I’ve invited Heston over for dinner.
Celebrity chefs collaborating with supermarkets seems to be the latest fad these days and whether you like it or not, I don’t think it is going to slow down or fade away any time soon. If you haven’t heard about it already, Heston Blumenthal has just teamed up with Coles to come up with a whole new range of gourmet products, so you can also experience a little bit of Heston magic at home. Well, just don’t expect flavoured wallpaper, ejaculating cake or a mythical creature meat fest.
Heston Bluementhal needs no introduction, often described as the culinary alchemist, Heston is proprietor of three Michelin starred The Fat Duck in UK which soon will temporarily relocate to Crown Melbourne here in Australia for six months in 2015. While my anticipation is high, I was very lucky to have the Heston for Coles range delivered to my doorstep which would keep this fanboy happy for now.
Heston teaming up with a giant supermarket is nothing new, he launched his own range of products with Waitrose in UK way back in 2010 before he teamed up with Coles. I must admit I did like his hidden orange christmas pudding which was super boozy and dare I use to the word – moist. The pudding was so moist to the point when it just fell apart when I tried to cut it. Nevertheless, good to know he doesn’t cut corners with his products and you do get what you pay for.
Heston for Coles range is still new and currently there are only 11 items to choose from but they will gradually launch more products in the coming months. So far, there are pies, slow cooked meats, sausages, sauces, burger patties. The range is catered more for a “dude food” party than a normal family dinner, so I rounded a couple of mates together and set out for some taste tests over the weekend.
There are slow cooked beef ribs with pepper berries ($22.00 – 950g) and asian pork roast with lemon myrtle ($22.00 – 870g) in the slow cooked meat range. Heston has also tried to incorporate some of the unique local native ingredients like pepper berry and lemon myrtle into the products to give them an Australiana twist. These two products are very unlikely you will be able to replicate at home without a sous vide machine; and let’s face it, neither you would want to attempt at home when they require 6 to 17 hours of cooking time (in water bath) respectively.
“Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
Best to leave the tedious work to the experts. Since the Heston for Coles team has done all the work for you, it is well worth to pay a little bit more to save you time and effort to cook, as all you have to do is by simply taking the meat out of the sealed bag, pour sauce over it then just reheat in oven for about 40 minutes to an 1 hour, baste regularly and job is done.
There are three types of pies to choose from – Beef, onion and shiraz pie, chicken, leek and mushroom pie and potato topped lamb and rosemary pie. For $13, there are two pies inside the packet. The pies only need 25 minutes cooking time in the oven.
When I did the taste test over the weekend, I also prepared a few more other dishes to accompany the Heston for Coles range to make it a proper meal. So slow cooked meats and pies went into the oven, I had to grill the beef patties and also the sausages, then I also made a coleslaw salad, mac n cheese, and some French fries. It took me about 2 hours to prepare them all.
Let’s start with the pies, the beef, onion and shiraz pie was a clear winner for me. The secret ingredient of star anise together with the peppery Shiraz really make the beef filling much richer and comforting for the cold weather. The pastry is buttery but don’t expect it to be flaky like those from a pie shop.
Second favourite was the chicken, leek and mushroom pie; there were chunks of tender brined chicken pieces hidden inside a creamy mushroom and leek filling, with a crusty top that tasted like parmesan, which enhanced the umami of the pie. However, I found the pie a little salty.
The potato topped lamb with rosemary pie is like a new twist to the classic Shepherd pie, it was also the most underwhelming among the three. This open-face pie tend to dry out a little in the fridge, and got even drier by the time finished cooking in the oven. I also couldn’t really taste the rosemary but mustard seeds; that’s when the sauces came to the rescue. The spicy honey and mustard BBQ sauce was a versatile sweet sauce with a subtle heat kick; but I loved the big, bold, smoky Texan-style sweet and sticky BBQ sauce, it would be awesome with some pork ribs or slow cooked beef brisket but I used them on the pies anyway.
I prepared the slow cooked meats according to the instructions on the packet. It was super easy, I poured the sauce over the meat and covered the tray with aluminium foil, baked in oven for 25 minutes, then removed the foil and cooked for another 20 minutes, basting regularly (even though it says turning the meat once only on the packet).
After 45 minutes of cooking time, I found the meat only just heated right through and still plenty of sauce in the tray. I eventually left the meat in the oven at a lower temperature (150C) while I carried on preparing other dishes. Just before serving, I poured all the sauce into a pan, and reduced it down on high heat to about 1/2 cup of sauce remaining, so now I have a much thicker sauce to pour over the meat.
Since the beef ribs were pre-cooked for 17 hours in the water bath, they were simply fall-off-the-bone tender. The pepper berry can be an acquired taste with the ribs if you haven’t had it before. For the roast pork, I couldn’t taste any lemon myrtle whatsoever, but more an Asian flavour of ginger and five spice; I reckon it would go down well with a bowl of steamed rice.
The sausages come in Pork and Sage or Beef and Pepperberry (again!). The sausages were fat in size, but (somewhat) lean in filling. I personally prefer chunky filling where you still can see bits of fat here and there inside the casing but these sausages were minced much finer which gave them that springy mouthfeel like fish balls. We preferred the bold flavour beef and pepperberry sausages over the pork and sage variety.
Last but not least, the burger, or shall I simply call it – “The Remarkable”, as it was constructed with “My Remarkable Beef Burgers” (the pattie) with “My Remarkable Tomato Sauce”?
If you have watched “Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection” TV series, then you probably would have learned a thing or two about how to make the perfect burger according to Heston’s method. The beef patties are made with Angus beef seasoned with Pink Lake salt, minced once way then cut against the strands for a tender, juicier burger. Indeed, I have to admit the patties were actually quite soft with no resistance when I bit into it. Despite that I grilled the patties first then topped with cheese slices and put them in the oven to let them melt, the patties still tasted juicy.
And then, there is this “remarkable” tomato sauce. Okay, Heston, I give you that, the tomato sauce was indeed remarkable. It is more like a paste than sauce, it was ridiculously thick that we had to give the bottle a few good taps to unleash this umami goodness. I believe there is some smoked paprika (plus other spices) in the sauce as it has a subtle smoky spice heat to it.
Overall, I think Heston for Coles range is actually quite decent for food come in packets. They also keep the food as fresh as possibly can, as you will find the products are vacuum sealed and stored in cold fridge with short shelf life, and not in the freezer for months. Even though the products are priced a little higher due to ingredients cost and sous vide machines; but the quality of the products speak for themselves. So you can guarantee you’re still getting Heston’s famous quality and taste for what you pay for.
I have tallied the total cost of all products from the Heston for Coles range, it is a total of $138.50, it works out about $23.00 to feed six hungry mouths. If you are thinking of hosting a “dude food” dinner party with a group of mates and watch the World Cup, Heston can help. But you can aways just grab a pie or some Heston Sausages for some self indulgent. Make sure to go and check out the interactive website for more Heston complimentary recipes for each product.