Food inspired by travel, now doesn’t that sound familiar? Having travelled from the UK to India in a campervan, Charlie Bigham became inspired by what he saw and what he ate during his trip. The adventure then resulted in Charlie producing tasty meals for the UK market.
Following the epic journey to India back in 1994, Charlie set up his own food business in 1996. With three recipes under his belt, Charlie then pitched his food around various London retailers. This then resulted in major supermarkets stocking Charlie’s ever-expanding range such as Waitrose, Asda and Tesco.
The whole aim for Charlie was to bring the flavour of each delicious destination to the kitchens of people back home. Having been obsessed by hunting out authentic food in the very place that it all started, we can really relate to Charlie’s mindset.
As I headed into my local Tesco, it didn’t take long to spot Charlie’s range. The packaging is eye catchingly colourful and occupies its very own section. The range to choose from is varied and tempting. In the end I managed to narrow it down to Chicken Tikka Masala with Rice and Spanish Chicken with Roasted Potatoes.
Of course, there are many others to choose from. Depending on your mood you could easily opt to head in a more easterly direction for Thai Green Chicken Curry or take the French route with Beef Bourguignon and Dauphinoise Potatoes. Many of the meals comfortably serve two people.
Time to cook dinner. This couldn’t really be any simpler. I began with the Chicken Tikka Masala which came in a wooden box along with the rice in a separate box. Interestingly, Charlie Bighams provide foil within the rice box in order to get that perfectly steamed result. Very good attention to detail.
Most of the packaging is recyclable other than the wooden trays. Although many people opt to use the boxes to grow herbs in – how clever! Onto a tray and into the oven for 25 minutes, no stress whatsoever.
Instantly, the smell hit me. The smell unlike any ready meal that I have ever had in my kitchen. The curry had a fresh aroma, almost like it had been cooked there and then from scratch. This is something that I hadn’t seen previously across the ready meal market.
As predicted from the giveaway scent, the taste was authentic. A rich, creamy sauce with proper pieces of chicken. Nothing reformed, nothing added, everything 100% fresh and on the money. The rice also was perfectly done with the foil trick allowing it to steam. We were very impressed.
The next day, we headed from India to Spain. Spanish Chicken is one of my favourites, who couldn’t get excited about Chicken in a rich tomato sauce with chunks of chorizo? This meal also contained olives and chickpeas for a variance of flavour and texture.
A top tip from Charlie is to tip the potatoes out of the box and onto the baking tray in order to get maximum crispness. I decided to leave mine in the box due to the aggressive nature of my oven when it comes to browning. It later proved to be the right call.
As with the curry, the aromas coming from the oven were promising. The chicken and chorizo emerged beautifully golden with the potatoes perfectly crisp. This meal took 30 minutes in the oven from chilled which is ideal for anyone short on time.
I was astounded at the flavour packed into these wooden boxes. The freshness of these meals is incredible. Exactly as it would be fresh from the pan. Flawless quality in the chicken yet again with a rich tomato sauce packing tonnes of flavour to enshroud it in.
Chorizo, olives and chickpeas are classic mainstays of the Spanish pantry. Each element brought something to this in a big way. The crispy potatoes were a world away from the soggy, greasy efforts that you tend to find in many ready meals.
For £7.50 per meal, this is a very fair investment. Dinner for two has never been simpler, nor has it been better quality. Ready meals often get bad press and in some cases rightly so. With Charlie’s range, I think that we have turned a corner. Pick your delicious destination and Charlie will gladly take you there.