“ Brand: Innocent / Type: Other Ready Meals „
'Innocent', the well known smoothie makers, have branched out into doing stuff with vegetables and recently launched these veg pots - not soup - apparently they have 'more edge' and 'more bite', or perhaps that's just marketing and they are basically pots of soup with extra chunky veg in. That's what I would say. In fact something in the taste of their tuscan bean stew reminds me of a tin of Heinz vegetable soup. It comes in a 400 gram round plastic pot with a strip of cardboard around the outside. When you open it it is well presented, with a bunch of kale arranged prettily on the top, although I don't find that sort of thing important, especially when all you're going to do is bundle the lot into a pan and stir it up. (You can also microwave it.) The vegetables are chunky and tasty and there are plenty of them, although I did find the odd bit of chewy Kale stalk in there, which wasn't to my taste. It's quite filling and I think it suits being eaten with a nice chunk of bread. They couldn't really have packed many more vegetables in there. I liked the texture of this, thick and with farro which is very much like barley and made me think of old homecooked broths from the seventies. It's good, but it's not amazingly good. I do love my beans and I've recently perfected a home made three bean pasta which I wondered how this would compare with - I have to say I much prefer mine although obviously I do make that to my own taste and throw a few spices in. The ingredients list looks fab, there are no artificial ingredients, although the word 'organic' isn't mentioned anywhere, which surprised me as I had associated it with Innocent products but it seems I was wrong. Shows how good they are at marketing. Ingredients: tomato,water, onion, carrot, kidney beans, borlotti beans, cannellini beans, farro, potato, red pepper, kale, vegetable oil, butternut squash, crème fraiche, leek, parsley, tomato puree, garlic, honey, corn flour, basil, sea salt, rosemary, oregano, black pepper. The packaging has been filled with lots of info including suggestions from 101 things to do with the empty plastic tub - fill it with lentils for instant maracas or use two empty pots and some string to make a telephone, were the examples on mine. Am not sure whether this is humorous or patronising. The blurb also says that one of these pots contains three portions of veg of your five a day, so you can feel quite virtuous while you tuck in. The usual price for this is a whopping £3.49 which I think is a bit of a cheek. I bought mine for 20p at Sunday afternoon closing time in Sainsburys. They are available from Sainsburys, Waitrose and Tesco. I do like the Innocent brand and I thought this might be something special, but it's certainly not for the likes of me, especially given my income! This is a meal for the affluent and hurried. I may be the latter but unfortunately am not the former. I looked on the Innocent website where you can post reviews and found this one for one of the veg pots - "it genuinely has changed my life! I work 11 hour days plus my journey to work-the life of a londoner! I love to cook but it's impossible to fit that and my job and the gym into my life-not anymore!!" Exactly the kind of person I would have thought. Certainly not for anyone on a sensible budget, unless it's on the reduced shelf.
Most of the time I cook from scratch with all fresh ingredients as not only is it cheaper but it is healthier too as I know exactly what goes into everything. There are times though when I have situations where people come home at different times and it helps to have a few easy meals ready for that situation. One of the companies I love to buy from is Innocent. I love the fact that their company started from an idea when making smoothies was in its infancy, and how it has become such a successful company in such a short time. So it was with great pleasure recently that I noticed they have branched out into healthy ready to eat meals which looked tasty and filling. Available from Waitrose, Tesco, and Sainsburies and I paid £2.49 for mine through the Ocado delivery service from Waitrose. This price is currently an offer with a 33% reduction from the normal price of £3.49. At the moment a promotion regarding the health implications of a healthy diet is featured both on the Innocent website at www.innocentdrinks.co.uk and on www.ocado.com and it explains that by drinking a large glass of their smoothie and eating one of these meals you have eaten all the fruit and vegetables you need in a day to satisfy the UK government recommendations. A short word about this. I have read many books on the subject of healthy eating particularly in relation to the intake of fruit and vegetables and my conclusion is that 5 may not be enough to prevent certain types of cancer and to provide enough roughage and vitamins and minerals to keep healthy. It may be prudent to eat as many as possible of as many different colours as this increases the level of antioxidants in the blood which fight the free radicals implicated in cancer. In the United States the cancer institute there recommends an intake of 10 portions each day! A recent survey showed that in Scotland people were eating less than 2 and England was only slightly better consuming between 2 and 3 In busy households this can be daunting because it takes thought and planning to focus on this on a daily basis when we are all so busy. With the credit crunch one of the real benefits in our house is that we have really cut down on meals out and take always like chips from the chip shop, but with my husband working very long hours he often comes home ravenous and this is where I make sure he eats something really healthy. Innocent Tasty Vegetable Pots are available in 4 flavours and the one I am reviewing is called Tuscan Bean Stew. It is low fat, high fibre, and contains 3 portions of veg in one serving. To cook all you do is to empty it into a pan or you can microwave. It is only 280 calories and when we tried it last night I served it with a bagel but to be honest I didn't need that as it was substantial and delicious. When you open the plastic pot which is cocooned in a cardboard sleeve the first thing you see is Kale. Lovely deep green curly leaves sitting there on top of what looks like a really delicious stew and it is. I heated ours on the hob for about 5 minutes and it was steaming hot and ready. Ingredients Tomato Water Onion Carrot Beans including Borlotti, kidney, Farro Potato Red pepper Kale Veg oil Butternut squash Crème fresh Leek Parsley Tomato puree Garlic Honey Corn flour Basil Sea salt Rosemary Oregano Black pepper. The stew filled a dinner plate and looked so healthy! I think it would be great if you served it in one of those terracotta dishes. When I used to visit my husband in Cambridge before we married in the late 70s there was a little café called Potters and they used to serve Chilli in little terracotta bowls. It was very authentic and I think this stew would be perfect served this way. You could even make some bread in a terracotta flower pot to go with it-oh yes I used to do that too! The stew is out of this world tasty and delicious. I only have one criticism which is about the beans- they have very tough skins. I know why this is because there are two ways of cooking beans one is to buy them dry and soak them before cooking, and the other is to buy them tinned where the cooking has been done for you. These beans are unmistakably the soaked sort as this often happens with these that the skins are much tougher. Adds to the rustic nature of the dish but not to everyone's taste especially if you find beans hard to digest! The stew is so colourful and is packed full of all the ingredients with just the right quantity of sauce. It is so packed with veg and beans they couldn't get much closer if they were sardines in a tin! Others in the series are the Seasonal Sweet Potato Chilli and the recurring Moroccan Squash Tagine, Pea and Broccoli Rice, and Thai Coconut Curry I think it is great to see these on the supermarket shelves as they are a great alternative to ready made meals ladened with salt and fat. Thumbs up from me and all my family! The lazy man's way to 5 a day!