25.04.15 (Day 489 /46)
Having only a microwave oven and as I sometimes can’t be bothered to prepare meals from scratch, ready meals are often on the menu. In much the same way that cooking from scratch using only a microwave has it’s limits, so the range of microwave ready meals is also limited. But if you like curry, that’s one area which is well catered for in the ready meal market.
Being on a limited budget and sometimes with not much time on my hands, a microwave ready meal is a bit of a treat. I like to think of my minimalist kitchen as being of the eighties: the decade in which I was supposed to grow up but never did. Back then, when microwave ovens were invented, they were a luxury, costing a week’s salary of the average earner, as highlighted in the recent TV series, Back in Time for Dinner. Back then, families sometimes even abandoned their conventional oven for a microwave.
So here I am, back in the eighties. I have little money, so I’m unable to go out and eat a meal prepared and cooked by someone else. The microwave oven ready meal is the net best thing. I try to keep my daily food budget to around two to three quid and I actually eat surprisingly well on that. Jamie Oliver, watch out. This is the weekend though, so I can afford to splash out a bit and this one comes in at the princely sum of a fiver. The preparation and cooking time is around five minutes, so Jamie Oliver, you should really move aside.
Obviously the main part of an Indian night in is the curry – really – and there are lots available, everywhere. I’ve found a real champion though, through much searching in unlikely places. There are a range of microwave ready meals sold under the “Independent” brand, and as far as I know, they’re only available from one chain of newsagents, in the chilled section if a particular branch has one. There are only three ready meals from the Independent range stocked by my local McColls: cottage pie, lasagne and chicken tikka. The cottage pie and lasagne are mediocre at best but the curry is an absolute delight.
Personally I like a curry with heat but I also enjoy milder ones if they’re well flavoured. Although tikka was invented for the British and isn’t an authentic Indian curry, I don’t care when the flavours are this good.
Two quid will buy you a 400g curry with pilau rice. The proportion of rice to chicken is about equal. The amount of actual chicken in the dish is fairly modest but the chunks are large and they’re breast meat. There’s plenty of sauce, delicious when mopped up with rice or a naan bread. The tikka sauce has a mildly spicy flavour, with lots of coconut coming through and a hint of lemon and herbs. The rice is neither too dry nor wet; just sticky enough to cling together. Ready in five minutes in the microwave, served on white crockery with some green herbs sprinkled on top, it looks as good as it tastes and could pass for something home-made. With some added accompaniments, one of these could even stretch to a modest meal for two. I tend to go for sag aloo and onion bhajis, both available cheaply as microwave ready meals, or relatively cheap from the local Indian take-away. One thing that no supermarket has yet to master is the naan bread, so that comes from the local Indian.
So that’s a meal for one – or two – costing less than a fiver and ready in five minutes. And it really is delicious.
The nineteen eighties just called and asked for their ideas back.