Stocking your freezer with a selection of handy helpers such as chopped vegetables and herbs, pre-prepared seafood and ready-to-bake treats means that flavour-packed, low-waste dishes are just minutes away. Our resident experts - including food editors, development chefs and cookery school tutors - select their must-have ingredients from the frozen aisle. They let you in on the best shortcuts and recipes to make the most of your kitchen’s secret weapon, whether you’re cooking from scratch or looking for last-minute dinner inspiration.
“I can't buy enough of the Cooks’ Ingredients frozen chopped ginger and garlic - they’re brilliant time savers, and have the same flavour as fresh,” says Martyn Lee, our Product Innovation and Executive Chef. “Use them as the starting point for delicious curries, such as this warming turmeric dhal with spinach.”
Cookery School tutor Kendall Zaluski always has puff pastry sheets in the freezer: “They’re so versatile and easy to use, whether in a pie, tart or these simple and delicious pasties made by Food Editor Silvana Franco.”
“Peas are my emergency vegetable for when the fridge is empty,” says Helen Carey, chef tutor at the Waitrose Cookery School, Kings Cross. “I turn them into soups and pasta sauces or add them to risottos.” Try them in this simple dish of spaghetti with pea, almond and mint pesto or combine them with watercress and leeks in this vibrant soup.
"Frozen mashed potato is my freezer staple,” says Zoe Simons, Senior Brand and Innovation Development Chef. “It's really versatile – I will use it for making homemade gnocchi, fishcakes or a super-quick veggie shepherd’s pie”.
Simon Page, Manager of the Waitrose Cookery School Salisbury uses the Essential Mixed Vegetables to create healthy dishes for his two young kids. He might add some to a simple tomato sauce for pasta, or throw a handful into a stew. He’s also a fan of the Essential Grilled Vegetable Mix which is great in an omelette or a herb-flecked pilaf. “Frozen whole leaf spinach can be used instead of fresh and keeps a lot longer”, he says. Bored of chopping? The Cooks’ Ingredients Soffritto Mix is a perfect base for casseroles, soups and sauces with none of the hassle.
MEAT & SEAFOOD
Paul Gamble, Senior Brand Development Chef swears by frozen raw jumbo king prawns. “They’re great quality – plump and tender with a lovely sweet flavour. My go-to dish to use them in is a Keralan-style molee which evokes delicious memories of distant holidays.”
For Food Editor Silvana Franco, the trimmed British ray wings with lemon butter, capers and parsley are the perfect standby after a long day developing recipes. Ready to bake in the bag, they need nothing more than boiled new potatoes and some green veg.
“Essential British Beef Mince is a favourite in our house,” says Consultant Pastry Chef Will Torrent. “I’ll use it to rustle up a quick midweek bolognese or chilli. Because you cook it from frozen, you use only what you need.” The British beef meatballs are another low-waste freezer staple; try them Swedish-style with mash and berry jam.
By buying frozen, you can enjoy fruits that have only a short season year-round. Silvana loves the convenience of the Essential Dark Sweet Cherries: “I use them in smoothies, for baking and on my morning granola or overnight oats.” They’re especially good in this cherry and almond tart which also makes use of frozen shortcrust pastry.
Helen finds the Essential Mango Chunks work better than fresh mango when making smoothies, compôtes, chutneys and even a light sponge or muffins, perhaps with some lime zest to balance the sweetness.
For many of us, the one item guaranteed to be in the freezer is a tub of ice cream - ideal for serving with pies and crumbles, on its own or topped with fruit. Simon Page loves the No. 1 Santo Domingo Chocolate Ice Cream: “It's so rich and creamy and up there with the best I've tasted. I’ll scatter on some chopped chocolate for added texture or serve it with kirsch-soaked cherries for a boozy kick. For another grown-up treat, try the No. 1 Madagascan Vanilla Ice Cream with a drizzle of Pedro Ximenez. It’s a match made in heaven.” Vegans needn’t miss out either. Silvana’s a convert to the Fravocado Original Ice Cream which she first tried when husband Rob switched to a dairy-free diet: “It’s got a lovely creamy texture and subtle flavour.”
“I can't live without the Waitrose Mini French Butter Pastries,” says pastry chef Will, “especially the pains au chocolat!”. Silvana agrees: “They’re great for when my in-laws are staying. Served warm from the oven, they fill the house with a wonderful smell.”
20 products to fill your freezer
Stock up on these frozen essentials and good-value, low-waste meals will be just minutes away