Winter cooking

The first of the winter chills has set in so oily rag households will have their wood burning stoves stoked up and the slow cookers simmering with warm winter meals.

Jo from Christchurch writes, “For a simple winter family meal there is nothing better than a mince stew. Hubby and I make one starting with browning the mince, adding spices that take your fancy, we also use a selection of sauces, and then we add every possible vegetable we can lay our hands on. Sometimes I use all the leftovers from the fridge too. Most often we make a bulk pack of mince into almost 10 litres of stew with veges. You can’t get much more economical than that!”

And this versatile minced meat casserole also makes use of almost anything edible that is left-over in the fridge! “Put any of the following ingredients, in layers, in an ovenproof dish: minced meat (beef, lamb, hogget, pork, chicken, rabbit or possum!) plus a mixture of any combination of sliced onions, chopped bacon or ham pieces, grated carrot or pumpkin, drained tinned tomatoes, finely sliced raw potatoes, frozen peas, beans or corn, odd bits of shredded cabbage or cauliflower. You may like to try sprinkling sunflower or pumpkin seeds between the layers. A pinch of sage over pork, a sprinkle of rosemary over hogget or a smear of prepared mustard or horseradish sauce over beef is very tasty. Gently pour over the casserole a mixture of 2 cups of warm water, leftover gravy or tomato juice, with salt and pepper to taste, about a tablespoon of either tomato, Worcestershire, plum or black bean sauce and the same amount of vinegar. Put a lid on the dish or cover with cooking foil and bake gently at 225 C for 90 minutes. Delicious with crusty bread and a fresh green salad.”

M.M. has this recipe. “It’s cheap, quick and delicious and is now a family favourite in my home. This recipe also freezes really well, so you can make it in advance or freeze the leftovers. Ingredients:

Chicken legs and/or thighs
Large tin of tomato soup
Large carrot, sliced
10 mushrooms, chopped in chunks
Large brown onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs.

All you have to do is place the ingredients in a casserole dish, mix, and then place the lid on the dish. Cook in a moderate oven for approximately 45 minutes – 1 hour. I usually stir it after 30 minutes to mix it all through. Serve with rice and beans or peas. It is such a hearty meal, you will all love it!”

Nettie writes, “While pumpkins are cheap and plentiful I have been scooping out a whole pumpkin and stuffing it with flavoursome mixtures of rice, nuts, herbs and spices. Pop the lid you have cut off back onto the pumpkin, wrap it in tinfoil and bake for about an hour. Cut into wedges to serve. Then, you can blend up the leftovers with some stock to make a delicious pumpkin soup.”

Speaking of pumpkin soup, a reader has sent in this recipe. All you need is an onion chopped into little pieces, three or four cups of water, a dash of curry powder (which translates into one teaspoon) and half a dash of nutmeg. Oh, and about a kilogram of pumpkin! Peel the pumpkin and slice into pieces. Throw into a saucepan with the onion, cover with the water and bring to the boil. Leave it to simmer until the pumpkin is soft. Throw it into a blender, add the nutmeg and curry powder, whizz it about for a while, and there you are. If you want a variation, reduce the amount of pumpkin and add carrots, or a potato or two.

Or how about pumpkin muffins: K.J. from Wellington recommends this. “To make pumpkin muffins you will need 2 cups of flour, 1½ cups of sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 egg, ¾ cup milk, ¼ cup cooking oil, ½ cup cooked and mashed pumpkin, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg. Mix all of the dry ingredients together – and the pumpkin, milk, oil and egg in another mix. Make a well in the centre of the dry mix and add the wet mixture. Stir to form a batter then place large spoonfuls in greased muffin tins. Bake at 200C for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. This mix makes about 10 big muffins.”

If you have tips or questions – or favourite frugal winter recipes – you would like to share with readers, then please contact us via the website at or by writing to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.