Some nights when you get home from work all you want to do is switch your brain off, dump some food in a pan or the microwave, and have dinner ready. That's where ready-meals really excel, but the reality can often be a gloopy, unhealthy disappointment. Fresh stir fries are quite speedy to make, they require some forward planning and always seem to leave me with some leftover veg which goes off before I can eat it!
This thai shrimp stir-fry is a fresh-tasting, healthy meal which is ready in a flash. To make four freezer meals all you need to do is some easy food prep, most of which is just simmering time for the rice.
During cooking the frozen vegetables release more water than fresh ones, and some vegetables such as peppers take on the soft texture of their roasted counterparts, but this is part of the appeal for me. As a lover of both rice and noodle stir-fries, this meal gives me the delicious sweet-savoury taste of the coconut rice with the slurpy, noodle-shaped strips of vegetables coated in a thick peanut sauce!
What you need:
This recipe makes enough for 4 freezer meals
For the rice
2 cups rice (I used basmati but jasmine, brown or long grain would work just as well!)
1 tin light coconut milk
2 chicken or fish stock cubes
For the stir fry
Any of the following freeze well and can be included in your stir fry:
Bell peppers, chilli peppers, onions, leeks, sweetcorn, mushrooms, cabbage, edamame beans, sliced root ginger, or sliced garlic.
2 bell peppers
1/2 head purple cabbage
2 red chilli peppers
1 cup pre-cooked prawns (these heat up as quickly as the vegetables during stir frying)
For the sauce
The sauce is not prepared in advance, but mixed together as the meal is heating up. The ingredients below make 1 portion; multiply as needed for the number of dinners you plan to make
2 tbsp peanut butter
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
Juice of 1/2 lime
Optional toppings: sesame seeds, Sriracha, chopped peanuts, cilantro
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Step 1: Prepare the Rice
Pour the can of coconut milk into a measuring jug and add boiling water up to the 2.5 cups line.
Add stock cubes and give it a quick stir. It doesn't matter if the mixture is a bit lumpy, simmering it with the rice will sort that right out.
Rinse rice and then pour into a saucepan. Add liquid mixture.
Step 2: Simmer Until Absorbed
Turn the heat up high until the mixture starts to boil, then put a lid on the pan and simmer until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed (around 15 minutes, but check the cooking instructions on your rice packet as a reference).
In the meantime, move onto the next step
Step 3: Prep Yo Veg!
I like to chop everything into strips so that they get a lovely noodle-y texture when cooked.
Once all your veg is chopped, spread it out on a baking tray and pop it in the freezer. Spreading them out like this ensures they freeze quickly, and prevents the vegetables from sticking together.
Step 4: Freezing Your Rice Portions
Once the rice is cooked, leave to cool for a few minutes in the pan, then split it between two freezer bags. Lay the bags onto a small baking sheet or other freezer-proof flat surface. Flatten out the rice inside the bags and use the side of your hand to form a channel halfway down. This will allow the rice to be snapped into portions once it has frozen. You could also use 4 individual freezer bags if you wanted, I'm just stingy.
Put the rice into the fridge until cooled, then into the freezer.
I know that some people worry about reheating rice but so long as it is cooled quickly to a safe temperature, and reheated until piping hot then it is safe! More details on freezing and thawing rice here: http://riceinfo.com/foodservice/storage-tips/
Step 5: Meal Prep Complete!
Once your veg has frozen, put it into freezer bags along with the prawns.
I like to label my freezer meals so that I don't end up choosing to tuck into a chilli con carne from 1992, (and then discovering it's actually a very similar-looking curry).
Step 6: To Heat Up and Serve Freezer Stir-fry:
Dump half a freezer bag of stir-fry mix per person into an extremely hot pan with a teaspoon of oil.
In the meantime, move onto the next step, whilst giving the stir-fry the occasional mix.
Step 7: Meanwhile...
Grab a microwaveable plate or bowl and heat your rice on full for approximately 4-5 minutes until piping hot.
Combine peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar and a squeeze of lime juice. This can either be done in a small bowl as shown, or added directly into the frying pan if you want to save on washing up!
Stir it all together until stir-fry mix is evenly coated in a thick sauce (the frozen vegetables release more water than fresh ones do, just keep that heat up and the extra liquid will be evaporated off!)
Step 8: Bowl Up
When your rice is piping hot and your stir-fry is smelling amazing, dump it all in a bowl and tuck in!
Don't forget any toppings you fancy.. Sriracha, sesame seeds or chopped peanuts are definite winners