I’m not really a batchcooking fan, despite the fact that I do it a lot. I’ve blogged about it before and shared my methods here. It’s tiring, and I always make my plans too ambitious and think that I will do enough to feed us for months, but with lots of different varieties too, so inevitably I am dead on my feet before the finishing touches are done. I spend hours cooking then leave casseroles for a slow simmer, clean the counters, wash up and am about to sit down when I realise that there’s the portioning to do, then cooling, then labelling and putting in the freezer. I’m not really selling it am I? But every minute of the drudge is worthwhile when I get home and can take a homemade dinner that’s been defrosting all day, pop it in the microwave or heat it on the hob and have it on the table hot in five minutes, or be able to take portions out of the freezer and into the boys’ bowls for dinner at their minder’s. And so, I batchcook.
In my latest batchcooking session I broke some of my own rules, with the usual results. I would love to declare now that I have learned my lesson and that I won’t do it again, but let’s face it, I know myself and I probably will. Lucky for those reading I am happy to share my mistakes in the interests of all.
Part of my problem is that my mission doesn’t end with filling the freezer, I want it full of things that I want to eat, and not the same three dishes over and over. In the attempt to get as many different dishes into the mix this time I decided to make 3 Chicken and Broccoli Bakes, a Chicken and Sweet Potato Casserole and a Veggie Chili. This meant too much chopping of different veggies, too many pans and way too much washing up.
And so, with much pomp and ceremony I am delighted to present the first three Bumbles of Rice Batchcooking Commandments. (Cue fanfare.)
The Bumbles of Rice Batchcooking Commandments
1. Think first.
Plan what you are going to cook and think ahead to look at the steps involved. Can you use the same vegetable in different dishes? How much washing up will it take? Plan to make two dishes that use the same white sauce as a base and there’s half as many pans.
This time when I eventually did start thinking I had a brainwave. I had decided to make a big tomato and vegetable sauce as a base, so I chopped three colours of peppers, courgettes, mushrooms and onions (if I’d had celery or carrots in the fridge they would have gone in too) and fried some garlic and added the onions first and then the rest of the veg. When they were cooked and as I was about to add the chili powder, cumin and coriander for my veggie chili inspiration suddenly hit and I tipped half of the mixture in the big pot into a smaller one. In the first pot I added the chili powder, cumin, coriander, tinned tomatoes (with the essential teaspoon of sugar per tin) and kidney beans, as planned and left them to simmer. To the second pot I added passata, sugar and basil, then stirred in creme fraiche and tinned tuna and hey presto a completely different dish, and bonus points for having a fish dish for the freezer. So two very different meals with the same bases, and no extra chopping.
In my book, it’s better to have ten “grand” dinners in the freezer than two gourmet ones. If you are not too fussy about how faithful to recipes you are you can get inventive and double the choice in your freezer like I did in Commandment 1. It’d be lovely to eat restaurant quality meals from the freezer every day, but that’s not real life, so compromise a bit on your recipes and you’ll get good variety for less effort.
3. Cut the weekday work.
Midweek I usually end up making rice or pasta or baking a potato to add to meat or sauce portions that I have frozen for the boys’ dinners that I will send to their minder, this is a bit of a pain some evenings so this time I added mashed potato to the top of the chicken and sweet potato casserole pots (I used Babypotz again), so no work for me that day. I did similar with tiny pasta bows and the tuna dish. I’ve found basmati rice freezes well in ziplocs too. Very little extra effort and it’s such a relief not to have a pot to clean on a busy weeknight.
For more hints and tips on batchcooking you might find THIS POST helpful.