I am a huge huge Waitrose fan. I worked out a while ago that they were cheaper for my weekly shop (I compared with Tesco, Sainsburys, Co-op / Somerfield and even the dreaded Iceland). Admittedly I buy all my fruit and vegetables in the market or from my local food co-op, and as I cook almost everything from scratch my shopping mainly consists of ingredients and nothing already made. I feel that ethically Waitrose is a better place to shop, all eggs in Waitrose own label products are free range (sadly they have not extended this requirement to branded products) and all the fish is Marine Stewardship Council approved. Add to this the fact that the chain is part of the John Lewis Partnership, so there are no shareholders and hedge funds hungry for, and demanding of profits. Money made goes back to the business and into the pockets of all the staff, this leads to better working conditions and better, happier staff. No surly check out assistants bashing your shopping through, it really is service with a smile and some genuine pleasantries.
A good few months ago I was asked to the launch of the new Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients Indian curry pastes range, and had a fantastic evening where the Waitrose chefs cooked up a delicious storm using the sauces. I was sent home with a large goodie bag to try the products out in my own kitchen.
To make a really good curry you need a good base, obtained by slowly sauteing onions, garlic, chilli and ginger for 45mins over a low heat, until they are soft and sweet. Making your base in this way makes for a huge difference in flavour and gives the curry an authentic taste. Central to the curry paste range are jars of ready cooked onion base (£1.35 for 300g), each jar is made from 1kg of onions, so it is not only time saving but also fantastic value considering onions currently cost about 90p a kg. One jar of onion base will serve 4.
To your onion base you add the curry paste, which are based on traditional Indian recipes. Then add your meat, fish or veggies and other ingredients. Each paste has a recipe suggestion, additional ingredients include tinned tomatoes, cream, coconut milk, fresh herbs etc. Currently the range consists of Achari, Bombay aloo, Makhani, Balti, Keralan, Rogan Josh, Tikka, Korma & Tandoori Choley (£1.89 / 200g jar which serves 8). Opened jars will keep for 4 weeks in the fridge.
Having really enjoyed the dishes cooked with the pastes by professional chefs at the launch I was keen to see what I could make. One batch of curries was rapidly scoffed with friends and I did not take any photos, but another batch was photographed before eating!
Here I made a chicken Keralan and a chickpea Achari. Both were delicious I thought that they were just as good as any from my local takeaway, with added bouses of being cheaper, less greasy and importantly containing flavoursome meat that I knew was free range and organic. The chickpeas were especially delicious cold for lunch the next day.
Other products in the range are naan breads, poppadums & marinades, and a selection of chutneys all of which I enjoyed and will happily recommend and buy with my own money in the future.
Thank you to Waitrose and Food at 52 for a lovely evening and for the free product samples. I attended the evening as a guest of Waitrose.