Chef-in-a-box

The <em>New Statesman's</em> ready-meal taste test

1. Romy Cuisine Welsh lamb and garlic confit

What is it? Rare breeds Welsh lamb, organic carrots and fresh herbs
Easy? Order from the website of French-born Romy and partner Guy (www.romycuisine.co.uk). Empty into a pan and heat for five minutes.
Verdict? We were impressed by the easy cook method and how the finished product looked. The taste was good, but a bit too salty, and the carrots were soggy. At £7 a jar, it's pricey, but we welcome the pure ingredients. 5/10

2. Waitrose beef stroganoff

What is it? Aberdeen Angus beef strips in cream, mushroom and paprika sauce.
Easy? Microwave for nine minutes, or oven cook for 40 minutes.
Verdict? Not for the health conscious. Creamy, tasty but heavy on the double cream and butter. Real stroganoff uses sour cream. £6.99. Serves two. 7/10

3. Steam Malaysian chicken laksa

What is it? Chicken, coconut, bok choi, yellow courgettes and egg noodles.
Easy? Available at Waitrose or from www.steamdelicious.com. Five minutes in the microwave.

Verdict? Looked good, tasted awful. "Dry", and "rubbery noodles" were some of the comments. At £3.99 it should be a winner, but it wasn't. 1/10

4. Simply Organic mixed bean chilli

What is it? Organic tomatoes, kidney beans, red peppers, lentils etc.
Easy? Readily available. Microwave for three to four minutes.
Verdict? Typical veggie ready meal. Not very spicy, a bit bland, but lentils were good. Very cheap at £1.99. 4/10

5. Down From The hills Gloucester Old Spot pork and mustard casserole

What is it? Leg of Monmouthshire pork and whole grain Dijon mustard
Easy? Order from family-run supplier of fresh or frozen handmade food - (www.downfromthehills.co.uk). Defrost, microwave for five minutes.
Verdict? A little watery, but the pork was good. Look online for other dishes. Also pricey at £8.25, but the efficient, friendly service makes it worth it. 6/10

6. Dining-Made-Easy Thai red duck curry

What is it? Duck, coconut milk and vegetables from Thailand.
Easy? Boil in the bag or microwave for eight minutes. Order at www.dining-made-easy.co.uk.
Verdict? The absolute winner on all counts. "Delicious", "colourful" and "very authentic". Expensive at £10.95, but it does serve two. 9/10

7. Marks and Spencer Gastropub range cod, prawn and smoked haddock fish pie

What is it? As the title suggests, with potato and cheese.
Easy? 45 minutes in the oven.
Verdict? Comfort food. Delicious if you're in the mood, but a bit too cheesy and the prawns are lost in it. Serves two amply. £4.99. 7/10

8. Chef on Board vegetable tagine

What is it? Aubergine, cashew nuts, potatoes, apricots, chickpeas, sultanas.
Easy? Buy at www.chefonboard.com. Oven cook for 40 to 45 minutes.
Verdict? Not bad on taste. Nice ingredients, reminiscent of student food. Not a bad price at £3.75. 5/10

9. Graig Farm Organics turkey dinner

What is it? Organic turkey, celery, leek and onion sauce.
Easy? Order at www.graigfarm.co.uk. Microwave for five minutes.
Verdict? Thin slices. "Brings back memories of school dinners", but "tastes better than it looks". Not bad at £5.65. 5/10

10. Bighams salmon primavera

What is it? Salmon, bechamel sauce, asparagus, fennel and courgettes.
Easy? Buy at www.bighams.com or at Waitrose. In the pan for ten minutes.
Verdict? Delicate and delicious flavour, sauce not too heavy. Good price £5.99. Serves two. 8/10