Product Type: Innocent Ready Meals
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Not so hot - but very nice!
Innocent Sweet Potato Chilli Veg Pot
Member Name: calypte
Innocent Sweet Potato Chilli Veg Pot
Date: 19/04/09, updated on 20/04/09 (1370 review reads)
Advantages: Very healthy, very easy, pretty tasty!
Disadvantages: Not very chilli-ish, and the burning kind of hot!
After years of selling us squished up fruit, Innocent - those smoothie people - decided it was time to branch out a bit. Logical next step from fruit is veg, although fortunately they've decided not to squish it up! Instead, they've mixed up the vegetables with beans, rice, couscous and other yummy healthy things to create the new range of 'Veg Pots' - basically a veggie-based meal in a microwavable pot, handily providing three of your five a day (add a smoothie, and you hit all five, according to Innocent!).
I was attracted to try the Veg Pot range as they are healthy and yet totally lazy to make - sort of posh Pot Noodles, in a way (no, not really). Add in the fact that they're low fat, free from artificial colourings or flavourings, and pretty low calorie (around 300 a tub, depending on variety) then these seemed rather ideal. Of course, all that counts for nothing if they don't taste nice - luckily, I think they do!
Preparation is lovely and easy. The instructions are given for microwave (recommended), but also hob and - very Innocent! - campfire cooking :) I stuck with the boring microwave option. All you have to do is remove the cardboard sleeve and lid: this involves breaking off a little bit of plastic, and then popping the lid off. And I do mean pop: I was standing in a queue to use the microwaves at work one day, with a Veg Pot that was at its best before date - obviously the veg inside had been getting just a tad gassy, as it sounded VERY loud when I popped off the lid!
The instructions are to 'replace the lid loosely' - now, it's up to you, but I've taken to putting it back slightly off-centre. Otherwise, the building heat has a tendency to suck the lid back down into position, which doesn't feel very safe. In fact, big words of caution all 'round: there is a warning on the tub about everything getting hot, but really - they mean it!! Cooking is done in two stages, with a stir in the middle (you do need this: the fresh ingredients need to be mixed in with the sauce), and it's after the second bout that you REALLY need to be careful. Even after several goes, very aware of the warning, I still managed to burn myself last time I had one of these - reached in to get the pot, got my fingers singed, and promptly managed to tip the tub over and lose half the contents, further scalding myself in the process! So, do be careful!
Now, there is a point when you first open this Sweet Potato Chilli pot, or indeed most of the flavours I've tried, where it actually doesn't smell that great. Fortunately, by the time you've finished cooking it it's much improved - rather yummy, in fact! Sniff test over, and it's time for a taste - careful, it's still hot! - and... hmm. Chilli? Really? Hmm.
The first Chilli pot I tried I have to say had absolutely no spice. It tasted okay, but definitely not like chilli - in fact, not too much like anything. That sounds bad, but it really wasn't - just a bit one-pot bland, I guess. I dutifully went to leave my rating on the Innocent website, and was very surprised to see someone complaining that it was too hot! What?!
So, second attempt - see, it was nice enough to get again! - and I was very aware of the hot/not hot controversy! And actually... ah, yes, actually, I can sense the heat of the chilli - heat, but not really a great deal of flavour, still. Nevertheless, for something that comes in a pot I'm not complaining at all!
The actual ingredients are quite impressive: sweet potato, obviously from the name, and also red pepper, red onion (great big bits of!), carrot, potato, spinach, tomato, lots and lots of beans (kidney and pinto) and rice - you can get the full list on the Innocentdrinks.co.uk website. I'd perhaps offer a very small complaint that the amounts of each veg seem a little variable - there didn't seem to be much sweet potato in my first trial of this, although the second (and third!) attempts were better.
The result is a pleasantly chunky, full-o-veg experience that struck me as nicely novel in this sort of product - usual it's mush, really. In fact, just to be contrary I'd complain a little here about the lack of mush! I've since tried the Moroccan Squash Tagine Veg Pot, and it has a lovely gloopy consistency that left this one feeling a little lacking on the comfort factor. I found the Chilli pot didn't entirely meld together, consistency-wise: the rice stays relatively (although not unpleasantly) chewy, the beans are a bit firm, and the onion in particular was just in too-large chunks. That said, it does come together a bit better at the end of the tub, when you're down to the less chunky bits of veg and more of the sauce.
In terms of fillingness, I'm very impressed! A tub of this is a very decent sized lunch, and did a brilliant job at stopping me from snacking for the rest of the afternoon! If you've got a bigger appetite just adding a roll would probably round it all off nicely, and there are suggestions on the packaging for making a full meal out of it - for instance, by serving as an accompaniment to a steak. Rather spoils the veggie attributes, right enough...!
Oh yeah - veggieness. The Sweet Potato Chilli Veg Pot is suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. The rest of the range - although all meat-free and veggie-based - do vary, though, so make sure to check the labelling.
Overall, then, I am actually rather impressed with these Veg Pots in general, and happy enough with the Sweet Potato Chilli. It's not perfect, but definitely nicer than canteen food, and practically glowing with healthfulness! From this flavour being my first experiment, I've gone on to try several of the others, and this is probably my joint-second favourite: the semi-stodginess of the Moroccan Tagine version edges out into the lead!
I've also tried the M&S equivalent of the veg pot idea - and, sorry M&S, but I have to say Innocent far and away have the thumbs up! I've been slightly dismissive of the flavour of the Chilli, but that's in comparison to a proper bowl of food, rather than something pre-prepared, and let's face it - trying to cater for an 'average' taste bud. However, the Innocent Veg Pots have all left me quite impressed in terms of *having* flavour, and all are lovely and thick and saucy, particularly compared to the M&S experiment, which I found very watery in both taste and texture.
So - definitely recommending you give these a go, with just two caveats: price and availability. Currently, the range is only sold in (larger) Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose. They're also retailing for around £3.50 a tub, which can seem on the pricy side - however, compared to a pre-bought sandwich and packet of crisps, say, or anything out of the average canteen, it's actually pretty good going - and the quality feels miles better than most pre-bought lunches. And I do feel they are worth it, given the healthiness without the effort factor. Oh yeah - and a reasonable dollup of 'yum'! :)
Summary: My new favourite lunchtime choice!
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