The Freezer: My Top 3 Foods That Should Always Be In It
I’m actually in a rather good position to write this post at the moment – I don’t have a freezer. Haven’t had one for about 5 months!! And I can most definitely affirm to you all that the old saying – ‘you don’t appreciate something until it’s gone’ – is most definitely true.
I miss having a freezer – and not just because I’m addicted to ice cream (I can also confirm that ice cream does not last long in the fridge (and it didn’t last long in my freezer either if I’m perfectly honest, but no matter)). No, I miss just how darn handy it is to have one.
I’m a prolific home cook. I love it. I used to earn my money as a chef, and so I know my way around the kitchen. But, home cooking is something else. It’s relaxing for one thing (professional kitchens are most definitely not), and for another it’s the perfect way to get creative whilst at the same time producing something that is both delicious and nutritious for the ones that you love the most.
One of my favourite things to do in the kitchen is make my own preserves. And I do it with all sorts. I make jams, jellies and chutneys of course, but then I also dry herbs and wild mushrooms that I’ve picked, try my hand at the odd bit of salting, brining and smoking, pickle onions and eggs and fungi and vegetables.
This obviously stacks my cupboards out with all manner of wonderful pots and jars that are brimming with flavour. But the real reason I like making these things is that it makes your seasonal bounties last.
Being able to preserve food is one of the greatest accomplishments of mankind. Indeed, without these old preserving techniques, the world’s population would probably not have grown to the size that it is as quickly as it has. And, although it is perhaps a bit of a shame that some of these old preserving techniques have almost died off in this part of the world – there is actually very good reason for it.
Until freezers were invented, the only way to preserve foods for long periods of time was by drying, and the most common method used for doing this was with salt. Once upon a time, salt was an incredibly valuable commodity. In fact, in old Rome, Roman warriors were paid for their conquering troubles with a handful of salt every day – and that’s where we get the word ‘salary’ from.
But, having to salt all of your meats and fish and even fruit and veg for storage was never really going to last, was it. Now we have a technological solution for the problem of preserving food – we just freeze it, and it keeps for a long, long time, and can be thawed and used almost as it were fresh.
So, with this in mind, I’m now going to list for you 5 foods that you should always have in your freezer (and they are indeed the 5 foods that I miss the most through not having one).
Yes. Peas are most definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, number 1 on this list, and the one frozen food that I miss the most. I actually prefer frozen peas to fresh peas. And this might very well be because the peas that we buy in bags for the freezer were probably frozen when they fresher than the ‘fresh’ peas we buy from the farmers’ market.
The very second that peas are picked, those all-important sugars immediately start turning into flavourless starch. Such is the sophistication of the harvesting process for peas that are destined for the freezer, that they make it there by the ton usually in under an hour. ‘Fresh’ peas, on the other hand, can be picked on a Tuesday, and by the time you buy them it’s Friday, and by the time you’ve podded and cooked them to go with your Sunday roast, you may as well be eating little balls of cardboard.
No, fresh peas are the way forward. I love them. And they’re so versatile. If all you’ve got in the cupboard is a pack of pasta, and all you’ve got in the freezer is a bag of peas – then you’ve got the makings of one of my favourite home cooked dishes. Simply boil up a few hundred grams of peas for just a couple of minutes, and then, whilst the pasta’s cooking, whizz up about half of them in a food processor with a ladle-full of the cooking water, nugget of butter, a clove of garlic if you’ve got it, and a few mint, parsley or basil leaves. Drain the pasta, and stir together with the mushy peas and fresh peas. If you’ve got some parmesan to grate over the top then you’re onto a real treat. Though cheddar will do just as well, as would some mozzarella, goat’s cheese or blue cheese, depending on what you’ve got or what you fancy. Simple and delicious.
Other things to do with frozen peas:
- · Pea fritters
- · Pea risotto
- · Curried potato with peas
- · Pea ice cream (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!!)
Peas are also the perfect quick bit of green to accompany your main meal, from fish to meat to vegetarian. Peas, peas, peas. Amazing.
No, not a stack of those horrible frozen pizzas that you get in the supermarket. I’m talking about some real homemade pizza dough.
Pizzas are the ideal fast food. There is literally an endless amount of topping combos out there to choose from. And there’s no need to stop at the savoury varieties either. When I was a youngster, my best friend and I used to top pizzas with chocolate spread, treacle, crunchy nut cornflakes – you name it, we tried it.
So make yourself a big batch of pizza dough – enough for about 8 pizzas – portion them up into balls, wrap in clingfilm and bung in the freezer – you’ve got a meal (or a pud) in minutes just waiting for you to bake. Just remember to take a ball out before you go to work in the morning and it’ll be defrosted and ready to use when you get home.
No, not ketchup. I’m talking about a thick and rich tomato sauce that you can use for all manner of dishes.
Take a couple of kilos of tomatoes, slice each one in half and arrange on a few baking trays, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil, and scatter over a few cloves of chopped garlic. Season well with salt and pepper and bake in medium-hot oven until softened and starting to get a bit black and blistered. Place a fine sieve over a large bowl and push the cooked tomatoes through it until you are left with a big pile of rich tomato mush in the bowl beneath. Transfer into small Tupperware boxes and freeze.
These are ideal little boxes of joy to keep in your freezer. Use them for stews, for pizza toppings (see number 2 on the list), for curries, for pasta, for rice dishes, for soups, and for sauces. So much more tasty than anything you can buy in a jar or a carton, and, barring the pizza toppings, you won’t even need to defrost them – just thaw a little and pop the big tomatoey ice cube straight into the pot and you’re good to go.
These are my top 3 foods to keep in my freezer. What are yours? Let us know in the comments below.