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But when New Zealand went into lockdown for Covid-19 cooking for your neighbours and friends was not as appropriate.
So when Kathy Paterson found herself staring at the skirting boards wondering what to do, she came up with the idea of writing a recipe book.
When Paterson, a member of Food Writers New Zealand, proposed the idea of a winter themed e-book to the association, members grabbed it.
"We thought people will want good easily achieveable recipes using ingredients from the pantry. Many recipes in the book have ingredients that are easily substitutable."
Paterson reached out to the organisation’s members and within days had 40 recipes, including offerings from top food writers Sarah Tuck, Nadia Lim, Lauraine Jacobs, Annabel Langbein and Julie Biuso.
"The recipes are all simple and affordable; good honest hearty food with a few aspirational ones in there, too."
The profits from the e-book are going to food charity
Meat the Need, which was set up by farmers and aims to get fresh food to people in need through community organisations.
"It’s logistically difficult thing to do. We thought it’s a new start-up and something we agree with, so thought it would be fantastic to get behind it."
Meat the Need founder Wayne Langford says he is very grateful to Food Writers NZ for their support.
"For generations, farming families have been gathering around the dinner table after a long day of work. Food is what brings us together. As farmers, we want every family in New Zealand to have the opportunity for this nourishment and connection."
South American lamb and legume stew
This rich and hearty recipe is based on locro, a stew from the Andes regions of South America. It is often made with pork, beef, white beans and dried corn. Lamb shoulder chops with chickpeas and frozen corn make a delicious and economical version that still has the flavour and texture of the original. You could also use pork shoulder chops or osso bucco. Pumpkin and kumara are a great addition to this stew. Cut them in 2cm cubes and add them in the last hour of cooking.
Prep time 20 minutes + overnight soaking
Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes
150g dried chickpeas
150g dried white beans (haricot/navy or lima beans)
2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1½ tsp dried oregano
4 Tbsp olive oil
600g lamb shoulder chops
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 chorizos, (200g) sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 Agria potatoes, peeled and cut in 2cm dice
1¼ litres lamb or vegetable stock
salt, if needed
2 cups frozen corn kernels
4 spring onions or ¼ cup parsley leaves, chopped
Soak the chickpeas and white beans in water overnight. Drain.
Heat the oven to 160degC.
Put 1 teaspoon of paprika, half teaspoon of dried oregano and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside for 2-3 hours while the stew cooks. If you like spicy food, you could add a sprinkle of chilli flakes, too.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish (such as a Dutch oven) and brown the lamb chops, then set aside.
Add the onions, garlic, chorizo, cumin, paprika and bay leaves and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions are very soft.
Add the remaining oregano, followed by the drained chickpeas and beans, lamb, potato and stock. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in the oven.
Cook for 1 hour then remove from the oven and stir well. Taste to see if you need to add salt (this will depend on the stock you use). Cook for a further hour until the lamb is falling off the bone.
Remove the dish from the oven and discard the bay leaves. Remove the lamb chops and discard the bones. Shred the meat and return it to the pan along with the corn kernels. Stir over a medium-high heat for few minutes to heat the corn. Season with pepper, to taste.
Serve in warmed bowls, with a sprinkle of spring onions or parsley and a little paprika oil.
Malaysian braised pork belly
Wellington foodie Shirleen Oh taught me how to make this version of a Malaysian Chinese classic. I knew I’d nailed it when I took leftovers to work one day and a colleague nearly burst into tears when she smelled it, saying it was exactly like her mum made at home in Kuala Lumpur.
The deep-fried tofu (found in the chilled section in supermarkets) is optional, but authentic.
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes
900g-1kg piece pork belly
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cinnamon stick
¼ tsp whole cloves
1 large or 2 small whole star anise
¼ tsp whole black peppercorns
4 Tbsp light soy sauce
3 Tbsp dark soy sauce
3 Tbsp kecap manis
1 Tbsp sesame oil
200g deep-fried tofu pieces, optional
Heat the oven to 180degC.
Carefully trim the skin from the pork belly, making sure to leave the fat on the meat. Cut into 4cm pieces.
Half-fill a large ovenproof pot with a lid with water. Bring to a boil and add the pork. Cook for about 3 minutes — you’ll see some scum float to the surface. Skim off the scum, then drain off the water. Leave the pork in the pot and add the garlic, whole spices and sauces. Cover with cold water — it should be about 2cm above the pork — and cover tightly. Place in the oven and cook for 2 hours, stirring after 1 hour.
While the pork is cooking, boil the eggs. Bring a small pot of water to the boil, add a pinch of salt and then slip in the eggs. Let it come back to a simmer and cook the eggs for 8 minutes exactly. Drain immediately, then shake the pot to break the shells while holding it under the cold tap. Carefully peel the eggs and set aside to cool.
After 2 hours, remove the pork from the oven and add the boiled eggs. Stir gently so the eggs are covered by the sauce. Cover and return to the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and add the tofu, if using. Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly and the tofu is hot.
Serve immediately with jasmine rice and a blob of hot sambal, plus a lightly cooked green vegetable such as bok choy or broccolini.
Any leftovers can be cooled completely and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat to piping hot before serving.
Chocolate croissant tray-baked pudding and salted cocoa cream
My youngest kid, and a few of his mates for that matter, will do most things for a buttery French pain au chocolat. Routinely, they will dig directly inside to extract the chocolate, leaving a few scant traces of pastry lying about like Hansel and Gretel did (perhaps so I can find them later in case they get lost). This cinch of a dish is one way to get them to eat the lot. With a dollop of salted cocoa cream on the side, it will lure chocolate fiends of any age. Simply whack everything in a baking tray and thrust it in the oven. No, not your kids, just the pudding.
Prep time 15-20 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
For the pudding
150ml full cream milk
100g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
6 large croissants, cut in half
12 squares milk chocolate
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp caster sugar
For the salted cocoa cream
250ml single cream
2 Tbsp dark cocoa powder, plus extra if wished
1 Tbsp icing sugar
⅓ teaspoon pink Himalayan salt flakes, plus extra for sprinkling.
Heat the oven to 160degC on fan bake. Lightly grease an ovenproof baking dish, about 20cm x 26cm x 5cm.
Heat the cream and milk until almost boiling. Add the dark chocolate and set aside to allow the chocolate to melt.
Put the croissants in the baking dish, cut side up (they should fit snugly). Tuck a square of milk chocolate inside each croissant half.
Whisk together the eggs and sugar, then slowly whisk in the warm milk and cream. Pour this mixture evenly over the croissants, ensuring all pastry is soaked.
Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the custard is set and the top is crispy.
To make the cream
Beat the cream, cocoa, sugar and salt together until it forms soft peaks.
Transfer to a small bowl.
Add a little pinch of extra salt and dust with a little more cocoa if wished.
Serve with the pudding.