I had fond memories of Batchelors Savoury Rice. I remember it magically appearing sometime during the 1970s and becoming a regular teatime favourite along with butterscotch Angel Delight, Dream Topping and Arctic Roll. However, having just sampled three miserable variations, I now know that 30 years can play terrible tricks on the mind, and memories, like failed fireworks, should never be revisited.
‘A full flavoured tasty alternative to chips’
Ok, we have three varieties of Savoury Rice here. Two are from Sainsbury’s and cover the Basics and regular ranges and the third is from the brand leader Batchelors. The cooking instructions are pretty much the same – tip into a saucepan, pour over a specified amount of cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the water has been fully absorbed.
It was this last point which was most problematic as after the 20 minute simmer, the rice was cooked but there was still a large puddle of liquid in the pans. I concluded that if I continued cooking until all this liquid was gone, the rice would have turned into a glutinous mush, so instead I turned off the gas and opted for rice soup instead.
Let’s tuck in.
First up the Sainsbury’s Basics Mixed Vegetable Savoury Rice
Number of ingredients: 27 including rice (83%)
Description: Fewer vegetables, still satisfying
I like that apologetic ‘Fewer vegetables, still satisfying‘ description chosen by Sainsbury’s which I think roughly translates as ‘Not as shit as you might think‘. This product makes no claims to being ‘golden’ and as a consequence the dried contents are grey and not the Hi-Vis yellow of the other Sainsbury’s offering. Clearly visible are peas, red shards of pepper and white bits which look like they might be (but hopefully aren’t) coconut, but probably are onion.
After 20 minutes of cooking we had soggy rice sitting in a salty puddle. The orange bits tasted of carrot, the green bits tasted of tinned peas, and the white bits went unnoticed. Overall this was very generic and slightly sweet.
Conclusion: Uninspired and bland.
Next the Sainsbury’s Golden Vegetable Savoury Rice
Number of ingredients: 14 including ‘flavouring’
Description: Long grain rice with a selection of peas, red peppers and carrots.
Struth, this is so yellow it should glow in the dark. The rice is firmer, but again there is far to much liquid. The vegetables taste more vegetably with the pepper even having a slight suggestion of heat, however the overriding flavour is of vegetable stock cubes.
Conclusion: Fluorescent salty slop.
Finally Batchelors ‘New Improved Recipe’ Golden Savoury Rice
Number of ingredients: 15 including Disodium 5′-ribonucleotides
Description: Long grain rice with a tasty mix of peas, carrot, red pepper, green beans and sweetcorn.
Now for the Batchelors – the benchmark by which all other contenders in the savoury rice arena have to be compared. Initially this looks better with its higher vegetable count and less synthetic ‘golden’ colour.
Despite sitting in a puddle of what looks like school custard, the rice is not over-cooked and has by far the best taste of the three. However, this ‘taste’ is there by virtue of the various flavour enhancers and has little to do with the quality of the ingredients.
Conclusion: An artificially enhanced performance which would have an athlete banned for life.
Winner: The Batchelors was a clear (although still barely edible) winner.