Wine & Food

    The best gourmet ready meals for when you need a night off

    1 December 2020

    Too many supermarket ready meals are bland, uninspiring and loaded with saturated fat, sugar and e-numbers. Thankfully quality doesn’t always have to be sacrificed on the altar of convenience. So if you’re missing restaurant quality food or just sick to death of cooking, here’s a rundown of some of the best oven or microwave ready meals available either from supermarkets or delivered direct to your door.


    Inspired by those New York style pre-made meal delivery services William McDowell came up with the idea for Tastily during a two week quarantine period back in March. The company’s development chef, Philli Armitage-Mattin is Michellin-Star trained and currently features on Masterchef the professionals.

    Working with a team of four chefs, Will places a heavy emphasis on healthy eating – meals contain between 400-500 calories (or 600-700 calories for the larger portions) and at least three servings of vegetables. All dishes are free from additives, preservatives and refined sugar and take only three minutes to cook in the microwave. Unlike many mass produced microwavable meals Tastily use fresh ingredients that won’t turn to mush as soon as they hit the plate. There’s an interesting range of international dishes including chipotle roast salmon with sweet potatoes and a flaky beef brisket massaman with wild rice. Tastily meals are available for preorder and can be kept in the fridge for up to seven days.

    Charlie Bigham

    Founded in 1996, Charlie Bigham set out to create dishes customers would be proud to cook at home. Sourced from only a handful of suppliers and prepared in his own kitchen he includes a wide selection of cuisine but is probably best known for comfort food classics such as a generously filled chicken, ham and leak pie served in its own ceramic pot and tender minced lamb shepherd’s pie slow-cooked with red wine.

    His ‘proper puds’ are prepared in small batches and include a warming cherry Bakewell with flaked almonds and a rich sticky toffee pudding. For the slightly more adventurous palate the fruity Moroccan chicken tagine and tangy sweet and sour chicken are both authentically excellent. Available at most of the bigger supermarkets including Tesco and Waitrose.     


    ByRuby specialise is frozen gourmet ready meals that can be kept in the freezer for up to a year. Founder Ruby Bell trained at Leith’s before becoming head chef at Finns in Chelsea. Sourced from local ethical suppliers all food is prepared in small batches with fresh vegetables arriving daily from New Covent Garden. Each meal is prepared from scratch and then frozen without additives or preservatives so food maintains its freshness. The delicately flavoured fragrant chalk stream trout with pak choi and the grass fed beef bourguignon are as good as anything you’d find in a gastro pub. All meals can be either microwaved or oven cooked. Available from most major supermarkets or you can order one of their extensive selection boxes that include Indian Takeaway and Vegetarian options. The ‘Christmas Feast Bundle’ has everything you need for a hassle free festive lunch for up to eight people.

    Deliciously Ella

    Ella Woodward began blogging about food while still at St Andrew’s university leading to a series of ‘clean eating’ cookbooks. With what became a controversial and short-lived fad behind her, Ella now focuses on healthy vegetarian recipes and a range of ‘Deliciously Ella’ frozen ready meals. Portions are on the small side but dishes such as creamy cauliflower and lentil dahl and a spicy yellow Thai curry are surprisingly filling. Just add your own sides for a hearty, nourishing main meal. Dishes take about 7 minutes in the microwave but taste better after 40 minutes in a conventional oven. Puddings are handmade in small batches and include apple and cranberry crumble and fudgy chocolate brownie


    Co founder and development chef Jo Devenish aims to help kitchen-averse foodies ‘live more and cook less’. Frozen within an hour of preparation and free from artificial nasties Gourmade offers a wide selection of healthy, affordable frozen ready meals including nursery classics such as beef stew and dumplings and steak and ale pie. Add a dollop of vanilla ice cream to wholesome pudding staples such as zesty Sicilian lemon roulades and you’ll be eating gastro pub style food in the privacy of your mask-free home. Honest grub without the faff of preparation and all available for delivery.   


    Cook meals market themselves on their homemade taste. They’re a great go-to for feeding large numbers. Serve the salmon en croute at Christmas and I bet your guests won’t guess you didn’t make it yourself. Weekday staples like lasagne and beef bourguignon are available, making them ideal for both everyday eating and hosting friends and family (when we’re allowed to do so again). Delivery is available nationwide.

    James Innes Smith is the author of The Seven Ages of Man – How to Live a Meaningful Life published by Little, Brown, out now.