How about a romantic supper for two? In “The Grocer”, there is a mouth-watering review of the Valentine offerings from the major supermarkets. Each offers a 3-course meal plus wine. How do you choose?
Click on a supermarket name to see its offering. Sainsbury’s and M&S weren’t included in the Grocer article, but they have been added here, using their company Website.
The choices above have not been copied in just to make your mouth water, or even to impel you to rush out and buy one of these meals. I want to use these menu lists as a reflection of the food that UK supermarkets wish to sell us, and point out a few problematic aspects. Sorry – the romantic glow will be put under the spotlight of criteria.
Those hoping to save the planet need to watch out for over-packaging, especially black plastic trays and polystyrene. The display in the photo below shows the food either boxed in cardboard or in a foil tray covered in cling-film.
Most choices do not include unseasonal peppers, tomatoes or lettuce. One wonders where M and S get the aubergine and the asparagus in February.
Some items boast of British origin (Lamb), Scottish salmon, Mature Cheddar and so on. Some connect to French cuisine, like camembert. Many of the wines are either French or Italian, with one or two South African or Chilean options. None come from Kent’s famous Chapel Down! None of the items seem to be from unsustainable sources, like avocado and Californian almonds. But the prawns could be problematic from tropical fish farms.
Cosmopolitan or patriotic?
As is expected of menus in British restaurants, there is the gloss of French menu language – Coq au Vin, profiteroles, dauphinoise, and the Italian of pasta, lasagne. There is nothing to say whether that Coq actually came from a British factory farm or the dauphinoise potatoes from Lincolnshire. The chocolates, of course, are Belgian. There is a touch of Spanish in the tapas. But the menus do not range beyond Europe (with one S. American exception). But then if one wants to eat “ethnic” just order from the Chinese takeaway, or go out and eat, enjoy romance in the glittery local Indian eatery, Turkish, Ethiopian etc – depending on the local options. As for halal or kosher – forget it. These supermarkets are providing menus that are basically British – Wellington features in most of them!
Extend the taste buds
It seems most of these Valentine offers roll over from year to year the same, with perhaps two or three new options per year. I suggest they are missing an opportunity to market tasters of new food. Each Valentine purchase could contain a surprise sample of something new – a tiny pot of a new jam or sauce or cook’s ingredients.
The lamb probably comes from Wales so is unlikely to have travelled far alive. But having watched the film Seaspiracy, I worry that the Scottish salmon and the prawns could have been raised in cruel intensive farms. As someone who prefers to buy meat only if it is clearly labelled for how it is reared, it is odd that even Waitrose assumes that romantic couples drop their standard on this.
- “Vegan heart-shaped ultimate burgers”
- “Millionaire Dessert Twin Pack”
- “Wicked Kitchen Crispy M’shrooms with Smoky Ketchup “
- “Billionaire pot”
Which supermarket would get the prize for selling food via their words? How “ultimate” can a burger get, and how wicked the mushrooms ?
There is trite romance in scattering hearts, raspberries and chocolates through these menus. Heart symbolism comes from centuries of medical misunderstanding about physiology, but hearts also make bosomy ideographs, beautiful if then recreated from some mushy red or pink food. But how about some other ideographs from a female point of view: tips of bananas ? Chocolate sticks to bite ?
First, it is notable that some supermarkets have more varied non-alcoholic choices than others, and one, Waitrose, forgets this altogether. Then the cheaper the deal, the more unhealthy. Aldi’s cheapest is basically 3 courses of carbohydrate with very little protein.
The vegetable options are too few for my tastes. Living in South Africa, we got used to expecting each main meal to have 2 types of vegetables, the green and the orange (say, spinach and butternut) as well as the carbs(potato or rice or maize meal). The menus, as seen here, fit the British expectation of a protein, potato plus one veg in a main meal but here, some (Aldi and Waitrose) allow only one side. Asda, Morrisons and Tesco allow two sides. .
Potatoes and bread are the only calorie options: no rice, quinoa, couscous. The cooking of vegetables is mostly either with cheese sauce, or packaged veg to dunk in boiling water, with only the more expensive menus featuring roasted or glazed veg. Salads of course are unseasonal at this time of year.
I would also like to know what oil any fried food is cooked in – “triple fried” does not reassure me. Menus by convention allow a mention of butter or olive oil, but refrain from mentioning other oils.
We are warned against buying too much processed food, but most of these menus have some options which clearly come from factory kitchens. Several feature in the vegan listings. I dislike the attempt to mimic meat confections – why have a “beet Wellington” Why not just a good dish of recognisable beetroot ? Why can’t the vegan menus feature the protein better ? There is too much use of cheese (the staple of vegetarianism) and not enough use of beans or pulses in the vegan options.
The supermarkets advertise these Valentine offerings with beautiful pictures. I guess they get plenty of customers. But we should all be educating ourselves about food. even if we hope to enjoy a side-dish of romance! My biggest criticism is that all these deals are meals for two, packaged as two of everything. But what if a couple have divergent food preferences, one vegan and one carnivore ?
Aldi – Choose one of 4 set meals, cheapest is £5.17
- “Heart-shaped” Theme – £5.17; £9.16 with Prosecco
Starter – pizza; Main – pasta; Dessert – pancakes
- Vegan – £6.47; £10.16 with Merlot
Main – “Vegan heart-shaped ultimate burgers” + vegetable medley
- Seafood – £10.27; £14.16 with Sauvignon blanc
Main – “prawn and salmon wellingtons”
- Meaty – £10.47; £14.46 with Malbec
Main – Two pies, triple cooked chips; Dessert – chocolate profiteroles
Co-op – choose from 20 dishes, for 3 course meal – £12
£15 if with alcoholic drink (choice of cheaper wines)
Garlic bread to share
Prawn and salmon mousse
Meat (steak and red wine pie)
Fish (sea bass)
Triple chocolate profiterole
Melt in the middle pudding
Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Velvet Virtual Tortes
+ a non-alcoholic drink rhubarb and ginger pressé or 4-pack diet Cokes
Asda £15 – A three-course meal, two sides and either a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates, plus a Sky Movies voucher
Neufchâtel hearts (baked camembert cheese)
Runny Scotch Egg,
Tempura Prawns with Sweet Chilli Dip
Vegan Crabless Croquettes.
4 red meat (beef or lamb, of which 2 slow-cooked)
Chicken-free coq au vin pie (for vegans)
Potatoes (dauphinoise, or triple cooked chips etc.)
Creamy cauliflower cheese
Glazed carrots and parsnips
Green veg medley
Heart-shaped garlic bread
Sicilian Lemon & Raspberry cheesecake
Raspberry & Vanilla Macaroons
Raspberry Panna Cotta.
Vegan Belgian Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Hearts Heart Shaped Sticky Toffee Pudding
Millionaire Dessert Twin Pack.
Drinks Choice of 3 vegan wines, and 2 sparkly wines. No non-alcoholic mentioned
Vegan Mushroom Pâté
Scallop & King Prawn Thermidors
Garlic & Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms,
Scottish Mussels in Chianti & Iberico Chorizo Sauce
Camembert Tear and Share Bread.
Matured Sirloin Steaks
Slow-cooked Coq au Vin
Pork wrapped in prosciutto
Beefless Wellington (butternut with cranberry, apricot, chestnut duxelle
Rolled sole filled with smoked haddock served with mature cheddar sauce
Potatoes (dauphinoise or chips)
Green Veg medley
Carrots and Kale
Vegan – boozy Jelly Shots laced with pink gin.
Belgian Chocolate Brownie Puddings
Raspberry & White Chocolate Profiteroles
Vanilla Cheesecake Wedges,
Pack of six Macarons
Choice of 7 wines
Or non-alcoholic Sicilian or Raspberry Lemonade, Ginger Beer, Pomegranate & Pear or Lemon & Mint drinks.
Tesco £15 for club card members – or pay £30
Calamari with Chilli Jam
Heart Shaped Camembert Sharing Bread
vegetarian Feta & Red Pepper Tartlets
Vegan Wicked Kitchen Crispy M’shrooms with Smoky Ketchup
Italian Antipasti Platter
Duck Breast Portions with a Raspberry Hoisin Sauce
Chicken in Prosecco Sauce
Veggie Butternut Squash & Goats Cheese Lasagne
Burgers with a Heart Shaped Triple Cheese Melt,
Rump Steaks with Pink Peppercorn Butter
Smoked Scottish Salmon Fillets with Lemon, Chive and Pink Peppercorn Butter
Chicken in Cabernet Sauvignon
Vegan: Wicked Wellingtons – pea protein filling with porcini & chestnut mushroom duxelles encased in flaky pastry.
Heart Shaped Potato Croquettes with roasted garlic and breadcrumbs
Triple Cooked Chips,
Leeks, Petit Pois & Savoy Cabbage,
Three Cheese & Chive Cauliflower Cheese
Green Vegetable Trio.
Valentine’s Veggies and a Potato & Butternut gratin (Wicked Kitchen)
Belgian Chocolate & Orange Pots
Millionaires Twin pack with Red Sprinkled Hearts
Raspberry & Passion Fruit Cheesecake Slices
Belgian White Chocolate and Raspberry Pots
Wicked Kitchen Chocolate Love Brownie
Wine and beer options
Booze-free Passion Fruit Martini or Juniper & Tonic drinks, both vegan
Waitrose £20 – some 40 dishes to choose from
Scottish Mussels in Garlic Butter
Smoked & Poached Salmon Terrines
Bloody Mary Prawn Cocktail
Chicken Liver Parfait
Bacon, Leek & Roquefort Tartlets
Baking Camembert with Red Onion
Spanish Tapas Platter
Meat-free: Mushroom Arancini, or Vegan Spinach Ravioli.
Lamb Rack with Garlic Rosemary Butter
Gressingham Duck Breast in a Red Wine, Plum & Blackberry Sauce.
Fish, Steak and Chicken pies from the No.1 range
French: Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon, Ribeye Steaks+Béarnaise
The Med (Sea Bass with Tomatoes & Olives)
South American (Rump Steaks with Chimichurri Butter)
Vegan: a plant-based Beet Wellington.
Potatoes various from plain to creamy
Peas, Cabbage and Tenderstem Broccoli Layers
Mediterranean Roasting Vegetables
Maple Roasted Vegetables.
Espresso Martini Chocolate Tortes
Chocolate Bucks Fizz Swirl Desserts.
Cream Cheesecake Slices from the English Cheesecake Company,
Fruity options (Sicilian Lemon Tarts, Raspberry Panna Cottas and Raspberry Cheesecakes)
Caramel Chocolate Profiteroles
Melt-in-Middle Chocolate Puddings.
Above the basic range, with choices of an organic Terre di Faiano Nero d’Avola, Finca Lalande Malbec, Beefsteak Club Malbec Rosé and Storie di Vite Pinot Grigio.
Sparkling options include the rosé San Leo Nerello Mascalese Garganega and Cantine Maschio Calle d’Oro Prosecco DOC.
(Non-alcoholic not mentioned.)
Sainsbury’s – £15 (excludes NI) – Choice of 33 products. Only 1 side in the deal.
Starter – includes “Plant pioneers No Chicken Buffalo Wings”
Main – includes 4 British and one Scottish (salmon). 2 slow-cooked.
Vegan main – “Beyond meat plant-based burger” or a veg quiche.
Side – (one option allowed) 3 potato, Green Medley Veg and Cauli cheese
Dessert – (all seem to come boxed) 4 of them cheesecake varieties
Drink – Choice of red, white, rosé, and for non-alcoholic sparkling pressé, elderflower or raspberry
M & S £20 – starter, main, side, dessert, drink or chocolates
Starter – choice of 6 includes seafood and duck liver
Main – 2 steak options, Lamb rack, duck, chicken, vegan is “aubergine steak” and chilli cauliflower.
Side – 4 potato options, cheese pasta, asparagus, green veg medley
Dessert – Banana sponge, lover heart churros, raspberry profiteroles, Billionaire’s pots, “Nuts about you” cheesecake