Winter Warmers

There’s nothing better than a chilly Sunday in December with no plans. No plans, other than to cook, bake, eat and maybe squeeze in a little bit of fresh, country (ish) air.

These Sundays are pretty rare, but I think it’s important to have at least one day like this on the busy lead up to Christmas.

I stumbled across one of these few and far between days last week and decided that this would be our day of wintery relaxation.

First things first, plan the evening’s dinner. (Anyone find themselves thinking about dinner before you’ve even finished breakfast? No, me neither…)

I’ve declared my love for slow cooking many times before, and a beef stew really is the only option for a cosy, wintery day.

Start by chopping up your veg. I used a few of potatoes (both regular and sweet), some carrots, parsnips, a handful of mushrooms, a couple of onions and some crushed cloves of garlic.

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Skin on, roughly chopped and thrown into a slow cooker (or casserole dish).

Season your meat and add to the slow cooker, mixing everything together with your hands.

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Make up some beef or vegetable stock and pour in, topping up with water so that everything is covered. Add a few glugs of red wine if you have any going.

Switch on the slow cooker and leave it to work its magic. The longer you leave it cooking, the better it will taste. You’ll just need to thicken it up with some flour (or gravy granules) later. If you’re using a casserole dish just brown off the meat first and then pop the whole thing in the oven on low for 3-4 hours, rather than leaving all day.

With our stew happy, we headed out to Bushy Park for a wander.

I love living so close to Bushy Park and Richmond Park – both are lovely little pockets of greenery unexpectedly nestled within busy London suburbs.

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The deer in Bushy Park don’t seem at all bothered to be sharing their home with Londoners escaping the city for an hour or two. I still wouldn’t want to get too close to those antlers though…

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We strolled around the lake with steaming cups of coffee (and made friends with lots of dogs) before heading home for a bit of festive baking. What to bake on a December Sunday? Mince Pies, of course!

I cheated and bought a jar of mincemeat, but to make the pastry I follow this simple little recipe.

  • 200g plain flour
  • 40g golden caster sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 1 egg

Sift the flour, add the butter and use your finger tips to make a breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and add the egg to bring it all together. Make sure you keep everything really cold and chill the pastry in the fridge for at least half an hour before rolling out.

Put your little pies together and glaze with milk before baking for around 20 minutes. You’ll never want to buy mince pies again!

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Days like this really do prove that Winter isn’t so bad!

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