Derval O'Rourke: Batch cooking and meal prep will make life easy

Putting aside time on Sunday to prepare food for the week can make life a little easier. This week, Derval shares her recipe for lamb ragu - perfect for batch cooking.
Derval O'Rourke: Batch cooking and meal prep will make life easy

Derval advises us to make a plan of what we are going to eat this week.

This week I’m going to share my food and meal preparation tips - I have picked up a couple of things over the years which make my life much easier. 

To stay on theme, I have chosen one of my favourite recipes to batch cook. While it’s a great idea to batch cook lots of things, including soups, curries and stews, I have decided to share my Lamb Ragu recipe, because it’s absolutely delicious and versatile too.

Typically, I try to set some time aside on Sundays for my meal prep. Below are some of the things I will do to get ready for the week ahead and save myself some time. In the summer months my schedule is far more random with different things happening all the time but I still do a few tasks each week to make food that bit easier and more enjoyable.

1. Make a plan of what you’re going to eat this week. Jot down what you’d like for breakfast, lunch and dinner; what you want to eat post-workout; and what kind of snacks you want to enjoy throughout the day. 

I have sample meal plans on Derval.ie as part of my challenges and these include: breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks for each day. I will take into account that what I make for dinner one day, might be handy for lunch the following day.

2. Make a list and take time to stock your kitchen properly, part of this is looking at what you already have and using it up. My cupboard essentials include tinned tomatoes, coconut milk, frozen fruits and vegetables, porridge oats and tinned beans. 

If you are time poor it’s worthwhile considering online shopping and delivery. Set up your account and everytime you order going forward you’ll have a good shopping list to work from.  

3. Set aside ‘prep time’ to organise your shopping and cook a few meals. If you put a little time aside to do it then it becomes far less stressful rather than trying to jam it in with everything else you have to do. 

On Sundays I often roast a chicken, eat some for dinner that night and use the rest for sandwiches or a curry. I also like to roast vegetables and bake potatoes to use during the week. I try to prepare healthy snacks in bulk too. 

Another great time-saver is chopping up lots of veg and popping them into the fridge in a container, then I know that it’s there for sandwiches, salads, curries, soups and stir-fries.

4. Loving your leftovers is an easy way to cut down on prep time and save money.

When you cook an evening meal, make a little extra and pop in a lunchbox for the next day. This means that lunch is sorted for the next day - that’s definitely saved you about 20 minutes, and means you won’t reach for more processed, quick food during the day when you’re under a bit more time pressure.

5. I consider freezer stocking an important survival skill. By cooking in batches and freezing in individual portions, you can transform your freezer into your go to place for tasty, healthy, ready-made home-cooked meals. Plus you can keep food for a long time in your freezer which reduces waste and saves you money. 

The key to mastering the freezer, is putting some extra time into being organised and putting some labels on the outside of each container. Include the name of the dish and the date it was cooked. There are few things more frustrating than a freezer full of mystery foods!  

Fitness Tip: Take some extra time to stretch before and after your next workout. Feel where you’re a bit tighter and put more emphasis on stretches to help this.

Wellness Tip: Go outside today and just relax - watch the clouds go by and de-stress for 10 minutes (weather permitting that is!) 

Lamb Ragu:

Derval's lamb ragu can be made in advanced and frozen to keep fresh.
Derval's lamb ragu can be made in advanced and frozen to keep fresh.

Prep time: 45 minutes Cook time: 2 hours Serves:

Ingredients:

 1 kg lamb pieces 

 2 tbsp. rapeseed oil

  2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped

  2 sticks celery, finely chopped 

 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped 

 5 cloves garlic, minced 

 Pinch of flour 

 1 tbsp. tomato puree 

 1 tin plum tomatoes 

 A handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1. Heat the rapeseed oil in a large heavy based saucepan, season the meat with salt and black pepper and fry for 3-4 minutes 2. Transfer to a plate and drain any excess fat from the pan. Add the onions, celery and carrots to the pan and cook for 5-10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and flour and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.

3. Stir in the tomato puree and cook for 3-4 minutes before returning the lamb to the saucepan.

4. Pour over just enough water to cover and simmer gently for 2 hours, or until the lamb is falling apart.

5. About two-thirds of the way through cooking, stir the mix well and add a little extra water if needed.

6. Once cooked, transfer to a warmed serving dish and sprinkle over the flat-leafed parsley just before serving.

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