This review originally appeared in Flavour Magazine – you can see the original by clicking here.
In the previous issue of Flavour, I had the pleasure of speaking to Brett Haigh of COOK – a brand that produces frozen ready meals with a difference. The company’s ethos is to cook good food with the same ingredients that you would use at home, with no preservatives and no additives; essentially creating ready meals that don’t taste like ready meals.
Brett is the owner of both the Bristol and Wells franchises: the former opened in 2013, the latter in 2010. It was Brett’s wife Su, who has joined him in the business, who was manning the Clifton store on the Friday that I visited, and her love of the brand was evident. Every customer was greeted with a smile and offered a free sample of COOK’s millionaire’s shortbread, before being left to browse or offered assistance in choosing their meals.
Su made it easy to choose from the incredibly extensive range of frozen meals available, asking about dietary requirements, the occasion and preferred flavours to provide me with a three-course meal that I was assured would impress my guests.
Even the packaging of the products is fantastic, allowing you to see what’s inside and with the ingredient list proving that there are no nasties included. A great little touch is that the name of the chef who has prepared each meal is written on the packaging – and I was told that some customers even request meals from the same chef when they return. Cooking instructions are very easy to follow, with most products cooked from frozen, but also including details of how to cook after defrosting.
We began our evening with a truly beautiful handmade salmon pate from this range: rich and smooth and with the undertones of lemon and black pepper, which was perfect as a starter with some freshly toasted bread.
This was followed by one of Brett’s best-sellers: a Moroccan harissa-spiced chicken dish that was tender, mildly spiced and with a great combination of textures from the roasted aubergines, flaked almonds and chickpeas that it contained. Perfectly paired with a minted couscous flecked with roasted peppers and mushrooms, our guests couldn’t believe that a ready meal could offer such flavour and quality.
We finished the evening with individual lemon tarts, pre-dusted with icing sugar, which simply required defrosting for four hours before serving. Again, guests were surprised at the quality of the pastry in a frozen dessert, and the perfect balance between tart and sweet.
Serving six people for under £9 per head, there’s no denying that COOK is a very affordable way to cater a dinner party: the spices for the main course alone would have made a significant dent in my budget if I were cooking from scratch. To the affordability, add the fact that COOK meals are 100% handmade and that customer service is impeccable, and you have a local franchise that I would be happy to use time and time again.
I was also eyeing up COOK’s fantastic Christmas range, which includes everything from a stuffed crown of turkey and all the trimmings to a mouthwatering selection of party and entertaining food, all of which would make the festive season a lot less stressful and give you more time out of the kitchen to spend with your family and friends. What’s not to love?