What Chefs Buy From The Freezer Aisle

What Chefs Buy From The Freezer Aisle

If you lead a busy life, a well-stocked freezer can be a godsend. Plus, making the most of yours can help to reduce food waste and – contrary to popular belief – actually locks in a range of different nutrients. We asked some of Britain’s leading chefs and cooks to share their frozen favourites – from pre-packed herb mixes to ready-to-cook pastry – and what they make with them.

Christopher Lyon, Nutshell

Potatoes: Waitrose sells pre-portioned potato gratin, which is brilliant as an accompaniment to a last-minute roast dinner, which happens frequently in my household. 

Frozen vegetables: I tend to always have basic frozen veg in the freezer – usually petit pois for me and sweetcorn for my wife. I also like pearl onions, but anything that can be frozen quickly are little treasures. With these you’ve already got half the basics to extend your mid-week meal, for example: cottage pie, a basic chilli or a taco mix. 

Curry essentials: I always have a stash of kaffir lime leaves, curry leaves, chillies and mai ploy curry paste for any essential curry needs. I normally use these fresh, then freeze as they don’t lose their integrity. 

Cocktail essentials: I’ve always got ice, frozen lime juice and sugar syrup in the freezer for any margarita emergencies.

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Lawrence Gomez, Papa L’s Kitchen

Frozen peas: These are better than fresh when it comes to making a pea puree. The best way to use them is to defrost the amount you need to room temperature. Steam them for two minutes so they have a little bite, then refresh in ice-cold water to retain the green colour. Cook some onions/shallots in butter until soft, add a little bit of veg stock and cool down in the fridge. Add the peas, onion mix and blend so the peas are rustic but not smooth, then add some chopped mint and season with salt and pepper to your taste. A great side dish for fish and chips.

Frozen prawns: A cheaper and productive product that saves you time and money compared to fresh – there is a lot of preparation that goes into cleaning and de-shelling prawns. I use these in curries, prawn toast, rice and for making a prawn burger, which is one of my signature dishes. Always defrost frozen produce in your fridge overnight to get the best out of the product (and more importantly, for health and safety reasons).

Puff pastry: It’s perfect for making savoury and sweet dishes, such as apple pies, chicken and mushroom pie, fish pie and mixed berry strudel. You can get really creative with this without making a mess in the kitchen – there’ll be no flour going everywhere.

Visit PapaLsKitchen.com

Cherish Finden, Pan Pacific London

Asian herbs: I like to freeze pandan leaf, Thai basil, kaffir lime and lemongrass. These spices are always very safe in the freezer and last a long time without the taste deteriorating.

Chickens and prawns: I always have chicken and prawns in my freezer. One of my favourite Singapore dishes is chicken satay with coconut and pandan rice. I simply season the chicken with the above ingredient and with some spices in the cupboard and freezer and serve it with freshly cooked rice. With the prawns, I stir fry them with garlic, I make my own pasta and tomato sauce, I’ll add in rosemary and thyme which I also grow in my garden. This is a very simple but delicious dish you can whip up quickly.

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Edson Diaz-Fuentes, Santo Remedio 

Ripe avocados: Whenever I can, I freeze ripe avocados. I never use them for guacamole (always use fresh for guac) but the creaminess is great for shakes. I add the frozen avocado to carrot, celery, orange juice and a pinch of spirulina for a great veggie shake.

Fish goujons: My guilty pleasure is having fish goujons ready to be served from the freezer with a fresh pico de gallo and super spicy tamarind salsa. Luckily, we always have corn tortillas at home. It’s comfort food at its best.

Frozen berries: Add Greek yogurt, agave and puffed amaranth for “summer” smoothies all year round.

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Monika Linton, Brindisa 

Broad beans: With a stock of frozen peas and broad beans I can get myself some black pudding and fresh mint and make habas a la Catalana – beans Catalan style – it’s quick easy yet light as it is predominantly vegetable and herbs.

Tiger prawns: Whenever I go to a good fishmongers, I buy a box of tiger prawns to keep for moments when I just cannot resist garlic prawns. Use a dried hot guindilla chilli and have some doorstep slices of bread to dunk in the oil.

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Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, Honey & Co and Honey & Smoke

Fish fingers: Our freezer staples are the classics: peas and fish fingers, of course. There have been many a night that we got home after a busy service to a fish finger sandwich or pea and pancetta pasta – pancetta being another freezer favourite of ours. 

Fresh yeast: We like to make sure that our freezer always contains yeast, flour, and a few packs of butter so we don't need to leave the house if we are in the mood for some Sunday baking, flour keeps better in the freezer and it’s a great way to keep fresh yeast in a domestic environment when you only need a bit at a time. 

Stock: We always make a small stock with carcasses and freeze; this is the beginning of endless quick meals. Our favourite is dirty rice, after 15 minutes you’ll have a very satisfying meal: fry an onion and every other bit of vegetable in the house, as much garlic as you can handle, some cured meat if you have it, paprika and cumin, add rice, peas (hello again!) and the stock, bring to boil, reduce to simmer and put a lid on for 15 minutes.

Visit HoneyAndCo.co.uk

Lily Jones, Lily Vanilli

Ice cubes: You can tip tempered chocolate over a bowl of ice cubes to make an instant chocolate decoration that looks super pro and skilled but is actually instant and super easy.

Frozen black cherries and blackcurrants: They’re great for making coulis, or as a delicious fruit filling out of season. Passion fruit puree will be good for making coulis and jellies and mousse. 

Visit LilyVanilli.com

Freddie Janssen, Snackbar

Dumplings: I rarely cook at home since opening Snackbar, but one thing that’s always in my freezer is store-bought dumplings. They’re the ultimate lazy convenience dinner, so easy to make and always delicious.

Visit SnackbarLondon.com

Mark Greenaway, Mark Greenaway Restaurants

Chicken stock: My other must-have frozen ingredient is good-quality chicken stock. It’s great for last-minute gravy or thinning down soups. You can also boil it and pour it over instant noodles for an extra boost of flavour instead of using water.

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Justine Murphy, Mymuybueno 

Frozen breakfast fruit: I always add these to my morning smoothies and açai bowl. It’s such an easy way to cram a load of your five-a-day into your body and helps me feel mega energised from the massive hit of antioxidants and nutrients.

Filo pastry: Great for vegans, it’s brilliant to have to hand when I want to make my vegetable samosas which are for snacking on or accompanying a curry night.

Visit MyMuyBuenoPrivateChefs.com

Eran Tibi, Bala Baya

Pita dough: It is the best freezable dough. An essential in my kitchen freezer. It can be used for so many things. Firstly, perfect for reheating for toast and remains fresh. It can also be used when making desserts – think French toast, or bread and butter pudding.

Wine: A tip I learnt from Nigella Lawson, freeze leftover wine in small bottles. You can then use it when you’re cooking. 

Visit BalaBaya.co.uk

Neuza Leal, Bar Douro

A bag of peas: They get picked and frozen at the peak of the season, so they're a consistently good product. The sweetness and freshness that it keeps even if it's frozen is great. In Portugal one of our most popular dishes is a stew with peas, chorizo and tomato, served with a soft poached egg and herbs. The richness of the chorizo and the egg yolk complements the peas very well.

Visit BarDouro.co.uk


Jo Pratt, author of Flexible Family

Salmon fillets: Frozen fish is a really convenient ingredient as it defrosts really quickly compared to meat and the quality is often better than some fresh fish. To make some fish cakes, wrap salmon in foil with some cajun spice and lime juice. Bake in the oven while you bake some sweet potatoes. Mix the potato flesh with the cooked salmon, spring onion and coriander. Shape into cakes and coat in breadcrumbs. Fry or bake and enjoy!

Ready-rolled puff pastry: It’s good for sweet and savoury cooking emergencies. Cut the pastry into strips and add some topping such as sliced pear, cinnamon pecans and maple syrup, or Nutella and sliced banana.

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Taiji Maruyama, Taka Mayfair and Taka Marylebone 

Sweetcorn: Frozen corn is a great freezer staple of mine as it's great for making a creamy corn soup that I make all year round. I have it hot in the winter and cold in the summer. 

Chicken thighs: I always keep these in the freezer and use for many dishes, but I often use them for chicken teriyaki and crispy skin.

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Tomas Lidakevicius, Turnips

Dill: I always store frozen dill in my freezer at home, I’m a huge fan of it! It’s brilliant for any situation – salad, stew, potatoes. It makes any dish tastier and greener. Another ingredient is my wife's homemade vegetable stock cubes. We store them in ice cubes, use stock to season food for extra flavour.

Steak: We always have some steaks from home suppliers, this is amazing produce and perfect for an emergency situation when the lads are coming over with no warning.

Visit TurnipsBoroughMarket.com

Laura Matthews, Laura Matthews Nutrition

Frozen fruit: As a registered nutritionist and huge foodie, I'm a big fan of frozen food, especially frozen fruit, vegetables and herbs. Frozen fruit is great for making smoothies, fruit compote, crumbles or as a snack with yoghurt. It’s also a great way of using fruits which are out of season – such as strawberries and blackberries – and often cheaper too.

Frozen herbs: It's easy for fresh herbs to deteriorate in quality, which quickly results in food waste. Frozen herbs are a great alternative, as you can use exactly the amount you need, and most varieties are widely available – think parsley, basil, dill, coriander and parsley. They’re all great for adding extra flavour to soups, stews and salads.

Visit LauraMatthewsNutrition.co.uk

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