When you think about what meals feel the most comforting to you, chances are they are the ones from your childhood.
Whether your parents were wonderful cooks, or boiled brussels sprouts to the point you’ll never be able to look at them the same again, it is often these nostalgic dishes we crave in the cooler months.
In a celebration of family, good food and embracing your creative side, mother and daughter Sophie Hansen and Annie Herron have collaborated on their new book, Around the Kitchen Table.
Food writer Hansen and her art teacher mum, Herron, share their favorite seasonal recipes, art projects and activities in the hope it encourages others to pause from their busy lives to create something good.
Here, they share three wintry dishes that can be prepared in advance.
Plum and almond cake
This quick almond cake recipe is a great base for any kind of seasonal or preserved fruit, hence why I’ve snuck it in here!
8-10 plums 2 eggs ½ cup milk ¼ cup butter, melted 1 cup almond meal ½ cup caster (superfine) sugar ⅓ cup plain (all-purpose) flour ½ tsp baking powder ½ tsp ground cinnamon a pinch of salt Thick (double) cream , to serve
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Grease and line a 20-24 cm (8-9½ inch) springform cake tin with baking paper. Halve the plums, removing the stones, then slice them into quarters or eighths, depending on the size. Scatter the plums over the base of the cake tin. Add the eggs, milk and melted butter to a bowl and whisk to combine. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl, then pour in the egg mixture and mix until you have a smooth batter. Pour the batter over the plums and smooth the top. Bake the cake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and cooked through. Serve warm, with some lovely thick cream.
Slow-cooked broccoli and chickpeas
Thank you to Ross Dobson and his excellent book (bible!), The Healthy Slow Cooker, for this brilliant idea — I’d never considered cooking broccoli like this in my slow cooker, but here we are and it’s wonderful. Thanks must also go to Ross for his tip from him to turn the slow cooker to high before you start preparing any recipe so that it’s ready to go when you are.
1 large broccoli head 2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained 3 anchovy fillets, drained 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon 400g tin cherry tomatoes 1 tbsp harissa, or to taste ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 1½ cups vegetable stock Plain yoghurt, to serve Chilli flakes or chilli oil, to serve (optional)
Turn the slow cooker to high. Trim the broccoli and cut it into large florets with long stems, then place it in the slow cooker. Add the chickpeas, anchovies, garlic, lemon zest, cherry tomatoes, harissa, olive oil and stock. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and very little salt (the anchovies will pack a fairly salty punch). Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours. You can turn the slow cooker to “keep warm” for a few more hours if that suits you. Add the lemon juice, to taste, and serve with a dollop of yogurt and perhaps some chilli flakes or chilli oil.
Slow-cooked beans with ham hock
I try to regularly make a batch of these through winter so that there’s always something healthy and hearty in the fridge ready to reheat. We all love this on toast and it’s a great filling meal to start the day, especially on those long, cold days when we don’t get home until late in the evening. These beans are also good for lunch and dinner, as per my serving suggestions below.
2½ cups dried white beans, soaked overnight in cold water 1 smoked ham hock 2 brown onions, diced 3 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1 cm rounds 2 thyme sprigs 400g tin cherry tomatoes 2 cups tomato passata (pureed tomatoes) 2 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 tbsp dark brown sugar 1 tbsp Dijon mustard 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional)
Drain the beans and place them in a large saucepan of water. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until the beans are tender and cooked through. Turn the slow cooker to high. Drain the beans and tip them into the slow cooker. Put the ham hock in the saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the ham hock and place it on top of the beans in the slow cooker. Add the onion, carrot, thyme, tomatoes and passata. Pour in 1 cup (250ml) water, or enough to just cover the beans and ham hock. Gently stir in the vinegar, brown sugar, mustard and pomegranate molasses, if using. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours (or for up to 7 hours if that suits you — perhaps add a little more liquid towards the end as those beans can get thirsty!). Remove the ham hock and shred the meat from the bone, then return the meat to the beans and gently stir.