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Review of gluten free ready meals

Published 30 November, 2009

I'd seen the 'Look What We Found' range of gluten free ready meals on the supermarket shelf for several months. As usual, I'd checked the ingredient list and had been impressed at the simplicity, and impressed that they didn't need a fridge. A handy stand-by to keep in the car glove box I reckoned. (Note: Not all Look What We found ready meals are gluten free so do check the packet.)

So when I got an email offering me a sample of the range to review on the blog I was more than happy to oblige.

I admit we didn't go and camp in a field to test them out. In fact, we took the chance to avoid cooking for a couple of school nights and put bowls of them on the table for us and the kids to chow on. I've still done it with the approach that 'it's the end of the day I need a decent meal' in mind.

So here's what we found...

Cumbrian Lamb Hotpot

  • Nice big chunks, looks like 'real food'
  • Not really enough food for a proper meal
  • 18% fat and 8.9% protein, bulked out with potato. 276 total calories.
  • When heating it in a pan, there was not quite enough sauce to heat through so rinsed packet out with water
  • Slightly strange 'milky' flavour although dairy free, tasted fatty but not actually fatty. Odd.
Overall: Least favourite - 2 out of 5

Gloucestershire Old Spot Pork Meatballs with Butter Beans in a rich Tomato Sauce

  • Seemed like a better size of meal than the hotpot
  • 396 calories - that's more like it, although at the end of a day's hiking, you'd still need two plus some extra carbs (at least I would)
  • The smallest girl (2) said "More", which was upsetting because I wanted more too
  • Butter beans were perfect, as if you'd cooked them from dried yourself - better than tinned
Overall: Great. 5 out of 5. For packet food, this was quite astonishingly good.

Fellside Beef Chilli Con Carne

  • Great flavour, deep and rich, slightly spicy
  • 306 calories
  • Popular with both adults and kids, although the kids needed a drink to cope with the spice
Overall: Very good. 4.5 out of 5. Just because nothing can touch those meatballs!

Fragrant Thai Chicken Curry

  • I'm used to making fresh thai at home, and fresh herbs and spices are a tough act to follow. That said, this was a pretty decent attempt.
  • Nicely spicy, but contained rice. Why put in rice when you don't put it in the chilli for example?
  • Calories: 237. Not enough.
Overall: 3.5 out of 5. Decent flavour but more chicken instead of rice please.

Country Cured Ham in English Pea Soup

  • Earthy flavour, not as hammy as expected
  • 138 calories
  • Good rustic soup
Overall: 4 out of 5.

Free Range Chicken Soup with Fresh Lemon Thyme

  • Tasty, warming, homely soup
  • The kids loved it
  • 195 calories
  • Would be good as a quick base for a chicken pasta dish
Overall: 4 out of 5. Nothing spectacular, but good, solid chicken soup.

Beef and Basil Meatballs

  • Another great meatball meal!
  • 408 calories (oh yeah! :-) At 42% beef, this is more my kind of gluten free ready meal!
  • Great flavour - I could eat this all day
Overall: 4.5 out of 5. Just edged out by the pork meatballs.

It's a little odd that some of these ready meals have tried to be a complete meal by including a starch, and then others are clearly meant to be served with an accompanying carb. Obviously the meat-only packets are the best value, and although you can't really do a hotpot without potatoes, but you can do a Thai curry without rice. Not sure what the thinking was there.

But niggles aside, these guys have done an amazing job. The Look What We Found gluten free ready meals are real food. They're seasoned well - no over-salty flavour simulation required here and are totally free of preservatives. Apart from the lamb hotpot, I'd happily eat any of them again. And I can be a fussy git.

For the gluten free traveller, these are a godsend. Heated in the motorway service area's baby food microwave, you've got a meal far superior to those your travelling companions are glowering at over their empty wallets.

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