Monday 23 May 2016

Making the most of our evenings with Charlie Bigham's ready meals...

Charlie Bigham's Logo
Last week Liam and I were set a challenge by  Charlie Bigham's

Could we claim back some quality time in our evenings by substituting our usual evening meal prep routine with using a Charlie Bigham's ready meal instead? 

They asked us to review three of their meals for two people and answer the following questions...

  • Would we enjoy the meals in place of our usual home-cooked dinners? 

  • What would we do with the time we gained from using these pre-prepared, high-quality meals for two?
This challenge couldn't have come at a better time - at 38 weeks pregnant I'm feeling just a little bit exhausted...although I usually love to cook, in recent weeks cooking the evening meal has started to feel like a bit of a a quick, easy but still healthy alternative at dinner time was welcomed heartily by me. 

At Charlie Bigham's they think it’s vital once in a while to pack the kids off to bed early and enjoy a wonderful night in together over an amazing meal. It might feel like a luxury, but surely: delicious food, brilliant company, it’s what life’s all about, isn’t it? Liam and I always eat our evening meal together at the dining table - we chat, catch up on our day and revel in the (hopefully) yummy food I've prepared for us. I always look forward to our evening meal - it is one of my favourite times of day. 

"Lasagnes, moussakas, fish pies: we love them all. But let’s be honest, making these dishes properly takes time – time that perhaps could be better spent sitting, chatting and enjoying ourselves over a glass of wine or two? All our oven dishes are made with top-notch ingredients and come in wooden trays, which we think look rather handsome on the dinner table." Charlie Bigham's Website 

I love the Charlie Bigham sentiment, and was all too happy to give these meals a whirl and claim back a bit of well-earned me-time/us-time. 

The Meals

We took our three meal vouchers worth £7 each along to our local Tesco store to check out the Charlie Bigham's range on offer - we were pleasantly surprised by the variety of Charlie Bigham's meal choices available: there were so many delicious-sounding choices it was hard to pick just three! 

We took it in turns to choose a meal-for-two, and then chose the third meal-for-two together. Hubby opted for Chicken Kiev, as it's his absolute favourite. I opted for the moussaka as I absolutely adore Greek food, and then we chose the Chilli con Carne and Mexican rice as our third meal option, as we're big fans of Mexican food. 

We were excited to give them a whirl...

Charlie Bigham's ready meals

All three of our meal options were easily prepared by being placed in the wooden containers they came in, on a baking tray in a pre-heated oven for around 30 minutes - it was really so straight-forward and all that was needed effort-wise was to prepare a few veggies to go alongside our dishes, easy peasy!

My favourite was the moussaka - it was so rich and full of flavour. It reminded me of Greek holidays gone by, and was definitely superior in taste to other ready-meal versions of moussaka I've tried. I've also made moussaka from scratch on a number of occasions - it's a lot of work, loads of faffing, and uses a lot of ingredients - this Charlie Bigham's version was just as nice, and so simple that I'd definitely have to think twice next time I was thinking of making one. 

Charlie Bigham's moussaka before and after cooking
The Charlie Bigham's moussaka before and after cooking...

Hubby's favourite of the three was the Chicken Kievs - no surprise there then! Saying that, I do usually make my chicken Kievs from scratch, so he is used to good-quality, well made Kievs with plenty of flavour (not frozen ready made versions) so his standards of judgement were pretty high.  Although he said they weren't *quite* as good as my homemade ones (he may have just been trying to spare my late-pregnancy/very hormonal feelings), they were absolutely delicious in his opinion (and mine) especially considering how simple they were to cook. We were also impressed with the short and fresh ingredients list when we checked out the packaging -  it seems that only whole, fresh foods have gone into these Charlie Bigham's meals, which is reassuring. 

three Charlie Bigham's ready meals cooked
Our three Charlie Bigham's meals were delicious...

We both enjoyed the Chilli con Carne too, and out of the three it was the easiest to prepare as it needed no accompaniment except a little dollop of sour cream - super simple! The portion size for this chilli was just right, as was the spicing - enough heat that it tasted like a chilli, but not too much that it would blow your head off. The crispy tortilla chip topping was a lovely addition too and created a nice contrast in texture. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the nutritional content of each of the meals - substantial enough to make them good-sized dinners, but none of the meals were over 650 calories per portion once the side dishes/additions were added. 

The Chicken Kievs were just 288 calories each, the moussaka was 458 calories for half the pack, and the Chilli con Carne and rice came in at just 605 calories per portion. 

Gaining back some evening time...

Not needing to be chained to kitchen for three nights last week thanks to the Charlie Bigham's meals meant that Liam and I were able to spend some of our evening time in more restful and enjoyable ways than usual. 

For Liam this looked like enjoying a natter and a glass of wine with me while the food cooked in the oven, instead of a snatched conversation while I cook. This extra time meant he gained some quality evening time with Bert: reading stories, playing dressing up and lining up all of Bert's treasured animal figures. My boys do love an excuse for extra playtime. 
charlie bigham's ready meal moussaka
A relaxed evening thanks to Charlie Bigham's ready meals. 

As well as getting a bit of extra time to chat to Liam, I put my time saved across the three evenings to a relaxing/theraputic use...I decided to get some proper me-time in the form of putting my feet up and reading my kindle and doing a spot of crochet. Both of which are passions/hobbies of mine that I don't get to indulge in nearly enough. It was lovely to take some time-out for myself and made me realise how I should definitely try to make more time to be kind to myself and give myself a break. How realistic a goal that is when I'm due to have a baby in two weeks, I'm not sure...! 

reading my kindle
Reading my Kindle with my very preggo feet up! 

giant crochet rug using tshirt yarn
A spot of crochet...using T-shirt yarn to make a giant rug! 

I'd love to know what you'd do with extra time in the evenings? 

Do you ever use ready-meals and if so, which ones can you recommend...I fear we'll be eating a few more pre-prepared dishes over the coming weeks what with the imminent arrival of our new little bundle! 

That's all for now,

Mrs B