Category Archives: How to

How to… batch cook

Batch cooking is such a good thing to do. Nothing will give you a greater feeling of being smugly organised. You’ll be so glad you did it each time you feel ill/hungover/busy/just plain lazy (delete as appropriate). You’ll probably save money too – allowing you to justify at least one pair of new shoes. Here are some tips.

1. Just cook more

It’s not true that you need to put time aside to batch cook. Simply cook more of whatever you’re cooking for dinner providing that it will freeze well.

2. Get savvy with supermarket deals

If your supermarket is running a promotion, buy more, cook in bulk, and freeze the leftovers.

3. Be organised

Buy foil containers for batch cooking like these. They stack neatly in the freezer and you can label the lids – some meals can look very similar once frozen so labelling is a must! It’s a very satisfying feeling opening the freezer drawer and seeing a variety of stacked home-cooked meals all labelled nicely. Just me? Ooooookay.

4. Take inspiration from the supermarket

If you’re not sure what to cook, simply check out your supermarket’s ready meal aisle (you can do this online too!). These recipes from my blog are perfect for batch cooking:

Ratatouille
Shepherd’s Pie
Thai Green Curry
Luxury Mac and Cheese
Melanzane Parmigiana

Other dishes I batch cook are things like Lasagne and even Bolognese. It takes a while to cook a good Bolognese, so make batches and freeze and then all you have to do is cook some spaghetti to go with it.  Soups, stocks and sauces freeze well too

5. Stay safe!

Quite simply:

– Let the food cool before you freeze it
– Defrost it thoroughly before reheating
– Reheat until piping hot throughout
– Don’t refreeze again once defrosted or reheated
– Remember you have to be careful when reheating rice. For this reason I just don’t bother to batch cook any rice dishes

Finally, remember to take your meal out of the freezer in the morning! There’s nothing worse than sitting down at your desk and then suddenly shouting out ‘SHEPHERD’S PIE!’ across the office the moment you remember you haven’t defrosted it!

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How to… do Petits Fours

I love petits fours for two reasons. One, they are rather posh! And two, sometimes three courses just aren’t enough and a chocolatey soupçon with coffee (which I also love!) is very welcome.

You don’t need to be a French pastry chef to make petits fours, nor do you need to rush out to Harrods to buy too-pretty-to-eat bite-sized desserts. Here is how I made them at home – inspired by Margots restaurant in Padstow where I like to gorge on their sticky toffee pudding prior to getting onto their petits fours.

First and foremost, it’s good to have something chocolatey in your petits fours mix. Margots serves homemade chocolate fudge with theirs so that’s what I went for too. You have two options when making fudge. You can make it properly using liquid glucose syrup or you can go for a bit of a cheat version (like I did) and use condensed milk. It takes 10 minutes to make this way and just needs to set overnight in the fridge. Simples.

I used this Kirstie Allsop recipe, though Nigella has a similar recipe with pistachio nuts. It stores well in the freezer and can be eaten as a melt-in-your-mouth sweet for months afterwards. You can also chop it into ice cream or pop into cellophane bags and give as Christmas gifts. The possibilities are endless!

Anyway, back to the petits fours…. you can make vanilla or traditional fudge if you prefer. Or you could make your own chocolate truffles or salted caramel bites even. Mmm!

To compliment the rich chocolate, it’s nice to serve something fruity. I used dark chocolate for my fudge, which goes well with forest fruits, so a handful of fresh and a few glacé cherries is what I opted for. Chocolate also goes well with strawberries, raspberries and figs.

Caramelised walnuts also work well with the chocolate and were the next component to my lil’ platter. Again, they are easy to make, caramelised hazelnuts would make a nice alternative.

Finally, I put Palmiers biscuits onto my platter. I’m slightly obsessed with these little things. If you’re patient enough to make puff pastry you can make them yourself really easily too. Palmiers go very well with all of the other petits fours ingredients as well as coffee. Equally you could serve amaretti or biscotti, which would be yummy with truffles instead of fudge.

Then it’s just a case of making sure that you and your guests save yourself some room to eat them!

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How to… make Parmesan Crisps

I love Parmesan Crisps! These intensely cheesy little gems can be used to top anything from risotto to pasta from soup to salad! If you ask me, they look a bit chefy as well, so they are great to impress your friends with. If you have friends who are impressed by cheese. I know I do. Anyway here’s how I make them.

You will need… a couple of small handfuls of micro grated Parmesan (for 2 crisps) and a can of Fry Light or other olive oil spray.

What you do… start by grating the cheese and putting your grill on…

…then put a frying pan sprayed liberally with the Fry Light, on a medium to high heat…

…sprinkle the Parmesan in whatever shape you like in the pan. Don’t pile the cheese too high and keep the cheese gratings close to one another so that they stick together…

…after a minute or so, the sides of the crisps will start to golden and the cheese in the middle will be bubbling away…

… transfer your frying pan to the grill and give the cheese at least 30 seconds underneath it until the top of the cheese is golden too…

… very carefully loosen the cheese off of the frying pan using a rubber spatula. The cheese may still be quite gooey so you have to edge it away from the pan bit by bit and carefully…

… place the crisps onto a wire rack to cool for 30 seconds. This will make them harden up. Then you’re ready to transform an everyday meal to something that looks like it could just have come out of a Michelin star kitchen!

Oh and you can jazz up your crisps as well! Try freshly ground pepper, poppy seeds or a drop of truffle oil.

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