Food & Culture

What chefs cook during winter

We asked some of the country’s top chefs for their go-to cold-weather dishes. The result? Big, hearty braises, nourishing soups, rich meat sauces, and roasts to set and forget.

Jaci Koludrovic
We asked some of the country's top chefs for their go-to cold-weather dishes. The result? Big, hearty braises, nourishing soups, rich meat sauces, and roasts to set and forget. All simple, all delicious, all perfect for winter.

Emma McCaskill | Sparkke at the Whitmore, Adelaide

I'm a huge fan of stocks and broths, especially in winter, and chicken soup is a staple. If I'm short of time – which is highly likely – I'll grab a roast chook from the local charcoal chicken shop, remove the stuffing, place it in a pot of water and boil it for about an hour. I add chopped onions, carrots, potatoes and kale for the last 15 minutes, then shred the chicken and stir it back in. Seasoning the broth well at the end makes a difference, too.

Duncan Welgemoed | Africola, Adelaide

Always make sure you have some chicken broth in your freezer. Add shop-bought dumplings, ramen or even heaps of chilli and Spam if you're feeling dirty enough.
Another go-to is spaghetti and meat sauce with a giant glass of shiraz. Take a handful of mirepoix with lots of garlic and sweat it in olive oil. Add veal, pork and beef mince, some osso buco and a couple of spicy Italian sausages, then throw in a handful of oregano and marjoram and roast it all in the pan until it's all sticky, golden and sweet-smelling. Deglaze with the wine that you're drinking, add beef or pork stock, canned tomatoes and tomato paste, then cook it down until the meat is soft like butter and the sauce is reduced. Finish with a touch of double cream and ladle it on top of al dente spaghetti with heaps of pecorino and parmesan.

Matt Breen | Templo, Hobart

My standard for winter is a sausage fusilli with kale, but I always have some fried shallots, Sichuan pepper and chilli oil in the cupboard. They're always handy for a quick fried-rice dish with any vegetables or meat that you have in the fridge.

Christine Manfield | Chef and author

Crab fried rice is my ultimate winter dish. Make an omelette with a couple of eggs and slice it into strips. Then fry sliced onion, garlic and ginger, add raw crab meat tossed with chilli jam, black pepper and soy sauce, and stir-fry for two minutes with sliced green beans, then add cooked jasmine rice. Toss to combine, add chopped chives, return egg and garnish with fried shallots.
Neil Perry Photo: Rob Shaw

Short order: Lamb tagine by Neil Perry, Rockpool Dining group

"I love tagine," says Neil Perry. "It's so simple; once you make the chermoula, it's a five-minute job".
Combine 1-2 tbsp ground chilli and ras el hanout, 1 tbsp each of ground cumin, coriander seeds and turmeric, and a pinch of sweet paprika. Add a diced red onion, 4 garlic cloves, a handful of coriander and a handful of flat-leaf parsley. Pour in 125ml olive oil, squeeze in juice of ½ lemon and blend to a paste. Add diced lamb and marinate overnight. Fry lamb over high heat for five minutes in olive oil, add any vegetables you like – pumpkin, green beans – add water to cover, a pinch of salt, a few tablespoons of honey and the juice of a lemon, and braise until tender. 30 minutes before you finish, add dates and almonds. Serve with couscous and roasted almonds.
Neil Perry's lamb tagine Photo: Rob Shaw

Zoe Birch | Greasy Zoe's, Melbourne

In our house we like one-pot wonders, the sort of thing where everything goes in the pot and gets chucked in the oven and forgotten about for four hours. A classic example is a beef and mushroom pie: something to leave in the oven, then curl up on the couch and enjoy.

Alanna Sapwell | Arc, Brisbane

You can't overlook a simple pasta. Sweat onion and garlic in olive oil, reduce the heat, then add some anchovies and let them melt into the sauce. Add a splash of white wine, toss through some cavolo nero, add cooked penne and finish with good parmesan. You can make a great pasta dish in the time it takes to cook the pasta itself. Not to mention get some hearty winter greens into you.

Aaron Turner | Igni, Geelong

For me, it's always gnocchi with brown butter, anchovies, lemon and rocket. Steam potatoes until soft, crush with the back of a spoon with salt, pepper, mustard and an egg. Add flour until combined, then roll out, cut into size and quickly blanch. Brown a good amount of butter and add gnocchi, frying until golden on both sides. To finish, add anchovies, chilli and the juice of a lemon and finish with two big handfuls of rocket and grated parmesan.
A quick comfort hack? It has to be breakfast for dinner – a bacon and egg sandwich with loads of Worcestershire sauce.
Mark Best Photo: Rob Shaw

Short order: Mark Best's roast chicken with chilli and Sichuan pepper

"Roast chicken with ginger, garlic, sesame, Sichuan pepper and Korean chilli is a go-to," says Mark Best.
Preheat a heavy casserole dish to 195°C. Break your chook down to legs and wings and split the breast in two. Coarsely grate a head of garlic and a big knob of ginger. Add a teaspoon of coarse salt and plenty of sesame oil, Sichuan pepper and gochugaru or chilli flakes. Roll the chook around in the spices and add to the pan skin-side up, roasting for an hour. Serve with roast sebago chips.
Mark Best's roast chicken with chilli and Sichuan pepper Photo: Rob Shaw

Joseph Abboud | Rumi, Melbourne

Comfort to me is hot yoghurt soup with mum's shish barak. It's a soup of cooked natural yoghurt, with a little egg yolk to stop it splitting. The shish barak are a Lebanese tortellini-shaped dumpling with minced lamb and dried mint. A little rice or orzo through the soup turns it into a meal.

Peter Kuruvita | Noosa Beach House, Queensland

Stews with pulses are the type of rich, warming and satisfying meals you can have in a bowl snuggled up in front of the heater. They remind me of camping trips and of my mum's pressure-cooker one-pot meals.

Matt Moran | Aria, Sydney

A Thai green curry with fish is always a winner. The spice really warms you from the inside, and it's filling. I gravitate towards barramundi, blue-eye trevalla or cod as the fish of choice, because they
hold well. Otherwise it's hard to beat the melt-in-your-mouth texture of braised lamb shoulder. I also always have a master stock in the freezer, it's perfect for poached chicken.

Danielle Alvarez | Fred's, Sydney

Ribollita. Hands down. It's a Tuscan bread-and-bean soup made with lots of cavolo nero. It's hearty, super-nourishing and is my definition of comfort food. Sweat onions, carrots, celery, some chopped rosemary and chilli flakes in lots of olive oil and pancetta fat for a long time, low and slow – about an hour. Then add in borlotti beans in their liquid, chicken stock, a parmesan rind if you have it, a bunch of cavolo nero stripped off the stem and simmer for half an hour. Add in some stale sourdough with the crusts cut off, then let that simmer and thicken for another 15 minutes. Serve with grated parmesan
and lots of new-season olive oil on top.
Jaci Koludrovic Photo: Rob Shaw

Short order: Quince and lemon pudding by Jaclyn Koludrovic, Icebergs Dining Room & Bar

"My ultimate go-to sweet recipe in winter when I need some comfort is a quince and lemon pudding, preferably with Meyer lemon," says Jaclyn Koludrovic.
Cover 4 peeled and quartered quince in sugar syrup (equal parts water to sugar) in a baking dish, add a few savoury spices like juniper berries and cardamom, and bake at 150°C until pink (3 hours). Beat 60gm soft butter with 120gm caster sugar, a pinch of salt and the zest of 2 lemons. Separate 3 eggs, and beat in yolks, one at a time, until pale. Add 60ml lemon juice and beat to combine. Transfer to a large bowl. In batches, fold 50gm sifted self-raising flour into the batter, alternating with 230ml milk. Whisk eggwhites to stiff peaks, then fold into batter. Drain quince, place in a baking dish, then top with batter. Place dish in a roasting pan half-filled with hot water and bake at 200°C until golden and set (22 minutes). Serve immediately.
Jaci Koludrovic's quince and lemon pudding Photo: Rob Shaw