The taste of Italy brings winter cheer

Apart from brief glimpses of sunshine with sub-zero temperatures, November has been cold, winter has officially arrived. We need food to sustain and tempt us but comfort food does not have to be heavy and dull. It should contain a range of subtle flavours but plenty of carbohydrates to keep us going.

Seeking inspiration, I visited the Canteen Deli in Rock Street, Brighton. More of a food emporium, it is stocked from floor to ceiling with mouth-watering goodies. I bought some strong white flour to make my focaccia and some beautiful yellow polenta flour. Eaten throughout the Italian Alpine region, polenta is well-suited to cold climates. The only difficulty in cooking it is that you have to stand over the pot stirring continuously. It is well worth the effort because polenta takes on all the flavours added to it, soaking them up like a sponge and giving out in the eating.

Potato gnocchi, delicious little dumplings, have the same quality. The bitter/crisp taste of chicory is a perfect contrast to the doughiness of the main dish and compliments the flavours in the sauce. This is a menu inspired by Italy and adapted to a cold British winter.