Wednesday 10 November 2010

Findus Fresher Taste premium ready-meals

Now, we all know that in an ideal world, every night after work, you'd grab your pinny and knock up a fresh, home-cooked, wholesome dinner for the family to sit down and enjoy together. However, for a multitude of reasons - lack of time, lack of energy, working late, everybody eating at different times due to work commitments, ...... - sometimes (ermm quite often actually !) it's just not going to happen.

In recent times, the "healthy tasty eating when you haven't got the time" concept has come on in leaps and bounds. The Crock Pot (which I reviewed here) has made a huge comeback, top chefs have been creating new improved ready-to-stir-through sauces and even Jamie Oliver has written a book full of recipes that only take half an hour. But what do you do if your cupboard and fridge are barer than Old Mother Hubbard's?! Well, you could try one of the new generation of frozen ready meals from the Findus Fresher Taste range.

We received some vouchers to try them out so I set off to the supermarket to investigate and discovered that there are four recipes available. To quote the packs, you can choose between : 1. Tender Chicken Breast in a vintage cheddar and bacon sauce with a side of buttery broccoli, green beans and peas ; 2. Flaky Cod fillet in a creamy mornay sauce with a side of potatoes, broccoli, carrots and parsnips ; 3. Roasted Chicken Breast in a sun dried tomato dressing with a side of potatoes, peppers and courgettes ; 4. Wild Pacific Pink Salmon in a creamy white wine and asparagus sauce with a side of potatoes, beans, carrots and peas. It all sounds very appetising, worthy of being on the menu of a top restaurant in fact, and well balanced but would it pass the taste test ?

 Convenience-wise, they get top marks. You just grab the pack straight from the freezer and sling it in the oven for 30 minutes or the microwave for eight and a half minutes. Just time to kick your shoes off and grab yourself a drink if you're just in from a late night at work, or not enough time for the kids to start whining about being hungry if you've just dashed back in from the childminder's !
I was instantly impressed when I opened the packs because the vegetables are in a separate pouch to the fish or meat. One of my big gripes for frozen ready meals is that the ingredients cook at different rates so you frequently end up with fish that's still cold in the middle or vegetables that have turned to mush. The vegetables in the Fresher Taste packs are instantly recognisable and do look really fresh and appetising. As Findus explain, "Unlike conventional methods - including plastic wrapping and plastic containers - each product is sealed in a unique Flavour-Lock Pouch and is vacuum-packed to remove air and extend the life of the food beyond other frozen, bagged equivalents. The see-through packaging also acts like a mini roasting bag, retaining more of the natural moisture and flavours of the dish from the moment it is frozen to the time it is served up on a plate."

Findus UK & Ireland managing director, Leenndert den Hollander, has explained: “At Findus, our vision is to change the way that people think about frozen food. We’ve got an important job to do as people are reluctant to believe that frozen really can taste just as good, if not better, than fresh.  The Findus Fresher Taste range will be challenging that perception; we’ve already tested ourselves against luxury, fresh equivalents and people have either struggled to tell them apart or in fact, prefer our Findus meals. The proof is in the pudding so to speak!”

Well, he's hit the nail right on the head. When I was offered the chance to review the Fresher Taste range, although I was seduced by the sheer convenience of the products, I wasn't really expecting to be overly impressed by the taste. I was expecting the usual mushy, sloppy, overcooked vegetables and bland meat or fish. Well, I was pleasantly surprised. Because they're cooked separately, the vegetables actually retain their crunch and taste and are perfectly tooth-tender. I did find (and in particular, Mike commented) that the portions were a bit on the small side but quality-wise, you really do get tasty meals full of flavour that could easily pass for home-cooked meals. I was actually really impressed. As they come in single-serve packs, they won't be something that we eat regularly together as a family but for those occasions (like the coming week) when I have parent-teacher evenings or other work commitments and will be getting home at ridiculously late hours, they're absolutely perfect as a way of getting the family to eat something tasty and healthy with no effort at all.

They are more expensive than many other ready meals on the market but the taste and quality of the ingredients are incomparable. It really is a case of getting what you pay for and for once, I agree with the "luxury" label.
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £3.99 (introductory price of £2 per pack if you're quick !)

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