Pre-prepared vegetables just took on a whole new persona. These dishes, prepared by a Northern Irish family at their own farm, bring a range of delicious flavours and textures that genuinely taste home-made and are free from all of the nasties that usually come with instant food.
Mash Direct is a Northern Irish, family-run business, which specialises in ‘field-to-fork’ vegetable accompaniments. The company was founded by the Hamilton family, combining six generations of farming expertise to produce an extensive range of delicious and award-winning dishes fresh from their farm.
Martin and Tracy Hamilton’s farm is located in the green fields of County Down. The ingredients from the farm are chosen specifically for their flavour rather than their appearance, ensuring that every product is as good as it can be and fitting with the family’s mantra of ‘tast not waste!’
All of the recipes are gluten-free and contain no artificial colours, flavourings or preservatives. So we set to work to find out if the products taste as good as they sound!
Many pre-prepared dishes have a distinct texture of slop and a resounding sickly flavour that tastes false. I was very skeptical on trying this mash dish as I’ve never really enjoyed ready made mash to date. But … I have to give the Hamilton family their dues, it really does taste better! The texture, to start, is far more substantial than the traditional ready made versions, it has a certain roughness that you expect from any potato dish but a smooth finish from the milk and butter additions. There is little to comment on in terms of flavour, as they don’t add anything extra, just a little salt and white pepper. I would love a tad more seasoning – probably some black pepper instead or as well as the white – but that wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste. If you cook it in the microwave, be careful not to over-cook it as it will dry out around the edges and turn very chewy (unless you like that of course). At just 190 calories for half of the dish (just the right amount for a side dish), it’s actually a fairly healthy but luxury-feeling product.
Broccoli with a cheese sauce
Mmmmm! This is one of my favourite dishes to make as part of a roast dinner, so had a lot to live up to. The Hamilton’s version looked the part, lots of big chunks of broccoli and strands of grated red cheese. Once cooked, the dish comes out of the oven bubbling and and smelling utterly amazing. There appears to be lots of sauce, although quite cleverly there isn’t too much – they’ve used grated cheese and a thick sauce which goes further and feels more luxurious. Where some of the veg isn’t coated in sauce, the tips of the broccoli went a little crunchy providing some great contrasts and different flavours and textures throughout. No wonder it won a Taste Award!
Potato, cheese & onion croquettes
These croquettes also won me over with the texture, followed by the flavour. Croquettes are often grainy and dry and generally not the most pleasant experience. The Mash Direct croquettes had a silky smooth texture on the inside, that was still moist and packed lots of flavour, All of this was packed into the most wonderful crispy breadcrumb that was a perfect contrast to the centre. The onion and cheese are subtle – not like the kind you’d associate with a pie, but more of a hint to bring out the great flavour of the fresh produce. They would be great as part of a hearty meal, perhaps with some chicken, green veg and gravy.
Chilli Baby Bakes
These baby potatoes are something a little bit different. Coated in a slightly crunchy and spicy layer, they provide a little bit of punch. When cooked, the potatoes come out soft, slightly wrinkled and smelling fantastic. They remind me of something you would find in a Spanish or Latin eatery. As such, I added a little garlic mayo (Aioli) as a dip on the side and was very happy at the combination. They state that 1/3 of a pack is a serving, which I think is a little ambitious – I would be happier serving half, taking it nearer to 200 cals than the 137 on the packaging. I’d be quite tempted to eat half of these for my dinner and keep the other half for playing with the next day – for instance slicing them and frying them off (use Fry Light to keep the calories down).
Aside from the ones we tried, there’s a whole host of dishes including carrot & parsnip mash, mashed turnip, champ, colcannon, dauphinoise potatoes, roast potatoes, gratins, kale and cabbage. As well as the new three minute mash pots – a complete meal such as bangers and mash or bubble and squeak.
Prices and availability
- Broccoli with cheese sauce = £2.09
- Chilli baby bakes = £1.75
- Mashed Potato = £1.50
- Potato, cheese & onion croquettes = £1.75
Already established within the multiples and a variety of independent grocers and convenience stores in Northern Ireland and Scotland, as well as the wider UK through Ocado, Mash Direct is also now available in Asda across 363 stores nationwide.
For more information on Mash Direct, the Hamilton family and all of the products, visit http://www.mashdirect.com/