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Kitchen Secrets: Readers share their best make-ahead dinner recipes

Get a headstart on the week with these freezable recipes, from meatballs to veggie ‘mince’.
Jan 4th 2019, 10:48 AM 3,520 0

EVERY HOME COOK has their own kitchen hacks, cheats and traditions, and we want to know yours.

Each week as part of our Kitchen Secrets series, we’ll be asking readers to share their cooking tips and go-to-dishes. From the secret to quick-and-easy dinners, to the best way to scramble an egg, we’ll have a new question every seven days.

This week, we’re asking…

What’s your favourite batch-cook recipe?

As usual, our home cooks had lots to say. If you’d like to join the panel (and be in with the chance to win Lidl prizes), send us your name and a bit about yourself to!

A bolognese (plus a great tip for freezing kids’ portion sizes)

My favourite batch cook dish is a bolognese. I make it with minced round steak, about one to two kg of mince at a time. I’ll add lentils too, as they really extend the bolognese and help to cut down the amount of meat you need to use. Great if you’re on a budget! 

Steep some split red lentils in cold water. Heat some oil, onions and garlic and then brown the mince. Add tomato sauce (I make my own), passata, and a couple of tins of peeled plum tomatoes.  Into that I add diced carrots, peppers, mushrooms and grated courgettes, and any other veg in the fridge. Drain the lentils and add them in at this stage with seasoning. Then let it all simmer, usually for at least 30 minutes. 

I usually make a couple of lasagnes once the bolognese is done. The rest of the bolognese, I’ll freeze in portion sizes. To freeze portion sizes for my son (4.5), I use a bun tray and silicone bun cases. Once it’s frozen, then pop them out of the silicone cases and put in a bag in the freezer.  

- Olly Keegan

shutterstock_347592200 Source: Shutterstock/3523studio

This incredibly versatile tomato sauce

My go to batch cook recipe is a basic tomato and basil sauce. I use this as pasta sauce, pizza toppings, in baked fish/meat dishes, on baked potatoes or with a simple bruschetta.

The basic recipe for six portions is…

- Heat three tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan and gently cook chopped onion and two cloves of garlic until softened.

- Stir in three 400g cans of chopped tomatoes, a tsp dried chilli flakes, and two tsp each of balsamic vinegar and sugar.

- Simmer over a low heat for 45mins, then add a large handful of chopped fresh basil leaves. – Blitz the sauce to the consistency of you choice and season to taste with salt and pepper. You can add cooked diced chorizo for extra spice or a couple of tbsp of mascarpone cheese for a creamier sauce.

- Jennifer Dillon

A huge pot of simple butter chicken to feed a crowd

I am not a great batch cook, but cooking dinner for six people most days already feels like batch cooking! 

I make a large pot of easily made butter chicken a casserole (one pot slow cooked oven dishes are perfect for large volumes) that in theory should last us for two day – but the more I seem to make, the more seems to be consumed on the first day. Shepherd’s pie, pasta (and sauces) and mashed potato are all favourites in our house too. 

- Ross Boxshall

January-tastic veggie dahl 

My go-to batch recipe is January-tastic in that it’s incredibly easy on both bank balance and waistline. It’s even vegan, how 2019 is that?

I make up Donal Skehan’s foolproof and delicious Indian Dahl with spinach and tomatoes on Monday evenings and it serves me for lunches throughout the week. I tweak it ever so slightly by grating in a garlic clove with the ginger and I also add spring onion to the tempered spice mix. 

- Donna Connolly

shutterstock_758513470 Source: Shutterstock/Bartosz Luczak

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Homemade pork meatballs, with three recipes for leftovers

I always have a batch of pork meatballs in the freezer..They are so versatile and can be easily defrosted and added to many different sauces.

I make a big batch with 2lbs of good quality pork mince, plus breadcrumbs, two eggs, a very finely chopped onion, salt, pepper and chopped herbs. I combine it all thoroughly by hand, then shape the meat into small balls and place them on a greased baking tray. Bake them with a little oil for about 20/30 minutes or until they are nicely browned.

Once cooked and cooled, they can be frozen. I use these meatballs to create many delicious meals. For Swedish meatballs add the meatballs to chicken stock, lemon juice, chopped dill, minced garlic, creme fraiche and thicken with a little cornflour.

For Thai green curry meatballs, add a tin of coconut milk, green curry paste, chopped coriander, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, one tsp brown sugar and frozen green beans, cornflour to thicken.

For Italian meatballs add a tin of tomatoes, a clove of garlic, a tsp sugar and chopped basil.

- Angela Nolan

Mexican-style mince, with no meat in sight

Veggie Mexican ‘mince’ can be used to top crunchy nachos or tacos, rolled up as yummy burrito filling, spooned into a lunch box with herbed baby potatoes or just ladled into a bowl with steaming rice as a delicious and comforting chilli! It’s a really flexible recipe, freezes perfectly and is extremely easy to reheat in portions, as needed.

I make mine with a mix of herbs and spices: smoked paprika, dried oregano and chilli flakes, ground coriander and cumin, a pinch of cinnamon, tomato paste, and honey. 

Then you’ll need a chopped onion, two cloves of garlic, plus chopped celery, carrots, dried red split lentils, two tins of chopped tomatoes, a tin of kidney beans, a tin of black beans, a big handful of the greens of your choice, and water/stock to top it all up. 

Sweat the onion and celery for several minutes, then add the garlic, carrots, tomato paste, all spices and stir. Add your lentils, then the tinned tomatoes and honey and your liquid. Allow it to cook for 20 minutes before adding the beans. Spinach goes in at the end to wilt. 

- Lee-Ann Ronan

More Kitchen Secrets: Readers share their recipes for perfect porridge every time>

More Kitchen Secrets: Readers share their family secrets for great spaghetti bolognese>

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Paula Lyne


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