It's the last Friday of November and all eyes are on Christmas but if you're panicking about catering for a crowd or those pesky surprise guests, DON'T!
Great cooking is all about preparation and Leslie Waters is here to show you how you can fill your FREEZER with impressive home-made dishes that will suit all kinds of occasions, and you can get the lot for just £25.
Double-baked cheesy soufflés
These double baked soufflés can be cooked several hours in advance or frozen until required thawed out, and then re-baked just before serving.
300ml (1/2 pint) milk
1 bay leaf
45g (1 1/2oz) butter
45g (1 1/2oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
55g (2oz) mature cheddar cheese, grated finely
55g (2oz) parmesan cheese, grated finely
3 large eggs, separated
200ml (1/3 pint) double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / gas mark 4
Place the milk, nutmeg and bay leaf in a saucepan and gently heat. Remove the pan from the heat and set one side to infuse for 30 minutes then remove the onion and bay leaf.
In a second saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and gently cook for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Return the pan to the heat and stir until the sauce boils and thickens.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grainy mustard, three quarters of the cheese and the egg yolks. Season well.
Generously butter 6 ramekins. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Carefully fold the whisked whites into the cheese mixture and fill each ramekin until two thirds full.
Place the ramekins in a roasting tin of boiling water and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the mixture is cooked. Remove the ramekins from the roasting tin and allow to cool completely. Cover the ramekins with cling film and freeze.
To serve, remove the ramekins from the freezer and thaw out
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200c. Loosen the soufflé edges with a knife and turn out, place into a shallow ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and pour over the cream.
Place in the oven for approx 10-12 minutes until the soufflés are puffed and golden. Serve at once with the rocket salad.
Rocket and apple salad
1 small bag rocket
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 Cox apples, cored and roughly chopped
squeeze of lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper
Just before serving, simply toss all the ingredients together and season
Beef cooked in beer and bacon puff pie
This rich and tasty beef stew can be made the day before or frozen until required and finished with a puff pastry croutes on the day of serving.
2 tablespoons olive oil
350g medium onions, peeled and halved and quartered into wedges( with a bit of the root still attached)
55g bacon lardons
3 large carrots peeled and cut into chunks
2 large parsnips peeled and cut into chunks
2 tsp sugar
800g braising steak, chunks
1 ½/ tbsp plain flour
300mls mild style British beer
approx 300mls beef stock
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves or tsp dried thyme
450g puff pastry
cracked black pepper
egg glaze made with 1 egg & pinch salt
6 x ramekin style pie dishes (approx 10cm diameter) or large coffee cups
Preheat the oven to 150C Gas mark 2
Heat the butter and half the oil in a large, ovenproof pan. Add the onions cover and cook over a medium heat until softened. Remove the lid turn the heat up and add the sugar and cook for 2 minutes until the onions are really golden. Add the bacon and vegetables to the onions and cook for approx 3-4 minutes until coloured. Remove from pan.
Using the same pan, sear the meat in 2 batches, seasoning well (you might need to add a little oil for this). Return the meat and vegetables to the pan.
Sprinkle in the flour and cook for a 30 seconds stirring well until lightly toasted. Pour in the beer and stock and bring to a rapid boil. Stir in the bay leaves and thyme. Season well.
Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook in the oven for approx 2 ½ - 3 hours until meltingly tender adding a little extra stock if required during cooking. Cool completely and freeze until required.
To serve defrost the beef stew and reheat gently on top of the stove until bubbling hot and heated through. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6 200c.
Using a little flour roll out the puff pastry into a large square big enough to cut out 6 pastry tops
Cut out six puff pastry lids, slightly larger than the pie dish tops and place on a baking tray, crack over a little freshly ground black pepper.. Cut the top of each lid with a sharp knife to form a lattice pattern, taking care not to cut all the way through the pastry. Brush each with the egg glaze.
Spoon the beef into the pie dishes or cups
Cover each pie dish with tin foil place on a baking tray in the oven
Place the lids and pie dishes in the oven and cook for approx 15 minutes until the lids are risen and browned and the pie filling piping hot.
Top each dish with a peppered crust lid and serve at once
Squidgy orange and honey cake
A flour less dessert cake moist rich and delicious and freezes well.
225g / 8oz unsalted butter
225g / 8oz caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
200g ground almonds
juice and zest 2 large oranges
115g / 4oz dried polenta or semolina
1 teaspoon baking powder
butter and flour for greasing
For the topping
juice of 1 large orange
3 tablespoons honey
Preheat the oven to 160 C Gas Mark 3. Butter and flour a 23cm loose-bottom cake tin.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar using an electric whisk or (food processor) until pale and light
Gradually beat in the eggs. Stir in the ground almonds.
Blend in the orange juice and zest, polenta, baking powder and salt
Spoon into the prepared cake tin and bake for approximately 50/ 1 hour or until just set and golden brown
Meanwhile mix together the ingredients for the topping in a bowl
When the cake is cooked, prick well using a skewer and pour over the topping mix. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes in the tin.
Remove from the tin and serve still warm or allow to cool completely, wrap and freeze until required. Serve with the sizzling pineapple, see below.
Sizzling griddled pineapple
Hot Honey pineapple is great as an accompaniment to spicy dishes or serve or serve simply with ice cream or with the delicious Squiggy Orange Honey Cake as a wonderful pud!
1 medium ripe pineapple
3 tablespoons runny honey
Juice 1 orange
Peel the pineapple and cut into quarters length wise, remove core and cut quarters in half again length wise. In a large bowl toss the pineapple with the honey and orange juice.
Place a griddle or frying pan over a high heat. Lay in the pineapple slices , reserving the liquid . Griddle for 2-3 minutes, turn over, and cook until golden remove the pan from the heat and pour in the reserved honey juice it will bubble up. Allow the pineapple to cool a bit then serve.
Spicy sweet potato soup
Intro idea – important to have good store cupboard to turn simple soups around, ie soy sauce, sesame oil
25g (1oz) butter
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
700g sweet potatoes, peeled & chopped
litres (2 pints) vegetable stock
freshly ground black pepper
for the salad/ optional will look very pretty
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves, roughly shredded
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
In a large pan, heat the butter. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the coriander and sweet potato and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and season with black pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for approx. 15 minutes until the potato is cooked.
To serve, transfer the soup to a food processor or blender and whizz until smooth. Cool completely and freeze.
To serve defrost the soup and heat until bubbling hot, toss all the salad ingredients together and set to one side
Ladle the soup into 6 small soup bowls and top each with a generous handful of dressed salad. Eat immediately. Serve with Crusty bread or the Tear and Share Bread see below.
Spring onion and chilli tear and share bread
A real store cupboard bread. Chopped sundried tomatoes, and olives and grated cheddar would all make tasty additions too.
450g plain flour + extra for dusting
1 ½ teaspoons dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp baking powder
1 bunch spring onions chopped
2 large garlic cloves crushed
4 tbsp olive oil
approx 300ml milk
Preheat the oven to 190C fan, gas mark 7
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper
Stir in the chilli flakes,and spring onion and mix well
In a jug, combine the garlic, oil and milk. Add this to the flour mixture and gently combine to form a soft manageable dough (adding extra milk if necessary).
On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 12 even sized balls and roll each into a round
Place the rounds of bread on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Arrange them tightly next to each other touching in three rows of four. Dust with a little extra flour .
Cook the bread in the oven for 20/ 25 minutes until puffed and golden. Best served warm on the day of baking or freeze until required.