How many of us get to 3pm and start to panic about what we’re going to have for dinner? Often, we’ll swing by the supermarket and browse the shelves for inspiration, torn between the convenience of a ready meal and the pressure we feel to put something homemade on the table.
With my method and a little planning, you can streamline your shopping to buy all the food for the week in one go. Your daily load will be lightened and you will only buy what you need – far better for you, your wallet and the environment.
What’s more, I’d rather make five meals and have one big mess to tidy up as opposed to having to do it every night of the week. Batching is about cooking recipes that use similar ingredients but create different meals. For example, in one go you can make a pea risotto and pea soup, or lasagne as well as meatballs to bring variety to your weekly meal plan.
– Suzanne Mulholland, aka The Batch Lady
The Batch Lady recipes: Double the batch, halve the prep
All the Batch Lady recipes are paired with another that lend themselves to being prepared together (you’ll see them labelled as recipe option 1 and recipe option 2 below). Plus, in some of the methods you will find tips in italics on how to save time by making them simultaneously. Each of the meals can be made as a stand-alone dish, serving four to six people, so it’s up to you if you want to batch both recipes at the same time.
Recipe option 1: Chicken, asparagus and Emmental parcels
These are perfect for those days when you want the comfort of a pie but don’t have time or energy to make one. They can be assembled quickly in advance then cooked directly from frozen. For a vegetarian version, use mushroom soup instead of chicken. If you’re making the chicken, cheese and ham pastry lattices at the same time, it’s best to make these first to avoid cross-contamination with raw chicken.
Recipe option 2: Chicken, cheese and ham pastry lattices
This is one of those recipes that looks much harder than it actually is, thanks to a bit of pastry wizardry. These are great to keep in stock in the freezer, so I usually double the quantity and make eight lattices at once – it only takes a moment to make the extra ones as all the ingredients are already laid out.
Recipe option 1: Chicken, tomato and chorizo pasta bag
Pull this bag out of the freezer in the morning and you can have a hearty evening meal on the table in the time it takes to cook a pan of pasta. Make this alongside the ’Nduja Pasta Bag, and you’ll have two sustaining meals ready to go.
Recipe option 2: ‘Nduja pasta bag
You will find ’nduja – a spicy paste made with pork and chilli – beside the jars of pesto in the supermarket.
Recipe option 1: Lazy lasagne
For an even simpler method, replace the sauce ingredients with two 600g jars of shop-bought sauce.
Recipe option 2: Mozzarella-stuffed meatballs
Make these mozzarella-stuffed meatballs alongside the lazy lasagne for even easier meal prep.
Recipe option 1: Cottage pie with root vegetables
If you are also making the Shepherd’s Pie, set out the ingredients for both recipes and work with two pans alongside each other on the hob. The stages are very similar, so it is easy to make both dishes at the same time.
Recipe option 2: Shepherd’s pie with sweet potato mash
The cottage pie and this shepherd’s pie can easily by made side by side.
Recipe option 1: Spinach and ricotta cannelloni
For some extra punch, add a couple of cloves of fresh, crushed garlic to the spinach and ricotta mixture before filling the cannelloni tubes.
Recipe option 2: Spinach and ricotta-stuffed chicken
Prep this spinach and ricotta-stuffed chicken and a batch of spinach and ricotta cannelloni at the same time.
Recipe option 1: Oven-baked pea risotto
This risotto and the Pea & Mint Soup are even easier to make together as they use some of the same equipment – which saves on the washing-up.
Recipe option 2: Pea and mint soup
Fresh herbs are lovely but expensive and have a short shelf-life. I have a supply of frozen herbs which are cheaper and keep until you need them.
Ready-made curry pastes are a great way of adding an instant punch of flavour to a dish and are far quicker than making your own pastes from scratch. Thai curries are wonderfully fragrant and very quick to make.
Make this at the same time as the green Thai chicken curry and you’ll have two flavourful dinners to enjoy.
This recipe was given to me by a local farmer’s wife and it makes the perfect grab-and-go lunch or dinner on those hectic days when everyone seems to be going in different directions and just passing through the kitchen before heading off to another activity.
This sweet plait is easy to make alongside the savoury version, as once you’ve got the hang of the technique you’ll be able to knock these up really quickly. This is delicious served with a generous helping of ice cream or custard.
You can make the sauce for this baked sausage ziti and a similar spinach version simultaneously.
This is a great meat-free comfort meal that can be made ahead to sit in your freezer, ready to pop straight in the oven after a busy day at work.
This is a great one-pot meal that can be made fresh or frozen for later. If you don’t eat fish, simply substitute it with more vegetables or meat of your choice.
It takes just moments to pop all the ingredients for this into a bag and put in the freezer. Then it can be whipped out and defrosted when you want to make it. Easy! If you like, you can make the salmon fried rice alongside this dish.
This is a great basic risotto that is lovely as is, but can also be dressed up with chicken or fried cubes of pancetta, if you like.
If you’re already making the mushroom risotto, you can double up to make these panko cakes too.
This Biscoff cheesecake always goes down a treat and is best eaten when slightly frozen, making it perfect for preparing ahead. This would also be lovely made with chocolate hazelnut spread, rather than biscuit, so feel free to substitute the ingredients to suit your tastes.
I use Lotus Biscoff crunchy spread for this. If you can only find the smooth variety, the ice cream will still be delicious, but you could crumble over a couple of biscuits before serving for that extra crunch. Make this alongside the Biscoff cheesecake.
Want more Batch Lady recipes? Buy the time-saving book with a 20 per cent discount
The Batch Lady: Shop Once. Cook Once. Eat Well All Week by Suzanne Mulholland will be published by HQ on 5 March, price £20. To order a copy for £16 with free p&p until 5 April go to mailshop.co.uk or call 01603 648155.