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!



Cosy Crumble

Halloween has been and gone. Guy Fawkes’ Night is almost upon us. Christmas is just around the corner. Comfort food season has truly arrived.

When it comes to comfort food, some of the best dishes, whilst simple, take a long time cooking. That’s fine- gives you time to get on with Christmas card lists and catching up on Downton. However, I work pretty much full time, I’m surprisingly lazy, and I want my comfort food done quick. When it comes to main meals, that often means reheating portions, or pasta for me. When it comes to dessert, it means crumble.

You can’t go wrong with an apple crumble- they’re universally popular and extremely versatile. Autumn is apple season, but they are readily available all year round and as such are a kitchen staple, as are the rest of the ingredients in this simple but delicious pudding. Frankly, anyone who doesn’t like crumble is probably a cyborg, anyway, and as such should be cut from your social circle.

Here’s how I make a dessert in minutes, that goes in the oven to cook as soon as the main meal is out. Apologies for imperial measurements- this is how I was taught to make crumble by my mum, and it’s how I remember it.



Cosy Crumble

  • 4oz Butter, cold
  • 4oz Caster sugar
  • 4oz Plain flour, plus an additional 1-2oz as required
  • 1tsp Cinnamon
  • 5 Eating apples (I used Braeburns. You can use cooking apples, but you will probably only need four, and you may wish to add additional sugar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 4oz Sultanas
  • Demerara Sugar and a further scant tsp Cinnamon to finish


Preheat the oven to 180c, or use a hot oven following cooking a main meal.

Rub the butter, caster sugar and flour together with your fingertips to form a crumbling crumb. If the mix is too soft and wet, add the additional flour an ounce at a time and try to crumble it again. Once the mix is working, don’t be too pedantic about crumb size. You don’t want to overwork the mixture, and I like the rustic look.

Next, peel and core your apples. Chop into bite size pieces- about 12 chunks per apple. Place the apple in your ovenproof dish, and acidulate as you go with the lemon juice.

Scatter over the sultanas, a good pinch of Demerata sugar and some cinnamon (a scant 1/2 tsp should suffice), and briefly mix the contents together. Try to even out the top a little.

Pour over the crumble topping in a thick layer, and sprinkle with another hefty pinch of Demerara and another scant 1/2 tsp of cinnamon to finish.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is crisp and slightly caramelised. Serve with lashings of custard, cream or ice cream, and scoff greedily.


If you really HATE sultanas, of course you can omit them. However, they plump up beautifully, and add a beautiful depth of flavour, and amber jewel tone quality to the dessert.

Go make this. RIGHT NOW.

Love and cuddles!


Comfort Nosh

The weather has been truly abysmal the last few days. I’m a huge fan of Winter… when the weather behaves, and we have clear, crisp days (like today in sunny Portsmouth) or deep snow when we have nowhere to be. However, incessant rain, mud, gales and general horribleness that is driving me most of the way towards hibernation can go away, quite frankly. If Christmas wasn’t just around the bend, I’d be campaigning for spring already.

In the meantime, comfort food is the order of the day, and if you can sneak some green stuff into it, all the better. One wouldn’t wish to get scurvy in one’s bear den, would one?


Macaroni and Cheese is my ultimate comfort food. It’s vegetarian, pescatarian, polloterian and omnivore friendly (sorry vegans and the lactose intolerant- I just really like cheese) so a mostly safefood if you have discerning guests, easy peasy to make, satisfying in that you can make the whole lot from scratch (and I do), and so tasty it’s easy to accent it with vegetables to pretend its healthy. I tend to go for peas and sweetcorn, because no prep of them is required and I’m inherently lazy, but broccoli, green beans and/or peppers fit the bill too… ok, now I’m hungry.

Everyone has a different recipe- some like it with a crust, some don’t; some prefer certain spices in their cheese sauce, some don’t; some are toffs when it comes to the cheese content, and some, such as myself, just grab what’s available.

Mac n’ Chee

  • 1 pint milk
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50 grams butter
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • Black pepper to taste
  • up to 200-250g cheese (Cheddar, parmesan, gouda… pick your poison)
  • 200g Macaroni
  • Frozen peas and sweetcorn (about a mug/cup of each)
  • Optional: Grated parmesan


Pop your macaroni on to boil while you make your cheese sauce.

In a milk pan, create a roux with the flour and butter. To do that, add your butter and then your flour in quick succession, and stir as the butter melts into a paste.

Add your milk, little by little, whisking as you go to try and avoid lumps. I wouldn’t be too anal about it though, as they won’t be obvious in the final concoction.

Once all the milk is in, add your spices and keep stirring as the sauce thickens. This can take a little while depending on the shape of your pan, so be patient. As soon as the sauce is good and thick, take it off the heat.

Stir in your grated cheese- the ambient heat will melt it into the sauce. I like my sauce REALLY cheesy, so I usually use at least 180-200g of cheese, but depending on how flavoursome you like it, or the cheese you use, you can use less.

Strain your macaroni, and add it to your oven dish. Next combine it with your vegetables.

Add your cheesy sauce and mix through until all the ingredients are coated with gooey goodness. For extra cheesiness, you can now add any grated cheese you didn’t put in the sauce to the top of the mixture. Otherwise, you can top it with a generous crust of parmesan, or leave it simply as it is.


Bake in a preheated over at 190 for 35 -45 minutes. Check after 30 minutes. When done, let stand for a couple of minutes, then serve generously, and duly scoff, ideally with at least ONE other person, as this serves four…

You can shake up this recipe in all sorts of ways. Add bacon to give it a carbonara twist, and tinned tuna and broccoli make a great combo with the cheesy sauce. Seriously, make this little beauty your own.

And tell me how you get on, yes?