I have prepared several dishes for the freezer for Christmas, using recipes that state they are suitable for freezing. However I am at a loss to know how to proceed when I need the dishes - should all food be defrosted thoroughly first, or can some be cooked from frozen? Dishes cooked include salmon lasagne, mince pies with a stollen topping, and stews/casseroles. Is there a rule of thumb? Thanks!
It is best to thoroughly thaw frozen dishes before cooking them, unless specific cook from frozen instructions are given with the recipe. It is vital that dishes are cooked thoroughly and are piping hot in the centre before they are served. If a dish is cooked direct from frozen, particularly larger items such as a lasagne, it can result in the outside of the dish being fully cooked or even overcooked while the inside of the dish remains chilly.
It is also a good idea to thaw the dishes in the fridge. For larger items we would thaw the dish in the fridge for around 24 hours.
Sometimes it is possible to cook smaller pre-prepared items, such as cookies, direct from frozen. In Nigella's recipes we give directions for this, where appropriate. If you have frozen uncooked mini mince pies then you can bake these direct from frozen and usually they need about 2 minutes longer in the oven than the non-frozen type. Make sure the mince pies are cooked in their tin otherwise they will collapse as they bake. Baked then frozen mince pies should thaw at room temperature in 2-3 hours and can then be warmed gently in a low oven for around 5 minutes (mini) or 10 minutes (standard size).