When I do my supermarket shopping, I'm like a robot. I generally pick up the same things, I go to the same places on the shelves, I go up the same aisles. I am a creature of habit.
There are some aisles I rarely visit. The alcohol aisle for example (ok, that may be a lie). But the frozen food aisle is one I usually skip for sure. I have in my head it's full of chicken nuggets; chips; pizzas and any other kind of reconstituted, deep fried, saturated fat laden redy-meals you can imagine. I whizz up there briefly on the odd occasion that we've run out of frozen peas, or maybe for ice cream in the summer, but that's about it.
I've been asked by The British Frozen Food Federation and Cool Cookery to challenge my perceptions, and throw myself head-first into the freezer section (not literally, that would be foolish. And cold).
I have to say, I was surprised. I literally had no idea the range of frozen fruit and vegetables that is on offer. Fish and meat too - actual pieces of real fish, not a breadcrumb in sight.
Obviously the advantages of buying fruit and veg frozen are reduced waste - how often have we thrown limp carrots out of the fridge or squidgy strawberries? Frozen food keeps for so much longer, you only use what you need and pop the rest back for another meal.
Fast freezing after picking means that nutrients are retained better too, so the chances are a bag of frozen green beans are going to have more vitamins in that that bag of floppy beans that have been lurking in your salad drawer for the past fortnight.
Put to the test of coming up with a meal using frozen produce, here's what I purchased:
1 large bag of mixed veg - sadly the supermarket was out of stock of separate carrots and beans, so I bought them mixed and risked frostbite separating them for my recipes!
1 bag of cod fillets
1 bag of chopped coriander - oh joy! Frozen herbs. Who knew? No more chopping, no more pots of droopy, sorry looking herbs sitting on the windowsill, now I can have proper, fresh tasting herbs in my cooking, without the maintenance of trying to keep pot plants alive!
So what did I make?
First up, carrot and coriander soup. One of our favourite soup flavour combos, but I was delighted to find I could whip up a batch of hearty, homemade soup in about 10 minutes. No peeling and chopping required. Perfect for a warming winter lunch.
Carrot and Coriander Soup Recipe:
300g frozen carrots
1 pint veg stock (you can buy frozen stock, or make it up with a cube, or make your own from scratch)
1 tablespoon frozen coriander
1cm piece of ginger, chopped and/or zest of half an orange
Place your frozen carrots in a pan with the stock (include your ginger now if using). Bring to the boil.
Simmer for about 10 minutes (this depends on how thick your carrot pieces are). Check to make sure they're cooked.
Turn off heat and add the coriander. Stir in.
Blend with a stick blender or food processor, and stir in orange zest if using.
Serve with crusty bread or crutons.
This soup was delicious, every bit as good as the soup I make with fresh carrots. The colour was a little less vibrant than using fresh vegetables and herbs, but it tasted just as good.
This is another family favourite which I adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe. I usually make it with fresh cod and fresh vegetables, but this time I've substituted frozen fish and frozen green beans. The other items I usually have in my fridge or pantry, so it's a great one for a midweek meal. It's also a low--maintenance recipe requiring minimal washing-up - winner!
Ingredients (per person)
1 frozen cod fillet
A few slices of chorizo
A handful of cherry tomatoes (halved or pricked so they don't explode!)
A handful of frozen green beans
A handful of olives
Splash of olive oil
Splash of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 180.
Take a large piece of tin foil and fold it in half. Then firmly fold over the side edges a few times to make a parcel.
Place all the ingredients except the fish in a bowl and toss together. Season with salt and pepper.
Spoon your vegetables and juice into the foil parcel and add the fish on top. Roll over the top edge of the parcel, but be sure to leave space for air and steam to circulate.
Stand on a baking tray and cook for approximately 30 minutes.
Carefully open the parcel at the top (be careful of the hot steam) and tip out onto a plate to serve, make sure to serve up the smokey spicy juice too - it's the best bit!
Again, I was pleasantly surprised with this dish using frozen ingredients. It took a little longer to cook than using fresh obviously, but the taste and ease of cooking was just the same.
My life would be so much simpler if I could knock up healthy family meals from the contents of my freezer instead of having to keep nipping to the shops for fresh meat, fish and vegetables, so I have to say, I'm a bit of a convert. I'm going to be checking out what other family favourites can be made from frozen now.
With research showing the average family can save £250 on their grocery bill by using frozen ingredients and reducing waste, there's no reason not to really.