With the shortest day on the horizon, we ask two chefs for their tips on easy and economical winter cooking.
If you're longing for the days of firing up the barbie, it'll warm you to know that for time-poor Kiwis, cooking in winter is more practical and economical.
Winter produce is generally cheaper, and just one session in the kitchen can provide you with two or three meals.
Tauranga chef and owner of popular foodie brand Pepper & Me, Cherie Metcalfe, says the cuts of meat we tend to use in winter are less pricey, and dishes like curries, casseroles, and soups freeze well.
"So, often you can cook once, and end up with two or three dinners in the freezer for those days when you are time-poor," which, for her, is "every day".
The 32-year-old has been a chef for 16 years and worked on superyachts and resort islands before starting Pepper & Me.
Starting out when her eldest child Pepper was a baby, she was selling her salt blends at local markets.
Pepper & Me is now a growing brand with more than 50 different products stocked nationwide, there's also a subscriber-based recipe service; she has over 40,000 followers on Instagram; and a cookbook titled Keepers.
In winter she makes the most of using tinned or frozen vegetables, as well as using fresh leeks, pumpkin, carrots and silverbeet "wherever I can".
She's also a fan of crockpot cooking.
"It's an amazing way to use cheaper cuts of meat," she explains, giving the example of stewing beef, or bone-in lamb shoulder, or leg.
Throw in your winter vegetables, a little stock or splash of red wine, herbs, and spices; and if you wish, Pepper & Me cooking pastes, which are designed for slow cooking.
"Flick the switch to low, and you come home to a beautiful, heart-warming family meal. Five minutes prep in the morning saves the 5pm rush-around trying to get dinner sorted for the fam."
Low and slow charcoal barbecuing also save the rush.
Charcoal smokers have kicked off in the last few years, and lighting one on a cold day to slow cook a brisket or large cut of pork is always a "delicious project".
Metcalfe suggests serving your tender, smoked meat, with some winter salads, including roasted pumpkin, feta and pecans, or a potato bake.
And when it comes to winter savoury baking, it can fill up lunch boxes or add to a special Sunday dinner.
"Any sort of fresh bread to go alongside a slow-cooked chunk of meat or a soup that's been simmering away.
"Savory brioche scrolls, or pides (flat bread) are a huge favourite. Using frozen spinach makes them really cost-effective and is a fun project to do with the kids."
Quick comfort foods
Tauranga tour guide and passionate food ambassador Kathrin Chappell, 67, loves cooking seasonally.
The private chef and former Los Angeles chef-to-the-stars designs the Taste of Plenty "Bites of the Bay" bespoke foodie tours, turning the spotlight on artisan food and beverage producers.
"Every season has its bountiful things that come along," she says.
"For me, winter cooking is all about comfort foods."
While a lot of Kiwis are fans of the crockpot, Chappell prefers a clay pot in the oven overnight, and owns three different types.
"I put a timer on and I (cook) two things at once. I'll usually do a meat with something, and then a vege one, and that'll give me a basis for five or six meals."
Another economical way of making your food go further, she says, is to do a tray bake of root veges (she likes hers from a farmers' market) and then divide them up into clip-lid containers for the fridge.
Her tip for roasting beetroot is to use baking paper and make a fold that creates a dividing wall, so the beetroot doesn't bleed.
Once the veges are put away into sealed containers, they can last several meals.
"I can come home and go: 'I feel like pumpkin soup' so I'll get a pot out, sautee off some onion, put a cup of stock in, and (pre-cooked) pumpkin; bring it to a good simmer, and then just whizz it through with an immersion blender, and you've got soup."
Or make even less work for yourself and cook with an air fryer.
She uses hers to cook a seasoned rack of lamb that's been cut in half. She accompanies her lamb with some pre-prepared roast veges that she crisps up in a lidded frypan.
Winter is about making the evening rush as effortless as possible, she says, giving a final example of her go-to Chicken Olive Bake recipe.
"I chop boneless chicken breasts and thighs into chunks; toss them into one of my clay pots - but you can do it in your slow cooker; toss in either Kiwi Artisan mānuka smoked olives, or olives from Elysian Foods; some slices of lemon; two cups of chicken stock; mix in a tablespoon of cornstarch; toss that around; put in big, rough chunks of garlic; lay a long, big spear of rosemary; put the lid on it; and cook it for an hour and a half, and it's just magnificent.
"I have been sharing that recipe with people for years.
"Winter cooking should be quick and easy."
Cherie Metcalfe has used her Pepper & Me products in this recipe, but also gives substitute alternatives.
3 teaspoons dried yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
500g (around 4 cups high-grade flour)
1 teaspoon Man Grind (substitute with salt)
4 tablespoons olive oil
extra ½ cup flour for kneading
500g frozen spinach
200g feta, crumbled
1 cup mozzarella cheese grated
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon Man Grind (substitute salt, pepper, dried herbs and a pinch of chilli)
Stir together the yeast, sugar and half a cup of water. Set aside to get frothy – about 10 minutes.
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mix, the remaining water and the olive oil.
Using a knife or your hands, slowly draw the flour from the sides into the liquid. Work the mixture into a dough that is soft and sticky, but still able to be handled. Add more water or flour as you go, if needed.
Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is springy. Add the additional flour (for ease of kneading) gradually at this stage, trying not to add too much as we are aiming for a soft dough.
Once the dough springs back to the touch, place in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. While the dough rises, prepare the filling.
Saute diced onion in a drizzle of olive oil until softened, add in the defrosted spinach. Set aside to cool drain the spinach, then mix with feta, ricotta, grated cheese and seasoning.
Now for the pide, work on a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into four pieces, roll each into a ball, then into oval shapes about 20cm x 30cm wide.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line one to two baking tray(s) with baking paper and place the ovals on the tray.
Spread the cheese filling evenly over the dough, leaving a border of 2cm with no filling. Fold the sides partway over the filling and squeeze each end to make little boat shapes.
Brush the edges with a little extra olive oil and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and crispy at the edges.
Top tip: These are also great with a spiced lamb mince filling, and topped with minted yoghurt.