It’s turned cold and the heat of the sun that we moan about every year seems a long way off! Still, compared to England our winters are shorter and nowhere near as cold, but it does come as a shock when I have to get some logs in for the fire and find some newspaper! The oven seems to be on a lot while we eat comfort food, but it does help to warm the house. Below are some of my favourite recipes to warm the cockles of your heart and keep the cold out. Try my special Chicken Cacciatora which is a hearty chicken casserole and refers to food prepared ‘bounty style’. The Tomato and Pesto Potatoes are ideal for vegetarians and my Chicken Soup with dumplings is a just good old fashioned winter warmer and a favourite in our house!

Buen Apetito

Chicken Cacciatora
4 chicken legs
2 large carrots
1 large onion
2 large celery sticks
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine
400g can tomatoes
50g stoned green olives
Salt and pepper
2 rosemary sprigs

Roughly chop the carrots, onions and celery. Heat olive oil in a pan and fry the chicken for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and fry onions in the same oil for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the carrots and celery and fry for a further 3 minutes. Stir in the white wine and tomatoes and juice. Season to taste and return the chicken to the pan and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes and add rosemary and olives. Simmer for a further 10 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Sausage and Sultana Casserole
1lb sausage
1 large onion
2oz sultanas
1 sour apple
Pinch of herbs

Chop up and fry onions, then fry sausage in the same pan. Pour into casserole dish and cover with stock. Add sultanas, apple, herbs and salt and cook slowly in oven for 35 – 40 minutes.

Tomato and Pesto Potatoes

40g butter
1 clove of butter
700g potatoes
225g large tomatoes
1 onion
200g Mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper
140ml single cream
1 tbsp pesto sauce

Butter a suitable dish and peel and thinly slice the potatoes, tomatoes and onions. Peel and crush the garlic. Layer the potatoes, tomatoes and onions and season. Top with cheese. Mix the pesto and cream together and then pour over the potatoes. Bake in an oven 180º for 1 hour or until the potatoes are tender.

Chicken Soup with Dumplings
1.1kg chicken
1 medium onion
1 litre chicken stock
350g carrots
Salt and pepper
100g celery sticks
50g pearl barley
40g butter
2 eggs
Salt and pepper
Pinch of grated nutmeg
100g semolina

Peel and chop onion and carrots, slice chicken and put all three into a saucepan with the stock and pearl barley and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Make the dumplings by melting the butter, whisk the eggs and add to butter. Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in the semolina to form a thick paste. Allow to stand for 5 minutes to thicken. Shape the dumplings and drop into soups along with the diced celery. Simmer for 20 minutes and serve.

Mince Cobbler
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1 clove garlic
2 carrots
450g minced beef
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp flour
300ml beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp Worcester sauce
225g self raising flour
1 tsp dried herbs
50g butter
150ml milk
1 egg

Chop and fry onions, carrots and garlic in olive oil. Add mince and fry until brown. Stir in flour, stock, bay leaf and tomato puree. Add seasoning and Worcester sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes and then remove bay leaf. For the scones, mix flour with the herbs and seasoning. Rub in butter and add milk to make soft dough. Roll out on a floured surface and cut into rounds 1cm thick. Put mince into a shallow over proof dish. Arrange scones around the top and glaze scones with egg to help brown. Bake for 15 -20 minutes.