Winter is definitely the time to love your freezer! Batch cooking and freezing is the perfect way to conjure up a hot and comforting meal in minutes, giving you time to relax, indulge in a hobby or just have more hours to fit everything into. Batch cooking doesn’t mean seven days of slaving away over stew and dumplings either. These recipes are taste explosions that can be cooked and frozen in advance (so cancel your weekend plans and get all your cooking for the week done!). They’re also budget friendly, ensuring eating well doesn’t come at a premium.
With all meals, it is recommended that you to defrost these 24hrs beforehand – so just pop one in the fridge before you go to bed!
1. Baked fresh sardines with hearty ratatouille
– 3.9/5 (on taste, freeze-ability and ease of cooking)
Serves 8, freezes for 6 weeks
In at number 5, this healthy dish is perfect those looking for a fresh start to the week. Any spare ratatouille can be used as an excellent base for a pasta sauce or as a pizza topping!
Chop and cube 3 courgettes, 2 aubergines and 5 peppers (of any colour you like). Fry with 4 cloves of garlic in a little oil for 5 mins on a medium heat. Add in a 350g carton or bottle of passata and 300ml of vegetable stock. Finally, add in a tablespoon of chopped basil, cover, and simmer on a low heat for 20mins before setting to one side.
For the fish, beat together 100g of low-fat cream cheese and 100g of low-fat yoghurt. Spread on to eight sardine fillets and cover with some seasoned breadcrumbs and/or mixed seeds.
To finish, set up eight Tupperware or plastic containers and place some ratatouille in each one with a fillet on top, then label them and pop them in the freezer.
Once defrosted, set your oven to 200C/180C fan/ gas 6 and bake for 20 minutes!
2. Sausage and chilli bean hotpot
– 4/5 (on taste, freeze-ability and ease of cooking)
Serves 4, freezes for 2 months
At number 4, this classic winter warmer is the perfect mid-week dish to combat hump day. It’s a simple dish and one that will fit a tight budget, too.
Fry 8 sausages with a little oil or a spritz of low calorie frying spray in a large pan for about 10 mins until they are brown all over. Next, add 2 tins of chopped tomatoes, 3 tins of butter beans and a teaspoon of mustard. Stir in some chillies – powder or fresh chopped finely – to taste and simmer for 30 minutes. When it’s ready, split it between four containers and pop it in the freezer until you’re ready to eat, then you can just defrost and warm it through again in your microwave 8-12 minutes.
We like this one served with rice and a dollop of low-fat yoghurt. Yum!
3. Rapid fish pie
– 4/5 (on taste, freeze-ability and ease of cooking)
Serves 4, freezes for 1 month
Fish pie is a classic number 3 dish for a reason – it’s quick, easy and cheap to make. If you like seafood, this dish is one that you can experiment with and put your own stamp on.
Peel and cut 750g of potatoes into large chunks and boil for 12-14 mins. Drain and mash with a knob of butter, 3 tablespoons of milk and salt and pepper to taste. Why not add a little Dijon or wholegrain mustard for an extra kick?
Next, fill a pan with water, bring it to the boil and drop two salmon fillets and 250g of white fish like haddock, pollock or cod in. To make the dish on a budget without compromising on flavour, use frozen fish instead of fresh and swap out salmon fillets for salmon trimmings.
Keep the pan boiling for 5 minutes, then drain. Add two handfuls of frozen peas, 200g of crème fraiche and some chives (dry or fresh) to the fish and simmer for three or four minutes until the crème fraiche has melted. Portion off into foil dishes and top with the mash before freezing.
Once defrosted, warm in the oven for 25 minutes on 200C/180C fan/ gas 6
4. A crowd-pleasing Bolognese
– 4.5/5 (on taste, freeze-ability and ease of cooking)
Serves 12, freezes for 2 months
Spaghetti Bolognese is a winning dish any day of the week, and is sure to please even the fussiest of eaters. It is also great for those with dietary requirements, as the below recipe works well with minced lamb, chicken, beef or Quorn, and can be made with wholemeal or gluten-free pasta.
Chop up 6 bacon rashers, 4 onions, 3 carrots and 4 celery sticks and fry in a large pan for 20 minutes. Towards the end, add 6 cloves of crushed garlic and 500 grams of sliced mushrooms. In a separate pan brown 1.5kg of mince, then add to the veg.
Cover this all with 6 tins of chopped tomatoes and any other secret ingredients you like to add to make it your own. We love to add a splash of Worchester sauce and a tipple of red wine (if you have it spare!).
Simmer for 1hr and freeze portions. Once defrosted, bring to a slow simmer on a medium heat.#
5. The Ultimate Biryani Bake
Serves 8, freezes for 1 month
This twist on an Indian classic is packed with flavour – a perfect alternative to a Friday night or weekend curry. It’s cheap to make and healthy to boot:. By replacing cream for a lighter touch, it’s guilt-free for your waistline and your wallet!
To make it, slice 2 large onions and fry off with a little oil and a teaspoon of sugar, so that they turn brown and caramelised. Next, cube four chicken breasts, chuck the pieces in a bowl and coat with 1 tablespoon of curry powder before adding to your pan and frying for 2 minutes with the onions.
Now add in 4 tablespoons of curry paste of your choice with 1 tin of chickpeas and a selection of your favourite veggies. Simmer for 30 mins before placing 400g of cooked basmati rice on top.
Allow to cool before splitting into portions and freezing. When you’re ready to eat, defrost thoroughly then warm in the oven for 35 minutes on 200C/180C fan/ gas 6
Do you have any of your own winning dishes you can batch cook and freeze? Get in touch and let us know!