“My freezer is the busiest part of my kitchen because I stock up on so many frozen vegetables and herbs. If you’re getting bulk buys of something like turmeric or ginger, just pop them in an ice cube tray. I do that with blitzed-down ginger root, which I can put in a mug with hot water and I’ve got fresh ginger tea.”
Clarke advocates buying pre frozen vegetables over fresh “unless you grow your own”.
By the time so-called “fresh” produce gets into your hands in a supermarket, it will be at least two days old and the amount of vitamins in it will have diminished, adds Richard Harrow, chief executive of the British Frozen Food Federation. “[With frozen] you’ll get very little degradation in a product so it will retain the nutrients. Peas are typically harvested within two hours. If you really want fresh vegetables you should either have an allotment or buy frozen.”
When it comes to pre-prepared meals, frozen also beats fresh in the nutrition stakes. “The advantage of freezing,” says Clarke, “is you don’t have to use as much salt or preservatives because freezing does the preserving for you.
“There are some good [lines] out there and lockdown has made a lot of businesses diversify and go into frozen.”
With the country in lockdown again, perhaps it’s time to give your freezer a 2020 update. Whether you fill it with a 1970s beige buffet, luxury vegan shepherd’s pies, or bags of fruit and veg is of course entirely up to you.
Tips and tricks for eating, cooking and shopping frozen
Blanch vegetables before freezing: Food writer Sue Quinn suggests blanching and freezing fruit and veg “before it spoils” to preserve its nutrients and colour. “If you have a glut of fruit and veg you know you won’t have time to eat fresh before it spoils, freeze it all. Chop the vegetables, blanch in boiling water, then store in freezer bags.”
Squeeze lemon or lime on defrosted veg to bring it back to life: “You only lose out on nutrients if you then heat the fruit or vegetable once you’ve frozen it because it diminishes the vitamin C,” says Jane Clarke. “The trick to get that back is to squeeze some lemon or lime juice on it before you serve it and then you’ve got it back to its original nutritional profile.”
Label everything: Date everything too, as ingredients will start to deteriorate in time – a general rule of thumb is to use everything within three to six months. Freezing meals and ingredients in flat boxes and storing them upright like files, with labels along the side, will help you remember what you have – and mean you’re more likely to eat it.
Don’t batch cook: While it’s fantastic for young children, for adults it can leave you with a freezer drawer packed with a meal you wouldn’t mind seeing the back of after a few rounds. Instead, make one or two extra portions of anything you make and freeze as you go to ensure variety in your freezer.
Freeze herbs to liven up dishes through the winter: You can chop fresh herbs, combine them with olive oil, then pour the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze. Then just stir the cubes through a hot dish. They lose their bright green appearance but retain all the flavour.