I’m not a big fan of the whole microwave thing. I mean they take up heaps of space and most people rarely cook with them. But for years I kept one cluttering up my tiny kitchen because I thought I needed it for defrosting things from the freezer.
It’s been years since I ditched my microwave. And apart from when my friends wanted to heat up some baby food the other night at my early Thanksgiving dinner, I haven’t missed it one bit. I especially haven’t missed the feeling when you’re defrosting raw meat in the microwave and leave it in too long so that the edges get overcooked while the middle is still icy. Ick.
so today I thought I’d share:
the quickest and safest methods for defrosting without a microwave
in the fridge
Most of the time I’ve become more organised. I get things out of the freezer the night before and let them safely and slowly defrost in the fridge, like a good food-safety-law-abiding citizen. There are still times when I forget or the plans change, but you’ll be happy to know even these trying circumstances don’t induce microwave-longing.
straight into a pan / oven
If I want to defrost something like a soup or stew, I just run the bottom of the freezer container under the hot water tap for a little while, enough to loosen. I then deposit the frozen chunk into a saucepan and slowly allow it to defrost over the lowest heat. Too easy.
Most frozen veg, like peas, are best popped straight into a pan with a little olive oil, or into a saucepan of boiling water.
And I’ve recently successfully cooked two different sized turkeys on different occasions from frozen and ended up with the most wonderfully moist meat. The trick here is to use a low heat 160C (325F) and use a meat thermometer to make sure your bird reaches a safe internal temperature. If you’d like to learn more about this, I’ll be teaching this method in my Stress-Free Thanksgiving class this weekend.
defrosting on a metal surface
I thought meat and fish were more tricky, than tubs of soup, until I learned this wonderful new method. I picked up the idea from the food science book, What Einstein Told His Chef. Basically, things will defrost faster, the quicker their coldness is taken away from them. So you want a surface that will conduct heat to the frozen item (or take the cold away) as efficiently as possible.
While a metal sink is better than a wooden bench top at conducting heat, the ridged surface means that only part of the food is in contact with the metal. Much better to use a heavy cast iron frying or roasting pan for the maximum heat/cold transfer.
I recently put this to the test defrosting 2 similar sized scotch fillet steaks. One, I unwrapped and placed directly on my cast iron roasting pan. The other I left wrapped in it’s Styrofoam tray from the butcher. I turned both every 20 minutes or so. And the winner was undoubtedly the steak on the roasting pan which took about an hour to defrost fully. Whereas the other steak took about 3 1/2 hours to get to the same state. I love it when an experiment proves the point!
Today’s recipe is a wonderful little Indian-inspired curry, Saag Lamb or lamb with spinach. Feel free to use frozen meat AND spinach, to try out the defrosting method.
[In case you missed it, I recently wrote about the 7 golden rules of freezing food with a recipe for a delicious frozen pea salad.]
Along with my butter chickpeas, this is a favourite Indian inspired curry. I prefer it with lamb but chicken or beef are also good.
For a vegan / vegetarian version of the curry, replace the lamb with tofu and equivalent amount of tofu or a can of drained chickpeas. Steamed potatoes would be another replacement as would cauliflower. Saag (spinach curry sauce) is also often served with paneer, an Indian cheese which is a little like a very firm ricotta.
Feel free to serve as is or with a bowl of fluffy rice and a little natural yoghurt (possibly with some cooling grated cucumber stirred through). I also like to serve this with a salad dressed in natural yoghurt like the one below.
If you aren’t sure how hot your chillies are, slice a tiny piece off the stalk end and touch it to your tongue. Don’t make the mistake I made years ago and nibble the tip of the chilli (it’s the least hot part) and end up adding way too much.
2 tablespoons garam marsala (+1 teaspoon, optional)
250g (1/2lb) lamb backstrap or fillet, chopped into small chunks
3 – 5 large green chillies, finely sliced crosswise
1 can tomatoes (400g / 14oz)
1 packet frozen spinach, defrosted & finely chopped
1. Combine gram marsala with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss in lamb to coat in the spiced oil.
2. Heat a large frying pan on a high heat. Add lamb and chillies and stir fry for a few minutes or until just cooked though. Remove lamb from the pan.
3. Add tomato and spinach and simmer for about 5 minutes or until it looks saucey.
4. Return lamb to the pan and bring back to a simmer. Taste and season, adding the extra garam marsala if you think it needs more spice.
[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
shaved cabbage & yoghurt salad
serves 2-3 as a side
This isn’t traditional at all, but I love a good salad on the side of most of my meals. I often find a curry & rice extravaganza can be a bit lacking in the freshness department. This salad has it all, crunchy AND yoghurty coolness.
If cabbage isn’t your thing, try the dressing on baby spinach leaves or even on shaved cucumber.
6 tablespoons natural yoghurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 small clove garlic very finely chopped
1/4 small white cabbage
1. Whisk together yoghurt, garlic and lemon. Season generously.
2. Remove outer leaves from the cabbage and slice the remaining cabbage as finely as possible.
3. Toss cabbage in the dressing. Serve now or keep in the fridge until you’re ready.
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