Hunger Breaks All Day Breakfast
“Baked beans in tomato sauce with sausages, button mushrooms, chopped pork and egg nuggets with cereal, and bacon”
The British fry-up is a national treasure which has successfully seen-off invaders from foreign shores including croissants, muesli, pop tarts and (they’ll never get me) Lucky Charms. Nobody in this day and age has a fry-up every day and so it has gone from dietary staple to a meal to be savoured.
A British breakfast, done properly, is a culinary triumph and to see this you need to pay a trip to the Regency Cafe in Pimlico. This was the scene of my last fry-up. The Regency is truly a gem and certainly one of the best places in the world for the traditional British breakfast. Fans of the film Layercake will be interested to note that the Regency is the venue for the scene where that scruffy chap gets beaten almost to death.
Debate rages about what should go into a fry-up. Are hash browns acceptable in lieu of fried bread? tinned tomatoes or a griddled fresh tomato? button mushrooms or portobello? what about bubble and squeak? Imagine for a moment, a proper fry-up, you will note that there is appropriate segregation between the constituent parts. If you were to receive a fry-up which had been given the tossed salad treatment and was all mixed, mashed and piled together then I can imagine that you would be unimpressed with the presentation and the taste would be ruined . The British breakfast is a borderless bento box of flavour and if, say, the bacon and the egg yolk are to meet, then that is for the diner and his fork to decide. To get this into a tin with a two-year shelf-life is no mean feat.
The alchemists at Premier Foods have drawn upon an impressive list of ingredients. 57 by my count, though I have not bothered to de-duplicate this. As any fule no, the standard tin of Heinz Baked Beans requires only 9 ingredients, so even with the baked bean backdrop accounted for, there is quite an array of ingredients here. It’s not all magic, however and some real compromises have been made with the constituent parts which have taken them almost beyond recognition.
Instead of the standard sausage, bacon, eggs (fried, poached or scrambled) beans, hash browns and mushrooms, what we have here is “Baked beans in tomato sauce with sausages, button mushrooms, chopped pork and egg nuggets with cereal, and bacon”. This may not seem like much of a compromise, until one opens the tin.
The appearance is about as far removed from a proper British breakfast as one would care to imagine. The beans look OK, though the sauce is perhaps a bit dark; the sausages (x2) look a bit forlorn; the button mushrooms (x2) look as they are supposed to; the egg nuggets (x2) look like cheap meatballs and the bacon (x1) is not a rasher but a leathery disc slightly bigger than a £2 coin.
And now for the taste, starting with the beans. I was brought up to know that Beanz Meanz Heinz. Not here. The sauce is thick and so dominated by the taste of grey meat that tomato is a secondary flavour – the beans themselves are flavourless and soggy.
The mushrooms were OK, though a bit slimy. Nothing to write home about.
The bacon disc looked like a blanched slice of Chorizo, but had the texture of fake leather and none of the astringency or flavour of Chorizo. Are they allowed to call this bacon?
Now to the sausages – these are not proper sausages, as they do not have an intestinal casing and sitting in the bean juice for months without this fleshy integument made them pretty soggy. I cut one to see that there was a fair bit of gristle in it – not necessarily a bad thing of course but the taste was appalling – it was the grey meat of a thousand school refectory meatballs distilled into one little sausage. I retched.
Once more unto the breach and time to face the gonadal pork and egg nuggets. These gave way under the fork to reveal a crumbling centre. The taste was more of the grey meat but with fleshy pieces and the egg was sickly. I discarded the remainder.
In summary, this was one of the most miserable gastronomic experiences of my life. In some ways I admire the food technologists’ ambitions but I feel that ultimately, this is a debasement of a national treasure. A bridge too far.
Quicksters Microwaveable Cheeseburger
“Flamegrilled Quarter Pounder with Cheese”
Never before have I bought a microwaveable burger, and nor, to my knowledge has anybody else that I know. Murgers, as I shall call them, are not entirely new. I remember that I first saw one on the shelves at a local convenience store in about 1999 – they were displayed in a branded unified fridge and microwave and as I recall, were not a runaway success. The display unit was later replaced with a sort of hot cabinet for tepid cans of Nescafe (another thing that never seemed to take off) and subsequently the floorspace was given over to the booze fridge. Murgers reappeared in supermarkets and whilst I have never before had the urge to eat one, I did enjoy the diversion of picking up one of the packets and comparing the promising serving suggestion picture on the wrapper to the reality within.
It was with some trepidation that I finally decided to tackle my first Murger and it was to be the Aldi Quicksters Microwaveable Cheeseburger, enticingly priced at 75p – precisely £1.00 below the retail price of the big-name competitor, Rustlers. For what purports to be a hot meal with 75% beef, this is very cheap and I set my expectations accordingly.
The Murger clearly represents the magnum opus of a team of the world’s best food technologists and the whole package (comprising burger, bun, ketchup sachet and plastic cheese slice) demands some 40 ingredients including ambrosial “Emulsifiers: Mono- And Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Mono- And Diglycerides of Fatty Acids”. This Murger has a shelf life of almost a month, which for a ground beef product, is actually quite worrying and the label warns of a possible encounter with bone fragments.
Upon opening the packet, I was confronted with the oniony and gamey stench of a thousand of the worst festival burger vans. This was interlaced with the vinous smell of active yeast indicative of a stale bun. The patty was a pallid meat-like disc with a colour that more befits a chicken burger though with a tinge of cement grey. There were visible deposits of lard on the surface but present were the ‘griddle lines’ to indicate that it may indeed have been flame grilled. The bun was pale but generously adorned with sesame seeds.
I microwaved the Murger, as indicated, for 1 min 20. Upon taking it out, the smell filled the kitchen. The top section of the bun had been ‘glazed’ with the lard from the top of the burger. This looked quite pleasing and rather like a bruscetta glazed with olive oil. I noticed that the bottom section of the bun had become extremely sweaty, if not completely sodden, from the fat and water from the burger patty. I topped the burger patty with the plasticky cheese slice and put the ketchup on the top section of the bun.
I bit into the Murger and was immediately taken aback by the appalling gamey taste. If you had said that this Murger was made of dog then I would have believed you. It was gristley, perfectly vile and cried out with rancidity – I had to spit out the first bite in order to avoid vomiting. On the third attempt, I managed to swallow a mouthful of the Murger. I reeled from the sensation of the gristle between my teeth and the aftertaste was stubborn – I discarded the remainder.
In summary, this is the worst purported burger that I have ever tasted and it seems to justify every doubt I have ever had about the Murger. In taste, smell and mouthfeel there is nothing to recommend it. Never again will I buy a Murger.