Stay cool – how to stock your freezer

Frozen food gets a bad rep for being unhealthy and the scourge of a nation that just can’t be bothered to cook (think Jamie Oliver’s hatred of the beloved turkey twizzler). In reality, the freezer is your best friend when trying to eat healthily and cheaply, as so much fresh fruit and veg can be either frozen or bought from the frozen section of the supermarket to be later added to whatever recipe you might be making.

Meals cooked in bulk, such as stews, curries and soups can be ideally frozen in individual portions and are perfect for when you come back from lectures late and lack the willpower to turn on the stove. I’m not going to be instructing you on how to boil your own stock from a chicken carcass and keep it in the freezer, (this is why the stock cube was invented) but rather suggesting some recipes for bulk cooking and how to use frozen fruit and veg to your advantage in your busy student lifestyle.

Those of you who are still juggling fourteen bags of frozen peas and numerous pints of Ben & Jerry’s, do all your housemates a favour and nag your landlord for a chest freezer. It will save everyone money in the long run and ensure that you don’t break the plastic drawers due to overflow and ruin the freezer fun for all.

First up is the easiest dal you will ever make. Lentils are a brilliantly cheap and healthy source of protein and they freeze really well. Red lentils are used in this recipe but if you know your pulses and are clued up about soaking times, feel free to substitute in your favourite.

Lentil Dal

Ingredients

1 fresh tomato, chopped

1 white onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, crushed (or as much garlic as you can take)

2 green chillies, diced (same for the chillies, if you like it spicy)

A ½ piece of root ginger, diced

Handful of fresh coriander

2 tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp cumin seeds (ground cumin also works)

½ tsp chilli powder or chilli flakes

1 tsp garam masala

Salt and pepper to taste

25g of butter

500g red lentils (in the pulses and beans section, it comes in a bag not tin)

 

  1. Rinse the red lentils in cold running water. Use a sieve and move them around to remove dust and then leave them to soak for 20 minutes.
  2. Place the lentils in a large saucepan with about half of the butter, the turmeric and some salt.
  3. Cover the lentils with water to a few centimetres above and give it a stir. Bring this to a boil and make sure to skim off any scum that appears on the surface.
  4. Simmer on a medium heat for around 30 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed but the mixture is still wet. The lentils should feel soft and shouldn’t have any bite in them but shouldn’t have turned to complete mush and be sticking to the side of the pan.
  5. Heat the leftover butter in a frying pan and toast the cumin seeds for a few minutes until they smell good and are a darker colour. Put these aside and then add the garlic, onion, spices and ginger. (If you are using ground cumin then just start with the butter and add everything in at the same time). Let these brown in the pan, adding the cumin seeds as you go.
  6. Add the spices, onion, garlic and ginger to the lentil mix and add your diced tomato. Cover the pan and leave to simmer on a low heat for around ten minutes. Again, it shouldn’t be sticking to the side of the pan and if you feel it is getting too dry, then do add more water.
  7. Finally, add salt and pepper to your taste and garnish with fresh coriander (save your fresh coriander if freezing). Serve with basmati rice.

 

Pea and Leek soup

This recipe is not only brilliant frozen and eaten as a quick dinner before a night out or as an easy lunch but also uses the humble frozen pea as the base. I prefer to go for the petit pois over the garden pea as they are generally sweeter, but all peas are welcome in this recipe.

Ingredients

 

300g leeks, peeled and chopped (300g roughly is about 2 leeks once peeled)

500g frozen petit pois or garden peas

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Handful of fresh mint, chopped

1 litre of vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

 

  1. Allow the olive oil to heat up in a pan before adding the garlic and cooking it gently on a low heat (do not burn the garlic!)
  2. Add the chopped leeks and sauté them with garlic until soft.
  3. Add the frozen peas, mint and stock and bring to the boil.
  4. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes and season to your taste.
  5. If you have a hand blender, blend your soup until smooth.
  6. Divide into portions to freeze or enjoy fresh, served with crusty bread and a swirl of crème fraiche stirred through.

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