The wettest January on record has kept us all in wellies for most of the month.

Despite the fact that it has been milder than normal, we all still need hearty food that keeps us stoked up at this time of the year.

Mash is the ultimate comfort food, especially if you add a dollop of cream and a grating of fresh nutmeg

Stews and casseroles are great winter warmers too.

Cook them long and slow in the oven for a rich and delicious meal that takes very little effort.

The great thing about slow cooking is that you can use the cheaper cuts of meat - they are tender and brimming with flavour after a couple of hours in the oven.

Shoulder of lamb is perfect, and it often has more flavour than leg, as well as hurting the pocket less.

For something slightly more exotic, try venison. It is low in fat and full of flavour, and partners very well indeed with red wine or port, and a hint of juniper.

To keep costs down, why not slow cook some jacket potatoes while the oven is on anyway.

If there’s space for an extra dish, you can also use the heat to cook a pudding.

A crumble is simple and quick to make, and is always a firm favourite.

Apple is the usual fruit used in this dish, but the choice is yours. You can mix and match apple and frozen or tinned fruit such as blackberry, to add some interest and colour.

Braised shoulder of venison, scented with juniper

1kg diced shoulder of venison

375mls red wine

1 litre reduced venison or beef stock

3 large carrots diced

3 large onions diced

4 cloves of garlic

Tablespoon juniper berries, crushed


Fry the venison and vegetables until golden brown on all sides, drain excess fat through a colander.

Boil the wine and reduce by half, add the stock, and bring to the boil, then add the seared venison and vegetables, bring the whole mixture back to the boil and add the juniper.

Place in a medium oven at 140c or gas mark 3 for approx 2 hours, or until tender.

Drain the meat from the sauce, bring the sauce to the boil and reduce until you reach a thicker consistency, return the meat to the sauce and season. Serve with a selection of seasonal vegetables and new potatoes, a jacket potato or mash.