6 English Comfort Food Recipes Helping You Banish the Winter Blues
The English aren’t exactly known for their cuisine, but perhaps it’s time we gave our friends across the pond a little more credit. After century upon century of battling through fog and rain, it comes as no major surprise that this island nation has excelled in the world of comfort food: Fine meats, buttery sauces, root vegetables, and flaky butter crusts characterize the fare, resulting in dishes worthy of nothing less than royalty.
Beat back your own cold weather blues by sampling any of these 6 English-style comfort foods at home.
1. Shepherd’s Pie
This dish is one of England’s most beloved comfort food classics, combining chopped lamb meat and root vegetables with a creamy mashed potato topping. Chef Tom Aikens shared his Shepherd’s Pie recipe with Food & Wine, infusing the dish’s milk and cream components with fresh herbs to lend an elegant flavor to his potato topping. The recipe takes 2 hours and 20 minutes to make and yields 8 servings, making it an ideal choice for a cozy winter family dinner.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 pounds ground lamb
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, cut into ⅓-inch dice
- 2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into ⅓-inch dice
- 2 large carrots, cut into ⅓-inch dice
- 2 large celery ribs, cut into ⅓-inch dice
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 quart beef stock
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- One 3-inch rosemary sprig
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 thyme sprigs
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 2½ pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 3 large garlic cloves, halved
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Directions: Set a colander over a bowl. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the lamb, season with salt and pepper, and brown over high heat, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes. Transfer the lamb to the colander; wipe out the casserole.
Melt the butter in the casserole. Add the onion, turnips, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and water; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender, about 15 minutes.
Return the lamb to the casserole. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring, until the sauce has thickened, 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the lamb to eight 1½-cup ramekins or gratin dishes. Let cool.
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, cream, butter, oil, rosemary, bay leaf, thyme, and a pinch of nutmeg and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with water. Add the garlic and a large pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat until the potatoes are tender, 12 minutes; drain. Return the potatoes and garlic to the saucepan and shake over high heat until dry. Pass the potatoes and garlic through a ricer into a large bowl. Strain the milk mixture over the potatoes and stir it in. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread the mashed potatoes over the lamb. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 minutes, until the filling is bubbling. Preheat the broiler. Broil 4 inches from the heat for 2 minutes, until browned. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
2. Beef Wellington
Beef Wellington is a remarkably sumptuous dish, consisting of a pâté-coated steak filet brushed over with duxelles — a rich, buttery medley of chopped mushrooms, shallots, and herbs — all wrapped snugly inside a flaky puff pastry. This recipe from Food Network takes 2.5 hours and yields 6 to 8 servings. For a vegetarian-friendly version of the classic, we recommend Delicious Everyday’s Mushroom Wellington.
For the duxelles
- 3 pints (1½ pounds) white button mushrooms
- 2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the beef
- 1 (3-pound) center cut beef tenderloin (filet mignon), trimmed
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 12 thin slices prosciutto
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Flour, for rolling out puff pastry
- 1 pound puff pastry, thawed if using frozen
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
- Minced chives, for garnish
- Green Peppercorn Sauce, recipe follows
- Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, recipe follows
- Warm Wilted Winter Greens, recipe follows
Green Peppercorn Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
- 1 cup brandy
- 1 box beef stock
- 2 cups cream
- 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
- ½ cup green peppercorns in brine, drained, brine reserved
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes With Fresh Herbs and Garlic
- 2 pints fingerling potatoes
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 to 3 sprigs fresh sage
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 6 cloves garlic, left unpeeled
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for sheet pan
- Salt and pepper
Warm Wilted Winter Greens
- ¼ cup honey
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- ½ pint walnuts, for garnish
- 3 bunches assorted winter greens (Swiss chard, radicchio, or escarole), washed, stemmed, and torn into pieces
- 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds, for garnish
- Parmesan shavings, for garnish
- 1 shallot, chopped, for garnish
Directions: For the beef — To make the duxelles, add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add butter and olive oil to a large sauté pan and set over medium heat. Add the shallot and mushroom mixture and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
To prepare the beef – Tie the tenderloin in 4 places so it holds its cylindrical shape while cooking. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and sear all over, including the ends, in a hot, heavy-based skillet lightly coated with olive oil, about 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile set out your prosciutto on a sheet of plastic wrap (plastic needs to be about a foot and a half in length so you can wrap and tie the roast up in it) on top of your cutting board. Shingle the prosciutto so it forms a rectangle that is big enough to encompass the entire filet of beef.
Using a rubber spatula, cover evenly with a thin layer of duxelles. Season the surface of the duxelles with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. When the beef is seared, remove from heat, cut off twine, and smear lightly all over with Dijon mustard. Allow to cool slightly, then roll up in the duxelles-covered prosciutto using the plastic wrap to tie it up nice and tight. Tuck in the ends of the prosciutto as you roll to completely encompass the beef. Roll it up tightly in plastic wrap and twist the ends to seal it completely and hold it in a nice log shape. Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to ensure it maintains its shape.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to about a ¼-inch thickness. Depending on the size of your sheets, you may have to overlap 2 sheets and press them together. Remove beef from refrigerator and cut off plastic. Set the beef in the center of the pastry and fold over the longer sides, brushing with egg wash to seal. Trim ends if necessary, then brush with egg wash and fold over to completely seal the beef, saving ends to use as a decoration on top if desired. Top with coarse sea salt. Place the beef seam side down on a baking sheet.
Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash, then make a couple of slits in the top of the pastry using the tip of a paring knife — this creates vents that will allow the steam to escape when cooking. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until pastry is golden-brown and beef registers 125 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from oven and rest before cutting into thick slices. Garnish with minced chives and serve with Green Peppercorn Sauce, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, and Warm Wilted Winter Greens.
Green Peppercorn Sauce – Add olive oil to pan after removing beef. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme; saute for 1 to 2 minutes, then, off heat, add brandy and flambé using a long kitchen match. After flame dies down, return to the heat, add stock, and reduce by about half. Strain out solids, then add 2 cups cream and mustard. Reduce by half again, then shut off heat and add green peppercorns.
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes With Fresh Herbs and Garlic – Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and place a baking sheet inside to heat.
Add potatoes, rosemary, sage, thyme, and garlic to a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Remove sheet pan from oven, lightly coat with olive oil, and pour potatoes onto pan. Place potatoes in oven and reduce heat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast for 20 minutes, or until crispy on outside and tender on inside.
Warm Wilted Winter Greens – Cook honey and balsamic together over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan, about 5 minutes. Toast walnuts in a small skillet; set aside to cool.
Pile greens on a platter. Stir mustard into balsamic-honey dressing, then whisk in about 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil; pour over greens. Season greens with salt and pepper, and garnish with walnuts, pomegranate seeds, shavings of Parmesan, and shallot.
3. Yorkshire Puddings With Red Wine Mushroom Gravy
No, this isn’t Jell-O pudding — nothing even close to it, in fact. Yorkshire Pudding is a crispy, golden, pillowy-soft side dish baked from an egg-based batter. The porous, doughy consistency of the dish is ideal for sopping up rich gravy and other savory juices, making it a vital component in traditional meals and roasts throughout England. Port and Fin’s recipe sticks with a tried-and-true preparation method for the dish, baking up a simple batter to enjoy alongside a warming Mushroom, Onion, and Red Wine Gravy. The recipe takes 45 minutes to make.
- 1½ cup flour
- 1¼ cup milk
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- 1 level teaspoon salt
- Beef fat, duck fat, or vegetable oil
Mushroom Red Onion Gravy
- ½ a red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 12 crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- 1 cup red wine
- 1¼ cup chicken, beef or vegetable stock
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the gravy, heat a glug of olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft. Add mushrooms and thyme to the onion pan and stir. Sprinkle 1 heaped tablespoon of flour into the pan and stir to coat everything.
Add the red wine and turn up the heat, bringing everything to a boil and reducing the wine to almost nothing. Add the chicken stock, stir, and simmer until thickened.
For the Yorkshire Pudding — Add salt to flour and blend. Add milk and mix. It should drop easily from a spoon, but not be too runny.
Add eggs and beat. Add cold water. The mixture should still be fairly thick.
Put enough fat or oil in a muffin tin to cover the bottom. Be sure it gets very hot (you can preheat the muffin tin before adding fat/oil to ensure it is hot enough).
Pour mixture into muffin tin and bake for 20 to 30 minutes. They should be nice and fairly dark brown, and very poofy.
Keep the Yorkshire Puddings warm until you eat them, and that way they won’t collapse, or, ideally, serve them immediately, heaped with gravy.
4. Chicken and Root Vegetable Cornish Pasty
Snuggle up for the winter and indulge yourself with this incredibly savory meat pie (or “pasty”) from Healthy Nibbles and Bits. This Chicken and Root Vegetable Cornish Pasty is flaky and buttery on the outside and overflowing with hot veggies, shallots, herbs, and chicken on the inside, all making for a delightfully warming snack. This recipe takes about an hour and 35 minutes to make and yields 6 servings.
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cold butter (2 sticks)
- ¾ cup water
- Pinch of salt
- 12 ounces cooked chicken breast, cubed
- 3 shallots, diced
- 1 large yukon potato, peeled and diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
- 1 stalk of celery, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Generous pinch of salt
- Black pepper
- Several sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme
- 1 large egg, whisked
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Pour the flour into a large bowl and add a pinch of salt. Cut the butter into slices and put it into the bowl. Using your hands, rub the butter together with the flour until the floured butter is in the shape of small peas. Add the water and mix up the batter until the dough is just moistened. Pat the dough into a ball shape.
Prepare the filling by mixing together the chicken, shallot, carrots, parsnips, and celery. Make sure that the diced vegetables are cut pretty small, roughly ¼-inch cubes. Take the rosemary and thyme and remove the leaves from the stem. Give it a couple of rough chops. Mix the nutmeg, salt, rosemary, thyme, and pepper with the chicken and vegetables.
Divide the dough into 6 pieces. On a well-floured surface, use a floured rolling pin to roll out the dough to an 8½-inch circle. Make sure to turn the dough frequently to prevent sticking. You can prepare all the dough at once, or work one pasty at a time.
Take a small handful of filling and place it in the center of the rolled-out dough. Make sure that there is about an inch of clear space around the edge of the dough. Brush the egg white along this empty space.
Fold the dough over the vegetables to create a semi-circle shape and seal the pastry. You can crimp the edges with a fork or fold it. Brush some of the egg wash over the entire pasty. Repeat these steps for the rest of the dough.
Place the prepared pasties on the baking sheets and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the pasties are golden-brown. Best served immediately!
5. Welsh Rarebit
Contrary to what this dish’s name might have you believe, it did not originate in Wales. The Online Etymological Dictionary notes that the term “Welsh” in this phrasing may, however, refer to the Welsh people’s known affinity for cheese — an ingredient this dish offers in spades.
Although the origins of the dish’s name may be lost to time, the simple, delicious warmth it provides through the chilly winter season is appreciated to this day. Melt cheeses, egg, chives, cream, beer, and seasonings together to make a gooey, hot cheese dip, then pour the mixture over toast or bread for a blissfully fondue-like dish. The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Welsh Rarebit takes 15 minutes to make and yields 4 servings.
- Slices of crusty bread, buttered and browned under the broiler
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- ½ cup beer
- 1 teaspoon (heaping) dry mustard
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 whole egg yolk
- Fresh chives, chopped
Directions: Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk together until combined. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes.
Pour in milk and beer, whisking constantly, and cook for an additional minute. Add mustard, paprika, and cayenne and whisk.
Add cheese and whisk slowly, cooking for a couple of minutes or until smooth, melted, and very hot. Remove from heat and whisk in egg yolk, Serve immediately (while hot) over toast. Sprinkle with chopped chives before serving.
6. Bangers and Mash With Onion Gravy
There’s no better way to banish those pesky winter shivers the English way than with traditional bangers and mash (“bangers” referring to sausage, “mash” referring to mashed potatoes). Verses From My Kitchen’s recipe also includes a savory onion gravy to slather on top of your buttery thyme-spiced sausages and mashed potatoes. This Bangers and Mash With Onion Gravy dish is sure to warm you from your fingers to your toes!
- 4 pork sausages
- Olive oil
- Handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked
- 5 large potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
- ¾ cup milk
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 4 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup beef stock
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Using a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, fry the sausages on all sides until browned all over, about 5 minutes. Place the pan and sausages into the oven and cook for a further 15 minutes, or until crisp all over.
While the sausages are cooking, boil the potatoes in a large pot with generously salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and return to the pot. Mash the potatoes with the milk and butter until smooth. Put a lid on the pot and keep warm on the back burner until it’s needed.
Fry the onions in a large pan with the lid on with a little oil and butter over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, or until softened. Take off the lid and turn up the heat and cook until golden-brown. Add in the flour and the stock, and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until you have the consistency of gravy.
To plate, spoon some smooth potatoes onto the bottom of a plate. Top with two sausages, chopped or whole, and spoon over the onion gravy over top. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over top.