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It’s time for some product reviews again. Hurrah!

Now, shop bought pastes and sauces are always of interest to me, precisely for the reasons Lizzie Enfield goes through in her recent article on the Guardian.

This time Tesco is getting a grilling for its Ingredients range. Not too dissimilar to Marks and Spencers Terribly Clever, jars of speciality pastes are fast becoming the new way of life for people who like to think they’re cooking, but can’t actually be bothered. Now, that might sound overly cynical, particularly from someone who does use them from time to time, but the difference is I see them as a quick fix and not the pinnacle of my cooking abilities. Also, they were on offer (3-4-2). Couldn’t resist!

So how do they hold up under close scrutiny?

Hoisin is hardly something you make at some unless you have a lot of time and patience. In fact, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. But finding the perfect sauce is an eternal struggle, and not one I have yet resolved with Tesco’s Ingredients range; it has a very thin consistency, so although all the flavours are there, they’re weak and a little lack lustre.

This concoction using some hoisin sauce was a result of leftover food and my extreme hunger preventing me from spending any time cooking. So with one wrap, some leftover roast chicken and the remaining salad from my fridge I created a hybrid Oriental/Mexican dish. I cut the wrap into nacho sized triangles, brushed with a little olive oil and backed in the oven for 10-15 minutes on a medium heat. Meanwhile, I toasted some sesame seeds, shredded some cucumber and white cabbage and warmed through the chicken. I piled everything into a bowl, sprinkled the sesame seeds over, poured on some hoisin sauce (wishing it had a thicker consistency) and when the nanchos had turned a nice golden colour, popped them on the side. Voila, warm salad that takes less than 15 minutes to make and is guaranteed to hit the spot.

Next up, Chipotle Chilli & Smoked Paprika paste. I had hugely high hopes for this, imagining it adding a smoky hot flavour to anything I cooked without an effort at all. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case. I have trialled it in three separate occasions with a chilli con carne, black beans and a chilli and onion relish, but it’s pretty much like adding just fresh chillies to a dish and still requires me to add extra flavour to get the desired result. I’m going to give it another go in some fajitas and a salsa as it recommends, but my expectations are low. Definitely not worth the money so far – stick to your stock cupboard supplies to get a deeper flavour.

Finally, Katsu Curry paste, which intrigued me greatly. I love Katsu curry, but I’ve never actually made it myself from scratch. I once bought a jar of sauce by Blue Dragon (I think), which was fine – nothing special at all but gave me the desired taste. This seemed like a better option for the money and it lasts longer in the fridge once opened.

I was actually pretty impressed with this one on the whole. Don’t expect the greatest katsu sauce you’ve ever had, but for the money and the ease (ie, open the jar and heat with some water), you can’t go wrong. The longest part of the meal was breading and cooking the chicken, but the simplicity of the paste meant I had plenty of time to cook rice and julienne some vegetables without adding another pan to the mix.

So all in all, not the greatest selection of products. I might pick up the katsu curry paste again, but would probably bypass the hoisin and chipotle sauces. I have to say, M&S definitely wins in the taste taste. Still though, for the most part, your basic stock ingredients would probably produce something infinitely better with a little extra effort.

Nevermind! Onwards and upwards!

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