Sunday, 26 June 2016
Batch Cooking Day: Three hours, three meals, twenty portions for £20.
Every few weeks I have a batch cooking session. I load up the fridge with the ingredients for a few different recipes, prop up my iPad in the kitchen with something compulsive on Netflix (right now it's iZombie or the Scream TV series), and I spend an afternoon chopping, stirring and cooking.
I’ve spoken a lot about what an advocate I am for batch cooking. The simple reason is that a day of work once a month or so means that you can come home from work most nights, pop something in the microwave, and relax in the knowledge that you’ve had something nutritious and healthy, but most importantly, QUICK. Some nights I still cook from scratch, but I’d say 80% of the time I eat freezer-food. But this, the good kind, not the crispy pancakes kind.
On my last batch cooking day, I documented some of the process to share just how easy it can be. So clear some space in your freezer, do a quick food shop and come with me now, on an adventure through slow cookers and ovens… we’re going to make Chicken Burrito Bowls, Butternut Squash Lasagne and Coconut Lentil Dhal. In three hours (plus a little slow cooker maintenance at the end).
10am: Let’s start with Burrito Bowls (here's the recipe), as they’ll cook in the slow cooker all day. Chop up all your vegetables, load up the slow cooker and pop it on for 8 hours. (15-20 minutes)
10.30am: Next up, Coconut Lentil Dhal (here's the recipe). I love this recipe, adapted from Anna Jones, which is easy, cheap and doesn’t require the lentils to be pre-soaked. It’s also vegan! Chop up all your vegetables, and get everything ready next to your wok or pan to go in. I grate carrots into my version, which take ages so let’s allow (30 minutes)
11.00am: With everything prepped, follow the steps in the recipe and once you’ve thrown in the lentils, stock and coconut milk, you can leave this to simmer away for 25 minutes. Keep an eye on it, as you might need to add more water if it thickens too fast. (10 minutes)
11.10am: Let’s start prepping the Butternut Squash Lasagne (here's the recipe)! This is a very vegetable-dense dish so requires lots of chopping. Squash, in particular, takes forever to chop – my top tip is to pierce the skin all over, microwave it for 3 minutes and then peel and chop. So much easier. (35 minutes)
11.35am: Take a break from chopping to finish the Dhal. Add the lemon juice, coriander and spinach plus a little salt and pepper, then portion up into 6 portions – that’s one dish, done! (5-10 minutes)
12pm: By now you should have finished shopping and popped all the veg in the oven to roast for 25-30 minutes. While it cooks, wilt your spinach, get your white sauce ready, and chop up/shred your cheese. (15-20 minutes)
12.30pm: Assemble your lasagne, then pop in the oven to cook for another 30 minutes. While it cooks, sadly, it’s time to wash up. (30 minutes) Oh, and eat lunch! What are you having?
1pm: Get the lasagne out of the oven, divide into 6 and portion up, ready to freeze once it’s cool. (10 minutes) Now you get to relax for the next 6 hours. Cinema, anyone?
6pm: Finish making the burrito bowls by shredding the chicken, adding black beans and sweetcorn, stirring well and portioning into 8 portions, ready to freeze. (15 minutes)
Label them well, and load up your freezer when they’re cool. Then look forward to the next few weeks of relaxing evenings! Here's a list of some of my favourite batch cooking recipes, and also here's a list of some ways to spend less on your food shop. Making three recipes in a day really isn't too challenging - the other day, I made Dhal again, Peanut and Coconut Chicken Curry, an easy Sausage and Tomato Pasta and a batch of Granola Bars - and if I'd remembered to get the chicken out of the freezer, I would have done Burrito Bowls too. It's a great way to spend a rainy Sunday, and if you know you have a busy few weeks coming up, you'll be really thankful you did.
My bill came to just over £20 (not including seasoning and condiments e.g. oil, spices and stock cubes). I bought all of this at Aldi, thanks to some vouchers they kindly sent me at Christmas. I do shop all over, but for meat, Aldi really is the cheapest place around.
What are your favourite recipes to batch cook?
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