Sal’s Kitchen tries… Charlie Bigham

If you read this post, then you might have spotted that I’m currently rather pregnant – which, combined with this incredible sultry weather, means I’m doing a bit less cooking than usual. Problem is, if anything, I’m even hungrier than ever – so when the team at Charlie Bigham’s got in touch and asked if I’d be up for trying out their fancy ready meals for a blog post, it seemed like the perfect solution.

It probably won’t surprise you that I’m not much of a ready meal connoisseur, but I had already heard of Charlie Bigham (including from friends with babies already, who described their delicious pre-prepared portions as a lifesaver) so I was excited to see how they’d compare to the other last refuge of the hungry and housebound, the takeaway. Living in a foodie city like Bath, we’re spoilt for choice with brilliant takeaway options, so it would have to be good. Here’s what we thought…

Charlie Bigham’s Meatballs al Forno

Charlie Bigham produce a wide range of meals for two, so it was tough to narrow it down, but in the end we decided to try their Meatballs al Forno (pasta being one of my absolute favourite comfort food dishes, but often quite hard to get from a takeaway) and their Chicken Tikka Masala (a classic of both the ready meal and takeaway genre, so we were keen to see how it would stack up). Other seriously tempting options included macaroni cheese, fish pie and paella, all for £7.75 each, to serve two people. Every meal comes in a wooden tray that’s ready to pop in the oven, usually requiring prep no more complicated than removing the plastic film, and most take around 30 minutes to cook.

We tried the meatballs first, and we were really impressed with the flavours – if a friend had served this up and told me it was freshly made from scratch, I’d easily be fooled. The sauce was rich and just a little spicy, and the texture of the meatballs and the pasta were perfect. My only reservation with this one was that the portions were a little shy – we supplemented it with salad and garlic bread, which made for a decent plateful, but there was no chance of seconds.

Charlie Bigham’s Chicken Tikka Masala & Pilau Rice

The next night, we tucked into the Chicken Tikka Masala, which I reckon was my favourite out of the two (my husband, for the record, thinks the meatballs just edged it). As I say, this is a classic of the genre, so I wasn’t sure how much to expect, but it was absolutely delicious – the sauce was the perfect balance between fiery and richly creamy, and the chicken (which I had been slightly worried about) was beautifully tender. I’d have no hesitation in saying this is better than any takeaway curry I’ve had – cheaper too. And although we did serve up some naan on the side, the portions for this one were definitely more generous.

Would we buy Charlie Bigham in future? Definitely – I’m keen to try the rest of the range. The flavours were really quite impressive, the effort involved is gloriously minimal (with hardly any washing up, score), and considering how good they are, the price is a bit of a bargain. Whatever your excuse for not cooking, I highly recommend you give these a try.

Charlie Bigham were kind enough to supply us with some complimentary meals to try. However, as always, I’ll never recommend anything I don’t genuinely like. All opinions are my own.

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