What’s in your freezer? Ice cubes? Frozen peas? Oven chips? Lots of Tupperware pots full of unidentifiable foods? That’s me, or was until earlier this year when I decided to learn how to use my freezer properly. It was my culinary epiphany of 2015. Strong words I know, but I speak the truth.
Whenever I used to freeze leftovers or raw ingredients, more often than not it was a case of out of sight, out of mind. Once in the freezer I forgot about them and that brief, euphoric feeling of being on top of everything (“Look at me! Freezing food! So organized!) was followed three months later by panic as I tried to decipher what everything was as nothing had been dated or labelled (Chilli or chocolate pudding? Hmmm, tough call.) and then a feeling of guilt as I binned the food. Had I just thrown the food away fresh, I would have been cross at myself with the waste, but freezing it first seemed to make its eventual journey to the compost bin, more acceptable. Nuts, or what?
But last year – spurred on by Claire – I started using my freezer properly and it has been a true Eureka moment, transforming how I eat, shop and cook. Meal planning was my New Year resolution and the key to its success is to plan around what is in your cupboard, fridge and freezer first. Obvious maybe, but my previous approach to cooking was based on what I fancied rather than what I had.
I greeted my freezer drawers like a long lost friend and among the rogue peas, escapee oven chips and furry ice cubes I found a treasure trove of dinners. Chicken stock to be turned into risotto, frozen fish fillets to be smothered in pesto and Parmesan and cooked from frozen, individual portions of bolognaise sauce – all frozen and then forgotten. Once I got the hang of using what was in my freezer, I became more organised when I put food in. The first step was labelling, the second dating and the third having different drawers for different foods (pizzas are always in the middle shelf for example) which reduced the amount of scrabbling around for things (ok, I’ve not quite conquered the last one).
Now, once a month I have a freezer week. I try to coincide it with a busy or skint spell, so the food hidden in its depths is a godsend.
Here are my top tips for freezing. There are some other good tips on the LG website http://www.lg.com/uk/fridge-freezers/freezer-tips-and-hacks (they asked me to write this piece – so if you want to find out why you should freeze candles, take a look)
Invest in decent Tupperware.
Cook double the amount and freeze half.
Most leftovers freeze brilliantly.
Freeze in correct portion sizes – apart from when you’re freezing leftover pieces of meat. Keep them whole and they are less likely to dry out.
Label, label, label.
Blitz stale bread into crumbs in the food processor and keep a bag in the freezer. Perfect for burgers, gratin toppings etc
Likewise, crumble mixture freezes brilliantly so make it in bulk.
Frozen fruit and vegetables are often frozen minutes after being picked so are fresh and loaded with vitamins. We like raspberries and other berries (Great for smoothies, but also in drinks instead of ice cubes, and for crumbles and tarts), chopped onions, green beans and sweetcorn (peas are a given, right?!)
Fillets of fish that can be cooked straight from the freezer – as mentioned above – are brilliant too.