My beloved grandmother had a fall recently, and in the aftermath making a batch of frozen meals was a practical thing I was able to do to help. She had broken her wrist in the fall and couldn’t cook at all, thus Sloth Kitchens (the rather grand title I’ve given my batch cooking initiative) ground into action.
I’ve noticed these kinds of situations are arising more and more often for me and my friends as we hit that life stage where our grandparents sometimes need a little help. Also, friends are starting to have children, and something I’ve always been keen to do is deliver food to new parents. And of course, ’tis the season for coughs and sneezes and flu-ridden friends are generally grateful for a home cooked meal.
My 5 batch cook meals of choice
Carrot and lentil soup ¦¦ This can be pimped with extras if you find the base a little bland, but the great thing about this soup is that it’s almost allergy proof. It can be made vegan, dairy free, gluten free, and possibly paleo compliant as well (although if you’re an invalid and you’re still eating paleo… good luck to ya). My recipe is here.
Shepherds pie ¦¦ Of all the bolognese based dishes, this one is the best. It doesn’t have tricky pasta to cut like lasagne, it’s dairy free unlike lasagne, you don’t have to make pasta separately and worry about it sticking together or being difficult to eat like spaghetti, and the mince has a gravy based sauce rather than a tomato based sauce which may provide a welcome change. You’ll all have your own shepherd’s pie recipes which may or may not have been passed down for generations, but if you don’t, Google is your friend here. Pick the recipe that looks the simplest. I use the recipe from The Gluten Free Kitchen by Sue Shepherd (or wing it).
Chicken stew ¦¦ The basic recipe goes something like this: cut up some chicken really small (see below) and brown. Add whatever chopped up vegetables you have to hand. If you want to go for a theme like Mediterranean, knock yourself out. Add passata, herbs and spices. Put in a slow cooker for 8 hours. Tada! This is something a bit different than the endless bolognese they’ll have been eating for weeks.
Risotto ¦¦ Some of my favourite ‘flavours’ are pea and mint (great for veggies, a less stodgy type of risotto that’s great for summer), chicken and pancetta (excellent if you need a healing protein boost), and red pepper and chorizo (for a sort of Spanish twist).
Roasted veg ¦¦ This one is for those people who might be slightly more mobile, or increasing in mobility, who want lots of veggie goodness but don’t have the stamina, dexterity or time to stand and chop a whole pile of vegetables. They can add these in to whatever else they are eating – they make a rad accompaniment to polenta, a plain tomato pasta, or you can hoof them down cold from the container if that’s more your style. #nojudgement
Things to consider
Packaging ¦¦ For people who like to reheat in ovens or who are lucky enough to own an Aga, consider metal takeaway trays. For those with microwaves, pack in plastic. Both types are available from supermarkets and shops like Wilko. They’re inexpensive and mean you’re not chasing after your containers for months afterwards.
Extras ¦¦ Consider including plastic cutlery, paper plates and disposable napkins for those who can’t easily wash up after themselves. Sachets of condiments are a good idea, especially if they complement the meal.
Guests ¦¦ New parents may have family members staying. Always ask how many they’d like cooked for, or deliver a job lot of single serves for them to use as they see fit.
Physical restrictions ¦¦ If you’re cooking for a Grannie who just broke a wrist, or a new mother who is breastfeeding, try making your meals easily eaten with one hand. Don’t include anything that needs cutting up, or chasing around a plate like peas. Things that still taste good while lukewarm are a bonus.
Dietary requirements ¦¦ Do check whether there’s anyone who maybe has a nut allergy or coeliac disease. Make sure you’re quite clear on what they can and can’t eat, and if you’re not sure, double check. They won’t mind, I promise. Make sure you don’t fall foul of any cross-contamination, either.
Nutrition ¦¦ Part of me says that when you’re sick, caring for a new person, or short of time, it’s totally fine to indulge yourself. The other part of me says that indulgent options are often the easy options, so the person you’re cooking for is more likely to be eating those already. Plus, bed rest and/or medications (and, I hear, childbirth) can play havoc on your insides, so a good ol’ dose of wholesomeness might go a long way. Fibre is your friend. That’s all I’ll say on the subject.
Common sense ¦¦ You’d think this would go without saying but… common sense isn’t always common. Steer clear of spicy food, anything that may interfere with medications or breast milk, alcohol, or anything risky like unpasteurised dairy, raw eggs, runny cheese, or any ‘lightly cooked’ meat/fish. It may be boring, but err on the side of almost nuking everything just to be sure.
Do you have any tried and tested recipes for taking to new parents or people who are ill?