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6 May 2014

Reviewing : Asda's "Family Favourites" Beef Lasagne (and trying Poutine!)

No matter how dedicated a do-it-yourself, cook from scratch, no additives, no sweeteners, no colours type of foodie you are - sometimes you need to use a Supermarket bought ready meal of some kind or another.

We use these sorts of foodstuffs as a break from the intricacies of cooking from scratch, with a very great mix of results.  Anyone who follows Rhubarb & Ginger's Facebook page will remember the horror that was the Lamb Grills.  ~shudder~

So anyway, I was sitting there today waiting for the Lasagne and oven chips to cook - I know, don't hate me for it, okay? - and I thought that I should do a little review post on the Lasagne.  After all, Rhubarb & Ginger is all about family cooking and making do with what you've got - and sometimes, you can't afford to make an entire four person Lasagne from scratch because to do so would amount to the equivalent of at least two of the frozen version from your local supermarket.  Inevitably, in that sort of circumstance, the supermarket one will win - and quite rightly too.  Who knows, maybe you could buy your son some long awaited socks with the other £3, before he winds up with tubes on his feet instead.

The more I pondered on the idea, the more I liked it.  Well, when you've got 50 minutes to wait for the Lasagne, it gives you plenty of opportunity for pondering, in between putting the chips onto a baking tray, then into the oven, then out of the oven, turn them around, back into the oven.  *sigh*  Such hard work.

The Lasagne in question was Asda's (humungous, at 1400g) "Family Favourites" Beef Lasagne from their freezer cabinet.  Now we went into the Lasagne thing this evening with some trepidation as Lasagne had become something of a minefield in the past - albeit quite a long ago past.  For a while there, it seemed impossible to find a Lasagne that wasn't all sauce and no meat.  You would try to serve it up using a fish slice, only to have it literally pour off the sides of the slice and you wound up with three pieces of empty pasta that you had to flop dejectedly onto a pool of tomato based liquid on your plate and call it dinner.  Just disgusting.

However, not so with the new breed of Lasagne!  Now bear in mind that this is just a bog standard version - a "Chosen By You" but not one of the "better" grades, just a standard, common or garden Lasagne - and at £3, I defy you to make one for less.  With no artificial colours, flavours or hydrogenated fat, I'd say we've probably come a long way since I indulged in a shop bought Lasagne.

Not only did it cut acceptably, but it served very nicely too.  It kept its filling in place and its Bechamel sauce stayed put.  The grated cheese on the top made for a nice toasty cheese flavour and I heartily approved of the small cubes of carrot that were included in the tomato and beef mince sauce.  When you are trying to get some kind of veggies into your children, hiding them in a Lasagne is often the only way with some.


The only negatives that I could pinpoint were :

a) that the sauce was a little too tomato and not enough beef in flavour, but that is probably just a personal preference.

b) that the pasta, once cooked, became a bit over soft and plasticine like.  However, again, if you're trying to feed children - soft pasta is a good thing.

c)  that the cooking time required an extra ten minutes to get the heat right through - and even then we had to blowtorch the middle of the surface to get that all over baked cheesy goodness look.

I felt that the salt content was reasonable, as at 2.2g of salt per quarter of a pack it could certainly have been better (especially bearing in mind the Government recommendation for a daily salt allowance of 5g), but then I was expecting far worse.  I suspect that without the declared level of salt there would have to be some radical work done on flavour, which would in turn have a knock-on effect on the price.  So, in this case, I'm willing to allow that you actually get a little bit more than you've paid for.


Bearing in mind that the Lasagne didn't have much to live up to, it has done very well.  However, don't forget that this isn't a swanky version with sun dried tomatoes and fresh basil - it is the "one above economy" version.  So you're not getting a Lasagne with thick layers of meat sauce that tastes amazing.  However, what you are getting is a perfectly good, honest, presentable family dinner.

Marks out of 10?  I'd give it a 9 for doing what it says on the tin.

Now, what about this Poutine thing?  Well, it had come to my attention that in Canada - Quebec, particularly - they ate this somewhat odd combination of chips, dark meaty gravy and cheese curds and called it Poutine.  It seemed to be something of a Marmite sort of thing - people either love it or hate it with no leeway inbetween.

I made a mental note to look out for cheese curds (I'll admit, the name "cheese curds" is about as off putting as they come) and maybe - just maybe - try it out one day.
 
Over the ensuing months, I learned a little more about Poutine - and the cheese curds aspect particularly.  It would seem that cheese curds are no more than a dry Cottage Cheese.  Now in Canada, they recommend using Cheddar cheese curds.  As to where I could find some of those, I have no clue.  For a long time, I had no clue about what cheese curds were in relation to where you got them from, never mind specific Cheddar versions!  It seemed to me that if you had Cheddar cheese curds on hand, you'd be far better employed turning them into Cheddar cheese than selling your basic product out from under your own two feet!  I had a number of products suggested - from buying a pot of standard creamy Cottage Cheese and draining it, to using Quark.  None of those sounded right.

Just - literally - a few days ago, hubby discovered a pack of full fat cheese curds in the Polish section of Asda - Twarog Lowicki.  He mentioned it to me and I lit up like a roman candle.  Taking that as a declaration of extreme interest (clever lad!), he bought some today.  Of course, the fact that we were a) having chips with the Lasagne and b) we were due in Asda anyway, helped enormously.

So, these cheese curds are intriguing and from what I could gather, absolutely right.  Imagine our kind of cottage cheese, but without the loose creaminess, being put through a sieve.  Tiny little pearls of white, very young, cheese.  Put a teaspoonful on your tongue and you taste nothing.  They're akin to water.  Allow some heat to permeate through and you start to taste their creaminess - which grows as you move them around.  They aren't anything like as chalky as Cottage Cheese, they are much smoother.  A little tart tasting - but very good.


On the chips, with the addition of beef gravy and malt vinegar, they are a revelation.  Poutine - count me in!

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