December is here! My favorite month of the year with its cheerful festivities before winter gets serious, dull and long. In any household, there are winter staples that go well with the cold season, and do the job of not only warming you up but even the entire house while cooking.

There is nothing more satisfying than coming back home cold and hungry than to be met with the inviting aromas of a winter dish.

You just know deep in your heart that the agony of this cold gloomy day is over, and you open up for the warmth and comfort you immediately feel when entering your home.

Here are guaranteed nontraditional recipes that will surely do the trick!

  • Curried Butternut Squash & Pumpkin Soup:

Never intended to come up with this heart-warming soup; was hosting a dinner recently and was about to go for my classic mellow version of it, but something drew me to a more daring flavour. A reviving soup with a heat kick, just what you need in those cold winter evenings.

  • 400g butternut squash, roasted – 400g pumpkin, roasted – 1 large onion, roughly chopped – 1 large carrot – 1 garlic clove, chopped  – 2 cloves – 1 ½ tbsp curry powder – ¼ tsp cayenne pepper – 1 can of coconut milk –1 stock cube, vegetable or chicken – 250g cream – 2 tbsp sunflower oil – 1 piece of fresh ginger, peeled – salt & pepper.
  1. After roasting the squash and pumpkin, peel their skin off and put on the side.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil then add the curry powder, give it a good stir without burning the powder. It’s an important step to release maximum aromatic flavours.
  3. Now add the onion and stir fry until translucent.
  4. Add all the vegetables, stir fry for 2-3 mins, then add coconut milk and about 2 cups of water.
  5. Add the cloves and the stock cube, bring to the boil then simmer until carrots are soft.
  6. Remove the cloves then blend all ingredients together until smooth consistency.
  7. Add fresh ginger and cayenne pepper then bring to the boil.
  8. Simmer for 5 mins, then stir in the cream and simmer for another 2 mins. Enjoy!
  • My Easy Imbakbaka:

I highly regard this hearty one-pot dish for its nutritious value and the energy it releases; a perfect winter meal. I was first introduced to it by mother in-law, and now it’s another quick and wholesome staple in our house. While there are many versions and surely more authentic ones, I developed this recipe from my usual stock of spices and kind of stuck with it for its convenience and taste.

  • Shopping Basket:  500g diced beef – 1 can of chickpeas – 1 medium finely chopped onion – 1 pack of dry shell pasta (400g) – 3 tbsp sunflower oil – 2 crushed garlic cloves – ¼ tsp nutmeg – ½ tsp cinnamon – ½ tsp turmeric – ½ tsp cayenne pepper – ½ tsp paprika – ½ tsp mixed spices (Arabic or Levantine) – 1 tbsp tomato paste – salt & pepper.
  1. In a large pot, stir fry the onions until golden colour. Add the beef, garlic and all spices; then brown.
  2. Add the tomato paste and season well with salt & pepper. Just cover with water and let the thick mixture simmer on low heat for 4-5 mins.
  3. Fill up ¾ of pot with water; bring to the boil until meat is cooked to your liking.
  4. Stir in the pasta and drained chickpeas, cover with lid and simmer until pasta is cooked, without drying out the glistening sauce. Winter food at its best!
  • Dal Makhani:

This is one of my favourite dishes on earth, my epitome for comfort, hearty and gut-warming food. An Indian creamy black lentil stew, that once tried, it will soar up high in your Top Favourite Food List, try and see! This is a relatively easy and quick version for the famous specialty with accessible ingredients. Believe me, it’s worth the time and effort!

  • Shopping Basket: 1 cup of black lentils – 1 medium onion, finely grated – 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated– 3 tbsp sunflower oil – 3 crushed garlic cloves – 1 can tomato puree – 1 ½ tsp garam masala – ½ tsp cumin – ½ tsp cayenne pepper – ½ tsp ground coriander – 1 tbsp tomato paste – 1 bay leaf – 3 tbsp butter – 1 tbsp lime juice – 1 handful of chopped fresh coriander – ½ cup of cream – salt & pepper.

1. Wash and rinse the whole black lentil in a large bowl. Soak in 3 cups water overnight.

2. In the morning drain the lentils, and then transfer to a pressure cooker with ½ tsp salt. Add around 3 cups of water. Pressure cook on high-medium heat for 8 whistles, then lower the heat to low-medium and cook for another 8 minutes. In total, around 12 to 18 whistles. The lentils should be completely cooked, and you should be able to mash them with your fingers.

3. In a large pot, heat 2 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp ghee on medium heat. Add the grated onion and stir-fry until it turns light golden brown; keep heat on medium.

4. Add the grated ginger and garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

5. Stir in the tomato paste and tomato puree, cook for 2 minutes. Then, add in the boiled lentils.

6. Add all the dry spices and mix well to combine. Then add ½ cup water, stir and let it simmer on low heat for around 45 minutes. Stir often to stop the dal from sticking to bottom of the pot. You will also need to add water.

7. Add the sugar and the remaining 1 tbsp butter and ¼ cup cream. Simmer for 10 more minutes on low heat after adding the cream.  You may serve the dal at this point or do an additional step of giving it a smoky flavour (optional).

8. Place a hot charcoal in a piece of aluminium foil in a large stainless soup ladle. Pour melted ghee (around 1 tablespoon) on top of charcoal. You will immediately see fumes coming out of charcoal. Immediately close the pan with a lid (with holding the ladle inside over the dal).

Let it remain like this for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, remove lid and remove the ladle. Garnish with more cream and fresh coriander and serve with nan bread or Basmati rice. Enjoy!