Friday, 21 May 2010

Death by Ready Meals (Or Not...)

Jamie Oliver would have you believe that ready meals are the bane of man-kind. He would have you believe that it was a ready meal that the Americans dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. He may even tell you that ready meals are to blame for appointing Gordon Brown as Prime Minister in 2007, and that they also are the soul reason of under-age alcohol abuse today.

But I'm not convinced. Admittedly, the previous paragraph may contain a few healthy spoonfuls of hyperbole, but I'm not so sure that they are all that bad. Whilst at Sainsbury's a short while ago, I picked up a Sainsbury's Basics Meat Lasagne ready meal for seventy one pence. Obviously it only served one, but that was all I needed and it was a bargain.

Anyone who cares about their health will at this point be cringing, their brains calculating a formula similar to 'BASICS + MEAT + CHEAP + READY MEAL = FATALY DIRE INGRDIENTS, AVOID AT ALL COSTS'. But no. Unbelievably, as I warily examined the box, my inner-Oliver screaming at me to put it down, I could find nothing wrong with it. The colour wheel was all greens and oranges. There were no added artificial flavourings or colours. There wasn't even a trace of any E numbers. So I told my inner-Oliver to shut it, and put the ready meal in my trolley - admittedly slightly apprehensive of how it might taste.

And I am delighted to inform you that it didn't taste bad. Obviously, it wasn't the tastiest Lasagne I have ever eaten, but there was nothing particularly wrong with it. Served with a heap of crispy salad it made for a pretty nice meal, with (almost) zero preparation required.

I think I should make it clear that I am in no wise pro-ready meals. They are never as healthy, tasty, and rewarding as home cooking, and they never will be. I am in no way trying to encourage you to eat them. Also, I have no intentions of undoing the hard work of Mr. Oliver's tireless campaigning. It's just that every once in a while, when you're too busy to cook, a little ready meal won't hurt. Just don't drop it on Hiroshima.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Speedy Smoked Salmon Spaghetti

The great thing about this dish is that it's quick, easy, cheap, only uses one dish and is healthy (apart from the cream!). Also, when it comes to things like adding the cheese, salt and pepper, etc., you can just experiment - add as much or little as you want and tailor it to your taste. If using the white wine, add it sparingly. I almost killed the whole thing first time by adding too much. Whilst you're at it, why not replace the single cream with crème fraiche?

I've included the quantities for two portions so that if cooking for yourself you can fridge half and eat it the following night.

Time: 30mins
Price: £1.01 p/portion (excluding wine)
Serves: 2

- 120g pack smoked salmon trimmings
- 200g spaghetti (or macaroni)
- 150ml single cream
- Lemon juice of 1/2 a lemon
- Salt and pepper
- Grated cheese of your choice (parmesan is good)
- a little white wine (optional)


1) Put a large pan of salted water on the boil.
2) Once boiling, add your spaghetti and boil for about 10 minutes, or till done.
3) Once cooked, drain and replace on hob on a low heat.
4) Add cream, white wine (if using), cheese, salt and pepper, lemon juice, and salmon. Mix it all together.
5) Serve with a heap of crispy salad.