The day I finally realised that I was a man, and no longer a dreaded “student” (shudder) was the day that I decided I would never buy a frozen ready meal again.
Yes, I used to think that I was somewhat of a sophisticated culinary god because I knew that when the light went off on my oven it meant that it was ‘pre-heated’ and I could then throw in a pasta bake for 40 minutes while I covered myself in Lynx body spray, poured budget vodka into a decanter and tried to find two candles that were roughly the same length as each other.
My word, I got nervous when my parents came to dinner. However, with time, I realized the importance of eating well as well as learning about food and all its healthy benefits so I decided that frozen meals were no longer to enter my freezer.
Except for fish fingers of course, those strange coloured lumps of ice from Iceland, known as “ready meals”, were a thing of the past.
And then I had children…
While my wife and I do try very hard to prepare nutritious homemade meals for our two daughters (three years and 10 months old) – quite often time just isn’t on our side and therefore we were very pleased to discover a whole new wave of ‘proper’ frozen meals for kids – i.e. meals that prepared by health-aware chefs rather than in anonymous factories which also make bleach and kitty litter*.
Lets be honest, after a day of swing pushing, left shoe hunting, felt-tip pen lid replacing, face wiping, hide and seeking, clothes changing and teddy washing, the thought of slicing carrots and grilling chicken can be rather depressing.
So being able to put a healthy supper in the oven, or even the microwave (I am still coming around to that), is one heck of a blessing.
As with everything (and everyone) that is good and popular in life, there are many options – some are terrible and some are actually very good, especially a range we were recently recommended by a mother of two – Miniscoff.
Founded in 2001 by father of three, Angus Olipant, Miniscoff is certainly aimed at someone like me, as they… “make ready meals for people who don’t buy ready meals. Because they make proper meals in their own kitchens…properly!”
The second use of ‘proper’ was enough for me to give it a go. Plus their awards certainly helped sway my decision. **
And so we jumped onto our most used website – Ocado (obvs) – and ordered three of their meals to try on the girls over the next few days…
The first one we tested was “Curly Wurly Chicken”.
For once we had a little more time (it was raining and the kids were watching Paw Patrol) so we followed the instructions and put the packet in the oven at 200 degrees.
I thought it a little lazy that they had generic “tips” on the heating instructions for all their dishes, but I followed the rules and gave the half defrosted food a stir after 12 ½ minutes (I’m like that) and checked it again at 25 minutes. Warm, so another five minutes and it was bubbling nicely.
Although the meals are aimed at children from 1 – 8 years old (and the chatty packaging seems to be aimed at that age group), our 10 month old was given 1/3 of the packet and her sister got the rest.
For once, a frozen meal that got the sizes right! Despite the dish being filled with tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and carrots (as well as 100% durum wheat pasta, British chicken breast, bacon, pasta – and a few extras spices, and sadly a little sugar), we also cooked up a side of broccoli to give them some greens. Well, the broccoli turned out to be a spectator as both happy girls immediately wolfed down the Curly Worley Chicken with no fuss at all. An enormous success.
“Salmon Ocean Pie” was next.
Maybe foolishly we served this for lunch on a Saturday as our oldest often gets a double dose of fish at nursery on Fridays, so possibly she wasn’t in the mood for yet more salmon.
Or the fact that there was no sugar in this dish (hoorah), took a little convincing that she would like this. Being 40% potato might have helped disguise the fish, but not enough. She ate about ¾ of the dish – which did mean that she got a good serving of peas and carrots, and Daddy had the rest. Not a bad starter for my lunch to be honest – it seemed to be very good quality fish.
Our youngest enjoyed it far more and ate all of hers, maybe for emergencies next time. And never on a Saturday!
Despite my fear that microwaves will turn our daughters into characters from X-Men, my far more sensible, rational and educated wife reassured me that this was not the case and I was then able
quickly to heat up a “Planet Spaghetti (with meatballs)” after a long, and tiring, swimming session.
Despite its lack of vegetables (we added spinach) and a small amount of sugar, we will definitely be getting this one again. The girls LOVED it, especially the organic pork meatballs.
We did have to chop up the spaghetti for their little mouths, so maybe this dish is better suited to slightly older children, but that is hardly a criticism. It was a great meal after their exhausting time in the pool and speed of cooking and consumption made it a real winner. A freezer favourite.
In summary, while the dream would be to only serve meals that we have made ourselves, we were reassured that all Miniscoff seemed to be prepared by chefs and not machines and all contained good, organic ingredients.
The size of the portions and the ease of cooking make this range a new firm favoiurite in our home. We are looking forward to trying the rest of the range, especially Mr. MacGregor’s cottage pie.
Details: Currently only available from Ocado (£3.50 for 250-270g) or in bulk from the Miniscoff website
** Winner Best Toddler Food Range 2016 & Best Children’s Food Brand 2014 & 2015