Saturday, 2 May 2015

Foodie Friday On A Saturday - Kirsty's Free From Ready Meals*

I think my birth date was planned pretty well when I consider how my adult life has panned out, I was born in both ME Awareness Week and in Coeliac Awareness Week, which both run from the 11th-17th May.

Although I'm not officially a coeliac, I was advised to cut both wheat and gluten out of my diet due to a variety of complaints, including IBS, and skin problems, and whilst I do wobble occasionally and cheat, I do try to stick to it. Throw in the fact that Mummy Lou suffers from both IBS and mild dairy intolerance's and shopping really can really be a nightmare.

As you know I make a lot of my food from scratch, I love experimenting, and by making things myself I know exactly what's gone into it and I know that it's safe for me to eat. Sometimes though you just can't be bothered and you just want to grab something out of the freezer, stick it in the microwave, and eat it. Unfortunately if you suffer from food allergies or intolerance's it isn't always that easy to find a ready meal  that  A,taste good, and B,that are allergen free. Thankfully things are improving and I was recently introduced to  the Kirsty's range of ready meals.

In 2010, young, single mum, Kirsty Henshaw appeared on Dragons Den, looking for investment in the development of a range of chilled desserts,  especially for people like her son Jacob who suffered from food allergies and intolerance's. She charmed the panel so much that both Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones invested into her business, Worthenshaws. The business was a success but not wanting to stand still Kirsty changed the business name to her own, and started focusing on savoury foods  and in 2012 she launched a range of 7 healthy and nutritious, chilled ready meals.

Described in the 5:2 Diet as one of the healthiest ready meal ranges out there, all of the meals in Kirsty's range are free from soya, gluten, wheat,and dairy products, and they contain no added sugar or artificial colours or flavourings. They are also low in fat, low in sugar and most packs also features a Weight Watchers  Pro Points value. 

I was very kindly sent three of the meals try - Unfortunately as yet the range only has one vegetarian / vegan option so I roped Mummy Lou into help and do a bit of tasting for me x 

Kirsty's Beef Lasagne With A Rich Bolognese Sauce

First up a real classic, a traditional minced beef lasagne in a rich bolognese sauce and an award winner. This meal won an Innovation Award at the recent Free From Food Awards 2015

Made with gluten free pasta sheets, the sauce includes minced beef, tomatoes, herbs, beef stock, mushrooms, carrot and peppers, and it's all topped with a dairy free bechmel sauce made with cornflour, maize starch and soya milk.

In the packet it looks like any other frozen lasagne and you can either oven bake it  for around 20-25 minutes or you can microwave it. Although I usually prefer to bake my lasganes, for ease, we microwaved it which took around 5 minutes.

The first thing Mummy Lou commented on was the texture, despite the fact the topping looked a little bit sloppy it was very substantial and firm instead, and packed full of veggies and meat. She could really taste the herbs and spices and unlike a lot of bought lasagnes she could actually see and taste the quality of the meat. She found the gluten free pasta nice and tender, it was well cooked, it was soggy and it wasn't too hard. Could she tell this was dairy free? In a word no, obviously she's used to soya milk and the like, but she found the sauce nice and creamy and she didn't really notice the fact that there was no cheese in it. Despite the fact that we served it with salad, Mummy Lou found the 400g size both filling and substantial. 

This ready meal is one of you five a day, is low in fat and sugar, and high in protein but it does contain egg. It contains 352 calories and it's valued at 9 Pro Points.

Kirsty's Spanish Chicken With Brown Rice

This is a one for all of you Nando's fan's out there. This a spicy chicken strew that contains pieces of chicken marinated in coriander, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, cooked in a tomato, pepper and smoked paprika sauce and served with brown, vegetable, basmati rice.

Again this meal could be baked or microwaved but it's quicker in the microwave and the mother ship was hungry!

The first thing we noticed was the smell, it a real delicious, smokey, peppery scent which was echoed in the spicy sauce which also contains various chili pastes. The pieces of chicken were a good size, very tender moist and well flavoured. This was quite a hot dish that reminded Mummy Lou quite a lot of Piri Piri Chicken, with the heat and the smokey flavours but it was well balanced out by the moist brown rice, which was crammed full of peas, peppers, mushrooms, onions and sweetcorn.

Again this was a 400g pack and this time Mummy Lou just the meal on it's own and again she was impressed with how substantial it was and how full she felt after she'd eaten it. Obviously you could serve some vegetables or a salad alongside it but it wasn't essential.

This ready meal contained 390 calories, and has a value of 10 Weight Watchers Pro Points. It contains 2 of your 5 a day, and it's low in natural sugars and fat.

Kirsty's Moroccan Vegetables With Quinoa

Finally something I can eat and it was worth the wait - I tried Kirsty's Moroccan Vegetables With Quinoa. This is basically a vegetable stew which is crammed full of fruit, vegetables,  herbs and spices. The stew contains tomatoes, aduki beans, courgettes, peppers, onion, pinto beans, chickpeas, sweet potatoes and apricots, all in a spice filled, flavoursome sauce. It's served alongside a brown rice, lentil and quinoa mix.

I was hungry too so I took the easy option and microwaved it. Again the first thing we noticed with the smell, this has a lovely almost sweet, aromatic scent, exactly what you would associate with Moroccan cooking.

The stew had a lovely sweet, slightly spicy flavour and was absolutely full of beans, and large pieces of fruit and vegetables. What I loved most about this was the size of the pieces, you could see everything that you were eating, and you could taste them too, a lot of vegetable based ready meals contains small, unrecognisable pieces but not this one.

Instead of just serving this with a plain rice, the Kirsty's team who make all of their meals in North Yorkshire, have mixed a nutty flavoursome brown rice, with some brown speckled lentils, and some quinoa. This was a moist, tasty and filling accompaniment with worked with well with the sweetness, and the spices.

The rice, lentil and quinoa mix really made this into a very filling meal, I actually added a bit of salad after I'd taken the photo's but there really wasn't a need - this was very much a meal in it's own right. This yummy meal, contains 300 calories and around 8 Pro Points. It contains 2 of your 5 a day and it's low in sugars and fats.

Although we aren't regular, ready meal eater both me and the mother ship we're really impressed with everything that we tried. The food was good quality, packed full of excellent quality, fresh tasing ingredients and they were filling. The meals come chilled but you are suitable for home freezing providing you defrost them before cooking.

If these meals aren't too your taste, the range also includes Cottage Pie With Sweet Potato Mash, Chicken Tikka Masala With Brown Basmati Rice, Thai Chilli Chicken With Rice Noodles, and Sausage With Sweet Potato Mash.
You can find the full range of Kirsty's meals in the chilled compartments of Sainsbury's, Asda, Waitrose, Ocado and Budgens. They retail for around £3 each which is more than a lot of ready meals but if you have food allergies or intolerance's, or even if you don't and you want something, quick, easy, and healthy then they are definitely worth a try. Mummy Lou and I will definitely be picking up some more meals from the range in the future. My one complaint is the fact that there is only one vegetarian meal in the range but fingers crossed the range will continue to expand. To find out more please check out the Kirsty's website. x Thanks for reading and look out for some more coeliac friendly reviews over the next few weeks x 


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