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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 …!