Mor­wenna Fer­ri­erier The chick­en­filled york­shire pud­ding of­fers no-fuss nos­tal­giaia

The Guardian - G2 - - Food -

This month, Aldi launched a chicken-fi lled york­shire pud­ding to more news­pa­per cov­er­age than you would ex­pect for what is in ef­fect a ready meal. Maybe it was just the fact that some­one had launched a ready meal in 2018. Or, maybe it was the fact that the meal in ques­tion man­ages to con­tain all the Bri­tish­ness and nos­tal­gia of a roast din­ner, with­out the prep, for just £ 2.49. Food de­liv­ery com­pany De­liv­eroo charges a penny more for de­liv­ery alone.

The chicken-fi lled york­shire pud­ding is a no-fuss, frill-free prod­uct. There is a fi lm lid, a card­board sleeve and a foil dish that con­tains the fol­low­ing: one gi­ant york­shire pud­ding, chunks of British chicken, balls of pork-and-onion stuffi ng, onion gravy, roast potato and a pork chipo­lata that is en­cased, it states, in beef col­la­gen – in­for­ma­tion I could have lived with­out. It takes 50 min­utes to cook from frozen.

In con­cept and op­tics – it’s in­cred­i­bly brown to look at – it’s the culi­nary equiv­a­lent of a Mike Leigh play about mid­dle Eng­land. But it’s not try­ing to win a Miche­lin star and, looks aside, it’s tasty, given the price. The chicken doesn’t shrink in the heat; rather, it’s fi rm, ten­der and, once doused in gravy, moist. The stuffi ng has that prepacked her­bi­ness that clings to your tongue like a savoury per­fume, but which is oddly re­as­sur­ing. Col­la­gen aside, the sausage is small but great. Then there’s the york­shire pud­ding, the width of a din­ner plate, which rises like the moon and crisps up nicely like a bis­cuit if left in the oven slightly too long. Al­most round, it acts as both bowl and cut­lery, de­signed as it is to be torn and used as a scoop. This is the best pre-made york­shire pud­ding I’ve eaten, even if it even­tu­ally dis­in­te­grates in the gravy.

There are lots of rea­sons this works well, but con­ve­nience, that great lib­er­a­tor from labour, is not one of them. It takes ages to cook and doesn’t come with any veg­eta­bles (a huge over­sight). This means you have to pre­pare your own, which is the least fun part of cook­ing.

It works be­cause of the tyranny of nos­tal­gia, the sur­pris­ingly low calo­rie count (577), the fact that what­ever is not ed­i­ble can be re­cy­cled (or so de­clares the pack­ag­ing). But mostly it works due to the tim­ing: in Oc­to­ber, when half a mil­lion stu­dents are sud­denly crip­pled by home­sick­ness, cash short­ages and, more­over, an in­abil­ity to cook.

Aldi are not try­ing to split the atom here. They are try­ing to make some­thing cheap in an age of aus­ter­ity – and a pleas­ing re­minder of a sim­pler time.

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