The French haven't had it easy en Nouvelle Zealande but here's a reason to show them a little love - Tomette ready-made meals. The best of New Zealand ingredients in classic French recipes, resulting in meals which are ready in less than three minutes in the microwave, or 12 in the oven. Frenchy fast food, if you will.

The brainchild of Etienne Moly and Thomas Dietz, from Lyon and Paris respectively, these are the real deal but without the effort. "It's not about secret recipes or anything," says Thomas. "It's more about time. Some of these dishes require 24 hours of marinating or three hours slow-cooking and we want to bring busy customers those tastes without them having to do the work."

Both from large international company backgrounds, the pair have lived all over the world. They met in New Zealand (Etienne has been here six years and Thomas four) and used to have competitions as to who could create the best weekday lunch. The light-hearted competition made them think seriously about whether there was a call for this type of thing and just like a baby, nine months later Tomette was born.

The branding is gorgeous, and the packaging cheeky with quotes like "Yes Monsieur, we eat frogs for breakfast like your All Blacks eat French for lunch!" There are five flavours: Beef Bourguignon, Chicken Basquaise, Coq au Vin, Salmon with Dill Sauce and Lamb Provencale.


My favourites were the salmon with its luscious dill sauce and pilau rice and the slow-cooked lamb Provencale served with to-die-for creamy mashed potatoes loaded with butter and herbs. The fabulous tomato, olive, rosemary and thyme sauce and melt-in-your mouth chunks of lamb made me believe, if only for a minute, that I was having dinner in an old stone farmhouse somewhere in Provence.

Across the range, the meat was tender, the veges perfectly cooked (neither too soft or crunchy) and the accompaniments of pasta, rice, or potatoes soft and nicely flavoured. They all tasted of comfort and home.

These are real French family meals - just like Maman makes. There is nothing but real food in these babies, a welcome relief as the terms "convenience food" and "100 per cent natural" are usually mutually exclusive. If the budget won't allow for a quick jaunt to Brittany or Nice you can buy one of these, pour yourself a glass (there are suggested NZ wine matches on the packaging), dim the lights and pretend.

Where to buy:
* Pyrenees

* Maison Vauron

* Westmere Butcher

* Pukeko Foodstore

* Le Parigot

* La Boulange

* Farro Fresh