There's no denying that ready meals are convenient. They're there to be chucked into the oven (or Microwave, for very lazy people) after a hard day's work, ready to fill you up for the evening... but they also tend to be one-note products. Pasta bakes, lasagnes both meat and veg, fish pies and the like. All very well, and generally quite tasty... but they're not exactly 'full home cooked meals' in the traditional sense.
Young's have been doing complete 'Fish and Chips' packages for quite a while, but I'm pretty sure I've only seen these boxes very recently. The blurb promises "Wild Alaskan Salmon with sliced potatoes, carrots and peas in a creamy watercress sauce" and let's face it, gents, if a family member happened to call in the early evening, and enquired after your post-work dinner plans (as family members are wont to do), you know there's going to be a note of disappointment in their voice if you tell them you're going to heat up yer average ready meal... but tell them about wild Alaskan Salmon, all that lovely veg, and any kind of sauce, and it sounds like you're doing something really special. The box further points out that this meal includes one of your recommended five servings per day of veg, and that it constitutes a mere 332 calories, for those who are watching their waistlines.
The amazing thing about this package is that it's even microwaveable and, taking that high-tech route, it's ready in under ten minutes.
Not that I microwaved mine. Oh, no... I'm a conscientious objector to the idea of cooking salmon in the microwave. Defrost it, fine... but to cook, it has to be the oven. Or the grill. Or... well, I'm sure there are boil-in-the-bag options out there...
So, a not-inconsiderable 45 minutes later, I was tucking in to my salmon fillet dinner, and feeling much comforted by the fact that it neither looked nor tasted like yer average ready meal. I have to say that I was a little concerned by the directions - it does literally just say to slap it in the oven, film pierced, for 45 minutes... and yet it's a decent-sized salmon chunk, mixed veg and a sauce (frozen in a lump around the fish at first). How could it possibly work to just roast it all, en masse?
And yet, gentle reader, it does work... and it works fantastically well. This is probably one of the healthiest, most balanced ready-meals I've had in quite some time, and it almost felt that I was eating a meal prepared by my mother, rather than something I picked up at the local Iceland. Salmon, when frozen, has an awful habit of turning out soggy, but this fillet was perfect - soft, crumbly, full of flavour. The veg that I feared would be burnt to a crisp, or at least very dry, after three quarters of an hour in the oven were still moist, and the thinly sliced potato was done to perfection.
The only disappointment, for me personally, was the sauce. When it comes to salmon, I always prefer a good Dill sauce (which, as an aside, is very difficult to find locally). Watercress ain't the most flavourful thing on the planet, and the sauce, while creamy, didn't exactly excite the tastebuds. It also kind of melted everywhere in the container and, while I'm not exactly OCD about keeping my foodstuffs separate on the plate, I do prefer to choose what I mix with what... Nevertheless, as a 'complete meal for one', this is a roaring success, and one I'm very likely to pick up again in the near future!