Due to a change in my life, I am currently living alone and that means cooking for one. Now, I love cooking. I find it relaxing and it provides an outlet for my creative side. I don’t, however, particularly like cooking meals for just me. And buying ready-made meals isn’t an option. That means cooking up large meals in batches and freezing. And that is what I have been doing these past few weeks.
Last weekend, I cooked up large chicken and with bit of planning was able to turn it into 3 separate meals. Each meal was divided into individual serving tins and placed in the freezer, providing me with enough dinners for 16 days. Half of which I gave to my husband as he did help me to cook them, and I don’t have that much freezer space.
If you’re cooking for a family and want to do batch cooking, just get bigger freezer tins (or plastic freezer tubs if you are using a microwave).
To start off, you’ll need a good-sized chicken. Look for a chicken with no bruising marks on its legs or back, and a decent pad of fat under the breast, preferably free range and organic. Remember, you’ll be making 3 meals with this chicken, so divide the cost into thirds. Look more reasonable to your budget now?
Cooking the chicken
Place the chicken in a pot along with 2 quartered small onions, 2 large carrots broken in half, 2 stalks celery, and 2 crushed cloves garlic. Don’t worry about peeling anything, just make sure the dirt is rinsed off. Pour in just enough water to cover the chicken. Add in a half dozen whole black peppercorns, some salt, a bay leaf, thyme, and parsley. Use fresh herbs if you’ve got them otherwise 1 dried bay leaves, and a teaspoon each of parsley and thyme.
Cover with a lid and put over a moderately high heat. Bring it up to a boil, reduce to a simmer and leave it to cook for a few hours. The longer, the better. I left mine to simmer for about 4 hours.
You’ll end up with chicken that is falling off the bone tender and a pot full of rich chicken stock.
Carefully remove the chicken from the stock. A slotted spoon works nicely for this as it will have fallen apart in cooking, or will as soon as you try to pick it up with a pair of tongs or fork..
Carefully go through the chicken, discarding any fat, skin, bones, and cartilege. I divide this into 3 parts when I am working. Meat goes into a bowl, bones go into the food waste bucket, and everything else goes into a bag for my dog.
Once you’ve done this, and once the stock has cooled somewhat, carefully strain the stock into a second large pot or a large bowl. Now, go through all the bits which remained behind when you pulled out the chicken. I give my dog all the cooked vegetables as well. Remember: Do not give your dog chicken bones!
You now have a large bowl of shredded chicken meat, a large pot of chicken stock, and a nice pile of scraps for your pet. If you don’t have a pet, you can just put these out with the food waste.
I made 3 meals with this.
Chicken enchiladas with sweet potato
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 green chilli, minced
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle in adobo paste
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
- salt and pepper to taste
- soft flour tortillas
- 1 – 2 cups shredded chicken
- grated cheddar cheese
- cheesy white sauce (see below)
- Place the sweet potato in a saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring up to a boil and cook until soft.
- In a separate saucepan add the onion, green chilli, chopped tomatoes, ground cumin, ground turmeric, chipotle, and seasoning. Let simmer at a med-high heat until the onions are softened and it has reduced down.
- Remove from the heat.
- Stir in the coriander, cooked sweet potato, and chicken.
- Adjust seasoning if needed.
- Roll up about 3 tablespoons of this mixture along with some of the cheese in each tortilla, placing 1 or 2 in each freezer tub.
Make a cheesy white sauce
- Finely chop 1 small onion. Cook this until softened in 2 tablespoons butter (yes, use real butter it’s better for you!). Stir in 1 heaped tablespoon plain flour and stir constantly for 2 – 3 minutes. This helps cook out the floury taste.
- Gradually add in enough milk to make a medium-thin sauce. Thinner than cake batter, but thicker than pancake batter. Add in a good handful of grated cheese and 1 tomato (seeded and chopped) and season to taste.
- For extra heat and spiciness, add a few chopped chillies to the sauce.
Pour this over each of the individual enchiladas, enough to cover.
Leave to cool, then cover with the lid and label.
Remove from freezer and thaw completely. Remove the lid. Cook in the oven at a moderate heat for about 30 minutes until hot and bubbling.
Chicken cottage pie
Or as we call it at my house, a chicken herder pie.
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 large carrots, chopped and cooked
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup frozen peas or corn
- 1 – 2 cups chicken meat
- chicken stock
- corn flour
- seasoning, to taste
- 1 pound potatoes, boiled and mashed with butter
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, celery and corn. Let this cook at a moderate heat until the onions are softened.
- Stir in the cooked carrots and the chicken.
- Add in about 1 – 2 cups of the chicken stock, enough to make a really wet mixture. Bring it up to the boil.
- Combine 2 heaped teaspoons of corn flour with enough cold water to make a smooth paste. Pour this into the boiling mixture. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Alternative, you could bring 2 cups chicken stock to boil and add the corn flour paste to that. Then once thickened pour it over the cooked mixture and fold it together.
- Place a portion of the mixture into each freezer tin, leaving about 1 inch at the top.
- Cover over with the mashed potatoes, being sure to seal the edges.
- Let cool, then cover with a lid and label.
Remove from freezer and thaw completely. Remove the lid. Cook in the oven at a moderate heat for about 30 minutes until hot and bubbling
- 1 large onion
- 2 large carrots, chopped
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas or corn
- the remaining chicken
- chicken stock
- seasoning to taste
- 1 good dash tabasco
- Place all the ingredients in a pot and cover with enough stock to make a good consistency soup. Bring up to a boil, reduce heat and let it simmer for 30 – 45 minutes.
- Add a good dash of tabasco, then season to taste. The tabasco will lift the flavour without adding heat.
- Let it cool slightly, then pour into freezer tins.
- Let cool, cover, and label.
Remove from freezer and transfer to a saucepan. Run some hot water around the sides and bottom of the tub if necessary to loosen. Let thaw completely at a medium heat then bring up to a simmer and cook until heated all the way through.
Any remaining chicken stock can be frozen for future use. I had about 1/2 litre left which is now sitting in my freezer.