Melt-in-the-middle chocolate puddings.
Fish and chip pies.
Everyone has a favourite food from M&S. You might not love their clothes, you might not like their ranges, you might never have set foot into the general shopping areas but I’d be amazed if you couldn’t find anything in the Foodhall that made your eyes widen and your tummy rumble.
Earlier this year, M&S introduced its new Summer of Flavour range to their devoted customer base, to the demanding foodies both on and offline and to the general public across the streets of the UK. Taking inspiration for this collection from food markets, bars, stalls and restaurants across the globe, it promised to bring inventive, creative, fabulous flavours to life on your plate, your BBQ or even, as we are British, your grill.
So how was it? Does it live up to that? Could you choose any of the range, throw it on the grill and impress both yourself and your friends?
Grab your napkins and let’s find out…
First off the starters blocks, we have salmon with chilli and a lime, tequila and jalapeno butter which we paired with a quinoa, kale and coriander salad and a good squeeze of lime – the salmon was beautifully tender and flaky although sadly, it did shrink down quite a bit in the cooking. The flavour hit was great with a little heat from the chilli and jalapeno and a whisper of alcohol from the tequila and as someone whose memories of that particular spirit are nothing but self-inflictedly horrendous, I was surprised by how much I liked it. Nice for a light mid-week dinner and quite a virtuous introduction to the range but I’m not sure about it being part of a BBQ to feed the starving masses unless there was quite a lot else to accompany it.
Moving onto the low and smoked pork shoulder with apple bbq sauce which we served with paprika roasted red peppers and onion, sweet potato wedges and chopped avocado. I’m not gonna lie there – this is damn good pulled pork. Having tried one of these little joints of meat before with huge success, we were once again delighted with how flipping easy it is to cook.
Meat. Tray. Oven. Cook. Sauce. Meat. Cook. Stand. Shred. Serve. Dribble.*
The pork was soft and fell apart at the touch of the fork. The sauce was addictively good and just the right amount – no overly sweet and sticky BBQ sauce drowning of the meat on this plate. Paired with the smoky flavour of the roasted veg and the gorgeous sweetness of the potatoes, this was an absolute winner and I’d eat it every day without hesitation. On the advert,this is stacked on top of a burger, a move I completely applaud in its perfection for a BBQ menu but if you fear that’s a step too far for a random Monday night, doing it like this works just as well.
*Feel free to dribble at other opportune moments…
Next on the carnivores tour of M&S – a sincere apology to the vegetarians among you – we have lightly hickory smoked teriyaki beef steaks sitting alongside chunky homemade Parmesan chips and sauteed yellow pepper.
Let’s be honest here and admit that steak is always hit and miss. Unless you own the Ginger Pig and have selected the cuts yourself from a local supplier who lovingly prepared them for you from a cow who was massaged daily and treated like a king, sometimes, you’ve just got to hope that when they’re cooked, they’ll look something like the beautifully styled photo on the front of the box and not like your old school shoes.
Well let me reassure you by saying these steaks were excellent. A decent size which is always a gamble when they’re vacuum packed in sauce as these were, they stayed strong and robust and refused to shrink away to nothing when cooked. The teriyaki marinade was very generous with there was more than enough to baste and glaze each piece of meat until it was deliciously coated and, when grilled, sticky, charred and pick-it-up-with-your-fingers-and-dine-like-a-caveman good. The hickory flavours were complemented rather than annihilated by the teriyaki and there wasn’t a scrap of fat on them. The pork from above has now been joined by this bovine offering as another complete winner for the range.
Our penultimate taste test was of the ‘pulled’ lamb. Just think pulled pork but remove this little piggy and replace him with a wee lamb instead. Don’t worry; he’s happy knowing that his destiny as a scrumptious dinner for you, dear reader, was fulfilled. Cooked in exactly the same way as the pork, the lamb was gently flavoured with orange blossom honey and a pomegranate glaze, both beautiful flavours and neither too wacky or crazy or ‘out there’ for the meat. We sandwiched the tender, generous portions of lamb in freshly baked ciabatta with avocado, grilled red pepper, chopped coriander and thosee ubiquitous sweet potato wedges again because hello, why wouldn’t you?!
Slightly fattier than the pork which is not necessarily a bad thing but more a simple mere observation of lamb in general, it was truly delicious and that extra rich, fatty flavour wasn’t enough to detract in any way. It takes a moment for your brain to wrap itself around something that looks like pulled pork and has the consistency of pulled pork but tastes like lamb but honestly? That moment is gone in a flash and all you know then is that it’s damn good and you can’t stop eating it.
Last but not least, we leave the ocean and the field and head to the sky with coconut, lemongrass and kaffir lime chicken which we cooked, diced and turned into a salad with kale, tomatoes, pepper, avocado, cannellini beans and red onion. Apart from the salmon, this was the lightest of the grill choices that we tried. The coconut had a sweet flavour, the lemongrass a fresh one and the lime pitched in with a subtle tang – all three worked well in adding interest to chicken which, let’s face it, can sometimes be about as exciting as Spring Watch or Ronan Keating. If you were looking for a healthier option for your grill, griddle or umbrella-sheltered BBQ, this would fulfil your needs – perfect in a salad but equally tasty perhaps in a pitta with a cooling yoghurt, cucumber dressing or sliced & skewered onto kebabs with juicy chunks of pineapple and a drizzle of honey.
So that’s a lot of meat eaten. A lot of meat grilled, shredded and chopped. A lot of meat bought with the hopes that it would serve up up simple, carefully thought out dishes where the hard work is done for you and neither your waistline, wallet or tastebuds have to pay the price. I’d have to say with the exception of the salmon being noticeably smaller when served than when unboxed, everything else was superb value for money especially when bought as part of the 3 for £10 deal that’s been run so frequently this summer and really delivered interesting, well executed meals that would be at home in your garden, in your kitchen and definitely in your belly.