Are frozen veggies as fresh and tasty as fresh? A chef and I put it to the test

April 16, 2013

This is not a sponsored post, but all ingredients used were supplied by McCain, along with the services of the chef

 

When McCain offers you a chef for one night to cook dinner for you and your family and friends, and tells you you’ll learn some cooking tips at the same time, you don’t say no. And let me state from the beginning that I’ve always liked and used McCain frozen products (I pretty much lived on the oven chips when I was pregnant), so I was happy to get involved.

Last week chef Jerome arrived with tools, knives and groceries, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink (which is what I provided, along with a table that was set for five. I’m certain Jerome would have set the table if I hadn’t).

While Jerome cooked, I asked him some questions about frozen veggies versus fresh, and just in case he was being biased, I did some online objective research, which mostly confirmed what Jerome said. He explained that there is minimal loss of nutrients in frozen vegetables because they are picked at their peak and immediately frozen, retaining the same amount as fresh ones. Also, freezing “locks in” goodness and taste because the process prevents bacterial growth, and preserves nutritional quality for up to 18 months.

For me, it’s about convenience and time – I’d rather buy a packet of chopped onions, use some, and freeze the rest, rather than chopping, and having six onions go off because I don’t need them again.

When Jerome wasn’t educating me on frozen veggies and telling me about some top restaurants and hotels that use frozen vegetables to save time, he prepared beer-battered hake, potato bake and steamed vegetables with garlic butter sauce (recipes are available on the McCain website). The meal was divine, in particular the beer-battered fish, which I’ll definitely make soon (I’ve included the recipe below too).

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Jerome at our service

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I might be wearing the apron, but there is only one chef in this pic

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Delicious beer-battered hake

The next night, I was tasked with cooking from a McCain recipe – Jerome chose the cottage pie (recipe below), which came out amazingly, even with several deviations from the recipe. It serves four, and I guess I’m greedy and have a big appetite but two of us almost polished it off.

Bon appetit!

 

What I made: Cottage pie

Serves 4

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Mince:

100g McCain Chef’s Solution Diced Onion
1 garlic clove, minced
60g McCain Diced Carrots
60g celery stalk, chopped
15g butter
15g flour
15ml tomato paste
500g beef mince
100ml red wine
400ml beef stock
5ml thyme, dried
1 bay leaves
50g McCain Mixed Vegetables
50g McCain Garden Mix
olive oil
TT salt
TT pepper

Mash potato topping:

2 medium potatoes
1l milk
100g butter
5ml thyme, dried
1 garlic clove, crushed
TT salt
TT pepper
1 egg

Method:

Mince

  1. Sauté the onion, garlic, carrots and celery until golden brown.
  2. Add the mince and allow to cook through.
  3. Add the butter, flour and tomato paste and cook off.
  4. Deglaze the pan with red wine and reduce until almost dry.
  5. Add the beef stock, thyme and bay leaves and simmer until the meat is of a rich sauce-like consistency.
  6. Stir through the McCain Mixed Vegetables and McCain Garden Mix.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mashed potato topping:

  1. Peel and cube the potatoes.
  2. Bring the milk, garlic, thyme and potatoes up to the boil.
  3. Continue cooking until the potatoes are softened right the way through.
  4. Drain the potatoes from the milk and set aside for a few minutes to cool down.
  5. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until smooth, adding milk back if necessary.
  6. Stir through the butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the assembly:

  1. Spoon the mince into the base of an ovenproof dish.
  2. Top with the mash potato, either spread or piped and egg wash.
  3. Bake at 180˚C until golden.

Serving suggestion: Serve with a salad or steamed vegetables.

My notes:

– I swapped beef for ostrich, which is lower in fat, and just as delicious.

– Instead of the mashed potato, I used sliced potatoes to cut down the fat content. Next time, I will try pureed butternut or pumpkin.

– I also left out the celery and red wine, but i didn’t feel it compromised on the taste

What chef Jerome made: Beer-battered hake

Serves 4

Cooking time: 25 minutes

1kg hake, portioned
340ml beer
375ml flour
5ml salt
5ml paprika
oil, for deep frying
Method:
  1. Sift the flour, salt and paprika into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the beer whilst whisking ensuring that the batter is smooth and lump free.
  3. Dust the hake with a little flour and then into the batter.
  4. Deep fry at 180˚C until golden brown and crispy.

Serving suggestion: Serve beer battered hake with McCain Original Oven Chips Straight Cut.

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Guests Gary and Jess

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1 Comment

  • SueStuart

    I had no idea you could buy chopped onions! Just what I need, I also end up throwing away too many onions 🙂

    April 16, 2013 at 7:48 am Reply
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