So here's the thing. Having discovered that I can actually digest beef without my stomach exacting a terrible revenge upon me, I've remained fairly cautious of which beef products I consume. Far too many of the cheap-and-cheerful options fail to meet 50% of the requirement, even those from higher-end stores. Sainsbury's Classic line impressed me with it's Bangers & Mash so, as part of one of their meal deals, I decided to pick up something different... Something with beef...
The problem with many beef dishes is that you end up with something tough and somewhat rubbery and, I'll be honest here, I wasn't expecting much from this. The packaging proclaims it "British braised steak in gravy with carrots, served with mashed potato" which, let's face it, covers everything you might want to know about the product. The image on the front is nothing special - frankly, it could feature just about any kind of meat, and it really doesn't 'sell' the contents. Based on my (still limited) experience of beef-in-gravy (largely pies, really), I predicted that the meat would be fairly chewy, and probably a little musty.
Also, let's face it, there were bound to be fatty bits.
Oh, gentle reader, how wrong I was.
For, you see, this doesn't use just any gravy... nor is it yer average beef gravy. Unless my taste-buds deceive me this is, in fact, something similar (though certainly not identical, going by the ingredients) to the onion gravy that featured with the aforementioned Classic Bangers & Mash... only with added chunky slices of carrot.
And the meat? Well, I'm clearly a terrible cynic when it comes to beef, because this was as close to melt-in-your-mouth as one would have any right to expect for the price. Moist and tender, I barely needed to use a knife because it basically fell apart at the merest touch from my fork... and there wasn't even a hint of mustiness.
To be honest, though, there wasn't a great deal of any flavour to the beef... it just seemed to have absorbed the flavour of the gravy. I'm sure there's meant to be a bit of give-and-take in the flavourings - the gravy picking up some of the beef flavour (it's actually made with beef stock, not that you'd notice), and the beef picking up some of the oniony goodness of the gravy. It's not all bad, though... since I'm not necessarily a big fan of the flavour of beef, it just meant I enjoyed this particular product all the more.
On the downside, it wasn't entirely wrong about the fatty bits though, in the whole meal, I only found a couple, and they were very small. There was a notable absence of gristle... which can only be a good thing.
Sainsbury's are also onto a serious winner with their mash. I'm not sure I noticed it so much with the Bangers & Mash, but the mash in this package is extremely buttery (also, it's made with double cream - "From Cows' Milk", no less), and the salt and pepper component is pitched just right for me.
The quantity is pretty much spot on for a single serving - while it's probably no more than equivalent to their Bangers & Mash (and probably less purely in terms of mass), the portion size feels sufficient: I wasn't left thinking "Y'know... I could do another round of that..." which is actually quite a common thought with me and ready meals.