The distinguished members of TATTGOC sure do love their curry, as evidenced by their rather outdated title of Curry Lovers Of The Year 2010. But their ongoing quest for spicy satisfaction isn't merely limited to TATTGOC's regular excursions to some of Glasgow's hidden-gem curryhouses. If they happen across almost any curry-related foodstuff, Trampy and The Tramp feel compelled to take it for a spin – and thus was born the irregular feature Tastin' With The Tramps. So what spicy product is in the hot seat this time? Why, it's only the new(ish) range of microwaveable Veg Pots from those juicy folks at Innocent! What better way to kick off TATTGOC's nominally healthy January? (Although if you represent Old Raj Gin, please get in touch.)
The Product: Infamous for their range of fruit smoothies in minimalist packaging and an adamant use of lower-case fonts, Innocent have been quietly broadening their product range to include fruit-packed kiddie drinks and this new selection of no-hassle lunch pots to help office-bound workers feel like they're being healthy. The company obviously feels the Innocent brand is strong enough to branch out into less liquidy foodstuffs, and just as their smoothies are marketed on how many of your "five-a-day" are contained within, so the veg pots go hard and heavy on the potential goodness within your reach. Now you can get three of your "five-a-day" outta-the-way in one microwaveable hot pot, in various tempting varieties ...
The Pitch: From the clean, stylish Innocent website: "Fancy something different for lunch? Why not try an innocent veg pot – a delicious meal made from three portions of veg, wholegrains, or pulses and tasty sauce, with herbs and spices. There are eight delicious recipes to choose from and they're ready in just four minutes." Yeah, yeah, that all sounds accurate but a little boilerplate. The individual descriptions of each flavour are a bit more characterful, like the Indian Daal one: "This new recipe proved a bit tricky in the spelling department. Dahl. Daal. Dal. Spicy stuff made using lentils. We're not exactly sure what the correct spelling is but rest assured, with roasted cauliflower, fresh spinach and an array of Indian spices, it's one lentil dish that's certainly got it all going on (spellchecks, dictionaries and lentil linguistics aside)." That's more like it!
The Packaging: Each pot usually costs around £3.79 but since part of the pitch is the goodness you're getting, the packaging is skimpy enough to allow you to also see what you're buying. The G-string of cardboard surrounding your lunch could easily have skimped on printing quality and information but, as is the Innocent way, they've gone pretty full-on with it ... while the outside has the trademark white background, once you've unhooked the cardboard sleeve you discover a wealth of info, jokes and trivia on the inside. Perhaps aware that you will have at least four minutes to kill while the pot is cookin', Innocent haven't skimped on either colour printing or decent copywriting. They may not have been the first company to introduce whimsy to the necessary trade dress of food products – if you've ever been served a takeout coffee with "Please be careful! I'm hot!" printed on it, you know the deal – but they've always done it with panache. Their on-pack chat is actually so good, they should do Christmas crackers next. Thumbs up!
The Process: For this tasting – which coincided with the recording of an episode of Keep Calm And Curry On, the official TATTGOC podcast (potcast?) – the Tramps secured a brace of Innocent veg pots from their nearest Waitrose. It's unlikely any outlet will carry the full range, but they were able to pick up the Indian Daal variety and added the appealing Thai Curry pot as a control. The cooking method was pretty straightforward: remove all packaging, pop the top and then reapply loosely, then stick it in the microwave for two minutes. Stir. Repeat. Enjoy?
Trampy says: "I have rarely dipped into the world of Innocent smoothies but they make every one of these pots sound absolutely delicious. Even before they were zapped, I was impressed by the heft of each pot, and the prominent leaves in the Thai variety still looked green and tantalising, which seemed like a testament to their freshness. After being cooked up, there's certainly plenty to keep you going. And they taste like they're good for you, but not in that way where you feel you have to just shovel it in to make up for all the entire box of cheese straws you ate the night before. It somehow feels like healthy food to potentially linger over."
The Tramp says: "I obviously knew Innocent from their smoothies and I can see how this would fit in with their company profile. The daal is very tasty and hearty. It's not particularly spicy in terms of heat but it's nicely flavoured and there's plenty in there. It does sort of feel like baby food but maybe people would be weirded out by too much texture in the chickpeas. The Thai curry one was a lot more crunchy and just as tasty. In terms of the price point, I'd say it's realistic for a quick lunch, especially one which is all good for you, really. You'd easily spend that on a sandwich. I also like the tips on the pack about what to do with the pot afterwards, like keeping matches in it when you're sailing on a raft."
The Verdict: Both Tramps gave these filling veg pots a thumbs-up, and while skinflint Trampy was swithering over the price, it's worth pointing out that Waitrose have been doing a regular 2-for-£6 deal, and the Co-Op have also started stocking the pots at a slightly lower price as well. While probably not the best option for those desperate for a super spice kick, the veg pots sampled in this experiment were flavourful and hearty. But since this Tastin' was performed, Innocent have launched a new Bombay Butternut Squash Curry variant that may well warrant a follow-up post, or at least a mention on the podcast. To the microwave!
Do you have a curry-related foodstuff you're launching into the crowded modern marketplace where a recommendation from appropriate enthusiasts might help? If so, drop us an introductory line at firstname.lastname@example.org and see YOUR product featured on ... Tastin' With The Tramps!
PREVIOUSLY CONSUMED ON TASTIN' WITH THE TRAMPS
Seabrook's Desi Curry Crisps!
Chilli Papas Spice Mixes!
Mongoose, Aboot The Hoose!
Waitrose Hot And Fiery Salad!
The Pot Noodle GTi!
Mr Singh's Curry Pies!
The Pot Noodle Fightback!
Mr Singh's Punjabi Chilli Sauce!
McCoy's Vs Golden Wonder!
The Nation's Noodle!
Mr Singh's Bangras!