By Ren Behan
If you’re anything like me, then finding food in your freezer might be a bit like playing a game of Tetris. There’s plenty in there; portions of leftovers, obligatory fish fingers, curry bases, plenty of frozen vegetables ready to throw into risottos or stews, but none of it particularly well organised. Recently, I had a good ‘spring clean’ – frozen food shouldn’t be left to languish for too long – to make room for some clever ways to use the freezer ready for the summer.
Fruit and berries
Summer fruits and berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries (stems removed) and rhubarb are ideal for freezing. Freezing your fruit is handy if you have a glut or if you’ve visited a pick-your-own farm.
Wash your fruit and drain away as much water as possible, then place the berries or chopped fruit on a flat tray, in a single layer, so that when the fruit freezes it doesn’t clump together. Once frozen, you can pop the fruit into individual freezer bags or containers.
You can also make smaller mixed fruit bags, ready for fruit smoothies. This is ideal if your fruit is very ripe or starting to get a little mushy. Frozen fruit is also perfect for Smoothie ice lollies or Jamie’s Smush-ins – a great way of jazzing up plain vanilla ice-cream.
Frozen fruit thaws quickly, so add handfuls of frozen berries to your cereal, or to cakes and muffin mixes, or use in crumble bases. Frozen berries can be used in most recipes in place of fresh berries.
You can freeze bananas, too, either whole (peeled or unpeeled), or in slices ready for banana bread or Stuffed French toast.
Most fresh herbs freeze well, which is handy to know if you’ve been to the market and have picked up a large bunch of herbs, or if you are growing summer herbs and want to bag some up for the winter. Always wash your herbs well and leave them to dry on a paper towel. Chop finely and pop them into ice-cube trays (filling the tray up with water once the herbs are in) or into small freezer bags or containers. Dill, parsley, coriander and chives all freeze well.
If you have plenty of vegetables and herbs growing in your garden, or you’ve gathered a whole load of seasonal veg at the market, wash them well and make a big pan of vegetable stock by gently boiling the vegetables in water with some onions, herbs and fresh black peppercorns. Drain off the liquid as stock, remove the herbs and eat the cooked vegetables as normal. Stock freezes well in ice-cube trays as well as in small freezer bags. Leave the stock to cool completely before freezing.
Easy homemade curry pastes and Jamie’s Curry base sauce can be made in advance and frozen. Homemade Thai curry pastes also freeze well. Blitz the garlic, ginger and chilli together in a food processor or by using a pestle and mortar and lightly toast any spices before adding. Portion the curry base or paste up into individual bags ready to use later.
If you ever have any leftover wine in the bottle, pour into ice-cube trays or small bags and freeze. Frozen wine cubes can be added to most sauces, such as mushroom sauce or a quick tomato sauce.
Ready-to-go cookie dough
For a speedy home-baked sweet treat, make double or triple the recipe for cookie dough, then roll up the dough and wrap well in cling film before freezing. Or, roll the cookie dough into individual balls and freeze on a flat tray before transferring to freezer bags. The cookie balls will thaw as your oven pre-heats.
Egg whites freeze well, particularly in ice-cube trays. You can then transfer them into a freezer bag. Make sure you label them clearly and use them within twelve months. Thaw the egg whites in the fridge overnight and use them to make meringues, Pavlovas and macaroons. Try Jamie’s Tray-baked meringue with rhubarb, cream & toasted almonds for a fabulous summer dessert.
Ren Behan is a food writer and a mum of two. Find out more at http://www.renbehan.com