Because I am ever so slightly neurotic about waste, most of our leftovers end up in the freezer rather than the bin. This, however, is where the efficiency ends, because my fridge management skills leave A LOT to be desired.
My freezer is a cryo-dumping ground – a frosty equivalent to the Universal Drawer of Toot, the place where I hoard random stuff in the genuine belief that it will come in handy one day. Odd shoelaces, keys to doors that almost certainly no longer exist, several sizes of rawl plug, some crusty old lip balm. (Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. Every house has one.) Here’s mine:
My freezer is the same. Here you will find (and I use the term loosely) heels of parmesan that I will never put in a minestrone because I never make minestrone, chicken carcasses that I will never bother turning into stock, crumble topping which I will only remember about at the point of blitzing a fresh batch and salmon trimmings which God only knows what I was thinking.
Nothing is labelled so it’s pot-luck as to what I pull out. There are cling-wrapped balls of brown stuff which could be either cookie dough or burger mix and tupperware pots of more brown stuff which could be chocolate sauce yet quite possibly, beef gravy. Just the other week I defrosted a couple of portions of chilli, a tub of cottage pie filling and a vat of pulled pork ragu, before finding the bolognese I was looking for. This meant a week of eating one plate after another of brown slow-cooked slop, because, you know, throwing stuff away is BAD. My kids were not amused.
And why is my freezer’s always full to burst, no matter what, it seems, I take out? It’s as if the remaining contents morph to fill any available space. On the occasions where I am stupid enough to order frozen stuff from Ocado, a full tetris-style reshuffle is required to fit it all in. I have to squeeze the air out of bags of peas, decant chicken pieces from their packaging into freezer bags (unlabelled of course) and God help me if I’ve ordered a tub or two of Haagen Daz.
Action is required. A ruthless freezer purge is in order. I am mentally preparing the family for more defrosted brown food so I can make room for, among other things, this delicious (and brown) sausage and lentil casserole I have batch cooked. It freezes beautifully, but be warned, once frozen, it looks remarkably similar to bolognese.
Sausage, lentil and red wine casserole
This is a great way to use up leftover sausages and half bottles of red wine that are past their drinking best. Use meaty sausages with a strong flavour such as venison or beef or any of those fennel, chilli or garlic ones you find in Italian delis. Serve with creamy mash and a glass of red.
- glug of olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, cut into 1cm cubes
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 bay leaves
- 150g Puy or brown lentils, rinsed
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 6-8 leftover strongly flavoured sausages (about 450g), chopped into 1 cm discs
- 400g passata
- 375ml red wine
- 200ml chicken or beef stock (or water)
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- salt and pepper
- In a large pan or casserole, sweat the onions and carrot in the olive oil for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and bay leaves and cook for a further minute.
- Stir in the lentils and tomato puree and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the sausages, passata, red wine and stock.
- Bring to the boil for a minute then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes until the lentils are tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened. If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of water, or too thin, continue cooking until reduced to the desired consistency.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in half the parsley then sprinkle the rest on top before serving.