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Fast Food: Meet the new-gen ready meals

It’s the end of a long day, you can’t be faffed to shop and scratch-cook. . . That’s where the new wave of recipe kits and ready meals come in, promising food that’s not only fast, but also fresh, flavourful and good for you, too. We teamed up with our friends at Brampton’s The Food Marketing Expert to put four brands to the test

Tester: Lisa Millard, Velvet feature writer (plus family and friends)

Product: Mai Dim Sum handmade steam-at-home gourmet dim sum All Steamed Up Box, £45, maidimsum.co.uk

What’s in the box? Before describing the contents of the box of goodies dispatched from London, may I commend the packaging? The dim sum arrives frozen nestled in reusable 100% pure wool and all plastic is household recyclable. Bravo! The two dim sum boxes contained 26 pretty pieces of Prawn and Bamboo Har Gau, Pork and Prawn Shui Mai, Duck and Butternut Squash Dumpling, Scallop and Chinese Leek Dumpling, Sweet Char Siu Bao - Honey Slow Roasted Pork, Vegetable Crystal Dumpling, and Mushroom and Bamboo Dumpling. Simply look on the website and everything you need to know about steaming at home and full ingredients is there.

Good cooking? Great! No prep at all required and they steam straight from frozen. The boxes contain a piece of paper beneath the dim sum which pops into your steamer (I used my metal vegetable steamer which was ideal). The dim sum take between seven to 12 minutes to steam to perfection (timing depends on fillings) before being ready to enjoy.

Good eating? Excellent eating. This was our first dim sum experience, and it may have spoiled us for all others. Mai Dim Sum was fresh, delicately seasoned and just delicious. We don’t eat meat so shared those ones with neighbours who are dim sum aficionados and they raved about them. I am planning on ordering more boxes to slip into the freezer and enjoy at the end of a busy day or as a treat. If you like dim sum, then these come highly recommended.

Stars out of five: *****

Tester: Jen Rich, photographer and food stylist, The Food Marketing Experts

Product: Wild Radish recipe box - breast of duck, winter turnips, freekeh, blood orange and stem ginger - £77, wild-radish.co.uk

What's in the box? Recipe card, ingredients, wine pairing, meat thermometer.

Good cooking? The meal is aimed at confident cooks and I definitely agree, there are a lot of elements to prepare and cook at the same time. The ingredients are pre-portioned so prep is fairly easy but it did take nearly two hours to make and I used every pan and utensil I own!

Good eating? The ingredients were high quality and you can tell the dish has been well considered, however the portion sizes are quite small and as a standalone meal I don’t think it warrants the price. The wine pairing was good and I was impressed by the packaging as everything is recyclable. The brand offers online masterclasses, playlists and tasting notes to offer a more rounded experience than your normal meal kit, but for the price I’d rather go out for dinner and not have the washing up!

Stars out of five: ***

Tester: Alice Ryan, Velvet editor

Product: Field Doctor nutritionist-designed, chef-prepared ready meals, from £37.60 for a bundle of six single portions, fielddoctor.co.uk

What’s in the box? A selection of oven/microwave-from-frozen ready meals. Created by Field Doctor’s in-house nutritionist, Sasha, and prepared by pro-chef, Matt, from fresh, sustainably farmed ingredients, all are designed to be “supercharged with knowledge and nutrition”. Available to buy individually or by bundle, all dietary requirements are catered for (gluten-free, veggie, vegan) and recipes tailored to a wide range of nutritional needs, from low FODMAP and high protein through to supporting immunity, brain health and peri/menopause symptoms. Dishes include Chicken & Red Pesto Penne, Teriyaki Salmon with Whole-grain Rice and 100% Plant Lasagne.

Good cooking? I am so impressed! Though these dishes couldn’t be further from old-school microwave meals, being free from nasties and filled with nutritional value, yet the majority literally go from freezer to plate in the space of a ping, making them ideal for those manic days when you need something speedy.

Good eating? Really good. Flash-frozen as soon as they’re cooked to lock in flavour, every dish was genuinely tasty. The plant lasagne (one of the few best oven-cooked, FYI) - gluten-free pasta in a rich tomato, red pepper and vegetable sauce with british tempeh, shiitake mushroom and spinach, topped with a creamy sauce and nutty crumb - was particularly yummy. Plus, according to the (recyclable) packaging, it contains eight of the 30 plant types we should aim to eat weekly, to help create a diverse gut microbiome. Cost-wise, the dishes work out at around £5 per portion; competitive when you compare to supermarket brands with similar credentials. I’ll definitely be keeping a few packs in the freezer from now on.

Stars out of five: *****

Tester: Vhari Russell, founder of The Food Marketing Experts

Product: Pizza Pilgrim Margherita kit, £23 for two pizzas, pizzainthepost.co.uk

What's in the box? You get the dough balls for you to shape and stretch out and tubs with tomato sauce, cheese, basil, plus an instruction card.

Good cooking? It was great! The instructions were really easy to follow. My daughters loved making the pizzas and had everything to enable them to do it themselves. It was very quick, too: they had made and cooked the pizza in under 30 minutes.

Good eating? The pizzas were a huge hit; the girls are very keen to order again. We would absolutely recommend.

Stars out of five: *****

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