Batch Cooking healthy, hearty winter meals

Let’s face it, January is cold, wet and a bit dreary, so with all the very best intentions, most of us need something a little more hearty than steamed greens or a raw salad for dinner mid-winter, that’s where batch cooking comes in.

Whether you have set yourself a goal to change your diet for the better in 2020, or are simply looking out for easier ways to eat well, then getting into the habit of batch cooking can save a lot of time, energy and effort along the way. 

Here’s my top 10 countdown on how to make batch cooking work for you: 

1 Work out a simple week’s menu plan. Getting yourself organised will help save you time, effort and money, as you are less likely to buy food you don’t need, or won’t use. 

2 Have a handful of easy recipes that you can whip up in no time. If you have five or six recipes that you can make without too much effort, that’s a great place to start.

3 Take a look in your larder and see what you’ve got before planning on what to cook. For example, if you have loads of lentils to use up then how about making a lentil stew or Bolognese, and then topping the leftovers with mashed root vegetables to make a super-healthy shepherd’s pie?

4 Cook once, eat twice. The best midweek meals are those that you can cook in bulk and transform the leftovers into something completely different with very little effort. That leftover Bolognese becomes shepherd’s pie, chilli with rice for tea tonight becomes the base for tomorrow’s fajitas, or leftover roasted Mediterranean veg from tonight’s dinner is transformed into lunch for tomorrow, maybe with leftover chicken, some grilled halloumi, or houmous, popped into a wholemeal pitta pocket.

5 Use your freezer to store leftovers in portion-sized pots. That way you can quickly pull out a nourishing dinner if you don’t have time to cook. Freeze in small portion sizes, so it is easier to defrost. Just make sure you label anything you freeze, so you are not guessing what tonight’s tea might be. It’s also a good idea to keep track of what’s in your freezer, so all your effort doesn’t get lost in a frozen lump at the back. 

6 Tray bakes are a great ideas – and I don’t mean caramel squares! Tray bake any vegetables you fancy with garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, top with salmon or chicken and pop in the oven until cooked through. Make enough to do two meals.

7 Batch cooking can work for breakfast too. Overnight oats can be made into a super quick seasonal breakfast by adding warming spices like ginger and cinnamon to jumbo oats, poached pears, or berries, soaked in your milk of choice (oat, almond or coconut if you are doing Veganuary, or following a vegan diet). Make enough for a couple of breakfasts and heat up before serving for a winter warming breakfast.

8 When making your own curry pastes with Thai or Indian spices, or home-made tomato sauce, it is just as quick and easy to double the amount of ingredients and freeze for another day. Use an ice-cube tray so you have little pops of flavour to add another time. 

9 Use your food processor to help with the chopping, grating and mixing, especially if you are making big quantities.

10 Make it fun. Put on some good music and enjoy it!

:: For more ideas, I can heartily recommend Susan-Jane White’s Clever Batch book, published by Gill Books.

This blog post first appeared as an article in my Irish News column on Saturday 18 January 2020.