While many of us love the cosier months, for others the darker days and freezing temperatures lead to the winter blues – feeling sluggish, tired, and a bit down.
But did you know that our kitchens offer us a place to huddle and be sheltered from the storms, both physical and otherwise?
Food can nourish us and feed our creativity by connecting us with the larger world. The familiar warm embrace of an oven can provide our souls with a comfort nearly impossible to come by from anything else.
Celebrity chef and cookbook author Grace Stevens shares recipes and her top tips on some of the foods that put you in a good mood.
Oscar Wilde is infamous for having said: “Everything in moderation, including moderation” and I agree that we should make a time and a place for all food. Although my chocolate mousse recipe is certainly not an everyday occurrence in my household, it has a way of reminding me that spoiling ourselves occasionally is part of a healthy lifestyle. Its super-smooth yet light texture perfectly echoes and offsets the deep chocolate flavour. Although it is divine served on its own, add a little whipped cream and berries for tartness. It is sublime.
4 egg yolks
60ml castor sugar
225g dark chocolate, finely chopped
5ml vanilla extract
1 egg white
50g icing sugar
50g butter, melted
50g almond flour, well sifted
2ml vanilla extract
30g shaved almonds
15ml castor sugar
2ml vanilla extract
Place the egg yolks, 30ml of the sugar, and 180ml of the cream in a medium saucepan and mix well.
Over medium heat, cook the egg mixture until it is thick. Remove from the heat.
Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and vanilla extract.
Cover with cling film over the surface of the custard and allow to cool.
Whip the remaining cream and sugar until soft peaks.
Fold a third of the cream into the cooled custard and mix to loosen the custard.
Fold the custard into the remaining cream.
Divide the mousse between six serving dishes. Martini glasses also make a dramatic serving dish.
Place in the fridge until read to serve.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC
In a medium bowl, mix the butter, sugar and vanilla extract.
Add the egg white and almond flour, and mix well to a paste.
Rest in the fridge until needed.
Drop teaspoon amounts of batter onto a silicone mat or silicone paper and spread into a circular shape, getting the batter as thin as possible.
Sprinkle with shaved almonds.
Bake for 4 minutes, until the tuile turns golden brown; you will have to watch them carefully.
Remove from the oven, and quickly slide a pallet knife under the tuile and wrap around a wooden spoon or small rolling pin to shape. Rest on a dish towel until firm. Repeat with remaining tuiles. You will have to work quickly.
Repeat with the rest of the batter or until you have enough tuiles to serve.
Whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until stiff.
Place the cream in a piping bag with a star nozzle.
Pipe a swirl of cream on top of each mousse. Top with grated chocolate.
Place a tuile on each dessert just before serving.
Celebratory carrot cake
A recipe that is nostalgic for me is my carrot cake. When I was pregnant with my first child, I would crave carrot cake, to the point where it would be all I could think of. The problem was, I couldn’t find one that balanced the sweetness and spices just the way I wanted. And so my carrot cake recipe was born. It amazes me how so many years later, I feel a familiar tingle of excitement every time I enjoy a slice. If you want to make this delicious recipe to the next level, try roasting the nuts beforehand to bring out their natural oils and intensify their rich rounded nutty flavour. Te smell that fills your home with expectation makes the cake all the more delightful.
315g brown sugar
500ml cake flour
5ml ground ginger
3ml ground clove
10ml baking powder
400g grated carrot
1 grated apple
75g chopped walnuts
Cream cheese buttercream
100g full cream cheese
300g icing sugar
Zest of 1 orange
30ml orange juice
Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare 2 x 20cm round cake tins or 1 x 25cm Bundt tin.
Cream the eggs and sugar together until light.
Sift the dry ingredients and add the raisins after tossing them in the flour to coat.
Turn the mixer down to low and add oil in a steady stream until combined.
Add flour 1 tablespoon at a time.
Fold in the carrots, nuts, and apples.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean (35 minutes for 20cm round tin).
Remove from tin and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
Combine the buttercream ingredients and beat well.
Spread onto the cooled cake and top with nuts or orange zest.
Recipes that use fruit have an amazing way of giving you a snack of summer delight to savour in the chilly winter months. Personally, citrus flavours are just what I need to boost my spirits on a winter’s day. In my lemon and blueberry cake, citrus flavours dance together with the brilliance of blueberries to make a treat that is full of antioxidants and has summer baked straight into it.
250ml castor sugar
2 large eggs
1ml baking powder
2 ml salt
500ml cake flour
Zest of 1 lemon
30ml lemon juice
100g soft butter
375ml icing sugar
50ml lemon juice
Heat oven to 180°C.
Grease a Bundt tin and dust with flour
Add the lemon juice and zest to the milk (it will curdle, this is fine).
In an electric mixer, whisk the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat until pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Sift the dry ingredients.
Beginning with the flour, add the flour and milk to the butter mixture.
Fold in the blueberries.
Spoon into the prepared tin.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
Remove from tin and place onto a cooling rack
You will ice the smooth “bottom” of the cake.
Beat the butter and icing sugar together well before adding the lemon juice.
Spread onto the cooled cake.
Decorate with blueberries and more lemon zest.
Replace the blueberries with raspberries.
Replace the lemon zest with orange zest.