30-Minute Winter Warmers

14 November 2016 | Schwartz

When it's dark and bitterly cold outside, what better way to restore cheer than with a glorious homemade dish bursting with herbs and spices? Winter might bring frostbitten fingers, but it also brings plenty of gourmet gifts. Feast on glossy aubergines in imperial shades of purple, tender venison steaks the colour of some good port wine and fresh mackerel toasted to perfection. The last thing you want to do after a long, dark day is spend all night in the kitchen, so we've selected four exquisite recipes that take under 30 minutes to prepare. Dash home, turn the heating up to the max and blast away the winter blues with one of these opulent options.

Crispy Duck Breast with Plum and Star Anise Sauce

What can we say? Some combos in life just make sense – like crispy aromatic duck and fire roasted plum sauce. Steeped in oriental mysticism, this quick Chinese inspired dish boasts a patchwork quilt of flavours, including delicate Star Anise and a kick of Szechuan Pepper for heat. We suggest you serve up a slab of Spicy Plum Crumble for dessert as it complements the duck beautifully.

Roast Venison with Roasted Pears

It's tempting to stick to dependable beef stews and cosy casseroles when you fancy something homely, but why not give venison a whirl? Deer meat tastes similar to beef, except it's stronger with a slight gamey note (which is why venison pie is a popular inclusion on gastropub menus). We've paired these succulent venison steaks with caramelized slow-roasted pears to relax the taste, spiked with piquant Juniper Berries.

Seared Mackerel Fillets with Apple Confit, Rosemary and Pine Kernels

With its powerful aroma, mackerel has often been described as a fish-lovers' fish – and that's just fine with us. For a winter dinner you can serve up in a snap, sear mackerel fillets with sweet and crisp Bramley apple confit. Season with the scent of winter woodland by toasting pine kernels and scattering with sprigs of menthol rosemary. If you like you food easy on the eye, decorate with wheels of lemon before plating up.

Aubergine and Goat Cheese Torte with Honey Harissa Sauce

We pilfered this recipe from the Greeks, who do aubergine with aplomb. We only wish we could steal their sunshine too. Honey and harissa soaked aubergine slices are swathed in nutty Kataifi pastry dough for a taste of winter luxury. If you've ever wondered how to cook aubergine, you'll get some good practice in with this tantalising torte. You can peel the aubergines if you prefer, but leaving the skin on adds another great texture to this tasty pastry dish.