Category Archives: ENTIRE MEAL

TESCO 7 CHEESE SELECTION PACK

7-cheese

 

Guest blog by Dan Simpson

 

A cheeseboard at Christmas is de rigueur these days, and the supermarkets want to make it easy for you by offering a convenient cheese selection pack. Why spend two minutes choosing your own cheeses from the same shelves for a lovingly custom-made cheeseboard when you can just buy this and be done with it? I’ve eaten three of these atrocities over the holidays, and I’ll tell you why.

I have attempted to write individual reviews of the seven cheeses on offer in this selection: a difficult task, given that were you to spear a bit of any of these cheeses at random, you would not be able to distinguish one from another. The box says to “Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving to allow flavours to develop” – though you needn’t bother, since the flavours develop like a poorly-taken low-light night-time photograph: you wonder why you even bothered in the first place.

Brie

Brie is a bad karaoke version of cheese: the coward’s Camembert. And Camembert is itself a spineless cop out in the face of Vacherin. To choose Brie is to say: I don’t know what I’m doing, and I despise taste. But we have not chosen Brie: it has been chosen for us in this box of cheese-approximations. Which is appropriate, given your decision to buy this selection in the first place.

Cheddar

Some will say that cheddar – the most popular and, yes, often blandest of British cheeses – deserves no place on a civilised cheeseboard. Those people are snobs, and wrong: an aged cheddar, full of flavoursome bite and crunchy tyrosine crystals, is a strong part of the line-up, holding its own against the blues and soft Frenches. This cheddar is not that. This is a disgrace: not just to cheddar, but to all cheese.

Red Leicester

Indistinguishable from the cheddar, aside from the highlighter-pen-neon orange.

Edam

When chewing on this theoretically hard cheese, all rubber texture and polybutadiene taste, you may be forgiven for thinking that you forgot to remove the plastic that each of these cheeses comes vacuum-sealed in. Looking down to check and realising that no, this is it, this is the experience of this cheese, it may cross your mind to fish the packaging out of the bin and eat that instead.

Stilton

This is acceptable, in the way that Stilton often is. It tastes like a blue cheese: no more, no less. Your cheese selection is in trouble if this is the best thing on offer.

Austrian smoke flavoured processed cheese

This cheese doesn’t even have a proper name, merely a description of what it is. It’s an obvious joke told by an observational comic – with a bad Austrian accent designed to cover the deficiency of thought behind it. Adding ‘Austrian’ to the name to give it some continental gravitas is a superficial marketing trick no one is fooled by. And, given what Tesco have already done to Edam and Brie here, I can’t blame the EU for wanting nothing more to do with us.

Wensleydale with Cranberries

Grow up and buy some chutneys, and allow people to decide what fruit-flavours they want with their cheese – instead of foisting dried-up bits of cranberries into our mouths, which have the consistency and appeal of dead flies.

Summary

The word ‘selection’ in this product is a lie – it implies that thought and care has gone into the choosing of these cheeses. This is a magnificent smorgasbord of sub-mediocrity, adding up to much less than the sum of their parts. A cheeseboard can be a glorious showstopper: a bountiful overflowing of colours and shapes, textures and taste. Thoughtlessly bunging out this greyed-out selection box wastes that potential, and makes a mockery of indulgence at Christmas. Am I saying that this cheese selection has the power to singlehandedly ruin Christmas? Bitter experience says: yes.

TESCO 7 CHEESE SELECTION PACK: 7/10*

*It’s still cheese, and cheese is always welcome

THANKSGIVING SPECIAL: TURKEY

images-1

mmm, cardboard

I love meat. I don’t eat it anymore, because it comes from dead animals, but that is not to say it doesn’t taste nice. It is one of the mournful actualities of human existence that all the most enjoyable things are laden with immorality. Except masturbation. I fail to see how such an act can be considered immoral; it’s not like the baby-juice runs out or anything. And it’s not like, in the normal course of things, anybody is harmed by it. It is the quintessential ‘free lunch’. (Not literally, of course.)

Now, it’s been five years since carcass has passed my lips, with the exception of a much anticipated but ultimately somewhat underwhelming salt beef sandwich ‘cheat’ meal in New York at the tail end of 2015. Nonetheless, my memories are such that I am imbued with a degree of authority regarding what follows. And even if I had no such authority, so what? We live in a post-truth age, capeesh?

The subject of today’s lecture concerns turkey, and we’ll get to it in due course my pretty ones. But first I want to talk about football. Football fans can be a very witty bunch. One of my favourite chants occurs using the schema, “[referring to x] you’re just a shit y”, where x is deemed to be similar to but ultimately less good than y. An example: Carlos Tevez and Diego Maradona are both Argentinian, but the latter was much better than the former, leading fans of whichever team Tevez was playing against to chant “you’re just a shit Maradona.” Oh, the hilarity! My favourite example was when Spurs fans chanted at Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, “you’re just a sh*t Peter Schmeichel’, Peter being Kasper’s dad and a superior goalkeeper.

Back to the turkey, my friends, back to the turkey. (A phrase no immigrant wants to hear. Too far?) Turkey is just sh*t chicken. There, I’ve said it. It tastes like chicken, but is just drier and less tasty. If it wasn’t for its hallowed position at the centre of tradition, no one would ever voluntarily choose it. It requires slathering* in sauce before attaining a palatable level of moisture, and comes with so many trimmings and accoutrements that one is naturally led, with suspicion, to ask: just what is it trying to hide? A complete lack of tastiness, that’s what. It’s like when a munter cakes herself in make-up or swaddles himself in designer clothes.

I think the world would be a happier place if we did away with this turkey bollocks and just ate chicken instead. Good, old-fashioned chicken. Chicken, chicken, chicken. Seriously, man, that’s the answer: chicken. Chick chick chick chickchicken, lay a little egg for me. Think about it: would there still be wars if we ate chicken instead of turkey? Wait! Where are you taking me? Let me go! I’m NAPOLEON goddammit.

Anyway, to sum up this lecture: chicken > turkey.

Sod it all, I’ll have the nut roast.

*one of my favourite words

QUORN ‘CHICKEN’ NUGGETS

quorn

serves 5-6?! Serves 1 more like! (If that 1 is me)

The quest for genuinely meaty meat-substitutes is, you might think, a largely futile endeavour. Quorn steak? About as steak-like as a bathroom sponge. And veggie bacon rashers bare about as much resemblance to the real thing as Tony Blair bares to socialism. (Have I used this simile before? I’m pretty sure I have but I can’t be bothered to look through the hallowed annals of AFB.)

This is a shame as, once liberated from an inevitably unfavourable comparison with their tasty yet immoral cousins, meat-substitutes are often pretty decent on their own terms. How much more tasty, for example, would Linda McCartney sausages be if they were marketed not as sausages (with all the images of unattainably yummy pig eyeballs and anus thus connoted) but simply as, I dunno, ‘mashed vegetable cylinders’ or something. It would lower our culinary expectations, and thus enable us to appreciate the fairly pleasant taste on its own merits.

With this in mind, my expectations upon purchasing a bag of frozen Quorn ‘chicken nuggets’ was reasonably, but not unrealistically, high. I anticipated a perfectly serviceable evening meal, but was very far from expecting McDonald’s-esque levels of gustatory ecstasy. I was ready to give the whole shebang a solid 6, maybe 6.5, out of 10; a 2:1 in Media Studies; a 3-star review from Broadway Baby.

What transpired far exceeded my humble expectations. The nuggets emerged from the oven crisp, oily and golden. Penetration with a fork* revealed said nuggets to be pleasingly crispy, with a coating that slipped off like lingerie on a wedding night. And here is the fulcrum of the whole discussion: the insides were qualitatively indistinguishable from actual chicken. They were positively fowl. So all in all, what I had was basically a plate of delicious, crispy, unctuous chicken nuggets, but without any dead animal offal. Win win.

Granted, the similarity between Quorn ‘chicken’ nuggets and chicken chicken nuggets might have something to do with the fact that actual chicken nuggets themselves taste somewhat indeterminate. But it doesn’t matter; the discovery of a vegetarian item that tastes actually tastes like what it purports to represent is enough to land Quorn chicken nuggets with a 9.5/10. A First from Oxford. The fucking Perrier Award of food. Booooooom!

*sounds like a death metal band. Penetration With a Fork.

GREEK MAC

greek-mac

Readers, you get the Average Food Blog you deserve.

When it was suggested, via social media, that perhaps my first bit of Greece-based reportage covered a food that might be considered a little ‘high-end’ in its market, I was forced to make it abundantly clear that our philosophy to muse upon and review the average was still intact.

People of the internet, here is your average.

I lie to you not; there exists beneath the golden arches of the Hellenic state the ‘Greek Mac’. It is decidedly mediocre. It is served inside a cardboard wallet. 

Conversely, while abandoning the ‘Big’ of Macs found around the world in favour of an unimaginative nationalistic branding, it may in fact be bigger than a Big Mac. But this does not lead to an elongation of any tangible sort of pleasure. It tastes loads of yoghurt and little of anything else.

The pitta, standing in half-heartedly for a bun, was soft and a bit floury. Its shape was highly uniform. The lettuce, tomato and onion was haphazard and bland.

While unsurprisingly going in for those big 100% beef claims that McDonald’s is so fond of touting, the meat probably tastes marginally worse than that which can be found at Athens’ range of two Euro souvlaki joints.

That’s right – I am hereby claiming that 50% pig trotter 50% unknown ‘meat’ is superior in flavour to McDonald’s’ 100% beef. I cannot really compute what has gone wrong here, in part because I’m terribly hungover, following the kind of binge drinking which leads to the eating of a Greek Mac. In this context, it sort of did a job as a vaguely flavoured soaking device.

I ate this corporate national symbol in the early hours of the Greek 28th October public holiday. My show of sympathetic nationalism was met with slight bemusement, but mostly apathy. All the Greeks around me ordered Big Macs.

5/10

PANINIS

panini

There’s no easy way to write this, so I’ll write it the hard way: paninis are shit.

They are the bread equivalent of eating a fucking panini. That’s right; paninis are so bad they transcend their food genre and become a benchmark of badness.

It’s basically eating a slimline, slightly-rounded brick with anaemia and a tan as an afterthought. Eating a panini is a chore akin to cleaning the sand out of a well-used pair of astroturf football boots.

Paninis detract from any filling you could possibly put in a panini. Wraps, baps, buns, baguettes, scones, crackers – these and all other bread-based products are superior to this pointless, not hard, not soft, not flexible, not inflexible grillable nonsense.

If that’s the only fillable option you can think of in a given moment when standing gormless at the counter of your local cafe/deli/whatever, just order the filling, in your hands.

It’s almost as if paninis thought they’d be given a free ride forever, just for having a Mediterranean-tinged name. This cheap con trick is over.

And let’s make this clear; paninis have no direct connection whatsoever to sticker manufacturer Panini. The latter’s stickers, though grossly overpriced, provide hours of entertainment for children and adults alike. Much distance should be placed between these two paninis, outside of this blog.

I strongly recommend to governments everywhere: deal with your housing crisis by forcefully commandeering all existing paninis and building homes with them.

All this considered, I will still give them a single point simply for adding meaning to the day-middles of office workers.

PANINIS: 1/10

WETHERSPOON FISH AND CHIPS

wethfish

Having covered off Curry Club and Chicken Club in a fastidiously lazy manner, it seems only right that I move trudgingly on to Wetherspoon’s Friday night offering, which is controversially not deemed a Club, but ‘Fish Friday’.

Alright then, Fish Friday, you contrary fishy weekend revolutionary, what have you got?

Well, first of all, a limited selection of items riffing on the basic concept ‘fish and chips’, and second of all, the kind of lovingly-crafted utter mediocrity you can expect from every Wetherspoon meal other than either ham, egg and chips or gammon, egg and chips.

It was clear to see that the fish was patchy in coloration once the batter began rolling off like Wilko wallpaper, which in itself could be seen as problematic if trying to look for positives about the meal. Any forensic would surmise that blows had been made against the flesh of this beast – battered to death. Geddit? Yeah? Yeah? Good.

The chips were good, bordering on excellent. They always are; Wetherspoon employs star chip chefs in any given locality. The peas were convincingly chip shop-esque, in the sense that a Tony Blair rubber mask is convincingly Tony Blair-esque.

In short, replace the fish with ham or gammon and you’re on to a winner.

An additional observation is that perversely, during Fish Friday in the Wetherspoon outlet I happened to be in (Coronet, Holloway Road, London) there was also an offer available on strawberry daiquiris. Nobody whatsoever was drinking them, with or without a fish-based meal.

FISH: 3/10

CHIPS: 8/10

FISH AND CHIPS: 5/10