Our columnist advises us on the best foods to keep us feeling toastie from head to toe this winter
The transition into a colder season brings a greater need to nourish and keep ourselves warm and well inside and out. Changes to our physical and nutritional needs mean we may gravitate towards warmer, nourishing foods such as stews, soups and antioxidant and mineral rich root vegetables. Use plenty of warming herbs and spices in soups and stews to support circulation and the immune system. Ginger, rosemary, black pepper, garlic, paprika, horseradish, cayenne pepper, turmeric, cumin and onions are all nourishing – especially if you feel under the weather.
Batch cooking chunky soups and stews can save an enormous amount of practical and mental time. Freeze some in small portions for satisfying and wholesome ready-made meals for lunch or supper – just add a side of steamed vegetables or a salad of seasonal leaves.
Slow-cooking has formed the culinary basis of many cultures for many years. It is the traditional version of ‘fast food’. I know this appears ironic but in fact a slow cooker is minimal fuss and, if prepared in the morning or the night before, is ready for you to dip into at the end of a long day. It really is the epitome of easy cooking.
Slow cookers cook food at a low temperature (usually around 93c) for anywhere between 4-8 hours. Because of the lower temperature, the nutrients in the food remain more stable than other methods of cooking. By virtue of being in a sealed unit, whether using an electric slow cooker or in a casserole dish in your oven, any of the nutrients usually lost in the liquid from heat are simply reabsorbed into the meal.
For me the art of slow cooking and eating seasonally reaches beyond the physical health benefits of choosing seasonally grown antioxidant-rich root, mineral-dense vegetables or slow cooked stews; it can be an opportunity to slow down, to take enjoyment from cooking very simply and reconnecting with nature’s cycle and all that it provides for our body and mind.
Vegetables: Although it seems counter-intuitive, most vegetables (especially roots such as potatoes, carrots and turnips) cook more slowly than meat and poultry do in the slow-cooker. Be sure to cut similar vegetables into same-size pieces. Faster cooking vegetables such as greens can be added in the last 20 to 30 minutes.
Poultry: Poultry is easy to overcook and dry out. Leave the skin on a whole chicken to lock in moisture and add flavour if organic.
Beans and legumes: These dried foods are perfectly suited for the slow-cooker, just be sure to properly prepare them beforehand and don’t add salt until after they are cooked, as salt will keep the skins tough.
Herbs and spices: Using plenty of warming herbs and spices in soups and stews can support circulation and digestion. Ginger, rosemary, black pepper, garlic, paprika, horseradish, cayenne pepper, turmeric and cumin are all nourishing. Whole herbs and spices release their flavours slowly, while ground versions lose their flavour or can become bitter-tasting in the slow-cooker.
Henrietta Norton is an established nutritional therapist, women’s health expert and founder of award-winning supplement brand Wild Nutrition
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