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Big flavours, no fuss: our food ed's go-to recipes for warming winter dishes

You don't need a ton of ingredients to whip up a comforting chicken casserole, spicy fish pies or a classic baked sago pud

18 June 2020 - 00:00 By hilary biller
Soup-er chicken and mushroom casserole.
Soup-er chicken and mushroom casserole.
Image: Craig Scott

There's nothing like an icy cold spell to make you crave warming, rib-sticking, carb-rich dishes. 

I’m in favour of easy-to-prepare recipes that don’t take tons of ingredients and offer excellent results - as this trio does:


This is my go-to recipe when I need a quick supper that doesn’t require lots of thought. Great for chilly evenings, it's super saucy and never disappoints on flavour.

Serve it over rice or mash or with a French loaf or focaccia to mop up all those tasty juices.

Serves: 6


1 large chicken, portioned

30ml (2 tbsp) cake flour

Salt and pepper

45ml (3 tbsp) oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

200g button mushrooms, sliced

1 x 400g can tomato soup 

1 x 400g can mushroom soup 

Fresh parsley or rocket and rice or mash, to serve


  1. Coat the chicken in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 30ml (2 tbsp) of the oil in a large frying pan and brown the chicken on all sides. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the onion till soft.
  4. Add the mushrooms and fry till softened.
  5. In a mixing bowl, combine the soups with a soup can of boiling water and mix well.
  6. Place the chicken in an ovenproof casserole dish and top with the onion mixture.
  7. Pour over the soup mixture and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 45 minutes.
  8. Garnish with parsley or rocket and serve with rice or mash. 

Cook's tips:

  • You can use packet soup mixes as opposed to cans of soup if you prefer. Add 400ml boiling water to each soup mix, whisk well till smooth and you’re ready to go.
  • If you don't have a tin of tomato soup on hand, simply replace it with a can of chopped tomatoes.
Spicy fish pies.
Spicy fish pies.
Image: Paul Bransby


Make with frozen fish and a handful of pantry staples, these pies deliver maximum flavour with minimal effort. Best of all, there's very little washing up to be done once you've prepared them.

Another plus is that these pies freeze well: cool after baking, wrap in foil or clingfilm and freeze.

Serves: 4


1 x 400g pack of frozen hake steaks, slightly thawed

45ml (3 tbsp) cake flour

Salt and pepper to taste

5ml (1 tsp) paprika

Shallow oil for frying

1 x 400g can tomatoes, curry or Mexican flavour

1 roll of puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten

Sesame seeds


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Cut the fish into blocks.
  3. Combine the flour, seasoning and paprika in a plastic bag and add the fish cubes. Toss till fish is coated with the seasoned flour.
  4. Heat the oil in a pan, then fry the fish quickly over a high heat to seal on both sides.
  5. Divide the fish between four individual ovenproof dishes.
  6. Divide the tomato mixture between the bowls and stir through to mix.
  7. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and cut into 4 circles slightly larger than the bowls. Brush the edges of the bowls with water and top with pastry circles pressing down the edges with a fork.
  8. Brush the pies with the beaten egg, poke a few holes in the top with a fork, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Cook's tips:

  • If you can't find a tin of curry- or Mexican-flavoured tomatoes, replace them with a can of readymade chakalaka, draining off the excess oil. You could also use a tin of curried vegetables or even sweetcorn, ensuring you season the corn.
Baked sago pudding.
Baked sago pudding.
Image: Hilary Biller


This old-school classic tastes a bit like a milk tart pudding without the crust. It's a good way of using up milk that's just past it’s sell by date.

Serves: 4


80ml (⅓ cup) sago

625ml (2½ cups) full cream milk (replace replace 1 cup of milk with 1 cup of cream for a really decadent pud)

2 extra large eggs

45ml (3 tbsp) sugar

5ml (1 tsp) vanilla essence

A light sprinkling of nutmeg

A light sprinkling of ground cinnamon

Apricot jam, to serve


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C.
  2. Butter a 1-litre ovenproof baking dish. 
  3. Soak the sago in 250ml milk for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a pot, add the remaining milk and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring all the time.
  5. Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla essence and nutmeg together. Stir into the sago mixture and whisk.
  6. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle over the ground cinnamon. Bake for 45 minutes.
  7. Serve warm topped with a spoonful of apricot jam.