The Handbook
The Handbook

As much as we’d like to think we’re all cooking up a Nigella-style dinner every evening, 100 plus days of lockdown later and cooking three meals a day has earnt us some time away from the cooker. So we’ve rounded up the best ready-meals on the market that aren’t the terrible additives-ridden, stodgy gloops of yesteryear, but made with top quality ingredients.

Granted, they might not all be the healthiest (Charlie Bigham’s gloriously indulgent pies, we’re looking at you) but you can rest assured they do use real ingredients and taste pretty damn good. We’ve edited out our favourites, from nutritionally-packed plant-based options to microwave dishes you could pass off as your own at your next dinner party… we won’t tell.

Kurami

If you thought ready-meals were made up of artificial flavourings, heaps of salt and bad fats, you haven’t met Kurami.

Launched just in March this year by Camilla Pigozzi Garofalo, the easy midweek meals came at the perfect time for lockdowners unfamiliar with their kitchens and they will genuinely make you feel like you have an at-home A-list chef on your hands.

There USP is that not only do they look the vision of health – a rainbow of veggies and fresh produce – but the meals are curated to improve gut health and overall wellbeing.

The brand has formalted three- and five-day ‘meal paths’ that give you a fuss-free way to re-charge and re-balance your eating, but you can also buy the ready-meals individually. We rate the Rainbow Falafels and the Mexican Rice box. 

PEP Kitchen

Declutter your lockdown freezer and fill it with a plethora of plant-based, tasty meals ready-to-heat from PEP Kitchen.

Founded by chefs Joe Coulter & Ben MacAndrews who, after eight years working in restaurants and street food, have teamed up with the aim of inspiring people to eat more plant-based food without the fuss. Plus, they make single meals which takes the labour out of cooking for one.

Think Gunpowder Roasted Roots with Coconut Dhal, Szechuan Mapo Tofu and Jackfruit Massaman Curry, to name just a few of their delights. These colourful and balanced dishes will make you feel like you’re having a Friday night takeaway but with a pinch of nutrition too.

Environmentally-conscious as well, we were pleased to hear PEP only use 100% home compostable or recyclable packaging throughout the range.

PEP Kitchen meals start from £5.95.

Order online at pepkitchen.co.uk

Charlie Bigham’s

The Waitrose of ready-meals, these bad boys are your golden ticket to a no-fuss, midweek dinner (or cheat your way to dinner party, we won’t tell) that feels a bit posh.

We love their flakey pastry pies and their oozy lasagnas – just don’t count on them being anywhere near healthy.

Founded back in 1996 when the rest of ready-meals were pretty dire, Charlie’s have paved the way for oven-easys that use good quality ingredients and homely dishes you’d really like to cook but don’t have the time or the culinary prowess.

The brand was founded by a chap actually called Charlie and he still remains part of the brand, with a range that now expands the likes of British classics, Thai curries and Moroccan stews.

We can hanker a guess he puts on a mean dinner party, too.

Available to buy online and instore at Waitrose

Love Yourself

Merging the skill of Michelin-trained cooking with easy-to-make ready-meals and a bounty of nutritional value, Love Yourself offers a range of menus from gluten-free, dairy-free, halal, balanced, performance, keto and many more. So whatever your lifestyle, there’s something that will fit.

Plus, if you’re someone who likes to track their health and wellness on their phone, all of Love Yourself’s menus can sync with the MyFitness App, meaning you can keep on top of calories and maintaining your goals.

The dishes range from healthy chorizo-spiced, cheddar and coconut pizza to courgetti with soft ricotta, fresh peas and mint, plus breakfasts, lunch and snacks. They are all cooked and delivered daily, locally sourced and seasonal and can be heated up in the microwave. Simple.

Love Yourself offer a range of menus from £21 each day.

Buy online at LoveYourself.co.uk.

COOK

Think of these as the Jamie Oliver of ready-meals – easy enough to make yourself but you probably can’t be bothered.

The frozen meal selection is said to be made for people who love to cook but deserve a night off and they are seriously delicious. The range is vast, from tarragon and lemon chicken to veggie pies and drunken noodles with king prawns.

They even do canapes perfect for big bashes, Christmas or your first post-lockdown dinner party.

AllPlants

East London foodie, writer and TV presenter Laura Jackson is already a fan of these, and when it comes to food we totally trust her judgement.

AllPlants prides itself on creating super tasty and 100% plant-based meals cooked by chefs and delivered straight to your door. Plus, each meal accounts for at least two of your five-a-day quota, meaning you know you’re getting the good stuff in.

Even if you aren’t a full time vegan, they are a great way to explore a more plant-based lifestyle and keep your health a little more in check.

Dishes range from the indulgent Mac + Greens to a rainbow-hued Burrito Bowl and a spicy Tempeh Rendang Curry.

Order for either one or two people with six meals at a time, from £40.50.

Order online at allplants.com

The Hill Food Company

The Hill Food Company usually create delicious catering menus for private events, but they obviously had to put that on hold during the COVID crisis. Instead, they’re delivering straight to your door, so be quick before the day job picks up again.

Their ready-to-reheat or freeze dinners will save you a shopping trip and last up to five days in the fridge or six months (if freezable) in the freezer.

Seriously tasty, seasonal, balanced and little need for washing up? We’re big fans.

Deliveries made on Thursdays and Fridays with a minimum order of £50.

Order online at thehillfoodcompany.com


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