Tuesday, 7 January 2014
Review - Easy Chef's Chicken Tikka Kebab
One of my primary motivations for working on recipes which ultimately became The Takeaway Secret and More Takeaway Secrets books was the distinct lack of any real option when it came to satisfying takeaway food cravings without actually ordering from or visiting a local takeaway. In those early days, I sampled every supermarket product going which marketed itself as offering a 'takeaway experience' at home. One of the first things I tried, and sadly one of the worst by a long way, was the frozen doner kebab. As you'll know if you've ever tried one, this is a grim offering which tastes almost nothing like a real doner kebab and, surprisingly, is filled with ingredients which are of an even lower standard than those found in the authentic takeaway dish. Given that the doner kebab is such a highly processed, cheaply produced dish, it's quite hard to work out how the frozen home version manages to pitch itself so far away from the real thing. It's easy to assume that the cooking method is the main cause of the problem but a quick look at the ingredients reveals that we're already a long way away from a real doner kebab before we've even opened the box and considered heating the contents up in the microwave. Admittedly, the ingredients in a takeaway doner kebab aren't fantastic, nor are they expensive, so it's puzzling that the frozen variety doesn't even begin life bearing more resemblance to the real thing. Rumour has it that authentically prepared and cooked doner kebab meat can now be purchased in bulk from various cash-and-carry traders, however I've yet to see this in any actual trade store as opposed to online.
So, here we are a few years on from my first microwave kebab experience and the number of takeaway style dishes offered in supermarkets has grown hugely. A small variety of offerings in years gone by has increased and now a substantial number of products are available, each marketing themselves as offering that 'takeaway taste' at home. A convenient, inexpensive product which you can purchase, keep in the fridge or freezer and warm up yourself when the urge for a takeaway hits you but the clock reveals that it's 3 O'Clock in the morning and even the dirtiest of takeaway restaurants are closed. The number of products on offer has increased, but has the quality increased with it?
The Easy Chef range is one which includes the aforementioned doner kebab and from recent experience I can sadly confirm that the flavour hasn't improved at all over the years. Apart from being an unpleasant experience, the main criticism has to be that it simply doesn't taste like a doner kebab at all. As well as the doner kebab however, Easy Chef also offer a Chicken Tikka kebab option which was a new one on me. With a deep breath, I removed the box from the freezer and bravely made my way downstairs to the kitchen...
I should add at this stage that it had never been my intention to try to create takeaway dishes and cook them from scratch myself during the early days of my obsession. I hoped, prayed even that the supermarket products I was purchasing would faithfully do the job of recreating my favourite fast foods and would even have been accepting of products which, although falling short, at least came close to resembling the real thing. It was the sheer disappointment of the vast majority of these products which led to my taking a more 'from the ground up' approach to recreating the dishes I enjoyed so much. Still, with each and every new product which appears on the market, I find my blind optimism returning and hope with all sincerity that this time things may be different.
Removing the Chicken Tikka kebab from the box brought back horrible memories of the frozen doner kebab experience, the packaging being so similar after all. This meant things didn't get off to a good start in my mind, however it would be wrong to tar the chicken tikka kebab with the same brush so onwards we go.
The pitta bread included in the box has a slightly more toasted look than those which you'd typically purchase and toast yourself, however this may just be pure coincidence. It would make sense that the pitta bread be toasted quite generously in advance however, given the inevitably wet and soggy contribution the microwave cooking process is bound to make to proceedings.
The suspense is raised somewhat by the fact that the kebab meat is neatly tucked inside the aforementioned pitta bread and so can't be assessed at all until after the cooking / reheating process has been carried out. At this stage I was again filled with a sudden increase in confidence that, over the years, these products might just have been massively improved and that I was about to enjoy a proper, full-on kebab experience. I placed the plate into the microwave, set the timer to the required 2 minutes and waited patiently.
My patience was rewarded with this:
I have mixed emotions about what I tasted after I took the kebab out of the microwave and allowed the typical '1 minute standing time' to elapse. In all honesty, it really wasn't that bad. The chicken tasted quite spicy, if a little salty, and the flavour wasn't horrible. The pitta bread was of course a bit of a soggy mess but the chicken, surprisingly, wasn't as bad as it might have been expected to be.
After another bite or two however, my initial surprise was slowly but surely met with an inevitable slide in a negative direction. Whilst the chicken does indeed taste a lot better than you might expect, that initial element of pleasant surprise soon gives way, replaced by an uncomfortable sensation that you're eating something which is tasting more 'chemical' than it should. I'm not quite sure how this is achieved, the product's ingredients being reasonably additive free after all. It's perhaps a psychological thing on my part and is an unfair criticism of the product but the longer I continued eating, the more that creeping feeling of eating something 'a bit nasty' surrounded me.
If you're a fan of this kind of product, you might actually quite enjoy this. It's really not terrible at all. Unfortunately, when all is said and done, 'not terrible' is perhaps the best thing that can be said about it.
It's not terrible.
The Easy Chef Chicken Tikka Kebab is part of a range of frozen kebab dishes created by Easy Chef. The kebab detailed above was purchased from Farmfoods and was priced at £2.