Wonderful Winter Recipes To Melt The Soul

We may not get much snow in the winter here in South Africa, but the howling winds, icy temperatures and pounding rainfall is more than enough to plunge us indoors.

Despite the raging elements outside, there is still something magically serene and comforting about the winter. Long evenings curled up with a book in front of a smouldering fireplace, weekends spent under the solace of oversized jumpers, warm fluffy blankets, chunky socks and cold hands wrapped around a wickedly delicious mug of hot chocolate, savouring the aroma of fresh-oven baked bread.

Grace Stevens, award-winning TV chef, confectionery connoisseur, and winter-loving human shares some of her much-loved winter flavours and traditions to warm up your homes and soothe your soul.

Here Are Her Top 3 Traditions: 

Be bold and confident in your choices 

In South Africa winter is a short-lived affair so make the most of the plummeting temperatures as soon as you can. I love rich but warm desserts, mugs of steaming hot chocolate around a raging fire and thick, cosy jerseys. As soon as the days start to get shorter and the morning crispier, I salvage my treasured slippers and knits, cram my cupboards full of marshmallows, hot chocolates, and plenty of tea bags and then I start baking. For me, nothing feels, smells, looks, or tastes like winter than traditional, old fashioned but freshly baked cakes, biscuits, and doughnuts.

Think outside of the box

Food shared with loved ones is the catalyst for so many unforgettable memories.  There is something wonderfully uplifting about gathering the family around a table full of scrumptious winter favourites but don’t be afraid to update and adapt where necessary. I absolutely love the peppermint tart recipe my grandmother lovingly passed on to me, but that doesn’t mean I should serve it the way she would. A luscious bowl of peppermint tart mousse is an alternative way to serve it to seamlessly finish off a substantial winter meal, and it is usually very popular with young and old alike.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Our sense of taste plays an important role in capturing memories. When we taste something for the first or last time, we usually connect it back to the place we were at, who we were with and how we felt at the time. I often say that in the kitchen, the real magic only happens when you fuse traditional flavours with newer, less obvious ones. Not everything will taste incredible the first time you try it, but that is okay. Test, taste, and fine tune as you go and be enthralled by the mystery, taste, and wonder.

Grace’s Top 3 Winter-Warming Recipes 

Pumpkin spiced donut

What I love the most about this recipe is that it combines pumpkin fritters, a traditional South African winter dessert, with the typically American donut to create a perfect marriage of deep-fried deliciousness. Infusing pumpkin in the yeast dough oozes winter charm and flavour as well as well a light and airy texture.

Spiced Hot Chocolate truffles 

The best thing to warm you up on a bitterly cold night is a magnificent mug of steaming hot chocolate. I make mine by rolling up chocolate ganache into small truffle-like balls, sinking two or three into a mug of warmed milk and then stirring. Dust with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg to really elevate the wintery flavour.

Amarula Fondant 

Adding a splash of your favourite tipple can elevate a good winter dessert. South African Amarula has a lovely velvety creamy body which makes it perfect for an adult-only fondant.  The distinctive flavour has notes of caramel, pepper, and a hint of citrus which will add a delightful depth to any cake topping.

Amarula Fondants by Grace Stevens


Time:25 minutes (chill for 20mins) 


  • cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 200g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 30ml Amarula
  • 4 whole eggs and 4 yolks
  • 200g plain flour

  1. Spray mould with non-stick spray, making sure that every part of the mould is covered. Add a spoonful of cocoa powder into the mould. Tip the mould so the powder completely coats the butter. Tap any excess cocoa back into the jar, then repeat with the next mould.
  2. Place a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, then slowly melt 200g dark chocolate and 200g butter. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir until smooth. Add Amarula. Leave to cool for about 10 mins.
  3. Whisk 4 eggs and 4 egg yolks together with 200g caster sugar until thick and pale.
  4. Sift 200g plain flour into the eggs, then beat together.
  5. Pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture in thirds, beating well between each addition, until all the chocolate is added and the mixture is completely combined to a loose cake batter.
  6. Tip the fondant batter into a jug, then evenly divide between the moulds.
  7. The fondants can now be frozen for up to a month and cooked from frozen. Chill for at least 20 mins or up to the night before. To bake from frozen, simply carry on as stated, adding 5 mins more to the cooking time.
  8. Heat oven to 180֯C. Place the fondants on a baking tray, then cook for 10-12 mins until the tops have formed a crust and they are starting to come away from the sides of their moulds.
  9. Remove from the oven, then leave to sit for 1 min before turning out.
  10. Loosen the fondants by moving the tops very gently so they come away from the sides, easing them out of the moulds. Tip each fondant slightly onto your hand so you know it has come away, then tip back into the mould ready to plate up.

 Pumpkin Fritter Doughnuts

• 500g diced raw pumpkin
• 150ml milk
• 1 egg yolk
• 35g soft butter
• 20g fresh yeast
• 3 ml salt
• 650 ml of flour
• 30ml castor sugar
• Oil for frying
 • Castor sugar and cinnamon to dust

  1. Preheat oven to 200ºC.
  2. Place pumpkin onto baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with a
     little salt.
  3. Bake for 35 minutes until soft.
  4. Mash the pumpkin with a potato masher and measure off 125ml.
  5. Dissolve yeast in milk, add yolks and stir well.
  6. Combine flour, salt and pumpkin. Add soft butter.
     Pour in milk mixture and combine all ingredients well.
  7. Knead for about 5 minutes on a floured surface. You may need to add a bit more flour until your dough is combined, but not sticky.
  8. Return to large bowl and cover with a cloth. Allow to double in size. About 60 mins.
    Knead dough (knock back) gently to return to original size. Divide into 16 equal sized balls.
     Shape into ring doughnuts by pushing index finger through a ball of dough and widening the hole until a ring doughnut is formed. Make an extra-large hole, because during frying it will get smaller.
  9. Place doughnuts onto a floured tray and cover with a cloth. Allow to double in size.
  10. Fry in hot oil until golden on both sides, flipping over each doughnut to fry on the reverse side. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by putting a little bread in oil. If it bubbles, the oil is hot enough for the doughnuts.
  11. Drain doughnuts on kitchen towel before tossing in cinnamon sugar.

These are best eaten shortly after they are fried off. Store them in an airtight container once they are cool. The dough can be made and left to prove in the fridge overnight.