Cook + food stylist, Ibtesam Essa shares her winter comfort meals

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Words: Refiloe Legoale | Images: Supplied

Winter is naturally a time for indulgence. Colder months give us a chance to really dive into the flavour opportunities that they have available. As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, there’s nothing better than warming up from the inside out with a hot, hearty meal, followed by a tasty nightcap. From rich stews to delectable soups, Cook and Food Stylist Ibtesam Essa has rounded up some of her favourite winter foods to keep her cosy until spring.

What is your favourite comfort meal of all time and why?

Definitely a lamb curry and rice. No matter where I go and what I eat, I always return home to the comforting taste and smell of well-seasoned curry.

What do you love most about winter flavours?

The heartiness and the overall feeling of comfort! As a family, we tend to spend more time catching up with tea and biscuits after supper or a big mug of hot chocolate. My kids love this treat before bedtime.

Are you a soup, stew, or dessert kind of person in winter?

All of the above! Growing up, my mom would prepare a delicious winter stew with meat and vegetables that is perfect for colds and flu. That has since become our traditional winter dish. We usually serve it with fresh white rolls or bread by soaking the bread in the stew itself.

Which kitchen utensils/ kitchenware can you not survive without? And why?

A good quality set of knives and an oven thermometer. Knives are multifunctional and owning a quality set means that I can prepare meat, poultry, and fish neatly and effortlessly. An oven thermometer is extremely essential for baking as it provides you with the actual temperature within the oven and not the reading on the dial or screen itself. This is necessary for those tricky pastries and cakes that require precise temperatures for success.

What will you be indulging in this winter?

During the colder months, we tend to gravitate towards meals that offer comfort and homeliness. Family-sized pies, mutton curry, and rice, pasta, and butter chicken. Our meals are often accompanied by salads and a meat-free Monday dish of butter bean and potato curry and roti.

Do you have a recipe that has been passed down through your family that you go back to during the colder months?

My mom’s lamb kalya. Unlike a traditional curry, this lamb dish is marinated in spices and yoghurt overnight. The yoghurt softens the meat so when it cooks it literally falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. Her addition of chopped carrots and nuts adds quantity to the meal and we serve it with soft naan bread. It is the warm hug you crave on a cold winter night!

Try some of Ibtesam's recipe's below:

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