The other day there was sheer black ice on the paths around my house. The Weather Man set off for his morning run and came back in very quickly as he couldn’t even stand still on the garden path, let alone jog. During the day it thawed a little but a nasty freezing mizzle and frosty dampness (yes, it is a thing too) never left us.
Why am I trying to do TWM’s job here? Because that day we went out for lunch and as soon as I clapped eyes on the Caesar salad I’d ordered, I realised it was a mistake: I should have got the soup, the shakshuka or at least the warm club sandwich that he got, with a side of fries. I should have gone for something hearty on a day like this!
We want hearty food now, in the cold and miserable January. There will be time enough to eat skinny salads when the days are long and the spring is closer. For now, I want hot food at lunchtime and for suppers. If it means more cooking, then be it: cooking warms you up too.
After all, cooking has made us human. Raw diets are all very well (not, in mho), but cooked food provides more energy than equal amounts of uncooked through being easier and quicker to digest, and eliminating all the energetic chewing. Which means, simplifying it dramatically, one cooked carrot is worth two raw ones.
The unquestioned nutritional benefits of raw carrots are left aside: I’m talking only of their energetic value. That’s why, especially when it’s cold out and we need energy not just to run around doing chores but to warm ourselves as well, we much more welcome a bowl of steaming soup than a cold salad.
And doesn't mean just soup and stew! Compare the appeal of a plain, cold cheese sandwich (close to 0 on a winter’s day) with a melty, golden toastie (around 9 out of 10, amIright?) made with the exact same ingredients. You see? Cooking is magic.
So starting from breakfast, I’d rather have porridge than granola; an omelette over a croissant. I touched upon lunch already: soup not sandwich, or – especially if it’s packed lunch in the office – leftover pasta from previous night’s supper heated up in the microwave. Cooking slightly too much on an evening always pays off.
Baked scamorza is a variety of abovementioned cheese toastie and frittata is a hearty eggy dish, good both for lunch as well as dinner. Then there is tartiflette, the ultimate hearty cheese dish: there’s a reason why it’s a classic Alpine fodder.
Casseroles and stews make us happy at this time of year. So this weekend I’m cooking a massive vat of baked beans with bacon, from scratch, for breakfasts and main courses till the end of winter. Then perhaps a fish pie with my twist on potato topping. And the ultimate hearty dish where I come from is bigos, Polish hunters’ stew. Plus a vegetarian spicy cheesy lentil bake – meat is not essential to warm your cockles (not even cockles are, hehe).
If after all that wholesome food you still have space for dessert, consider baking a batch of Norwegian cardamom boller. They are great freshly baked but toasted and buttered in the following days – pure, hearty bliss. Keep well fed and warm!