I know many foodies pride themselves on cooking all of their meals from scratch and don’t make use of ready meals at all but that’s not how it is in our house. Of course, we do cook from scratch much of the time, but we also make use of ready meals and the occasional takeaway too – though far less than we used to when we first moved in together.
Probably the most regular choices for us include lasagne, chicken kievs and pies supplemented by oven chips or ready-made garlic bread sticks.
Recently, I was invited by Young’s Seafood to try their new Simply Bake range. As the UK’s leading supplier of frozen and chilled fish and seafood, Young’s are constantly innovating their product range to keep up with the changing tastes of consumers – did you know that as well as breaded and battered fish and seafood and seafood sticks, they also offer a variety of smoked fish and fish cakes in a range of marinades and glazes (branded as Funky Fish Kitchen), fish pies and other fish ready meals, rollmops and prawn cocktails. They make a lot of own-label products too; many supermarket own brand versions are made by the leading producers in that field. They’ve even expanded into chicken with their recently launched Chip Shop Special Orders range.
Simply Bake – their latest new addition – includes four oven-ready cod fillet bakes with delicious sauces and toppings. Mediterranean bake has a sundried tomato & mozzarella crust. Classic Florentine bake comes with a creamy Regatto cheese and spinach sauce. Broccoli Mornay is covered with a cheddar and broccoli sauce and then a crunchy onion chive crumble topping. Cheese & Leek bake features a rich cheese, mustard and leek sauce. Each box contains two generous 100% cod fillets with their respective toppings and takes less than 50 minutes to bake, straight from the freezer, so are perfect for midweek dinners.
The challenge that Young’s set me was to create a side dish that would make a great accompaniment to one or more of the Simply Bake products.
I chose the lovely Cheese & Leek Bake and came up with a Balsamic Roasted Tomato, Baby Spinach & Giant Couscous Salad (look out for my recipe, in the next post). I wanted to create a tasty delicious side that provided a little acidity to cut through the rich cheese sauce, and some bright colour on the plate and which is not too complicated or long-winded to make.
The Bake Off was held at L’atelier des Chefs cookery school on Wigmore Street.
On arriving at the school, four tables in the kitchen area already set out with basic equipment and all the ingredients for our recipes. In the lobby area, tables were set up with a recipe card for each blogger’s side dish alongside a photo of the blogger. I had to laugh when I saw mine – the Young’s PR team used the profile photo from my twitter and instagram accounts, which was rather fitting – it was taken in Japan and I’m wearing a huge and hilarious fish-shaped hat!
On hand to help us in the kitchen was Young’s Development Chef, Serge Nollent. As we made the side dishes, he and his team baked all four of the Simply Bake cod mains, and once we finished, we tasted all of our dishes alongside their partner cod bake.
What I really loved was how varied all four recipes were. Alongside my giant couscous salad was a wonderful sweet potato colcannon (mashed sweet potato with savoy cabbage), a quick and hearty panzanella (bread and tomato salad) and some beautifully piped sundried tomato duchesse potatoes.
It’s so easy to get into a rut when making side dishes to go with a main – boiled new potatoes, chips, maybe some peas or carrots or a run-of-the-mill side salad.
The evening was a great reminder of how much more interesting and delicious we can make our evening meals when we try something new.
Kavey Eats was commissioned by Young’s Seafood Limited to develop a recipe and participate in their Bake Off event. My photo collages contain a mix of my own images and those provided by Young’s.