Batch cooking has long been a beloved, time-saving tool, one designed to help you spend less time in the kitchen and more time checking off that daily to-do list. The batch cooking formula simply requires you to cook larger portions of meals, the leftovers of which can be slipped into the fridge or freezer for later use. And while there are plenty of home cooks who have employed this technique for years, those who are at home, stuck in quarantine, may find some solace and ease in transitioning to the batch cooking method.
Related Reading: 5 Big Batch Recipes to Save You From Cooking Every Single Night
Enter “The Batch Lady,” a new cookbook from Scottish batch-cooking connoisseur Suzanne Mulholland, whose meal prep guidelines not only maximize meal quantity, but also showcase how many meals can be crafted out of the same batch of ingredients—saving you unnecessary trips to the grocery store. For instance, one group of ingredients can lend themselves to making both massaman curry and Moroccan lamb chops; spaghetti Bolognese and chili; and vegetarian tagine and spicy bean burgers. With this flexibility and forethought, you’ll hardly grow tired of eating the same thing all the time.
The Batch Lady: Shop Once. Cook Once. Eat Well All Week, $14.99 on Amazon
“[Batch cooking] always sounds daunting, but is actually rather simple, as long as you have a rough plan of what you want to eat for the week and you make a list based on that plan,” Suzanne explains.
Ahead, Suzanne shares some tips for batch cooking and smart shopping during quarantine, along with a recipe for spinach and ricotta-stuffed chicken, which comes together thanks to minimal ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.
Shop for Groceries When You Have Extra Time
“My main tip is to try and combine getting groceries when you have a spare hour afterwards,” Suzanne says. “That way you have time to process things into freezer meals.” After Suzanne shops, she immediately sets to work, preparing meals for the week. That little bit of extra time to divide and conquer groceries into meals will help save you time in the long run. For instance, when Suzanne gets home from the store, she’ll begin her prepping and cooking for her week’s meals, preparing meals and slipping them into the freezer for easy removal.
Hotshine Pack of 5 Cotton Mesh String Shopping Handbag, $14.98 on Amazon
Always Keep Essential Pantry Items on Hand
Fewer runs to the grocery store mean you’ll want to keep necessary pantry items always in stock. Suzanne recommends sauces or pastes, like pesto and tomato, because they can easily dress up pasta or a dull chicken breast. Frozen fruit and vegetables are great if you’re worried about running out of fresh produce, and Suzanne will reach for that for a quick healthy side, or blitz fruit into smoothies, overnight oats, or a side to pancakes. She also suggests always having a roll of frozen puffed pastry and ready-to-roll pizza doughs, which are helpful as vehicles for leftover vegetables and herbs, or to make tarts and pizzas in minutes.
Stay Organized in Advance
The more organized you are in batch cooking, the less likely you are to run out of food quickly. Knowing you have previously made meals and frozen them means you’ll retain more food at home than if you were solely reaching for new and fresh ingredients. Less worrying and stress about food safety during quarantine is definitely not a bad thing.
From The Batch Lady: Shop Once, Cook Once, Eat Well All Week by Suzanne Mulholland. Copyright © 2020 by Suzanne Mulholland. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow Cookbooks, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Recipe
Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Chicken
- 8 cubes frozen, chopped spinach (One 10-ounce package)
- 1 x 250g tub ricotta
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 8 slices Parma ham
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Put your frozen spinach in a heatproof bowl and cook in the microwave on high for 2 ½ minutes, then stir and cook for 2 minutes more. Drain the spinach through a colander lined with kitchen paper, pressing down to remove as much liquid as possible, then return the spinach to the bowl.
- Add the ricotta cheese and nutmeg to the bowl with the spinach, then stir to combine. Season to taste and set aside.
- Working with one piece of chicken at a time, place a chicken breast flat on a chopping board and press down with the palm of your hand. Working from the thickest end of the breast, insert a sharp knife two thirds of the way through the meat and carefully slice down the length to the thinnest end. Repeat until all your chicken breasts are butterflied.
- Open your chicken breasts up along the cuts you have created and spoon a quarter of the filling mixture into each. Wrap each of the filled chicken breasts in two slices of Parma ham, securing as neatly as possible to keep the filling inside.
- TO COOK: To cook straightaway, transfer to a foil-lined baking tray and cook in an oven preheated to 350°F for 30-40 minutes, until tender and juicy. Serve with your choice of vegetables alongside.
- TO FREEZE: Lay the filled chicken breasts on a large sheet of foil, then fold over the edges and crimp together to form a sealed parcel. Transfer to a labelled freezer bag and freeze flat for up to 1 month.
- TO COOK FROM FROZEN: Simply remove the chicken breasts from the freezer and leave to defrost fully, then cook as described above.
Header image courtesy of "The Batch Lady."