“ Brand: Marks & Spencer / Type: Other Ready Meals „
I used to be very confused between a cottage pie and a shepherd pie. The essential difference is that cottage pie is made with beef and shepherds pie with lamb. I personally prefer the taste of the cottage pie as it has a more rounded flavour.
Suitable for a meal for one I would suggest. It can be microwaved or cooked in the oven. What you get is a pleasing amount of lean beef mince covered with a smooth layer of mashed potato. The pie come in a small disposable tray.
Having tried the Tesco version of this, which I found rather runny and lacking in consistency I was pleasantly suprised with this one. The beef has a good flavour to it and you can taste the meat coming through. It is of a good texture too, not too chewy and the pieces of beef are minced well. The potato covering is fine, although nothing beats making mashed potato at home. It could have done with more seasoning in the potato but it is smooth and has a pleasant taste.
If one allows the pie to cook for a few extra minutes the potato will browns slightly, I recommend doing this to add some depth to the flavour.
Overall: At just over a pound, this is a workable ready-meal, though it would only be suitable as a snack. I found it needed more seasoning, some beans would have enhanced it as well.
Verdict: Not bad
In the need for some kind of comfort food, I searched the aisles in Marks & Spencer looking for something appropriately wintery. It was thus that I came across a little Cottage Pie. Now, they have a nice offer on at the moment, and I bought it along with a Shepherds Pie. I have always got confused between the 2; it seems that shepherds pie has minced lamb and cottage pie minced beef as the meat. Nice to finally clear that one up. They taste fairly similar it has to be said, and so I've concentrated on one of them at random - the cottage pie. These 2 dishes would seem to have some of those prerequisite qualities of winter comfort food; mashed potato, a good helping of meat and some sort of thick sauce/gravy. So let's see if the M&S goodies are full of winter promise.
PACKAGING AND RECYCLING
A cardboard carton, darkly coloured in browny red (no doubt to reflect the meaty contents within) with a picture of a cottage pie on the front (not dissimilar to the actual cooked product, although mine didn't brown as much as in the picture), contains an open foil container which houses the pie, the potato being visible. The foil is recyclable but apparently the carton isn't which I find incredibly puzzling, as it seems to be purely cardboard and surely that is recyclable?
Interestingly, some of the carton spiel says that M&S only use free range eggs and non genetically modified (GM) ingredients in all their food. The description of the pie is rather evocative:
"Selected cuts of British minced beef braised in gravy with fresh Maris Piper mashed potato made with butter & milk."
To give you an idea of the size of the meal, the inside foil carton is 9cm x 12cm, with a 3.5cm thickness - so not really something you'd eat on it's own if you were fairly hungry.
I got this as part of a buy one get one half price offer. I like multibuy offers! On its own, it would have been £1.29.
Potato is the dominant ingredient, weighing in at 51%, followed by beef at 24%. Much less prevalent but notable are onions, milk, butter, beef stock and tomato puree. The pie weights 190g.
Cow's milk, wheat and gluten are contained in the pie.
I don't want to just rattle off all the stats and so will confine
myself to the ones I think are important. Per pack:
Energy - 910 kJ
Sugar - 16g
Fat - 11g
Saturated fat - 5.5g
Salt - 1.52g
Cooking - 20 minutes in an oven at 200 degrees centigrade / 170 degrees Fahrenheit electric cooker.
Microwave - 3 minutes in a 750w or 2 ½ minutes in a 850w oven
You can also freeze it, and this doesn't seem to affect the cooking time in any way, although you have to defrost it fully before cooking.
Before cooking, only the potato is visible and it looks partially cooked and very lightly coloured. It also looks like it's been piped into the container, with the characteristic swirls and ridges in its surface. In the oven, which is the method I chose for cooking, the meat really bubbled and some of the beef spilled over the edges of the foil container. After cooking, the potato took on a slightly browned hue, the meat in the gravy looking rich and brown.
After digging into the potato, the smell of the beef and gravy was pleasingly full and yet not overpoweringly strong.
Being lazy and not wishing to do any more washing up than was strictly necessary, I ate it directly from the foil carton, perched on a plate. Little flecks of mince drowned in the gravy tasted nice, although I couldn't escape the conclusion that the flavour of the meat wasn't being given the chance to stand up for itself and the gravy was dominating. The soft and fluffy mash was pleasingly light and creamily tasty. The combination of these was good but again the gravy seemed to dominate, which might explain the relatively low cost for an M&S product. There were several morsels of gristle in the mince. I added a splodge of tomato sauce and that definitely pepped the pie up, adding a sweetness and tang that was definitely missing.
All in all, not bad but not quite up to the usual standards. It's pleasant but a bit bland. And doesn't a cottage pie usually have cheese? Comparing it with the identically sized shepherds pie mentioned at the beginning, I have to say the shepherds pie was a little bit better, insofar as it has some vegetables in it (swede and carrots) and a slightly better, deeper taste, not so dependant on the gravy.
So I would say for the price this isn't too bad but I am sure there are better versions of this out there that are actually cheaper.
Marks and Spencer plc,
PO Box 3339,