Charley Bigham’s “Ready Meals” and Berry Bros & Rudd Wines

I was seduced by the notion of Berry Bros & Rudd wines, plus the fact that the lovely WineSleuth would be matching those wines to Charlie Bigham’s food when accepting an invitation to what became hashtagged #Bighamsup – or Bigham’s Supper in Bermondsey.  When I realised that Charley Bigham – pictured above – makes “ready meals”, I admit I slightly rolled my eyeballs and thought to myself (again) “Read the invitation more carefully next time.”

:: Green Thai Chicken Curry ::

:: Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni ::

:: Fish Pie ::

Denise had chosen a fantastic selection, and we debated the matching dish by dish.  We concluded that neither the 2009 Gewurtztraminer or the Rioja Blanco were right for the punchy spice of the Thai Green Chicken Curry, but brought back the Au Bon Climat Wild Boy Chardonnay we’d tasted with the Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni, which was much more successful. So, to our surprise, was the food. The fish pie boasts chunks of salmon the size of your thumb, the Cannelloni is velvety smooth comfort food and the promsing spicy, peanut smell of the Indonesian Chicken Satay wafts gently up to you before  your fork gets anywhere near it.

One of the difficulties that Bigham’s encounters is that ready meals have a pretty poor reputation. Their products are currently stocked in Waitrose and via Ocado which boded well, but I shop there and had never heard of them – or thought I hadn’t. We don’t tend to click on that category on Ocado or wander down that aisle. Maybe I’m a bit of a food snob – and I like to cook, obviously – but what really put me off is that ready meals are generally rubbish. Let’s be honest here.  Whenever I’m desperate enough to resort to one, it almost always ends up in the bin in favour of toast or cereal.  It was only when we talked to George and Charlie and ramekins came up in discussions that I suddenly said “We’ve had your pies before.”

Casting my mind back to an utterly miserable day in November, I’d wandered into Waitrose in Marylebone and on the first aisle, spotted some pies and a lasagne that were on sale. After a rubbish day I just wanted something to put in the oven (the boy may have whispered lasagne too – and then I’m just a sucker for nice ramekins frankly. Sigh) The lasagne comes in a wooden tray like a Camembert box and was… really rather good? Tasted quite… what’s the word? Homemade. That’s what it tasted like.  The Chicken and Mushroom Pie was so moreish I seem to remember us arguing over who’d have the second one.  I didn’t find the packaging memorable at all which was why I hadn’t made the connection.  They need to brand their ramekins because I’ve kept and reused them which would have cemented their brand into my mind.

I loved the dishes we had on Tuesday, including their remarkably good Fish Pie. It’s certainly good enough to serve to guests, the kind of ‘I know you love me enough to not expect my kitchen to smell of fish for days just to make you a fish pie’ type of friends.  I’ve since tried some more dishes at home (Breton Chicken good, not so keen on the Catalan Chicken) and the various pies are in the freezer for the weekend. Charlie Bigham’s meals are a genuinely good alternative to cooking totally from scratch, particularly the oven dishes, when you’re pushed for time or just can’t be bothered. Comforting food made from good quality ingredients. The kind of thing you’d expect to make at home, really.

#bloggersxmaslunch at the Ship, Wandsworth

The idea behind a Christmas get-together for food bloggers came about after a slightly drunken night (ok, a rather drunken) night at an event hosted by Uyen.  We got to see lots of blogger pals there very briefly, as these things generally run, and thought it might be fun to have a lunch to round off the year.

The first place I thought of, and the first place I called, was The Ship in Wandsworth.  It’s not exactly local to me but from their tweets and knowing a little of them, I was pretty confident that the Ship ‘get’ bloggers. I reckoned they’d be game, wouldn’t be scared of curious diners arriving bearing DSLRs and bottomless stomachs, and would put up their “A game” to boot.

It’s always nice to be right.  Getting there and seeing that the hashtag #bloggersxmaslunch was on the menu amused me no end.

When I first rang Oisin, the manager of the Ship. he wasn’t in the least phased at the thought of 30 bloggers (I was a little wide-eyed every time I’d check in with the lovely Luiz LondonFoodie, my co-conspirator, and find it had grown again, and again, until the list numbered almost 50!), and immediately put together a varied and rich menu which he sent to me within twenty-four hours. Oh, and he mentioned that he could probably get Robin  Knapp and Sarah Joll from Cockburn and Campbell to sponsor some wine. He thoughtfully suggested that £3 of the £25 menu price could be donated to the Variety Club. We pre-ordered to streamline service on the day, hoping to have cleared the restaurant by 2:30 to allow them to do a second sitting. It was the last Sunday before Christmas so it was bound to be busy (I did wonder what the single non-blogger table in the restaurant made of us!) What actually happened was that the last of us bowled out of there about in the early evening, after finishing eating then sitting down with the brilliant staff to chew the conversational fat for a while, so that they might have a vague chance of doing it all again for dinner.

Because I took so few, horrendously bad photos, blogging about this lunch had disgracefully slipped my mind until I read this post about service this week. It just served to remind me how brilliant all of the staff at the Ship were, particularly Oisin and Emma. While they got us seated, with complimentary pints of London Porter and Bloody Marys in our hands, through serving up five courses of inspired fare with matched wines, to sitting around chatting with us afterwards. Such a fun afternoon, and I know we’ll be back – particularly in the summer. If you’re organising an event and want a great, relaxed setting, I’d highly recommend them.

And rather than bore you with some blurry shots of the beef and the amuse bouche (and the dessert wine – oh that orange muscat!) I’ll direct you some of the great write-ups instead; LondonFoodie, CookSister, From Chopsticks to Steakknives. A fab afternoon, got to meet some lovely new people though as ever, not enough time to chat!  Given the interest that #bloggersxmaslunch inspired on Twitter, there may well be some similar events this  year (do let me know if you’d be keen to descend as part of the next posse).  I’m off to come up with a list of establishments to approach!

Clarence Court Eggs and the Heston Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding

What could be better than having Mark Hix expound personally on why he recommends Clarence Court eggs at a select tasting in the private dining room at Hix Soho? Better than doing a blind comparison of three egg brands via steaming plates of creamy scrambled and perfectly presented boiled eggs? Better than the eggselent* three course eggy menu that was served up to us afterwards?
The answer is “Taking home 2 doz eggs in an Orla Kiely goodie bag”. BRING IT ON.

Mark Hix talked to us about why he’s a Clarence Court Ambassador (partly the vivid yellow colour of the egg yolks – as he said, you eat with your eyes too), chattered about the modern art (all of the art in the restaurant was specially commissioned) and we had Tonnix wine to drink (a collaboration between him and Mitch Tonks, conceived over a lunch at their mutual Portuguese wine merchant, label designed by their mate Tracey Emin) and tried different a trio of egg dishes.  I loved the posset which surprised me – usually not a fan of that type of dessert.

I’m already a fan of Clarence Court’s Burford Browns, and as it happened we’d just shopped so I was looking at a fridge containing 36 eggs. It’s not that big a fridge. First off, a luxurious Saturday breakfast of boiled duck egg and sourdough toast. (if only we’d had truffles too we could have tried to recreate our favourite Tristan Welch starter at Launceston Place) After 5:40 mins precisely as mandated by Delia, they were little pools of yolky sunshine and my only complaint was I hadn’t been offered two of them. The chef pointed out that they’re bigger than chicken eggs. I  tried to nick some of his and had to make do with purloining toast.

I’d contemplated making quail scotch eggs but on an evening when I knew I had to use up 500g of mince, the boyf had an inspired idea: thanks to his flicking through Nigella’s “Kitchen“, we ended up with Meatloaf.

Rather than the chicken eggs which she naturally suggests, I used one duck egg to bind it all admirably and nestled 10 hardboiled quail eggs into the centre of the meat. It works a treat as every slice has a reasonable allocation of egg throughout.

Finally I decided to attempt my grandmother’s custard to finish the eggs – I reckoned it would be the perfect accompaniment to something else in the fridge – the Heston from Waitrose Hidden Orange Pudding. I’d been thrilled when Waitrose sent me one and then hesitated to open it. My Dad *loves* Christmas pudding and I knew I’d be very popular if I brought it home.
Like “home”, home.
To Ireland, for Christmas. That was a month away at that stage.
Boo. Then Helen kindly said she had lots left over in her fridge and gave me some, and I get to be awarded the “Best Daughter” prize. Win!!

I have to admit, I really liked the pud. Mainly because it smelled just like the one my Mum makes, so it was going to be a winner, though Mum’s pud has certainly never strayed anywhere near an orange, and it’s honestly nothing like a Sussex Pond Pudding (one of my colleagues pointed out that that was where the inspiration probably came from) but I like the whole nuts and the sweetness – it was rather less stodgy than Christmas pud can regrettably be.  Famously, it sold out and there wouldn’t be any more on offer as they take too long to mature.  That makes feel almost churlish saying how well it went with proper egg custard, made with one of the last Burford Browns.


  • 1 Burford Brown egg yolk, at room temperature.
  • 10 g sugar
  • 100ml whole milk
  • 1 vanilla pod or vanilla essence to taste


  1. Mix the milk and sugar in a saucepan
  2. Put the vanilla seeds or essence into the mixture to infuse and then bring it slowly to the boil
  3. Beat the egg yolk
  4. Slowly pour the hot mixture over the egg yolk , beating constantly so the yolk doesn’t curdle
  5. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk constantly while heating gently until it coats the back of the spoon.

Now it’s on to a dry January, and a vast stacked of Post-It’d book marks.  Lots of new recipes to try this year.