When cooking for a crowd, my mantra is "simple and impressive". That is, I try and make the most impressive meal I can with the least amount of effort required. Sure, there are times when I'll be happy to spend all day in the kitchen, but often keeping things simple makes it more enjoyable. Likewise, if it's a family you're cooking for, keeping things super simple with the slow cooker makes life a little bit easier during these winter months.

Slow cooking is incredibly popular at this time of year, and really, what's not to like. The effort is minimal and the results are delicious. Venison benefits from slow cooking, and this recipe makes a good basis for a pie if you're that way inclined. Although to get dinner on the table quickly, just mashing some potatoes or kumara and adding a salad does just that. With the pork, it's got a good kick to it with the spices, so goes well as part of a Mexican feast - soft tacos, tangy yoghurt, fresh limes, some coriander, and a simple slaw, makes for a fun, healthy and tasty winter meal. It's also good in slider buns for a substantial canape if you're entertaining. Add a bit of mayo and some slaw and you're done. Simple and impressive.

Slow cooker braised venison

800g venison, shoulder or leg, cut into large cubes (or buy diced venison)
4 Tbsp plain flour
Plenty of salt and black pepper
1 Tbsp butter and a little oil
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 Tbsp guava jelly
400ml red wine
400ml beef stock
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs sage

Dust the venison in flour and plenty of salt and pepper. Cook in butter and oil in a frying pan, until just brown. Add to the slow cooker, with all other ingredients.


Turn the slow cooker to low, and leave overnight, or just cook during the day for 6-8 hours.

Shred the meat with two forks, in the liquid, and serve with mash and salad greens. You can also use the meat to make pot pies - place the meat and some liquid into ramekins, cover with a dollop of mash, add a lid of pastry and cook in the oven until it's golden.

Slow cooker spicy pulled pork

Photo / Doug Sherring
Photo / Doug Sherring

1.8-2 kg pork shoulder meat (bone removed, ideally)
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
Plenty of salt and black pepper
¾ cup water
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
Juice of one orange
1 x 330ml bottle or can of beer

Cut the pork into large chunks and place in a large bowl.

Mix the spices together, with salt and pepper, and cover the pork with the spice mix.

Place the water, vinegar, orange juice, and beer into the slow cooker, and add the pork pieces.

Cook on low for about 8 hours, overnight or during the day.

Serve with a simple slaw, tangy yoghurt, slider buns or tacos.


How to: Accept a cooking compliment

By Kim Knight

You planted the maize in October; harvested it in January; dried those kernels in the late summer sun and then soaked them in watered down calcium hydroxide. You dried them again, then ground them to a powder. You mixed that masa harina with salt and made dough balls that you pressed in the tortilla press that you carried in your hand luggage to avoid excess baggage charges on your flight home from Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juarez.

It is winter now. Your friends have polished off two whites and a red, and a stack of chicken carnitas tacos.

"Amaaazing," they say.

"Too much coriander . . . " you reply.

Because in the kitchen, "thank you" is harder to say than "quinoa". (Keen-wah - seriously, how many times do we have to do this?)

If we can learn to cook, we can learn to take a compliment. Making hollandaise is hard, pronouncing "thank you" is not.

Etiquette experts say deflection and outright rejection are our most common response to compliments, but what we need to practise is acceptance. Train yourself to say "you're welcome, I loved making it for you". If you must deflect, try an interesting anecdote ("I got the recipe from my nana") or asking a question.

Sample question: "Did you bring any more wine?"