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Peter Sidwell – Winter warmers

Our food columnist, Peter Sidwell, tells us about his winter food heroes and baking those all-important British puds.

There is never a time of year more than winter to dictate your style of cooking. It’s dark and cold outside and battling the elements really does work up an appetite. I don’t know about you but all I ever think about on my way home from work is what’s for dinner! If I’m honest I’m one of those who is always thinking about where my next meal is coming from and my son is the same, maybe it’s a man thing, I’m not sure!

The last issue I talked about the virtues of slow cooking at home and how working with cheaper cuts of meat are always the best for slow cooking results. This issue I wanted to talk about puddings, those fantastic British puds that just make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Baking has never been cooler than it is right now. I have just returned from a big baking show in Manchester where I was surrounded by passionate and enthusiastic bakers who just love to bake. My baking started at school really, I will always remember the cheese scones by Mrs Clark in Woldgate School in Pocklington, the town I grew up in. I would like to think I baked the most amazing light and delicious scones ever, although my mum will probably tell me otherwise. However, it seemed to unleash a passion for doing something with my hands and it has stuck ever since.

There is something about baking for others that is really gratifying, I have never met anyone yet who does not raise a smile when you tell them you have baked a cake, loaf or biscuit for them. I like to use the discipline of a baking recipe to carry flavours. For example, I like to take a classic Victoria sponge recipe and put it together with clementine butter icing and a jam made from half mince pie filling and half cranberry sauce. This creates an alternative festive cake for all those people who are not fruit cake fans. I also like to make a treacle tart with loads of lemon juice and zest in it to balance the flavours.

Winter may not be the most bountiful time of year for seasonal ingredients, however, there are some serious British heroes to look out for in your local shops and delis. Brussels sprouts are not just for Christmas – try cooking them with plenty of garlic, white wine and a touch of sour cream to make a delicious, creamy pasta sauce. Chestnuts work really well when pushed into the top of a rosemary and olive oil focaccia bread. Parsnips are a staple winter veggie and can be used in sweet and savoury bakes and recipes. I’ve made parsnip and apple cake with golden syrup before and it was delicious with a slice of Wensleydale cheese.

My personal favourite seasonal ingredient of the winter is pomegranate. All be it not very local, they are at their best in the winter as they have had all summer long to ripen up and sweeten. I love to slow cook a shoulder of local lamb all day long, whilst I am at work, with cumin, garlic and plenty of chopped onions, then when I get home, rest the lamb and serve with yoghurt, bulgar wheat, lots of chopped mint, lemon and coriander. Finish it off with lots of juicy pomegranate to lift the spirits in those dark evenings.

I look forward to cooking up some foodie thoughts next year.

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