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New Covent Garden Soup Company
Member Name: jillmurphy
New Covent Garden Soup Company
Date: 24/05/04, updated on 24/05/04 (3783 review reads)
Advantages: Tasty, Wholesome
Disadvantages: Too salty!
Soup rocks. There is no doubt about it. I make a mean curried parsnip soup and, if I say it myself, a darned good roasted tomato and pepper soup. My mother's cream of broccoli soup is to die for. Equally wonderful are her lentil soup and her leek and potato offering. You cannot beat homemade soup. It is, sadly, rather a different story in the supermarket. Batchelor's Cup-A-Soup does not rock. Neither does anything made by Heinz and put into tins. Baxter's put some decent soup into tins, but Campbell's do not. In the supermarket chiller, you will find acres and acres of shelf space devoted to fresh soup. Unfortunately, it is all horribly adulterated with additives and preservatives. It does not taste fresh at all at all at all. However, if you look closely?
? you will see some cheerful cardboard cartons nestling amongst the plastic containers, made by the New Covent Soup Company. You can't miss them. Look for the faux-naïf picture of ingredients, the home-style handwriting font, and the only packaging in the chiller soup section that you are going to be able to recycle. There is a multitude of flavours in the Covent Garden range, but your supermarket probably stocks only two or three of them.
You know, Covent Garden's soups are super. I admit that they don't taste quite exactly homemade, but I insist that they are the best of the ready-made soup collection. I first discovered this range when, bored of sandwiches, I wanted something to take to work up and heat up in the microwave at lunchtime. With two people working full-time in our household - and with the best will in the world - it was unlikely that anyone was going to slave over a hot soup stove, just to fill lunchtime's hole. Covent Garden's Carrot and Coriander soup was a revelation. It i
s a famous combination now and copied by lots of soup manufacturers. Ten years ago, though, it was a cutting edge recipe. I loved it! Warm, sweet and spicy, it made a refreshing change from a boring old cheese sandwich and attracted jealous remarks in the staff restroom. Thickly textured and hearty, the 600g carton did lunch twice if I took along a buttered roll, but more often than not I forgot the starch and just pigged the entire lot in one session. Encouraged, I moved on to the Wild Mushroom variety and I loved this one too. Very creamy, very mushroomy and with just the right consistency ? small pieces of mushroom, not a pap ? it too, drew admiring glances from my colleagues.
Since then, I've tried many of the different flavours of soup Covent Garden make and they have all been of similarly excellent quality. My two favourites are still those first two I tried, but I am very fond of the Smoked Haddock Chowder and the Plum Tomato with Basil. The intricacies of herbs and seasonings are very much a matter of personal preference. I like my soups to TASTE. I do not like them delicate; I like them hearty and full of flavour. Thus, the peppery haddock chowder suits me well, as does the herby tomato and basil soup and the curried carrot and coriander. I am less impressed by the leek and potato Covent Garden offering and also their Plum Tomato and Crème Fraiche variety ? probably because they are smoother and less inyerface. If you like a more subtle soup, then these are probably the varieties to choose. Most importantly, though, every soup in the Covent Garden range tastes fresh. All the ingredients have a very definite, very authentic flavour. Each variety tastes of its main ingredients, just as it should. Covent Garden soups are a far cry from the nasty, synt
hetic offerings in those tins of 57 varieties. They are a class act.
Today, I do not work full-time. I can make my own soup whenever the fancy takes me. However, I still buy Covent Garden soups quite regularly, especially during the winter when it seems as though my children are permanently hungry. They often want something warming after dinner and before bedtime, and so we quite often share a carton of soup between the three of us instead of a milky drink. My husband works nights and he likes to take a carton of soup to warm up in the microwave during his breaks. There are also occasions when we have a busy day and want a nutritious, but quick lunch or tea. We think Covent Garden soups are a wonderful convenience food and perfect for such times. They freeze too, and so if we haven't eaten what we bought by the time the carton nearss its sell-by date, then we can just pop it into the freezer. Defrosted, I'll often make use of the soups when cooking. Either of the tomato soups makes a simple base for a Bolognese sauce on lazy days and the mushroom soup tastes divine on pasta with a good grating of fresh parmesan. The Carrot and Coriander makes a basis for a quick, if terribly inauthentic, vegetable curry.
They are good for you too: Covent Garden soups contain no additives, no preservatives, no genetically-modified crapola. In fact, you will recognise every ingredient in the list printed on the carton. Amazing! How often does that happen? Depending on flavour, you will see the obvious ingredients: some stock, stock-cupboard seasonings and perhaps some wine or cream. That's it. One entire carton of soup contains ? depending on flavour - around 200 calories. This, in Diet Speak, really is bugger all. There is little in the way of fat either ? under 2% in all flavours. If you are one of those strange
, strange people who talks of "working towards" those five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, then a serving of this stuff would be a painless way of ticking one off your list. Mind you, if you are one of those people, what is wrong with you? Vegetables rock! For my taste, there's a teensy, teensy bit too much salt (0.3g sodium or about 0.8g salt per 100g) but this amount is nowhere near as bad as most other ready-prepared convenience foods.
There are two sizes of carton available ? 600g and 1000g. However, in my experience, the larger size is rarely to be found on Tesco's or Sainsbury's shelves. Ho hum. The 600g carton would serve two as a (very) light lunch or a starter and one for a filling, hearty main meal. I love the packaging. For starters, it is made of card and I can recycle it. It is also modern and attractive, yet homely too. I think its design fits snugly ? and truthfully ? with the soup inside. Depending on flavour, a 600g carton will set you back between £1.65 and £1.95. Ouch. This is ? by any yardstick ? expensive for a soup, however nice it may be. Tesco and Sainsbury both do their own ranges of fresh soup at around £1.20 but they just do not taste anywhere as good. They taste synthetic, mass-produced and nothing at all like homemade soup. Covent Garden products may taste mass-produced, but they are a lot closer in flavour to what you'd make at home and there's no horrible, synthetic tang about them at all.
Four stars. They are not as good homemade soup, some of the flavours are a little bland for me and there's a teensy bit too much salt. But The New Covent Garden Soup Company make the best fresh soup you'll find in the supermarket.
[To see the full range of flavours hop over to the Covent Garden corner of cyberspace, http
://www.newcoventgardensoup.com. It's an irritating website, full of flash bits and pieces, but the navigation is simple. You will see not only the full range, but also lots of recipe ideas, some of which I've used myself, to great effect.]
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