What to cook in November: Bring on the comfort food
It's time to get cozy in the kitchen
The days grow shorter and the weather shifts to windy and cold. There's a carpet of leaves everywhere, the trees now almost bare. This is the time of year I like to get cozy in the kitchen and cook all my favourite comfort foods: warming soups and braises, slow roasts, buttery, pastry-based dishes and all the baking projects I've been waiting for the right moment to tackle. (In November I'll use any excuse to have the oven on all day.)
And although some seasonal produce is gone, there's still an abundance of late-harvest fruit and vegetables to make the most of. Where I am, in Southern Ontario, we continue to have a bounty of winter squash and a windfall of later variety apples. There are also still beets, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, celery, celeriac, rutabaga, mushrooms, grapes and cranberries to be found fresh — even kale and spinach is available. And just like all those other months of plenty, November is a time to think about what you can store and preserve to have in the deepest, darkest parts of winter.
Growing up in England, I find November always gives me a pang of homesickness. Bonfire Night (also known as Guy Fawkes Night) falls on November 5th and is perhaps my favourite and most missed tradition of my childhood. Based on some quite questionable (but nonetheless interesting) historical roots, the modern incarnation of this event and the Bonfire night of my childhood is really just an excuse to get outside, warm up around a giant bonfire with the rest of the local community, watch some fireworks, and fill your belly with some tasty treats. As little girls, my sister and I would be bundled up in mitts, scarves and hats to witness this once-a-year spectacle, eyes wide with awe and delight as the massive woodpile blazed and crackled, writing our names in the crisp autumn air with sputtering sparklers. Usually there would be offerings like sausages, burgers, jacket potatoes and chili. There would always be bonfire toffee (a kind of hard candy made with treacle), but mostly I loved the candy apples — we called them 'toffee apples'.
Here are some recipes that are just right for nights like that — a quick candy apple hack to feel like a kid again, a warming adult drink for standing around the bonfire, some Bonfire Night classics for an easy weeknight supper.
And here are some recipes that are fit for any time this month, and to start you thinking of cooking in the months ahead too.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how to extend and preserve the life of what's currently available, especially in the more bountiful seasons, so that I can continue to eat a wide variety of local produce long after it has disappeared from the farmstand. In stores, in-season fruit and vegetables are generally going to be the most tasty and often good value.
With all those fresh cabbages still aplenty, seize the moment and make a big old batch of sauerkraut, which could take you through until the spring. In fact, it would be the perfect moment to make any of these fermented pickles to have on hand to liven up mealtimes in the fast approaching winter months.
Apples can also be easily dried and stored in an airtight container, if you have a dehydrator. But another great way to deal with a glut of apples is to make applesauce, which can be easily portioned and frozen, ready for use at a later date.
Nothing is more comforting than baking for me, and I'll find any excuse to use buttery pastry for both dessert and dinner. Baking is the perfect way to cook root vegetables, and make something sweet for this cool month too.
New takes on favourite apple recipes
Vegetables for dessert!
Soups and stews for right now
When you do have all day, these are great dishes for staying warm in the kitchen.
Leila Ashtari is a food and travel photographer currently based in the Niagara region who loves telling stories about food, people and places through her work. As well as contributing to CBC Life, her work has been published in Saveur Magazine, The New York Times, Vanity Fair and Lonely Planet Magazine, among others. She also likes to ferment things and always has experiments bubbling away in her basement. See more of her work at leilaashtari.com or on Instagram @ashtariphoto.