Foodie TV presenter, Chris Bavin, has worked in the food industry for over twenty years, beginning his career as an importer of fresh produce and going on to appear on our screens on the likes of Eat Well For Less? and Britain's Best Home Cook. With a wealth of foodie experience behind him, and as a family cook who loves to prepare fresh and healthy meals for his own brood, Chris has plenty of home cooking wisdom to share. In Good Food, Sorted, his first cookbook, he does exactly that, with over 100 fuss-free recipes and plenty of tips and tricks on how to dish up delicious food the whole family will love while also maximising your budget and making the most out of the time you dedicate to cooking.
One thing Chris is evangelical about in Good Food, Sorted is the importance of batch-cooking and getting friendly with your freezer to make each meal go further and individual ingredients last longer. Here we share some of his top pointers from the book to help you shake up your cooking routine, save time, and make the work you do in the kitchen count for more. Over to Chris...
Cooking in bulk to stock up the freezer with ready-made meals is one of the most efficient ways to save time in the kitchen. Follow the 10 tips below to avoid batch-cooking pitfalls and freeze with ease.
1. Check your seasoning
Salt and chilli become stronger over time so if you are planning to freeze a batch of cooked food, be careful not to over-season the dish with these.
2. Use the food processor
If you're coking up several batches of a favourite dish, that can mean a lot of chopping and prepping. To save time and effort, enlist the help of your food processor to chop up vegetables in bulk.
3. Undercook your veggies
When you're freezing cooked vegetables, either on their own or as part of a dish, undercook them slightly so they don't become overdone and soggy the second time they are heated. Simply blanch them briefly then freeze, or if they're part of a dish, cook them for slightly less time than instructed.
4. Portion it up
If you're stocking up on a dish or a favourite sauce, portion up before you freeze - it's quite a challenge to divide up a big wedge of frozen lasagne for six when you want to feed just four.
5. Pack it small
When you're freezing cooked ingredients in freezer bags, flatten the bags out as much as possible before freezing to reduce the space they take up in the freezer - and reduce the thawing time.
6. Get rid of air
You don't want all of your hard batch-cooking work to be put to waste by freezer "burn" - the term used for when air damages frozen food. Take time to get as much air as possible out of packaging before you freeze food.
7. Use sturdy containers
Avoid single-use plastics and invest in some good-quality airtight containers, which will withstand repeated freezing, for batch cooking.
8. Freeze in ovenproof dishes
Small ovenproof dishes are ideal for freezing dishes such as lasagnes and fish pies. Simply thaw and cook everything in the same dish.
9. Put a label on
Everything can look very similar onze frozen, so use a permanent marker pen and stickers to label dishes clearly - state what they are and the date they were frozen.
10. Do regular clear-outs
Keep your freezer organized - try keeping a log of the contents. It's amazing what you can lose in there if you don't clear it out so often.
Leftover ingredients or food that we can't find an immediate use for too often end up in the bin, but plenty of items can be frozen for later use, so check this list of 10 ingredients before tipping away - and cut back on the waste.
1. Pasta and rice
You may be surprised to know that cooked and cooled pasta and rice can be frozen (cool and freeze rice quickly as bacteria breed if left at room temperature). Spoon excess into freezer bags in portions, spreading it out as flat as possible and removing as much air as you can, and freeze. Simply blanch in boiling water to reheat until piping hot right through.
2. Overripe avocados
When an avocado turns a little too soft before you've had a chance to use it, cut it in half, remove the stone, scoop out the flesh, and freeze it. Thaw it in the fridge and use it to make a guacamole dip.
3. Extra eggs
Not sure you can use up eggs before their use-by date? Simple. Crack them and either beat the white and yolk together and freeze them whole in ice cube trays, or separate them and freeze each yolk and white individually. Once frozen, pop them in a bag or container and label with the date. Then when a recipe asks for 4 egg whites or 2 yolks, thaw what you need overnight in the fridge and use within 24 hours.
4. Half a tube of tomato purée
If you're left with hald a tube of tomato purée, dollop tablespoonfulls on a lined baking tray, freeze and move to an airtight bag once solid. Remove dollops to add during cooking as needed - just gently thaw in the pan then stir through.
5. The end of the cheese
Resist the urge to bin that final quarter chunk of Cheddar hanging around in the back of the fridge. Instead, grate it and freeze it in an airtight container, together with a teaspoon of cornflour to stop it clumping when it thaws. Sprinkle it straight from frozen on to bakes and pizzas before cooking.
6. Too much batter?
If everyone's had their fill of pancakes before the batter is used up, cook the remaining batter, lay the extra pancakes between sheets of greaseproof paper, and freeze them. Whenever you fancy a pancake treat just warm the pancakes in the oven or the toaster straight from the freezer.
7. Roast chicken leftovers
Rather than discard the meat left on the bone at the end of a roast, carve it off, shred it, and freeze it in portions. It's perfect for adding to soups and pasta dishes - just thaw it in the fridge overnight and heat through thoroughly with the rest of the dish.
8. Not-so-fresh bread
When a loaf is slightly stale (not mouldy), use it to make my Herby Breadcrumbs in Good Food Sorted and freeze for recipes. Or slice it to toast from frozen or even use in sandwiches - it softens once defrosted.
9. Hummus to go
If you often find yourself binning half a tub of past-its-best hummus, freeze what you haven't used in portions in airtight containers. Thaw a portion overnight in the fridge whenever you fancy a dip.
10. Citrus surplus
Slice or cut into wedges leftover lemon and lime halves and freeze in airtight bags. These are perfect to drop into a gin and tonic or for when a recipe asks for "a squeeze of lemon". Freezing citrus juice is also a great way to use up tired fruit.