My three top tips for winter

Winter has officially arrived. And depending on where you live, your desire for warming foods will vary. Living near the mountains with chilly weather, I am ready for warm food and drinks.

 Winter magic

1. One-pot meals for winter

Casseroles, curries and soups are ideal for winter. Your choice of herbs and spices will add a different flavour to winter vegetables mixed with lentils, meat or poultry. You can use a combination of fresh and dried herbs along with dried whole and ground spices. I encourage you to try the following combinations:

  • Basil, marjoram, oregano, sage and thyme combine for a lovely Italian flavour in tomato based casseroles, sauces and soups. If you prefer a little extra heat, then add some garlic and chilli.
  • Cinnamon, cumin, curry leaves, ginger and turmeric create a fragrant Indian yellow curry. You might like to try my yellow curry recipe.
  • Cayenne pepper, coriander leaves, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, saffron and turmeric sweetened with honey and raisons blend well for a lovely Moroccan vegetable stew.

The benefits of winter one-pot meals

Water based cooking is a traditional method that has several health benefits. It preserves many of the water-soluble nutrients, and by cooking on lower heat will also reduce the loss of heat sensitive ones. One of newly discovered benefits of casseroles, curries and soups is that they reduce the browning of food and AGE formation. Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) are formed from fats and sugars reacting with proteins during cooking. This reaction is called the Maillard Reaction. AGEs contribute to oxidant stress and inflammation, which are associated with diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

There a practical benefits of winter one pot meals too. They are simple to make and convenient, as you only require one cooking pot and left overs store well in the refrigerator and freezer.

2. Warming winter drinks

Winter is definitely the time to savour your favourite cup of tea by a fire. Warm drinks are promoted all year round in the Eastern practises of Ayurveda (from India) and Traditional Chinese Medicine. In winter and cooler weather, these approaches recommend warm drinks to preserve energy in the body as it works harder to keep warm. My favourite teas for winter are:

  • Lemongrass and ginger.
  • Traditional black chai with cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and ginger. This brew can be enjoyed with or without milk.
  • Chai spice in milk — a lovely combination is one made from ground cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and turmeric. If you feel like a little sweetness this can be enjoyed with added honey. Herbs of Life make a great chai spice blend, or you might like to create your own.

3. Keep your body warm

Depending upon your particular constitution you may or may not feel the cold. Even though I am very healthy I have poor circulation, so I really need to wear warm clothing in winter. For us ‘coldies’ it is especially important to keep the head, neck and shoulder, middle (near kidneys), hands and feet warm. Travel with a pashmina and you have an instant scarf or blanket. Gloves and warms socks are also a must. I don’t particularly like wearing hats, but I do wear one to keep the heat in on very cold days.

It is also important to keep moving in winter. Take your morning walk or do a session of yoga or tai chi indoors. Moving your body helps boost your circulation and increases your ability to generate warmth.

The gift of winter

Winter is the time for ‘going within’ and resting. With longer nights it is the perfect time to catch up on sleep. From an Eastern perspective it is the time to prepare for spring. So don’t feel guilty if you have a sleep in on your day off, or take a little longer to enjoy your cup of tea by the fire. Winter is designed for you to slow down. Pace yourself with gentle exercise and keep your body warm with nurturing foods and drinks.

2 thoughts on “My three top tips for winter

  1. The last few days I have been cooking up some very comforting soups and storing them in glass jars in the fridge. Split pea soup in which as well as the green split peas in home made stock, I use onion, cloves, garlic, mustard, white pepper, carrot, potato, celery, honey, apple cider vinegar, bay leaves and thyme. At the end of long slow simmering I remove the bay leaves and the thyme stalks and mash it up to a purée.

    After that, I made some hearty vegetable soup. I soaked the dried soup mix (brown lentils, red split lentils, green split peas, yellow split peas and pearl barley) in water for a few hours to soften them. I add a pinch of bicarb to reduce the sulphuric anti social effects of the dried peas. After it has been soaking for a few hours I drain and wash the soup mix until the water is clear.
    Next I finely chop onion, carrot and celery; heat a heavy based pot that I have put a little oil into. When oil is hot I add onion, carrot and celery and stir with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until the onions becomes translucent. Then I add chopped turnip, parsnip, swede and cover with generous amount (>2 Litres) of stock (because the dried mix takes up a lot of the liquid as it cooks). Bring to a simmer then add the prepared soup mix. Turn heat to very low, cover and leave for an hour or two; or until barley has cooked through. Delicious with freshly chopped parsley if you have some.

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