Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Loyd Grossman Cooking Sauces
"Who cooks in a sauce like this ?!" As soon as I hear the name Loyd Grossman, I always think of him in Through the Keyhole, snooping around celebs' houses, rather than as a gastronomic chef ! However, that was years ago and since then he has more commonly been linked to cookery shows on TV. The fact that he was picked to head a £40 million project to improve the quality of food served in British NHS hospitals shows that he is taken seriously as an expert in all things nutritional and gourmet, so I was intrigued to test out his range of pasta sauces.
There are certain pasta sauces - in particular bolognese and carbonara - that seem so basic and easy to make and that use pretty much only store cupboard staples, that I never usually want to fork out on buying shop-bought versions. Now that I've gone back to work, I must admit that I do like the fact that you can make an instant supper within minutes if you rely on a ready-made sauce. I also like the fact that some sauces add in ingredients that make all the difference taste-wise that you may not have in the fridge or cupboard, like fresh or unusual herbs and spices. That was one thing that impressed me about the Loyd Grossman pasta sauces just from looking at the labels - they do seem to put the emphasis on quality ingredients that will give them a great taste.
I tried four varieties of Loyd Grossman pasta sauce :
This was the first sauce we tried and I wasn't expecting to be blown away, because I make a pretty decent spaghetti bolognese from scratch, even if I say so myself ! However, it was the ideal instant supper when we arrived in our mobile home on our Keycamp break. I did miss the huge chunks of carrot, onion, mushroom and red pepper that I put in my own homemade version, but the jar did pack a bigger punch than I was expecting taste-wise. More importantly, it actually tasted like real, authentic, home-cooked food, not something packed full of artificial additives that was obviously from a jar. For those times when you've had the day from hell and really can't face cooking from scratch, you can serve up a tasty spaghetti bolognese within minutes that the whole family enjoys. Juliette didn't want minced beef added to her spaghetti so I just spooned some sauce straight from the jar on to hot spaghetti to warm through - she loved it, and even I thought it tasted nice when I gave it a tentative sample !
Tomato and Basil
Now this is another one that sounded uninspiring to me but packed in a lot more taste than I was expecting. Loyd (assuming it really is him who came up with the quotes on the jars ?!) tells us : "Creating a great pasta sauce is all about the details, like the basil in this sauce being added near the end of cooking to really bring out the herb's delicate flavour". Again, it's the attention to detail and using only the finest ingredients that make all the difference in taste - you wouldn't ever mistake this for a supermarket own brand value spaghetti sauce !
Tomato and Chilli
Wow, it's certainly got a kick ! The girls didn't like this one, declaring that their mouths were on fire ! It went down well with the adults though and we found it to be just right on the heat scale rather than unpleasantly fiery. It might be an idea to use half a jar if you're not keen on spicy food though, then add more if you think you're hard enough !
Tomato & Parmesan with Pancetta 'Al Forno' Pasta Bake
This is my absolute favourite and one that the kids have asked me to add to the weekly shopping list. I was a bit dubious about how well it would work when I read the label because you add it to dry, uncooked pasta, stir in some water then put it in the oven for about 1/2 hour. I was expecting the pasta to either go soggy and horrible or to totally dry out in the oven, but it didn't, it came out perfectly al dente and full of flavour as the sauce really infuses the pasta. The best thing about this sauce is that it takes you seconds to prepare, then you have half an hour to yourself while it's in the oven. After a prolonged session at the park on the way home from school, I was in need of something quick for the girls' tea. While it was cooking, I just had time to feed and change baby brother before serving up the pasta. As I was so sceptical, I did add a little extra water halfway through cooking, just before sprinkling grated cheese over the top, but it honestly didn't need it - I could have just trusted the cooking instructions !
What I really love about all these sauces, apart from the sheer convenience, is that you can actually see distinct chunks of vegetables and detect the taste of individual ingredients listed on the labels. The recipes look surprisingly natural and homemade, not full of artificial additives like many shop-bought sauces. In some of the jars, in particular the tomato and chilli or tomato and basil varieities, there's a rather off-putting quantity of oil that accumulates on the top of the jar. However, this can easily be poured off before you heat the sauce or, if you are planning on adding extra ingredients like onions, mushrooms, bacon or mince, you can use the infused oil to fry them off and pack in some extra flavour.
If you need an instant supper - or if you are a totally hopeless cook or have cupboards ressembling those of Old Mother Hubbard ! - you are guaranteed to get a foolproof, tasty meal if you use Loyd Grossman pasta sauces. They aren't the cheapest on the market but you can tell that they are made with quality ingredients and a reassuring lack of E numbers.
star rating : 4.5/5