The weather has very quickly got a lot colder, and so it’s that time of year where we’re all craving delicious, warm, comforting bowls of food again. And with busy schedules and the current price of food in supermarkets, it can seem incredibly stressful to think of what to have for dinner, and often the last thing you want to do when you come home from a long day of work is make yourself a complicated, fussy meal. So, we’ve compiled a list of some amazing cheap and easy winter warmer bowl meals to sustain you this winter. The great thing about this type of cooking is that you don’t need any specific amounts of ingredients or specific cooking times; you can just chuck in however much you have or want. That’s why these are not recipes, and there are no ingredient lists – they are just ideas for you to (loosely) follow and come up with your own thing! And, all of these amazing meals can be made vegan or vegetarian – it’s up to you! So, without further ado, here they are!
Pasta e fagiolo
An Italian favourite meaning pasta and beans, this soup-come-pasta dish is sure to warm you up this winter season. And made with an assortment of vegetables, beans, and pasta, it is packed with vitamins, protein, fibre, and nutrients, and is sure to fill you up! And whilst this version of the recipe might not be authentically Italian, it’s incredibly easy and flexible!
If you want to, start out by frying up some chopped-up bacon for some extra flavour, but if you’d prefer the vegan option, skip to just chopping up a bunch of root vegetables – onions, leeks, carrots, celery (whatever you’ve got). Season very well (salt will help them soften and not burn), and sauté in some oil of your choosing for as long as you have patience for, but the longer the better. Then, add in any herbs, spices, or flavourings of your choice – garlic, chilli, parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, a stock cube – and cook them down. Now add in a can of crushed tomatoes or passata, if you want, and a good amount of boiling water (it is your choice how soupy you want this) and simmer for, again, as long as you can possibly wait. Now’s the time to add in any vegetables you might want, like broccoli, peas, kale, spinach, etc. Once you can’t wait any longer to eat, chuck in some dried pasta, and cook for about two minutes less than the packet says so that it doesn’t go mushy. Now, chuck in a strained can or two of cannelloni, kidney, or butter beans, leave them to thoroughly heat up, and you’re done! Serve into the biggest, most comforting bowl you have, and add some grated cheese if you want. Eat while binge-watching your favourite Netflix show!
The stew: classic, warming, and with a million different variations. Stews are a great one-pot dish to just chuck loads of stuff in to provide all the nutrients and vitamins you need in just one pot, you can make loads for meal-prep and leftovers, and you can freeze it to defrost later for a super quick dinner. They are also the perfect thing to have on stand-by for a rainy day, so it’s good to make as much as you can! They only take a few minutes of rough-chopping prep, and then you can leave them to, you guessed it, stew, for as long as you can whilst you get on with other things.
There is really no limit to what you can put in a stew, but for the most basic and simple template that you can riff on and make your own, start out with chopping up whichever vegetables you want. Sauté them for a bit in oil, and then add a few tablespoons of flour. Cook that out to get rid of the raw flour flavour for just a few minutes, and then add a can of tomatoes or passata, pour in water or stock and leave to simmer for as long as you want. Voila! Just like that, you have a stew. On top of that, you can brown some meat (anything will work) beforehand and add in before the flour, or you can use chickpeas, tofu, or beans for a vegan alternative. If you want to get really fancy, you can also add in any number of vegetables, herbs, and spices to add some excitement! Try cinnamon, cumin, chilli, ginger, and honey for a Moroccan feel; oregano, garlic, and basil for an Italian feel; garlic, mushrooms, and browned beef to make an easy Boeuf Bourguignon; some browned beef or lamb, Worcestershire sauce, and peas for an English shepherds’ pie vibe; or paprika, cumin, red peppers, and chilli for a Spanish feel! Also, you can add in some lentils around 40 minutes before the end or some pasta about 10 minutes before the end to give it some more bulk! The choice is yours!
Mixed vegetable soup
The dish you probably think of first when you imagine winter warmers, soups are perhaps the most comforting, and can also be the healthiest and easiest to make, of all these dishes. And what’s better is you can chuck in whatever you want!
This is barely a recipe – simply grab a bunch of vegetables, and either roast them first, or just chuck them raw into a blender or food processor. You can do tomatoes, onions, celery, leeks, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, peppers, spinach, lettuce, kale, peas, garlic, herbs, spices, or whatever else you want, in any combination you want (red pepper and tomato, pea and mint, or carrot and coriander are classic options)! If you’ve roasted them first, then feel free to eat immediately, but if not, simmer on the stove for as long as you want, but you should ideally do at least 30 minutes to make sure you get rid of all the raw flavours. If you don’t have a blender or food processor, then don’t worry! Just chop up a load of vegetables as small as you care to chop them, sauté them for a bit with lots of seasoning, add stock or water, boil for a bit, and enjoy!
Jazzed up instant ramen
A recipe involving instant ramen might not seem like a proper one, but there is no shame in an instant ramen! Absolutely delicious, very cheap, and possibly the easiest thing you can make, nothing is as invigorating and warming as a spicy bowl of hot, rich ramen. And this recipe (this term is used loosely) is entirely up to you – feel free to just follow the packet instructions, or add any amount of ingredients you want on top.
There are loads of things you can do to a bowl of ramen; you can just add some soy sauce and call it a day; you can add soy sauce, sesame oil, and maybe a soft-boiled egg or some crispy onions; you can fry some garlic, ginger, and sesame seeds in oil and drizzle this on top; for a healthier version, you can just put in some kale or spinach while cooking it; or you can do all of the above for a super delicious and filling, and yet still incredibly simple and affordable, meal!