Usually I am not one for ready meals.
It’s not that I am the kind of person that has some disturbing paranoia about how bad they can be for you.
As much as it might be the greatest sin ever in the cooking kingdom I think ready meals can be pretty useful.
I can’t say the taste is ever something that couldn’t be improved but I would keep a couple in the freezer on occasion for an emergency like a cooker breakdown.
Really though, freezer and emergency are the key words here.
If I do opt to buy a ready meal I will be buying a frozen one for the simple reason that it will last.
As you can imagine then, the fresh fridge ready meals section of my local supermarket is an area rarely traipsed.
Don’t get me wrong, I can understand the sections usefulness.
For single people or couples who aren’t bothered about food or just don’t have the time it is great to have such a convenience.
For me though, even if I was considering buying a fridge ready meal, the prices put me off, they are much greater than that of a frozen ready meal!
Sure, the fridge version is generally better quality but when it’s a choice between £1.50 for the frozen variety of for instance a Chilli Con Carne or £2.60 for a fridge version it adds up, especially when buying for two or more.
Naturally, though I don’t go to that particular aisle, I do go to the “bargain sections”, as I call them, dotted around the shop and one particularly late night I found a few great bargain.
Among them were this fridge ready meal.
When I picked it up I was umming and arring about it but I figured, why not?
It looked like a good quality one and I’ve never tried Macaroni cheese!
Who could say no at that price anyway?
At the original price of £7, I wasn’t going to be able to sample it again!
I must confess that I had no idea who Charlie Bigham was so I had no idea what style of cooking he did.
All I knew is that I was praying he didn’t do “new” twists on existing foods that just don’t work like adding peppers to everything.
Yes, I’m looking at you pepper adding people.
Thanks to their website, here is a picture of the amusing little sketch hiding under that evil old price tag.
Stop censoring artwork supermarkets!!!
That was sarcastic.
Anyway, the packaging is so fancy that you can open the flap and look underneath!
Yay, now I know who Charlie Bigham is and I have a great description of what we have for dinner, Macaroni pasta in their traditional handmade creamy cheese sauce, topped with crispy pancetta and ciabatta croutons. YUM.
It also mentions it would be great with garlic bread and a green salad.
30 minutes in the oven? Not bad!
Of course, below there is a picture of how bloody lovely it should look when it’s done but lets face it, these pictures are a work of fiction really, I mean have you SEEN those pictures of frozen ready meal Shepard’s pie?
You’ll never even get it out of the plastic container, let alone as they show it.
I remember someone who tried once….poor poor Jerry…………
Before we take a look inside, let’s take a mooch at the ingredients, I apologise for the state of the package beforehand.
Well…..it says finest ingredients and……I believe them.
The ingredients for this actually look like a recipe and not a science experiment.
The only things that looked slightly dodgy they completely explained too (preservatives to traditionally create the smoked pancetta).
I am impressed.
So, now without further ado, what is actually in there?
I can’t believe I’m really going to say raw meat looks lovely but it does.
It comes in a plastic wrapper so that just comes off and voilà!
The meal itself is actually in a paper case inside a wooden tray which it can be cooked and served in so that’s a really nice touch too.
Beats plastic containers any day, plus, no washing up if you’re trying to avoid ugly packaging at the dinner table.
Now, lets put it in the oven at the suggested temperature and time and see how it comes out!
My goodness….a miracle has happened…
Not only is it perfectly cooked at the time and temp stated but it actually looks like those usually fictional pictures of the final meal.
This is a good sign.
This is a very good sign.
So, how does it taste?
Well, I don’t know how they did it but they managed to make the pasta perfectly cooked, not mushy, not rubbery, absolutely perfectly cooked while also having the pancetta (BACON!!) and croutons beautifully crispy.
The cheese sauce was rich but was broken up by the topping and would have been even better with the side salad and garlic bread suggested.
All in all, this meal has completely changed my idea of fresh ready meals.
It actually tasted like I made it at home which is something I’ve never had from a packet before.
Y’know, I almost wish I hadn’t tried this because I will have to buy it more often!
It’s worth the price because for the cheeses, wine and other ingredients it would cost a lot more to make yourself and since it’s serves 2, £3.50 each is reasonable for a treat!