Tesco Value Spaghetti Bolognese
Written by The Human Dustbin and posted in Beverages, Food, Microwaveable Snacks, Tins and Packets

I have a veritable banquet or as I like to call it ‘The George Osborne set lunch for 1’ up for review. Exclusively from Tesco’s legendary pessimal range, I bring you the following lunch menu;

Tesco Value Chicken & Mushroom Flavour Noodle Quick Snack 14p

Tesco Value Spaghetti Bolognese 74p

Tesco Value Spanish Red Wine 25cl £1.29


Tesco Value Chocolate Flavoured Swiss Roll 25p

As you can see I have really pushed the boat out here for my loyal readers. The best thing about this menu is that the wine can stretch to two small glasses and the dessert serves 4, so for just an extra 88p, this can be a lunch for you and someone you (don’t) love.

Tesco Value Chicken & Mushroom Flavour Noodle Quick Snack
Tesco Value Chicken & Mushroom Flavour Noodle Quick SnackFirst I have to make it clear from the start that this is a ‘potted noodle snack’ and not a Pot Noodle™, which of course is a brand name held by Unilever (not Golden Wonder), who I have heard are litigious shits (allegedly) when it comes to people mistakenly associating their high class, delicious and nutritious, trade marked product with lesser ‘potted noodle snacks’. So once more for the hard of reading and for the search engines, this is not a Pot Noodle™.

Now I’ve got that out of the way, lets get down to some serious scrutiny of the cheapest product I have ever purchased for review and requested by multiple readers. I’m rapidly approaching middle age, but in all my years on this earth, a ‘potted noodle snack’ has never passed my lips, even in times of the most dire financial distress and mental imbalance. So with a mixture of dread and curiosity, I put the kettle on.

Tesco Value Chicken & Mushroom Flavour Noodle Quick Snack IngredientsAs I peeled back the foil lid, the scent of a cheap stock cube assaulted my nostrils. I was indeed vaguely chicken like. Quite remarkable for a product that the ingredients reveal, contains just 0.4% ‘Chicken powder’ and equal amounts of Dried Mushrooms and Dried Sweetcorn. Most of what you’re getting is soya protein (2%) and noodles (73%). That leaves 24% for other bits and bobs including ‘Natural Flavourings’ that I believe is a food industry way of concealing Monosodium Glutamate.

Tesco Value Chicken & Mushroom Flavour Noodle Quick Snack CookingFollowing the manufacturers instructions to the letter, I poured in boiling water up to the high tide mark and left to brew fester for 2 minutes before stirring and then leaving for another 2 minutes to get nice and tepid before serving. Taking my serving suggestion from the foil lid, I slopped the brew into a bowl only to find that my half time stirring was not vigorous enough, leaving a corner of dried grit at the base of the pot. After forking it over, adding hot water and slopping it in with the rest, I was ready to eat.

Tesco Value Chicken & Mushroom Flavour Noodle Quick Snack SlopMy first impression visually was ‘tapeworms in soup’. Forking out some noodles and taking my first tentative bite, I remember saying to myself ‘perhaps this is what cooked tapeworms taste like’, the vague savoury taste of MSG with a soft and slightly slimy texture. I didn’t want any more noodles, so I tasted the broth. Not really chicken, but it did have a synthetic edge that made me think that if I consumed the whole bowl I would rapidly turn into a crayon eating, hyperactive gibbering mess. That was it for the starter apart from looking once more into the slop and seeing the lone sweetcorn kernel and thinking that must be the 0.4% all in one!

Appearance: 1/10
Taste: 2/10
Value: 2/10
Overall: 5/30

Tesco Stores Ltd
Tesco Stores Ltd

Tesco Value Spaghetti Bolognese Tesco Value Spaghetti BologneseRegularly topping the charts in ‘Britain’s favourite food’ polls, ‘SpagBol’, (the truncated and concatenated word that makes me slightly wince) is the dish that 6 out of 10 Britain’s (including the men who believe as they can cook this, they are now a chef) can cook without a recipe. However, what about those who really just can’t be arsed? Well thank heavens for this 74p ready meal, is all I can say. Now you can have ahem, ‘SpagBol’ in just 4 minutes and a microwave ping.

Tesco Value Spaghetti Bolognese JellyAfter a frankly disgusting and inedible starter, as I whipped this microwave meal out of it’s reassuringly misleading sleeve, I was hoping that this would be OK, as I was getting a bit peckish. It had been in my fridge since purchase 2 days ago and in that time seemed to have congealed into a gelatinous non-moving lump at fridge temperature (it wasn’t frozen at all). I pierced the film lid a few times in a ‘psycho’ fashion with a massive knife, which is the custom in our household, before putting in the microwave for 4 minutes as per the manufacturers instructions, giving myself just enough time to open the wine and let it breathe.

Tesco Value Spaghetti Bolognese GlossyOnce nuked, removing the film I was greeted with a surprisingly appetising aroma. Stirring it up and turning it out onto a plate, it did look at bit, well, ‘glossy’ I believe is the chefs term, lardy is mine. Digging out a forkful of spaghetti and twirling it around my spoon, it did seem very starchy, sticky and clawing. However, the spaghetti itself was reasonably firm to the bite and tasted OK. The sauce was a bit ‘school dinners’ (yeah showing my age now, remember them kids, etc) as it was quite bland and lent towards the more gravy like than tomato and herb. It did have a slightly sweet, as in sugary rather than fruity edge to it, as seems to prevail in these budget dishes. I would prefer they chucked slightly more salt in to make it more palatable to be honest, rather than sugar. Overall it was not bad at all for 74p and was complemented by the wine.

Appearance: 5/10
Taste: 6/10
Value: 5/10
Overall: 16/30

Tesco Stores Ltd
Tesco Stores Ltd

Tesco Value Spanish Red Wine
Tesco Value Spanish Red WineI have a confession to make here before I begin. I am an insufferable wine snob. I may not have been educated the expensive way, but I do know my Claret from my Beaujolais. That’s right, I think drinking New World wines or Vin de Pays is lowering my standards to an unacceptable level. So when one of our readers said she uses this wine for cooking but would never drink it, I knew I had a challenge reviewing my first alcoholic beverage.

Tesco Value Spanish Red Wine TetrapakWhen imagining what this wine could possibly taste like, I started to think of the rough elderberry wine my friends and I used to brew as teenagers by the gallon. It didn’t taste too bad after the first bottle. Looking at the tetrapak, the silver seal looked like it needed piercing with a straw, just like a carton of UmBongo.

Tesco Value Spanish Red Wine Big GlassI decanted the third of a bottle into a large glass and let it breathe for a full three and a half minutes. The bouquet reminded me of a cheap wine box, the type that people bring to a barbeque and abandon, then insist on drinking your bottle of Chateau Musar. Taking my first sip, I was surprised that it lacked a country wine rough edge. The label says it is an uncomplicated wine with strawberry flavours, to me it tastes like Beaujolais Nouveau or ‘alcoholic Ribena’. Not something you would really want to drink as an aperitif but was far better than I thought it would be.

Appearance: 4/10
Taste: 4/10
Value: 4/10
Overall: 12/30

Tesco Stores Ltd
Tesco Stores Ltd

Tesco Value Chocolate Flavoured Swiss Roll
Tesco Value Chocolate Flavoured Swiss RollI haven’t got a sweet tooth and compared to savoury food, I think that it’s hard to find something sweet and truly awful. However, this lunch needed a fitting dessert and this was one of the cheapest I could find. The first thing that struck me was the size of it. It’s like two mini swiss rolls glued together and apparently serves 4. With these cheap desserts, I’m sure the manufacturers have some sort of unofficial challenge, to see who can cram as much sugar as possible into a product without it turning into an actual sugar cube.

Tesco Value Chocolate Flavoured Swiss Roll TinyTo illustrate my point further, I have photographed the roll next to a 50p piece so you can get a sense of size. After admiring the small but perfectly sized dessert, I cut it up into 4 portions and prepared myself for an underwhelming experience. Looking at the ingredients, it contains fat reduced cocoa powder and no percentage given, which in lay mans terms means ‘next to nothing’. Also in cheap products, fat reduced often means flavour reduced.

Tesco Value Chocolate Flavoured Swiss Roll SugarySo taking the bite sized portion between thumb and forefinger, I took my first bite. The vanilla filling had no flavour at all and only provides a contrasting texture to the sponge. The sponge itself has a vague cocoa taste, but is so wishy-washy, it tastes like it would if you made a chocolate sponge yourself and only had half the required amount of cocoa for the recipe and thought ‘ah fuck it, that’ll do’. The sponge contained so much sugar and Humectants that it was slightly sickly and was grainy in texture. Not a particularly pleasant bite to end the meal on.

Appearance: 4/10
Taste: 3/10
Value: 3/10
Overall: 10/30

Tesco Stores Ltd
Tesco Stores Ltd

There you have it, a 3 course meal with wine for under £2.50 The ‘potted noodle snack’ stood head and shoulders above the rest as the worst of the bunch and the Bolognese for being no where near as bad as I thought it would be. The real question is would I buy any of these products again, the answer is no.

Update: 12/02/2013
Who would have thought that dobbin could be quite tasty, I think it’s time to source a Findus Lasagne!

  • I don’t love Claire, so I know what I’m ‘cooking’ for dinner tomorrow. I know its a lunch menu but I’m a tightfisted splurger of cash… But I have a suggestion however – Tesco value noodles in a pack are only 11p (used to be 8p but blame the fucking economy for that) – I regularly have a pack of these when returning from work and simply shove them in a big mug and tip on the boiling water (which probably costs more to boil than the noodles in the first place) followed by the ground up chicken beaks, ahem I mean “seasoning” – sorry.

    In at under 2 minutes, and 11p it’s near instant culinary delight…

    • Outdoor man

      I live in the Park,being a outdoor man in Mr Camerons BIG Society I cant cook as I have no cooker,so what I do if Ive pulled a outdoor women with a beard,like I did last summer,is to dine out (ha ha excuse the pun)with a cheap alternative of a bag of chips and a bottle of cider.Then back to the park bushes for a night of wild sex when the sun goes down,very romantic.

  • Proudtrouser

    The wine in a carton is quite pleasant. I have not tried the red but the white is fine, especially if you drink it like the Spanish and Argentinians mostly do, with something added.

    Also I second the above comment about the noodles. Search out the lesser known ‘bacon’ variety. Not stocked in all stores but well worth the effort if you can track some down.

  • Matt

    Sorry to be pedantic but Golden Wonder don’t make Pot Noodle anymore. The brand is now owned by Unilever. Golden Wonder now make The Nation’s Noodle!

  • The Human Dustbin

    Sorted thanks for that. I assume it must have been Unilever who made sure Hugh Fearnley-Thingy, never referenced ‘Pot Noodle™’ when doing this on the telly: http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/chefs/hugh-fearnley-whittingstall/curried-instant-noodles-recipe

  • tahrey

    Supermarket own-brand Pot Noodle Parodies… I have braved them once… then foolishly twice. I don’t think there’ll be a third unless I get desperate. The real thing is quite pricey nowadays, but as they lurk in the cupboard for dark days when something rapid, hot and salty-ish (damn you, european health legislation!) is required, that’s not so much of a problem, and they are SO much nicer. (If you’ve had the tesco value type without ever having a Gol…er, Unilever original, do so immediately to redress the balance) … 14p is 14p, I know, but there are other ways of keeping yourself alive for that money, and as cup noodles are a luxury item therefore, you may as well spend a little more and get decent ones.

    However, on getting in from a nightclub, wasted off your face and in need of cheap, empty calories and alcohol-absorbing starch, there’s nothing quite hits the spot like the 11p value noodles as described above. You’re not after actual nutrition (if you are, do what I did during a cash-strapped week – mix in an already-bought vitamin tablet and an already-bought omega 3 capsule), just maximum hit for minimum cash. There isn’t even an attempt made to include any veg or pretend meat, or to make believe that the flavouring is anything more than MSG and other assorted chemicals in a packet. Put water in kettle, start it boiling, find and open packet, drop noodles into a pan, turn on the hob, open and dump in the flavour pack, then empty the kettle into the pan regardless of how well boiled it is.
    At this point I usually also drop in either a generous handful of cheap frozen peas, or the end of an already opened tin of sweetcorn, whichever’s closer to hand, as a token nod towards actually consuming real food. It’s pretty cheap, particularly if you go for the peas.
    Open a therapeutic tin of lager. Ignore the clock, just cook until they’re fairly soft and most of the water has been absorbed leaving a fairly thick sauce. Turn off cooker, grab a teflon-safe plastic spork, and eat direct from the pan (with a cushion on your lap) whilst watching trashy digital TV and finishing the beer. Throw pan in sink, down a pint of water on top of it, go to bed.

    Asda’s are totally interchangeable with Tesco’s for this purpose. Dunno about Morrisons or Sainsbury’s. The german discounters are actually far too expensive for this stuff nowadays (30p or more) without actually being identifiably different from the home brands, which is wierd; when I was a student, before the UK supermarkets even started selling the stuff (it was expensive Supernoodles or nothing), I subsisted on their offerings without even adding the peas. Cooking it up in and eating it out of a concealed-element travel kettle – just the right size to hold the proper amount of water, very efficient, and very easy to clean. And crucially, possible to cook up entirely in my cheap rented bedroom in a shared house in the middle of an all-night essay blitz without having to go downstairs, with its cold water only sink and seemingly 5 amp-rated 13-amp shaped socket (full size kettle, or even a typical microwave, would’ve blown the breaker given the paltry combination of other stuff that tripped it… a one-bar heater was OK so long as I didn’t use anything else at the same time… kettle had to provide the warmth as well when it was in use)…

  • tahrey

    By the way you may be right about the MSG – as it is, after all, officially a natural flavouring, in it’s original seaweed-derived form!

  • sarah

    The price of the “Potted Noodles” varies wildly from week to week in my local Tesco,a couple of weeks ago they were 12p,I grabbed a couple on the Thursday just gone and they were 35p,The taste improves if you add ketchup or worcester sauce,though the fun part is counting the sweetcorn kernels(two is the maximum so far)and slivers of mushroom(three miniscule specks),I haven’t tried the red wine,but the tetra pack white one is suprisingly drinkable.

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  • Anne Jazz

    I actually really like the Tesco Value Chocolate Flavoured Swiss Roll.

    I tried it the other day.
    I was not actually going to even eat it because I thought that it would taste horrible or boring.
    I think that it tastes really nice and it might be the best swiss roll that I have ever ate.

    I had to tell my mother to buy me some more of them because it did taste really nice.
    My marks would be:

    Appearance: I don’t care about appearance because I soon scoff it down no matter what something looks like, so I will leave this blank.

    Taste: 9/10
    Value: 10/10

    Overall: 19/20

    buy it and try it, I would say or if you are super cheap, get someone else to buy it for you.

  • Mr. Cnut

    Hello. As much as I enjoy your blog, there is nothing wrong with New World wines. As a matter of fact, I find an Argentinian red far more enjoyable than some of the stuff from France.

    That aside, have you reviewed any pre-packed Liver and Bacon? Also, now you’re reviewing booze, would you be interested in comparing fags, too? Say, Marlboros vs… Sovereign.

    Just a thought…

    Keep up the good work =)

  • Unterdosis

    Looked at the Bolognese and thought “Yummie, bloody diarrhea in a tray!”