Comfort Food · Wine & Dine

It’s a Foodie’s World: Winter winners

“Winter is coming”, is probably one of the most famous Game of Thrones phrases, which any fan would pick up in an instant. The eagerly awaited HBO series has returned to SA screens and, with it, winter has arrived.

Many of my friends who are considered “young professionals”, are trading their afternoon running shoes to cuddle in front of the television under their blankets with their phones — to order takeout.

With the seasonal change and our current economic climate, I firmly believe you shouldn’t be ordering takeout to save your sluggish winter selves from cooking, so I’ve compiled a list of some essential winter ingredients that you should have in your cupboards to enable you to whip up a quick meal.

It’s important to maintain a healthy diet throughout winter and it’s easy to do so, with little effort. Trust me on this one.

I’m often motivated to cook (not that I ever require much motivation) when I have fresh ingredients on hand.

Here’s a few essential fresh, freezer and pantry ingredients you should always have.

Fresh ingredients:

* Fresh onions;

* Fresh or canned tomatoes;

* Potatoes — I generally prefer baby potatoes; and

* Your favourite fresh herb/s — I always have a packet of coriander and flat leaf Italian parsley in my fridge.

Onions are the base of almost every savoury meal I cook, from stews and soups to cottage pies and curries. Tomatoes are great for a quick bolognaise, or Indian chutney, as they simmer in minutes. Potatoes always add a feeling of comfort to a dish — especially if it’s a bowl of steamy, buttery mashed potatoes. And I always garnish everything! I top Indian dishes with coriander and Western dishes with parsley, but again this is a personal preference.

Fridge and freezer essentials:

* Frozen sweet corn and frozen mixed veggies;

* Lean lamb or beef mince;

* Deboned chicken or beef;

* A whole roasting chicken;

* Butter or margarine and eggs; and

* Minced garlic and ginger.

I like to add frozen mixed veggies into stews, pies and pasta sauces to increase my veggie intake in a meal and it beats the time-consuming chopping or julienning process. It also adds bulk to standard dishes. Mince is a quick cooking option as you can sauté it with some onion and minced garlic and either turn it into a bolognaise, curry or cottage pie.

Chicken or beef are great for stews or curries — all your ingredients in one pot, simmering on low until the meat is tender. A bonus is that you can cook either dish in large quantities and freeze portions for a later stage. And who doesn’t love a roast chicken and a hot creamy potato bake? Either way, it’s minimal prep and it all goes into the oven.

Pantry essentials:

* Extra virgin olive oil or canola oil;

* Dried spices — salt, pepper, chilli powder, dried bay leaves, thyme and garlic salt are some of my favourites;

* Pasta and rice;

* Eggs, flour, baking powder and vanilla extract; and

* Dried fruit, nuts and popcorn.

A good-quality canola or olive oil is important as its flavour intensifies when it heats and infuses spices. I see a good spice collection as my number one weapon in my kitchen arsenal as it helps me kick things up a notch and balance flavours. Pastas are always great, hearty options for cold evenings and nothing beats a spicy Indian curry and rice.

Healthy snacks are important in winter. Opt for popcorn and dried fruit instead of chocolate and cheese curls.

And, lastly, for those lazy Sunday mornings, always have some baking essentials on hand for pancakes or crêpes with chocolate or golden syrup or a fruity jam — cheat days are allowed, of course!

Happy healthy feasting this winter.

*This article appeared in the Financial Mail.

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