“ Brand: Sainsbury's / Type: Other Ready Meals „
I had a Sainsburys Toad In The Hole for my tea last night and I wasn't impressed even though I love these frozen meals from both Tesco and Asda. I thought the Sainsburys one would be even better because their frozen food is usually brill, but this was a proper disappointment.
You get 3 sausages in it and the rest of the meal is made up of Yorkshire Pudding batter, the best way to eat it is with some vegetables and a nice thick gravy.
When it was cooked I was shocked at how much oil had come out of it, the hot oil was all in the bottom of the foil container that you cook the Toad In The Hole in and there was also puddles of it on the top of the batter. It had risen nice but started sinking as soon as I took it out of the oven.
It tasted mega greasy too and I also thought the batter had a very eggy flavour that wasn't very nice and was so strong that you could taste it even over the sausages and gravy that I had added myself.
The pork sausages are quite nice, one of them was a bit gristly but the other 2 were fine. They didn't have much flavour I don't think and could have done with having some herbs added. I had made a thick beefy gravy and that added some lovely flavours but none of them that came from the Toad In The Hole itself.
The whole thing tasted very greasy and the Yorkshire Pudding was quite stodgy as well. It said on the box that it was going to be a light and crispy batter but I thought it was very heavy to eat, it was quite crispy on the top but the ends of the Toad In The Hole had crisped up too much and had gone hard.
This was only £1.00 and that would be brill if the meal was nice, but I reckon it was just about edible and I didn't even eat all of it. Toad In The Hole is one of my fave meals so that's dead unusual for me to leave any and that proves what a poor effort it was.
There's 500 calories and 22.4g fat in each Toad In The Hole and that's ridiculous, they could have took a lot of the oil out and reduced at least the fat content and it would have made it taste better too.
My daughter disdains my ready meals as a rule but when she came home a couple of months ago and found a Tesco Toad in the Hole box on top of the recycling she was quite indignant that there wasn't one for her! My next shop was at Sainsbury's and being a dutiful mother, I searched for their version and noticed it was on a special offer. These are normally £1 but until the end of July 2009 this and another fifteen dishes are offered at four for the price of three. I had quite enjoyed the Tesco version so, throwing caution to the winds, I ordered four of the same. I wish I had been less impulsive!
Just in case anybody isn't aware of this good old traditional British dish, it's just sausages in a Yorkshire pudding batter. These are individual servings and not huge at 250g but quite adequate if vegetables are added. After all what do you expect for £1? When researching this review I compared it with the Tesco version and presently theirs is described as weighing 400g but it's a mistake. When you look further into the product description it's 250g, exactly the same as their rival's offering and exactly the same price.
They are a frozen line and must be stored in a freezer or the frozen food compartment of a fridge. The maximum shelf life is until the best before date which in this case (purchased in early February) was December 2009 so they can be left to hang for quite some time.
My daughter was the first to try one. She didn't enthuse but then she rarely does. She didn't complain either but I noticed it wasn't all eaten! Maybe she didn't want to look her Mum's gift horse in the mouth or have the cheek to complain after she had specifically requested it. When I came to sample one I was very disappointed - in fact I didn't finish it either! I think neither of us was over impressed because the other two portions remained in the freezer for weeks. I was tempted to throw them out but I hate waste and yesterday I decided to give one another go, this time using my reviewer's eyes and taste buds! So I proceeded, trying to put aside my unfavourable preconceived notions!
I did as instructed, peeled the film lid off the black container, placed it on a baking tray and popped it into my oven, preheated to 200 degrees. It's not suitable for microwaving and should be cooked from frozen. The cooking time advised is 40 minutes but it looked a little anaemic after that time so I left it ten minutes longer to brown off. This could have been down to the temperamental nature of my oven. I was aware of quite an appetising aroma as it cooked.
It needed a little coaxing out of the tray using a slice but was not too difficult and, although some of the batter in the middle stuck to the container, it came out in one piece. I added some green beans, cabbage and gravy and was all set. The Yorkshire pudding had risen quite nicely all round the edges and appeared quite light and crisp as it should be. I expected my knife to crunch into it. It didn't! It was a soft and disappointing texture although the taste wasn't too bad. However as I progressed into the middle I found that I couldn't eat it because it appeared it wasn't properly cooked just soft and gooey. Under the top coat it looked more like a yellow bath sponge than a Yorkshire pudding. Most unpalatable! I wonder if I should have left it in the oven even longer but if I had the outside edges would have burnt. I pushed it to one side and turned my attention to the sausages.
There are three pork sausages which looked nicely browned. They are small, just about three inches long, but size isn't everything! According to the nutritional information they account for 36% of the total content. I would have preferred 50% but Tesco's version has 1% less sausage and again what did I expect for £1? This would have been tolerable if the sausages were edible. I found them really unappetising. The flavour wasn't exactly porky. There is quite a spiciness to them but also a slightly fishy taste which I really can't account for! The texture too is unpleasant and bears more resemblance to a gelatinous coarsely ground spam. It is even slightly pink in colour. Are they not properly cooked? I can't believe it because they have had 50 minutes in a hot oven. It was just the same as my first experience of this product. I persevered and I finished off one sausage but piled the remaining two onto the rejected inner parts of the Yorkshire pudding whilst I just finished off the vegetables. I am not really a fussy eater. I love most sausages and chipolatas but these were unacceptable.
Whenever possible, I like to balance negatives with positives in my reviews. Unfortunately this is not easy with this product. It is apparently free from artificial flavourings and colourings which is a plus. I could also reiterate how cheap they are - on this special offer they work out to just 75p but if they are inedible it's money down the drain. It's not even a very healthy option as it contains 22.4g fat, 8.2g saturated fat and 2.48g salt. Sugar is low enough at 5.3g but I think dieters would avoid its 457 calories. One other potential positive strikes me - there is no mention of it being unsuitable for those with nut allergies but if you can't tolerate wheat gluten, eggs or milk it's one to avoid. Some of the pork content is British which should be good from a carbon footprint point of view but it's mixed with Dutch pork and there is no indication of the relative percentages. At least the box is recyclable but then the tray is not!
However I did eventually find a really positive reaction to this offering. I decided to cook the last one and offer it to my Labrador, Woody. I did cover it with some Bisto gravy which he loves but I don't think I needed to. He attacked it with alacrity and his wagging tail told me he thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank heavens for that! Unfortunately he seemed to regard it as a starter and afterwards still worried for his main meal. So no economy there but at least it didn't go to waste!
For a bit of fun I decided to search for the origins of Toad in the Hole. It would appear nobody knows. In parts of America a Toad in the Hole is nothing like our version but an egg fried in the centre of a slice of bread which has had a hole cut in the middle. Some say the idea of pieces of meat cooked in batter goes back to Roman times, others that it dates back to the early 18th century. In 1861 a one time chef to Queen Victoria, Charles Elme Francatelli, issued a recipe for Toad in the Hole but it made no mention of sausages just pieces of meat. I doubt that Queen Victoria would have been amused by Sainsbury's version! As to the name, some believe it is because the finished dish resembles a pond surface with toads' heads popping out. I can't really see that! It has also been suggested that it is named after an old pub game, still played in some parts of the country, the object of which is to pitch discs into holes in a box or bench. I only found one explanation which really seemed to fit the bill and that was that Toad in the Hole is a corruption of the original name which was Turd in the Hole! Whether this is true or just down to somebody with a sense of humour, I can't say! I am just rather glad I found it after my meal!
Unfortunately I can't really find anything to recommend about this product and, although I find the Tesco one more palatable, I think next time I will try to be less lazy and actually stir myself to make one. After all it's easy enough and I am sure my daughter and the dog would appreciate it especially if I keep quiet about the alleged origin of its name!
My Yorkshire pudding is a bit hit and miss, sometimes the batter rises as it should do then other times I end up with a `concrete slab`. We both love a decent Toad in the hole, I usually just serve it with some vegetables.
I have noticed that the Yorkshire pudding is making a bit of a comeback though, many of the Pub menus have Yorkshire puddings filled with either sausages and gravy or minced beef and gravy and the freezer shops are also stocking them en mass. In many Northern areas it is traditional to have the Yorkshire pudding served with some gravy on the top before you start your main course. The Sunday roast always used to be the highlight of the week and housewives needed to have enough meat left over for Monday`s meal, so if you were filled up with Yorkshire pudding and gravy the theory was that you would eat less meat on the Sunday.
Sainsbury`s have got their marketing strategy off to a tee. Their product packaging always displays the most tantalising looking picture of the end product. The Toad in the Hole comes in a shallow cardboard box, the front picture shows a table on which sits a plateful of well risen golden batter with three sausages done to perfection sitting in the midst of the crispy batter and it is obvious to anyone that handing over £1 to the cashier in exchange is a sensible deal...or is it?
Open the box and you find a black plastic tray with a sealed plastic lid. Prise the plastic lid off of the top of the plastic tray and you see three anaemic looking pork sausages sitting in a shallow grave of grey batter.
Preheat the oven to 160C, put the offending Toad onto a flat baking tray in case of spillage and then place it into the centre of the oven.
As the batter starts to cook you start to cheer up, the smell that is wafting from the oven is tempting, the British and Dutch sausages ( Sainsbury`s description not mine! ) are playing games with your taste buds.
Another look through the glass oven door somewhat disappoints me, the grey batter hasn't suddenly sprung into action, the raising agents haven't gone wild, three logs are now floating in a pond struggling for survival.
Ten minutes pass and things are looking up again, the life jacket has been thrown in and the batter is now starting to take shape.
Instead of a grey pond I can clearly see air bubbles forming on top of the cooking batter. The sausages are afloat on the top and sizzling well too.
Just enough time to microwave the broccoli, laziness is nothing if not carried out well!
By now the smell emanating from the oven door could be nothing else than a true Toad in the Hole aroma. Spicy sausage and a strong whiff of `porky` batter.
At first glance the whole thing looked good, little rivulets of fat coursed through the veins in the batter, the sausage skins were just as I like them and I started to sharpen my teeth in anticipation.
I seductively slid the Toad onto the plate beside the pile of waiting broccoli and prepared to enjoy.
Appearances can be very deceptive cant they?
The crisp golden batter was skin deep, the inner part was soggy, my top lip quivered but I struggled on doggedly.
The multi- cultural sausages had bronzed skins but no substance and by now my will to live was slowly but surely ebbing away.
I turned to the broccoli in despair.
I had sat down to enjoy 457 fat laden calories for the humble sum of £1.
The Toad in the hole contained no artificial colours or flavours, or hydrogenated fats for that matter.
But above all, sad though it may be, I was really looking forward to the experience!
Well all I can say about the meal is...the packaging was highly attractive, the cooking smell was mouthwatering and the broccoli was lovely!
So sorry Mr Sainsbury but not one of your better ready made meals.
So...now where did I put my Delia Smith recipe book?
Cals per pack: 457
Fat per pack: 22.4g
Sugars per pack: 5.3g
Salt per pack: 2.48g
Saturated fat per pack: 8.2g
Pack weights 250g
Contains no hydrogenated fats, artificial colours or flavours.
In small letters on one edge of the pack, it says "Allergy advice: Contains milk, egg & wheat gluten"
Cost: £1 each
I am a great lover of toad-in-the-hole, yet whenever I try to cook it myself, it just turns into a sodden mess. I also am trying to watch the pennies right now, and at £1....which is between 20p and 40p cheaper than other brands of ready-made toad-in-the-hole meals that I personally have seen, I thought I'd give the Sainsbury's version a try.
For the most part, I have always found Sainsbury's own brand of food very good, and hoped this would be no exception.
The packaging is quite attractive, with a picture of a sumptious-looking cooked toad-in-the-hole on the front. Sainsbury's describe the meal as, and I quote, "...3 pork sausages in a light and crispy batter..." and that sounded fine by me. I decided to have it with a jacket potato and green vegetables.
Inside the cardboard outer packaging, the frozen toad-in-the-hole was nestling in a black oven-proof plastic container covered with a removable transparent topping. Obeying the instructions on the outer box, I attempted to remove this transparent topping before putting it in the oven, and found that it was stuck fast. I had to attack the film with scissors in order to get rid of it completely which I found very irritating, but considered it a small price to pay if the cooked end product was as delicious as it promised to be.
During the cooking time, the toad-in-the-hole gave off a delicious and inviting aroma, and my mouth began to water.
When it was ready, I opened the oven door and noticed that the yorkshire pudding hadn't risen much, but wasn't too bothered as I thought if it tasted good, then that was all I really cared about.
I tweaked the sides of the black plastic container, expecting the toad-in-the-hole to easily slip out onto my plate, but it was stuck fast. Undaunted, I merely reached for a metal spatula which I use for these sorts of circumstances, and tried to wedge it under the yorkshire pudding, using a scraping motion......without success! The whole pudding was literally welded to the bottom of the plastic container, and it took me almost ten minutes (using levels of physical energy far greater than what ought to be the requirement for such a task) to scrape it all out of the container and onto my plate.
The fact that the pudding was now on my plate in tatters aside, I found its general appearance had transformed while in the oven and bore little resemblance to the golden and delicious-looking picture on the outer cardboard pack. The sausages were pale and uninteresting, and the pudding was a synthetic-looking bright yellow colour.
I settled to eat my meal, speared a piece of the mish-mash of yorkshire pudding with my fork, and as I was putting it into my mouth, I was overwhelmed by a powerful eggy smell wafting up from the bright yellow wodge of pudding. It felt very unpleasant in my mouth - not dissimilar to how I'd imagine chewing on a lump of plasticine would be.
The egg smell and taste was so overwhelming.....this wasn't yorkshire pudding I was eating......it was scrambled egg! The texture was chewy, gluey, and not at all pleasant. It is very, very rare that I leave food on my plate - even if it is substandard, I will battle on and force it down, but I am afraid to say I just couldn't eat any more of this awful yorkshire pudding. I scraped as much of the gunk as I could from the sausages, pushed it all to the side of my plate so that it couldn't contaminate the rest of the food, and sampled a piece of one of of the pale, uninteresting sausages.
I was pleasantly surprised, as the sausages had a good texture and flavour, and I was able to eat and enjoy them. My kitchen rubbish bin was the recipient of the sad mess which bore no resemblance at all to yorkshire pudding.
In summary, I would say this is by far the worst ready-made toad-in-the-hole I have ever eaten, and I am very surprised that Sainsbury's managed to churn out something to unpleasant. I certainly won't be buying it again, even if is only £1, as I feel even my own tragic efforts at making toad-in-the-hole are by far more palatable.