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Experts turn to cold faithfuls


Sue Williams

The traditionalist ... Matt Preston can't resist a good pea 'n' ham soup when the mercury drops.

The traditionalist ... Matt Preston can't resist a good pea 'n' ham soup when the mercury drops.

Crackling fires, a pot of soup simmering on the cooktop and mugs of cocoa before bed. Winter has its upsides, but what does it mean to some of Australia's top foodies?

''If I'm cooking at home, I love making soups and stews just like everyone else at this time of year,'' says chef Luke Mangan, who owns Sydney restaurant Glass.

''My mum's favourite was always a vegetable soup with pearl barley and sometimes chicken … or I'll cook something simple like braised beef cheeks with mashed potato and green beans, or braised oxtail, with red wine to drink.''

Kylie Kwong enjoys slow-cooked beef with rich red wine.

Kylie Kwong enjoys slow-cooked beef with rich red wine. Photo: Marco Del Grande

In winter, home is his favourite place, but when he does venture out, it might be to Italian trattoria Buzo in Woollahra. ''It's really cosy and they have lovely warm winter stews,'' he says.

It's a very similar winter's tale for Aria's Matt Moran: ''My choice of winter dishes would be braised beef cheeks, cooked at home.''

Stew features high on most winter wish-lists. Sydney Morning Herald food critic Terry Durack says he'll go anywhere with stew on the menu, whether it's a French bistro for a pork-and-beans cassoulet, or a Spanish restaurant for a pork-and-beans fabada.

Red wine is popular with many foodies when the weather turns chilly.

Red wine is popular with many foodies when the weather turns chilly.

''I'll head out to an Italian on the coldest night in the year for an osso bucco, or into Chinatown for a brisket hotpot or a Thai curry - they're all stews and they all do the job,'' he says. ''Winter also means pies, which after all are only stews encased in pastry. A hot pie and sauce with the footy is a great match, and I don't care how cold it gets.''

For top providore Simon Johnson, his top winter choice is … going to summery Europe to eat. But at home, it's all about comfort food and, yes, stews.

''I turn to braised oxtail, osso bucco and beautiful risottos eaten in front of the fire,'' he says. ''It's cocooning, and similarly there's nothing better than sharing a roast chicken, a shoulder of lamb, a wagyu corned silverside or some beautiful pork belly with friends on a cold night.

Matt Moran is fond of braised beef cheeks cooked at home.

Matt Moran is fond of braised beef cheeks cooked at home. Photo: Simon Upton

''Spice is also fantastic and the other night I went to Longrain to share a whole fish. Root vegetables come into their own, too, and I like roasting parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes and leeks.

Some friends turn to hot chocolate in the morning but I'm trying to be healthier, so sadly I'll go for a walk instead!''

Winter is no excuse to turn to stodge, advises Neil Perry, of Rockpool, Rockpool Bar and Grill and Spice Temple. ''Generally, I like eating good food all year round, with fresh ingredients and quality produce,'' he says. ''But in winter, I may do the odd braise that I tend not to do in summer. I also love those winter vegetables like artichokes, broad beans, celeriac and fennel.''

Braised beef cheeks.

Braised beef cheeks. Photo: Marina Oliphant

And if he eats out? ''My favourite winter restaurant would be Chairman Mao in Kensington for their fiery hot food and beautifully done pork dishes,'' he says.

Rockpool Bar and Grill is where Billy Kwong's Kylie Kwong likes to spend a winter's evening, with a Cape Grim grass-fed T-bone and a glass of Domaine Tempier Bandol rose. ''I have the same thing every time,'' she says. ''But the food, and the place, is so rich and comforting and delicious.''

At home, it's about slow-braised biodynamic beef brisket. ''It's hearty and being on the stove for hours, it warms up the whole house,'' she says. ''Perfect with a dark, rich, chocolatey burgundy.''

PaperPlanes' chef Jin Kung tucks into ramen and curry.

PaperPlanes' chef Jin Kung tucks into ramen and curry. Photo: Danielle Smith

MasterChef's Matt Preston is full of cheery winter connections. ''Red wine, quinces, lemon delicious, making soup - especially pea 'n' ham - silverbeet in the garden, a thick full pot of stew and dumplings and sitting in a pub dining room with an open fire and a pint of Guinness,'' he says. ''Then there's toasting chestnuts and sucking the burnt fingers that follow, or finding a sunny spot on a cafe's protected terrace for a long brunch.''

At both ends of the day, meals get a winter overhaul at the home of food writer Jill Dupleix. ''For me, winter means moving from bircher muesli to porridge in the mornings, and from Campari and soda to an Americano [warmed up with Martini Rosso vermouth] in the evenings,'' she says.

''It also means pea 'n' ham soup and slow-cooked roasts, and spicy hot curries and lots of red wine. I love hibernating at home, catching up on films and books and cryptic crosswords, so that I emerge in spring a lot smarter than I was, feeling frisky.''

Menya Noodle Bar's tonkotsu shoyu No.1.

Menya Noodle Bar's tonkotsu shoyu No.1. Photo: Marco Del Grande

Chef Lauren Murdoch put Sydney CBD's Felix Bar & Bistro on the map before taking a break. ''I really like cooking legumes in winter as you can afford to put on a bit of weight under the layers,'' she says. ''It can be lentil soups and slow-cooking pearl barley-and-chicken soup, finished off with lemon zest and rocket - and I love winter leaves.

''I also start choosing heavier red wines, like cab savs. If I'm going out, I love going to Sepia on Sussex Street as it's such a cosy, comfortable interior space when it's cold outside, and also Icebergs at Bondi as it's great to be rugged up inside and seeing the cold wintry weather outside.''

Nearby in Bondi, PaperPlanes head chef Jin Kung also has her winter loves - ramen at the Menya Noodle Bar in Chinatown and dumplings at Din Tai Fung on George Street. ''My favourite dishes for winter would be soup, ramen and curry, all food that's juicy and spicy and fills you up,'' she says.

Quinces are one of Matt Preston's winter treats.

Quinces are one of Matt Preston's winter treats. Photo: Marina Oliphant

''But if I'm cooking at home, I like to make lamb noodle soup and I also drink a lot of ginger tea, with honey, and also some whiskey and sake. Even in the coldest of winters, they always make your whole body feel warm.''

What winter means to ...

Jin Kung, PaperPlanes Lamb noodle soup, ginger tea with honey, whiskey and sake.

Perfect cold weather fodder: roast chicken and vegetables.

Perfect cold weather fodder: roast chicken and vegetables. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Kylie Kwong, Billy Kwong Slow-braised beef brisket with a glass of burgundy.

Simon Johnson, providore Roast chicken, lamb shoulder, Wagyu corned silverside.

Luke Mangan, Glass Braised beef cheeks or braised oxtail, with red wine.

Neil Perry, Rockpool Artichokes, broad beans, celeriac and fennel.

Matt Preston Red wine, quinces, lemon delicious, making soup.


  • My mum was probably the best cook I have ever met...and sadly she is no longer with us...and I never really learned how she did it :(...however she seemed to of the era that were able to turn almost anything into a meal for many - and with minimal ingredients. This is why I, and I am sure many, dont really enjoy pretentious food and pretentious cooks/chefs, tasty food doesnt need lots of ingredients. I weep for mums roast lamb, chicken and potatoes - always delicious...and her scones! wow! I have never ever seen such scones since!...and none of my brothers or I know how she did it :( My kingdom for a great scone! :)

    Date and time
    June 08, 2012, 11:54AM
    • I'm also sorry about your Mum Peter. Do give the scones a go, they're not difficult and will bring back cherished memories for you. I try to write down my recipes as well as teaching them to my boys. Those sensory memories are precious.

      Date and time
      June 08, 2012, 4:02PM
  • I am sorry that you lost your Mum... in particular that she could not share the recipes that you now desire... I am sure she is looking down and hoping to inspire you. Scones are easy.. the most important thing is an even oven temp, a good recipe, and do not roll out the dough too flat.
    I do not have my recipe here, by its the Margaret Fulton one which I have used for years and years... and then get the scones out of the oven quickly... and eat... yum

    Date and time
    June 08, 2012, 3:22PM
    • @Irene and Katie....thanks so much for your kind thoughts :) I encourage everyone not to make the same mistakes and get out there and write down your family favourites - time really does fly! Currently I have been playing with the 'recently famous' Cream+SR Flour+ Lemonade (Sprite seems best so far). They come out ok - but just a bit stodgy! Taste is that fine 'scone flavour' - but they are not the light and just too stodgy...and they dont taste as nice straight from the oven. I would be delighted if you could share some recipes of your own? Thanks so much from a coolish (30C) and damp Bangkok :)

      Bangkok, Thailand
      Date and time
      June 08, 2012, 5:47PM
  • The best winter food can be summed up in one word: SOUP!

    Easy to make, delicious to eat. Definitely a favourite in our house.

    Date and time
    June 08, 2012, 3:27PM
    Comments are now closed

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