“ Brand: Tesco / Type: Soups „
Now that the festive season is well and truly over, like many other people, I'm beginning to count the cost both financially and weight-wise, too. No more sweets and chocolate, excessive amounts of alcohol or fatty foods for me for a while. In an effort to eat more healthily whilst still feeling as though I've eaten a substantial meal, I've been making lots of soup, especially minestrone which is not only easy to knock up but also pretty healthy too. Now little chunks of vegetables floating around in tomato flavoured liquid with a few bits of broken spaghetti for company doesn't exactly fill you up, especially when your stomach has possibly become a little overstretched from all that Christmas indulgence, so I usually pick up a packet of Tesco Soup & Broth Mix to add into my home made minestrone. I've given the recipe at the end of this review for anyone who wants to give soup making a go.
Price and availability:
This particular product can be found with the Tesco Whole Foods items and comes in a clear, see-through package so you know exactly what you're getting. The 500g pack is currently retailing at 66p. This item is universally sold at all large Tesco stores and similar products are generally freely available at other supermarkets too, usually for a similar price.
Contents and nutritional information:
What you get for a very modest sum is a well balanced mix of pearl barley (55%), yellow split peas (18%), green split peas (9%), marrowfat peas (9%) and red split lentils (9%). A 50g serving, which equates to about a good handful, is 185 calories. The sugar, fat and saturated fat content is roughly 1% each of the daily requirement with only a trace amount of salt. Pulses are also, you'll be delighted to learn, very low GI.
For those with allergies, this product contains gluten and although there aren't any nuts included in the mix, the product is made in a nut-free area but in a factory where nuts are used elsewhere.
The packet also states that this mix should not be eaten raw, although anybody who attempts to do so must be starving because it doesn't look very appealing in its uncooked state!
In these financially constrained times, I'm doing much more cooking from scratch than ever before and have begun to use products once again that haven't seen the light of day since I went back to work after being at home with my children. I find dried mixed pulses to be invaluable in the store cupboard as they are great for making food stretch that little bit further as well as adding extra nutritional value to meals.
As well as using in soup, a handful or two of this mix added into casseroles, not only adds bulk to the meal but also makes it look more interesting and is a great and easy way of including healthy roughage into the diet. I've been known to include some of this mix in with bolognaise sauce or into shepherds/cottage pie, either made with mince, for carnivores, or Quorn for non-meat eaters such as myself. In fact, when added to Quorn mince, it actually gives the mince a more meaty texture as it requires a little bit more chewing.
I tend to ignore the instructions for cooking which suggest soaking the mix overnight, because I find that when added into recipes such as soups, casseroles and stews, the long slow cooking is sufficient without any previous soaking.
A little bit of this soup mix goes a long way so be warned and don't be over generous when adding into your recipes. A 50g handful bulks up to almost three times that weight when it's cooked because these dried pulses absorb quite a lot of liquid. (My hands aren't particularly big so any males thinking of doing a spot of soup making should perhaps weigh the mix rather than just guess!) You will find that you may need to add additional stock or water to recipes because the barley, lentils and peas have absorbed all the liquid!
This soup and broth mix is, to my mind, a store cupboard essential. It's a versatile and healthy additive for many meals and is a cost effective way of making food and the pennies stretch that little bit further.
My minestrone recipe:
This is dead easy and very adaptable, too. I'm not overly fond of cooking, so when I say "easy" I really mean easy. It's just handfuls of this and dollops of that and you end up with a large panful.
I begin by finely chopping an onion (I use a red one) and frying in about a tablespoon of vegetable oil until soft. Whilst the onion is softening, add in a couple of carrots and a stalk or two of celery, both finely diced and fry off for a short while. You may need to add a little bit of extra oil to stop the vegetables from sticking to the pan.
Add a can of chopped tomatoes into the mix and a generous handful of the soup mix, a goodly squeeze of tomato puree and about a pint of stock made from a stock cube (either beef, chicken or vegetable whichever you prefer.) I also add in other vegetables such as runner beans (generally frozen ones except when they're in season), bits of turnip, butternut squash or even a potato if you want to make the soup even more substantial. If you want to give the soup more of a kick, add in a bit of Worcester Sauce or even a tiny amount of chilli.
Season to taste with salt, pepper and Schwartz Italian Seasoning and bring the mix to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer for about ¾ hour to 1 hour. Keep checking to see whether you need to add more liquid. About 10 minutes before serving, break up a few pieces of spaghetti or add a small handful of macaroni into the mix and continue to simmer until the pasta is cooked.
Serve with warm crusty bread and grated Parmesan for a tasty and very filling meal.