Did you watch the “Great British Waste Menu?” programme on the BBC last week? It followed four top chefs – Angela Hartnett, Richard Corrigan, Matt Tebbutt and Simon Rimmer – as they journey deep into the heart of Britain’s food waste problem, exploring how and why the nation throws away and reject huge quantities of perfectly edible food.
We think that the freezer should be every food lover’s best friend! It’s a great tool for preserving food, sealing in freshness and keeping tasty meals to hand, which can save us time and money and help to reduce food waste.
- You can freeze almost any food (including hard cheese, eggs, bread, home made meals, cakes) although some foods do not freeze as well as others. The structure of some foods with a high water content like lettuce and tomatoes will change when frozen, however these can still be frozen and used for soups and sauces, rather than throwing them away.
- Food doesn’t have to be frozen on the day of purchase. It can be frozen at any point up to the end of its “use by” date.
- Food should be cooled before transferring into the freezer otherwise the heat from the food will warm the freezer up causing it to use more energy. Let it cool on the side, wrap up well and label, before transferring it into the freezer.
- There is no need to thaw vegetables before cooking, simply steam or boil from frozen for 5-10 minutes, depending on the variety.
- You can freeze home grown produce, simply top and tail and blanche for 2-3 minutes before plunging into cold water and drain. Freeze flat to avoid “clumping” – once frozen solid they can be bagged in portions to save space. Soft fruit can be frozen whole, or pureed first and frozen for use in drinks or sorbet.
- It’s best to defrost food gradually in the fridge so it keeps cool until you are ready to cook it. Try to put frozen food in the fridge the night before you intend to eat it and it should be defrosted in time for tea. Use it within two days. It is also safe to defrost at room temperature provided you intend to eat it as soon as it’s thawed.
- Frozen raw meat or fish can be defrosted, cooked thoroughly then frozen again. Take care to defrost thoroughly and re-heat until piping hot. Remember, food should never be reheated more than once.
- If uncooked food has been defrosted by accident don’t try to pop it back in the freezer – cook it and either eat it, or re-freeze it, as above.
- You can keep food safely in the freezer for years, as long as it has stayed frozen the whole time. However, it will gradually lose its quality and taste, so avoid “stockpiling” by planning to eat frozen foods more often so you don’t forget what’s in there and “rotate” older foods to the front so they can be used up first.
- For a stress free dinner at a later date, try cooking batches of dishes such as chilli, curry or stew, and freeze them in handy portion sizes. Make sure you reheat your food until it’s piping hot.
photo credit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/sporkist/