Up here in Scotland we’re in the middle of what one friend calls “the tunnel”. Back in November I bumped into him on the street in St. Andrews. He said, “We’ve entered the tunnel. We won’t come out until February.”
Northern living is challenging at this time of year. The mornings are dark – pitch dark, bump-into-walls-while-making-coffee dark.
The afternoons are even darker. Light seeps into the sky around 8:45 and starts to drain out again by 3:30.
I’ve never been so acutely aware of the winter solstice. We actually count the days we achieved since December 21st.
The good news is we still get out for walks on the sunny days – and Scotland is just as beautiful in winter as it is in summer.
The bad news is the darkness makes me crave carbs. I remember one afternoon saying to Rob, “All I want to do is lie around and eat cookies.”
Instead, I turn on my Philips goLITE BLU Light Therapy Device, fill up my hot water bottle (I think I’d tuck it into my girdle if I wore one), stoke the fire and brew another cup of Artisan Roast coffee.
Hot meals are essential at this time of year. Breakfasts are often frittatas filled with leftover vegs from the night before. Dinners are soups, stews, braises, ribs, and roasts of all kinds. Here are my family’s top 5 winter meals – all of which make excellent leftover lunches the following day.
Moroccan Beef Stew
Studded with slivers of dried apricots and chunks of succulent beef, this stew is a cinch to make and warms you up fast.
Asian-Spiced Braised Beef Short Ribs
Since moving to Scotland, I’ve had to tweak this chicken dish. For one thing, my butcher doesn’t stock drumsticks. In fact, chicken is the hardest protein to come by here. When he does have it, it’s either a whole bird (most economical) or boneless breasts (exorbitant and not as flavorful). I like making homemade chicken stock, especially in winter, so I opt for the whole bird.
I butcher the chicken into eight pieces before browning it in olive oil and butter, about 5 minutes of cooking. I finish the cooking in a hot oven (450°F), about 10 – 15 minutes more. Once cooked, I remove the chicken to a platter and add sherry vinegar and water to the hot pan. Once the liquid is reduced by half, I add a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper. The sauce emulsifies (though still liquid as opposed to syrup), and I add the chicken back for a quick coating.
You can really use any vinegar you like here. The benefit is that you can change up the flavor slightly, and it also comes together more quickly than the original Adobo Chicken, which requires marinating time. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed by this innovation.
Fennel-Dusted Pork Spare Ribs
These ribs from Andrea Reusing’s Cooking in the Moment were our Christmas Eve dinner this year. Our butcher started circulating flyers at the beginning of December, which you were meant to take away, fill out, and return by the 12th. The front page described all the festive fayre you could order from them: hampers, stuffing, meat pies, and of course, your holiday turkey or goose or roast or ham.
I took my flyer, but neglected to get it in by the 12th. (I’m used to Whole Foods Market, which is likely open til 11:00 on Christmas Eve, stocked with every imaginable cut of meat in abundance. Of course, their freezer space is larger than the entire butcher shop and post office next door combined.) When I did go in with the flyer, I hadn’t checked anything off. The problem is that I’m still getting used to British cuts of meat – they’re different, they really are, even though the cow is the same!
So I went in and asked if he could get me some baby back ribs. I thought, why not do something simple for Christmas Eve? Ribs are tasty, and they’re fun. You get to eat with your fingers, and who doesn’t like that?
Spiced Butternut Squash Soup with Pancetta and Fried Onions
This soup is a winner. The sweetness of butternut squash, the saltiness of pancetta, the crunch of fried onions, and the velvety texture of homemade chicken stock. It doesn’t get much better than this on a winter night.
Here are some more meals t0 get you through January:
- These dark chocolate cherry scones were awesome on Christmas morning, courtesy of Nom Nom Paleo
- I serve these parsnip straws from the British Larder with every burger I make
- How about some apple butternut squash bacon breakfast hash from Urban Poser?
- Healing chicken ginger soup from Nourishing Meals will cure what ails you
- As will this winter tea of ginger, citrus and honey from Caroline W