Back in my twenties I often indulged in a ready meal as a) I couldn’t cook and b) I was often too lazy to try once I’d got home from work or a night out. But DJ, who prefers his own cooking and is fussy about the quality of his grub, has long since weaned me off them.
However, I’ve been trying out a few microwaveable roast turkey or chicken TV dinners on offer in the supermarkets this week to see if they might provide a frugal possibility for Christmas dinner. They might not impress the likes of Gordon Ramsay, but they are cheap.
First up was the Birds Eye roast turkey dinner, costing £2.24 from Asda (315 calories). It’s part of the ‘Great British Menu’ Birds Eye range, supposedly inspired by ‘the nation’s favourite recipes’. The packaging was certainly attractive. “Why not serve with cranberry sauce?” read the ‘chef’s tip’ on the back of the packet. Unfortunately I only had marmalade in my cupboard which I didn’t think would add much to the meal. I felt some trepidation after cooking it for six minutes in the microwave but was pleasantly surprised. OK, so the turkey roll made from lean turkey breast was nothing at all like the real thing, but it wasn’t bad. The small sausage and ball of stuffing were also quite tasty and the roast potatoes were ok. The peas were alright, but the carrots were a bit hard and the gravy left a bit of an aftertaste in my mouth. But not bad at all.
Next I sampled Lidl’s Newgate roast turkey platter, costing just £1.69 (401 calories). When I saw it included Brussel sprouts, which I’m not a big fan of, I was a bit dubious and the smell of it cooking was strongly reminiscent of horrible school dinners of my youth. On the packaging it suggested leaving the meal to stand for a minute to allow the food to ‘regain its rigid state’, which left me with the impression that I was about to eat plastic food. However, it didn’t actually taste that bad. In fact the turkey breast was tastier than the Birds Eye version and the carrots and sprouts not bad, although the sausage and stuffing weren’t as nice. But when I checked the ingredients list, I wondered if in fact it was the flavour enhancers and monosodium glutamate which made the difference. In comparison Bird Eye’s offering included natural flavourings and no MSG. Lidl’s platter also had twice as much sodium (0.4g per 100g – Birds Eye’s was 0.23g of sodium per 100g). So this was a little off-putting.
Lastly I tried the Asda Smart Price chicken dinner. I know it’s a chicken rather than turkey meal, but I couldn’t resist giving it a go as it was only 99p (304 calories). I didn’t have great hopes for it I must admit, given it was so cheap, and I wasn’t disappointed. It included chicken ‘pieces’ rather than chicken breast, and the ingredients listing ‘chicken breast meat’ suggested it may be reconstituted. And it was presented in gravy with sautéd potato slices, peas, carrots and a stuffing ball. When I peeled back the plastic film, the stuffing looked grey and soggy floating in the gravy, and the vegetables a bit sorry for themselves. The gravy wasn’t bad but the chicken tasted dry and salty. The stuffing ball was also very salty and mushy, despite the packaging stating that sodium levels were 0.23g per 100g, so on par with the Birds Eye one. The carrots and peas were the best bit really.
Birds Eye roast turkey dinner £2.24 – 6/10
Verdict: If you must go for a Christmas ready meal, this is the best quality and healthiest of the bunch.
Lidl roast turkey platter £1.69 – 5/10
Verdict: Not bad, the turkey breast was tastier than the Bird’s Eye, but it contains more salt plus MSG.
Asda Smart Price chicken dinner 99p – 3/10
Verdict: You can’t beat the terrific price but this was the poorest quality of the three.
Would you eat a roast turkey ready meal for Christmas dinner?
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