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After a full-on day in the kitchen, the last thing I want to do is cook another meal. It’s hard to juggle eating well with a busy lifestyle, but it’s really important to my husband and I. Even foodies sometimes don’t have time, or desire, to cook every day! However, we soon found that the other convenient alternatives were low quality, unhealthy and oftentimes, overly expensive.
Frozen food really is better than fresh. When I come home now, I put one of our handmade, all-natural meals in the oven, take a bath and then dinner is ready. I can relax knowing exactly what’s in my food, too. It really has made that midweek nightmare a midweek dream. I don’t think I’ll ever look back.
People often underuse their freezer. If you take a look, you’ll probably only find a packet of fish fingers and a bag of peas, maybe a tray of ice or a supermarket-bought pizza. We founded ByRuby to change people’s perceptions of frozen food. Think of it like ‘pressing pause’ on a fresh dish that is full of nutrients until you decide to ‘press play’ and reap the benefits.
Quality, nourishing food is the basis of a healthy and happy life. Batch cooking and then freezing the portions not only saves time but is financially economical, too. Whether you are living on your own or have a large family to feed – or perhaps you need a quick, energising lunch at home or at work – you can relax knowing you only have to reach for what’s in the freezer. It’s already good to go.
Track your freezer contents and rotate as necessary. That means bringing older batches of food to the top or front of the freezer so that you don’t find any nasty surprises lurking at the bottom or back in a year’s time. Make sure you label your food clearly and firmly with the date you cooked it and a best before date as well. The ideal temperature to store frozen food is -18°C and almost all our recipes keep for up to about six months.
Inspired? Here are three recipes to try – alongside tips on how to freeze and serve them.
Ruby’s Fabulous Fish Pie
This meal has been a bestseller at ByRuby since the beginning, and there’s a reason. It’s so moreish, comforting and delicious. You can use any fish you fancy here, but as we always say, make sure it’s sustainable.
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6.
2. Put the haddock into a pan, cover with water and bring to the boil over a medium heat, then drain and set aside.
3. Place the coley and salmon on a baking tray and bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the
fish is just cooked through. Set aside but leave the oven on if eating now.
4. Cook the potatoes in a large pan of salted boiling water for about 15 minutes until cooked
5. Meanwhile, heat a pan over a low heat. Add the vegetable oil and then the onion and leeks and sweat for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent.
6. Add the thyme and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes.
7. Drain the potatoes, return to the pan and add the butter, salt, nutmeg and pepper. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or a fork – I like my mash slightly chunky but you can go ultra-smooth if you prefer.
8. For the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, stir in the flour until it forms a roux and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Then gradually add the milk, a little at a time, whisking constantly until it is all incorporated and the sauce is smooth and thick.
9. Mix the cooked fish, white sauce and onion and leek mixture together gently, ensuring that the fish remains in large chunks for added texture. Then fold in the parsley and lemon zest and juice and season to taste.
10. If eating now, transfer the fish mixture to a baking dish, top with the mashed potatoes and sprinkle with the grated Cheddar, if using. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden and the filling is piping hot. Remove from the heat and season to taste.
TO FREEZE: Portion out the fish pie filling into freezer-safe and ovenproof containers or dishes, then
top with the mashed potatoes and add a sprinkle of grated cheddar, if using. Leave to cool. Put the
lids on or wrap tightly in clingfilm or foil, label and date before freezing.
TO COOK: Preheat the oven to 160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Uncover the ovenproof container, place on a
baking sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden and the filling is piping hot.
Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni
This dish is a great way to feed a crowd and will no doubt become a family favourite. Try serving it with a crisp green salad – think firm little gem leaves torn apart and tossed together with rocket or pea shoots, plus some fragrant herbs, such as chopped coriander, parsley or chives. Why not quarter some radishes to add peppery piquancy, or shave over some raw carrot ribbons for added crunch, too?
For the tomato sauce, heat a large, heavy-based pan over a low heat. Add a good glug of vegetable oil and then the onion and sweat for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent.
Add the carrots and celery and cook for about 5-10 minutes until softened. Then add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, oregano and bay leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomato purée, tomatoes and salt and simmer for 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat, remove and discard the bay leaves and stir through the basil.
For the filling, squeeze out all the excess water from the defrosted spinach. Add to a food processor or blender with all the remaining filling ingredients and blitz until smooth.
Transfer the filling to a piping bag with a spoon ready to pipe into the cannelloni tubes.
If eating now, preheat the oven to 180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6.
For the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, stir in the flour until the mixture forms a roux and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Then gradually add the milk, a little at a time, whisking constantly until it is all incorporated and the sauce is smooth and thick. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses, nutmeg and mustard. Season to taste.
Pipe the filling into the cannelloni tubes and set aside.
To assemble, if eating now, make a layer of all the tomato sauce in the base of a large baking dish, or put about 150g of tomato sauce in the base of individual baking dishes. Add the filled cannelloni, about three tubes per individual dish, then top with a layer of white sauce, about 100g per individual dish. Sprinkle over the lemon zest and extra thyme leaves.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown on top and piping hot.
TO FREEZE: Portion out into individual freezer-safe and ovenproof containers or dishes. Leave to cool, then put the lids on or wrap tightly in clingfilm or foil, label and date before freezing.
TO COOK: Preheat the oven to 160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Uncover the ovenproof container or dish and place on a baking sheet in the centre of the oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown on top and piping hot. Leave to stand for 3 minutes before serving.
Eton Mess Semifreddo
A fantastic showstopper that won’t fail to impress yet is easy to make, this is the perfect laid-back dessert that can be served straight from the freezer.
Line a 900g loaf tin with clingfilm and set aside.
Put the berries, 100g of the icing sugar and the lemon juice into a pan and heat gently for about 5 minutes until the berries have softened and the liquid is syrupy.
Using a slotted spoon, remove half the berries and reserve, then blitz the remainder with a hand blender or in a blender until smooth.
Push the berry purée through a fine sieve into a bowl, discarding any pips. Leave the purée and reserved berries to cool.
Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth, thick and glossy.
In a separate bowl, whip the cream until it holds its shape, being careful not to overwhip.
Using a large metal spoon, gently fold the whisked egg whites and lemon zest into the cream, then fold in the crumbled meringue.
Fold through the cooled berry purée and reserved whole berries.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin. Freeze the dessert for at least 8 hours before serving.
To serve, turn out the semifreddo and cut into slices. Decorate with extra berries.
TO FREEZE: Wrap the loaf tin of semifreddo tightly in clingfilm or foil. Label and date before freezing.
TO SERVE: Unwrap and serve straight away in slices or leave to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes until slightly softened before serving.