Wintertime recipes: 5 hot meals for cold days
Biscuits, soup and pasta are a few key recipes
When it's too cold to head out to the grocery store, it's helpful to know how to make a few things out of the staples you likely already have in your pantry.
For something quick, try a baked potato, which doesn't require an actual recipe. Start by scrubbing the russet potatoes and rub them all over with oil, if you feel like it. (Or the bacon drippings you stashed in your fridge.)
Poke a few times with a fork and, if you like, sprinkle with salt. Roast directly on the oven rack at 350-400 F for about an hour, or until they're soft when poked with a knife. (Timing will depend on the size and shape of your potato.)
- Listen to Julie Van Rosendaal's full interview on the Calgary Eyeopener below for pantry staples and tricks for when you're missing an ingredient.
Split and eat with butter, or use to transform even a small quantity of leftovers into a meal. (I like to bake potatoes while the oven is on for something else, then keep them in the fridge to add to soup, grate into a hot pan to make rösti, or roughly chop and add to quick curries or curried potatoes, or turn into skillet potatoes or hash.)
Besides the potato, here are five things that are useful to know how to make when it's 30 below and it seems like there's nothing to eat in the house.
A batch of biscuits can be sweet or savoury, made with various kinds of flour (though all-purpose is the default) and any number of dairy products — if you're out of milk, thin some yogurt or sour cream with water.
To make them sweet, add a few spoonfuls of sugar; to make richer scones, mix an egg with a fork in a measuring cup and top it up with milk. You'll need ¾-1 cup, and if it's on the wetter side, that's OK.
If the dough is too soft to cut, drop it by the spoonful and call them drop scones.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda (if you're using buttermilk)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup butter, cold
- ¾ cup cream, milk, buttermilk or thinned yogurt or sour cream
Preheat the oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda (if you're using it) and salt. If you want them sweet, add a couple tablespoons of sugar.
With a small paring knife, slice or cut the butter into the flour mixture, or grate it on the coarse side of a grater. Rub it into the flour with your fingers, making flat pieces between your thumb and fingers (as if you were snapping your fingers), as so many grandmas do.
At this point, you could add grated cheese or fresh or frozen berries (don't thaw them — you want them to stay frozen so they don't leak their juices into the dough).
Toss them into the flour-butter mixture, then add the cream (or milk, or thinned yogurt) and stir just until the dough comes together. It will look shaggy, not smooth — that's OK.
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Gather it all up, including all the rough bits in the bottom of the bowl, and either pat it out an inch thick on a parchment-lined baking sheet or, if you like, pat it out about half an inch thick and fold it over itself in thirds, as if you were folding a letter. (This will give you satisfying layers, but it's truly not necessary.)
Pat the dough about an inch thick and cut into wedges, squares or rounds with a sharp knife or cookie cutter. (If you're using a cutter or glass rim, try not to twist it, as this could seal the cut sides a bit, keeping them from maximum lift.)
Brush the tops with a bit more milk or cream (there should be enough in the bottom of the measuring cup) and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until risen and deep golden.
Makes about 8 biscuits.
Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan came up with a formula for a wet dough that requires no kneading.
The moisture content plus time on the countertop makes for a wonderfully-textured loaf, as well as baking it in a preheated pot traps the steam and creates a crackly crust.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- ¼-½ tsp instant or active dry yeast
- 1 tsp salt
In a large bowl stir together the flour, yeast and salt. Add 1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and sticky.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate and let it rest on the countertop at room temperature for 18-24 hours.
The next day, the dough will have risen but will look very wet, its surface dotted with bubbles. Flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice, then roughly shape into a ball.
Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth—the texture will stick) with flour; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour.
Fold it over the bread or cover with another cotton towel and let it sit for another hour or two. (I often do this directly on the countertop, loosely covered with a floured tea towel, then scrape the dough up with a dough scraper into the pot, because no matter how much you flour your towel, it always sticks a bit!)
While the bread is resting, preheat the oven to 450 F with a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats.
When the dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under the towel and flip the dough over into the pot; it may look like a mess, but that's OK.
Cover and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 10-15 minutes, until it's nice and golden.
Dill Pickle Soup
Soup is a simple thing to learn how to make without a recipe — and can be made with virtually anything you have, from winter squash and root vegetables to mushrooms to canned tomatoes, dried beans, or things you have tucked away in the freezer.
One of my favourite soups is made out of lots of celery, a sausage or two, dry lentils and barley.
It's also a great way to transform leftovers. If you have surplus roasted vegetables or even some extra veggie-based takeout, they, too, can go into the pot, or turned into even a single serving of soup with a splash of stock (and a bit of cream, if you like) and a blender.
Dill pickle soup seems like a dish that came about out of necessity — perhaps in the bleak prairie midwinter — but it's completely delicious. It's made with basic veggies (onion, celery, carrot, potato), but would also be delicious with wintry beets or cabbage, and often has sausage added at the start.
Whole dill pickles are chopped or grated into the pot, along with a generous pour of the pickle brine. Sometimes it's finished with cream, or a dollop of sour cream on top.
- vegetable oil and/or butter, for cooking
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1-2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1-2 carrots, chopped
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
- 4 large dill pickles, shredded or chopped
- ½ cup (ish) pickle brine, from the jar
- 2 small potatoes, halved and thinly sliced
- freshly ground black pepper
- sour cream and chopped fresh dill, for garnish (optional)
Drizzle some oil into a medium pot set over medium-high heat, and saute the onion, celery and carrot for a few minutes, or until soft. (Crumble or slice in a sausage, too, if you like, and cook it through if need be.)
Sprinkle with flour and stir to coat. Add the stock, pickles, brine, potatoes and a good grind of black pepper.
Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or so, or until the potatoes are tender. If you like, serve topped with sour cream and fresh dill.
Easy Red Sauce
Marcella Hazan's iconic red sauce, from her book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, makes for a ridiculously simple pot of sauce using a few kitchen staples.
San Marzano or San Marzano-style canned tomatoes (whole tomatoes packed in tomato puree) are suggested, but use any canned tomatoes — whole, diced or fire-roasted.
The butter may sound decadent, but it makes all the difference here, elevating the sauce to a silky new level without making it greasy.
If you have a Parmesan rind in your fridge, it's also a good thing to toss in. (If you like, drop in meatballs as it simmers, or squeeze fresh Italian sausages out of their casings at 1-inch intervals to make self-seasoned meatballs.)
- 1-2 cans 28 oz (796 ml) can good-quality whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano-style (whole in puree)
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and halved salt, to taste
Put the tomatoes, butter and onion in a pot over medium heat. Once it starts to bubble, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for about 45 minutes.
Put a lid on if you don't want any red spatters in the vicinity of the pot. Stir occasionally, squishing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with your spoon.
Fish out the onion halves (or leave it in and puree the lot) and, if you like, blend until smooth with a hand-held immersion blender. Serve hot, ladled over pasta.
Pasta e Ceci
Pasta e ceci (pasta with chickpeas) is a great example of the sort of last-minute "I don't know what's for dinner" emergency meal you can rummage through your pantry for and eat in 20 minutes rather than give in to takeout.
Although there are hundreds of similar versions out there, I took direction from Deb's Smitten Kitchen website, and she took hers from Rachel Roddy at the Guardian.
- a generous drizzle of olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- ¼ cup tomato paste or ½ cup crushed tomatoes or passata
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste) a good grind of black pepper
- 1 15 or 19 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (1½-2 cups)
- ½ cup (or a handful) small pasta, like small shells, ditalini or little hoops
- 2 cups hot water (put the kettle on to boil if you want to speed things up
Use good olive oil — warmed if you like — with a clove of garlic, bit of chopped rosemary and/or pinch of red chili flakes.
In a deep skillet or heavy pot, heat the olive oil with the garlic until it starts to smell wonderfully garlicky.
Add the tomatoes (careful, it might splatter) and salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add the chickpeas, pasta and water and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sauce is uniform.
Turn the heat down and let it simmer away for 15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and much of the liquid is reduced and absorbed.
If you like, warm a bit of olive oil on the stove with a crushed clove of garlic, about half a sprig of chopped rosemary or a pinch of chili flakes and drizzle it overtop with the Parmesan; otherwise, just add a drizzle of straight-up olive oil.
Serves: 2 generously.
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.