The Rise of the Gourmet Ready Meal

tv dinnerReady meals conjure up images of tasteless, bland food; the traditional TV dinner served in foil trays and often left, congealing and discarded on the coffee table. These days however, the ready meal has come into its own. With societies increasingly hectic schedules, longer working hours and increasing commuting times, getting in from a long day at work to a home cooked meal is often not a reality for most people. Recent market research found that the UK currently spends £4.7 billion on ready to eat convenience food each year and an increase in consumer demands for good quality food means that the humble ready meal has never been better – the rise of the gourmet ready meal is happening. An emphasis on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, expertly cooked and free from the traditional additives and preservatives means that they can be as good in quality as genuine home cooked meals.

lodge farm (2)Lodge Farm Kitchen are producers of gourmet ready meals based in beautiful Ross-on-Wye. A family business established in 2009 on their own farm they used home grown vegetables and beef from their own herd of Dexter cattle. With the expansion of the business and relocation to new premises, they now rely on produce sourced from the surrounding area and are proud to support local farmers. The meals themselves are prepared by expert, creative chefs who are passionate about creating great quality meals. Once cooked the meals are blast frozen to lock in the flavour and nutrients, meaning there is no need to add the Fish pie Pie- final Hi res (1 of 1)artificial preservatives often found in ready meals. There is lots of variety to choose from so you’re not stuck for choice! Their luxury fishpie is made with poached haddock and salmon in a creamy parsley sauce and topped with mashed potato, the Thai green chicken curry is made using free range British chicken and homemade Thai sauce with chillies, lemongrass, cumin and coriander and their roasted vegetable lasagne made with slow cooked tomato concasse, courgettes, aubergines, peppers and mushrooms layered with pasta and bechamel sauce and topped with mature Cheddar cheese is absolutely delicious! None of those take your fancy? The full range is available to view here: http://www.iscafoods.co.uk/lodge-farm-kitchen/.

Ready meals are continuing to evolve with the times with many companies now1 Fish Cakes Double cottoning on to the big business of gourmet frozen meals made with locally sourced, fresh ingredients and perfectly cooked. Many companies are now reducing the amount of plastic used in the production of their frozen meals including Lodge Farm Kitchen who ensure that all of their packaging can be re-used. This evolutionary business means that there is now a tasty, viable alternative to traditional TV dinners.

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Smoking for Foodies

smokingWe have been smoking food for generations; using it to preserve food for long periods of time and for its tenderising and flavour carrying properties. It has been suggested that the recent resurgence of smoking food comes from a primeval attraction to fire and the memories it evokes, the smell of meat roasting on a BBQ is probably the modern equivalent of this as we imagine the delicious, tender meat we are about to eat. Cold smoking is generally used to smoke cured meats and fish as the temperature is usually kept to between 20-30bbq degrees meaning that the food being smoked is not cooked but merely infused with the smoky flavours. Hot smoking exposes the food to both heat and smoke and this is used to fully cook foods, creating moist meat and full, smoky flavours.
We stock a variety of smoked foods including the traditional cheese, fish, bacon and meats and we’ve listed some of our favourites below.

s9090Smoked Fish
Our John Ross smoked salmon is cold smoked over oak chips in the same red brick kilns used in the 19th century. The smoking process produces succulent flavours and a tender texture in the salmon which is sustainably farmed in the pure, clear waters of Scotland. This is available in 100g packs ideal for 1-2 people. We source the rest of our smoked fish range from Jacksons Fishmongers of Newton Abbot who prepare and smoke the fish sourced from Brixham fish market in their own kiln. We currently stock their rich and meaty smoked mackerel, smoked mackerel with crushed black peppercorns, lightly smoked trout and the classic Victorian breakfast dish, butterflied smoked kippers.

Smoked Cheese
We currently stock a variety of smoked cheeses all with varying degrees ofsmoked smokiness and flavour. Based in the lush valley of Newton St Cyres near Exeter the Quicke’s Oak Smoked cloth-bound cheddar is one of our favourites. It is naturally cold smoked over oak chips from their own trees for up to four hours, creating a subtle smokiness that compliments the cheeses’ buttery flavours.  Windyridge Cheese are artisan cheese makers based in Wincanton, Somerset. Their Bonfire Smoked cheese is made with smooth, creamy mature cheddar which is infused with rich, smoky flavours and dusted with paprika. The Dorset Red is made by Ford Farm Cheesemakers in Dorset. Their traditional mature cheddar is cold smoked over oak chips overnight which results in its distinctive smoky flavour and rich amber colour.

englishcuresmokedbackSmoked Meats
Our English cured smoked bacon is sourced from Devon Choice of Teignmouth, their bacon is full and rich in strong, smoky flavours which are great in pies, bacon sandwiches or a quiche Lorraine. The majority of our cured salamis are also lightly smoked including Danish, peppered and chorizo – our chorizo is also coated in smoked paprika for extra flavour.

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