Hold the cabbage soup!

With the festive season behind us, diets seem to be everywhere – but when it’s cold, wet and grey, most of us need something tasty and warming to keep us going. For me, healthy eating starts with good, simple ingredients – take lean, fantastic meat, local, seasonal produce along with a good homemade stock and braised slowly together, and you couldn’t ask for a more satisfying and nutritious family meal.

I’ve written before about the merits of slow cookers – and there are usually some good bargains on sale at this time of year – but when you walk in the door at the end of the day and are greeted by the smell of a homemade casserole, something magic happens.

I’m often asked what’s good to cook this way and I do love a chicken casserole – low-cost (as January’s usually a budget month!) chicken thighs, slow-cooked with root vegetables is one of the best bargain dinners I know.

If you’re feeling slightly more indulgent, venison is a lovely braising meat and cooking it slowly brings out all its delicious flavours. Packed with protein and low in fat, it’s a win, win, win dish that never fails to please. And when you want to spice things up, a slow-cooked chilli con carne is a real crowd-pleaser that’s perfect for Friday night or weekend entertaining.

Now, Norfolk chef Galton Blackiston shared a fabulous slow-braised lamb dish on Saturday Kitchen – using breast meat with artichoke puree and purple sprouting broccoli, cooked over two days, it takes a bit of time and effort, but the result is simply stunning. Go on, it might be January, but you deserve something special to see you through to spring so give it a go!