Newest Review: ... you can pop a couple into your cupboard and they make an easy meal when you may be pressed for time one evening. I am ... more
From Pouch To Plate Without The Wait!
Member Name: Machair1
Advantages: Easy to prepare and full of quality ingredients ethically sourced.
Disadvantages: May not have universal appeal.
The pair first decided to start this new company following a Spanish holiday where ready made foods stored at ambient temperatures were spotted. These pressure cooked and sealed foods had a shelf life of twelve months, and so the pair bought a selection and carried them home to the UK. Their thought was to try to emulate the concept, and to product long life meals which could be stored without the need for refrigeration. It wasn't an overnight operation as it needed a lot of planning. In fact Mr McKechnie flew out to Italy to seek advice from a university professor, who specialised in heat treatment of food products armed with a box of venison, kippers, rabbit, cheese and sausages. This was a learning curve which culminated in the launch of the range which is gaining in popularity year on year.
The range has the title "Look What We Found" because the company scoured the country to find small scale producers, who could add interest and expertise to the dishes by supplying a wealth of ingredients. The idea was to create restaurant quality meals which could be enjoyed at home. It wasn't long before airlines became interested, and even some hotel chains who offer the meals as room service options.
To browse the website go to www.lookwhatwefound.co.uk. This website is clear and colourful and describes their products in detail and offers a mail order option with a 10% discount on first orders. It is also worth noting that some of their range is available from selected supermarkets including Ocado and Waitrose. All the main supermarkets have a selection in their larger stores but these are limited to only a few of the options.
To me the beauty of these ready made meals lies in their storage properties. Being long-life you can pop a couple into your cupboard and they make an easy meal when you may be pressed for time one evening. I am personally someone who does a lot of home cooking, so my purchase of ready made meals is very sporadic indeed. I do find, however, that sometimes it is useful to be able to serve a meal in moments, and it does prevent that unhealthy event - what is referred to in our house as a trip to the chipperie! I am trying to avoid this fatty option in my quest to finally lose the last ten pounds I have carried with me since my last child was born eighteen years ago!
The main use we have for these meals is holidays. Regular readers of my reviews will know that I spend a lot of time in The Outer Hebrides, and here I prefer walking to cooking. I will often pack several of these meals so that I can create dinner with minimum preparation time. These were so useful on my last holiday, as we had a new puppy with us who was very demanding, and being able to serve easy meals was of paramount importance. There is also no doubt that these meals provide a superb option for the camper or caravan enthusiast. Illness or long term disability is another area where these meals are a good option.
The choice of main dinners is extensive, but is more limited for me as I am vegetarian. I will opt for dishes including the Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Tagine with Fruit and Harissa, or the Vegetable Curry with Mushrooms and Butternut Squash. There is also a delicious Mushroom Stroganoff with hand picked wild Scottish mushrooms which is out of this world. For meat eaters you have a choice of thirteen options including Wild Rabbit with Leek and Elderflower Sauce with Camargue Red Rice, or Herdwick Mutton Stew made from a rare breed of Lakeland sheep.
There is also a range of soups and sauces, and some of the meals are available in smaller snack size portions ideal for lunch.
To give you an idea of price each main meal pouch retails for between £1.99 and £3.69 and this will serve one person. I think this is good value as it is a convenience meal as all the cooking has been done. You simply heat up on the hob or for a couple of minutes in the microwave.
Foe me personally these meals have been absolutely ideal. They are very healthy indeed and the calories are kept low, most are less than 300 calories. Some of the meals are gluten free too which is ideal if you are a coeliac or are trying to reduce gluten in the diet. When I signed up to the online diet company "Diet Chef" early last year, when I was tying to lose some weight, these meals were included in the packs you received. Later orders saw these rebranded in their own label, but the dishes themselves were unchanged. To give you an idea of the quality ingredients the chickpea dish contains, Potato, Tomato, Chickpeas (15%), Onion, Dried Apricots (6%), Green Pepper, Water, Raisins (2%), Tomato Puree, Harissa Paste (Red Chilli, Caraway, Garlic, Chilli Powder) (2%), Cornflour, Ginger, Cumin, Coriander, Cinnamon, Paprika, Sea Salt, Black Pepper.
As you can see they are all quality ingredients are there are no additives or e numbers.
I think it is always interesting when presenting a review to gauge an opinion of another about a product, and so I suggested these meals to my father. He is almost 80 and is the sole carer for my mother who is severely disabled having suffered a major stroke some years ago. He isn't well in himself either, so values meals which are easy to prepare and to eat. His view was less positive than my own. He felt the portion sizes to be small, and although he enjoyed the meals he felt that they were something which he could take or leave, in other words they didn't excite, other than for their convenience attribute. He is a meat eater and so chose those options himself, and he tried several of these. So, in his opinion, these were not as good as he had hoped, and he would prefer to purchase ready made meals from Marks and Spencer or Waitrose. He does enjoy more salty foods than I do so this may have an impact, but nevertheless he does present this alternative view which is to be born in mind. The availability of meals in pouches is sporadic, Tesco and Sainsbury carry a small range of their own pouch meals, and of course in his mind my father is probably comparing these to a chiller option which of course is a different option entirely.
From an ethical perspective the company works with local farmers to source local ingredients wherever possible which is brilliant. Although vegetarian I do feel that the meat products this company make are produced with the utmost respect for the animal in their dishes. For example the chicken soup is made from chickens with are reared across 30 acres of woodland, and are tucked up at night in low density barns. The mushroom soup is made from mushrooms which have been gathered in the hills around the Scottish town of Forres by mushroom enthusiast - Richard Hyman. Their English Tomato Soup with Cheviot Cheese Pesto is made from locally sourced tomatoes, and cheese from the local Cheviot Cheese Company.
I would like to see more vegetarian options in the menus as this is where the company falls down in my opinion. Many walkers and campers who buy these foods are vegetarian, and like myself are looking to purchase these for outdoors holidays. They could also work out to be expensive if you were hiking and looking for a substantial meal, as you would need extra carbs, or even two pouches for long distance hikes.
Ordering from the website is secure and the meals arrive very quickly indeed. Postage is free for orders over £100, and is reasonable at £2.95 to £4.95 for smaller orders. They use Fed-Ex which ensures a good service. Reward points are also given, which provide discount on future orders. For every pound you spend you earn 10 points, which can be redeemed against future orders, and 1000 points equates to a saving of £5.
In conclusion I feel these are a good option for anyone looking to purchase a quality meal which is easy to prepare, low in calories and can be stored at an ambient temperature. Perfect for camping and for those lazy days and holidays. Ideal too for the disabled and the unwell. The flavours may not suit all, as my father was not overly impressed with his choices. I am more than happy with mine, and will continue to purchase as I have found them to be a marriage of convenience with quality.
Summary: A good choice for those seeking convenience without refrigeration.