Our cooking expert Tom Rutledge shares his favourite foods to help you keep warm and cosy during those chilly nights.
I grew up on a farm on NSW's Southern Tablelands, where in August, sub-zero nights are routine and icy, cheek rippling winds whip straight off the snow capped Brindabellas. Dams freeze and there's the crunch of frost underfoot well into the day. Winter really means something there.
Fortunately we had an Aga stove at the heart of our kitchen, radiating warmth around the clock. This in turn made the kitchen the epicentre of the house - a central organ where we would congregate to thaw out and rekindle depleted energy stocks. It was also a scene of good fun. Cooking is a recreation in winter, an end in itself, where the process can be as appealing as the outcome.
The stomach fills much the same role in our bodies as a kitchen does in a wintry home. A little furnace that nourishes, comforts, and entertains. Much has been written about “winter warmers” and it’s true that we can regulate our temperature as much as our good humour with the fuel we supply to our own central heating unit.
There's nothing quite like a piping hot bowl of comfort food to put Jack Frost back in his box - but it's not only the physical heat of these meals that warm you up, it's the ingredients within. You see, our bodies have a heat producing process known by boffins as thermogenesis, and there are foods that have a greater warming effect than others, due to the energy released as they are digested.
Still awake? Excellent. As a treat for reading down this far, I've included a list of a few foods to keep you warmer than Icarus' ugg boot:
1) Whole grains – things like oats, barley, quinoa, and brown rice are comprised of complex carbohydrates and therefore take more effort to break down than simple carbohydrates. That bowl of porridge in the morning really does help warm you up, as does a handful of pearl barley in your next soup.
2) Vegetables – it’s not really a shock to learn that these childhood nemeses are yet again good for you. Dark leafy greens for their iron, and Vitamin C rich units like carrots, pumpkins, turnips and cabbage all help crank up the temperature.
3) Lean Proteins - beef, chicken, pork and fish all require more heavy lifting from our digestive system. It's like taking your tummy to the gym, but while you're sitting at the dinner table!
4) Herbs and Spices - cinnamon, ginger and garlic, along with a host of other spices, all pack heat. They boost your metabolism and also carry all sorts of medicinal marvels to keep winter colds at bay. Ginger also promotes blood flow to your extremities, literally helping to keep you warm from your nose to your toes.
As already noted, hot foods like soups, stews and pies are heavily associated with keeping warm in winter. The joy of tucking into comfort food is well known, and their ease of preparation is legendary, but perhaps the real brilliance of these one-pot wonders lies in their receptiveness to all the ingredients above. You can bung everything into a pot and bang it on the stove. There's no need to get out of the kitchen, even if you wanted to, because you'll be well provisioned to handle the heat (or lack there of)!
Try your hand at Tom's hearty winter classic - 'Gnocchi Shepherd's Pie' recipe here.
Do you have a question for Tom? Ask him here.