Kitchen Tips

Fresh winter produce to make the season delicious

Embrace the cold bite of winter thanks to the joys of the season's fresh new produce. Create magic in the kitchen with our scrumptious ideas for enjoying broccoli, pears and pumpkin.

Try our gluten-free creamy salmon broccoli and penne pasta pots for a divine winter dish.
We've teamed up with Countdown to bring you the best of winter's fresh produce, as well as all the recipes that will help you have a delicious transition to the colder season.
Winter dining is defined by its cosiness and warmth, providing comforting respite from the crisper weather and shorter days. Three seasonal stars that we can't get enough of in winter are the versatile broccoli, juicy pear and sweet pumpkin, all of which can be used in many different and delightful ways. Learn more about these fantastic fruit and vegetables, as well as exciting ways to prepare them with our winter recipes.

Why broccoli should be a staple on your weekly shopping list

Versatile, delicious and bursting with nutritional value, broccoli is reliable 365 days of the year. Coming from the brassica family, much like kale, brussels sprouts and cauliflower, this tree-shaped vegetable is actually a flower head made up of several florets of small, unopened buds. While the flower is the most commonly eaten part of the broccoli, the whole plant, including its stem and leaves, is edible!
Broccoli is grown year-round in New Zealand, all the way from Pukekohe down to North Canterbury. Watch Gordon McPhail, Farm Production Manager of Leaderbrand Produce, to see how the Gisborne-based company have been supplying Countdown with hand-harvested broccoli for over 20 years.
The best way to lock in freshness for longer is by storing broccoli in the fridge, where it will last for up to one week. Make sure you keep it away from fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, bananas and apples, which emit a chemical called ethylene that speeds up the broccoli's ripening process.
Packed with antioxidants, vitamin C, fibre and folate, as well as being a great source of calcium, iron and carotenoids, broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat. Retain all those health benefits by eating your broccoli raw or by cooking for no more than three minutes. Not only will overcooking lose a lot of the vegetable's vitamin C, but it will also reduce the beautiful crunch, colour and flavour. For fussy younger diners, you could grate or blend broccoli into meatballs, pasta sauces or savoury muffins, so they won't even know they're eating it!
Our favourite thing about broccoli is its versatility; raw or cooked, steamed or microwaved, fried or grilled, this vegetable is scrumptious no matter how it's prepared. The combination of chicken and broccoli in this cheesy bake makes for a warming family meal, or try it with salmon in these tasty gluten-free pasta pots. If you want something a bit fresher, this broccoli, oats and almond salad is a zingy delight, or our broccoli and haloumi fritters are a creative way to get your 5+ a day. For a delicious health kick, swap carbs for veggies in this prawn and broccoli fried 'rice', or go green with our comforting broccoli and kale soup.
Broccoli and walnut pesto

Transform your winter dishes with the delicious pear

Pears are a delicious winter fruit that has been enjoyed since prehistoric times, with the Ancient Romans even having a recipe for a spiced and stewed pear soufflé! With over 5000 varieties worldwide, pears all have a sweet, juicy flavour that lends itself to a range of savoury dishes and desserts.
Most of Countdown's pears are grown in the sunny region of Nelson, being picked in March and cold-stored for months so Kiwis can enjoy them all the way through until mid-December. Orchards such as Midlands Packers and Echodale Packers provide four main varieties of pear to Countdown: Angélys, Taylors Gold, Packham and Beurre Bosc, each of which looks and tastes unique, but offers the same beautiful sweetness.
Pears can be eaten either when firm and crunchy or when ripened to a juicy texture. Keep any unripe pears in a cool, dark place for 1-4 days, checking daily for ripeness, then store in the fridge for up to a week to preserve freshness. Pears are unusual in that they ripen from the inside out, so check for ripeness by pressing gently at the base of the stem; if they give slightly, they are ready to eat. And if they do get a little too soft, pop your pears in the freezer, where they can be kept for desserts or smoothies for up to a month.
Pear and chocolate drizzle cake
Pears aren't just delicious though, they're also a great source of dietary fibre and vitamin C. Pear skin is rich in nutrients, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory flavonoids, and they may also protect us from type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. All the more reason to stock up on this juicy fruit all season!
To make the most of winter's supply of pears, give savoury a go with this velvety curried pear and parsnip soup, or our thyme and honey parsnip side dish. Pear is a showstopper on cheese boards, especially when baked in pastry with blue cheese, walnuts and thyme, and works perfectly in salads such as this pear, honey and prosciutto combination.
If you're more of a sweet tooth, the magical pairing of chocolate and pear will be right up your alley. Try our indulgent pear, chocolate and burnt butter cake, this fudgy pear and chocolate brownie or our pear and chocolate drizzle cake. Whether eaten for breakfast, atop these simple pear and honey pastries, or for supper, poached in honey and served with ginger sponge, pears are always a winner.

Sweet or savoury, pumpkin is an wintery delight

While pumpkin may look severe from the outside, this hard-shelled vegetable has a beautiful soft texture and sweet, buttery taste when cooked. Thought to have originated in North America around 6000 BC, pumpkin is great for roasting, baking, stews, and even cakes and pies, with its subtle flavour working well in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Pumpkin is grown on vines like other members of the gourd family, such as cucumber, courgette and melon, and are available in New Zealand all year round. Countdown stocks a delicious selection of pumpkin varieties, including crown, coral and butternut. Most pumpkins are grown around Hawkes Bay, Pukekohe, Wairarapa and Canterbury, with the butternut variety imported from Tonga between November and January.
Thanks to its tough outer shell, whole pumpkins can be kept for up to three months in a cool, dark place. Once cut, place your pumpkin in the fridge and use within 9-10 days; and don't worry if the outside layer of flesh starts looking dry - just cut it off and the rest will be as good as new! Note that pumpkin shouldn't be stored in the freezer, as it will damage the skin and flesh.
Whole roasted buttercup squash with spiced lentils
The orangey-yellow flesh of the pumpkin isn't just vibrantly colourful, it also contains a powerful antioxidant called beta-carotene which boosts immunity and helps improve skin, bone and eye health. Pumpkin is also rich in beneficial fibre and great for digestion, so it's well worth sneaking it into as many of your winter dishes as possible! Roasted, steamed, mashed, turned into soup or mixed into baking, this vege is a star.
Use pumpkin to add some delicious substance to your salads, such as this Moroccan spiced carrot, pumpkin and chickpea recipe or our chorizo, chickpea and pumpkin concoction. Pumpkin also lends itself well to Italian dishes, such as this creamy pumpkin and crispy sage risotto, with sage and goat's cheese in this pasta dish, or as the star in our gnocchi with blue cheese and sage. For a warming dinner, try our Thai pumpkin soup with coconut and lime or this incredible roasted buttercup squash with spiced lentils.
Or you could explore the sweeter side of life by incorporating pumpkin into your desserts, starting with this divine spiced pumpkin pie. This spiced pumpkin streusel cake with maple drizzle is another sweet showstopper, or our pumpkin pie with pecan praline is delightful when served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
However you choose to enjoy your winter produce, you're in for a season of deliciously comforting dining. Savour these fruits and vegetables while they're fresh and plentiful, because you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone!