More and more people are gatecrashing social events just to get a plate of food, as economic conditions in SA worsen.

As the temperatures dip, braised meats and pulses with plenty of fiery spice are key to keeping our winter spirits up. One-pot-meals are the order of the day – with minimal fuss or washing up, our precious winter energy can be saved for curling up on the couch and indulging.

Smoky chorizo, lentil and potato stew

250g brown lentils, soaked for 20 minutes in cold water

1 onion, finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, cut into slivers

100g chorizo, sliced

2tsp smoked paprika

1tsp chilli powder

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes

2 tins of whole, peeled tomatoes

1tbs tomato purée

150ml water

olive oil

Salt and pepper

Fresh coriander for garnish

Fry the onions on a medium heat until soft and translucent.

Add the garlic and the chorizo and cook until the chorizo is browned.

Stir in the smoked paprika and chilli powder then add the potatoes.

Cook for a few minutes until the flavours combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Then add the tins of tomatoes and the tomato paste, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Now drain the lentils and add them and the water and stir.

Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat.

Cook for 45 minutes, topping up with water if necessary, until the potatoes and lentils are cooked through and the stew is thick and rich.

Season again with salt and pepper.

Serve in a bowl topped with fresh coriander, a drizzle of olive oil and lots of crusty bread.

Honeyed chicken with prunes and almonds and herbed pasta rice

70g whole almonds

2tbs sesame seeds

9 chicken thighs, skin removed

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 stick of cinnamon

70g butter

1tbs saffron

3 cloves

500ml water

200g prunes

1tsp cinnamon

1tbs coriander powder

½tsp cayenne pepper

2tbs honey

juice of half a lemon juice

Herbed pasta rice:

300g orzo pasta or pasta rice

Roughly chopped Italian parsley

olive oil

Salt and pepper

Place almonds in a tray in the oven and toast until nutty brown. Once the almonds are toasted, remove and place the sesame seeds on the same tray. Return to the oven briefly, making sure not to burn them – about one minute.

Place chicken, onions, garlic, cinnamon stick, butter, saffron, cloves and water in a pot. Add ½tsp salt and more water if needed – you want to just cover the chicken. Place the lid on the pot and cook at a medium heat for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

When the chicken is falling off the bone, remove chicken pieces and add prunes and remaining spices and honey to the pot. Return to the heat and reduce it until syrupy.

Check the seasoning and put the chicken and any juices that have collected, back in the pot and add a squeeze of lemon to bring out the flavours.

While the chicken is cooking, cook the pasta rice in plenty of salted water and according to the instructions on the packet.

Once cooked, drain the water and toss the olive oil and parsley through the pasta. Add salt if necessary and freshly ground black pepper.

Harira (Moroccan-style lamb and chickpea soup)

1 tin of chickpeas, rinsed

2 red onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

200g lamb shoulder, cut into 2cm cubes

2 stalks of celery with the leaves, thinly sliced

1tsp turmeric

½tsp ground ginger

1tsp cinnamon

1tsp coriander

2 red chillies, finely chopped

1.2 litres water

1 tin chopped tomatoes

A large handful of roughly chopped coriander

A large handful of roughly chopped mint

Salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

lemon wedges to serve

Heat some olive oil in a large pot and add the onions, garlic, lamb cubes, celery and turmeric. Cook until the lamb is nicely browned then add the remaining spices and the water and cook for an hour until the lamb is tender.

Add the chopped tomatoes and the chickpeas and cook for a further 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle the fresh coriander and mint on top. Serve with lemon wedges. - The Mercury