Advent Calendar 9: Goulash

My mum makes phenomenal goulash. When I was growing up, on a sunday evening, we would gather as a family in the lounge to watch some silly tv, chat about our day and eat a simple meal. We were a busy family (my brother plays sports, my mum was a teacher…) so there usually wasn’t time for a traditional roast dinner. We often had delicious jacket potatoes with varied toppings and left overs. However if more time was available, mum would whip up a delicious rich beefy goulash, let it cook for a couple of hours, and serve it with boiled potatoes and sour cream. Yum.

This recipe of hungarian origin is easy to throw together. Like all good beef stews, it’s a  little bit of chopping, and a whole lot of leaving it alone to bubble and brew for a couple of hours. I know I’ve put several beef stews in this advent calendar, but these warming, hearty dishes are perfect for the winter season. They’re great crowd pleasers and show stoppers for impromptu entertaining, perfect meals to fit other tasks like card writing and gift wrapping around, and for a little bit of effort you get a lot a reward. They’re also exactly what I’m eating right now, and they make me think of spending time with family, and therefore christmas.


400g stewing beef (I used shin)
2 onions
2 peppers (one green, one red if you have them)
Handful of flour
2tbsp tomato purée
2tbsp paprika
1 tin chopped tomatoes
75ml wine (red or white work)
300ml beef stock
Salt and pepper

Chop up the beef into one inch cubes.

In a large pan, brown the meat. Remove it from the pan and add the chopped vegetables.

Soften the veg for about five minutes or until the onions are sweated. Add the flour, purée, wine, paprika and seasoning and stir through to make a loose paste.

Put the meat back, then add the tomatoes and stock. Give the stew a good stir to combine all the ingredients.

If your pot is ovenproof, pop the lid on and bake in the oven at 180c for 1 1/2-2 hours. Otherwise, you can cook the whole dish on the hob, covered, for the same amount of time, removing the lid for the final 20-30 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.

Serve will mountains of fluffy mash, sour cream, and sprinkles of paprika.

I’ll add photos of this delicious redder-than-red stew asap. I hope you’ll give it a go!

Natasha x


Advent Calendar 8: Stoverij

Hasn’t the weather turned super chilly of late? All I want to eat is warming soups and stews and live under a duvet. Alas, I have to, you know, work and such, so this ideal is not feasible 24-7, but eat least when I have the time I can whip up something warming and delicious.

Stoverij is a belgian comfort and/or drunk food that is well loved. It’s traditionally served with chips, which makes it probably the best stew in the world. It’s also full of rich beef, beer and chocolate. Does it get any better?


  • 1 carrot
  • 1 leek
  • 1 small onion
  • 400g stewing beef, cut into inch cubes
  • handful of plain flour
  • knob of butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1tbsp brown sugar
  • 500ml ale
  • Beef stock cube
  • 25g dark chocolate

Heat some oil in a pan, and brown the beef in 2-4 batches. Try not to over-crowd the pan, or the beef will stew rather than brown off nicely.


Chop the veg into small pieces and fry off in the butter for approximately five minutes, or until soft.

Sprinkle over the flour, sugar, seasonings and herbs. Deglaze the pan with a glut of the beer and stir the ingredients through.

Crumble in the stock cube, add the rest of the beer and return the meat to the pan. Stir through, then cover and lower the temperature pretty much as low as it will go. Cook for 2 hours until the meat is soft and the sauce thick. If your sauce isn’t thick enough, remove the lid, raise the heat and give it a good blast for 10-30 minutes.

Finish with the chocolate, stirring it into the sauce to melt it down. This will leave you with a rich, cocoa scented stew. Serve with chips if you want to go full Belgian, or mash and vegetables.


I love this stew- it is pure and indulgent comfort food. It goes great with any veg (particularly my candied carrots) and potatoes, and the silky, rich gravy is addictive. If you haven’t, for any reason, access to beer, you can replace it with stock, cider or wine, though this will affect the flavour/authenticity.

Stay warm, kittens!


Advent Calendar 2: Beef and Apple Slowcooker Stew

This recipe is a simple winter warmer that anyone who is old enough to operate a frying pan and use a kitchen knife can make. And if you fall into the younger brackets of that age group, I think you should make it. Here’s why.

Christmas is the time of year that children have oodles of time on their hands, and weary students trundle home for a break from their studies. It’s the time of year that parents break the bank to spoil their loved ones, and also pick back up the full time care of their children, no questions asked. To have one of their own offer to take over the cooking, even for just one meal, would be a huge help to them and greatly appreciated.

All you will need to make this delicious and hearty stew (beyond the ingredients) is a frying pan, a knife and a slow cooker, or an ovenproof lidded saucepan. The measurements below are for a slow cooked meal. If you don’t have access to a slow cooker, reduce the cooking time to two hours, and add at least an extra litre of water.

Beef and Apple Stew

  • 400g stewing beef (shin is excellent in this dish, but any tougher cut will work fine)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 eating apple
  • ½ tbsp mixed herbs or a bouquet garni
  • 2 stock cubes (beef or vegetable)
  • 500ml cider
  • 1tbsp cornflour

If your beef isn’t already in bitesize chunks, cut it up. Then, brown it in a frying pan, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. You want nice caramel colouration on all sides of the pieces. Once browned, pop the cooked beef into the pot of your slow cooker.



Core the apple, and chop it and the other veg into bite size pieces. Add them to the pot and mix them into the beef pieces.

Sprinkle over the herbs, crumble in the stock cubes and add plenty of salt and pepper.

Pour over the cider and mix the ingredients together. This may seem like a rather small amount of liquid, but so long as the liquid is about half as deep as the whole mixture, you should be fine.

Pop the lid on the slow cooker and turn it on to ‘high’. Cook for 3 hours.


Mix the cornflour with a drizzle of water until a paste is formed. Add this to your stew and mix through thoroughly. Recover the pot and cook for a further two hours. (It bears mentioning that this would be very early to add a thickener like cornflour in most recipes, but in slowcooking so little moisture is lost that its fine to add the flour now. It won’t thicken the sauce too much- it’ll just help it become more gravy-like.)

Serve with mashed potatoes, braised leeks and any other veg you fancy.

This recipe is pretty flexible- it would work very well with pork or rose veal, and you can replace the cider with beer or water if you like. You can also feel free to add other vegetables, or reduce the beef and up the veg content.

The final product, after barely half an hour of actual labour, is aromatic and flavoursome. The cider gives tart fruitiness, while the beef makes it intensely savoury and satisfying. The apple will likely melt away to thicken the gravy, leave the inoffensive peel to blend in with the other veg. If you want to be pedantic and peel your apples, then do, but it really isnt necesscary.

So there you have it- an incredibly easy and tasty meal to warm your cockles this winter.


My Chilli con Carne

I love Texmex food- I think you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who doesn’t at least like the stuff. Comforting rice or corn, filling, delicious meat, rich tomatoey sauces and warming spice; Tex Mex is the real deal, and great comfort food. I love how hearty and filling it is, yet how light and summery those same flavours can be.

I hated spicy food growing up, and I was the fussiest eater known to man. I started growing out of it, weirdly, when I got my first rats. I’d buy vegetables for them and think, hey, if it’s good enough for them… and once the first hurdle was passed my attitude changed. When it came to new foods I figured, hey, if I don’t like it, I won’t eat any more of it. I’m sure glad I became more adventurous, even if I did miss years of delicious veggies and tasty spicy meals. My mum did most of the cooking when I was a kid, but both my parents could cook a really hearty chilli, usually out of a repurposed Spag Bol. I love my bolognese too much to change it, except into a lasagne, so these days when I cook my super tasty and aromatic chilli, it’s from scratch and to purpose.

I’m pretty sure quote unquote “traditional” chilli doesn’t have red kidney beans in it, but mine does. My parents’ always did, and I love the buttery, nutty texture of the beans. It probably also doesn’t have fresh carrots, or peppers, but again, my ‘family’ recipe always had carrots in from the bolognese sauce, and I love the colour and flavour the fresh peppers bring to the dish. Also, you know, vegetables. They’re kinda good for you and stuff. Looking at the recipe below, there are loads of ingredients, yes, but this is really a simple dish to make, promise.

Chilli Con Carne

  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 2 peppers (green and red, or red and yellow… two different ones!)
  • Splash of olive oil
  • 500g minced beef
  • 1-2tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • A smidge of cayenne pepper- no more than a 1/4 tsp
  • 1 1/2 tsp oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tin/400g chopped tomatoes
  • 2 beef stock cubes dissolved in 1 1/2 mugs of boiling water (approximately 300ml), or the same of strong beef stock
  • 1 tin/400g kidney beans

Chop your onions and get them sweating in the oil over the medium to high heat.

Next chop your carrots into half moons, adding to the pan as you go.

Finally chop up your peppers and add them to the mix. Sweat the vegetables off together for about 5-7 minutes, making sure they don’t catch.

Measure out your spices- use your favourite chilli powder, and go as hot as you dare. This is also a good time to put the kettle on. Add the spices to the pan and stir them through the vegetables over the heat to warm them.

Add your meat and with the spoon break it up, turning it through the vegetables as it browns. Add a pinch of salt and a couple of pepper.

Dissolve the stock in the water. Add the tomatoes to the pan and rinse the tin out with a splash of stock. Add this to the pan, followed by the rest of the stock. Stir through.

Let the mixture simmer for 20-30 minutes, checking it and stirring it every 10-15 minutes to ensure it doesn’t catch. Taste and adjust the seasoning (chilli, salt and pepper) to taste.

When the mixture is nearly reduced enough, drain and rinse your beans and stir them into the sauce. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes.

Serve with rice or a jacket potato, plenty of cheese and sour cream.


This Chilli is so rich and flavoursome and comforting I can eat it cold in sandwiches. It’s also a great filling for quesadillas and stuffed peppers, and scrummy on nachos. It’s such a joy to make because it’s so easy- all the stages of prep fit in to one another so perfectly and it doesn’t take too long to thicken and finish. This is a great recipe for students, newbie cooks, those feeding hungry kids and teens and even for a single career-girl in her mid twenties like me- extra portions freeze perfectly. This recipe yields a good five portions, seven more modest ones, so it’s a lovely thing to throw together for friends for a chilled out tea together. Like I said earlier in the post, I think the bright spice flavours make this lovely for summer (whether on the jacket or in lettuce wraps!) yet warm and cosy for winter (with lots of rice or potatoes). Of course, it’s easy to customise too- you can swap the beef out for turkey mince or Quorn mince for a start. If you love garlic, feel free to add some minced cloves in with the onions, and you can replace the dried chilli powder for two fresh chillies, or add both for a really potent mix.