RAIN was belting down, whipping at the windows in the wild wind, adding to our shivering dismay. The heating wasn’t on. Why would it be, when it was only September 12? But as there are few grimmer spots than a chilly restaurant dining room, there was nothing for it. Shaking my head (imperceptibly I hope), I started up the heating while the restaurant manager lit the fire, the first this autumn. The warm glow of flames has never been witnessed before October 1, making for a day of tumbling new records. All this affects what you want to eat.

An argument formed: come on, it's September, do we really want to be making a casserole, with all of winter still ahead? Well, yes, we need comforting cooking. Fine, you want something slow-cooked and cheering? Let’s pot-roast. The method perfectly merges the familiarity of roasting with the reassurance of braising or stewing. Expect moist, succulent results.

Pot roast chicken with creamed nutmeg and cinnamon cabbage

Recipes serve four

1 whole chicken (about 1.5kg)

1 large savoy cabbage

2 banana shallots, finely diced

1 plump clove of garlic, peeled and sliced finely

Few bushy sprigs thyme

6-8 rashers streaky bacon, cut in fine strips (optional)

75ml sherry

150ml chicken stock, or water

About 200ml double cream

Olive oil

40g unsalted butter

Sea salt flakes and fresh ground black pepper

1 cinnamon stick

1 blade nutmeg


1. Heat a large, lidded, oven-proof earthenware pot on a moderate heat for one minute. Add 1 dstsp olive oil and heat for a further minute. Season chicken well with salt then seal in the pot, ensuring it takes on a very dark brown, even colour all over. This will take a good 10 minutes. Add thyme to the pot halfway through. Once thoroughly browned, lift the bird onto a clean plate, leaving the thyme behind.

2. Add bacon, if using, to the pot and fry until light golden brown then add the shallot and garlic. If not using bacon, add the shallot and garlic as soon as the bird is done. Fry the shallot very gently with lid on so it softens but doesn't colour, stirring regularly.

3. Meanwhile cut up the cabbage. You may need to discard three or four of the tougher outer leaves. Then pull away the bright green leaves until you reach the yellow heart. Trim out the stiff spine from down the centre of each bright green leaf and discard it. Shred the leaves finely and set aside. Now cut the cabbage heart into four or six wedges. Cut out and discard the core then shred the cabbage wedges finely and add to the shredded outer green leaves. Toss together then add to the softened shallot. Season lightly with salt and fresh ground pepper. Stirring well, add the cinnamon, pressing it down into the cabbage, and allow the cabbage to sweat gently for 6-8 minutes, stirring from time to time.

4. Add sherry and stock then grate half the nutmeg, stir in well then return the chicken to the pot, breast facing downwards into the cabbage. Cover with lid or tin foil, then place in a pre-heated oven (190C). After 35 minutes, remove from oven and turn the chicken over so the breast is facing upwards. Brush off any cabbage strands that are clinging to the chicken then return to the oven for a further 25 minutes, uncovered. Remove and test for doneness, by piercing the leg joint with a skewer to ensure the juices run clear. Return to the oven of it needs further cooking.

5. Once done, lift chicken onto a clean plate. Place the pot on a moderate heat and stir in the cream. Bring to a simmer so the cream coats the cabbage. Taste for seasoning, adjust with salt, pepper and nutmeg as desired. Remove thyme and cinnamon stick. Place the chicken back on the cabbage then serve, carving on a chopping board at the table and sharing out the cabbage. Alternatively, place the cabbage on a serving platter with the chicken on top. Serve with creamed, roasted or boiled potatoes.

Pot roast beef and onions

1kg silverside or topside of beef, tied with string

2 tbsp olive oil

8 small whole carrots, or medium carrots, sliced

1 celery stick, finely chopped

200ml white wine

600ml rich beef stock

2 bay leaves

500g onions

A few thyme sprigs

1 tsp butter

1 tsp light brown or light muscovado sugar

2 tsp plain flour

1. Heat oven to 160C. Rub meat with oil and plenty of seasoning. Heat a large flame-proof casserole dish and brown meat all over for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add some oil to a frying pan and fry carrots and celery for 10 minutes until turning golden.

2. Lift beef onto a plate, add wine to the hot casserole and boil for a few minutes to reduce by half. Pour in the stock, return the beef, then tuck in the carrots, celery and bay leaves, trying not to submerge the carrots too much. Cover and cook in the oven for two hrs. (I like to turn the beef halfway through cooking.)

3. Meanwhile, thinly peel the onions, remove the root then finely slice the onions. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and stir in the onions, thyme and some seasoning. Cover and cook gently for 20 minutes, stirring regularly until the onions are softened but not coloured. Remove lid, turn up heat, add butter and sugar, then let the onions caramelise to a dark golden brown, stirring often. Remove thyme sprigs, then set aside.

4. When the beef is ready, it will be tender and easy to pull apart at the edges. Remove it from the casserole and snip off the strings. Reheat the onion pan, stir in flour and cook for 1 min. Whisk the floury onions into the beefy juices in the casserole, to make a thick onion gravy. Taste for seasoning. Return beef and carrots to the casserole, or slice the beef and bring to the table on a platter, with the carrots to the side and the gravy spooned over.

Geoffrey Smeddle is the chef patron of The Peat Inn, by St Andrews, Fife, KY15 5LH 01334 840206 www.thepeatinn.co.uk