Friday 25 November 2011

Product review: Colman's Instant Gravy

I'd seen the extremely irritating TV ads with the gurning gelatinous bull dancing around the kitchen counter before diving into a gravy boat. It did what a good (if irritating) ad should - made me recognise the name and have a passing curiosity about the product - so when I was offered a chance to try them, I was keen. Or rather Colman (that's a mustard joke, for those playing at home).

*Usual disclaimer*: product was provided free of charge, no other compensation was offered or accepted, views are my own and the PRs don't get to vet my copy before I publish.

Firstly, the beef flavour: this was an extremely thick paste, really difficult to squeeze out of the tube. I had a moment where I was concerned that the top of the tube was actually going to explode, but eventually I got a portion out.

The aroma of the paste itself was pretty indistinguishable from Bovril, but there is nothing wrong with that. I like Bovril.

Made up as per the instructions on the tube (add boiling water and stir) it made a very thin gravy, so I had to add quite a bit extra to get it to the thicker consistency I prefer.

The colour was good, and it had a strongly beefy, "clean" flavour. An excellent accompaniment to steak and veg and a very good substitute for home-made.

Paul has been promising for some time to make me a beef pie, with handmade shortcrust pastry, so this seemed like a good opportunity to put him to the test. He made a beef, ale and mushroom stew, using the beef gravy paste to add body to the sauce. He made a butter shortcrust, in a 2:1 flour:butter ratio, and it was absolutely divine. He has a much better pastry hand than I do, so I throw in the towel and will stick to bread.

The onion flavour: Also very difficult to squeeze from the tube, slightly ruddier colour than the beef. Slightly acrid, dried onion aroma, which unfortunately took me back to pot noodles.

When made up, the dried onion note was less evident, but still there. Made the dinner of deconstructed toad in the hole and frozen veg taste even more institutional than it looks. My Yorkshire puddings are coming along nicely though.

I gave the onion gravy a second chance, cooking down a sliced red onion with some thyme and black pepper and then adding the gravy paste and water. We had the onion gravy with celeriac and swede mash, and faggots, for a really hearty winter meal. Unfortunately the dried onion flavour couldn't be disguised.

The chicken flavour: Softer and easier to squeeze than the other two. On its own the paste has a slightly "roast" chicken aroma, pleasant.

Made up, the gravy was much thicker than the others, I needed to dilute it more to avoid a really gelatinous texture. There was a bit of a herbal scent to the gravy, maybe a bit of rosemary and thyme? It also had a faintly floury texture on the tongue, although this wasn't evident when it was served. It made a very good accompaniment to roast chicken thighs, potatoes and baked gem squash.

In short, the onion flavour is not worth bothering with. I don't like wasting food but I will be throwing the remains of that tube away. The other two are worthy of house space. These pastes really do have a better flavour and texture than granules or powder. All the ingredients are pretty innocuous, with no E numbers to scare you off, which I like. Making gravy from scratch is hardly arduous, but this is a useful product if you don't like gravy or don't like making gravy and others in your family do. I am a much bigger fan of gravy than Paul is, so I can see myself using these to make a little pot for one sometimes.


miss south said...

I want to be that person who roasts their own veal bones and does a proper gravy everytime, but there's just me most of the time and it's not feasible.

I'm going to live dangerously and pick up a tube of the beef one. Winter is coming and I need everything to float in a pool of meat juice to get through it!

Deb in Hawaii said...

Always fun to try new products. That beef pie looks amazing--actually everything looks pretty delicious.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Miss South - and some days you just want a bowl of mash and gravy without the meat at all!

Deb - it was a good pie. I was impressed that he decided it had to be done in the Dutch oven because our pie plates aren't deep enough!

Bettina Douglas said...

I am reminded of Paul's pastry prowess. I think we should see more of it!

Your great-grandmother of prize winning maderia cake fame always protested she didn't have the hand for pastry.

Unknown said...

They do look convenient but I think home made gravy is always a million times better.

Unknown said...

Hello! Thanks for this review - I live in the States but am frequently in London visiting my daughter and I do a lot of cooking while I'm there! So this is good information to know! Oh, and that pie sounds wonderful! Kudos to Paul!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Cara - home made is definitely superior

Cafe Sucre - it might be something to look out for when you are here next. But gravy paste is not a holiday essential!

Caroline said...

Good review. Bit of a pity though, as I'd be far more interested in the onion flavour than the meat based ones. Ah well, at least I know to avoid it now.

That pie looks amazing. Wish I could make pies like that!

hungryandfrozen said...

Fun! Gravy in a tube! The onion one doesn't sound so good but I like the idea of the beef one - even adding a tiny bit, undiluted, to soups and stews and risottos and suchlike, to give a bit of oomph.

What a beauteous pie :)

Alicia Foodycat said...

C - maybe try the chicken as a more neutral flavour? The pie is amazing. His secret seems to be a bit of baking powder and milk instead of water.

Laura - they are a bit opaque for risotto, but soups and stews definitely!

Dharm said...

Interesting. I always wonder what goes into these instant sauces and although I agree that home made is always better, sometimes we need all the help we can get. I must keep a look out for this but doubt they will have it in Malaysia although Colmans mustard is always available easily. Thanks for the review!


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