So it is one week till Christmas Day, that deadline at work is looming, the eldest costume for the school play isn’t finished and the cat has pulled down the tree for the third time. The last thing anyone wants to hear at this moment is “what’s for dinner?”
I am the least organised person in the world when it comes to food shopping. But at this time of year when time is tight, I fall back on my friend Annie’s Amazing Soup recipe. It is so darn simple, takes about 30 to 40 minutes to cook and freezes really well.
2 large onions peeled and quartered and a whole bulb of garlic, peeled
6 large carrots, peeled and chunked!
2 large leeks, washed and chunked
1 large squash, peeled, deseeded and chunked
Herbs, whatever is about to go out of date in your cupboard
In large pan, cook slowly onions and garlic for ten minutes, add in the dried herbs then in goes carrots, leeks and squash.
Good stir then add stock, leave to cook gently till veg is all done.
Blitz or mash till smooth, then once cooled line freezer boxes with clingfilm and add soup. One frozen remove from box and store brick of soup in freezer. The other things you can do is to pour into a freezer bag enough soup for one bowl and freeze that way.
The beauty of this is it is dead simple and a good base that you can add loads of things to it, drizzle on some nice oil, croutons or add crème fraiche and some fresh herbs.
Another superb freezer recipe is from Michelle Roger @tartancat … a very busy lady who recommends the below as a great freezer standby
Lamb tagine – gloriously warm with spices, yet deliciously fresh with pomegranate jewels strewn over the top.
This is the easiest, tastiest, make-ahead and freeze dish I’ve come across. It’s a favourite amongst my friends and family, and can be thrown together incredibly quickly but made to look sensational. I usually serve with herbed cinnamon couscous, green salad, tzatziki and pitta bread, but rice is just as good and I’ve even tried it with polenta. Yum. It’s great for a family meal but is a fabulous dinner party option too, just serve everything on large warmed platters and set in the middle of the table to share.
For the tagine
4 tbsps olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
250g onions, chopped
2tsp grated fresh ginger
1.5 tbsps coriander seeds, crushed
3 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1.5kg lamb shoulder cut into large cubes
1tbsp tomato puree
2 x 400g tins tomatoes
2-3 tbsps honey
For the couscous
4 tbsps olive oil
1 lemon, zest and juice
500 ml boiling chicken stock (cube is fine)
1 tsp cinnamon
salt and black pepper
3 tbsps fresh mint or coriander, chopped
1 pomegranate, seeded
For the tzatziki
I large pot natural Greek yoghurt
1 cucumber, seeds removed and diced
½ -1 garlic clove, minced
salt and black pepper
What’s easy about this recipe is that you don’t have to brown the meat in batches or toast the spices before crushing.
Simply heat a large casserole or heavy saucepan, add olive oil, garlic, onions, ginger and the spices, season with salt and pepper and cook over a very low heat with the lid on for 10 mins or until onions have softened.
Add the lamb, along with the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and honey. Then all it needs is to cook slowly and gently.
Bring it up to a gentle bubble then continue to simmer, with the lid on, for an hour, stirring every now and then (if you’d rather cook this tagine in the oven, preheat the oven to 160C/gas 2 and cook for an hour).
Remove the lid and continue cooking for 20-30 mins more, on a gentle heat, until the tagine has thickened and the meat is tender. I actually cook for two hours in the oven and this ensures the meat is literally falling apart.
And that’s it for the tagine, simple as that. If you want to wait and eat another day, that’s going to be difficult since it smells so temptingly divine, but just allow to cool and freeze. Remove from the freezer the night before you want to eat it and allow to defrost in the fridge before reheating gently.
Then it’s all about the accompaniments.
Add the cinnamon and lemon zest to the couscous, pour over the boiling stock, cover with cling film and leave to one side till all the liquid is absorbed. Fork through and add the lemon juice, olive oil and fresh herbs (herbs not essential, it tastes just as good without).
Simply combine the tzatziki ingredients and pop your pitta breads in the toaster. If you’re making a salad, then make it a basic green salad with a lemon juice/olive oil dressing.
It’s great eaten straight away, but I have to be honest and say it tastes even better once the flavourful spices have had time to deepen overnight and/or in the freezer.
Both these ladies are incredibly busy in very different ways, so if these recipes work for them then why not give them a go and enjoy