Winter brings out in us the desire for a different kind of food.

Mrs D was baking for some sort of charity meeting. As usual, when this happens, the house was filled with the unmistakable aroma that only baking seems to produce.

A little later, the results were lined up in military rows ready for packing and transporting.

"They don't look very blokey," I quipped as I walked past. And they didn't. Delicate little cupcakes in paper cups they were, topped with pale pink icing and sprinkled with snowflakes of coconut thread. With their coconut ice colours they were delicate, almost fairy-like. Definitely not blokey.


But they certainly got me to thinking about the blokey foods that seem to fit winter like a hand-warmed glove. That evening I was, by chance, eating out and, after removing my jacket and scarf and downing a refreshing ale, I chose one of the blokiest items on the menu – roasted pork belly. I was in my element and a world away from pastel-pink fairy cakes.

The trouble is that most of the dishes that satisfy the blokey winter food desires require a lot of preparation and long, slow cooking. This is where the slow-cooker comes in handy but we don't have one of those and, anyway, there's still lots of prep work to do.

In London in the 1970s I once prepared for friends a true French country classic, cassoulet. It took me two days to do it the traditional way and that's after shopping for the ingredients: ham hocks, pork shouder, fatty pork skin, duck fat, duck confit, Toulouse sausages, pancetta, prosciutto, onions, carrots, tomato, herbs, beans and probably more fat.

This was no diet food, I admit, but it certainly met all the criteria for satisfying, blokey winter food needs. I'm not being sexist here; women were also allowed to eat it but about a teaspoonful seemed to provide enough bulk for the fairer sex.

One of the friends at the table had just come from living for a couple of years in France. His host family, he claims, had a never-ending cassoulet, one to which new ingredients were constantly added on a daily basis.

Another good contender is lamb shanks. Well flavoured and long-simmered, the gelatinous meat simply but deliciously falls from the bone and ticks all the blokey boxes. Steak and kidney pie is worth a mention, too, as long as there is some dark ale in the gravy.

A roast chicken dinner is up there as well – as long as there's stuffing and gravy. Or roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. Again, lashings of gravy.

On a much simpler and much quicker level there's grilled sausages with mashed potatoes and onion gravy. Yes, of course you would put something green on the side. But not much.


Blokiness can also apply to the dessert course. Here the top contender must be the golden syrup or treacle roly poly steamed pudding served with proper home-made vanilla custard (you can call it creme anglaise if you like but people might call you pretentious).

Spotted Dick is in the same league but I would not attempt that until we've found a new name for it.

Or you can't go wrong with a good apple or rhubarb crumble.

That said, I must stress that the real blokiness comes in the savoury course. Dessert is just there if you've got room left.

When Mrs D came home from her meeting the next day, she brought home a little treat for me to eat. It was, as you guessed, a left-over pastel-pink fairy cake, lovingly dusted with coconut.

Oh, of course I ate it. Well, I couldn't let it go to waste.

Besides, you need balance in your diet.