So, we’re onto our second tip from –
12 Tips for a gorgeous, no fuss, foodie Christmas
Tip #1 was all about the cake and now here’s the next one –
Tip #2 – Make a few meals to stash in the freezer for over Christmas. As soon as the holiday season begins, you’ll be so glad that you did …
I love to cook, but to be more precise – I love to cook when I’m in the mood and I’m not dog tired or trying to do a million other things or I’m in a big rush. That is why our freezer is my best friend – well, not literally, because that would be SO sad … and cold … sad, cold and completely weird – but you know what I mean.
Having the freezer filled with things that will actually make a meal rather than just bags of stock, cubes of old bread to make croutons and a couple of chicken carcasses (ready to make the next lot of stock) – this is where I want to be.
As a freezer devotee, I’m often drawn to dishes that will freeze like a dream, so here’s a reminder of a few dishes that you could cook now and enjoy at your festive leisure –
1 Thai Green Chicken Curry – better than a takeaway any day…
2 Sausage & Bean Hotpot – comfort food at its best …
3 Shepherd’s Pie with a cheesy leek topping – everybody’s favourite …
4 ‘Normal’ Soup – a perfect, tasty, festive lunch …
5 Chilli con carne – just right for a family gathering …
And here’s another one to try – Roasted Vegetable Lasagne. It’s a perfect combination of sweet, smoky, roasted vegetable flavours and creamy, cheesy bits. The method for the sauce may seem a little controversial, but trust me it works and is SO easy. Just throw the milk, flour and butter into a pan and keep whisking and whisking over the heat. No melting the butter, no slowly adding the flour, no patiently adding the milk a bit at a time … And the result? A quick and easy, no fuss cheese sauce with, most importantly, no lumps. I freeze it with the pasta uncooked at the end of stage 7 but any cooked leftovers will also freeze nicely and will be perfect for a packed lunch in the New Year.
And before you rush off to begin your frenzy of freezer cooking, here are my top tips to get the most from your freezer –
- Keep your freezer organised and store foods by type. If you can’t find it, it’s no use to you …
- LABEL, LABEL, LABEL … Defrosting a Shepherd’s Pie and finding that it’s an Apple Crumble is no fun. I speak from experience.
- Don’t let your freezer become a black hole which time forgot. Frozen foods have a shelf life too …
- Every now and then have an ‘eating from the freezer’ week to make sure that you do actually use what you have painstakingly prepared. If you can’t see the back wall of your freezer, then it’s probably that time …
So, think of stocking up the freezer for the holidays as an early Christmas present to yourself – do the cooking now and then you’ll reap the rewards on those festive evenings when you least feel like cooking. Go on then – get started. Oh, and a “Happy Christmas to you” …
- 350g spinach lasagne sheets
- For the filling -
- 500g cherry tomatoes
- 1 small aubergine (approx 400g)
- 2 courgettes (approx 400g in total)
- 1 red pepper
- 1 yellow pepper
- 1 large onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 50g pitted black olives, chopped or sliced
- 1 heaped tablespoon capers, drained
- a small bunch of basil leaves, roughly torn
- 100g mozzarella, grated
- salt and freshly milled black pepper
- For the sauce -
- 35g plain flour
- 40g butter
- 500ml milk
- a grating of fresh nutmeg
- salt and freshly milled black pepper
- 50g Parmesan, grated
- For the topping -
- 40g Parmesan, grated
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- a large, shallow roasting tin
- a lasagne dish, approx 30cm x 20cm x 5cm
- Preheat the oven to 220°C, 425ºF (gas mark 7).
- Prepare the aubergine, courgettes, peppers and onion by cutting them into 2.5cm dice. Arrange these vegetables in the roasting tin and sprinkle with the chopped garlic and olive oil. Toss everything around in the oil to get a good coating and season with salt and pepper.
- Now place the tin in the oven for 25 minutes. When this time is up, add the tomatoes and give everything a gentle stir before returning the tin to the oven.
- Roast the vegetables for a further 5-10 minutes until they are toasted brown at the edges and the tomatoes have started to split. Remove from the oven and add the olives and capers.
- While the vegetables are cooking you can prepare the sauce. Place all the ingredients (except the cheese) in a small saucepan and whisk continuously over a medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens. Then turn the heat down to its lowest and let the sauce cook for 2 minutes. Add the grated Parmesan.
- Turn the oven down to 180°C, 350ºF (gas mark 4).
- Now, into the lasagne dish pour ¼ of the sauce, followed by ¹/3 of the vegetable mixture (using a slatted spoon so that you can leave the juices behind). Then sprinkle in ¹/3 of the mozzarella and follow this with a single layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat this process, ending with a final layer of sauce and the remains of the grated Parmesan and a sprinkling of pine nuts.
- Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is crusty and golden.