Taste Test

Frozen food goes gourmet: seven of the best places to get ready meals

As dining in is the new eating out, we put frozen convenience meals from Confit, We Are Food, Wicked Food, Farang x OBOI, Frozen for You, The Good Food Studio and Holi Cow to the taste test

19 July 2020 - 00:04 By Hilary Biller and Janine Walker Greenleaf
Caprese gnocchi from Confit.
Caprese gnocchi from Confit.
Image: Supplied

CONFIT

Top chefs collaboration

Confit is the latest newcomer to the frozen-food game and is the brainchild of two of SA's leading food personalities. The two great dames behind the project are chef Amori Burger (Van der Linde restaurant) and renowned hospitality consultant and chef Yvonne Short. They've worked together on various restaurant projects since 2012 and the current pandemic led to the idea of starting a convenience frozen-meal range.

"We took time researching, developing and testing our products (you have to make major moisture adjustments to frozen meals) and are delighted with these dishes filled with wholesome ingredients and bold flavours," says Burger.

Spanish chicken and chorizo bake from Confit.
Spanish chicken and chorizo bake from Confit.
Image: Supplied

"We proudly use the best ingredients we can source. Our name is on the product so we aren't willing to compromise in any way," adds Short.

Their first range of 14 top-notch products features gnocchi and pasta dishes, Mexican enchiladas and sensatinal curries, a creamy salmon and shrimp potato pie and some vegetarian options.

Our top three from this "Sisterhood of Food":

  1. Three-cheese beef lasagne (R135 for 600g, feeds 2): This is a moreish pasta for grown-ups packed with rich flavour thanks to the use of Healey's cheddar, Grana Padano and mozzarella. Generous and yummy.
  2. Black bean, sweet potato and corn enchilada (R96 for 600g, feeds 2): Two pillowy tortilla filled with an authentic spicy mix of black bean, potato and sweetcorn and an enchilada sauce. The filling is very generous and packed with flavour.
  3. Chocolate malva pudding (R85 for 500g, serves 4): Decadent, delicious and made with top-quality dark chocolate, lots of it. Cut it into squares and serve it with some thinned, heated marmalade poured over the top, a dollop of mascarpone and a few shavings of orange rind for the best cheat's dessert ever. It's a winner!

How to find them:

Visit facebook.com/helloconfit. Confit is also available in the La Marina Foods deli in Edenvale, Johannesburg, who also deliver in the Gauteng area (011-608-3277).

We Are Food's melanzane bake.
We Are Food's melanzane bake.
Image: Supplied

WE ARE FOOD

Catering for the whole family

The mother-daughter duo of Didee Weare and Jane Bisset started We Are Food in 2013, selling frozen home-cooked meals from their garage in Umhlanga Rocks. This modest home industry caught the attention of consumers and sister Amy joined the family business, which has expanded from KwaZulu-Natal to Gauteng and the Western Cape.

There’s something for everyone here – from meals for singles, couples and families. There are also mini meals for younger children. The range includes a number of special value packs, a winner in this time of Covid-19 with people staying at home and not wanting to venture out. For example, the vegetarian pack contains 20 items for R1,060 and the chef’s choice value pack is 22 items for R1,250. There are options for all dietary requirements – vegan, vegetarian, dairy- and gluten-free and low carb.

Vegan butternut laska bowl from We Are Food.
Vegan butternut laska bowl from We Are Food.
Image: Supplied

Our top three in the vegetarian range from this family affair:

  1. Butternut laksa vegan bowl (R59 for 300g, serves one): A healthy Malay-style noodle dish with broccoli, corn and sliced red peppers, & a heart with a yummy sauce of coconut, butternut, peanuts and spices. This can be heated in the microwave for added convenience.
  2. Thai red veggie curry (R64 for 280g): Lots of lovely distinguishable veg in this Thai-style dish bathed in a delicious spicy coconut sauce made with a vegan red Thai paste with the fragrance of lemon grass. Make a steaming bowl of jasmine rice to go with the dish to soak up the juices.
  3. Melanzane bake (R69 for 300g): Layers of aubergine and tomato sauce with a topping of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. It’s a low-carb, gluten-free and vegetarian dish.

How to find them:

Visit wearefood.co.za. Deliveries and retail outlets in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Cape Town and the Garden Route. Check

WICKED FOOD

Farm to table

Mike and Cilla Crewe-Brown are the couple behind the Wicked Food brand. They've worked in food publishing and owned a restaurant and a number of cooking schools before moving to a farm near Hekpoort 11 years ago. There they established Wicked Food Earth, a country cooking school and training facility on a working farm.

In recognition of the work done on Wicked Food Earth Farm, Slow Food Johannesburg honoured them with a Food Heroes Award for "development of rare breeds and education on sustainable food and farming".

The Crewe-Browns have sold charcuterie, meat and a range of sauces, pickles and condiments for many years. The closure of the school during the Covid-19 lockdown led them to launch a range of frozen meals using farm produce, prepared for you and brought straight to your table.

Meals from Wicked Food, clockwise from top left: pumpkin fritters, Thai chicken curry, potato gratin and roast carrot and ginger soup.
Meals from Wicked Food, clockwise from top left: pumpkin fritters, Thai chicken curry, potato gratin and roast carrot and ginger soup.
Image: Supplied

There's a wide variety of main dishes with influences from around the globe (Thai green chicken curry, lamb tagine and beef cottage pie) as well as sides (pumpkin fritters, potato gratin and melanzane) and soups.

Our three favourites from the farmers:

  1. Pork chilli chocolate mole (R55 for 350g, serves 1): Succulent pieces of pork in a rich and complex sauce with a hint of chocolate. A clever idea would be to order other dishes in the Mexican range such as the chicken adobe and the Wickedfood bottled Mexican salsa to accompany with tortillas and all the condiments.
  2. Beef, beer, cream and mushroom stew (R85 for 400g, serves 1): A hearty dish of beef and vegetables enlivened with beer for good flavour to satisfy to a big appetite.
  3. Potato gratin (R32 for 350g, serves 1): A side dish of layers of creamy potato slices with farm cream, butter and cheese. It could easily make a main vegetarian dish with a side salad.

How to find them:

Order online via wickedfood.co.za. There are weekly deliveries to Johannesburg and Tshwane.

Dumplings from Farang x OBOI.
Dumplings from Farang x OBOI.
Image: Supplied

FARANG X OBOI

Asian flavours

Farang x OBOI is the brainchild of Jess Doveton and Daniel Baker and brings together the dynamic duo's passion for bold flavours and unconventional desserts. The farang in the equation is Doveton, who, when developing dishes, draws on influences from her Thai/South African heritage and her memories of travelling through Asia. Baker is fuelled by his love of all things sweet and creates incredible ice-cream flavours (cinnamon roll, white chocolate and cardamom and apple pie) and delicious cakes.

Ice cream from Farang x OBOI.
Ice cream from Farang x OBOI.
Image: Supplied

The plan was to open a restaurant but Covid-19 put that on hold. For now, they deliver their fresh and frozen dishes (with instructions) to people to prepare in the comfort of their own homes. Some of the meals require a finishing touch - either cooking or some basic assembly of components. 

Our three top frozen favourites:

  1. Thai Spring Rolls, vegan on request (12 pieces for R140, 24 pc for R260 and 36 pc for R330. Add peanut sweet chilli sauce for R32 a bottle): Crunchy and packed with filling and flavour, an authentic spring roll.
  2. Pork and cabbage gyozas (16 pieces for R100, 32 pc R180 and 48 pc R250. Add black vinegar dressing at R25 a bottle): There's something about a dumpling that is handmade rather than a batch of commercial offerings - you can taste each bite of the pork and cabbage in its delicate wrapper. Steam and serve immediately with dipping sauce.
  3. Caramelised milk ice cream (R200 for 500ml, cheaper if you order as part of a meal): A luscious, creamy and dreamy celebration of milk that matches perfectly with another OBOI speciality - caramelised banana spring rolls.

How to find them:

Visit farang-oboi.com. Call or WhatsApp Jess on 066-250-0038 or Daniel on 083-341-3337 or e-mail farang.oboi@gmail.com. Farang x OBOI offers same-day delivery around Joburg for orders placed before 10am.

Traditional baked cheesecake from Frozen for You.
Traditional baked cheesecake from Frozen for You.
Image: Supplied

FROZEN FOR YOU

Gourmet frozen meals

In 1993 Karen Short opened a catering company in a friend's kitchen and By Word of Mouth - which became one of the country's premier catering businesses - was born. Says food mogul Short: "Over the years our clients asked for take-home versions of our most popular meals. This led to Frozen for You being launched in 2018."

Adds her husband Adrian Short, the CEO of By Word of Mouth and Frozen for You: "Frozen for You was developed with the intention of following our clients as they navigate through their busy day-to-day lives, ensuring they have convenient yet quality meals using the best local produce and ingredients, available to them when they need it most."

Fragrant Malay bobotie from Frozen for You.
Fragrant Malay bobotie from Frozen for You.
Image: Supplied

Business was brisk from the start and Frozen for You is now available at several stand-alone stores and other retail outlets in Gauteng and the Western Cape. For added convenience, each product can be heated from frozen in its tray or container. Alternatively, for special occasions meals can be defrosted, heated and served from the client's favourite oven-proof dish. All have clear instructions for reheating.

There is an enormous range with most products available for singles, couples and families, and some excellent desserts and cakes too.

Our three top favourites from the frozen-food doyenne:

  1. Traditional fish pie (R95 for 400g serves one; R185 for 800g serves two and R310 for 1.6kg serves four to six): This has to be the ultimate comfort food - poached hake in a creamy dill sauce with lashings of creamy mashed potato.
  2. Fragrant Malay bobotie (R52 for 320g serves 1; R93 for 640g serves 2; R170 for 1.28kg serves 4: A great freezer standby, the dish has pleasant spicy overtones like a bobotie should have with a custardy eggy topping with bay leaves. It's meaty and tasty and we made a side of yellow rice and a salad, which gave us a complete meal.
  3. Traditional baked cheesecake (R299 serves 10-12): Pricey - one would think twice before purchasing - but with all the hallmarks of a good baked cheesecake, it's a great occasion dessert and one that you could easily pass off as your own by adding a puff of whipped cream, seasonal berries and a dusting of icing sugar.

How to find them:

Visit frozenforyou.co.za. Frozen for You has several retail stores in Gauteng and Cape Town; their meals are also available from other suppliers; check their website for more details.

THE GOOD FOOD STUDIO ON NICOL

Great home-style meals

These meals are exclusive to The Good Food Studio at Pick n Pay on Nicol in Sandton, Joburg, and are made by the Studio's chefs. Each week they produce three new dishes with accompanying sides and you can taste their passion and the quality in the food. They are hearty meals, generous helpings made using Pick n Pay's seasonal produce and taste like good homemade fare one would like to have handy in the freezer.

Sold fresh daily in the Nicol store, they are packed for home freezing too. The best part is that the prices are very competitive and good value for money.

Citrus butternut pudding (left) and spinach gratin from The Good Food Studio on Nicol.
Citrus butternut pudding (left) and spinach gratin from The Good Food Studio on Nicol.
Image: Supplied

Our three top favourites (menu changes weekly):

  1. Beef bobotie (R65 serves 2, R95 serves 4): Juicy and generous with lots of tasty mince and a good dash of spice for authenticity.
  2. Spinach gratin (R35, serves 2, R70 serves 4): Delicious, with lots of fresh spinach bathed in a creamy sauce with a cheesy topping, just like grandma used to make.
  3. Citrus butternut pudding (R50, serves 4): Fragrant with the aroma of fresh orange, we couldn't taste the butternut and felt there could be a little more sauce. Good served with whipped cream or custard.

How to find them:

Visit facebook.com/TheGoodFoodStudio. These meals are available exclusively at Pick n Pay on Nicol in Johannesburg or pick up in-store at the delicatessen section. Daily freshly prepared meals can be ordered from goodfoodstudio@pnp.co.za. Orders need to be placed by noon the day before and collected before 3pm the next day.

HOLI COW

Spice and all things nice

Celebrity chef and author Yudhika Sujanani is justifiably known as Jozi's Queen of Spice. From her popular Fourways shop Holi Cow she sells ready meals - both frozen and fresh - and a range of cakes and pastries.

Chicken curry pies from Holi Cow.
Chicken curry pies from Holi Cow.
Image: Supplied

You'd do well to check her daily specials - aside from the regular curry dishes, if crab or sardines are in season she weaves her magic with them.

Her frozen pies are a real winner - there's everything from lamb vindaloo and chicken tikka masala to chilli-free old-fashioned posh roasted lamb pasties and roast beef fillet and mushroom. Family-sized meals and single portions are available.

Our top three from the Queen of Spice:

  1. Chatsworth chicken curry (R170 for 4 pies): A posh, quality pie with a real butter pastry and a generous filling of home-style chicken curry made with thigh fillets and potatoes. Comforting, delicious and ideal to heat and serve.
  2. Chicken korma (1.3kg serves 4, R300): Perfect for those who want flavour without the burn. Succulent chicken in a creamy sauce. The meal comes with 400g rice and four roti.
  3. Fish breyani (1.3kg serves 4, R350): Kabeljou steaks layered with lentils and basmati rice. This aromatic and spicy dish comes with sides of dhal and carrot salad.

How to find them:

Daily specials are posted on facebook.com/HoliCowSA. The store opens between noon and 5pm. However, you have to WhatsApp your order through on 060-988-5003. If you have not received a confirmation, the order is not confirmed and won't be prepared. There are no walk-ins as this creates a queue in the store, which Holi Cow is trying to avoid during lockdown. Deliveries within the area.