Winter Warmth

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WORDS Jessica Oxford

As May blitzes past, the diligent cold weather reminds us that winter is coming. It is the time for lugging out the Arctic jackets and dodging sneezers, but more importantly changes in meal plans. Winter means oranges, passion fruit, leeks and soups, including the previously cited recipe for pumpkin soup, but it can be so much more than that. Australia is brimming with different cultures that offer signature winter dishes, some shared with family and friends. Below are a select few, helping to plan a winter’s day from breakfast to dessert.

Breakfast in China

While Chinese cuisine is delicious all year round, the appreciation for healthy stir fries and filling fried rice is at its greatest during winter. The love is also brought to a popular Chinese warm breakfast, congee. It appears in other Asian cultures, such as Japan and Thailand under different names, and can be considered the breakfast equivalent of the Northern European porridge.

Preparing congee is simple – in a pot or rice cooker, rice is boiled in a large amount of water until it softens in texture. The variety of rice used often depends on cultural influences. Chinese toppings include white pepper, soy sauce, pickled tofu, fried bread sticks (youtiao) and bamboo shoots.

This breakfast dish is open to any interpretation – savoury or sweet – so will be unlikely to disappoint.

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‘Chicken in the Heather’

  • One whole chicken, minus giblets
  • 90ml light cooking oil
  • 125g or half cup clear heather honey
  • Salt and pepper
  • 100g French mustard
  • Half teaspoon curry powder
  • One clove chopped garlic

Method:

Pre-heated oven at 190ºC. Place the chicken in an oven-proof casserole dish. Mix all the other ingredients together and pour over the chicken. Cover the dish and cook for an hour. Baste the chicken thoroughly with the juices and sauce and return to the oven for another half hour uncovered. The chicken will brown as a result.

Serve with boiled or creamed/mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables.

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Savour the flavour in Scotland

Haggis was the immediate dish that sprung to mind, wasn’t it? This country offers more than bagpipes, monsters in lochs and sheep intestines. A classic, rustic dish of the north incorporates the native plant, heather, that covers the highlands. The purple heather plant is the Scottish equivalent of the Australian wattle, in terms of cultural significance.

‘Crêpe Suzette’

  • 100g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • Sauce
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 35g unsalted butter
  • 150ml orange juice
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 3 tbs Grand Marnier or Cointreau
  • 2 tbs brandy

Method:

  1. Process first six ingredients in a food processor until mixture forms a smooth batter. Pour into a jug, and let sit for 30 minutes. Heat a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Brush the pan with a little melted butter. Tilting the pan slightly, pour in enough batter (2-3 tablespoons) to just cover the base. Cook for 1-2 minutes until base of the crepe is lightly browned.
  2. Carefully flip the crepe to brown the other side. Transfer to a plate and repeat until batter is used.
  3. To make the sauce, heat sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a frying pan over low heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add butter, increase heat to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes until golden brown. Add orange juice and zest, and simmer for a few minutes. Pour in liqueur and brandy and stir to combine. Dip a crepe into the sauce, then fold it into quarters and place on a serving plate.
  4. Repeat with remaining crepes, serving 2-3 per person. Serve with ice-cream.

As the French say, bon appétit!

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