The last time I got into batch cooking was back when I was working full time.
And let me tell you, I was making the most boring meals. Baked chicken. Sweet potato. Rice. Spinach. Repeat.
Man, did that get dull fast. So much so, that Joe and I effectively stopped eating them. Instead we’d find ourselves staring into the depths of the refrigerator blankly before ordering things like our favorite: pizza. What can I say, our foray into healthy eating and preparation for the week ahead didn’t last long.
I got bored with what I was making, so I stopped. Wasteful, I know.
Now that I’ve been living the freelance life, we’ve started making more of an effort in the kitchen. Not that I’m making anything too complicated of course, I’m obsessed with my friend Rachel’s cookbook Student Eats – which incorporates awesome meals for well, students. But it works for people like me with limited skills and even less kitchen space. So while I’m turning to cookbooks and recipes, I’m also working to improve my culinary skills as a whole.
So when John Lewis was hosting a cooking class, how could I say no? On a chilly evening, I visited King’s Cross at the Waitrose Cookery School (hosted alongside John Lewis) where I’d be learning more about batch cooking, how to make homemade tomato sauce and the dishes that it would accompany: pizza, puttanesca and Shakshuka.
Bring it on.
Obviously, as some of you know, I’m a little obsessed with Waitrose. Is that weird to say? Anyways, it’s the only local supermarket near us and I’m a little bit annoying with how much I love it. PS. Did you know that if you sign up for a Waitrose card you can get free coffees every day? EVERY DAY. Also not an ad or anything, I genuinely love it.
Anyways. We settled in for a night of batch cooking and eating.
First up, our chef took us through part one, making the sauce. It’s a simple tomato, garlic and basil sauce, including generous portions of olive oil. The sauces lasts around a week in the fridge. The idea behind it is that you can mix up the sauce depending on what you’re cooking. For the puttanesca, we added capers, chili flakes, chopped anchovies, Kalamata olives, dried oregano and fresh cherry tomatoes to enhance the flavour.
The sauce can also be adjusted to make the Shakshuka, including a variety of spices. And it’s totally ready as an easy pizza sauce.
I thought I’d include the recipe for the sauce itself and how to make homemade pasta. It was really a lot simpler than I thought it would be! I already have my eye on purchasing my own pasta maker too. Fun fact, we took turns guessing how much a pasta maker would cost, thinking it could be very expensive, but turns out it’s £35. Not bad!
- 3 tbsp Rapeseed or sunflower oil
- 1 clove Garlic peeled and finely sliced
- 400g tin Chopped Tomatoes (they recommended using plum specifically, but anything chopped will do the trick)
- 6 large fresh Basil leaves torn/chopped
- Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until soft.
- Add the tomatoes and basil. Cook for 12-15 minutes or so until thick and glossy. Stir in a pinch of sugar if desired.
Chef’s notes – This sauce is also ideal for topping homemade pizzas and for dressing cooking gnocchi.
- 100g Superfine 00 grade pasta flour
- 1 medium WR Blacktail free range egg
- 1 medium WR Blacktail free range egg yolk
- Place the pasta flour in a food processor and, with the motor running, add the egg and yolk. Stop blending when the dough comes to a coarse breadcrumb consistency-don’t overwork the dough to a single mass.
- Remove the coarse crumb from the processor and bring together by hand. Knead for 5 minutes until you have a smooth dough.-it should be supple and slightly soft but not sticky. Wrap the dough in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Roll out the pasta dough with a pasta machine until wafer thin and silky, then cut out into desired type of pasta.
Chef’s Notes – You can also make the pasta by hand by using a large mixing bowl and a dough scraper to replace the food processor.
Honestly, I have to say, it was all a lot easier than I had expected when making some of these dishes. So instead of ordering that takeaway, next time I’m going to take the time to create dishes in my flat! And ahem I’ll be keeping a handy jar of homemade sauce in the fridge at all times.
(Oh and apparently, you can save over £1K a year by batch cooking, so there’s a handbag in the making out of this too…)
Thanks again to John Lewis and Waitress Cookery School for a delicious time and teaching me more about how versatile batch cooking can be!
** I was kindly invited by John Lewis, Waitrose and Talented Talkers to learn all about batch cooking. Badass cooking skills are mine (oh, I only MADE the sauce and pasta dish though, FYI).