Comfort food

PUBLISHED: 12:38 31 October 2013 | UPDATED: 12:42 31 October 2013

Chef Shaun Naen

Chef Shaun Naen


Martin Griffiths recommends beating the winter weather by putting seasonal pleasures on your plate

Rustic, seasonal soups can be enhanced with Asian spices to give us some toe tingling options; fish offers us lean, tasty alternatives after the excesses of Christmas and with a bit of careful jiggling we can even make some tasty low fat puddings with a healthy crunch.

There are some wonderful farm shops and farmers’ markets around the region and we can use these to source vegetables which are seasonal, local and fresh. The taste of freshly harvested carrots baked with a drizzle of honey, roasted beetroot or steaming bowls of iron-rich cabbage tossed with bacon pieces, walnuts and chilli will enrich the dullest winter’s day and what’s more, they are good for us.

If you have preserved fruit and cured meat in your larder, now is a good time to serve them. Preserved meat goes wonderfully well with pickled vegetables and great steaming bowls of colcannon. So don’t despair if the weather is wretched and the days too short. Put the oven on and get cooking.


Baked salmon with a mustard crunch


An easy way to give fish such as salmon, cod and halibut more complex flavours and texture is to add a breadcrumb crust. Adding herbs and other flavours such as mustard and horseradish will enrich the flavours and creates interesting contrasts.


Serves 2

2 salmon steaks

2 of slices wholemeal bread

1 shallot finely chopped

1 tsp mustard

1 tsp capers

1 tsp parsley

Zest of 1 lemon


1. Remove the crusts from the bread and crumble it into breadcrumbs

2. Finely chop the capers, parsley and lemon zest and mix them with the mustard, shallot, seasoning and breadcrumbs

3. Place the salmon in a lightly greased ovenproof dish and carefully spoon the breadcrumb mixture over the top, pressing firmly into place with the back of a spoon

4. Bake in a pre-heated oven 180°c, gas mark 4, for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the fish.

Serve with pasta or potatoes and a simple tartare sauce made with yogurt, gherkins and dill or make a mustard and cheese sauce and serve with winter greens and colcannon, a dish formed from mashed potato and cabbage. The name comes from the Gaelic for white

headed cabbage.


Spiced potato parcels with mixed seasonal vegetables


Cooking vegetables in a parcel made from baking parchment/greaseproof paper is a healthy option and allows you to bring together a variety of

A medley of vegetables wrapped in paper and roasted in the oven with a drizzle of spiced oil flavours. I lightly par-boil the potatoes first before sealing them between two sheets of paper with a selection of other vegetables and herbs and a light coating of oil and balsamic vinegar.


Serves 2-4

225 g potatoes (2 large ones) peeled, cut into chunks and lightly par-boiled

1 leek, 1 parsnip, 1 onion, 1 carrot, cut into chunks

1 sliced red pepper

2-4 tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, 1 sprig rosemary,

seasoning, two tablespoons of oil and

balsamic vinegar

1. Lightly par-boil the potatoes and prepare the other vegetables

2. Toss the vegetables together in the oil, balsamic vinegar and seasoning

3. Place a sheet of baking paper in the base of a roasting dish and spoon in all the vegetables along with your herbs and seasoning

4. Lay another baking sheet over the top and fold the edges together

5. Bake in a pre-heated oven, 180°c , gas mark 4, for around 1 hour.

To crisp up the potatoes remove the top sheet for the last 20 minutes. Vegetables roasted in this way retain their flavour and with the added fragrance of the herbs are a delicious option along side the baked salmon or cold meats left over from the Christmas and New Year’s parties. As a vegetarian option they are excellent when served with a winter salad and lemon mayonnaise.


The beauty of beetroot


Beetroot is such a diverse winter option it seems a waste to just boil it and pickle it in vinegar. Wrapped in silver foil it can be roasted in the oven and peeled when soft. Par-boiled along with carrots it gives the carrots an even more intense colour. Toss the par-boiled carrots and beetroot in a chilli oil and honey dressing before roasting them together in the oven for a hot and spicy seasonal treat. Boiled, grated, mashed and sieved beetroot can even be used to make a beautiful, deep-coloured sorbet and mixed in with chocolate makes a rich and earthy tart. Used raw and finely grated it add depth to winter salads while thinly sliced it can be stacked in with your potatoes to produce a version of Dauphinoise potatoes with extra colour and flavour.

Beetroot produces a blood red juice (wash your hands with lemon juice to remove stains) and when cooked with cream produces an intense, shocking pink sauce.

Chicken pieces cooked in the oven with beetroot and cream and topped with a bread-based crumble make a vibrant winter gratin. (A word of warning – eating masses of beetroot can turn the colour of your wee pink!)


Red cabbage, beetroot, apple, pomegranate and walnut salad


This red cabbage and beetroot salad is best made a few hours in advance to allow the vinegar and oil to soften the cabbage a little and is a wonderfully colourful accompaniment to cooked game such as pheasant and partridge, roast hams or sausages served with colcannon.


Serves 6

1 small red cabbage, about 750g,

very thinly sliced

1 medium sized beetroot, peeled and

finely grated

2-3 eating apples, cored and thinly

sliced, the nutty flavoured russet is

delicious in this recipe

50g walnuts broken into pieces

50g dried mixed fruit/seeds of

1 pomegranate

2 tbsp perry/cider vinegar

75ml olive/walnut oil

3-4 sprigs of fresh tarragon leaves (or

parsley) stripped and chopped, squeeze

of lemon juice and touch of sugar,


1. Mix the vinegar, oil, herbs, lemon juice, sugar and seasoning together in a large bowl

2. Add the de-cored, finely sliced apples and cabbage, pomegranate, walnuts and dried fruits and mix thoroughly

3. Scatter fresh, finely chopped herbs over the salad just before serving


Shaun Naen’s chocolate and beetroot tart



10-inch pastry case

120g plain flour

60g unsalted butteer

Two egg yolks

Tablespoon icing sugar


100ml milk

100ml double cream

250g 70 per cent cocoa dark chocolate

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

150g beetroot, cooked and grated

1. Use a variation of a shortcrust pastry mixture, 120g plain flour to 60g unsalted butter enriched with two egg yolks and a tablespoon of icing sugar instead of water. Chill throughly and roll out between two sheets of baking paper. Blind bake in a 10-inch case for 10-15mins taking care to protect the edges by wrapping over the paper lining. Trim pastry after blind baking to create a smarter finish

2. Gently heat milk and cream together

3. Add chocolate and stir well

4. Whisk in the eggs

5. Squeeze dry the beetroot and add to the mixture

6. Add to pastry case and cook at 180°c, gas mark 4, for 12-15 mins

7. Dust with cocoa powder and serve with sorbet and delicate, sugar syrup coated beetroot crisps


Baked fruit kebabs


Kebabs aren’t just for summer; they also allow us to introduce hot, spiced fruit into our winter diet. Mix seasonal apples and pears with pineapple and bananas to create tasty winter puddings.

Serves 4

2 cored apples

2 cored pears

1 peeled banana

250g pineapple pieces

3-4 tablespoons orange juice

3-4 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1. Cut the fruit into chunks of around the same size and thread them onto pre-soaked wooden skewers

2. Pour the orange juice, honey and cinnamon into a pan and heat until gently bubbling

3. Brush the orange juice/honey glaze over the fruit and grill for around 5-10 minutes or pop into a pre-heated oven until just starting to soften and going golden brown

4. Serve with any of the remaining glaze, a dusting of cinnamon/icing sugar and low fat yogurt

Add a tot of rum and a pinch of chilli and ginger for extra heat if serving to adults. Fruits such as mango and orange add colour and flavours to this simple but tasty dish. Options include baking the fruits together in a foil parcel or arranging them together in a traditional fruit crumble and adding porridge oats and chopped nuts to the topping for extra crunch.


Hot malaysian soup


This is Shaun Naen’s version of Sop Daging and it creates a hot nourishing soup full of flavour, ideal for a cold January day.


Serves 4


500g diced brisket of beef

2 litres beef stock

1 onion finely chopped

1 red chilli diced

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise

1 inch piece of ginger peeled and grated


1 packet rice noodles 2-3 chopped spring onions

1 bunch pak choi

1. Reserve 100g of the beef. This can then be very thinly sliced and added to the soup just before serving. Cutting the meat when it is frozen helps you cut it very thinly

2. Add the stock ingredients to a large, lidded pan and simmer for around one and a half hours

3. Add the fresh noodles, pak choi, spring onions and reserved very thinly sliced meat to the soup just before serving. These thin meat slices cook very quickly in the hot broth and are served quite rare

4. Sprinkle over some extra chilli and spring onion when serving


Six of the best January pleasures



Sprouting purple broccoli and cabbage are wonderful winter greens and boiled in with your potatoes and then mashed together makes a wonderful version of colcannon. Serve with herby sausages and a spicy tomato and red pepper sauce for some seasonal pleasure

Roast partridge:

Cooked on a bed of onions and served with a cider sauce this is a great seasonal treat but to make it go further, strip the cooked meat from the birds and stir fry it with some spring onions, mushrooms, ginger, cooked noodles and big dash of soy sauce for a super Chinese supper

Stuffed mushrooms:

Big flat open mushrooms stuffed with breadcrumbs and vegetables and baked with a cheese topping are easy and quick. The mushrooms’ meaty flavours are balanced by the sweet red peppers, crunchy breadcrumbs and soft cheese

Carrots, beetroots and parsnips:

Glaze with a honey, chilli and cumin glaze and roast in the oven. Lightly par-boil the vegetables first and melt a little oil, honey, chilli and cumin together in a pan before coating the carrots and roasting them. Try serving these with slices of baked gammon and a cheese sauce. Boiling the beetroot in with the carrots intensifies their colour

Apple and pear crumble:

Create a topping with the addition of porridge oats and roughly crumbled nuts plus lots of cinnamon and cloves

Winter greens:

Kale comes in various colours and shapes and spinach and chard add easy-to-cook colour to our plates. Don’t forget the Brussels sprouts, they’re pretty good stir-fried with bacon pieces and, very thinly sliced, can be served raw to add colour to your red cabbage and beetroot salad


This article is from the January 2011 edition of Herefordshire Life

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