Friday, 6 January 2012

Bulk cooking.

We had a lovely morning just hanging out today. I did a lot of cooking (more of which later) and the kids did lots of playing. Isaac has made himself a little den behind one of the chairs in the front room and keeps disappearing off and being quiet - usually a bad sign but so far he's just squirreled away a few 'toys' like the steel for sharpening knives and some of Isabel's dolls and a drum pedal... He plays elaborate games with them and whispers the story-line to himself.

Just as we were about to go out the door this afternoon he demanded to play with face paints - taking them with us wasn't an option and I figured I'd get his shoes on quicker if I just painted his face whilst sorting out the last few bits in the oven and putting my boots on and getting the stuff together to take with us. Thankfully he's happy to have a butterfly as that's about all I can do.

There's no point asking him to smile for a photo or you get a very odd facial expression of his performance smile. So instead I just asked him questions and he talked. He can't keep still while he talks though so it was tough to get a clear picture.

We had a whole lot of veg in and one of the things to do today was to make soup for Matthew (he bit his tongue yesterday and gouged a bit chunk of it so is on mostly liquid diet today) and to make ahead some easy meals for me for next week when he's away.

One of the things I make in bulk is a lentil loaf - well of course when I make it it's not lentil, it's lentil and quinoa or sometimes just quinoa. I did use a recipe once and it was very nice....

This has been one of the meals I've given to friends as it's easy to freeze, reheat and is good hot and cold (plus I have a lot of friends who don't eat meat).

It's one of those recipes that works with whatever veg you have and you don't need to be too exact with the quantities as long as you get the right sort of consistency in the end so all measurements are guestimates and can be changed according to what you have to hand. This amount will make two 2lb loaf tins but you can make smaller versions.

Lentil and Quinoa Loaf
fill a mug with a mix of red lentils and quinoa - I do roughly half and half but it depends what's left in the packet. If you want to use tinned green lentils instead do but put them in later.
Add 2 parts cold water and bring to the boil then put the lid on a simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all the water has drained.
You can add a stock cube or granules at this point - I tend to use vegetable stock cubes that I dissolve in a little hot water before adding to the pan.

To make a really simple loaf just defrost a bag of frozen spinach and squeeze all the water out, adding fried onions will help with the flavour.

Otherwise roast or sweat a mix of veg - today I did left-over carrots and parsnip from last night's dinner and some peas along with some sweated leeks and half a bag of spinach for one loaf and the other loaf had roasted peppers, aubergine, red onion and the rest of the spinach. The veg can be hot or cold when it's added to the mix as long as it's cooked and there's no reason why you can't use frozen or tinned if you haven't got fresh veg to hand.

Then comes the bit that will hold it all together - grate a good chunk of cheese (parmesan or cheddar) and add that to the mix. If you like things very cheesy you can add lots if not, add less. This is also a good time to add in any herbs and to check seasoning.

Just two more thing to go.

Add a good handful of breadcrumbs - I usually have some in the freezer from stale bread or crusts but if not I stick about 3 slices of wholemeal or granary per loaf in the food processor and the kids help blitz it into crumbs. Without the crumbs it's still tasty but the consistency isn't great and it tends to fall apart when cut.
And then the last ingredient to bind it are eggs. You can make it really eggy by adding about 3 eggs per loaf but generally I add about 2. If the mix is too dry add another egg, too wet add more breadcrumbs.

I line my loaf tins with baking parchment but otherwise foil would work too. Bake for about 35-40 minutes at 180 degrees until it err looks cooked... clear enough?

Each of these chunks is 1/3 of a tin and would be more than enough for one person with salad as a main.

One way of cooking lots of things at once is to make the ingredients work in different dishes - so 6 leeks got sweated off and some were used in the loaf and the rest went in the soup. I did two trays of roasted veg, one for the loaf and one for pizza topping (that then didn't get made as we forgot to do the dough but it'll be great tomorrow). Once you're chopping it really only takes a minute or two to do more of the same and it then saves work on another day. If I had a bigger freezer I'd batch cook a lot more but we need our freezer space for 4 different kinds of ice cream.


  1. This looks fab, might try it this week, wondering if I could use chick pea flour to bind instead of egg and cheese and make it vegan for dd1. x

  2. worth a try - the worst that would happen is that it falls apart but it'll still taste good :~)

  3. Ooh cool recipe. With the pizza I don't know if there's any intolerances in the family as I have a brain like a sieve, lol, but we do the Jamies 30min meals one where you put 1cup of self raising flour and half a cup of tepid water in a bowl, I add mixed herbs but the recipe says salt, then a glug of olive oil, mix it all together to make a kind of sticky dough and then roll it out to the size of your frying pan, heat your frying pan with some oil in and then fold the dough in half then half again and then lay it in the pan and unfold (or just chuck it in and shape it) and then add your toppings and leave it in the pan for a bit on a medium-high heat until the base stays firmish or when you lift it with a spatula it looks brownish underneath and chuck it under the grill until your cheese bubbles. Sooo easy because there's no yeast and pre-prep required.

  4. That recipe sounds delicious - I'll be trying it this week I think :-)