Today I did the first stage in my epic cook-ahead marathon. The supermarket delivery arrived late on Friday night but Saturday was filled with unpacking, choir and a concert in London, whilst this morning was spent attending three different breakfasts and watching Doctor Who (far more time-critical than finishing the unpacking, of course).
So this evening as I was cooking my dinner I decided to make a start on the list of meals for the freezer. I made a batch of spaghetti bolognese sauce without any difficulties other than the inexplicable absence of the plastic lids for my freezer boxes - one portion of sauce is currently freezing lidless. Then I put a bag of kidney beans into water to soak ready for chilli con carne tomorrow, and tackled a new recipe: Quorn fillet chasseur. It should have been simple...
Two medium onions sliced, a handful of frozen mushroom slices, four Quorn fillets, water and a handy packet mix went into the casserole dish. Actually, they went into two dishes: one medium rectangular Pyrex dish and a small round casserole. Thank goodness.
Because I did not stop to think that the visibly plastic lid of the Pyrex dish was probably not oven-safe. Nor did I obey the college rule not to leave cooking unattended, because who wants to sit for an hour and a half to watch a stew cook? If I had, perhaps I might have noticed that the lid was slowly but surely melting its way into a thick layer across my food.
When I went into the kitchen to get the dishes out, there was a delicious smell, and a suspicious puddle of brown liquid in front of the oven. I opened the oven door and stared in bewilderment at what looked like mozzarella hanging in strings from the side of the dish and the shelf below. It took several seconds to realise what had happened.
There are a few small positives. Firstly, thank goodness I decided the Pyrex dish wasn't big enough for all four fillets and put one portion into a different dish. Now I have some to taste and see if it's worth trying again - in a different dish! That portion is currently freezing in some aluminium foil inside a second round casserole. It's the first time I've tried freezing things in this way, but it was a bit too liquidy when it came out (I added more water than the recipe recommended because I didn't think there was enough - another mistake!) so I will put it back in the oven to reheat and cook for a little longer.
Also, despite the absolute ruin of three portions of stew, the plastic did not burst into flames. Nor did it form a permanent film over my Pyrex dish or the rest of the oven. Once everything had cooled a little it wasn't hard to peel it off, a bit like wax. In fact the majority of the plastic lifted off in one lump, revealing an apparently perfect layer of food beneath. I sighed as I dumped it in the bin, but I am not quite foolish enough to eat whatever chemicals might have leeched out of the melting lid.
And the final positive is... I don't actually think there is another positive. Unless it's that the Quorn fillets were part of a 3 for 2 deal, and I only wasted half the bag, so technically I didn't actually just throw money away? I'm not sure about that one.