Sunday, 22 April 2007

It's All Good...

A few weeks ago, I was sent a money-off coupon to sample the new 'McCain Gourmet' range. It took a while to get hold of any, as no stores in the Aberystwyth area seem to stock the products. We eventually got hold of some by dropping into Tesco in Carmarthen, on the way home after our day out on Friday. As Hubby starts a week of annual leave today, I thought it would be interesting to try it out, as part of a quick and easy dinner.

I always like to keep, in the freezer, the components of one quick meal that I can bung in the oven, from frozen, for half and hour or so in a real emergency. This vastly reduces the stress levels when we've been away for a few days and there is no fresh meat, nor any vegetables, in the house. Having to stop and go food shopping on the way home is simply unbearable (especially with tired young children in tow). I usually keep a box of (usually breaded) chicken steaks or fish fillets for this purpose, the sort containing whole pieces of meat or fish, rather than mechanically-recovered sludge. We always have a selection of frozen vegetables; usually peas, sweetcorn and broccoli florets. Some kind of potato is good, too, but more difficult, unless you want chips or funny-shaped things. These new products interested me greatly; being composed of cut-up whole potatoes rather than creepy extruded stuff.

I'm always a little concerned about the levels of salt in processed food, but we don't eat much of it, so once in a while I don't mind too much. As another plus, the only slightly spooky ingredient listed on the pack was 'Glucose & Fructose Syrup'. Sugar? Not something I would put into a potato gratin, but still better than a whole load of modified starch, E-numbers and the like. Naturally, James did not share this meal with us - I defrosted and heated some of his favourite cheesy lentils instead, which went down very well as always.

So, this is what the 'Mature Cheddar Cheese & Wholegrain Mustard Gratin' looked like before it went into the oven:
I cooked it at a slightly lower temperature than the manufacturer's recommendation, because my fan oven runs quite hot. After 25 minutes, it did look appetising; a little less browned than the on-pack picture, probably because of the lower temperature, but it was cooked through at this point, so I decided not to give it any longer, lest it collapse into mush.

The finished product was really rather good - Karl and I agreed there was no real cheese taste to speak of, but it had a nice twang of mustard and a good amount of sauce, neither too sloppy nor too dry. It would probably stand up on its own, with just a watercress salad or something, but we ate it with coarse pork sausages and some peas and sweetcorn alongside.

As I've said before, we don't eat much processed food, but I do think these would be worth having in the freezer as a standby. I'd certainly be interested in trying some of the other products in the range (they also do, among others, 'Diced Potatoes with Leek, Onions & Parmesan’ and ‘Baby Potatoes with Oven Roasted Tomato & Garlic’) Maybe if they start stocking them nearer to home...

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