Cooking for the freezer…

The weather has turned colder here in Kent, sadly no snow as of yet which has confused the boys after last year’s flurries, but the frosty mornings have put me in the mood for stews and soups and I have been batch cooking and stocking up the freezer.

We mostly have freshly cooked meals, but as I eat on my own in the evenings (M works late and eats there and the boys eat very early as they arrive home from school ravenous), sometimes I just fancy something tasty and re-heated with maybe some added fresh vegetables on the side and I’d much rather it’s something I’ve cooked from frozen than a ready meal.

First up I made a batch of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Peposo/Hunters Stew’ which basically involves stewing 1.25 Kg beef, 10 whole peeled cloves of garlic (yes, 10!), 2 tablespoons of freshly ground pepper (yep you read that right as well), 4 sprigs of rosemary and a bottle of Chianti all thrown in a pot, covered and cooked in a very low oven, for forever (about 8 hours in this case).  You can find the full recipe in Jamie’s Italy book.

I have a bit of a love of this dish, partly it’s the sheer peppery, garlicky, beefiness and also it’s because as a family we don’t eat much red meat, in fact M only eats fish so I do like to treat myself to it once in a while.  The down side is it doesn’t go far, as the beef is the main ingredient and there are no vegetables to bulk out the stew, I always feel like there’s a lot of effort for not a great return.  The other down side is attempting to hand grind 2 tablespoons of black pepper, my will to live left after about a tablespoon on this occasion so that was all I put in.  The resulting stew is pretty amazing though, very intense and rich and a little goes a long way, so maybe worth the effort after all.

The other dish I made for the freezer was a batch of Boston Beans but using the barlotti beans I’d grown in the garden instead of haricot.  Back in autumn I left these on the vines to dry, moving them (just pulled directly out of the ground, in fact with the supports still attached) into the greenhouse when the weather looked like it might turn wet, then I ignored them for a few weeks until my Mum kindly stripped and podded them by which time they were very dry beans.  Well done Mum. They look so pretty in the jar I was almost loathed not to use them but it was worth it.

I have linked above to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s version of Boston Beans as it’s the nearest to the one I make, which in all honestly changes a little each time.  The main thing I do differently is to cook the belly pork separately, this is partly because it freaks me out with all the fat that is released and it’s also so I can have some plain baked beans that M can eat.  I also add tomato puree, in this case in the form of some of my own from the freezer made with tomatoes from the garden and I replace the pickling onions with shallots, also from the garden.

The challenge now it so try and fit it all these tubs of goodness into the freezer which is apparently full of chicken stock and M’s ever extending stash of ice creams, seriously, I have never known anyone to eat as many ice creams as the boys and men in this family, I think they may need help 🙂

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