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New Zealand cook Allyson Gofton is a firm believer in this phenomenon, and her latest cookbook, Slow Cooked - Satisfying Food for the Oven or Slow Cooker, is the ideal companion for this time of year.
She provides recipes for the slow cooker (crock pot) and the oven in the book as well as plenty of tips and tricks.
The book features modern takes on old classics from the 1970s' home favourite apricot chicken to the heart-warming rich pinot chicken with mushrooms, moussaka lamb braise and pork chops in pizza sauce.
One of the reasons slow-cooking is so good, she says, is it enables cooks to use tougher and therefore cheaper cuts of meat which, when cooked slowly, become meltingly tender.
She provides information on meat cuts and how to cook them to perfection.
There are also chapters on soups and satisfying puddings.
Anzac self-saucing pudding
Anzac biscuits, so loved by every Kiwi family, take their more-ish taste from the golden syrup and oats that form the basis of the recipe.
Taking inspiration from these two ingredients, I've combined them to make a self-saucing pudding that, when served with vanilla ice cream and a hearty dollop of whipped cream - both of which will be lovingly soaked into the sponge topping - is a great tasting pud that certainly has plenty of dash for the little cash spent to make it!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
1½ cups self-raising flour
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup sugar
¼ cup desiccated coconut
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract or essence
50g butter, diced
½ cup golden syrup
2 cups boiling water
Preheat the oven to 180degC. Grease the base and sides of a 6-8-cup capacity ovenproof dish.
Sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the oats, sugar and coconut and make a well in the centre.
In a separate bowl or jug, mix together the milk, egg and vanilla. Pour into the well and gently stir together to form a smooth but stiff batter. Spread into the prepared dish.
Stir together the butter, golden syrup and boiling water until the butter melts.
Pour carefully over the batter.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. The sponge will rise to the top and the sauce will float sneakily underneath.
Serve dusted with icing sugar if wished.
Lamb tagine with lemon and ginger
The tagine, with its balance of sweet and savoury flavours, is an impressive culinary gift from Morocco.
The joining of sweet flavours such as quince, rosewater and honey with savoury ingredients including herbs, onion, garlic and meat - most often lamb and chicken, though beef, duck and rabbit are more modern and Western friends - creates memorable stews that you'll fall in love with.
The tagine normally has a thin sauce, soaked up with steamed baby couscous beads - the traditional starch of the region. Grilled, well-buttered flat breads and roasted pumpkin make excellent accompaniments to this tagine, which can be made with almost any cut of lamb, though shanks and shoulder, with their marbled fat, are the best.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: low 6-7 hours, high 4-5 hours
½ cup sultanas
½ cup dry-style sherry or white wine
2 large onions, peeled and finely diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed, peeled and finely chopped
¾ cup crystallised ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
¼½ tsp saffron threads
1 cinnamon stick or a scant
½ tsp ground cinnamon
6 lamb shanks or 1 lamb shoulder on the bone
2 cups lamb, chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp salt
Turn the slow cooker on to low to pre-warm while preparing and gathering the ingredients.
Soak the sultanas in the sherry or white wine for about 30 minutes.
Into the pre-warmed slow cooker put the onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, saffron and cinnamon and toss well to mix evenly.
Heat a dash of oil in a large frying pan and brown the lamb shanks or shoulder well. Transfer to the slow cooker, arranging the lamb on the bed of onions and flavourings. Pour over the sultanas with the sherry or wine and the stock. Season well with salt and pepper and cover.
Cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. I like the meat to fall from the bones so you may find that you need an extra hour's cooking time.
While the lamb is cooking, finely slice the lemon and sprinkle with the salt.
Cover with boiling water and set aside until the lamb is cooked, then drain.
Remove the lamb from the slow cooker and keep warm. Discard the cinnamon stick. Put about a third to half the cooking juices in a blender or food processor and blend well. Return the lamb to the slow cooker with the lemon slices.
The lamb shanks or shoulder can be served whole or the meat can be pulled from the bone and returned to the sauce. Either way, serve with couscous and garnish with pine nuts.
Honeyed pork and apricot pie under a crispy polenta crust
A delicious casserole, prepared from an ageless combination of flavours - pork, honey, apricots - simmered slowly to tenderness and served under mounds of cheesy polenta.
Together this is a cheerful, delicious all-in-one dish. For ease, make the polenta up while prepping the casserole and refrigerate until required.
If, however, polenta is not for you, coarsely mashed roasted pumpkin would marry up well with the flavours.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Chilling time: overnight
Cooking time: low 6-7 hours, high 4-5 hours, plus 35-45 minutes in the oven
1kg pork shoulder
10 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
34 sprigs thyme
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1 tsp ground black pepper
6 whole cloves
¼ cup honey, manuka is nice
2 Tbsp wine vinegar
1 cup dry white wine riesling, chardonnay or pinot gris
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
¼ cup tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
20 dried apricots, preferably New Zealand
2½ cups milk or use half milk and half chicken stock
1 tsp salt
¾ cup instant polenta
½ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese or use tasty Cheddar
Cut the pork shoulder into large 5cm pieces and place in a large dish. Scatter over the garlic, thyme, fennel seeds, pepper, cloves, honey, wine vinegar and wine.
Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, turn the slow cooker on to low to pre-warm while preparing the ingredients.
Remove the pork from the marinade and reserve all the marinade ingredients.
Heat a good dash of oil in a large frying pan and quickly brown the meat evenly in batches. Place the meat in the pre-warmed slow cooker.
Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook in the residue oil, adding more if required, over a moderate heat until the vegetables take on a little colour.
Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring until it darkens in colour. Add the reserved marinade ingredients, stock and the apricots and bring to the boil.
Pour over the pork and cover with the lid.
Cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 4-5 hours, or until the meat is tender.
To make the polenta crust, line a 20cm x 30cm slice tin with baking paper. Bring the milk (or milk and stock) and salt to scalding point in a saucepan. Gradually sprinkle in the polenta, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes quite thick.
Continue to cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes to ensure the starch grains in the polenta have been well cooked. Stir in the cheese. Pour into the prepared slice tin and refrigerate until firm.
Preheat the oven to 200degC.
Transfer the pork - hot or cool - to a large ovenproof dish. Cut the prepared polenta into shapes and arrange over the top of the pie. Sprinkle over a little extra grated cheese.
Bake for 35-45 minutes until the polenta is golden and the pie bubbling.