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Let me first clarify that I am by no standards a vegetarian; I love white meat such as chicken and Turkey, and the occassional sausage and bacon. I like spaghetti bolegnaise or shepherds pie ready meals but I actually can't stand minced meat; it's grisly and chewy - even the extra lean stuff. I find this a shame becasue I love to make homemade dinners.
I was browsing the rice aisle during our shop at Asda when I spotted 'Asda Meat free savoury mince' in a packet. Now, I wouldn't write a review for the sake of it. I'm writing this review because you, like I did, may be slightly wary of a packeted meat free mince product that costs just 58p. Moreover, the front design is er, less than appealing to your average buyer. Basically, the packet is 120g with a green bordered edge. The front is predominately taken up by a large picture of a plate with a shepherds (or cottage, I can't tell) pie. There is only a bit of potato but loads of mince to show off the product. It's hardly 'showing it off' though - It looks gooey and sloppy with very orange chunks of carrot and the odd pea hidden amoungst the mush. The potato looks nice though, if that's any consilation. The rest of the background behind the plate is blue with a little green oval saying - 'Asda Brand : always free from artifical colours, flavours and hydrogenated fat'. The packet is quite patronising because it tells us this again at the bottom: 'Food Facts - No artifical colours, flavours or hydrogenated fat'. Actually, Asda must have realised their mistake in putting the green oval containg this information on top of a green background of peas making it barely noticable. I guess it's a good job they wrote this at the bottom aswell. In addition, this is obviously suitable for vegetarians, as noted by the green 'V' in a white square box. Ah, I think it was Shepherds pie on the front because on the back, Asda provides a recipe for it. I made a shepherds pie using this but I didn't follow any recipe. How hard is it to stick this stuff in a pan of boiling water and simmer, then top with mash? (actually, I used sweet potato, just to be different). The product is described as - 'Savoury dried soya mince in a rich, smooth onion gravy with dried carrots and peas'.
* Allergy Advice - Contains Gluten, Wheat, Barley and soya. May contain nuts
*How to cook - Place the contents into a saucepan and add 600ml of water (oops I added boiling water. Nevermind). Bring to boil then simmer and stir freqently until the water is absorbed to the desired consistency). This didn't take long at all. Just be careful though becuase my mixture caramelised around the bottom of the pan.
I noted most of the ingredients in order to show that there is quite a few strong flavours in this that you might want to be aware of.
Okay, on reading this I was wary. If the dried veg is anything like that rubbish rubbery stuff you get in pot noodles it was going to be vile. Plus, I've never tried soya. I buy quorn Lamb grils and peppered stakes but I've never tried soya mince. Still, I thought I'd give it ago for the sake of 58p.
On tearing open the packet you are quite literally overwhelmed by the smell of onion powder. It is actually so strong it makes me feel sick. Also, the powder seems to floats everywhere if you open the packet with too must enthusiam because it resembles fine dust. Looking into the packet contents you'll find a load of very light brown powder with the odd tiny carrot chunk or pea and a few nobbly bits that look like dried noodles. The noodles are swamped by the powder, which I'm guessing makes the gravy. I dipped my finger into the powder to sample it. To my surprise it didn't really taste of onion; it was actually quite sweet with a hint of tomato spice. Looking at it closely on inspection, the tiny white crystal specks of sugar (or salt) are evident amounst the tiny brown dots of gravy powder.
I poured half the contents into a saucepan and added BOILING WATER, not even bothering to measure it. The mixture immediently turned dark brown and began to thicken. What's great about this is that the noodles, or mince bits, whatever they are, and the dried veg softened ever so quickly. I don't know if you've ever eaten pot noodles but you have to stir the contents in boiling water for ages in order to ensure you don't get crunchy noodles or rock hard carrots and peas. The smell lessened and became more of a tomatoey lein perrins smell. Not partically nice but certainly not off-puttings. I like my mince fairly thick; well, in this instance the gravy. There was hardly any mince at all. It was all thick gravy, but I spoon it into the casserole dish in a big lumpy slop, topped with sweet potato and bung it in the oven for a bit. I think I had the oven to high because the exposed meat edges that peeped from under the potato browned and turned caramelised and crunchy (Actually, it worked well with the sweet potato!).
*Taste - It was very sloppy due to all the gravy. I mean, the gravy was thick but it still sort of fell off my fork. Plus, it looked pretty vile really; the packet wasn't decieving us. Dark brown lumpy mush with a few tiny carrots and peas. hmm (not emmmm). The taste on the other hand wasn't all that bad, bearing in mind I added a stock cube however. Texture wise, the mince (or little of it) was soft and wasn't horribly grisly or chewy. It sort of withered away in my mouth. The carrots and peas were bland. They had a nice bite, thus, were not a soggy mess and added at least a bit of texture to the sogginess but there was no juicy flavour. I don't mind about this in relation to the peas because I don't like peas but I would have liked a juicy carrot. The gravy was very very strong, just like on sampling plainly. As I've mentioned, it didn't taste of onion so much; more of sweet tomoto sauce with a kick of spice that tasted like Lein Perrins. I actually liked the taste and enjoyed my meal as the sweet potato took away some of the strong flavour, however, it was rather sickly and half a packet was more than enough for me, even by my standards. The portion was huge and extremely filling considering it was mainly gravy.
I would actually get this again. It's probably no good for me making spaghetti bolegnaise because it has peas and carrots in it (even though they are tasteless). I'll stick with heinz in a tin for this. The product is nice in moderation. I couldn't eat it often or too much of it but it made a decent, substantial and low fat/ calorie meal.
*Nutrition Per half a sachet there are only 167kcal and 0.9g of fat! That is amazing. Honestly, if you couldn't stand the taste, add an oxo or something and your own veg for near to zero calories more but better flavour and you've got a sin free meal. The sugars come in a 6.3g and the salt 1.5g. It wasn't salty tasting at all, more sweet but not overly sweet as this is a savoury dish. There are no saturates either! For meat lovers, you probably won't enjoy this because there isn't much to get your teeth into but if, like me, you simply want a nice, satisfying and healthy meal, this is perfect. For 58p, I reckon this could feed about three people, generous portions, plus a side of veg and it's a great meal for the family.