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While the weather is still icy (and it feels as if winter has only just arrived) some warming food is called for. A hearty dish such as ham hock (under £3 from one of our local independent butchers) cooked with butter beans, carrots, onions and tinned tomatoes is a real rib sticker and the leftovers can be whizzed up into a tasty soup. To transform the stew into something more exotic I add a teaspoon of smoked paprika. A variation on this theme is chickpeas and chorizo. Such robust flavours demand a red wine that can hold its own. Try the rustic, earthy Rasteau, Domaine Saint Gayan 2008 and serve with some crusty bread and a simple salad with mustardy vinaigrette.

Fancy something lighter but spicy? How about a Thai noodle soup? A base of chicken stock (I use fond de volaille powder that I bring back from trips to France), flavoured with Thai herbs & spices, plenty of fresh chillies,& whatever veg you fancy (mushrooms, cabbage) plus chicken breast and of course egg noodles. An aromatic fruity white such as a young viognier or pinot blanc will compliment the clean fresh flavours. This dish has the added benefit of sorting out your sinuses!

Lastly something wickedly rich. Our kids (having read Asterix in Switzerland) have long been fascinated by the idea of a fondue. Jason and I caved in and bought a little fondue set from our local household goods store, Millers, in last year’s January sale. We went for the traditional Gruyere and Ementhal recipe with a dash of Kirsch. This is a very rich dish and is best served with a whistle-clean Alpine-fresh white such as Savoie l’Orangerie, Domaine l’Idylle or light juicy red such as a young Chinon or Alsace Pinot Noir.

The diet can start in March....