* Prices may differ from that shown
Since starting my healthier eating regime, I have been trying to find some different foods to have at lunchtime. I had made some soups, and curries, chicken salads, and even stir-fry vegetables with noodles. One of my friends had suggested that I try Couscous, I had tried it before but it was years ago and I wasn't too keen on it back then, it tasted quite bland. I was browsing around my local Asda, when I saw 'Ainsley Harriott Cousous', there were a few different flavours on the shelf and I opted for the chilli flavour (chilli makes everything taste great in my opinion).
== What is it? ==
'Ainsley Harriott Couscous' is part of the world kitchen range under the Symingtons food banner, which include Aunt Bessies, Ragu, Chicken Tonight, Campbells and Weight Watchers amongst many of their brands, (I won't go into a great deal about Symingtons, but you can check out their history here www.symingtons.com/about-us/). Ainsley Harriott, the famous celebrity chef with the larger than life personality who has graced such shows like 'Ready Steady Cook', and 'Can't Cook Won't Cook' amongst many others, has collaborated with Symingtons to produce a range of quick and easy to cook meals. Couscous is just part of the Ainsley Harriott product range, which also includes rices, soups and croutons. The couscous is really easy to prepare, by simply adding 160ml of boiling water, stirring and leaving to stand for 5 minutes, it couldn't be simpler, you can also add a knob of butter or some olive oil, but as I am trying to watch my weight, I didn't. Does it taste good? Yes I happen to think so, at least the chilli flavoured couscous did anyway. The packet also states that this is suitable for vegetarians and there is also a link to check out some of Ainsley's recipe ideas, which does come in handy for a little inspiration.
== Nutritional Information Per 100g ==
Energy - 629kj/149kcal
Protein - 3.9g
Carbohydrate - 29.4g
of which are sugars - 3.1g
Fat - 1.3g
of which are saturates - 0.4g
Fibre - 1.9g
Sodium - 0.38g
It does say the 100g sachet serves two people, I would imagine it means two mice, not two humans, because I find the whole sachet is a perfect size for me, unless I'm just greedy.
== Price ==
I bought this in my local Asda and it was 50p a packet, which I think is absolutely fantastic value. Even though I wasn't sure of Couscous, I still bought two packets, just in case I did like it. I figured a £1.00 wasn't going to break the bank and I could always give the other packet away to a Couscous loving friend if I didn't like it.
== Verdict ==
This has made a welcome change to the usual accompaniment of noodles, that I usually have with my stir-fry. I have since tried the wild mushroom flavour Couscous, although it was nice, it didn't have the edginess the chilli flavour had, perhaps it would have gone with something else other than a stir-fry though. I have bought quite a few packets of this now and it is handy to have in the cupboard for a quick and easy accompaniment. I have moved onto making my own lower fat alternative, using bulgur wheat, some scotch bonnet chillies, garlic powder, chicken stock and paprika, but Ainsley is handy to have in the cupboard for quickness. Overall I will give this 5 stars, it is a quick and easy dish to make, only taking as long as it takes to boil water really, and it is relatively good for you, even though making your own is even more healthy, although a slightly longer process.
I've tried a few of Ainsley Harriott's product and have been pretty pleased with all of them and this cous cous is no exception.
There are 5 or 6 (or maybe even more!) flavours available and I have tried a few but my absolute favourite has to be 'Spice Sensation'. 'Moroccan Medley' is also very nice, although it has sultanas in which personally I'm not keen on.
This product is at a really good price, I normally find it in Morrisons and when I bought some the other day it was just 78p which I thought was good. I have seen it in other supermarkets too and I imagine it's not a vastly different price. I tend to have this with chicken (something like Birds Eye crispy chicken for example or fresh chicken breast cooked in a stir fry type sauce, though clearly this will depend on the flavour of cous cous you opt for) or as part of a salad and I find that as a side dish it serves two, you dont get loads though and if you are particularly hungry or are just having it on it's own or with something small you will probably need one each.
It is incredibly simple to make and the instructions are very easy to follow. Simply tip it into a bowl, pour on the suggested amount of boiling water, leave for 5 minutes and hey presto! Just fluff it up with a fork and it's ready to eat! It is delicious and makes a nice alternative to rice or pasta.
One of my most favourite foods is cous cous, I quite simply love the stuff. Usually I have just plain cous cous as a meal accompaniment and I really enjoy it but I have had the odd Ainsley Harriot offering and so when I spotted a range of his cous cous's in my local B & M store I picked up a couple in each flavour and the one I have just eaten and so am reviewing here, now is the lemon, mint & parsley cous cous.
This comes in a silver foil sachet that is black on the outside of it with a photograph of the cous cous on the front made up and a picture of Ainsley Harriot and in white and bright green writing we are told that it is indeed Ainsley Harriot Lemon, Mint & Parsley Cous Cous and that it is suitable for Vegetarians and that it contains no artificial colours or preservatives and is 'A vibrant citrus cous cous - perfect with fish and lamb' and that it weighs 100g. On the back of the pack other information listed includes ingredients and allergy advice, there is a full nutritional chart stated, we are told how to make it up and contact details for the manufacturer are given. Nice enough and easy to tear open packaging this is.
The Cous Cous Itself:
Open the packet and you are met by lots of light green powdery mix which is of course mostly grains of cous cous with dried parsley, mint, and garlic powder and some dried lemon peel plus a few other things of course. To mix this up is so simple anyone can do it. I simply pour my dry mix into my measuring jug and add 160ml of freshly boiled water to it and leave it for 5 minutes. In that time the mix thickens and it drinks the water and is a nice, fluffy looking cous cous with a slight lemon aroma to it and the mix is rather green which did appear a bit odd at first lol.
Flavourwise the cous cous was lovely and I split the pack with my mate and had it with fish. The cous cous was slightly grainy and not too mushy and well cooked through with a gentle balance and not overwhelming flavour of the parsley and mint in the main with a gentle hint towards lemon and onion flavours too.
This simple tasted great and we liked the real balance of flavourings and the fact that we could detect flavours of so many things within it. This gets a huge thumbs up from us though and for half a pack of this it only contains 192kcal and 1.7g total fat so it isn't unhealthy and is rather filling too and I shall certainly buy this time and time again in the future.
I have seen this on sale in local supermarkets at around a pound a time though I buy mine in my local B & M store and it costs me 39p a time which is quite simply excellent!
I am not a massive fan of cous cous, however this brand was on offer in tesco at two for a £1 so I thought I would give it a try. It is also by a famous/reputable chef too so I thought 'how bad can it be?' I was pleasantly suprised and have to say I quite enjoyed it!
This particular cous cous comes in a 100g packet, which I would say gives two quite large servings. It is described on the packet as 'a rich cous cous with tomato, peppers and a hint of garlic - perfect with chicken' and boasts less than two percent fat - so it is quite healthy!
Preparation instructions are really easy, simply pour the contents of the sachet into the bowl and add 160ml of boiling water. Leave it to stand for 5 minutes so that the cous cous can absorb the water then fluff it up with a fork. I tend to as a knob of butter to this aswell just to richen the taste up a little, but it tastes fine without as well.
I find alot of cous cous to be a little bland but I am truly a fan of this on, although there might not be as many vegetables in it as I would have liked, it is really tasty - all I add is a bit of butter and some pepper and its delicious!
It comes in many different flavours but this is the only one I have tried so far - Ive the roasted garlic one sat in the cupboard so when i've tried it I will let you know how that one is as well!
Cous Cous originates from North Africa and is made from semolina flour. It looks a bit like rice but has fewer calories and although filling i find it less bloating than rice and with less than 2% fat it is pretty healthy.
Cous Cous is also very versatile as it can be eaten hot or cold, on its own as a snack or for lunch, or as a side dish at tea time. It goes with most things: potatoes, meat, fish and vegetables. It is either sold plain or in different flavours.
Ainsley Harriott is a chef and well known television personality. His packs of cous cous can be found in most supermarkets and are suitable for vegetarians. A full list of ingredient and the nutritional information can be found on the packet.
There are six flavours to choose from: Wickedly Wild Mushroom, Tomato Tango, Spice Sensation, Moroccan Medley, Roasted Vegetable and Citrus Kick.
Each 100g sachet provides approximately 2 servings and from what i can remember a pack is about 70p.
They are really simple to prepare as there is no cooking involved. All you need to do is pour the cous cous into a bowl, add boiling water (160ml according to the pack but i use a bit less), let it settle for about 5 minutes fluffing it occasionally with a fork and then serve. If you prefer to eat it cold you can add the water and then just wait for it to cool down.
I have only tried the Spice Sensation which is really tasty and full of flavour. It has a slight curry flavour to it and has just the right amount of spice without being too hot. I love it! But with all the flavours there is something for everyone.
Ainsley Harriott Cous Cous
A chef inspired meal is generally always one I go for in the supermarket as although I know they have probably just put their name to it and not spent weeks or months developing it, usually they are pretty good and worth of a celebrity endorsement. Cous cous is one of my favourite snacks/dinners to make as it is so easy to prepare and relatively good for you. My toddler has really started to like it to so I make us some for lunch and add some vegetables, avocado etc to make it more interesting.
According to an article I read, "Couscous is a grain product made from semolina (coarsely ground durum wheat) or, in some regions, from coarsely ground barley orpearl millet. Couscous is traditionally served under a meat or vegetable stew. It can also be eaten alone, flavored or plain, warm or cold, or as a side dish. It is particularly popular among Jews of North African descent such as the Algerian Jews, Tunisian Jews and Moroccan Jews, and is eaten in many other parts of the world as well."
Obviously this cous cous in a packet is a very quick way of making the dish and I'm sure it tastes a lot better if it was made from scratch but for me this is a really nice tasting meal. Like I said the cous cous is extremely easy to make. You basically just pour out the mixture into a bowl and then add boiling water to it. It says on the packet to add 160ml but I find that this is a bit too much and the mixture becomes a bit wet and soupy so I generally only add about 140g. There are various different flavours in the Ainsley Range but my favourite is probably the roasted vegetable flavour. On the front of the packet you see a picture of tomatoes, green peppers and onions and what I like is that when you pour the mixture into your bowl you do see little dried bits of vegetables in these colours so they are obviously included in the packet.
Once you have poured the boiling water in you wait for it to set for 5 minutes and then it is ready to eat. Like I've said above its great to mix it with other veg to give it more of a boost. On the packet Ainsley recommends adding feta cheese or salmon to it too. Each 100g packet contains only 138 calories so it is an excellent way to fill up without filling out!!
I like to have a few items stored in my kitchen cupboard for 'emergency'. When I say 'emergency' I don't mean an invasion of marauding forces or some kind of disaster blocking my route to Asda. Oh no, I have far more mundane 'emergencies' in mind. An unexpected visitor staying to eat or a return from holiday so late in the evening that even the take-aways have closed. Even just a day when I feel like being lazy in the kitchen, for that matter! And so I like supplies of foods which are quick to prepare but also have a long shelf-life without the need for refridgeration. That is how I came to try Ainsley Harriott's pre-mixed flavoured couscous. I saw a selection of these mixes in my local "b&m bargains" store at the extremely attractive price of only 39p per pack and thought that they could make a very good addition to my stash of stand-by supplies. I chose two varieties: Roasted Vegetable Style and Moroccan Medley. Curiosity got the better of me so rather than wait for a real 'emergency' I just decided to have a lazy evening and make up one of these mixes to go with some roasted chicken portions I had planned for dinner.
I suppose the first impression comes from the appearance of the packaging. It's a neatly styled glossy cardboard package which contains an inner sealed sachet of the flavoured couscous. (Two sachets in this case.) Brightly coloured bold lettering announces the flavour of the mix (each variety has a different colour theme) and as it's set against a black background it grabs your attention quite readily. A photograph of the made-up product is printed on the front of the packet but, as you would expect, it's in the form of a rather more elaborate 'serving suggestion'. A monochome photo of Aynsley smiles back at you as you select his product from the store shelf.
The packet is laden with information and if I tried to relay it all I would still be typing next week! To summarise then, we are provided with a description of the product, a clear list of ingredients, extensive lists of nutritional information and allergy advice, a recipe suggestion, manufacturer's contact details and, of course, instructions on how to make up the mix.
~~~The couscous - "Roasted Vegetable Style"~~~
The next thing to strike me about this product, as I opened the packaging and tipped the contents into a mixing bowl, was the lack of aroma. But as this is a dried food that was, perhaps, to be expected. Couscous - which is simply granulated pasta - never looks all that exciting in its 'uncooked' form and this is no exception. At least the dried pieces of vegetable add colour which gives it a more promising appearance. Preparing it is a doddle. The instructions are to add 160 ml of boiling water (and the "boiling" is stressed), to stir the mixture well and then to leave it for five minutes. Finally you must "fluff the couscous with a fork to separate the grains" and it is ready to serve. There is one more optional action to take, and that is to add a knob of butter or a drizzle of olive oil at the end of preparation in order to add "extra richness". I did the latter.
I had expected that once it had been prepared there may have been some whiffs of an appealing aroma from the couscous but I was disappointed. I could definitely smell tomato and a hint of onion but not in a way I found appetising. There was no sense of freshness about the scent. The colour of the mix was now a rich reddish golden and quite appealing and the texture of the couscous itself was every bit as fluffy as the dish should be. There was no clumping of the grains nor any stickiness. The vegetables pieces, though, seemed very small and I wondered if they had completely re-hydrated. The taste test would clarify that concern. I tried a fork-full. What an utter let-down! My guess that the vegetables had not plumped up sufficiently proved to be correct. I could certainly detect the tomatoes, the peppers and the onions but in the sense that I was tasting a concentrated and 'dried' flavour rather than one of fresh vegetables. I thought the flavour was very 'flat' in that every mouthful seemed exactly the same as the last rather than offer a different vegetable taste with each bite. I did eat most of the couscous on my plate (I was hungry!) but it became a bit of a chore and there was no real sense of enjoyment. I asked my husband what he thought of the couscous. "Pah!" came the reply. I took that to be an indication of disapproval.
For the record, I did eat a little of the remaining couscous cold the next day for lunch and I thought that there had been an improvement in the flavours. Whether being eaten chilled or whether just standing for longer and therefore allowing the flavours to develop was the key to that improvement is something I can't answer, but I much preferred this as a salad accompaniment than with hot food.
~~~Ingredients and nutritional notes~~~
For those with specific dietary requirements, the ingredients of this mix are as follows:
Dried Cous Cous (85%) (from Wheat), Tomato Powder and Dried Tomato (2.5%), Dried Peppers, Pepper Powder and Roasted Peppers (2%), Roasted Onion and Roasted Onion Powder (1.5%), Vegetable Oil, Yeast Extract, Sugar, Salt, Maltodextrin, Dried Mushrooms, Dried Garlic, Natural Flavourings (contain Celery), Lactose, Dried Herbs, Colour (Paprika Oleoresin/Extract), Milk Protein.
Nutritional Information (per serving):
Energy 763kJ (180kcal)
Carbohydrate 3.2g (of which sugars 2.3g)
Fat 2.0g (of which saturates 0.7g)
(Two separate lists of nutritional facts are given on the packet - this one, which is for UK consumers and a second list intended for Australia - which provides different values! If anyone can explain to me how that works I would be most grateful!)
The "Allergy Advice" is that wheat gluten, cow's milk and celery are present in this product and that it "may" contain egg and soyabeans.
The package carries the statement that this product contains "no artificial colours, preservatives, flavours".
Each sachet is said to provide two portions but I would question that, depending on what the couscous was to accompany.
~~~A Second Try......~~~
Undeterred by my disappointment, I tried the other packet I had bought, the 'Moroccan Medley' on a later occasion. I hoped that the couscous, essentially a North African dish, would lend itself better to a blend of 'Moroccan' spices and flavours. Unfortunately I had pretty much the same experience with this blend. The aromas were dull, the colour was dull, the taste was dull and the flavours I could detect seemed to clash somewhat. (Apple, tomato and cumin?) The only thing which lifted this version out of total blandness was the (very) mild warmth of the spice but it I didn't think it was well enough balanced with the other flavourings to produce a good end result. The inclusion of sunflower seeds added unexpected texture and crunch but possibly a bit too unexpected to my taste - too much at odds with the softly textured couscous.
(The list of ingredients in this blend is very similar to that already shown, just remove the peppers and mushrooms from the list and replace with apple, cumin and sunflowers seeds and you will, more or less, have the picture of this latter product.)
The "Allergy Advice" for the Moroccan Medley is the same as that given above, with the exception of celery which is not present in this version.
Both of these varieties are labelled as being suitable for vegetarians.
All of the packs appear to include a recipe suggestions using the mix as a base which, I have to say, sound quite appetising but I didn't try either of the recipes on the packets I bought so I can't comment on them further.
The company which manufacturers this product is Symingtons and they can be contacted at the following address:
Further information about these and other products in the Aynsley Harriott range can be found on a dedicated website:
~~~Price and availability~~~
I bought this product for 39p from 'b&m bargains' but this is the kind of store which does not always stock particular lines with consistency so it may not be possible to repeat my bargain buy. I should also be clear that the packs I bought contained two inner sachets of the mix and the contents totalled 200g in weight.
Asda normally stock this product for 68p per packet and currently have a 4-for-£2 offer. This, however, is for only 100g which appears to the newer style of packaging. Sainsbury's are currently charging a hefty 90p for one of these 100g packs.
On the face of it, these little packs can be obtained for a fairly small outlay and so give the appearance of being quite good value. However they work out somewhere in the region of five times the cost of plain couscous. Many home cooks will already have jars of herbs and spices in their kitchen cupboards and so it would be no great difficulty to make up couscous with a flavour likely superior to these mixes and for only a fraction of the price. From that angle, these mixes seem to be poor value. (Sorry Ainsley!)
So you may have concluded that I will not be buying these mixes again. Well, surprisingly, I could be persuaded to make a repeat purchase if I came across another attractive offer. I think part of my disappointment stemmed from an unreasonable level of expectation. This is not fresh food, it's dehydrated convenience food and as such it is bound to be limited in how fresh or appealing it can taste. Although I would not plan to make this part of a meal, I do think products of this type have a place. They have a relatively long shelf-life, they can be made up very quickly and they could be very useful in situations where the cook has very limited facilities - camping say, or holiday accommodation with limited equipment. It is still, to my mind, a useful product for the 'emergency' cupboard though I think I may experiment with other brands in the search of something with better flavouring.
I suppose these mixes could also be used as a base to which you could add fresh ingredients and flavourings but if you are going to do that, why not just buy plain couscous in the first place given the marked price difference? For a cook who likes to eat couscous on a very regular basis, I would definitely recommend buying plain couscous as the cost savings would be considerable and the end results far superior!
(NB - this review appears on other sites under the same username)
I'm a big fan of cous cous - it's really versatile and great for lunch as an alternative to the boring sandwich! It's also relatively low in calories and delicious, so I tend to eat a lot of the stuff!
I find Ainsley Harriott's cous cous sachets really good - you can keep them in the cupboard as a back-up for days when you don't know what to have for lunch, and make it in minutes.
All you do is empty the sachet into a bowl or saucepan, add boiling water and leave for a few minutes so that the cous cous absorbs all the water which causes it to swell up a bit and become plump. You then fluff it up with a fork and either eat it warm or leave it to cool (which is what I prefer to so).
Once cooled, you can add meat or seafood to it to make it more of a meal.
Unlike other packeted cous cous, Ainsley's is quite moist without being sticky.
I normally tend to have the roasted vegetable flavour, but I have tried some of the other flavours and they have all been nice.
It's normally about 70p a packet and that serves 2 people in my experience.
Cous cous is very tiny balls made from wheat, that is sold plain or in different flavours. Cous cous is very easy to cook and can be eaten either hot or cold. Cous cous is very versatile and can used in a lot of different recipes or as a replacement for potatoes with chicken and meat.
Ainsley Harriot makes several different flavours including Tomato Tango, Citrus kick, spice sensation, and Roasted Vegetables. The flavour I am going to review is Citrus kick as this is my favourite summer flavour from which I make a cous cous salad.
Citrus Kick comes in a 100g foil packet which serves two and contains less than 2% fat, this is a savoury cous cous with lemon, lime, coriander and parsley. To prepare the cous cous just place the contents of the sachet into a bowl, add 160ml of boiling water and stir well, leave to stand for 5 minutes until the cous cous has absorbed all the water, fluff with a fork to separate the grains and serve.
If you want to make a cous cous salad leave to cool and add some salad ingredients of your choice, I usually add some finely chopped spring onions,sliced tomatoes, half a tin of sweet corn, finely chopped cucumber, chopped pitted olives and black pepper. Mix the ingredients into the cous cous , drizzle over a little olive oil and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
Citrus kick has a wonderful tangy taste of lemons of limes and is a great addition to any meal.
Citrus Kick contains 182 calories and 1.6g fat per serving (half pack) and can be found in most supermarkets and costs around 58p for 100g packet.
I will be reviewing Ainsley Harriott's "Spice Sensation" Cous Cous.
A couple of years ago I had never tasted and eaten cous cous. It was one of those food types that I assumed only the extremely healthly ate due possibly to its nutritional benefits, or calorie content (not that I really had any idea!). It wasn't the type of food I got bought up on, with my parents favouring very traditional British food. However, after being pursuaded into trying it by my partner whilst I was on a diet, I came to realise how versatile and geat cous cous could be!
I have tried a few variations of cous cous in terms of flavourings, from plain unflavoured cous cous, to spiced and hot! I enjoy them all, but today I will be looking in closer detail at Ainsley Harriott's "SPICE SENSATION" offering as I had it for dinner!
To start, a little background for those considering trying cous cous: Originating in Africa hundreds of years ago, cous cous has more recently become a fashionable food product, appreciated by people for its simplicity of preparation, either boil or steam with a little bit of water, and it's good source of carbohydrates. It is made of semolina wheat, and is sepearted into many small rounded granules. This is why it was traditionally refered to as Seksu, meaning well formed and rounded.
Ainsley Harriott's "Spice Sensation" cous cous comes in a sealed paper sachet, weighing 100g, and serves 2 people. I bought this as a 2 pack, which came in cardboard packaging and included 2 of these formely mentioned 100g sachets, so in effect 4 servings, and it was priced at approximately £1.20 from Morrissons. However, these can be purchased as a single sachet, priced roughly at 0.50-0.99p (thank you fello doyoo member for pointing out a more accurate price range!) depending on where you purchase it.
The packaging, as previously mentioned is composed of paper and is black with yellow writing, highlighting the flavour of the cous cous. This is a useful feature as it makes the product very easy to recognise on the shelf with its bold design, and as the yellow colouring is related specifically to this flavour it also makes identifying this flavour for repeat purchase very easy and convenient too. Also on the packaging is an image (photograph) of the cous cous prepared as a serving suggestion, although the suggestion isn't written on the packaging for us to follow, so I assume we must use are imagination!
On the front of the sachet it uses the following sentence as a description of the flavour: "Warmer than a Moroccan sunset...Savoury cous cous with vegetables, sunflower seeds and spices".
It also advertises that there are NO artifical colours, preservatives or flavourings, and less than 2% fat. Thumbs up from me :)! Also suitable for vegetarians, but beware please that it contains wheat gluten for those who may be allergic.
Ingredients include; cous cous, dried vegetables (carrot, onion, tomato, courgette), sunflower seeds, slat, parsley, garlic, mixed spice, carrot powder, coriander, onion powder and chilli powder.
On tearing open haphazardly the sachet, I was greeted with a pleasent and quite strong (when sniffed!) smell of mostly curry powder and chilli powder. The cous cous looked yellow, with small dried pieces of orange and green which are the vegetables and lots of dried herbs. It was more spiced than I expected it to be, which shows it's quality, and I was happy to see this.
I follwed the clear and simple bullet point instructions on the reverse of the sachet, by placing the contents in a bowl, adding 160ml of BOILING water and mixed in quickly. Leave for 5 minutes so that the cous cous absorbs all the water. Can leave for longer if you wish, but 5 minuites minimum really. Now you can quickly, or methodically if you want, fluff up thecous cous with a fork so that the grains of cous cous sepearte. Now serve. Easy peasy.
Although their are lots of spices, the cous cous to taste is not overly spicy just fragrant and slightly spiced. The cous cous has now swollen in size since absorbing the water, and the dried vegetables have rehydrated slightly to add a bit of different texture with the sunflower seeds.
This can be eaten on it's own as it has lots of interesting flavours already, or you can add things to it such as protein/vegetables etc, or have it served with a main meal as an alternative to rice/potatoes.
I like to serve it with either chicken or corn, with lots of roasted onion, tomatoes and peppers. If I don't have time to roast, then I defrost some peas and sweetcorn and mix those in. A very versatile ingredient.
Very quickly, before I bore you all even more, I will finish with the nutritional information!
of which sugars=3.3g
of which saturates=0.3g
I know that the taste of cous cous, and the texture isn't to everyone's desire, but nevertheless thank you for reading!
Cous cous, having a reputation of being a food for the health conscience, therefore, makes cous cous not normally a food my friends and family feel I would generally eat. They are wrong.
One day, my wife and I were creating our own tubs of food from the local supermarkets salad counter. This was when I discovered cous cous. You may all know that when you create a salad bowl in a pick and mix salad bar, the majority of the dishes involved in these salad bars contain mixtures, and tubs that are rich in mayonnaise. Egg mayo, prawn mayo, cheese mayo, the list goes on. This is great for my wife, who loves this kind of food. The problem I have is, I hate mayonnaise and anything related to it. I therefore decided to try the cous cous. This judgement was based on the idea that cous cous was one of the only selections at the salad bar that didn't involve or include mayonnaise, and it also looked tasty. The outcome was I found I loved cous cous.
This is now where this review may sound mean.
Having tried cous cous, and also having tried different variations and flavours of cous cous, I felt I should try cooking my own cous cous. I went to my local supermarket and bought a pack of Ainsley Harriott's 'Citrus Kick Cous cous'. The product was disgusting. The cover of this product states that it has 'the zing of lime, the zest of lemon'. Although I couldn't taste the 'zest of lemon', I could taste the 'zing of lime' when tasting this pack of cous cous. I feel and know the taste of lime is all you can taste when eating this product. It is also the only taste you will have on your palette for the rest of the day. I will give the product credit, in that it was easy to make, as the packet states. The problem is that the flavour of the cous cous was too over powering and ruined the taste of the other food on my plate.
My conclusion is stick to a plain and original cous cous and add your own flavours where necessary.
Foreword: May the Lord strike me down for what I am about to do. In spite of my constant moaning about food reviews, I am about to write a food review. I could justify this by saying that I was challenged, but my main beef (people getting paid 50p to write about food) will turn me into a hypocrite for accepting 50p for writing this review. As such, I pledge that, tomorrow, I shall pop 50p into the palm of the nearest Big Issue seller and tell him that it comes as the ill-gotten gains of a review about cous cous and he will thank me for it.
So, when it comes to meals, I work on the basis of a trilogy of ingredients. The first part will consist of something 'substantial'. This could be a pie, perhaps some sausages, maybe a chicken breast or even a nice jacket potato stuffed with something else. This will be accompanied by some sort of fresh vegetable - that's ingredient number two. Ingredient number three is what I call my supplementary side order. This might be pasta or rice or mashed potato or possibly, rarely, it might be cous cous. I'm a simple man of simple tastes and whilst this three-part approach to dining seems basic, you can, of course, come up with limitless combinations thereof.
I called friend 'Ben' on Saturday night and advised him that he was coming for lunch on Sunday. Excitedly, he asked why and I informed him because I had been challenged to write about cous cous and I needed a second opinion. 'Is this more shit for that sad review writing web site thing you do?' he asked, with a sneer in his voice, 'Yes', I replied quickly 'and don't forget to bring back my 24 DVD'.
Prior to the Ben arrival, I set about my meal. 'Twas a simple concoction of chicken breasts smothered in a rich olive tapenade, with some nice seasonal vegetables and accompanied by one packet of Ainsley Harriott's cous cous. Ainsley Harriott must be very busying making cous cous because there ain't half a lot of different flavours in the supermarket. I spotted this in Tesco, but I understand it's available pretty much everywhere. Most of the flavours, it must be said, include tomato, to which I think I am allergic, so I opted for the zesty citrus variety. It would seem to go well with chicken or fish but I was puzzled to see that every other flavour was 59p and yet mine was 83p. 'This one must be really good!' I said to myself excitedly and thrust three packets into the trolley.
It was actually very easy to make. Instructions tell you that you should tip the dried mix into a bowl and then add hot water. I varied this slightly by adding an additional step of making the bowl hot by immersing in hot water. I figured that as I was using quite a large bowl, the mixture might go cold quickly and that simply wouldn't do. The whole process takes about five minutes, so after pretending to be interested in Ben's weekly download of personal trainer stories (you have to be there, I concluded) I allowed five minutes before everything else was ready to do the jolly old cous cous.
The instructions didn't lie; it was very easy to make. Simply tip the whole packet into the bowl, add 160ml of boiling water, stir and leave for five minutes. I didn't actually leave it for five minutes - I made Ben stir it for five minutes. We'd observed that the little bits of parsley were all settling on the top so we decided that for optimum effect, Ben would stir whilst I sorted out the chicken and vegetables. "This smells quite nice' said Ben, 'but it looks like shit.' I disagreed. It looked, well, like cous cous really but he was right about the smell. A strong, very zesty, citrus-based odour was starting to surround Ben and if I'd have had a thing for men who smelt of lemons he'd have had it. As it was, my mind was fixated on chicken and sugar snap peas, so he was fine.
We then discovered the problem. In the time it took Ben to give Ainsley's cous cous a good beating and me to take the chicken out, put it on plates and add vegetables, the cous cous had gone cold. I mean cold, too. Not lukewarm or tepid - cold. I hadn't heated the plates, you see and the cous cous was already losing temperature fast when it hit the cold porcelain and that was that. So we agreed that 30 seconds in the microwave would solve the problem, and they did.
Now, as a personal trainer, Ben is quite obsessed with his diet. Indeed, he actually drinks raw eggs and rips the heads off chickens (so he claims). So I was slightly concerned whether this would meet with his approval. It did. The chicken gave him the protein he wanted, the vegetables added the vitamins and the cous cous was filling (carbs you see) and low in fat. We agreed that it wasn't unpleasant tastewise either. The citrus is far too dominant - almost over powering - but it's quite a fresh taste. The lime over-rules everything else - you can't even taste a hint of the coriander, parsley or turmeric - but because citrus goes well with chicken, this seemed to work quite well. The makers boast that there are no artificial ingredients but the citrus flavours lacked that natural, fruity aroma that I was expecting and I felt that the packaged product still seemed artificial. The 'grains' were quite small and because Ben had given it a good thrashing, the texture was excellent.
For a prepared food, this is reasonably low in salt. Adult men are supposed to consume no more than 6g per day; half a packet of this has just 0.2g of salt so it's more than appropriate with a main meal. On that subject, this is supposed to serve two and, as a side order, this seems about right. You could have a whole sachet yourself but you wouldn't want the vegetable too, methinks. As cous cous is made from semolina and wheat flour then, not surprisingly, this product isn't suitable for anyone with a wheat gluten allergy. I was more surprised to find that this contains lactose from cow's milk, so it's also no good if you are lactose intolerant. This also means that although suitable for vegetarians, it's no good for vegans. It's very low in fat - less than 2% overall. All in, reasonably healthy, I suppose.
Ben and I agreed that this wasn't the best cous cous we had ever had. The granules were a little too small for our tastes and the flavour was, overall, a little too mild and one-sided; it was all citrus and nothing else. However, we agreed that this worked well with the chicken and, for the price, was handy and easy to cook as a store cupboard addition. We quite liked the freshness of the taste and we thought the texture was very palatable. Ben also commented that if I was sad enough to use words like 'palatable' then he wouldn't be coming for lunch again, but he won't see this so sod him.
While walking around the supermarket lately I've noticed that I keep bumping into Ainsley Harriott ( well not literally!!) as he seemed to be very popular a few years back when he was on the telly all the time with his cooking programmes like Ready, Steady, Cook and Can't Cook Won't Cook. I believe he is still making Ready Steady Cook and is in fact just finished recording his new series for 2009/2010 which will be his fifteenith year in the limelight of TV.
He did start of as being the Head Chef of the Long Room at Lords Cricket Ground many, many years ago and certainly knows a thing or two about cooking. So when you see his face on any products you can usually rest assured that it will be of the highest standard and so far I haven't been dissappointed with anything that I have purchased with his name on.
Now wanting to find something that is hot to eat, but not to high in calories or fat, I then remembered that I used to buy this all the time some years back when it was on special offer for some silly price that I really overloaded us with so many packets that by the time we had ploughed our way through them all we were sick of cous cous and couldn't eat anymore for sometime after!
So it was time to get back into the cous cous again and I was quite excited about trying it again. This makes such a tasty meal with very little effort. All you need is a kettle to produce a hot very tasty meal, so is handy to take a sachet to work and make up when you need it. It can also be eaten cold, but at this time of year it is nice and warming to have when just made up.
This comes in a variety of flavours which are all completely different in taste and you will probaly find that you will find one that becomes your favourite, with me it is the Moroccan Medley, while my daughter loves the Tangy Tomato Tango. Firstly to make this, you will need a bowl to pour your sachet into,then add 160ml of boiling water and give it a good stir then while you leave it to stand for 5 minutes you can preper your salad or pitta bread. Once the time is up use a fork to just seperate the cous cous and serve. You can add olive oil or a knob of butter, but when I'm eating this it is because I'm trying to watch my weight so the last two items would never be added so I can't say if this improves it or not!
We usually make up the cous cous and then cube some feta cheese, cucumber, onion and add this to it with some cherry tomatoes.This on it's own makes a nice tasty hot meal when put into some warm wholemeal pitta bread. Also served stuffed in Peppers or Beefsteak Tomatoes makes a tasty dinner. You can of course serve this as a side dish when eaten with fish, chicken or braised beef or lamb.
All the different Cous cous has had a certain ingredient to give it it's own distinct taste;
~~~Moroccan Medley has Apple,Tomato,Sunflower Seeds and Cumin~~~
~~~Roasted Vegetable has Tomato,Peppers and Onion~~~
~~~Tomato Tango has Tomato,Onion and Black Olive Pieces~~~
~~~Citrus Kick has Lemon & Lime,Coriander,Parsley and Lemon Peel~~~
~~~Spice Sensation has Vegetables,Sunflower Seeds and Spices~~~
The Cous Cous itself is something that you will love or hate as it does have a soft texture to it's taste with the bite of the seeds that have been added, it is usually a golden yellow in colour again with the different colours of the other ingredients that have been added. It has a wonderful smell and I find that although one sachet is supposed to feed two I can quite easily eat the whole sachet to myself as I find it very moreish. Even If I'm good and eat just half I will finish the rest of later on in the day!
This comes in a 100g sachet with Ainsley's face on the front, per serving this has;
~~~of which sugars 3.4g~~
~~~of which sats 0.4g~~~
This does contain Cow's Milk and Wheat Gluten.
This is available in nearly all Supermarkets for around 55p per sachet, so quite a good price for a tasty meal.
5 Stars for a very good product!
I really like cous cous so when I saw this Ainsley Harriott Roasted Vegetable style cous cous I just had to give it a try.
It comes in a packet with a picture of Ainsley on the top left hand corner; the cous cous serving suggestion on the top right and the rest is black with the name in red.
The 100g pack serves 2 and has less than 2% fat and is suitable for vegetarians.
The roasted vegetables are tomatoes, peppers and onions and you can see them in the cous cous.
Place contents into a bowl
Add 160ml of boiling water, stir and leave for 5 minutes
Fluff with a fork to separate the grains
It's as easy as that
Dried cous cous (85%), tomato powder and dried tomato (2.5%), dried peppers, pepper powder and roasted peppers (2%), roasted onion and roasted onion powder (1.5%), vegetable oil, yeast extract, sugar, salt, maltodextrin, dried mushrooms, garlic powder, natural flavourings, lactose, dried herbs, colouring, milk protein.
Per serving - 180 kcal, 7.3g protein, 33.2g carbohydrates, 2g fat, 3.4g fibre and 0.29g sodium.
Allergy Advice - contains cows milk, wheat gluten, celery
This product did not disappoint. It was so easy to make and tasted really good. I cooked some other vegetables to go with this, as I didn't think that it would fill me up on its own. I was right as I easily ate the whole packet. If you are using this between 2 people then you certainly don't get very much in each portion!! The cous cous was nice and moist and you could see the chopped vegetables through the mix.
At £0.57 per packet or 2 for £1 at Tesco & Asda I think this is good value for money and I'll certainly be buying this again.
I have to take a packed lunch to work, as we don't have a canteen or have any shops locally that I can 'pop out' to when I fancy a nibble !!!
I get so bored with sandwiches that I am always on the look out for new ideas.
I need something which ...
is easy to prepare
doesn't cost a fortune
can be transported to work in a small container
can be eaten from the fridge
(or if I forget to put it in the fridge can be eaten from the bag without having gone off during the morning).
is versatile - I don't like having the same thing for dinner every day
I have found something which fits the bill perfectly. COUS COUS !
Not just any cous cous, but a whole range of flavoured cous cous from Ainsley Harriott.
So what's in the range ?
Included in the range are such tempting flavours as
Are they easy to prepare ?
They are amazingly easy to prepare.
Simply empty the contents of a sachet into a bowl, add 160ml boiling water, stir and leave for five minutes. Then stir and serve.
It comes in a sachet ?
Yes, a sachet or packet - whichever you prefer to call it. Each flavour has its own sachet colour, making your favourite very easy to find. There is also a picture of a smiling (what else) Ainsley Harriott on the front.
Each sachet will serve two people.
You can buy a box containing 2 sachets, which works out cheaper. You can expect to pay approx £1.50 per box (Four servings), but I have found this product to be on special offer quite alot.
So, it is quick and easy to prepare, any more advantages ?
Most flavours are less than 2 % fat, which is good news for anyone on a diet.
There are also no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives used.
Nutritional Information ?
This is found very clearly on the box/sachet.
But, with less than 2% fat and no added nasties, what more do you need to know ?
Serving ideas ?
They do give you a serving suggestion on each box/sachet, and there are recipes too.
They also have a website where you can find further recipes.
I usually make a whole sachet and have half hot with either chicken or fish. Then I use the remaining half for a cold packed lunch the following day, when I add chopped salad to it. Sometimes I add salad and chopped sausage or chopped cold chicken .
A bit more info .....
I have tried all of the flavours now and I do enjoy them all.
On opening each packet you do get quite a powerful whiff of its contents. This aroma becomes stronger after adding the water. However the flavours of each variety are just right and none of them are too over powering at all.
Overall opinion ?
I would recommend Ainsley Harriott Cous Cous.
It is a flavoursome product which is a great alternative to bread, rice or pasta. It can be eaten hot or cold, and with a wide variety of other foods. It is great for lunches, tea, lunchboxes and picnics. I also make up several flavours when having a party with a buffet.
I give this product 10 out of 10