SICK of cooking dinner every night for your kids? Now you don’t have to.
Today marks the debut of Fabulous columnist, Suzanne Mulholland, also known as the Batch Lady. Her motto is simple: cook fast and cook smart.
Having achieved notoriety for her super-organised technique of batch cooking after launching a YouTube channel to share her tips, Suzanne has since published a book, The Batch Lady: Shop Once Cook Once Eat Well All Week, and she will now be bringing you her very best recipes every Saturday in your all-new Fab Daily.
The 44-year-old mum-of-two says: “Unlike most cookery authors and food writers I am not a fan of having to cook dinner night after night.
‘This is fuss-free family cooking’
“Instead I’m passionate about just getting it done, so I can spend my time doing more fun things than cooking, clearing up and emptying the dishwasher every night.”
Suzanne is cookery’s answer to internet cleaning sensation Mrs Hinch — a quick and easy approach has won her a legion of fans.
There’ll be no herbs you can’t pronounce, fancy ingredients from specialist supermarkets or lengthy recipes taking up a whole evening in the kitchen.
This is fuss-free family cooking that will save you time and money.
Batch cooking is the latest trend for modern mums and we’ll be giving you all the secret tips and tricks, including double portioning, making the most of your freezer and getting creative with meal plans.
Plus, no more last-minute dashes to the shops that see you spend a small fortune on quick-fix dinners.
Suzanne’s mission stems from her losing the enjoyment in cooking — and it started to take its toll on her family life.
She says: “I felt like a slave to the kitchen, forever trying to churn out tasty meals when, in truth, I’d far rather be spending time with my kids or reading a good book.
“I hated cooking, it had become a chore.
“I’d gone from working in London and it all being very exciting to being on our family farm doing lots of the same things every day, making everybody lunch and dinner.
“I often felt like I was stuck in Groundhog Day.”
Suzanne had studied business and time management at university and later worked in time management for a large firm in the capital.
She now lives in the Scottish Borders with husband Peter, 44, who works on the family farm and runs a building business, and her children Jake, 14, and Zara, 11.
‘Organised and efficient’
She says: “My best asset was being organised and efficient.
“I’d been paid a good wage to organise people and get things done in a shorter time.
“So after having Jake in 2006, I decided I’d use the skills I’d learned at work and apply them to life at home.
“I didn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen every evening.
“I’d always enjoyed cooking but suddenly I started to dislike it.
“I decided I was going to start making double portions — one for now and another for the freezer.
“Before long I was only cooking once a week.
“I’m not a chef. I started with family favourites, meals a lot of us eat on rotation such as spaghetti bolognese, chilli, curry, pesto pasta, a chicken breast with something.
“In no time at all, I was able to reclaim time to do things I loved.
“We were also eating better, saving money and had very little waste.”
‘The Batch Lady was born’
Fellow mums began asking Suzanne to share her time-saving tips and organisational tricks.
She took part in a charity event where she filmed some videos about batch cooking and friends encouraged her to post them online.
Three years ago, she plucked up her courage — and The Batch Lady was born.
She is now writing her second recipe book, has more than 24,200 Instagram followers and some of her YouTube videos have been viewed more than 12,000 times.
She says: “I love that you can spend one hour on a Sunday in the kitchen and then you don’t have to worry about meals for the rest of the week.”
‘There are no leftovers scraped into the bin’
“If I fly in the door at 6pm, I want a dinner I can quickly put on the table.
“It saves you time cooking but also time clearing up.
“I only have one dish and four plates to wash afterwards.”
Suzanne’s farm is a 30-minute drive from the nearest shop, so it’s not easy to pop out for last-minute buys, while takeaways are few and far between, which is why she believes it’s so important always to have a meal in the freezer ready to go.
She says: “My family love chilli and a calzone that I make is a real Friday night treat.
“They also love my fish pie and sausage plait, which is basically a fancy sausage roll.
“I love cooking all the curries and I love a one-pot dish, something that has all the veg in it so you don’t need to worry about sides.”
Suzanne also writes vegetarian recipes, teaches followers how to batch-cook desserts and fake-aways such as fish and chips.
She says: “My family are my taste testers.
“It’s an incredible feeling to know I’m helping other parents out there.”
‘It saves you cash’
And Suzanne’s techniques are especially handy when money is tight.
She says: “I did this initially just to save time, but it saves you cash because you have to be organised.
“It stops you flying into the local shop and spending £20 on something to eat at the last minute.
“And if you are buying enough ingredients for a double portion, you can portion it out so there is no waste.
“There are no more leftovers being scraped into the bin.”
And if you think batch cooking means making a vat of curry and eating it for weeks until you’re sick of it, think again.
Suzanne calls her technique “modern batch cooking” and adds: “You can either do a big batch cook on a Sunday, which will take an hour and a half, or every meal you make, just make double.
“And the key is creating different meals for your family while using the same recipe.
“This is as convenient as a ready meal.
“You take it out of the freezer, heat it up and put it on a plate.
“But my meals — or yours — have all the goodness of home cooking.”
…NOW TRY A COUPLE OF HER RECIPES
HELLO, lovely Fab Daily readers. I’m so excited to be writing this new weekly food column.
Everything I do is about saving time and hassle, so no matter how busy you are or what your budget is, you can still feel in control of feeding your family with delicious home-cooked meals.
I make sure the portions I prepare are big enough so that there’s enough for a meal now and one for the freezer.
Spending five more minutes doubling the recipe gives you a whole night off another week.
I always make batches for the freezer and generally try to combine meals that use the same basic ingredients so that I can make them a lot faster.
For this first column, I thought it would be apt to offer a couple of recipes that touch on popular American cuisine.
After, all it is July 4 – US Independence Day.
Both of these recipes are great for feeding all the family, from kids to grown-ups.
- The Batch Lady: Shop Once. Cook Once. Eat Well All Week (HQ, £20) is out now. The Batch Lady Meal Planner, £9.99, is out July 23.
Yummy home-made burgers
These are great to put in the freezer, alongside some burger buns, frozen corn on the cob and some wedges.
(Makes 6 burgers)
- 600g minced beef
- 2 tbsp American mustard
- 4 tbsp Worcester sauce
- ½ egg, beaten
- Salt and pepper
- Burger buns and salad, to serve
METHOD: Put all the ingredients into one large bowl and bring together with your hands, mixing well until combined.
Divide the mixture into 6 balls of equal size.
Roll each ball in your hands then press down to form a pattie.
If eating now: You can fry these in a little oil for 2-3 minutes each side or bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C/400F/ gas mark 6 for 10-15 minutes turning halfway through cooking.
If freezing: Do not cook if putting in freezer.
Carefully add your raw patties to a labelled sealable freezer bag, taking out as much air as possible before sealing.
Place in the freezer and, when needed, simply defrost and follow the cooking guide above.
Easy family chilli
This chilli is mild and has some extra veg hidden in so it’s perfect for feeding everyone in the family.
( Serves 4-5)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 500g minced beef
- 75g sliced mushrooms
- 2 carrots, peeled and grated
- 2 cans chopped tomatoes
- 500g passata
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 teaspoons mild chilli powder
- 1 can kidney beans
- 1 can sweetcorn, drained
METHOD: Add the onions to a large pan and fry gently until softened.
Add the beef, mushrooms and carrots.
Cook until all beef is browned.
Drain any excess fat out of the pan into a separate dish.
Add the chopped tomatoes, passata, cumin and chilli powder.
Drain the kidney beans and sweetcorn and add to the pan.
Finally mix everything together and cook for 5-6 minutes or until piping hot.
If eating now: Simply serve with rice, on nachos, or in baked potatoes.
If freezing: Leave to fully cool.
Portion it into labelled sealable freezer bags. If you want to save space in your freezer, flatten the full bag of chilli and seal.
Your chilli will stack well in the freezer if the bag is flattened and will also defrost faster than if it is frozen in a large tub.
Simply defrost and heat in the microwave or a pan until piping hot.
GET CREATIVE: When I make chilli for the freezer, I portion it up and write on the label what I’m going to serve it with.
One week I may serve chilli and rice, the next week chilli-topped nachos.
Chilli dogs are fun to make for kids and chilli-topped burgers can spice up plain ones.
MAKE BOTH RECIPES AT THE SAME TIME: They both use minced beef. Start with the chilli.
While waiting for the mince to brown, start making the burgers.
It’s a simple way to make two different meals in the same amount of time as making one meal.
One-pot feeding: This chilli is a great example of tweaking to tastes.
Make the chilli as per the recipe which will give you a mild dish.
If you have young children, add creme fraiche when serving to give it a milder, creamer taste.
For anyone who likes a hotter dish, add in some more chilli and perhaps some jalapenos after serving everyone else.
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