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SUMPTUOUS SIDES

SUMPTUOUS SIDES

SUMPTUOUS SIDES
Our super side dishes make for easy Easter feasts.
by Sarah ▪ 30 Mar, 2021

A bit on the side

Even those of us without much time or inclination to cook slap-up meals on the regular often want to make a splash for big occasions. But it’s easy to end up so stressed by all the different components and courses of your banquet that enjoyment goes out the window.

Gourmade has a neat solution if you want to wow your nearest and dearest with your culinary creations this Easter. Simply select some of our fancy (and scrummy!) sides to accompany your lovingly home-cooked main. That way you complete the swanky effect without the stress of synchronising cooking times for each dish and scrabbling around the cupboards to find enough pans.
This Easter isn’t just about the eggs! Use this code at checkout for 10% off all Gourmade sides and desserts and enjoy your EASTERTREATS.

SUNDAY ROAST

It’s rare to find someone who doesn’t love a good ol’ roast dinner with all the trimmings. Most people also have a particular soft spot for the way ‘Mum’ makes it – and for ‘Mum’, we mean whoever concocts the roasts in your family.
So why not concentrate on selecting your joint, cooking it to perfection and making sure the fridge is stocked with the right condiments, and let Gourmade provide the veggies?

You can’t go wrong with cauliflower cheese and honey roast parsnips for a roast that has a holiday vibe.

Pub favourites

For a slightly more informal lunch, why not go for a British pub classic? For steak, you don’t want to be sweating the side dishes when you’re already manning the stopwatch to ensure granddad gets his piece well-done, mum’s is ‘pink in the middle’ and yours is as rare and juicy as they come. Or maybe you’ll be kneading bread crumbs, egg and mince for home-made burgers, besides slicing onions, cheese and tomato for toppings. Either way, Gourmade’s sweet potato wedges and a simple green salad give the perfect finishing touch.

If you prefer the idea of fish – whether it’s battered cod and chips, a meaty tuna steak, salmon en croute or buttery pan-seared sea bass – posh peas are the perfect accompaniment. They look and taste as though a professional chef dropped by your kitchen, and will elevate any fish dish to the next level. Just don’t forget the tartare sauce!

Side dish supreme

For the ultimate in indulgence, with none of the (considerable) effort, Gourmade’s potato dauphinoise takes the crown. They would complement any of the dishes mentioned here and make them even more special.

Potato dauphinoise also go beautifully with any simply flavoured cut of meat if you fancy an alternative Easter feast with a touch of class. We recommend honey mustard chicken or garlic roasted pork chops.

Festivities from afar

Unfortunately, Easter 2021 won’t mean hosting the full-on family get togethers we’ve all be longing for. You may have relatives or friends who will be spending the holiday alone. Why not send them some cheer with a Gourmade hamper? We’ve created the Self Care Box with lonely loved ones in mind – knowing they’re in your thoughts (and don’t have to cook an Easter meal for one) could be just the festival feeling they need.

Easter stories

We’d love to hear about your Easter celebrations. Get in touch on Insta with your pics and tips. In the meantime, have happy holidays and fabulous feasting!

Plate up with pizzazz

PLATE UP WITH PIZZAZZ
Make your Valentine’s ready meal Insta-worthy with our helpful hacks
by Sarah ▪ 09 Feb, 2021

It’s all in the presentation

You only have to watch one episode of Masterchef to realise that what separates a good home cook from a chef isn’t just how fancy the meal, but how it looks on the plate. And with good reason – scientific studies show that the appearance of a meal directly affects how diners experience its flavours.

According to a study by Michel et al. (2014), a meal that has been artfully plated will be rated up to18 per cent more tasty than precisely the same ingredients presented in a pleasant, but non-artistic, style. So it’s worth taking a few minutes to get your food looking its best – especially on Valentine’s Day.

Whether you’ll be clinking glasses with your partner of 40 years, gazing into the eyes of a new love, feeding titbits to your fur baby or enjoying the guilty pleasure of a cheesy film alone in your jim-jams, you can make your Valentine’s dinner a gourmet experience thanks to our quick and easy tips.

Through the lens

In honour of Valentine’s Day, when we feel everyone deserves to treat themselves (and partners, too, of course!), we asked one of our in-house food photographers, Abi, for some trade secrets about beautifying your servings. Here’s what she told us:

WARM PLATE, WARM HEART
It won’t help your photos, but heating the plates keeps your dish warmer for longer and on winter evenings makes a meal even more of a cosy comfort. And your oven’s on anyway, so why not?
MAKE IT SHINE
A drizzle of oil adds another dimension and a bit of shine to the food. Depending on what you’re serving, simple olive oil may suffice (especially for dips and sides), but you can also add a hit of flavour with garlic, chilli or other infused artisan oils.

Know thy meal

ONE-POT WONDERS
Meals such as stews, tagines, chillis, pasta sauces and curries are easy to plate up, because you can simply ladle out as much as you like. A wide-rimmed, shallower dinner bowl is ideal for these dishes. Not only does it make eating them easier, but it looks more stylish when presented. Use your side dishes to create a wheel of colour. Try this out on our Je T’aime, It’s Getting Hot in Here or Cheesy, Peasy, Lemon Squeezy Valentine’s hampers – all with 20% off!
PERFECT PIES

Meals with toppings and crusts are a little trickier but there are still some tricks to pull off a pristine plate. A quick solution is to use a turner utensil that fits the whole width of the tray (if, like me, you’d not heard of these, they’re wide-based spatula-style implements, and your largest slice or spatula may suffice) to gently lift a meal out of its tray. To make the meal look even more professional, prepare a bed of roasted veg or salad on the plate and nestle your meal carefully on top. This method is easier with smaller portions!

The other option is to use an attractive oven-proof dish which can be placed directly onto a plate alongside neatly portioned sides for a real restaurant experience. If you’re using a ready meal such as Gourmade’s butternut lasagne which features in the Sweets for your Sweet vegetarian Valentine’s hamper, you can remove its tray while still frozen and place in a similarly sized dish of your own to cook. The meal will settle into the dish while it cooks and make for a fancy finish. Try Cheesy, Peasy, Lemon Squeezy for this option, too – both Mac n’ Cheese and lasagne work well served next to garlic bread or salad, which both look great next to a separate serving dish on a plate.

Garnishes galore

GO GREEN!
Fresh herbs and baby salad leaves add colour, flavour and goodness to a meal. However, you don’t want wilting or soggy leaves, so wait until you’re just about to dish up before sprinkling a handful over the dish. If you’re not sure which herbs to choose, a basic rule of thumb is: coriander to top curries coriander, rocket or basil torn over lasagne and pasta dishes, and sliced spring onion or red chilli to garnish Thai curry.
The crisp freshness and vivid colours of these veggies will add flavour, texture and interest, as well as making them worthy of a quick snap!

last-minute finish

Wipe the splatters off your plate or bowl with a piece of kitchen towel before serving – just as they would in a restaurant. It takes seconds but really makes a difference.

Souped-up sides

Don’t forget the sides when plating up a treat. While our Valentine’s hampers come complete with side dish and dessert, a standard ready meal does not, so it’s worth spending your energy making the accompaniments extra special.
RICE
Jazz up plain rice for a curry by adding half a teaspoon of turmeric, a cardamon pod and seasoning to your water while it cooks. The rice will take on a lovely yellow colour and this is much simpler than cooking pilau rice from scratch!
GARLIC BREAD
Garlic bread is easy to make and delicious to eat. I like to use half-baked baguettes and slice them lengthways to maximise the buttery coverage! Simply soften butter in the microwave, then stir in crushed garlic and spread over the bread. Bake for 8-12 minutes and then slice diagonally and sprinkle on some herbs for a stylish presentation. For vegans, this plant-based version is fantastic.
QUICK DIPS
Mix Greek yoghurt with grated cucumber (remember to squeeze out excess liquid first!), finely chopped mint, a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of garam masala for a brilliant and versatile raita dip for curries, tagines and chillis. Or try a tomato salsa which is wonderful with chilli and can also be mixed with feta chunks for an accompaniment to Turkish, Moroccan or Greek dishes – such as Gourmade’s Lamb Moussaka or Lamb Tagine.
You can also use shop-bought sides to add spice and colour to your dishes. A dollop of tasty mango chutney and oven-cooked samosas or naan breads make any curry more of a feast, and Gourmade offers a great selection from Dauphinoise Potatoes to Posh Peas!
VEG, VEG, VEG
If in doubt, a side of fresh green vegetables – especially if you mix them to create a range of shades – always brightens a dish. A small knob of butter melted over them will add shine and an extra level of indulgence.
DESSERTS
It’s really quick and easy to make a dessert look extra-special. Sprinkling some icing sugar over the top using a small, fine sieve works for almost any pud, and you can add grated chocolate, a dollop of whipped cream or fresh fruit (raspberries and sliced strawberries are always favourites) for an extra wow factor. For kids, mini marshmallows or hundreds and thousands make for a special treat!

Heavenly hampers

This Valentine’s season, Gourmade have created hampers with some of our favourite mains, sides and desserts, so you can practise restaurant-level plating up without the faff of making dinner first. Make your ready meal an incredi-meal with our incredi-deal! We have no fewer than six Valentine’s hampers to choose from, all with a whopping 20% off. I’ve already mentioned our four couple’s choices (including two for vegetarians), but we haven’t forgotten singletons! I’m planning on wooing myself with the Me, Myself and I hamper, which includes two of my absolute favourites – the Macaroni Cheese & Bacon and Beef Bourguignon plus two scrummy sides and an indulgent dessert. There’s also a veggie option for one – the Je M’adore which is equally mouth-watering. There’s simply no excuse not to treat yourself this Valentine’s – and with these tips, any meal you serve is bound to look and feel like an intimate restaurant experience, in the comfort of your living room!

We’d love to see your ready meal presentation! Try out the tips from this post and tag us in your photographs, or send them through to hello@gourmade.com and the best looking meals will get a special deal from us! Happy styling!

Get started with batch cooking

Get started with batch cooking
All you need to know about our fantastic friendly brand from our resident foodies

by Sarah ▪ 17 Dec, 2020

Fine-tune your batch-cooking skills for a happier, healthier you

If you’re looking for a one-stop method to overhaul your life, scheduling in some batch cooking wouldn’t lead you astray. Setting aside a couple of days a month to cook will save you time, money – and the pinch of tight waistbands when you’ve had one too many takeaways in hard week. Here at Gourmade we’re big fans – and as we were founded on batch cooking we like to think we’ve got some tips up our sleeves. Whether you’re just dipping a spoon into your first batch of a base recipe, or a seasoned pro, you’re sure to find something to help you get even more from your multiple portions. We cover great basic recipes, using leftovers, and how to freeze and store your food safely.

Why is batch cooking useful?

Much as it pains me to admit it, freezers are more than ice cream storage. They’re a fantastic resource for anyone with a busy lifestyle (and let’s face it, that’s most of us!). With just a little forward planning, you can have meals prepped, cooked and portioned off, ready for use at a moment’s notice – whether it’s so you can spend more family time with kids after school, not have to worry about balancing work deadlines and chores – or just space to watch Neighbours and scroll Insta with a cup of tea. Not only that, but batch cooking saves your pennies through bulk buying, reduced waste, and often cheaper cuts of meat. If you’re strict on your portions, that will help too, but I for one have not yet mastered that art!

Base recipes

Ah, the base recipe! If you don’t yet know what one is, it could change everything. This is one of the simplest and most rewarding ways into batch cooking. A base recipe is one that can be cooked in bulk, then adapted into a variety of meals. Most people have probably done this most in everyday cooking with a tomato and mince sauce which, depending on the choice of seasoning and veg, can be used for chillies, ragu sauces, burritos or cottage pies. When you think that a ragu sauce can be used in lasagne, spaghetti Bolognese or even Greek pastitsio, you begin to realise the breadth of options open before you. Find a super-tasty version of this simple base recipe later in this blog.

Keep your eye out for blog updates, because we’ll be back with more great base recipes in future posts – plus the various meals you can use them for. We have a plethora of meals to set before you – creamy and tomatoey, meaty, veggie and vegan. There’s definitely something for everyone.

When to double up

The point of batch cooking is to make extra portions now that you can defrost for fuss-free dinners later. But it’s not always as simple as using a calculator to work out multiples: cooking is sometimes more like alchemy, a world of magic and mystery! A good rule of thumb is to build up spices and seasoning gradually – twice the amount of pepper, whether black or cayenne – is likely to be too much, even if everything else is doubled. Taste as you go – it’s a perk of the chef! Over-seasoning is to be avoided, as you can’t easily correct it later on. You can add spices later – but it’s best to ‘bloom’ them first. Do this by heating a little oil and then adding the spices, stirring for 30 seconds to a minute, until fragrant. This avoids the throat-catching sensation raw spices can give to a dish.

If you’re batch baking, you also need to be careful. We recommend making individual batches, but not washing the bowls in between. If that’s too much faff, find a recipe for larger quantities from the off!

Meat and two veg

One of the joys of batch cooking is being able to make the most of cheaper cuts of meat. Shoulders, thighs and ground meat benefit from the slow cooking that many batch recipes require, rather than drying out as dearer cuts may do (yes, chicken breasts, we’re looking at you!). Not only that, they freeze better too. It’s a win-win for flavour and your wallet.

When it comes to vegetables, our top tip is to very slightly undercook them the first time round (unless you’re eating a portion immediately). This avoids overly mushy textures when you reheat the meals later.

How to freeze your meals

Food should be room temperature before being frozen – but then frozen immediately. This stops any bacteria in its tracks. This applies to baked goods too, this time to seal in the freshness.
The key rule of freezing is labelling. Don’t be tempted to shove unidentified meals in the freezer – after three months it’s harder than you think to differentiate chunky vegetable soup from spicy jalfrezi sauce. Write the name of the dish, portion size and the date.
Always portion up your food. You can’t refreeze, and the whole point of batch cooking is not to be left with the same meal four nights in a row. And once it’s in a frozen block, 4 litres of chicken stock are hard to divide! Remember to remove any air too – use a layer of parchment paper over meals in boxes, or a straw for bags (but make sure it’s reusable or recyclable). This will prevent any freezer burn from affecting your delicious dinners.

Let’s cook!

As promised, here is a simple and tasty base recipe that can be frozen and used later for a variety of meals – a godsend on busy days. Divide into three for freezing.
Tomato and mince base
GLUTEN FREE 
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Preparation: 20 min
  • Cooking time: 120 min
  • Doses for: 6-8 people
  • Cost: Medium
INGREDIENTS
  • Onions: 1 large or 2 medium (diced)
  • Carrots: 2 (peeled and diced)
  • Garlic: 2 cloves (grated or crushed)
  • Celery: 1 stick (finely sliced
  • Beef tomatoes: 2 (chopped)
  • Beef mince: 1.5kg (10% fat)
  • Tomato puree: 2tbsp
  • Passata: 800g
  • Vegetable stock: 100ml
  • Sugar: pinch
Method
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for 3-4 minutes, until it starts to soften, then add the garlic, celery and carrot and cook for a further 6-8min, until soft. (If you wish to be traditionally Italian you may want to leave out the garlic, which is not usually included. You may also prefer classic British dishes like cottage pie without the garlic. Garlic can be added later when making the sauce into a dish, if cooked gently in a little oil first.) Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a separate frying pan and fry the mince in batches, scooping each batch out with a slotted spoon and leave any excess oil behind. Add the mince to the veg, then stir in the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée and cook for 1 min. Stir in the passata and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Add a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes (you may wish to omit this and add later if you are making a cottage pie). Cover and cook over a very low heat for 2-2½-2 hrs. Check on it regularly and add water if it looks a little dry. When it has reduced to a rich ragu, divide into three batches and freeze for up to a month. Defrost fully before using.
Suggestions for use

• Add to an oven-proof dish and top with buttery mashed potato for a warming cottage pie. Add cheese for extra indulgence, or swap for sweet potato to get an extra portion of your five a day

• Cook up some spaghetti or tagliatelle and mix in the sauce with a spoonful of crème fraiche for a quick and easy pasta dinner. Top with torn basil leaves and parmesan cheese. Alternatively, use penne or fusilli instead, mix the sauce through thoroughly, with 50ml water and two spoonfuls of crème fraiche, top with grated cheese and put it all in the oven to bake for 20 minutes for a creamy pasta bake.

• Stir through some kidney beans and add a some chilli powder (remembering to ‘bloom’ it first) for a Mexican night. Serve over tortilla chips with sour cream, cheese and guacamole for a takeaway dinner, or with rice, salad and sliced avocado for a classic chilli.

Now there’s nothing more to do than get started with your batch cooking. Of course, for real ease, you can always order your favourite meal from Gourmade with no guilt, because we take just as much care with our recipes as you would at home. If the mince has put you in the mood, try our Beef Lasagne, Chilli Con Carne or Cottage Pie. If you’ve been inspired to start cooking, try something different with our Lamb Tagine. And don’t forget dessert! Fancy a Salted Caramel Roulade? I certainly do …!

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Spicy Bean Chilli

Spicy Bean Chilli
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