I was sent three boxes of seafood to try this week. Now, I love seafood…but for the most part I avoid ready meals. My mantra is that you can generally cook it yourself better, cheaper and almost as quickly. But, I do accept that there are times when you simply want something that you can throw in the pan and eat. Days when you just don’t have time to shop for individual ingredients. Or when you just can’t be bothered. Or when you don’t want leftovers in the fridge. And, for those days something in a box with fresh vegetables that you cook up in less than 10 minutes is a good option.
Lyons meals are priced at just under £4.00 a box and theoretically serve 2 people with rice, bread or noodles that you supply yourself. I think the portion size is a little on the small side for two unless you are dieting…half packs were all under 230 calories and my friend (female) and I got a total of four good portions from 3 boxes.
I was out at James Ramsden’s Supper Club on Thursday – so my friend agreed to try the first box that evening and give me some feedback. Thai King Prawns with sweet chilli was her choice. I said I’d eat anything left over for lunch the next day…but, not surprisingly, there wasn’t. Checking the box, the ingredients were 26% fish, 30% sauce and 44% vegetables with a box weight of 500g – so that’s about 60g of prawns a person if split by two.
So, on to my friend’s reaction:
In some ways, she was a perfect tester because cooking in someone else’s kitchen is a real test of how easy it is too make. She found it very straightforward other than being irritated by the packaging – the cellophane tops were not thick enough to pull back and had to be cut with a knife. It DID take less than 10 minutes from start to finish and she reported that the instructions were very easy to follow. Her response to my question ‘did it taste fresh’ was ‘Very – veggies lovely and crunchy’. I asked if it tasted home-made too – ‘yes other than the sauce which looked like standard bottle sauce’. All in, I think she really enjoyed it, although she said there was too much sauce…and other than leaving about half of that, she ate the entire thing!
All three boxes arrived on Wednesday…and we were going out that evening. The shelf life was NOT long…so we really needed to finish them off on Friday. So, we cooked the Malaysian Prawn Laska and Catalan Fish Stew with chorizo and both tasted a bit of each. The Prawn Laska got a thumbs up from each of us – it was nicely flavoured, the vegetables were beautifully fresh and there was about the right amount of sauce. The Catalan fish stew was less favoured. The spicy tomato sauce was nice but a bit watery even though I cooked it for a little longer than the recommendation on the box The mixture of vegetables included courgettes which didn’t cook very well in the time and butter beans which my friend found incongruous. Personally I would have expected a stronger taste of smoked paprika, rather more garlic and the inclusion of nuts rather than beans. I suspect the dish suffered from the use of chicken rather than fish stock and from the pre-cooked seafood more than the prawn based meals. But, I am being picky here. None of the boxes was unpleasant. Each box had a good selection of fresh vegetables and a reasonable take on an authentic sauce.
Would I buy them again? Well, maybe. But, I wouldn’t go out of my way to look for them on the supermarket shelf if I wanted a ready meal, simply because they DO need the addition of rice, bread or noodles and on a personal level, if I want to cook something quick and simple of this type I’d rather use green prawns, a few fresh veg and some straight to wok noodles with a portion of sauce of my choice than have the decisions all made for me. And if I want real convenience, I go for something with the rice or noodles included and packaging that goes straight in the microwave.
Oh, and as you can see, a small frying pan is NOT big enough! I’d recommend using a wok, as I did for the Catalan Fish Stew!
Thanks to Lyons for letting me try your meals!