Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Meatballs with a hidden veg sauce

Time for my second batch cooking post, so far these meatballs have been our favourite dish and I'm glad I made a big batch of them. Having them in individual portions in the freezer has been very handy this week After the success of grating carrots and courgettes into the sauce for my turkey and chickpea curry, I decided to do the same again with the meatball sauce. I haven't made meatballs that often in the past but after seeing my boyfriends reaction to these (he loves them), I'm going to make big batches of these on a more regular basis. I know you're supposed to let meatballs rest in the fridge for a little while before cooking but my fridge isn't big enough so I didn't bother. I added some sweetcorn to the sauce as I had half a large tin leftover in the fridge that I didn't know what else to do with and it needed eating but feel free to leave this out.

Ingredients - makes 32 meatballs, i put 4 meatballs in a portion to give 8 portions

For the meatballs
850g pork mince
2 eggs, beaten
3 thick slices of stale bread, crusts removed and whizzed up into crumbs
1 heaped tbsp minced garlic
1 heaped tbsp minced chilli
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
a good pinch of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
oil for frying

For the sauce
oil for frying
1 white onion and 1 red onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely sliced
1 tbsp minced garlic
150ml red wine
2-3 carrots, coarsely grated
2 courgettes, coarsely grated
3 tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
3-4 large bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
Half a large tin of sweetcorn - optional
salt and pepper to taste

  • Put all the meatball ingredients into a large mixing bowl and use your hands to mix everything together. Spread out a large piece of greaseproof paper on the worktop ready to place the meatballs on. Take golf ball sized pieces of the meat mixture and shape into balls. 
  • Heat a couple of tablespoonfuls of oil in a large casserole pan over a medium-high heat (I used my large non stick wok) and fry the meatballs in small batches until browned all over then remove them onto a plate and set aside while you make the sauce.
  • In the same pan, heat a little more oil over a medium heat and fry the onions with the celery for 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes then add the wine and simmer rapidly until the wine is slightly reduced. 
  • Add the carrots and courgettes and cook for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes, tomato puree, herbs, sweetcorn (if using) and seasoning. Give everything a good stir then add the meatballs making sure they are submerged in the sauce. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes then serve with your favourite pasta and grating of cheese on top if you fancy it. 
  • If you're cooking for the freezer, divide the meatballs between labelled bags and then portion out the sauce evenly between the bags. Leave the bags of meatballs to cool completely then freeze. 
For more meatball inspiration check out these recipes:
Beef meatballs with curried banana sauce for those who fancy trying something a little different.
Spaghetti and beanballs I made these brilliant vegetarian meatballs last year and even my meat loving boyfriend enjoyed them.
Meatballs with vodka dill sauce one for the grown ups I think.
Turkey chorizo meatballs a great way to liven up turkey mince.
Easy meatballs and tomato sauce perfect for all the family.
Easy keftedes Greek inspired meatballs and any leftover are great for lunch boxes. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Turkey & Chickpea Curry

Here is the first of my batch cooking recipes, a protein packed turkey and chickpea curry, a great dish to fill up hungry people and for me a good source of brain fuel for when I need to spend the evening at my desk. I've hidden some extra vegetables in the sauce, I added grated carrot and courgette rather than having them in small pieces which is what I would normally do and they added a new textural dimension to the dish. I'm sure this would probably be a good way of getting veg into fussy kids, it certainly works for a slightly veg-phobic man in his mid 30s!

As mentioned in my last post I went for a shortcut by using jarred minced garlic, ginger and chilli but I've also given approximate conversions to the raw ingredients based on what I would have used if I wasn't being lazy. I've used turkey thigh meat here as like with chicken it tastes better than the more delicate breast meat. Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients, this is a really easy curry to make and fits well with a student budget.

Ingredients - serves 6

1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
2 heaped tsp coriander seeds
5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
2 large bay leaves
1 heaped tsp turmeric
1-2 tbsp sunflower oil for frying
2 onions, finely sliced
2 heaped tbsp minced chilli or 3-4 finely chopped red chillies, feel free to add more if you like it hot!
2 heaped tsp minced garlic or 4-5 cloves crushed
1 heaped tsp minced ginger or a 5cm piece of root ginger finely chopped
600g diced turkey thigh
approx 200g grated carrot - about 4-5 medium carrots
1 medium/large courgette, grated
200g dried chickpeas soaked and cooked before use or 2 tins of dried chickpeas
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
salt and pepper to taste
  • Toast the cumin, coriander and cardamom in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until fragrant then tip into a pestle and mortar and grind to a powder, add the turmeric and mix everything together.
  • Heat the oil in a large casserole pan or heavy based wok over a low-medium heat, (I used the wok that I reviewed a while ago for Ozeri) and add the onions, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Cook for bout 10 minutes, stirring regularly until the onions are softened and lightly golden. 
  • When the onions are nice and soft, increase the heat slightly and add the ground spices, fry these for a minute or two then add the chilli, garlic and ginger and fry for another couple of minutes. 
  • Next add the turkey and fry in the spicy onion mixture until sealed all over, make sure the heat is high enough so that the meat fries rather than steams. Then add the courgette and carrot, stir well and cook for a minute before adding the tinned tomatoes, chickpeas and the tomato puree, stir well again. 
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 25 minutes so the turkey is cooked through and the sauce reduces to become a thick, rich coating for the turkey and chickpeas.
  • Serve with rice and naan breads too if you like. We're fans of the mini garlic and coriander naan breads from Tesco. 
  • If you're batch cooking for the freezer, leave the curry to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes then divide between labelled freezer bags. Spread the bags out on the worktop so they cool more quickly and then freeze once they have cooled fully. 
I'm linking this post up with the following blogging challenges. Extra Veg set up by Helen and Michelle, Cook Blog Share, Recipe of the Week, Tasty Tuesdays, Simple and in Season set up by Ren and Credit Crunch Munch set up by Helen and Camilla 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Batch cooking for an easy life

I'm not going to whinge too much about being busy, everyone is busy these days in different ways. I feel like I'm permanently chained to my desk at the moment whilst I try and get my thesis finished. By the end of the day I really don't feel like cooking but I know I have to eat and if my boyfriend has been at work on his feet all day, he doesn't feel like cooking either so I frequently end up making something fairly quick and boring involving pasta, a tin of tomatoes and whatever I can find in the fridge. On days when he is working late shifts and not home until after midnight I've found myself increasingly staying at my desk until around 9pm then lazily preparing something on toast, in other words feeding myself like a stereotypical student. Last weekend I decided that I would take a day away from the laptop to do loads of cooking to fill up the freezer and have a stash of homemade ready meals in individually portioned bags. So now when I'm home alone or if we're both just too knackered to do anything there will always be something quick and easy to heat up to serve alongside pasta, rice, potatoes or even just some crusty bread.

Our freezer, full of tasty homemade ready meals with enough room at the bottom for the obligatory ice cube bag and some ice cream cones. Yes I know it probably needs defrosting!
In preparation for my day of cooking I placed a massive order with Tesco to be delivered mid week during one of their new £1 delivery slots. We only live a 10 minute walk from a large superstore but there's obviously a limit to how much we can carry and I also wanted to stock up on some bulky basics like massive bags of pasta and rice and loads of tinned tomatoes etc. I decided to take advantage of the 3 for £10 deal on meat (twice) to get a selection and I also bought 2kg bags of dried chickpeas and lentils, these only cost a couple of pounds in the world foods aisle. I made all the meat dishes last week so the next thing I want to do is make a selection of vegetarian dishes using the dried pulses.

I admit I haven't exactly made 'summery' food but all the dishes were easy to prepare, give generous filling portions and all freeze well. As a little cheat I bought jars of minced garlic, minced chilli and minced ginger for about £1 each in the world food aisle and I used these in each of the dishes that I made. I'm not normally that lazy when it comes to ingredients but as I invariably end up poking myself in the eye after handling chillies and my garlic press isn't very good the jars worked out well for me.

I'll be writing up the dishes separately over the coming days and weeks, this is the second advantage of cooking loads at once, giving myself plenty to write about when I need a break from writing my thesis. Another thing I want to do is some baking for the freezer (based on my photo above I'll have to see if there's space first!) as I like having muffins etc on stand by.

These are the recipes I'll be blogging in no particular order with veggie options to be added once I've decided what I want to make:

Turkey & chickpea curry
Beef & barley casserole
Pork meatballs with hidden veg tomato sauce
Chilli con carne
Lamb & green pepper stew

In the meantime have a look at some of these batch cooking tips and recipes from around the blogosphere.

Save time during the week by following some of these tips for preparing healthy food in advance from Dannii. If you eat a lot of tomato based dishes then try Sarah's slow cooked tomato sauce. Mince forms the basis of many of our favourite dishes and Camilla has a very easy recipe for minced beef and onions. Katie's recipe for vegetarian shepherd's pie is great for making and freezing in advance. Jacqueline has a very healthy vegetable and lentil stew and on Michelle's blog there are several tasty looking batch cooking recipes.

Do you ever batch cook or bake for the freezer?