It's the first weekend of winter - time for many of us to ditch the salads and ice creams and focus on food to keep us warm. Logan Tutty talks to some experts in the kitchen who share their top tips for hearty and economical meals to get us through the cooler months.
After more than 50 years of experience in the kitchen, retired Whanganui chef Joe Power says cooking in the winter is all about fuelling the soul.
"It's all about making yourself feel good. If you cook something long and slow, it instantly warms your heart.
"Winter comes along and it's easy to just conjure up something that makes you feel good."
As soon as the weather starts getting cooler, Power starts thinking about soups, casseroles and stews which can all be cooked in a popular, cheap appliance.
"In the old days it was called a crockpot. I doubt there are many kitchens without a slow cooker these days and they are just brilliant."
They are also a great answer for those with little time on their hands but who want to create a wholesome meal.
"No one wants to go home after an eight-hour day at work and cook for an hour-and-a-half - it doesn't make sense. If you can find a space before you go to work or go to bed, that is where the slow cooker lends itself.
"The best thing about those kind of dishes is that they just get better and better the longer they cook. After two or three days, they are probably better than day one. It's something you can just continue adding to."
Power says once you build a strong base of ingredients in your kitchen, you can create almost anything.
"The staples are carrots, onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf. If you have those sort of simple ingredients, that is a good start. You can buy ready-to-go stocks or cubes, they add plenty of flavour."
Items such as chickpeas, lentils and cannellini beans are great additions to help bulk up meals.
"Those are great because they make it go a lot further and they are cheap as chips."
Sometimes there is even a time or place to add in some of that drink you planned on having with your dinner.
"Instead of stock, you can add things like red wine. I love making a lovely beef and Guinness casserole. Guinness, a stout, all of a sudden changes it and the flavour boost just jumps up.
"We've just entered a whole new phase of different options, and craft beer and beef are a marriage made in heaven."
Aware of how financially tough it is sometimes, Power said bargains were certainly out there and urged people to buy in bulk when they could.
Items such as mince, pumpkins and potatoes can all be bought cheaply and can go a long way. Growing your own herbs, such as coriander, mint and rosemary, is another economical way of adding flavour to your dish without massively increasing your food bill.
"I made a curry last week and one of the supermarkets had blade steak. Blade steak or cross-cut blade is the perfect sort of piece of stewing meat. When you cook long and slow, it turns into jelly."
Whanganui's Kiritahi Firmin, who made a series of videos during lockdown to share her knowledge and skills on cooking with homegrown ingredients, said there was only one meal that came to mind when winter set in.
"It's soup time. Using all the old vegetables in the fridge instead of throwing them away. You can't go wrong with an onion base. Use all the stalks and pieces, they make amazing soups. We are always saving broth and stock too so we don't have to make more the next time."
Vegetables like cabbage, silverbeet, leeks and carrots are all in season at the moment, and are easy to grow at home or purchase in bulk.
If people don't have the room at home to grow their own vegetables, fresh herbs might be an easy alternative, Firmin said.
"Chives, parsley, basil, coriander - anyone can grow these, it's really simple. We just have ours growing on the window sills and you can just pick and add as you wish."
Planning meals and utilising every ingredient you can is key.
"It's a matter of preparation for our parents. Plan ahead and use the resources around us."
Using the knowledge handed down through our elders, and ensuring those recipes and ideas are passed down for future generations, is extremely important to Firmin.
"Our parents always had the best recipes. We can use them as inspiration and share them with our family. If our parents can do this all the time, we can."
With so many fast-food options and outlets out there, Firmin said going back to the roots of cooking is a lot healthier and a more cost-efficient approach.
"We've been down that track and that is why we have made these changes. It's such a social thing at the same time. Going to places like Laugesens, where you can get 20kg bags of carrots for $10, that will last you ages. It's just about being a bit prepared."
Joe's Beef Casserole with Red Wine and Herb Dumplings
250g cross-cut blade steak, approx 2cm size
2 Tbsp oil
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
½ stalk celery, chopped
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp tomato paste
200ml red wine
200ml beef stock
Fresh or dried thyme
Salt, pepper to taste
• Cut the beef into cubes
• Heat oil in a good-sized pot and add the beef to quickly colour. This may be best done in two batches
• Remove the beef and fry the vegetables and garlic to brown a little
• Take the meat back to the pot with vegetables, add flour and mix in, add tomato paste
• Pour in the wine and stock and mix well
• Add the stalk of fresh thyme or teaspoon of dried thyme
• Season with salt and pepper
• Bring to boiling point and cover with a lid
• Place in an oven set to 160-170c and cook for approximately 75 minutes
• Remove the lid and place the dumplings on the top of the casserole
• Return to the oven for 15–20 minutes
• Serve topped with chopped parsley
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ tsp stock powder
Fresh herbs, chopped
• Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, stock powder, in a large bowl
• Rub in the butter with fingers, add the herbs and a little milk to mix to a soft dough
• Shape with floured hands and place into casserole to cook.