IT won’t be long now before we are in between seasons with root vegetables on the wane and green vegetables and salad leaves slow to appear in the garden.
There is always something available in supermarkets and in Ireland lots of vegetables and salad greens are grown undercover for our convenience.
But at times we need a change, so I looked around supermarkets to see what was new and interesting to brighten up our dinner plates. For freshness and retaining flavour, peas are probably the best frozen vegetable. I find Birdseye hard to beat.
I looked further for this survey, wondering about prepared frozen vegetables that might be useful in an emergency.
Most frozen vegetables are useful to thicken soups and stews and to add nutrients. Blend a large handful with a large onion first cooked slowly in butter or olive oil with a few cloves of garlic. Use vegetable bouillon powder or homemade chicken stock. Add some grated cheese to make a more substantial soup.
Frozen vegetables are useful to add to stir-fries and we found that texture was kept better when they were not immersed in water. Those designed specifically for this purpose had better taste too. We scored our samples on taste and texture and whether or not we would use them.
Marks & Spencer Maris Piper onion rosti 750g €3.39
Discs made from 72% grated potato and 11% onion are cooked in a high oven for 16-18 minutes.
They end up nicely crisp and have the slightly chewy texture of regular rosti, which are traditionally cooked in a frying pan. The only extra ingredient not included by home cooks is dextrose, a sweetener, which is not noticeable.
Four discs add up to 100g with a calorie count of about 206 calories, so it would be easy to clock up more, as they are tasty. They feel a little fatty, though are not high in saturated fats.
Aldi Four Seasons breaded garlic mushrooms 300g €1.19
Quite hard on the outside, inside they are soft and lightly garlicky. Mushrooms tend not to go out of season these days, but tasters thought these were worth a go for a change.
Marks & Spencer bean and pea mix 500g €1.39
This mix of soya bean, broadbeans and peas make a nice change from peas only and each component tastes as it should. Worth a try. Good to blend with olive oil and lemon juice for a green hummous-style paste.
Lidl Chinese wok vegetables 600g €1.99
A combination of 63% carrots, bamboo shoots, sugar snap peas, mung bean sprouts, water chestnuts and leeks, with 15% mushrooms, water, tomato purée and soya beans.
The mix is sweetened with blackcurrant juice and honey, and the spice comes from crystallised ginger, soya sauce, salt and unnamed spices.
There is also a light coating of sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, coconut oil and it is recommended to stir fry contents in a little oil. A small amount of modified starch helps to thicken it slightly. Lots of flavour here.
Dunnes Stores Cauliflower & Cheese 680g €1.79
Oven-baked, this has 65% cauliflower and the rest comprises cream, water, cheddar cheese, milk powder, cheese powder, starch, salt, yeast extract, nutmeg, and pepper. It’s not very substantial and the cauliflower is overcooked to begin with, but it was quite tasty.
Green Isle Wok wonders 700g €3.39
This mix is stir-fried (it can be microwaved) and usefully includes firm tasty rice. The vegetables taste of themselves and better than some of the boiled vegetable samples which didn’t make our final eight.
The mix also has 18% peas, 16% carrots and 14% broccoli with some onion and flavourings such as maltodextrin, yeast extract, herbs and spices. The flavour is not oversalted and may benefit from a touch of soya sauce, but it’s better for it to be under-seasoned to allow for personal additions.
Green Isle mushy peas 750g €2.99
This is not quite instant food, with boiling for 20-30 minutes required. The only addition to peas is bicarbonate of soda, which is used when soaking dry marrowfat peas overnight. They have an old-fashioned taste and a thicker texture.
The packaging doesn’t tell us what type of peas these are, but they taste like marrowfat, but are smaller. They are pre-soaked and we found that they needed a little less than 20 minutes to cook. The taste was of traditional mushy peas.
Aldi honey glazed parsnips €1.49
“Hey, these actually taste of parsnip,” said one taster who was impressed with the flavour and texture. We roasted them as instructed and were happy with the result. The flavour was of slightly sweetened parsnips as we might expect from added honey. A useful freezer standby. Good to make a quick soup with curry paste added.
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