“ Brand: Marks and Spencer / Type: Gourmet Lines „
Whilst channel surfing the TV, I chanced upon that old lush Keith Floyd in Marsailles cooking up a traditional French bouillabaisse. I quite fancied some of that but felt quite lazy to cook, and so I toddled to my local M&S and picked up a seafood casserole from their "Cook! Fish" range. I'm not sure if that name is appropriate really; I think more apt titles for some of the dishes in that range would be "Heat Up In Oven!", "Throw Together Ingredients In Frying Pan Without Burning!" or "Microwave And Stir You Lazy Sod!" but I suppose the subtle psychology employed to convince the consumer they're actually participating in the preparation would be somewhat lost. So here is my review of the dish I picked up and heated up, erm I mean oven cooked.
It comes in a bright cardboard sleeve with a picture of the casserole on the front - I have to say that the actual products matches this quite well. Inside is a round foil container, topped by plastic film, which you tear off before putting the foil container in the oven on a baking tray.
The seafood casserole was £5.99 from my local M&S. This is 570g in weight and purports to serve 2 people, although I must admit to scoffing the whole thing myself without any problems.
The casserole mainly consists of salmon, king prawns and scallops, in a tomato and tomato passata sauce, with added garlic, herbs and spices, including cayenne pepper & parsley.
Marks & Spencer claim that there are no E numbers, stabilisers, preservatives, colours, flavourings or sweeteners added.
Per half pack:
Energy kJ - 1140
Energy kcal - 275
Protein - 23.7g
Carbohydrate - 3.7g
of which sugars - 0.9g
Fat - 18.2g
Of which saturates - 5.4g
Fibre - 6.3g
Sodium - 0.66g
Equivalent as salt - 1.65g
This needs cooking in an oven for 35 minutes, gas mark 6 or 170 c / 400 F electric, stirring before and halfway through cooking.
The casserole looks like a bouillabaisse as I'd hoped; a nice rich orangey red thanks to the paprika and cayenne pepper, and broth thickened nicely by the cornflour. There are lots of big chunks of fish, red pepper & onion. The majority of the volume is indeed solid chunks of seafood as opposed to liquid or vegetables, making it a casserole or stew rather than a soup. There are some leaves of spinach and parsley also visible. The general quality of the ingredients looks pretty good.
The broth tastes very mildly of tomatoes, and has a pleasant but not overpowering taste. It is particularly suited for dipping bread (or home made croutons with aioli if you're feeling particularly authentic). You can also can taste the fennel, which complements well with the fish. I think Pernod is used in bouillabaisse, so I guess this is pretty close. The spinach isn't really needed in my opinion; it doesn't really contribute anything to the overall taste. The smell is ... predictably fishy! The salmon very much dominates in a pleasant way.
The chunks of salmon are very tasty, and the prawns lovely and crunchy! This may be thanks to the fact that they arrive raw in the packaging. The scallops were the only slight disappointment, not so crunchy & firm, maybe a tad overcooked but nevertheless palatable.
This is actually a pretty nice meal; it ticks all the boxes in terms of the quality and quantity you'd expect from M&S, as well as tasting pretty good. It tasted surprisingly similar to a bouillabaisse I tried to make myself once, although mine tasted more tomatoey, which was underplayed in this ready meal. I would say that for what it is, it's expensive but what else to expect from M&S? I would recommend this to anyone pushed for time after a nice seafood stew, but I'm no expert on French cuisine or fish stews and can rustle up something comparable for half the price, so draw your own conclusions from that!