Had a busy day working from home while juggling the kids’ schoolwork? Spent the afternoon queueing outside the supermarket and don’t want to face a big task of making dinner? Time to embrace the fine art of batch cooking. Read on to discover how you can spend less time prepping meals and more time enjoying life…
If you’ve yet to embrace batch cooking, the lockdown offers the perfect opportunity to practise this clever technique for whipping up large quantities of your favourite meals, snacks and treats, saving you time, money and effort so you can squirrel away a few extra hours for yourself.
Batch cooking is simply that – cooking in batches. Things like sauces and mains can be made up in double portions with half the amount stored in clearly labelled airtight containers (note, always leave space at the top of the container as liquids expand when frozen). Think your favourite curry, stocks, soups, lentil chilli, dahl, tomato sauce …
Batch cooking enthusiast Susan Jane White, author of the recently published Clever Batch (Gill Books, €24.99, available from easons.com), has been whipping up even more meals since the lockdown began. “For my sanity, for my wallet and for my precious free time, I was already slaying the batch cooking vibe BC (Before Corona). And then Covid-19 hit and I was suddenly batch cooking for parents, elderly friends, filling the bellies of anyone who needed nourishment. I was on overdrive.”
“Cooking for yourself reaches beyond physical nourishment. Cooking provides emotional nourishment too,” adds White. “It’s a form of self-respect. It’s how, for generations, we’ve shown love and adoration to the people around us. But let’s be honest – we don’t want to have to do it every single night! Batch cooking is the new age nirvana.”
Being home most of the day (outside of our now-5km daily stroll) and with fewer trips to the shops, what foods should we be stocking up on? White recommends freezing homemade salad dressings or sauces in ice cube moulds. “They work as flavour grenades at a later stage, when you’ve run out of interesting things to eat. Usually, I have half a dozen bags of ice cube dressings on the go in my freezer; chimichurri, pesto, miso butter, chilli sauce, peanut rayu and salsa verde. These will excite any meal, upgrade plain rice or psyche up a boring fried egg. And if you’re going to the trouble of making a curry or ragu, it’s worth doubling the recipe with the intention of freezing half.”
With kids at home, White also suggests stocking up on healthy snacks for the rest of the family (her healthy halva and family flapjacks on her website, susanjanewhite.com, and Instagram @susanjanekitchen are big hits). “You can make a healthy freezer fudge or creamy halva from tahini by mixing it with melted raw honey, coconut oil and pistachios. Tesco own brand tahini is really reasonable, outrageously healthy with all those plant lignans and vitamin E, plus bonkers delicious. My boys horse into halva all week long while we’re labouring over maths, and I find they don’t need much of it to feel full. I also find a tray of wholesome flapjacks stored in the fridge to be good for when kids get the munchies.”
3 reasons for mastering the art of batch cooking while on lockdown