My freezer is not large but it holds some essentials for my cooking. And while preparing another chicken stock on the weekend I thought it’s time to talk about those essentials.
A couple of months ago I did a workshop on pantry staples and one of the things we learned about was how to make your own chicken or beef stock. Since then I’ve made a few batches of chicken stock and it’s become one of those things I’m surprised that I hadn’t done earlier.
In essence, it’s throwing some chicken carcass in water with a handful of veggies and let that boil for anything between two and five hours. And the great news for me is that getting the ingredients right is not important.
The secret lies in the slow cooking for several hours. This last batch of stock I simmered for five hours and then let it cool overnight.
The next day I strained the water from the solids and poured it into a variety of containers. Some went straight back in the pot for a soup, some went into larger containers for another soup, and some went into small containers. The small containers with chicken stock are great to add to any pasta sauce, for example. Even ice cube trays are great to use if you have them. That way I can add some great substance to almost any meal.
The great thing about making my own stock is that I know what went in it and what didn’t. And with most of it frozen in my freezer, I can use it at any time.
Another staple in my freezer is a tray of curry paste. Every now and again I whizz up a large batch, following a recipe. I try to vary between the kinds but I rarely end up with more than one kind in the freezer.
Again, making my own curry paste is so simple that I’m surprised I didn’t attempt to do it earlier.
My trick has been to follow a recipe because I’m not confident enough to freestyle it.
The tip I follow for freezing the pastes is to line an egg cup with cling wrap and to pile the paste into the cup. Then I roll it up and store the little parcels in a labelled container.
When I want to use a paste I try to get it out a few hours before I start cooking. However, I’ve even managed with a frozen one just fine, it just took a little longer.
One waste-free alternative to tinned beans and peas for me has been dried legumes.
I usually cook up a large batch and freeze most of it. At the moment I have a container of frozen chickpeas waiting to be added into a curry and turned into a hummus.
The great thing about cooking your own beans and peas rather than using tinned ones is that they are considerably cheaper. I can also get large quantities in bulk, using my own storage containers and therefore producing no waste.
Also, cooked beans and peas are really easy to freeze and thaw. I rarely notice a difference between frozen beans and tinned beans.
Cooked meals and meal parts
The largest proportion of my freezer is filled with prepared meals. I’ve started doing that a couple of months ago in order to use my veggie box vegetables as quickly as I can. And then, when I need it, I can just get a container out and have a meal prepared within minutes.
I usually cook up large batches of one meal. Our favourites for frozen meals have been vegetarian curries and soups. They need to be cooked up with a bit of preparation and freeze well.
Among the cooked meals is also our all-time favourite ragu, an essential for our lasagne. This one takes some time to cook so whenever we make it, we make sure to cook up a very large portion and freeze at least two-thirds of it.
Having these few components in my freezer makes cooking easier and, actually, healthier. I love that I can just open up the freezer door and find something home-cooked to serve.
There are a few things to keep in mind, of course, but overall preparing my freezer for cooking adventures is saving me time and money.
What’s your freezer staple and what do you cook with it?