Meet the Cotswold chefs breathing new life into ready meals
PUBLISHED: 12:23 21 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:23 21 March 2019
We're spoilt for choice when it comes to quality, chef-prepared frozen meals available in the region
Do you remember the days of hit TV show, Ready Steady Cook? Ainsley Harriot beaming out from our screens, imploring us to create a meal in minutes out of a few choice ingredients? Ainsley made us believe that cooking from scratch was simple, that we could all throw a few ingredients together and serve it up with little mess and a smile.
Well, we had a good run at it, but as much as we’d all love to cook wholesome meals using fresh ingredients every day, the reality is that, these days, many households just don’t have the time. But nor do we want to live on frozen fishfingers and potato waffles. All of which has led to a revolution in the ready meal market.
One of the first to spot the gap in the market was COOK, which launched its chef-prepared frozen meals back in 1997. This new wave of hand-prepared ready meal was greedily snapped up by time-poor consumers, thankful that someone else had taken the strain out of cooking, even just for a night or two. COOK is now a successful nationwide business, but here in the Cotswolds, we have our own local chefs who are happy to help out in the kitchen.
The Cotswold Traiteur, created by chef Francis Green, is a range of ready-made dishes, created using locally sourced produce. As a private chef working in France, Francis was asked by clients to make food to fill their freezers for ‘emergency’ situations – unexpected family turning up or a quick meal for dinner after work; Francis obliged and the Cotswold Traiteur brand of frozen meals was born. French classics such as Normandy Pork Casserole and Provencal Daube of Beef, which show off Francis’ background as a chef ‘traiteur’ in France, sit alongside English classics such as Chicken, Ham and Leek pie and Steak and Ale pie – truly fantastic meals!
Pegoty Hedge, based in the Malvern Hills, is a family-run business that makes nutritious organic ready meals. It is owned and run by the Surman family who have farmed the area for four generations. Meals are ‘made properly’ and created from fresh ‘recognisable’ ingredients as if you’d cooked yourself. The meals started out as a way of adding value to the produce the family grew on the farm – their own beef is used in dishes such as Braised Beef Goulash, Meatballs in Tomato Sauce and Beef in Ale with Dumplings – but through demand, the range has since grown to include fish, chicken and vegetarian dishes.
But perhaps the ultimate ready meal has to be from The Camp Kitchen near Bisley. Here, Michelin-trained chef Rory Baxter delivers a home-cooked Ottolenghi-style meal to your door. Think braised shin of beef with field mushrooms and pickled walnuts, served up with horseradish crushed potatoes, shredded cabbage hearts with lemon juice and olive oil and roast carrots and parsnip with wholegrain mustard and parsley. Plus chocolate brownies to finish. The Camp Kitchen meals are only available twice a month, which is probably a good thing, otherwise we’d never step foot in the kitchen again!
So, forget what Ainsley said all those years ago – with fresh meals like these on the doorstep, cooking from scratch has never been so easy!
You can find a range of ready meals from The Cotswold Traiteur and Pegoty Hedge at Warner’s Budgens stores in Broadway, Moreton-in-Marsh, Bidford-on-Avon and Winchcombe. To order from the Camp Kitchen, visit thecampkitchen.co.uk.