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Oil Rag column: Winter cooking

Winter cooking

by Frank and Muriel Newman
Week of 21 July 2014

The winter chill has set in so oily rag households have the wood burning stoves stoked up and the slow cookers brewing warm winter meals.

An oily rag family up north said although the power was out for three days during a recent storm they cooked delicious low-cost meals on top of their wood burning fire using a cast iron casserole dish. Slow cooking is not only a life-saver in times of emergency, it’s also a great way of making tasty winter meals using the cheapest cuts of meat.

Carol from Tauranga writes, “Always look at the price per kilo when buying meat - not the total price on the pack. Take into account whether it has the bone in or out. You get a good deal when the price per kilo is under $10.”

As a general guide the cheapest (to highest) cuts of meat is as follows: sausages, mince, gravy beef, blade steak, corned silverside, rolled roast, rump steak, BBQ steak, wiener schnitzel, sirloin steak, scotch fillet steak, and fillet steak.

We think you can’t go past chicken for excellent value. At about $5 a kg for frozen chicken pieces, it’s about half the cost of mince which is generally the cheapest red meat.

Here are a couple of low cost slow cooking recipes sent in by readers.

M.M. has this fantastic recipe their mum used to make. “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. Mum used to coat the chicken pieces in flour and brown them before placing in the casserole dish. However, as a busy mum myself, I skip this step and it turns out just fine. It is such a hearty meal, you will all love it!”

And here is a versatile minced meat casserole that can make use of almost anything edible that is left-over in the fridge! “Put any of the following ingredients, in layers, in an ovenproof dish, pie dish or casserole. Minced meat (beef, lamb, hogget, pork, chicken, rabbit or possum!) plus a mixture of any of these: 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 (not broccoli as it goes a funny colour). 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 cup 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.”

If you have a favourite slow cooking recipe or other ideas for low-cost hearty winter meals, please send them through to us and we will share them with others. You cansend us your tips by visiting or by writing to Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.


Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at

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