If you use your icebox purely for items from the frozen aisle you are missing a trick. Chefs and food writers on their favourite, most innovative ideas
For many of us, the freezer is for storing things from the frozen aisle and, at a push, a few spares (of milk and bread) to avoid late-night stumbles to the cornershop. But, as any restaurant chef or resourceful home cook will tell you, your icebox is your best friend. Used well, it will sort out pretty much any culinary predicament: dessert options for unexpected guests, lunchbox treats for last-minute outings, emergency dinners for impatient toddlers. All it takes is a little prep and some good ideas. Here are a few to get you going.
Fresh orange sorbet
Maz Demir, executive chef at the Turkish restaurant Skewd Kitchen in London
Slice the tops off two medium oranges and scoop out the flesh, taking care not to break the skin. Blitz the flesh in a blender, then sieve to obtain the juice. Mix in 2 tbsp honey, then pour into a freezer box and place in the freezer, along with the empty orange skin cups. After 24 hours, break up the sorbet with a fork to obtain a smooth texture. When ready to eat, fill the orange cups with sorbet and garnish with fresh mint.
Masaki Sugisaki, executive chef at the Japanese restaurant Dinings in London
Freezing, then defrosting firm tofu over a sieve is a great trick for draining it of its water (instead of weighting it down to press the water out), thereby creating an excellent meat-like texture. Once defrosted, slice into thick slabs and fry, glazing with teriyaki sauce; or mince and use as you would minced meat. Try mixing 300g with 200g onion and 50g shiitake mushrooms (both chopped and fried), 50g panko breadcrumbs, a little soy milk and some flour to bind, and shape into patties. In a saucepan, bring to the boil 360ml mirin, 280ml soy sauce, 200g sugar, 1 tbsp gochujang, 1 tbsp minced ginger and 1-2 minced garlic cloves, thicken with cornflour, and drizzle over the patties.
Tom Kitchin, chef patron of Michelin-starred restaurant The Kitchin, Edinburgh
Freeze the loose grapes that fall off the bunch and use as healthy sweet snacks – mini sorbets, if you will.
Victoria plum froyo lollies
Sam Pearman, executive chef of The Talbot, in Malton, Yorkshire, and the Swan, in Ascott-under-Wychwood in the Cotswolds
Place 100g halved and stoned victoria plums in a large saucepan with 250g sugar, one cinnamon stick, one star anise and 150ml water. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Remove the plums and stir gently until the liquid thickens, then pour over the plums and set aside to cool. Place 50g of the cooled compote in a blender with 100g sugar, 100ml plain yoghurt and a splash of water. Blitz until smooth, then pour into six lolly moulds and freeze. Freeze the rest of the compote in individual servings to use as a topping for yoghurt, ice-cream or porridge.
Food blogger Mandy Mazliah, sneakyveg.com
Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper. Roll out a sheet of puff pastry and spread over 100g tomato sauce (I make a sneaky veg version blitzing a tin of chopped tomatoes with some garlic and olive oil-roasted veg: courgette, onion, squash, aubergine). Sprinkle with 50g grated cheese and 1 tsp dried oregano, then roll up along the long side. Slice into 12 segments then bake, flat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool then freeze individually. Great for packed lunches: a frozen one placed in a lunchbox in the morning will be defrosted by midday.
Cottage cheese and onion potato skins
Food writer and broadcaster Nadiya Hussain
Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/425F/gas mark 7. Scrub eight medium potatoes clean then prick them with a fork (so they don’t explode), lay them flat and microwave for 10 minutes. Turn them over and microwave for another 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix one finely chopped red onion, 1 tsp garlic paste, 300g full-fat cottage cheese, ½ tsp paprika and ½ tsp salt. Place the cooked potatoes on to two large baking trays, drizzle with oil and sprinkle generously with salt, then slice them in half lengthways. Taking care not to pierce the skins, scoop the flesh into the bowl holding the onion mixture. Combine, then spoon back to fill the skins. Drizzle with sriracha and sprinkle with 100g red leicester cheese, fresh or frozen (I always have some in the freezer). Bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and golden. Set aside as many as you need for dinner, serving sprinkled with chopped spring onions, and freeze the rest uncovered until firm, then wrap them individually in foil and put back in the freezer to be used one by one.
Nadiya Hussain’s Time to Eat (Michael Joseph) is out now.
Ollie Templeton, head chef and co-owner of the London restaurant Carousel
Gyoza pastry wrappers from an Asian supermarket usually come in packs of 50, so prepping them all in advance and freezing avoids waste and ensures you have a ready-to-cook batch to hand. Squeeze the juice out of 200g kimchi into a small bowl and set aside. Mix the kimchi with 200g diced and sauteed potatoes in another bowl. To fill, lay one wrapper on the palm of your hand, place a teaspoon of filling in its centre and wet the edge with your finger. Fold in half over the filling and pinch in the middle, then pleat the top layer at regular intervals and press on to the back layer to seal. Freeze in small batches. To eat, fry from frozen in vegetable oil over medium heat. Serve immediately, dipping into soy sauce mixed with lemon juice.
Vegan salted caramel and pecan pie
Food blogger and cookbook author Niki Webster
Blitz 100g pecans in a food processor or high-speed blender, then add 40g ground almonds, 2 tbsp flaxseeds, 2 tbsp nut butter, 2 tbsp raw cacao and 8 pitted medjool dates, and blitz until everything comes together. Press into a 20cm loose-bottomed cake or tart tin with your hands, then put into the freezer. Wash out your food processor (or blender) and add in 150g pitted medjool dates, 2 tbsp nut butter, 125ml plant-based milk, 2 tbsp coconut oil and 1 tsp salt. Blitz for a few minutes, until smooth and creamy. Dollop on to the pie base and smooth out, then return to the freezer for at least one hour. Toast 150g pecans in a dry pan over a medium heat for a few minutes, until lightly coloured, then place in a concentric circle pattern over the pie to decorate. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and store in the freezer. To serve, remove the pie 30–45 minutes before eating, to sit at room temperature.
Rebel Recipes by Niki Webster is published by Bloomsbury in December
Feta borek with courgettes and walnuts
Colin Clague, executive chef at Anatolian restaurant Rüya in London
Cut eight sheets of filo pastry into 15x18cm rectangles. In a bowl, shred any leftover pastry and mix with a chopped handful of flat-leaf parsley, some chopped dill, one grated medium carrot, 120g grated courgette, 300g crumbled feta and four egg yolks. Mix well to combine. Place 1-2 spoonfuls of feta mixture towards the bottom of a rectangle, finely grate over some walnuts, then fold over the edges, brush with egg wash and roll tightly. Freeze in individual servings (four per person). To use, fry from frozen in oil until golden brown and crunchy. Scatter with grated frozen feta and fresh herbs to serve.
Perfect pie pastry, and a perfect fruit pie
Jacob Kenedy, chef patron of Plaquemine Lock, Gelupo and Bocca di Lupo
The pastry ratio to follow is four parts butter to five parts flour and two parts ice water. For the perfect pie, cut 240g butter into 300g flour (with a pinch of salt), then add 120ml ice water and bring into a dough – do not overmix. Either freeze now, or make the pie to freeze and cook later: roll out half the dough and press into a pie case. Fill with 1kg of fruit (fresh or frozen – diced apples, peaches or pears, halved apricots, whole blackberries, blueberries …) tossed with 150g sugar, 40g cornflour, 40ml lemon juice and ½ tsp cinnamon. Roll out the other half to cover the filling with a lattice, glaze with egg yolk and sprinkle with coarse sugar and freeze. When needed, bake for 20 minutes at 200C/180C fan/400F/gas mark 6 followed by 40 minutes at 170C/150C fan/325F/gas mark 3, then leave to cool before serving in thick slices.
Theo Randall, chef patron of Theo Randall at the InterContinental
Crush ½ garlic clove, peeled, with a pinch of sea salt with a mortar and pestle, or on a chopping board using a spoon to form a soft paste. Transfer to a food processor and add 120g of basil leaves, 3 tbsp pine nuts, 3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese and 2 tbsp water. Blitz to obtain a smooth paste, then add 240ml olive oil and pulse for two seconds. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put it in small sealed bags or containers to freeze, thus preserving the colour and flavour.
Tom Barnes, executive chef of L’Enclume and Rogan & Co in Cartmel, Cumbria
Mix 75g sugar with 120g egg yolk in a saucepan. Bring 500ml whole milk and 100ml double cream to the boil, then pour over the egg and sugar and cook on a low heat until the mix coats the back of a spoon. Add in 300g blossom honey and stir. Pour into small tubs and, when cooled, freeze. To serve, cook 200g mixed berries with 20g sugar and pour over bowlfuls of the ice-cream, garnishing with fresh lemon thyme and a drizzle of olive oil. Add a scattering of granola, if you like, for extra crunch.
All Rights Reserved for Dale Berning Sawa