Every few weeks Heston pops up on this blog, in the past it has been sausages, popcorn, bacon, mince pies and gravy. They have all been part of a meal, or a snack of some kind, but Heston has now turned the corner and gone all out with some ready meals. The full range includes the chilli con carne and macaroni cheese I tried but also a lasagne, fish pie and shepherds pie. There are also a couple of sides, mashed potato and caraway carrots. There is some mash sat in the fridge which I will review in due course, but at the moment I am trying to figure out how to cook the mash in an oven, owing to the fact that I don’t own a microwave. I am sure that experiment will bring it’s own pleasures, at best a huge duchess potato, at worst brown mash in a melted plastic pot.
It is rare to read anything about Heston without the words “mad scientist” attached. These days there’s less weird stuff like horseshoe and brandy scones (I made that up), and more on interesting techniques to get the most flavour into classic dishes. Having said that the packet says “Waitrose and Heston share a passion for incredible food. Together, we’ve developed this exclusive range, bringing an unexpected twist to your favourite dishes.”.
I tried the chilli first – the unexpected twist here seems to be that there is a knob of chilli butter floating about in the sauce, the idea being you fish it out before cooking and stir it in after cooking. How unexpected. The chilli takes 30 mins at 170c and comes out bubbling and appetising with a deep red colour.
The first thing I noticed was how wet and sloppy it was, there was no thick sauce here as the chilli sloshed about in its plastic pot. It tasted good though, the sauce was layered and complex with a smokiness and a nice but not overwhelming heat. I would have liked it a bit hotter, but each to his own. The strange thing about it though was the texture of the mince which was really grainy. I’m not sure if this is due to over grinding the meat or what, but I think larger pieces of mince would be a big improvement. As is becoming my mantra with Heston products, it’s not perfect, but it’s one of the nicest ready meal versions I’ve had so worth a try.
Moving onto the cauliflower truffle macaroni cheese. Heston has been very clever here with his “unexpected twist” as there is a double bluff. I think the unexpected element was the truffle, but actually the unexpected bit is that there wasn’t any – or there wasn’t any as far as my palate could tell! This though is to start with the negative as this dish was really good.
The macaroni cheese took 30 mins to cook and was wonderful. The pasta was perfectly cooked, with a good bite to it. The cauliflower was al dente and worked wonders with the macaoni cheese. The cheese sauce had excellent flavour and the crunchy crumb on top was a lovely extra texture. Making macaroni cheese at home is easy but it can take a while this is a really good shortcut. You might do things differently at home, like add in some bacon or give it a mustard kick, and whilst that would be different it is hard to see that it would be better, for this is a triumph for ready meals.
Heston from Waitrose Chilli Con Carne 350g £3.26 (introductory price)
Heston from Waitrose Cauliflower Truffle Macaroni Cheese 400g £3.26 (introductory price)