or, if it's in wood, leave it there). Pierce the top with a knife and stuff in a peeled garlic clove and a sprig of rosemary or thyme. Bake for 15 looooong minutes. Thinly slice a baguette (rub slices with olive oil and throw them in the oven too, if you can be bothered) then dip it into the melty cheese. And no matter what they tell you, it's not compulsory to wear a cable-knit jumper.

If you liked that, you're ready for fondue. Fondue sets are fun but you'll be amazed to learn you can also melt cheese in a saucepan - just return it to the heat for more stirring as often as you can stand. Use the traditional mix of gruyere, emmental and raclette, plus a little corn flour and kirsch or just use comte, my all-time favourite cheese, with white wine and garlic.

11. Invest in a great pot

Don't you hate it when people speak of spending as investing? But anyway, cast-iron pots such as Le Creuset or the cheaper Le Chasseur are all you need to turn lamb shanks and oxtail into sustaining, please-let-me-come-over dinners. Then there's copper. I didn't get the whole copper cult until my last, lucky birthday. Oh my goodness. My copper roasting tin is fierce and gentle at the same time and everything I put into it tastes amazing.

12. Be a better baker

People who make their own puff pastry - even only once in their lives - have more friends and better sex. Or they should. Give it a go. All that rolling and folding is therapeutic and, even better, you can eat the scraps. Try Karen Martini's rough puff pastry … it's perfect for making in winter since a cold kitchen actually aids the process.

Spectrum. 3Blueducks. Hay smoked salmon with sauce tartare. Photograph by Edwina Pickles. taken on 3rd June 2016.

DIY smoked salmon with tartare sauce.(RECIPE HERE). Photo: Edwina Pickles

13. Cure, smoke, transform

Curing and smoking sound totally professional but they're really just old-timer techniques to sustain the masses through winter. As Heston Blumenthal says, curing is a great way to transform the texture and flavour of food - start with salt, sugar, dill (or other herbs and spices such as cumin) and salmon fillet and give it a go. The longer you cure it (just pack the ingredients around the fish, cover with cling wrap and whack it in the fridge for a day or so), the more flavour is created.

14. Be naughty

You're not getting into bathers any time soon so do something you shouldn't. Devour a whole bar of chocolate. Eat the fat. Finish the tub of ice-cream. For this moment, consider winter a free pass to indulge.

15. Do something scary

We've all got stumbling blocks. Pick one to conquer. Open oysters (carefully), cook mussels, rabbit or duck. Bake bread like no one's watching. Be brave!

16. Have people over for brunch

Brunch is an easy alternative to the dinner party. Buy bagels, smoked salmon, nice jam, lovely fruit, squeeze some oranges, and get the coffee sorted. Spruce it up by making croissants or crumpets or pancakes if you like but it's really not necessary.

17. Go to a (different) farmers' market

Farmers' markets are the best places to see what's really local and seasonal and to get horse's-mouth advice about what to do with it. See for some of the best. If you're already a regular at one market why not see what's cooking at another?

18. Cook something overnight

Beef cheeks, ribs, shin and even cubed beef in a bourguignon-style stew can be cooked overnight at about 120 degrees. This can work especially well if you're doing Sunday lunch. Place baking paper over the meat to make sure it stays moist.

19. Warm up from the inside

Spice up your winter with a new condiment, such as Korean chilli paste (gochujang), aleppo pepper or native pepperberries or myrtus berries (native to Chile but now grown in Tasmania).

Chocolate-chip macadamia shortbread.

Bake a batch of buttery shortbread bikkies. Photo: William Meppem

20. Make edible presents

Feeding other people is the biggest pleasure of cooking so bake shortbread, make piccalilli or package up spice mixes or flavoured salts. Give them away now or store for all those moments you wish you had a little something to bestow. Use some new-season apples to make apple, golden syrup and pecan chutney.

21. Cook something complicated

Clear a weekend and make something silly or ridiculous or just plain complicated, something you'll put on Facebook, something you may never make again. A croquembouche, that infernal V8 cake or pate en croute spring to mind.

22. Dress up your table

Make an occasion of it, even if you're not having anyone over. Throw a cloth over the table (creases are chic), light a couple of candles, buy a cheerful bunch of flowers, put out some napkins. It's amazing how little it takes for a meal to feel special.

Good Food. Jill Dupleix. MARCH 3 SMORES Chocolate marshmallow treats. Photograph by Edwina Pickles. Taken on 17th Feb 2015.

Please sir, can I have a s'more? Photo: Edwina Pickles

23. Marshmallows

Open fireplaces are really for marshmallow toasting. That whole ''keeping the house warm'' thing is a decoy. It's also possible to toast marshmallows over a candle. Slow, but possible. S'mores are the evil American upsize on the concept: place a toasted marshmallow and a square of chocolate on a graham cracker (use digestive biscuits) and top with another biscuit. Marshmallows can also be placed on a biscuit and grilled in the oven, then topped with the chocolate and second biscuit.

24. Have a winter picnic

Rug up, brace yourself, get out there and wait for the words ''I've never felt so alive!'' to issue forth unbidden. If you have an outdoor area, consider buying a brazier (try or chiminea to make the concept more appealing (and to enable the marshmallow activities of No.23).

25. Buy a new book

Of course you don't need it but isn't it beautiful? I'm excited about Kathy Tsaples' Sweet Greek and Anissa Helou's Levant: Recipes and Stories from the Middle East. The antidote to buying more cookbooks may just be Julian Barnes' griping The Pedant in the Kitchen. Jay Rayner's A Greedy Man in a Hungry World will offer enough foodie myth-busting fuel to last you well into your anecdotage.

26. Cross town to visit a great food store

In Melbourne, this might be Oasis Bakery in Murrumbeena, Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick, USA Foods in Moorabbin, Aztec Mexican in Tullamarine or Rob's British Butchers in Dandenong.

In Sydney, this might be Fiji Market in Newtown, Pontip Exotic Fruit and Vegetables in Haymarket, the Sydney Fish Market (tourists flock there but lots of locals have never been), Lucky Mart Japanese market in Artarmon and Salt Meats Cheese in Alexandria.

27. Commit to one new recipe a fortnight

It's a rare cook who doesn't get stuck in a rut every now and then. Break out by committing to one new recipe every two weeks. You know all those cookbooks you've got? Open them. And if you're overwhelmed, check out Eat Your Books online. It's unlocked thousands of recipes I never knew I had.

First published in June, 2013.