How I Winter: Annie Smithers, Du Fermier

Published on 12 August 2019

Photo: Du Fermier chef Annie Smithers at the Royal Exhibition Building (credit: Danielle Castano)

You don’t have to travel to Trentham to get a taste of Du Fermier this month. Chef Annie Smithers, a fan of cassoulet and other long, slow-cooked dishes, shares with us her brand of winter comfort to the White Night Feast, taking place 22 August at Carlton’s Royal Exhibition Building.

When I was a kid, winter was all about snuggling up with the cats and reading by the open fire. I seem to remember having a penchant for mugs of hot Milo and hanging out for the footy replay at six o’clock on a Saturday night.

And now that I’ve got a few more winters under my belt, not much has really changed. If I have time, I love to snuggle up with my cats in front of the fire and read, but tea seems to have replaced the Milo.

For me, the best things about winter are that I get to cook all the really big stews, braises and soups in my repertoire. I love the science behind the long, slow cooking of meat to turn it into soft gelatinous crocks of comfort.

The soundtrack to my winter this year is a bit of Brescianello.

In the kitchen at Du Fermier, winter means thermals in the morning. It’s almost violently cold picking and washing vegetables in the yard in winter and, as if to rub salt into the wound, it takes a couple of hours for the kitchen to warm up, and it’s bitingly cold to begin with. But once the stove and ovens crank up, off the thermals come and life returns to normal with the cut and thrust of life in a kitchen.

My idea of winter feasting is open fires, dark walls, candles and classics from the south of France like cassoulet or garbure. Big, hearty peasant feasting dishes.

My favourite guilty pleasure in winter is toast with far too much butter on it.

This winter, stay warm by cradling mugs and hand bowls full of warm, nourishing, soupy stews.