Thursday, 19 March 2015

Batch cooking

Clockwise from top left: fresh tomato sauce; chocolate, date and sesame treats; fruit compote; (tinfoil) fruit crumble; baked potatoes; cashew nut brownies.
These need no explanation. Ok roasted potatoes for anyone not-Irish!

These days as I'm at home minding two sick kids I'm alternating between manic energy and complete exhaustion. Broken sleep, not much exercise (can't take them out when they've fevers) etc etc, you all know the score. Anyway, I DID get out for a short walk to the local grocers today and bought a load of fresh fruit and vegetables. I washed them in a mixture of vinegar and water (hopefully to remove pesticides) and then ended up doing huge batches of dinner and dessert staples which will make mealtimes easier in the coming week or two. Today's dinner was reheated slow cooker lasagne, and I've had a request for the same tomorrow, it's that nice apparently, so we're sorted until the weekend.

I don't normally do this amount of batch cooking in one go, hence the photos and the blog post! I normally cook double and freeze half of whatever I'm making, and every 3-4 weeks I'll buy a few kilos of big vine tomatoes and make a sauce to do pizza toppings, shepherd's pie etc. I hadn't baked in a while, and it had been missed, so I made some things to freeze and enjoy in the coming weeks.

So here are the vague recipes, might give some of you ideas, and apologies if I've shared these before.

Tomato sauce (pizza topping / pasta sauce / lasagne / shepherd's pie base / curry base / soup etc)

Lots of tomatoes (I like the vine tomatoes that have a great scent)
Olive oil
Fresh and dried herbs (I used fresh oregano and dried herbs de Provence)

Wash the tomatoes, halve and put into large saucepan with olive oil and the halved onions, peeled garlic and the rest of the ingredients. We're not going to faff around peeling the tomatoes or chopping the onions finely, it's all going in the blender anyway. Put a lid on and cook on a medium heat (i.e. bubbling nicely) until the tomatoes are mushy, stirring the odd time (maybe 1 hour depending on quantity). Put the lid at an angle to let steam out and continue cooking on a lower heat until it has reduced a bit more, maybe 20 minutes. Blend. Eat, use or store. I've kept some of it to go with my husband's chicken for dinner tonight, I'll use some more as a slow cooker shepherd's pie base with  lentils and mushrooms at the weekend, and I'll probably freeze the rest to use as a pizza topping next week.

Chocolate, date and sesame treats (very healthy, be warned)

Melted butter
Raw cocoa powder
Sesame seeds
Ground cashews
Chopped dates
Vanilla extract

Mix everything together and press into a clingfilm lined receptacle, freeze for a couple of hours, then slice and eat or keep in fridge. 

Fruit compote (great with natural yogurt and honey, granola, on porridge, alone, whatever)

Frozen cherries (or any frozen berries)
Chopped ginger root
Orange juice (using up my older fruits!)
Butter in small chunks

Add everything to a saucepan except the frozen berries. Cook until apples and rhubarb are soft, then stir in frozen berries to heat through. I'm freezing this in smaller portions for portable snacks. 

Fruit crumble (lovely with natural yogurt or cream)

Same ingredients as for the compote, put them into a buttered ovenproof dish. Using the "half fat to flour" ratio (ie. 50g butter to 100g flour) make a crumble, add a little honey to sweeten and some oats or chopped nuts. Pat over the fruit and make a dome on top with the crumble, as the fruit sinks a bit when softened. Freeze raw or oven cook at 180'C until top is golden and fruit bubbling at edges. Today we had this for dessert and I'm freezing 3 portions for another day. It does keep raw in the fridge for a day or two too.

Baked potatoes

I just wash and scrub the potatoes and skewer onto a metal skewer, cooks them through from the inside better. Cook at 180'C until the skins are crisp and they come easily off the skewer. Lovely chopped and sautéed the next day in butter. Or scoop out the insides and mash, or leave the skins on and mash as I do. I mashed and stored them in the fridge to use as a shepherd's pie topping at the weekend. I'll always throw potatoes into the oven when it's on, and use within a day or two. They never get wasted in this house!

Cashew nut brownies - I buy bulk bags of broken cashews to use for this or nut butter. This is my go-to healthy treat for coffee mornings, visitors, parties etc. Thanks to Man Duka on Facebook for the original recipe.

Chopped banana (using up leftovers)
1 cup ground cashew nuts (or almonds)
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup raw cocoa powder
Vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add everything except the banana and eggs and mix well. Allow to cool for a few minutes then beat in the eggs. Pour into a tin lined with greaseproof paper with chopped banana on the bottom. Cook at 180'C (seeing a pattern here?!) until set. Allow to cool in the tin, then slice and refrigerate or freeze. These go down well at parties, I've made double quantities and cooked in a roasting tin with great success. If you freeze them on a nice plate covered in tinfoil you can bring straight from the freezer to a party without having to repackage them. I'd give them a couple of hours to defrost before eating though. They'd make a gorgeous dessert with homemade ice-cream (non-dairy ones might include blended frozen banana, coconut cream etc)

Roast potatoes

Chop potatoes small, add to olive oil in an ovenproof dish, add herbs/salt/pepper to taste. Cook at... yes, 180'C. We totally didn't need any more potatoes today, but I'll leave these in the fridge and use for omelettes at tomorrow's breakfast, or reheat on a pan with a fried egg for tea. 

Well that's it for this scintillating blog post, hope it gave some of you ideas. I only turn on the main oven once or twice a week and when I do I like to make full use of it, filling every shelf. It means things take a little longer to cook, but is more economical in the long run. Other days it's stuff cooked on the hob or in the slow cooker. I'm all about the advance cooking these days, really helps when you know you'll be busy or tired, and you don't want to fall back on frozen convenience foods. All you need to do is plan a bit ahead and take stuff out to defrost, though I've successfully cooked most from frozen, just takes a bit longer, and you need to cover the top to stop it burning. This way of eating is also way cheaper than buying bottled or canned sauces and foods, and is healthier too.

If you've any ideas to add for us please do! Even meat recipes, as I know not all my readers are fussy veggies like me.

Nee x

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