Anna Jones recipes: Learning how to pack aromatics and spices into a pungent paste for freezing is a perfect route of adding an instant hitting of peppery heat and punchy flavours to your winter curries
There is something intimate about fridges and freezers. Bear with me here, but peering into someone elses is a window into their life or lives, and the first thing I want to know about when I walk into their home. A quick look will tell you a bit about who sits around the table, the places and things they might love.
This week, however, I turned my attention to my own freezer for a winter stocktake, which uncovered a fair bit about their own families. I determined: half of the double batch of cider and roasted vegetable gravy I stimulated on Christmas day, small bags of cooked butterbeans ready for stews and soups, a couple of rounds of tart, a packet of filo sheets, frozen blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, bananas chopped into bits for smoothies, an array of homemade newborn food( with differing approval rates with my son ), an experimental bottle of bergamot vodka, half a container of frozen peas, a punnet of cranberries, two bathtub of ice-cream, a party pack of ice, a bag of sweetcorn and some frozen spinach.
The bottom drawer is another world solely. Its packed with aromatics, chillies of all colourings and sizings( which are brilliant grated straight-out from frozen ), curry and lime foliages, lemongrass, and grated turmeric and ginger destined for mugs of tea( the frozen stuff doesnt run so well in cooking ). I reach into this drawer for flavours that transport me to places where the air is warmer. Its also where I stash away a few flavour-packed preparations too.
Little packages of paste make a rapid and easy flavour base for soups, stews and curries. Constructing them has become a huge part of how I cook in winter, turning out doubled batches, then freezing one so that I am only moments away from something really tasty when I want it. If that sounds a little bit too Martha Stewart for your liking, dont fret: all these paste recipes can be used right away too.
I learned the discipline of attaining pastes this way from the mother of a friend, a brilliant Indian home cook who has a frozen curry paste or chutney ready for any occasion. Her freezer tells a very different narrative from mine, with an army of neatly labelled Tupperware receptacles in every tint from emerald to rust, curries in all iterations and stages of readiness, for family dinners and society parties alike.
I have adapted four of my favourite curries and one tagine to induce them work as pastes that can be frozen. Some those that arent traditionally built use a paste do departed from the classic versions of these recipes, but I can forgive myself that for the ease and smiles they bring.