Thursday, 11 August 2011

Restaurant quality food at home: David Oliver Fine Foods

As a home cook, I don't often buy ready meals, not because I think they're substandard or because I'm snobbish in any way, but I just love to cook, so it rather goes against one of the parts I enjoy about food.
On this occasion it may seem odd that I'm writing about pre-prepared meals, but I was given the opportunity to try some restaurant quality complete meals and give my feedback on them. It's not often that I get the chance to test out something as premium as these so obviously I was enthusiastic.

David Oliver Fine Foods produce a range of dishes using the finest ingredients from specially selected sources and prepare them using the same techniques that are used in quality restaurant kitchens.
The creators David Holliday and Oliver Shute, both chefs and friends, set up their business to make exceptional ready meals, recognising that there was a lack of good quality complete meals that led to them feeling frustrated by the mediocre offerings.

David has a wealth of experience in the world of food, he was the head chef at The Pot Kiln and later went on to run The Harwood Arms in Fulham, the first London pub to receive a Michelin Star. He now owns his own catering business, Season 2 Taste, based in Henley-on-Thames.
Oliver too is well experienced in food, he has worked with Clarissa Dickson Wright and as a private chef to distinguished guests at Scottish castles to chateaux in France and luxury chalets in Chamonix. He now runs his own outside catering company, The Pot Kiln Anywhere and co-owns The Game and Wild Food Cookery School.

Knowing about their background I was expecting something really good and I wasn't disappointed.
There are four meals in the range: British Beef & Dorset Ale, Guinea Fowl & Lentils, Rabbit & Flageolet Beans and Classic Venison Stew. All are complete meals which means you get a good balance of meat and vegetables in a satisfying sauce. No need to serve them with anything more than a piece of crusty bread.

British Beef & Dorset Ale
This stew is described as being able to take you back to the sort of meal that your grandmother used to make with its earthy root vegetables, melt in the mouth Yorkshire beef and deep rich beer gravy. I think I could agree. The beef is indeed meltingly tender and the vegetables (carrots, swede, turnip and mushrooms) are perfectly cooked and even after reheating they retain a good texture. The flavour is deeply savoury and comforting, enriched with butter and honey and flavoured with thyme, perfect for a cold evening.

Guinea Fowl & Lentils
Claiming to be be a "bit of a show stopper" because it contains a whole breast of guinea fowl in it. I loved it, not just beacause of the whole breast, but because of the moistness of the meat which is flavoursome and tender. The mixture of puy lentils, carrots and smokey pieces of bacon cooked with wine are the perfect accompaniment, wholesome and fulfilling. I maybe would have preferred the skin on the guinea fowl to have been crisp – but bearing in mind the way it has to be heated that wouldn't be achievable without drying out the meat – but it was fine nevertheless.

Rabbit & Flageolet Beans
The first thing that hits me is the lovely scented herbal flavour from the rosemary which gently suffuses the whole dish. As well as the beans, there are courgettes which are perfectly cooked. They have not turned to a mushy consistency which is very pleasing. The large pieces of rabbit have a good flavour although they are slightly on the chewy side. I haven't had rabbit very often, but I do know that it needs some long slow cooking to make it more tender.

Classic Venison Stew
David Oliver rightly declares venison as being the "king of meats" although I personally don't agree that it is underrated. This dish though, has certainly done it justice with big chunks of tender venison cooked in a red wine sauce, with sizeable pieces of sweet potato and new potato. It has a great flavour, not too gamey and the pieces of smoked bacon give it nice roundness. A good robust stew and my favourite.

They are all great meals if you're looking for high quality food that doesn't have any unnecessary ingredients or additives. They'd be fantastic for a dinner party and a sure fire way to impress your guests. Whether you choose to hide the packs or not, is up to you!

For more information and to order online visit: www.davidoliverfood.co.uk
Pictures taken from the David Oliver Fine Foods website


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