Use that freezer
In my extensive experience (of just about four months), I have found eating at home to be a great way of keeping ‘domesticity’ on track. Cook for your spouse as often as you can, have your spouse cook for you as often as you can. Even if you have an excellent hired hand to do it for you, even if it is a simple breakfast of peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, nothing brings people together like food that has been prepared personally. Plate up an attractive, wholesome meal and prepare to be surprised at how quickly a hot dish can dissipate a disagreement.
Having said that, it is hard to come back home at the end of a workday or from a seemingly never-ending list of social engagements and get cooking. That is exactly why I believe in backup: freezer meals. No no! Not supermarket freezer meals cooked in an industrial size cauldron by someone you don't know and supplied to you by the neighbourhood grocer's man. I mean meals that you have prepared in advance and put away in the freezer for emergencies. (wink wink)
Worried that it won't be fresh by the time you are ready to eat it? Try assembling the ingredients and freezing them together without actually cooking them. Then all you have to do is stick the dish in the oven when you need it. If you do choose to freeze a cooked meal, while it won't certainly be from-farm-to-the-pan-to-the-plate fresh but that is hardly the case with most of what we eat these days. It will still be as nutritious and as wholesome out of the freezer, as it was at the time of cooking.
So what can you freeze and how? Prepare and freeze some marinara sauce for a quick spaghetti dinner. Cook some fried rice till it is 90 percent done. Cool and transfer into a freezer container or wrap it in heavy-duty foil and stick it into the freezer. Pour melted butter into an ice-cube tray, put fresh herbs into each cube space and freeze it. Rub these butter cubes on toast, on pizza, or on the next wrap you make. Freeze some cooked meat or that kadhai paneer you cooked too much of. Have leftovers from a party? Freeze it. Once you've opened the door there's no end to what the freezer will keep for you.
And when you do defrost and serve, try pretending you just cooked all that food from scratch – if you can get away with it, of course (I'd say it's worth practising). Always plate beautifully. It gets you five stars for effort (and makes your other half feel a wee bit guilty for not running that errand as politely asked to the other day). Ordering out never has the same effect!
So get cooking, and freezing, and eating at home. Then bask in domestic harmony.
P.S. Never freeze fried food. Doesn't work.
Bonus: Chicken jambalaya-like freezer meal recipe
1½ cups rice (soaked for 15 mins and drained)
6 raw boneless chicken thighs
I cup of chopped red, yellow and green bell peppers
½ cup sweet corn out of a can
1 cup of your favourite canned cream of mushroom soup (prepared if from a packet)
1 cup finely chopped onion
4 cloves of garlic crushed
Salt, pepper and paprika to taste
Marinade the chicken with vinegar, crushed garlic and some paprika for about 20 minutes. Heat some oil in a pan, sauté the onions until lightly browned. Add the chicken and cook on a high flame to seal in all the juices for about 5 minutes. Grease an ovenproof container and add the chicken and rice to it in layers. Tip in the can of soup and the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, add a bit of water (if required) and put it away in the freezer.
To serve, thaw, then place in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 200°C or until done and you are set! Does well in the freezer for about 2 months.
Illustration: Arun Pottirayil