Meals From Scratch

Ready meals have a pretty bad reputation, sodium filled, vac packed dishes for loners who simply can't be arsed - easy options for those to busy to cook or the only option for those who can't. It easy to see why supermarket chiller isles team with a boggling array of pre-packed dinner decisions. There is an ever growing populous who want to cook, love food but find it tricky to plan ahead in order to eat healthy freshly prepared food at home.

Enter Scratch; set up by an young entrepreneurial trio to combat the ready meal dilemma who produce pre-prepared ingredients for you to cook at home. 'We do the hard bits, you do the fun bits' is their tag line, these packages offer healthy fresh and cost effective meals. I caught up with the founder Phil who explained that 'it's ridiculous to go out and buy every single ingredient for an entire recipe', so Scratch put all these together for you.You get a box with all the chopped, washed and weighed ingredients as well as the instructions to cook your meal from scratch. The meals are for one and cook in around 15 minutes with one or two pans. Armed with a willing test cook who only owns two saucepans we put Scratch to the test.

We cooked two out of the four menu options, a moroccan chicken tagine and a chorizo jambalaya:

Instructions are concise and accurate

Even a butter portion is provided to add to the cous cous

The tagine

The jambalaya

Left to her own devices the erstwhile sous sauteed, browned, stirred and reduced; in a little over the recommended time allowance the two dishes were ready for tasting. Having been cooked both dishes were more sizable than we had been expecting and are just generous enough to sate. The tagine was the less bold of the two but the sweetness of the currants chimed in nicely and the amount of sauce soaked into the cous cous. The lemons and limes provided with both was a great lift that you never see in more traditional one box meals. The jambalaya was the definite winner of the two in terms of flavour and appearance, brave heat levels may be too much for some fairies but we loved the intensity. Smoky chorizo and peppers really hit the spot and I would have been more than happy if I had knocked it up myself.

The other two meals available are
a vegetable red thai curry and a crayfish, tomato and feta pasta all at a fiver a pop. Good value if you consider how much a lunchtime visit to Pret can cost and certainly much less than the price of all the ingredients combined when cooked for one. While you don't have complete creative control in the kitchen and the satisfaction of adding just the right amount of this and that has been removed you do have a tasty, healthy dish cooked yourself using fresh and well sourced ingredients. This until now had been a gaping hole in the market and it makes you wonder how the world of convenience food is heading and so great that a group of young food lovers have got this going on - not just the man trying to make us spend more!

You can get their meals from the website. Alternatively find them in Wholefoods on Kensington High Street, in Sourced Market Kings Cross St Pancras station, Budgens in Islington, the Grocery in Shoreditch, Kennards in Bloomsbury and Couture Food Hall in Woolwich Arsenal.

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