As we head into winter, the freezer will become the workhorse of many of our kitchens. Most food freezes well, but in order to make meals as easy as possible to defrost and cook, follow these easy tips:
Double wrap your portions and label well — masking tape is a perfect food label, simply rip off a small piece and write the dish and the date. Aim to eat freezer meals within three months of freezing.
While it's easy to freeze full meals, it is more sensible to freeze them in individual portions. Divide your meals into generous portion sizes and allow people to choose what they'd like to eat on days when a freezer dive dictates dinner.
Some food can be cooked straight from frozen. Lasagnes, gratins, soups and most stews can be gently cooked in a low oven.
This classic family supper is creamy, rich and bursting with delicate root vegetables and tender minced beef flavoured with tomato and fresh herbs
Preparation Time15 mins
Cooking Time5 hours 0 mins
Total Time5 hours 15 mins
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely diced
100g button mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
675g lean minced beef
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
50g plain flour
100g Cheddar cheese, grated
14-16 lasagne sheets
salt and freshly grated black pepper
To make the bolognese sauce, heat a large saucepan. Add the oil with the onion, carrot, mushrooms, garlic and thyme.
Cook for 8-10 minutes until the vegetables have softened and taken on a little colour, stirring occasionally. Add the minced beef and mix until well combined, then sauté until well browned, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon. Stir in the tomato purée and continue to cook for another minute or two, stirring.
Pour in the tomatoes and season to taste. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and simmer for 2 hours until the beef is meltingly tender and the sauce has slightly reduced.
To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Remove from the heat and gradually pour in the milk, whisking until smooth after each addition. Season to taste. Bring the sauce to the boil, whisking constantly, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes until smooth and thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in most of the Cheddar cheese until melted.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line 2 x 2.25 litre ovenproof dishes with a layer of lasagne sheets, breaking them to fi t as necessary. Add half of the bolognese and spread it into an even layer. Spread over half of the cheese sauce. Cover with another layer of the remaining lasagne sheets. Use the rest of the bolognese to make another layer and then pour over the remaining cheese sauce.
Scatter the rest of the Cheddar on top and bake for 1 hour or until the lasagnes are bubbling and lightly golden. Serve straight to the table.
This recipe is from Neven Maguire’s Complete Family Cookbook, published by Gill Books
Ballymaloe shepherd’s pie
This classic family supper is simple yet richly flavoured with herbs - a hearty, comforting favourite
Preparation Time15 mins
Cooking Time60 mins
Total Time1 hours 15 mins
110g onion, chopped
450ml stock and left-over gravy
1 tsp tomato purée
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup (optional)
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp thyme leaves, chopped
450g minced cooked lamb
900g cooked mashed potatoes
Melt the butter, add the onion, cover with a round of greased paper and cook over a slow heat for 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook until brown.
Add the stock, bring to the boil. Add the tomato purée, mushroom ketchup, chopped parsley, thyme leaves, salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the meat to the sauce, bring to the boil. Taste and correct seasoning.
Put in a pie dish, cover with the mashed potatoes and score with a fork.
Reheat in a moderate oven at 180ºC for about 30 minutes until hot and bubbling. Garnish with parsley and serve with garlic butter.
Vegan shepherd’s pie
This comforting dish uses lentils and it is just as delicious as the meat version, with a rich vegetable layer and creamy mashed potato topping
Preparation Time15 mins
Cooking Time55 mins
Total Time1 hours 10 mins
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tins of lentils, drained and rinsed
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 bay leaves
4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, until softened.
Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the lentils and cook for about 10 minutes on a low heat.
Stir in the chopped tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, tomato purée, and bay leaves and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, make the mash. Boil the potatoes in salted water for 10–15 minutes, until tender. Drain, season and mash well.
Place the cooked mince in a large ovenproof dish and top with the mash. Bake for 20 minutes.
Divide the pie between warmed serving plates.
Thai green curry
This spicy, garlicky curry is deliciously rich and filled with any leftover vegetables you have - serve with brown rice and lemon wedges
Preparation Time10 mins
Cooking Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
1 aubergine, cut into chunks
2 courgettes, cut into chunks
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
300g green beans
300g tenderstem broccoli
1 tin of coconut milk
150ml vegetable stock or water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
fresh coriander leaves
brown basmati rice
For the paste:
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 onion, roughly chopped
small handful of fresh coriander
small handful of basil
2 small green chillies, deseeded
thumb of ginger, peeled
2 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves removed and tops trimmed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
juice and zest of 1 lime
Make the paste by placing all the ingredients in a food processor and blitzing until smooth.
Heat a large frying pan or casserole to medium-high on the hob. Add the paste, stirring it around the pan. Splash a little water into the pan if it becomes to dry or the paste starts to stick.
After five minutes, add the coconut milk, stock, aubergines and courgette. Bring to a simmer and cook for around 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, beans and tenderstem broccoli. Cook for a further eight minutes until the beans and broccoli are tender.
Add the soy sauce and fish sauce and let simmer for another minute or two.
Serve with brown rice, lemon wedges and fresh coriander leaves.
Good quality neck chops of lamb, streaky bacon, fresh herbs and plenty of vegetables blend beautifully to create a comforting classic for family suppers
Preparation Time20 mins
Cooking Time1 hours 50 mins
Total Time2 hours 10 mins
3 large onions, peeled and sliced thickly
10 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half
900g lamb neck, cut into chunks
4 springs of thyme
5-6 medium to large carrots, peeled and cut into thick rounds
good handful of chopped parsley
200g smoked streaky bacon or rashers, cut into large chunks
1 bay leaf
80g pearl barley
850ml lamb or good chicken stock
a little rapeseed oil
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Heat a little rapeseed oil in a large casserole over a medium-high heat. Add the bacon chunks for a few minutes until starting to crisp up. Add the lamb, allowing it to brown for around 5 or 6 minutes.
Remove the meat and set aside.
Add the onion and carrot to the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes until the onion is starting to turn translucent and brown. Add the meat back to the pan along with the bay leaf, sprigs of thyme and parsley. Pour in the stock along with the pearl barley and bring it all to a gentle simmer.
Add the potatoes to the casserole, sitting them on top of the stew and place in the oven with the lid on for around 90 minutes.
Remove from the oven and check that the potatoes are well done — falling apart when you place a knife into their floury flesh. You can stir them through or leave them on top, adding a few flecks of butter to each potato and a good crack of black pepper. You can garnish the whole thing with some more chopped parsley, chives or even some spring onion.