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Donna Hay shares her favourite winter recipes

Image of dining room table covering in various cooking ingredients.

With Donna Hay’s simple cheats, impressing your guests is as easy as pie.

Donna Hay has made a career out of doing many things well. She is known as much for her recipes as her publishing empire. And then there’s her homewares range and TV shows. But, underpinning everything she does is a love of the classics − with a twist.

She’s been so successful because of her ability to demonstrate that cooking doesn’t have to be difficult. By focussing on quality ingredients, keeping the recipes simple and putting a little effort into presentation, Hay has shown that it’s possible to create a memorable meal without too much effort.

“People love to have a really great basic recipe that they can turn to,” says Hay. Her most recent best-selling cookbook, Basics to Brilliance, which has also been turned into a TV show for Foxtel, is all about using once classic recipe to make multiple meals.

As the mother of two hungry boys, Hay knows that having an arsenal of healthy and hearty recipes at the fingertips is key for many families. At her place, “build your own burgers with sweet potato fries” is one of the most popular, especially when friends visit for sleepovers. And to fill the boys up during rugby season, she’ll feed them broccoli pesto with whole wheat spelt pasta.

But Hay is also keen to develop lighter versions of winter classics.

“I’m actually working on changing some of them − taking your favourite winter comfort foods but not making them so heavy,” she says of recipes like a lasagne that replaces pasta with layers of kale or zucchini and uses ricotta instead of the traditional white sauce.

When she’s not cooking during the winter months, you’ll catch Hay fireside watching movies with friends, or heading outdoors with her boys. “We’ll just rug up and go out on a mid-week adventure.” That’s if they can drag themselves away from her kitchen, of course!

Hungry? Keep reading for some of Donna Hay’s most comforting winter recipes.


S I M P L E  S P E L T  L O A F


2½ cups (625ml) warm water

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon dry yeast

7 cups (910g) white spelt flour

3 teaspoons sea salt flakes

½ cup (125ml) extra virgin olive oil


Place water, honey and yeast in a medium jug, mix to combine and set aside.

Place flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with the dough hook attached. Kneading on low speed, gradually add yeast mixture and oil. Knead for 10 minutes or until dough is smooth.

Transfer dough to a large lightly-greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for 1.5-2 hours or until dough has doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 250°C (480°F). Heat a medium ovenproof heavy-based saucepan and tight-fitting lid in the oven for 30 minutes.

Lightly dust the hot pan with flour. Lightly dust a clean surface with flour and turn dough out. Shape into a round loaf and, using floured hands, carefully place dough into the saucepan. Dust with flour and, using a small sharp knife, score top of dough. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 220°C (425°F). Uncover and bake loaf for a further 20 minutes or until golden and bread sounds hollow when tapped.

TIPS: Spelt is a cereal grain in the wheat family which has been cultivated for centuries. It looks similar to wheat, but it has a much harder outer shell. The grain lends breads and baked goods a lovely earthy nuttiness and golden colour. It’s not gluten free, but some do find it easier to tolerate than wheat flour.

R U S T I C  O L I V E,  O N I O N  A N D  

R O S E M A R Y  F L A T  B R E A D

Image of flatbread, Donna Hay recipe. RUSTIC OLIVE, ONION AND ROSEMARY FLATBREAD


½ x quantity Simple Spelt Loaf dough

2 tablespoons rosemary leaves

1 brown onion, very thinly sliced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

½ teaspoon brown sugar, sea salt and cracked black pepper

½ cup (85g) green (Sicilian) olives, pitted and torn


Lightly grease a 20cm x 30cm slice tin.

Press dough into tin and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).

Combine rosemary, onion, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl. Gently press olives into dough.

Spread with onion mixture, drizzle with extra oil and bake for 20–25 minutes or until golden.

C H E A T ’ S  R I C O T T A  

G N O C C H I  D O U G H


360g fresh ricotta+

80g finely grated parmesan

150g plain (all-purpose) flour

3 eggs

1½ teaspoon sea salt flakes cracked black pepper


Place ricotta, parmesan, flour, eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl; mix until combined and a sticky dough forms.

+ For best results, buy fresh full-cream ricotta. It’s available at delicatessens and the deli counter of supermarkets.

TIP: This dough should be a little sticky to work with. Keep some extra flour on hand for dusting when it comes time to shape and slice the gnocchi in the recipes that follow.

R O A S T E D  G A R L I C  A N D  R I C O T T A  

G N O C C H I  W I T H  S A G E  

B U R N T  B U T T E R


Serves 4


2 bulbs garlic, halved

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and cracked black pepper

1 x quantity Cheat’s Ricotta Gnocchi Dough

125g unsalted butter

1½ cups sage leaves

finely grated parmesan, to serve

lemon wedges, to serve


Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).

Place garlic, cut-side up, on a sheet of aluminium foil. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap to enclose and roast for 40 minutes or until soft. Set aside to cool slightly.

Squeeze roasted garlic cloves from their skins. Place half the cloves in a bowl and mash well with a fork. Reserve remaining cloves.

Add mashed garlic to gnocchi dough and mix well to combine. Lightly dust a clean surface with flour. Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a 3cm-wide log. Slice into 4cm-thick pieces and set aside on a lightly-floured tray.

Melt butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add sage and cook for 2–3 minutes or until crisp. Remove sage from the pan and set aside.

Cook gnocchi, in 2 batches, in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 2–3 minutes or until firm and risen to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon, transfer to the pan with the butter and cook for 2–3 minutes each side or until golden brown and crisp.

Divide gnocchi and burnt butter between serving plates and top with sage and reserved garlic cloves. Sprinkle with salt and parmesan and serve with lemon wedges.

Words by Natalie Walton

Photography by Hugh Stewart

These recipes and more are in Donna Hay’s Basics to Brilliance, $55.

Each basic recipe is followed by clever variations and simple flavour change-ups, so one recipe becomes many 

and your repertoire naturally grows. This is your ultimate guide to being brilliant in the kitchen!