Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A well stocked freezer-Ramadan preparation 2012

As most of you will be aware, I am on Ramadan countdown 2012.

I am a firm believer in preparing as much as one can especially for the Holy month of Ramadan. So I thought I would write a few entries that would hopefully help others out there find more time during Ramadan for the important Ibaadaah (worship).

I love my freezer-and my keen readers will know my husband recently defrosted my chest freezer (much to my horror!). I lost a lot of home cooked meals but then I spent three days/night sessions cooking and restocking the empty cube that was once my favourite meal provider. So during the blessed month of Ramadan I trust my freezer to be my wing man (any Top Gear fans in the house?) and help me as much as possible to cut down on time spent in the heart of the home-the Kitchen.

Now there will be sisters reading this fuming that I am making Ramadan into a food feast-the truth is though for thousands of Muslim households all over the world food plays a large part of their festivities of the Holy month. Plus human nature makes anything forbidden more lustful-so when we are not eating our minds can start wondering towards food. Plus markets in Muslim countries come to live at Magrib prayer time (sunset-when the fast opens) and you can often see families and groups of friends enjoying a mixture of dishes to mark the end of a fast. Prayers are also important during this month so if we can prepare in advance then why not?

So let me discuss my freezer and what I know freezes well. My tips might be in a post about Ramadan preparation but just remember these tips can be used at anytime of the year.

What freezes well:

pretty much anything within reason. Anything that turns to mush e.g. lettuce is a no go. Spuds (potatoes) turn to slime so they don't freeze well.

  • I find apple and pears don't freeze well. Apple mixture for apple pies (sweated down apples) freeze well. Pear puree to mix into things like porridge freezes well.

  • Mix berries freeze well on an open tray. Once they are frozen you simply place them in a freezer bag. These berries work well in cakes, porridges, yogurts etc. Great way to preserve them if you grow your own.

  • I cannot live without corriander and mint. So I freeze both. You can do this by either buying bunches of both, washing and shaking off water and freezing whole. Or wash prepare the herbs and whizz them in a food processor with a bit of water and create your own herb cubes to freeze in a cube tray. Or lastly, wash and prepare your herbs, cut them up finely and once they are dry put them into freezer bags but don't remove the air from the bag. Give the bag a good shake every few hours (about three shakes will be enough during 8 hours). This will prevent the leaves from sticking together and you will have frozen fresh herbs to use.

  • Other herbs such as woody ones like thyme freeze very well. Simply wash, dry and freeze. You don't even need to remove the leaves from the stalk unless you really wish to. A lot of recipes often call for herbs on the stalk (e.g. slow cooked meals). Once the herbs are cooked you simply remove the whole stalk from your meal anyway.

  • Vegetables are pretty much the same as fruit. If the vegetable is likely to turn to slime e.g. courgettes or aubergines they are not worth freezing. However, both are fine cooked and then frozen. I have frozen Aubergine curry and it defrosted fine and tasted fresh too! Potatoes do well frozen as things such as potato cakes (alu tikkis). Raw potatoes don't freeze at all. Plus economically it doesn't make sense to freeze them in the UK-potatoes are quite affordable all year round.

  • Meat freeze well-mince, whole pieces, pieces of chicken the lot. However you should only really freeze these items and use them up within a realistic time scale. Bacteria still lives even in a freezer.

  • Eggs don't freeze well unless they are frozen in something like a Breakfast Burrito which protects the egg from becoming rubber like.

  • Left over pieces of hard cheese, butter and even wrapped up pieces of bread freeze well. So do breadcrumbs.

  • Milk freezes too! Don't bother freezing yogurt-unless it's in a recipe for frozen yogurt lollies etc. Low fat yogurt can sometimes split.

  • Stock freezes well-however always leave room for expanding.

  • Now this what I freeze and how. Please bare in mind it's advised by various health bodies to use frozen goods within 3/6 months as bacteria still exists even during the freezing process. However I have heard of people using frozen meat that was 4 years old and it didn't kill them.

  • I freeze the following for time saving (especially when I know I'll be busy for the next few weeks):
  • I freeze the fried Chicken Pilau masala before adding rice and water. Always make sure the chicken is cooked so that it doesn't need to be cooked further after defrosting. I then take it out of the freezer, defrost it and then add water/stock and rice. This saves on the time needed to prepare Pilau when I don't have the time. The masala freezes well.

  • I also freeze Mutton Pilau masala too and that works too. Again, I make sure the mutton meat is cooked before freezing.

  • Koftas (meatballs). I freeze these raw and cooked. Cooked ones cut down time even more and can be used in wraps too. Koftas rock-simply defrost and fry (if raw) or add to handi masala. Koftas also work well added to Biryani and Pilau mixes. Simply make up your basic Biryani or Pilau base and add the cooked koftas.

  • Chicken tikkas-aka chicken kebab strips. I marinade these in spices and lemon juice, cook them in the oven and freeze ready to serve.

  • Alu tikkis-these are cooked and then frozen ready to eat.

  • Other Kebabs e.g. Behari, Seekh-I cook these and freeze them so they are ready to serve.

  • Tandoori chicken-I marinade these, cook them in a hot oven and once cooled they are frozen just like the kebabs.

  • NOTE: avoid over cooking any item you wish to freeze to retain moisture.

  • Samosas and Rolls freeze well prepared but not cooked. To cook remove from the feezer, defrost and then either brush with oil and oven bake or deep fry.

  • Parathas (yes that's right!) freeze well. You half cook them, and freeze them in between grease proof paper. You then defrost, and finish the cooking on a tava.

  • Halva (semolina pudding) freezes great!
  • Plain sponge cakes freeze well.
  • Pastry (from filo to sweetcrust) freezes well.

  • Curry wise the following freeze well:

  • keema (mince meat) freezes excellently. You can either freeze keema masala and add vegetables such as peas once you defrost the mixture of freeze prepared curries with the peas in it ready to eat once defrosted and heated.

  • Chana Dal freezes well-as do all daals.

  • Meat curries freeze well-I freeze the masala and after defrosting and heating it I add the stock and vegetable (e.g. potatoes). Masala takes up less space compared to the final curry dish.

  • Browned onions which provide the base of curries and rice dishes also freeze great and are a great timesaver.

  • Finely chopped garlic and ginger freeze well and can be defrosted and added to curry bases/other dishes as and when needed.

  • Other dishes I freeze are:

  • pasta bakes
  • chicken kievs (raw, to cook defrost, fry and then bake in the oven)
  • meatballs for pasta sauces and bakes
  • fishcakes
  • Cottage pie

So as you can see, there's plenty of options in regards to what you can freeze and save time for Ibaadaah during Ramadan.

Most food can safely be kept in the freezer for at least 3 months so why not start planning your meals/menus and freeze what you can now?

PLEASE NOTE: once you defrost an item it should not be refrozen! It's a safety issue!

I shall continue with my Ramadan themed posts and hopefully we can all find time for Ibaadaah and our little Munchys too.