Product Type: Bisto Food
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A Home-Cooked Ready Meal
Aah Bisto Cottage Pie
Member Name: cazkins
Aah Bisto Cottage Pie
Advantages: Easy to 'cook', smells & tastes good, soft texture, decent portion
Disadvantages: None per se for me
I've noticed lately that with a lot less time to get things done, cooking after work is become more and more frustrating. I was looking for something quick, or something easy that you don't have to keep checking on, but that sounds appealing to eat and tastes good. I came across these in the supermarket at £1 and gave them a try; I'm glad I did because I was pleasantly surprised at their yumminess despite being a ready meal.
This comes in a rectangular cardboard box with a red design to the side, setting it apart from the shepherd's pie version. There's the classic 'aah Bisto' logo to the top right, which is quite recognisable, and a nice big picture of a golden-topped, yummy looking pie on the front to show us what to expect. There's also a little certificate style logo at the bottom saying that the product uses "100% minced beef", which is always good to know because no one wants to think they're buying fake beef (unless, of course, you're vegetarian).
I've actually discovered these can be a little tricky to come across in supermarkets, even though they are stocked in Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's. The going rate is around £1.50 but they're currently on offer at £1 in Tesco, though Asda seems to sell them at £1 anyway. Moral to the story? When you see them at £1, stock up!
This is described as "A Classic Shepherd's Pie made with minced lamb, peas and carrots in lashings of thick gravy, topped with buttery mashed potato. Based on a traditional British Recipe." It's sold as a 375g packet and contains no artificial preservatives or hydrogenated fats, which is always a good thing. It may contain traces of nuts and does contain gluten/wheat/milk, however, so bear that in mind if you have allergies. It's quite a 'traditional British' choice, and it's a good option for times when you want something warm and comforting with a home-cooked feel to it that involves far less time and preparation work.
Per pack, this contains 318 calories and 9.8g of fat. It's lower than the shepherd's pie version and I actually think the calories are quite low for what turns out to be a reasonably decent portion, considering it's a ready meal. It's also a good source of protein, and even though it doesn't really contain any veggies, adding some peas is a quick way of making this a more 'complete' meal.
The thing that surprised me was actually that this isn't for the microwave. Usually you get the choice of oven or zapping it, but unfortunately this is for the former only. To 'cook', pre heat the oven to 190°C, remove from the box and peel off the film lid, then place the plastic carton onto a baking tray. Pop this in the centre of the oven and cook for 50 minutes, or 40 minutes if you have a fan oven. That's about it! I never trust that it's simply a case of leaving it in there and taking out straight after 40 minutes, so I do check on it, give it a turn here and there and often leave it a little longer than the stated time. When it's done, take it out and leave to stand for 2 minutes. This bit seems important because it does help the pie 'regain rigidity' a little before serving, at which point it should still be piping hot.
The cooking time of 40 minutes may be a little off-putting when you want something fast that you think you should be able to nuke in the microwave, but it really does take very little effort. The top doesn't seem to burn but it does turn slightly golden. I've found that putting it on to the grill for 5 minutes at the end helps to get it a little more crisp and golden, but you do need to be careful about doing this because of melting the plastic container. Once I've done that, however, it looks quite nice and smells very tempting.
Serving it up, it looks a little sloppy. Make sure to use a big spatula or similar otherwise you'll just end up with a mess everywhere. When it's dished up and spread out a little, it does seem like a fairly decent sized portion, though probably not enough for those with slightly larger appetites. As a pea fiend, I actually do a saucepan of peas and add half a plate of those (I love them and think the ridiculous amounts are okay because they're still healthy veggies!) to make it more of a 'complete meal'. The pie itself doesn't really contain anything vegetable-like unless you count the onion, which isn't really noticeable except for perhaps adding a hint of flavour.
The taste itself is surprisingly good, again assuming that ready meals are often left lacking. If you like Bisto, then you should find the flavour and smell of this quite appealing. I don't find it too strong, which I thought I might, so it balances the flavour well to make it interesting rather than bland. There's plenty of meat and enough potato on top to not make you feel too cheated by the portion and both have quite soft textures that are easy to eat. The only slight gripe I have, and it's really the only one, is that I've noticed one or two bites with hard 'bits' in. I don't know what they were, and neither do I really want to know, but I've had a couple of these now and have only noticed it on one or two occasions so I don't count that as a particularly big flaw.
All in all, this is definitely one I'd recommend if you want something fairly quick and simple. It's quite low in calories, smells lovely, tastes good and doesn't leave your stomach feeling cheated by a miniscule portion. Nom nom!
Summary: A tasty home-cooked-style alternative that requires less time & effort
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