Pierre Koffmann, Atul Kotchar and Nigel Howarth and Aldo Zilli are cooking up some of their signature dishes for the supermarket chain Morrisons. You’ll have seen the advert. Cue former cricketer Freddie Flintoff plonked in front of his widescreen TV, the phone rings and it’s his wife Rachael calling to ask what he’s cooking for dinner. He strolls into a massive kitchen to discover a handful of chefs cooking. It’s here Freddie reveals he’s something of a multi-linguist, talking French with Pierre, Hindi with Atul, Italian with Aldo and Yorkshire with Nigel.
I’ve tried those four dishes, courtesy of the incredibly efficient press office, so for what it’s worth, here’s my verdict.
They were indeed restaurant-quality meals heated up in the comfort of my own home. The quality of most was incredible and with the meals currently on a trial pricing structure most excellent value for money.
ATUL KOTCHAR’S KORMA WITH ROSE PETALS – serves 1
One of the finest I’ve ever tasted from a supermarket. This dish came in a takeaway plastic lidded box and I didn’t hold out much hope for those of you unfamiliar with Atul he was the first Indian chef to get a Michelin star and he’s currently chef patron at Benares in London. The lid is snapped open, lifted, and takes a short time to heat in the microwave so ideal for a really enjoyable meal, fast. The dish is intensely creamy, like most every Korma, but this is delicately spiced with coriander, cumin and cardamom. You can pick out the garam masala, and cashew nuts. The dish is strewn with fresh shaved coconut which is a lovely surprise and great touch, as well as the incredibly pretty pink rose petals atop the dish, the flavour of which was lost on me but made the dish pretty to serve. The fresh chicken pieces have been chargrilled and this flavour comes through with each bite. There’s just the right amount of sauce to meat ratio and whilst the dish is not split with a portion of rice, it wasn’t missed. However, Atul suggests naan bread and pilau rice, each available in the range.
This is currently on a trial price at £2.49; the future price is £3.49. I’ve already bought two more.
NIGEL HAWORTH’S LANCASHIRE HOTPOT – serves 1
Another winning dish here just simple comfort food for the wintery months ahead.
Served in a plastic oven-proof bowl and not the earthenware dish shown on the advert, this is for cooking in the oven. There’s no way the microwave could do this dish justice as there are sliced potatoes to crisp on top of lamb-laden gravy. This is the recipe Nigel follows whether he’s cooking for his family or in his restaurant at Northcote Manor. It’s also the recipe that won him the BBC’s Great British Menu. King Edward Potatoes are used because they keep crisp on top whilst the starch helps to thicken a sauce made up of thinly sliced onions, in which you’ll find plenty of that well-trimmed lamb and a rich stock flavoured with white pepper to add sweetness.
ALDO ZILLI’S PIZZA CALABRESE – serves 2
Disappointing. A thick dough base with an average-tasting tomato sauce, smattering of cheese and an overpowering spicy sausage. There are two Italian speciality sausages on this pizza – N’duja and salsiccia – although you wouldn’t know it. I didn’t take a picture of this one after it had the oven treatment, simply because there was nothing remarkable to photograph, and it looks better in the box. Even the handful of rocket, which Aldo suggests serving with it couldn’t rescue this one for me. Rank average supermarket pizza with no real wow factor. Sorry Aldo. I know you make a mean pizza, I’ve tried them at your London restaurant but it just doesn’t translate.
This is on trial at £3.40 the future price will be £4.40 and I think there are other pizzas out there providing much better competition on the taste and prize front.
PIERRE KOFFMANN’S BEEF BOURGUIGNON – serves 2
It was good to finish my Michelin much-off with another truly stunning dish – this looked and tasted expensive and there’d been no scrimping on quality of ingredient. A beef bourguignon recipe cooked by the three starred Michelin Chef and French cookery God that is Pierre Koffmann. Ox cheek has never tasted so good, cooked ever so slowly in a generous red wine sauce, studded with whole, baby onions. A creamy, well seasoned mash, a perfect accompaniment. There are two pouches filled with the meat and one with mash. Easily microwavable and tasted magnificent with steamed pointed spring cabbage. Because there are two meat pouches I managed to make this dish last over two nights. To eat at Koffmann’s informal French bistro at London’s Berkeley Hotel, you can expect to pay £24.00 for braised beef cheeks add another £3.00 for mashed potatoes, per person. So, the trial price is a bargain £5.99, even when it rises to £7.99 that’s an absolute foodie steal.
The range carries other dishes – from a Bistro Beef Wellington £5.99 for two and a lamb shank Cacciatore £5.99 with a minted pea crush £1.99. You won’t fail to notice them if they’re stocked in your local Morrisons.
Bryn Williams, head chef at Odette’s in Primrose Hill has also created a Shepherd’s Pie, now that I must try.
Oh, and what did Freddie heat up for dinner? It was the Ot-Pot. Champion!