Winter Fuel

The Dining Room at the Gloucester Campus at Gloucestershire College is in many ways one of the best places I have ever eaten at in an educational institution. They use fresh ingredients and cook the food everyday. There is no pre-processed food here, well not too much. There are usually at least three options on the menu. A recent meal was homemade Lancashire Hotpot served with mashed swede and carrot and cabbage.

Lancashire Hotpot served with mashed swede and carrot and cabbage

Perfect food for a cold winter’s day. The lamb was very tender and full of flavour, the potatoes on the top were cooked through with crispy edges. Overall a delicious meal and excellent value at £3.10.

It’s not the best educational place I have eaten at though (and remember I haven’t eaten everywhere). I use to work at City of Bristol College in the 1990s (or as it was back then Brunel College) and they, like a lot of colleges had a training restaurant. I never use to eat there for lunch, as they did full silver service, you had to have three courses and as a result needed a couple of hours for lunch, and even back then no one had that sort of time for lunch. Then one year a decision was made to move the restaurant from a silver service restaurant to a bistro approach. As a result you could have just a main course and service speeds were much faster, so you could order, eat and pay the bill in about 30 minutes, perfect for a lunchtime in a busy college day. It was also so much nicer than eating a sandwich at your desk. The food was excellent, I remember it been cooked to perfection and seasoned correctly and delicious. There was something rather nice about having a restaurant quality meal for lunch during a busy day, had a really positive impact on morale.

Alas it was a short term venture and before we really grasped what a good idea it was, the concept was reversed. The result, we stopped going there for lunch.

Sainsbury’s Bistro Tuscan Chicken

Getting back late last night, and not feeling 100%, decided to pop into the local supermarket and get something. Sainsbury had their £10 meal deal from their Taste the Difference range.

Their “deal” isn’t as “good” as similar deals you get from Marks and Spencers or Waitrose, you get to choose one main course, one desert and a bottle of wine.

Of course it has to be said that these aren’t really “deals” as the listed prices are over-inflated to make you just think you are getting a good deal. You look at the shelf price and you are expected to “say” wow, this dish costs £7, the desert is £3.50 and the wine is £6.99 that means if I buy all three I am saving £7.49!!!

Come on, really? Well the truth is that though we as consumers like to think of ourselves as rational and see through such promotions, the reality is very different. Consumers like these deals, they work for the supermarket and we buy them.

I recall seeing the similar deal in Marks and Spencers, what I then did was go round and l found similar products on the non-offer shelves for less money than the deal.

We’ve not saved any money on this “deal”, it’s actually cost you £10. A common misconception is that “deals” save you money. They only do this if you were intent on buying those products in the first place. For example if you went out to buy one loaf of bread at £1.20 and there was a multibuy, two for £2. If you buy two loaves of bread the “deal” hasn’t saved you 40p it has cost you 80p as you were only going into buy a single loaf, not two. I know some out there may say, “but you have another loaf” well yes, but will you eat it? It has to be said that with some offers, even like my example, you do save money if it offsets a future purchase, however if you buy something you hadn’t planned to, then that deal hasn’t saved you money.

Of course what happens with a lot of these deals is that people buy too much of something and in the end they throw it away… that means that deal didn’t save you money!

Sainsbury's Bistro Tuscan Chicken So why did I buy the deal then?

Well I didn’t  buy the deal to save £7.49, what I did was buy three things for £10 that I felt was value for money at £10. I went for a white win, a chocolate soufflé and the Tuscan Chicken.

The Bistro Tuscan Chicken instructions were a little complicated (for a ready meal), place the orzo pasta in the dish, bake in the oven, part way through add some water and continue cooking.

I was trying to be quick, so what I did was part cook the orzo pasta, as I was heating up the chicken, and then add this to the chicken before finishing off in the oven. This reduced the cooking time by about 15 minutes!

I really did enjoy this dish, the tomato sauce, combined with the fresh yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes and spinach was very refreshing. The chicken had flavour, well it was thigh meat and not breast which does make a difference. I also liked the orzo pasta which resembles rice, but has a different taste and texture. The olives and spices added depth to the dish and there was enough in the dish for two people. A fresh flavoursome dish that was quick and easy to prepare.

I think next time I will make it myself from ingredients, but if you don’t have the time then this ready meal wasn’t half bad.