Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Christmas Organisation: Fill Your Freezer #recipes

If you've been following our Christmas Organisation guides, you'll know that the coming week is the time to get your menus finalised and start stocking that freezer.  I loathe spending too much time shopping and cooking between Christmas and New Year, there are always far more interesting things to do instead, even if it's just slumping on the sofa with the girls and a great DVD.  But there are only so many scratch dinners you can make from leftovers, salads and cheese, without feeling that you need some 'proper' food.  So I like to spend a few hours early in December prepping some meals for the freezer, ready to be pulled out and shoved in the oven as required.

This year I've made:

The chilli, tagine and soup freeze well in large leakproof plastic boxes (we love Sistema), the burgers need to have small pieces of greaseproof paper between them and then be wrapped and tin foil, and for the larger dishes we love these foil containers and lids from Just Catering Supplies.  The joy of these dishes is that they stack in one corner of the freezer drawer and don't take up much space at all.  With these eight meals stashed away in the freezer, and all the usual Christmas food, we're pretty much covered from Christmas Eve till New Year's Day, with only a minimal amount of work.  And, joy of joys, I can avoid setting foot in a supermarket for all that time!  Bliss.

Here are a couple of our recipes:

Roasted Red Peppers with Orecchiette


2 long red peppers
12-15 cherry tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
Good olive oil
A large handful of basil
Orecchiette pasta, or similar


1. Halve the peppers lengthways and place in an oiled roasting dish.
2. halve the tomatoes and slice the garlic and scatter inside the pepper boats.
3. Whizz the basil with a good glug of olive oil and some salt in a food processor.
4. Drizzle the basil oil over and bake at 200C for about 15 minutes.
5. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.  Drain.
6. Remove the peppers from the oven when soft and beginning to brown at the edges.  You can then either serve as they are or chop them up in the pan.
7. Transfer the drained pasta to the roasting dish and toss it in the pan juices.
8. Serve pasta and veg together, with fresh basil torn over the top.  (Also works really well with quinoa instead of pasta.)

If preparing ahead, freeze the vegetables uncooked and then pop in a hot oven from frozen for about 30 minutes.  Check the peppers are soft and cooked through before serving.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagne


For the ragu:

1 aubergine
2 courgettes
1 red pepper
1 large onion
2 carrots
2-3 cloves garlic
a small handful of basil leaves
a good glug of olive oil
a handful of pitted olives, halved
tin of chopped tomatoes
large teaspoon of dried oregano

For the sauce:

250ml double cream
80g Cheddar, grated
20g Parmesan, grated
teaspoon of English mustard
a pinch of nutmeg

For the basil oil:

15g fresh basil
100ml good olive oil

8-9 lasagne sheets


1. Roughly dice the vegetables and finely slice the garlic.
2. Toss all the vegetables in olive oil and tip into a roasting tin. Season.
3. Scatter the basil over, and roast at 220⁰C for 30 minutes or so, or until almost tender.
4. Remove from the oven and mix the olives, tinned tomatoes and oregano through.  Season to taste.
5. To make the cheese sauce, simply put the double cream, mustard, nutmeg, 60g Cheddar and 10g Parmesan into a saucepan and let the cheese melt into the cream over a low heat. Stir occasionally, season well.
6. Whizz the olive oil and basil in a food processor to make a basil oil.
7. Ladle a layer of vegetable mixture into the bottom of the lasagne dish or foil tray and cover with lasagne sheets. Brush the pasta with the basil oil.
8. Repeat a layer of vegetable mix and a layer of lasagne sheets, brushed with basil oil, until all used.
9. Pour over the cheese sauce, and scatter the remaining grated cheeses over. Finish with any remaining basil oil.
10. To eat now, bake at 180C for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown. OR allow to cool, then cover and freeze for up to 1 month. To cook from frozen, cook at 180C for around an hour. Check the lasagne is piping hot throughout before serving.

This take on the cheese sauce, and the addition of the basil oil, was inspired a couple of years ago by a Nigel Slater recipe:

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