Friday, 28 October 2011

Ready meals - the good, the bad and the just plain horrible

I moved house last week and was minus a cooker for the best part of a week as I waited for a new one to be delivered and installed. In the interim, I didn't have much to fall back on when it came to cooking - my microwave, which I never cook with as I only use it for defrosting or reheating occasionally, and my slow cooker, plus a toaster.

I often batch cook, eating one portion and freezing two to three more - these are my homemade ready meals and what I eat when I'm too tired or unwell to cook or when I'm in a serious hurry to go out but still need to eat quickly. Casseroles, stews and curries all freeze well and are worth making because in all honesty making just one portion of any of these is a lot of work - you might as well make more for later on. I also sometimes make a lasagne from scratch - my lasagne dish holds 4-6 portions and homemade is far nicer than the supermarket version, as I discovered a few days ago.

I quickly ran out of my homemade frozen dishes and found myself forlornly staring into the chill cabinet of my nearest supermarket. What a depressing sight - apart from the vegetarian options, none of them seemed to contain any vegetables. They were a slew of carb-heavy, meat-heavy concoctions such as pasta with sauce, shepherd's pie and sweet and sour chicken with rice. I came home with a readymade lasagne and a macaroni cheese, both of which were bland and tasteless as airline food. Only a salad, freshly tossed with some homemade French dressing, made them bearable.

The one meal I found that actually contained a portion of vegetables was so disgusting that only raging hunger stopped me tipping it straight into the bin after two bites - this "roast chicken dinner" contained a chicken breast that at least had the skin on but had clearly never seen the inside of an oven, a handful of floury and utterly unflavoursome roast potatoes, and a heap of baby carrots and peas that were edible (just) but had been slathered in a brown gloop that I think was the advertised gravy but I couldn't be sure.

Never again.

Some of my recipes on here will be the ones I batch cook, with recommendations for freezing or chilling - just look for the tag "ready meal" if you need inspiration. I can promise you'll never look in a supermarket chill cabinet ever again...