KEEP IT FLAT: Justine’s top tip for storing food in the freezer is ‘flat-freezing’.
She labels a plastic freezer bag with food type, number of portions, freezing and best-before dates.
Then she pours the sauce, stew or soup into the bag, flattens it on a baking tray and freezes it.
When it’s frozen, not only can you stack the bags but they are quicker to thaw and you can snap off the amount you need.
SUPER-QUICK STRIPS: Don’t bother freezing whole chicken breasts, thick steaks and large chops — they take too long to defrost.
For fast, healthy midweek meals, cut chicken, beef and pork into 1.5cm strips to make them far more versatile.
‘Before you freeze, toss the strips in a little sunflower oil and seasoning, then “open freeze” them by arranging them in a single layer on a foil-lined baking tray, covering them with cling film and placing the tray in the freezer,’ says Justine.
‘When the strips are frozen solid, peel away the cling film (it comes off easily) and transfer them to a rigid container or airtight freezer bag and use within a month.
You can then use it as you normally would, on salads or in a stir fry.
FINE FILLETS: For fast fish meals, cut very fresh raw fish into thin fillets or small chunks. Justine recommends using easy leave sheets in between to prevent them from sticking and then pack them into two bags to avoid a fishy smell in your freezer.
FLAVOUR CUBES:‘Use silicone ice-cube trays to freeze citrus juices, pesto, tomato paste or wine in small cubes that can be stored in an airtight freezer bag and dropped into your cooking as needed,’ says Sainsbury’s frozen food expert Susi Richards.
SOUP, STOCK AND SAUCE: Liquids needed in larger quantities can be frozen in a silicone muffin tray, says Susi. ‘Just fill the holes with your liquid and freeze to produce handy small portion sizes.
‘Once your soup “muffins” are frozen, pop them out of their flexible trays and into an airtight bag for storage.’
Defrost and reheat in a microwave or saucepan as needed within six months.
Citrus Slices: Lemon, lime and orange slices freeze well and make perfect ‘ice cubes’ for alcoholic drinks, as they don’t dilute as they defrost. The same goes for grapes.
Cream: Double cream freezes better than single cream. Although it doesn’t whip well when defrosted and is quite grainy, it’s fine to use in sauces if you freeze small amounts in ice-cube trays. Store in a well-sealed bag, as the flavour can easily be tainted by other foods.
Eggs: Whole eggs will expand and crack if frozen. Instead, beat lightly and add a pinch of salt or sugar per egg (depending on whether you’re using them for savoury or sweet dishes), which will help to stop the egg splitting once defrosted.
Milk: Skimmed or partly skimmed milk does best. Whole milk will probably split when defrosted. Milk should be thawed in the fridge overnight.
Bread: Most breads, except crusty breads, freeze well for up to 3 months.
Herbs: Finely chop soft herbs such as mint and parsley and place in ice-cube trays, top up with water or a little olive oil and freeze. Woody herbs such as rosemary can be frozen whole in plastic food bags. Use from frozen.
Nuts: Will keep in a ziploc bag for up to 6 months.
Wine: Red and white wine can be frozen although doing so ends up making it better for cooking than for drinking as freezing makes crystals form in the wine. As with milk, never store wine in the freezer in a glass bottle, as it will probably shatter. Because of its alcohol content, wine will not freeze completely but remain a little soft, so make sure that the container is sealed properly.
Potatoes: Baked, roasted or mashed, potatoes freeze well for up to 4 months. Baked or roasted can be reheated from frozen whereas mashed or au gratin potatoes should be defrosted in the fridge overnight.
Large joints or whole chickens: six months.
Sausages, chicken breasts, mince, chops, meat balls, steaks and burgers : three months.
Cooked meat, eg, curries, pies and casseroles : two months.
Fish and Seafood
White fish such as haddock and cod, cooked or raw: three months.
Oily fish such as mackerel and salmon, and smoked fish, cooked or raw: two months.
Seafood, cooked or raw: one month.Dairy
Milk: one 1 month.
Butter (salted): three months.
Butter (unsalted): six months.
Double cream (whip with a little sugar first): three months.
Hard cheese (Cheddar, Cheshire, Parmesan, etc): three months.
Soft cheese (Brie, Camembert, goat’s cheese): three months.Vegetabes
Most vegetables (peas, beans, sweetcorn, broccoli, cauliflower, etc): eight months.
Root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, etc): ten months.
Mushrooms: three months.
Cooked tomatoes: four months.
Celery, onions, leeks: six months.
NB: Most fresh vegetables need to be blanched — scalded in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, cooled under cold water and dried — before they are frozen, to remove dirt and bacteria and preserve taste, texture and colour.Fruits Unsweetened, uncooked fresh fruit (eg, raspberries, grapes, gooseberries, banana slices): four months.
Fruit stewed with sugar (eg, apples, plums, pears, blackberries, apricots, strawberries): eight months.
Uncooked citrus fruit (whole, sliced, grated rind or juice): ten months.
Bread (including pitta, naan, bagels, etc): four weeks.
Crusty bread (too long in the freezer will make the crust soft) : two weeksCakes Cupcakes, loaf cakes, sponges, etc — many of these improve in flavour and texture after freezing — four months.
Pastries (croissants, hot cross buns, etc): three months.Rice, Pasta, Potatoes
Rice and pasta (cut the cooking time by 20 per cent, cool and vacuum-pack — break up by hand and reheat in boiling water to eat) — three months.
Potatoes: three months.My life has just become easier by reading his. How about yours?
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