Crouching Tiger, Hidden Fridge.

The last 6 months have been a large upheaval for me, hence the downturn in the number of my recent blogposts.

Having spent the last 12 years renting Continue reading

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Wild Mushroom Parcels

One of the ingredients I had to use up in this weeks batch cooking attempt was a packet of Filo pastry that had been festering in my freezer for a bit too long.

I generally find Filo pastry really difficult to work with and I also find that it doesn’t freeze very well despite the packet recommending that it’s perfectly fine to keep frozen for up to a month.

Searching through my cupboards and freezer I discovered that had some leftover dried porcini mushrooms, dried apricots, some chicken breasts and some flaked almonds. From these ingredients I decided two dishes that I could cook up were some Wild Mushroom Parcels and a Chicken, Apricot & Almond Pie (recipe to follow).

The only additional ingredients that I needed to buy to enable me to create both of these dishes were some cream (or I used Crème Fraiche), a packet of button mushrooms and an onion. And here is how I created the Filo Mushroom Parcels.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 x Sheets Filo Pastry
  • 6 x Porcini Mushrooms (Soaked and Chopped)
  • 300g Button Mushrooms (Washed & Sliced)
  • 1 x Onion (Finely Chopped)
  • 200ml Crème Fraiche or Cream
  • 2 x Garlic Cloves (Crushed)
  • Dash of Stock or White wine (optional)
  • Knob of Butter
  • Parsley (Dried or Fresh)

METHOD

Soak Porcini mushrooms according to the packet instructions (save water for later).

Preheat oven to 180c

Heat butter over a medium heat in a saucepan; once melted, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until the onions soften and become translucent.

Add in chopped button and Porcini mushrooms and continue to cook for a further five minutes.

Once mushrooms have started to soften, add in a dash of stock or white wine (I used frozen wine ice cubes that I’d made from left-over wine) and continue to cook the mushrooms over a low heat until the stock has reduced by half.

Add in 200ml cream (or Crème Fraiche) and some parsley, cook the mushroom mixture for a further 10-15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and become a rich brown colour. For additional richness you can add in some of the water used to soak the Porcini mushrooms.

Season to taste before removing the mixture from heat and allowing to cool slightly.

Fold the Filo pastry into a triangular shape and place 2-3 tbsps (depending how big you want your parcels to be) of the mushroom mixture in the centre of the pastry.

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Fold the corners of the triangle into the centre to create a parcel and brush with milk or egg to seal.

Place the parcels in the pre-heated oven and cook for 15-20 mins until golden brown.

TIPS

You don’t have to use Porcini mushrooms if not available, normal mushrooms will do just fine.

Why not add some chilli flakes or bacon for additional flavour.

If you don’t have Filo pastry, the filling would also taste great with puff pastry or topped on a bruschetta with a sprinkle of Parmesan for some cheesy goodness.

The cooked parcels can be frozen and reheated at a later date.

As mentioned at the beginning of my post, I find Filo pastry incredibly difficult to work with and probably will refrain from buying it in future and I’ll definitely avoid freezing it.  Due to the crumbliness of the pastry I struggled to actually form a parcel so the finished product looked a bit misshapen. I certainly wouldn’t win any points on Masterchef for presentation, but the parcels tasted great and I managed to get rid of a couple of ingredients that had been lurking in my cupboards/freezer for a bit too long.

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Batch Cooking – Saving Time and Reducing Food Waste

I just don’t have time to cook a healthy home-cooked meal every night of the working week. With work commitments, a long commute and an attempt to keep up some sort of fitness regime /social life, it’s just not possible for me to cook every night if I want to sit down before the witching hour for dinner.

With a bit of organisation and time to set aside at the weekend, I think I’ve found the solution. I’ve found that by batch cooking a couple of dishes on a Sunday afternoon, I can save time during the week and come home to a gratifying and nutritious meal on week nights minus the late night cooking.

There’s no secret guide and nothing particularly demanding about batch cooking; all you need is a plan, a few hours and ideally some spare freezer space. The concept of batch cooking is that you cook multiple portions or multiple meals in one go and store for a later date. If you do some research, you’ll find that some people recommend planning a whole 30 days of meals in advance although I haven’t quite got to these extremes yet. Seven days of forward planning is enough for me in terms of batch cooking, however regardless of how many days meals you want to plan, the concept of batch cooking remains the same.

Pretty much anything can be batch cooked; I find items such as stews & casseroles, pasta dishes or curries and Asian dishes work great. You can cook these dishes in large quantities; they freeze well and can be reheated quickly.

I tend to cook two different dishes on a Sunday which will serve four meal times, sometimes all of these portions will get eaten during one week which means eating the same meal two nights in a row. Repetition doesn’t bother me, I’d rather have a repeat of something home-cooked, healthy and fulfilling than grabbing a ready-meal or take-away because I don’t have time to cook. There are other ways of mixing it up, for example if you’re having stir-fried chicken and veg, you could have it with rice one night and the following night, knock up a salad or serve up the leftover chicken with some potatoes for that bit of variety.

If you really can’t handle eating the same meal twice in one week, why not cook up more than two dishes at a time? If you cook up a number of dishes that incorporate some of the same ingredients, this will make batch cooking all the easier, for example if you need onion for three different dishes, cut all the onions up at once and so on. Going back to the chicken example, if you have the base ingredients of chicken and vegetables you can fry them up with a sauce to create a stir-fry and then save the additional portions of the plain chicken and veg and cook it up with some stock, potatoes and tinned tomatoes for a homely hearty casserole. By simply switching, two or three ingredients and varying the cooking style, you’ll find the same base ingredients can actually create really varied dishes.  There’s still no harm in creating double the portions of what you need for the week, as long as you have the freezer space to store the additional servings, you can keep the dishes for a number of weeks. You might even find that you manage to build up a nice stockpile of homemade ready meals and some weeks you won’t have to shop or cook at all.

I mentioned that there are some other quick wins, which just require a small change in habits. I’m sure you’ve all had veg that you bought in bulk and haven’t been able to use it up before it starts to go all wrinkly, or maybe you’ve cooked a bit too much mashed potato one night? Well the trick is to not chuck this stuff out but freeze it to be reused at a later date. Most fresh veg can be frozen; I tend to chop the veg up, pop in the freezer and it’s ready to thaw at a later date.  Some people recommend blanching or cooking veg first, I tend to find it depends on what the item is, the internet will give you the answers on the best methods for various vegetables. Learning how to freeze different items and what the best method is will come via and trial and error, I wrote a few tips that I’d discovered in my last blog post about the benefits of the humble freezer.

My advice is don’t be daunted about what some people deem to be batch cooking, start small and gradually change some of your daily habits, hopefully you’ll find that by investing in a few hours of batch cooking once a week, you’ll have much more time to spend with family, doing the things you enjoy in the evening as opposed to slaving over a hot stove.