I am finding it difficult to adjust to these dark nights. It is hard to judge what time it is when it is dark early, and by 7.00 I am thinking it is bed time.

Although it is still quite mild, I lit the fire for the first time this afternoon to take off the chill. I live in a terrace, so it is sometimes cooler inside than out, not a bad thing in the summer. It also does not get extremely cold in the winter as it has insulation on both sides.

I doubt that I will be putting on the heating on this winter. Last winter, it came on for an hour in the morning and the same in the evening, so that the house was warm when I got up, and when I got in from work. Now that I am out of work, I can ill afford heating, so I am thankful for the woodburner that was installed a couple of winters ago. Money, which was a struggle to find when I was working, is now rarer than a dodo, and gas and electricity bills are on the rise.

I have never understood why they insist on putting the bills up when we are heading for the coldest time of year. Actually, of course I do. They put the bills up now because this is the time of year that people use the most heating, so to put the bills up now increases their profits. This is guaranteed to create a great deal of worry for those on low salaries, pensioners and the unemployed, and I fall into one of those categories. For many it is a choice between eating and heating, and in my case, I am afraid eating wins and, of course, I do have the woodburner, although I do not relish getting out of lovely warm bed into a freezing cold house.

I have started making warming, comfort foods like spiced parsnip soup which is one of the easiest things in the world to make. I add chilli for heat, cumin and a touch of nutmeg which is a lovely warming spice. It is healthy and good for you, and perfect with some home made crusty bread heavy with seeds and slathered with butter.

Spiced Parsnip Soup

Fry a medium onion, add either cumin seeds or ground cumin and some chill flakes, add two or three sliced parsnips (depending on size) and half a litre of stock. Simmer until the parsnips are cooked, then blend. Season with salt and pepper as necessary and add some grated nutmeg. Serve with bread.