batch cooked bolognese

batch cooked bolognese

This guest post is something a little different: a recipe from a qualified chef! Here’s Chris’s recipe for batch cooked bolognese. Here’s Chris’s tips in one handy infographic! Over to you Chris… 

chrisBefore we get started, let me take a few moments to introduce myself; my name is Chris, i’ve known Gary for about 6 or 7 years now and enjoy a meeting of minds on both food and technical subjects.  We regularly have family get togethers where we take it in turns to cook a meal and chat about the topic of the day.  Our girls play together, in their own little world as 6 year old girls tend to do.  Here’s a pic and me and my little bundle of joy.

I myself started life as a chef, spending 3 years at the Westminster School or Catering before spending another 3 working my way through various levels of the industry, developing my love of food.

I’ve always been rather intrigued by so was thrilled when Gary invited me to write a guest piece for him.

Now what to write about……?

My wife and I do our best to steer clear of convenience foods on the whole, which leads us to do a lot of batch cooking. We’ll make 40 helpings of curry/bolognese/stew then freeze portions individually, giving us a tasty and nutritious meal in a snap. I recently completed one of these batch cooking sessions and thought I’d document the process to pass on a few tips and tricks.

So, having said all that, lets get cracking with batch cooked bolognese. Bear in mind this isn’t a recipe with an ingredients list and a method – if the truth be known nothing I cook is, I tend to be a “throw it together and see what happens” type of cook ;o) – but should be looked at as rather an overview of the process with a few tips highlighted along the way.

Tip #1: Make a lot

The process can take a while, so use the time well and make at least double your usual amount.

So….first of all, we start with some veg…..

We have about 7 onions, 9 peppers, a couple of bunches of parsley, a couple of bunches of basil, a couple of heads of garlic and a large box of mushrooms.

Tip #2: Always use fresh herbs


Always always use fresh herbs.  Dried herbs will always taste that way – dried!

Also don’t cook your herbs, wait until the very last knockings of the cooking process before you add them. Herbs are delicate plants with delicate flavours, if you put them into your sauce too early, they will cook too much and lose a lot of their impact on the senses.

Here’s some arty shots to show the amount of garlic and meat that went in.meat

Right, now to some cooking; all the veg goes into the biggest saucepan we have, in our case we use an old jam making saucepan my wife inherited from her grandmother.  Due to the amount being cooked, the veg takes a good 20 minutes to sweat off.

While the veg is sweating off we fry the meat. There’s about 1.5kg of beef mince. This frying process sears the meat and builds lovely browned flavours, so shouldn’t be skipped.

meat frying

Fry the meat as hot as possible and never overload your frying pan.

You want to sprinkle your mince meat into your smoking hot frying pans so it forms a single layer. Once you’ve added it to your pan, leave it alone for a good few minutes. The more you poke and prod the meat at this stage, the more heat you knock out of your frying pan.  If your frying pan isn’t hot enough you will end up boiling your mince in it’s own juices and no-one likes boiled mince…

Tip #3: Use more pans to save time

meat draining

Don’t be afraid to use every frying pan that will fit on your hob at this stage.  The most important thing is not to overload your pan.

Once the meat is fried, pour it into a colander over a bowl, until you’re ready to add it back into the main saucepan. This will allow excess fat to drain away. sauce mix

When you’ve finished browning your meat, your veg should be sweated off enough and it’s time to get to the sauce.

Tip #4: Max the flavour to survive freezing

Freezing can kill off the flavours, so use plenty of seasoning to counteract it.

The approximate ingredients for my sauce are 7 tins of tomatoes, half a bottle of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, a tube of tomato puree, a couple of generous desert spoons of Bovril, half a bottle of wine and 8 stock cubes.

complete close upStick all that lovely flavour into the pan with the veggies and bring to the boil.  Now add the meat and any juices you’ve collected in the bowl, give everything a good mix and reduce to a simmer.  Leave that to simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, then, just before you are going to take it off the heat, stir in those lovely fresh herbs.  Mmmm, my mouth is watering as I type….

Tip #5: Cool it quick

blast chilling

In industrial kitchens there are devices called ‘blast chillers’.  They are basically large cabinets which blow chilled air over whatever you put in them to cool the food down ASAP.  I mimic this blast chilling idea at home with a desktop fan and a baking tray.  The baking tray maximises the surface area of the bolognese, so as much of the sauce has cold air touching it, and giving it a good stir every few minutes shortens the chilling time as well.

You might also think about setting this rig up in the coldest part of your house, a conservatory or larder works great.

Ok, so we’ve cooked our sauce and are ready for storage.

Tip #6: Use freezer bags

bagging prep
As always, get yourself prepared and ready to be industrious. Get your freezer bags ready, I normally use the small sandwich bags with zip lock strips across the top as they hold a good portion size, are easy to handle and the zip locks are very reliable.

Tip #7: Date and label them

bagging writing

Most importantly, write the date on each bag and what the contents are.  This bolognese might be in your freezer for 6 months so you’ll want a reminder as to what it is and when you made it, that is if you’ve got a memory as bad as mine you will ;o)

bagging holdingWhen your bags are all written and ready to go, fold each bag over your hand to make filling easier and ladle in a portions worth. Portion size i’ll leave to you, but for me about a good ladle should do it.

Tip #8: Freeze flat

batch cooked bologneseFreeze ’em flat! Once you’ve put a portion of your bolognese into a freezer bag and sealed it shut, gently flatten the bag. You can then freeze your bolognese ‘pancakes’ in a stack, saving you freezer space.  bagging flat stack

Defrosting the sauce is also a doddle when they have been frozen flat, simply peal off a layer from the stack, give it a quick run under the tap, making it flexible enough to snap, then break it into pieces into a bowl ready for microwaving. No more getting a big frozen bolder of bolognese out of the freezer the night before!

Well, that concludes my guest appearance on the fabulous  I hope my ramblings have given you a little food for thought – pun intended – and of course you can use the same principles outlined above whether you’re making, stews, curries or anything else.

It’s great having a delicious, home-cooked, meal available in the time it takes to boil some pasta or make some rice. I recommend batch cooking to everyone,and this batch cooked bolognese is a great way to get started.

Happy Cooking!