Winter warmer recipes, from lasagne to meatballs | Jane de Graaff for the Today Show

We’re right in the heart of winter now. The days are pretty short, the nights are cold, and the rain… well, the rain is really sticking around.

Here are four classic winter dishes that will bring the warmth right back into your life. Let’s call it bake, balls, cream-pasta and soup – all the dishes that will give you a cuddle from the inside until the days warm up again.

I dropped into Today to talk through the tricks that make these classics the best dishes for winter. (Watch the video above.)

lasagne

This one is all about the ragu, or bolognese, sauce that goes in the layers.

Jane de Graaff's slow cooked pork and fennel ragu lasagne
Jane de Graaff’s slow cooked pork and fennel ragu lasagne (Supplied)

If you find a bolognese recipe you like and make sure you let is really simmer low and slow for as long as possible, you’ll get all the flavor out of every single thing you put in it.

Mince with some fat always adds flavour, using veggies that have sweetness (like fennel bulb) will take it next level, and if you can let it sit for a day in the fridge afterwards or even freeze it, then you’ll get the depth of flavor only time can bring out.

Don’t be afraid to make the ragu ahead and keep it in the freezer for when a lasagne takes your fancy. Then, make sure you don’t scrimp on the bechamel sauce and the cheese.

Pro tip: Make the sauce ahead of time to let the flavor develop.

RECEIVE: Jane’s slow cooked pork and fennel ragu lasagne

meatballs

Friday: Swedish meatballs
Meatballs will always warm you up.

Again, the trick here is in making sure you have good mince. Mince with fat in it will hold the meatballs together much better than lean mince. It also adds flavor and mouthfeel – no one likes a crumbly meatball.

Baking your meatballs instead of pan-frying them keeps them moist and juicy while they cook through. Then it’s all about the accompaniments.

For Swedish-style meatballs, I like to make a milk-based gravy sauce, flavored with a bit of allspice and cinnamon. Mashed potato or fettucine is perfect for catching all the juices, and red currant jelly or cherry jam served with it all is essential to finish off that wintery feel.

Pro tip: Baking your meatballs will keep them juicy.

RECEIVE: Swedish style meatballs

beef stroganoff

Every year, beef stroganoff is named as one of the most searched recipes on the internet. It’s creamy, delicious and actually a great way to make a little meat go a long way.

Beef stroganoff that's easy enough to make tonight
Nothing says winter like beef stroganoff. (Supplied)

The trick here is to use a good piece of steak as the basis for the dish. You want some fat, and a cut that will become nice tender strips. One good quality steak will feed up to six people this way, without forking out the $$ for a steak for everyone.

Just make sure you quickly brown the strips and then take them out of the pan before they are overcooked. Then it’s bulked out with delicious mushrooms and served over rice, pasta or mash to scoop up all that creamy sauce.

Pro tip: One good piece of steak will feed far more people when cut up and served in a stroganoff.

RECEIVE: Classic beef stroganoff recipe

Pea and ham soup

This is the ultimate budget buster. Split peas are the classic base and they cost about $1.35 for 500g, which easily feeds 10 people once it’s turned into a batch of soup.

Pork hock is also a great way to flavor the soup without spending a bomb on a roast. But if you have left over ham or pork bones, those are free because you’d be throwing them away.

The last batch I made cost me $1.20 per serve, and that was being generous in my estimates. It’s hearty, filling, damn delicious and a great way to make your money go further.

RECEIVE: Nan’s pea and ham soup

Warm up with these recipes and tricks, and you should stay snuggly until the warmer days return.

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Healthy, warming soup feels like a big cuddle

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