I think I can pretty much say we never eat “ready meals”. I am not averse to a good steak pie from a farm-shop or similar but ready-meals generally, nope. That is not because I am a food snob necessarily, (although I am, natch) we just generally don’t like the taste and my own food always tastes better.
However, I made an exception this weekend, with a complicated Sunday of taxiing and trying to provide food, I decided extreme measures were called for to ensure we all got something decent for Sunday lunch.
So I ventured over to “Cook” in West Bridgford. Cook is a frozen food specialist that claims they make “remarkable food for your freezer, made like you would at home” . I know, what you’re thinking – posh “Iceland”. But you’d be wrong.
Cook has a huge range of meals, mains, puddings, party food, even your entire Christmas lunch if you really wanted to push the boat out. The shop in West Bridgford is tidy, friendly and well designed, there is 2 hour parking outside, so I had plenty of time for a browse. Browsing freezers is a bit of an art, I found. Anyway, having mastered it, and with a recommendation from the owner, I went with Moroccan Lamb Tagine followed by a Lime and Pistachio cheesecake.
The response by the assembled family was priceless. “We’re having a ‘ready-meal’ for lunch”. Cue mild panic -“eh? What? Why?” (as in, is she ill? is she menopausal? is she in a mood? is she on strike for something? have we upset her?). I outlined the fact that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) drive to Lincoln and back early on a Sunday morning and still rustle up a home-made meal for us all by 12.30 and so, we were having ready made. Jeez, this lot are spoiled.
The Tagine was cooked from frozen and the cheesecake took about 3 hours to defrost (I did rustle up some couscous, I am not a total lush). Cook’s food is nicely packaged, cooks easily (or defrosts easily – ahem) and, it was really rather good, certainly no hint of the chemicals and additives and industrial processes that give most super-market ready-meals that distinctive unpleasant taste and mouth-feel. In fact, Cook’s food could easily be passed off as home-made and you wouldn’t be embarrassed for people to think so. In fact, I strongly suspect the largish customer base of cash-rich, time-poor West Bridgfordians pass “Cook’s” food off as their own on a semi-regular basis and their out of town guests are probably none the wiser.
So, am I converted? The Lamb Tagine was tender and tasty with a great texture and excellent flavour, the cheesecake was tart and creamy. It isn’t cheap – £17 odd for the main course (for 4) and £8 for the cheesecake. Frankly, though, if you’re going to buy ready-prepared meals, I would rather spend that and get quality. So yes, if I was in need of a quick fix quality meal I would go back to Cook and the charming Stephen Murchie who runs the franchise in West Bridgford with his partner. I think I can hear your slight scepticism but, honestly, this food was really, really good. Give it a go.