Bring back “The Batch”!

Two dishes from this weekend’s efforts — black turtle bean chilli and chickpea & parsnip curry

Amongst friends & family my lack of culinary skills has long been legendary, but as part of our family’s attempts to lead a more sustainable life, I’ve turned a *massive* corner and am now embracing my inner Nigella through the discovery of an ancient practice: “batch cooking”. Batch cooking is a trick that saves time, saves money, saves on waste and enables you to eat organic and vegetarian or vegan.

So how does it work?

Choose your time — I generally spend half a day on a weekend batch cooking. Whilst that sounds like a major commitment, it actually saves loads of time and energy during the week because all you have to do is pop something into the oven at the end of the day, rather than get creative and cook each evening

Select your entertainment — One of the reasons I love batch cooking so much is that I get to listen to a couple of hours of my favourite podcasts. Instead of feeling like a chore, it’s something to really look forward to!

Stock up on large dishes — You need large Pyrex dishes, bowls and baking trays to both cook and store your food in. You can often pick these up for a bargain price and in great condition at charity stores

Subscribe to a veg box — I’ve chosen to prepare only veggie and vegan dishes when batch cooking, and so subscribe to Riverford Organic’s zero waste veg box. Although organic veg costs a bit more than regular veg, it tastes so, so much better; it’s better for your health; it’s better for the planet; and it’s much cheaper than meat and fish. The box contents vary each week so it encourages experimentation and the discovery of delicious new dishes. I had no clue what celeriac was for example, but now celeriac dauphinoise is a firm favourite in our family!

Invest in herbs & spices — My idea of ‘herbs and spices’ used to be a lonely jar of ‘mixed herbs’. Fast forward to today and I’ve discovered that cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, curry powder, fennel seeds, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil and sage have a transformative effect on veg, beans & pulses; so much so that you’ll never notice the meat is missing

Beans, pulses & grains are your go-to — A couple of times a year I shop at our local zero waste store and stock up on all sorts of dried beans, pulses & grains: chickpeas, black turtle beans, butter beans, kidney beans, brown rice, arborio rice, pot barley, green & red lentils and more. They cost a *fraction* of the price of their tinned and plastic packaged equivalents and are organic and zero waste too; and because you’re batch cooking it’s easy to remember to soak anything you’re using the night before. Beans and pulses are absolutely bursting with protein and nutritional value, and even count towards your 5 a day! They’re best paired with grains for a double whammy of positive health effects.

Get a couple of great recipe books — Although Google is great, I’ve got a couple of faithful favourite recipe books. Deliciously Ella’s ‘The Plant Based Cookbook’; Lee Watson’s ‘Peace & Parsnips’; the BOSH cookbook and Dale Pinnock’s ‘Plant Based Diet’ are used regularly at our house and combined with batch cooking have made the transition to a more vegetarian and vegan diet feel pretty effortless

What are your batch cooking tips?

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Tessa Clarke

Tessa Clarke

Co-Founder & CEO of OLIO, the food sharing app. Getting my head around the climate crisis. Passionate about sustainability, startups & diversity.