Whether cooking on a quiet Sunday when you’d rather just relax, or a busy weekday after a long day at work, prep-ahead recipes are fantastic for saving time and money. These crowd-pleasing dishes are full of wholesome ingredients and plenty of flavour. Simply make one of our three easy base recipes and freeze for later to save yourself the stress when you just want dinner on the table.
Creamy chicken base
For a shortcut to three hearty chicken dinners, start with preparing a simple chicken and white sauce base. Our recipe makes three freezable batches.Ingredients:
- 75g butter
- 75g plain flour
- 750ml milk
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 8 skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into cubes
- 2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
- 1 onion, very finely chopped (optional)
- Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for a few mins, stirring all the time. Now, using a whisk or spatula, carefully stir in the milk, a little at a time, making sure the sauce stays smooth. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for a couple of mins until it thickens – it will be very thick. Turn the heat right down and keep cooking for 5 mins, stirring often.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry all of the chicken in batches until it starts to colour lightly at the edges. Scoop out each batch of chicken and put on a plate. Add the onion to the pan, if you are using it, and cook over a low heat until soft. Add the chicken and any juices and the onion to the white sauce, fold it in and cook the mixture for a further 15 mins or until the chicken is cooked through. Divide the mixture into three. Freeze each batch in an airtight container for up to a month until you need it. Defrost fully before using in the recipes below.
Chicken & leek pasta bake with crunchy topping
This comforting pasta bake counts as one of your five-a-day and takes just ten minutes to prep before putting in the oven using your original chicken base recipe. Great on a chilly evening, it’s a creamy, dreamy supper the whole family will love. Chicken & broccoli potato-topped pie
Not only comforting but low-calorie, too, and packed with fibre from the veg – this golden-brown chicken pie is also a great source of vitamin C. You only need a handful of ingredients to make it and even the fussiest of eaters won’t be able to resist. Creamy chicken & sweetcorn soup
What could be more soothing than a steaming bowl of chicken soup? Again, it’s a low-calorie dish that counts as two of your five-a-day. Simply stir a batch of your chicken base into gently fried veggies. It may, or may not, cure a cold, but it will make you feel better.
Tomato & mince base
As with the chicken base, this easy mince base can be divided into three batches for freezing. We recommend using beef mince with 10% fat. This, plus a few veggies, passata and milk creates a life-saving recipe for hectic days.Ingredients:
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 large celery stick, finely sliced
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped
- 1.5kg beef mince, 10% fat
- 3 tbsp tomato & vegetable purée
- 600ml passata
- 150ml milk
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan, add the onion and fry until it starts to soften, then add the garlic, celery and carrot and cook until soft. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a separate frying pan and fry the mince in batches, scooping each batch out with a slotted spoon and leave any excess oil behind.
- Add the mince to the veg, then stir in the tomato purée and cook for 1 min. Stir in the passata and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over a very low heat for 1½-2 hrs, then add the milk and cook for 30 mins. Divide into three batches and freeze for up to a month. Defrost fully before using.
Chunky cherry tomato ragu for pasta
Whip up this speedy pasta sauce for the family in only 20 minutes. Simply add cherry tomatoes and a spoonful of rich mascarpone to the base for a spaghetti dish that is fabulously filling and includes one of your five-a-day. Garnish with basil and parmesan.Smoky black bean chilli
Get the kids involved with filling their own smoky chilli bowls, complete with toppings, after getting everything on the table in 20 minutes. Sprinkle over grated cheese, squeeze a bit of lime, dollop on soured cream and serve with sliced avocado for two of your five-a-day. Sweet potato-topped cottage pie
Everyone loves cottage pie, especially when it’s this easy. Use your last batch of beef mince with a few extra veggies thrown in and an irresistible sweet potato mash to top off this classic comfort food that adds up to two of your five-a-day.
Veggie roast cauliflower & squash base
For the vegetarian option, try this easy roasted veg recipe as a time-saving base for other meat-free dishes, or you could serve it as a side dish. It’s healthy, vegan and freezes well for up to a month, so it’s also great for saving on waste if you have a cauliflower rolling around the back of the fridge. Ingredients:
- 2 large cauliflowers, split into florets, the stalk cut into cubes
- 1 large butternut squash, cut into cubes
- 2 tbsp oil
- Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Toss the cauliflower and squash in oil and spread it out on a large oven tray. Roast for 25 mins, or until tender.
- Divide the veg into three batches. Freeze each batch in an airtight container for up to a month until you need it. Defrost fully before using.
Cauliflower, squash, coconut & lentil curry
Not only is this flavourful vegan curry three of your five-a-day, it’s also gluten-free and a good source of iron. Adapt the level of spice to suit your palate – just a little garam masala and a dash of coconut milk transform your standard roast veg into something special.Cauliflower, squash & orzo gratin
Our crunchy, creamy veggie traybake needs just a handful of carefully selected ingredients, including orzo pasta and mascarpone. Get two of your five-a-day along with good doses of calcium and vitamin C. Make sure the breadcrumb topping is brown and toasty before serving. Cauliflower & squash fritters with mint & feta dip
These look naughty, but you’d be wrong. Whip up these healthy, vegan gluten-free fritters in just half-an-hour, best served with a minty yogurt dip and pitta breads. They are addictive crispy bites that will be gone before you know it – ideal for a starter if you’re entertaining.
Like these batch cook meals? Check out other family feasts…
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