Winter is great time to mellow, relax and embrace the comforts of home. The weather is chilly, and the evenings are dark, but with the colder months comes plenty of seasonal foods that, when used together, create delicious meals that will get you feeling good.
We caught up with Niki Webster, owner and creator of Rebel Recipes, the vibrant vegetarian food blog and recipe archive, to hear her thoughts on getting cosy in the kitchen this winter and how to make the most of seasonal foods:
“At this time of year, it’s all about keeping cosy and warm for me. This means spending more time in the kitchen creating big batches of comforting soups and stews packed with veg, pulses and of course, big flavour!
“The kitchen is my happy place; it’s where I work; hang out with my friends; chatting and eating. I always like to make sure that I have a well-stocked fridge with dips, olives and leftovers so if people stop by over the festive season I don't need to worry. And I can whip up a little party platter in minutes, meaning I can spend more time with the people that matter.
“During the winter months, I love to focus on cooking with seasonal ingredients such as root vegetables, grains and pulses. These lend themselves to more robust one-pot dishes like curries, soups, risottos, stir-fries and pasta dishes.
The key is cooking them a little bit slower and focussing on layering both the textures and flavours and of course adding lots of warming spices.
“In my new cookbook My Vegan Year I talk about why I love seasonal food;
“Things I love to do to keep my kitchen cosy in winter;
When it’s cold and dark outside, for me the kitchen is one of the best places to hang out. It immediately makes me feel happier and more relaxed. I usually put on some music or an audio book and spend hours beavering away testing and making deliciously warm and cosy recipes.
Instead of harsh overhead lights, I like to use some more subtle lamps to create a warm ambiance. Failing that, fairy lights will always make your space look magical.
Decorate your kitchen with natural festive decorations like holly and mistletoe to bring a little of the outdoors inside and help you feel relaxed and at one with nature.
“Spiced red lentil and sweet potato soup with pan grilled cheese & greens bread
“Here I’ve made a lovely warming red lentil and sweet potato soup with pan-grilled cheese & greens bread
“This beautiful soup recipe has everything you need to keep you healthy and your belly happy. Warming Indian spices including turmeric and ginger which help support your immune system in the winter months. Red lentils for plant-based protein and seasonal sweet potato. Pure healthy comfort food.
“And you’ve got to dunk some cheesy toast in your soup! But not just standard cheese on toast - I’ve added some very flavoursome greens with garlic, capers and gherkins to add some punchy flavours and texture.
“As you know we eat with our eyes and the vibrant golden tones of this soup are very inviting and evocative and why not swirl some oat cream on top of your soup to make it look pretty and velvety?
“For the soup;
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp grated ginger
1.25 litre veg stock
230g red lentils, rinsed
450g sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp sundried tomato paste
4 tbsp oat cream
Sea salt and black pepper
“For the greens;
100g greens - kale, spring greens, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Handful mint, chopped finely
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp capers
6 cocktail gherkins, finely chopped
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
Pinch sea salt flakes
“4 slices for Fresh bread - I used wholegrain sourdough
2 tbsp vegan grated cheese per slice
More plant based cream
Extra virgin olive oil
“To make the soup;
Add the olive oil and onion to a large pan with a lid and fry the onion for 10 minutes until soft.
Now add the spices, garlic and ginger and fry for a minute.
Add the stock, lentils, tomato paste and chopped sweet potato.
Stir to combine and simmer with the lid on for 15-20 minutes until the sweet potato is soft.
Blitz using an immersion blender until smooth.
“Stir in the plant-based cream and season well
“To make the greens;
Add the garlic and greens to a small saucepan with 1 tbsp of the oil.
Fry for 2-3 minutes until soft then add in the remaining ingredients.
Cook for a further minute or so.
“To make the toast;
On a pre-heated griddle toast the bread on one side
Remove from the heat and then top each piece with some of the greens and grated cheese.
Pop under the grill again for a few minutes until the topping melts and browns a little.
Top the soup with come more plant based creamy, a drizzle of olive oil and chilli flakes.
Serve with the cheesy toast.
Cooking really can be a healing and therapeutic process, and that’s not to mention the tasty reward you get at the end of it. Niki’s advice shows how really, there’s nothing complicated to making seasonal, hearty food – just use flavours and textures that you enjoy, and you won’t go far wrong.
For the ultimate cosy ambience this winter, simply consider your surroundings. Cooking in a harshly lit space doesn’t feel rewarding, yet cooking in a gently lit room with beautiful fragrances wafting through and your favourite music playing seems like much more of a treat, right?
To help design your dream, cosy kitchen to cook winter recipes in, take a look at Magnet’s range of premium designs here.