The Triumvirate Challenge

Jan 18, 2014 by

The triumvirate challenge. A challenge to make a meal from local, Irish ingredients from my three nearest supermarkets. Three supermarkets, Super Valu, Aldi and Tesco. Irish, German and British owned. I will select the ingredients, make the meal for two, matching wines or beers; whichever is appropriate, giving the cost and the verdict.

The Rules

  • The main ingredient will be Irish
  • All vegetables will be Irish
  • All ingredients will be seasonal
  • Value is paramount 
  • Where possible ingredients will be organic 

So what do I hope to achieve?

I live in a rural area where it is difficult to buy any ingredients out of the ordinary. I want to highlight how many Irish and seasonal ingredients I can buy. I want to see if there is a real difference between cost and quality. I want to see which supermarket offers the best of Irish. I want to see which supermarket offers the best value for all of the above.

1. Aldi (21/01/14)

Beef Cooked in Irish stout with Colcannon and a Gigondas 2012

Ingredients

Potatoes Irish €1.99/2kg
Carrots Irish 0.99c/1kg
Mushrooms Irish 0.99c/150g
Diced beef Irish €3.49/400g
1 bottle stout Irish €1.79/500ml
1 bottle Gigondas €14.99

Curly Kale on special  UK 0.39c (stated on receipt supplied by Irish supplier)

Store cupboard: Celery Irish organic, garlic Irish organic, onions Irish, Worcestershire sauce, my own pork head stock

Garden: Parsley and thyme

Cost per serving:
€3.73 for two very generous portions. It would easily feed four which would be €1.87. Obviously I am not including the wine in this breakdown.

Verdict:
I found it disappointingly difficult to source all Irish vegetables even for in season veg. in Aldi. The weekly special of kale was from the UK.

The Gigondas at €14.99 is relatively expensive but considerably more drinkable than many wines at close to that price.

Beef in stout with colcannon

2. SuperValu (23/01/2014)

Chicken and Leek Pie with a Macon Lugny 2011

Mâcon-LugnyLugny 


Ingredients

1 Farmers to Market free range chicken Irish (frozen bought SV before Christmas for €9.19 on special)
1 Swede Irish 0.89 cent
1 mushroom medley Irish €2.69 ( a complete swiss 99.9% Oyster, with 1 Shitake and half an unidentifiable other)
1 Marscapone Irish €2.39 ( the Italian SuperValu one was €1.49)
1 net Brussels sprouts Irish €1.99
1 pack of leeks Irish €1.79
Macon Lugny €15.29

Store cupboard: celery Irish organic SV, flour (packed in Ireland?), butter Irish, olive oil Italian

Puff pastry homemade. 

Garden: thyme

Chicken and leek pie with creamed swede and Brussels sprouts

Cost per serving: Although I intended making a meal for two, it would feed four. The cost was €8 or €2 per portion. Realistically though, it would have served three hungry diners adequately for €2.67.
I still have the entire chicken leftover for another meal as I only used the two legs. And I will get 2 litres of delicious stock.

Verdict: A much bigger selection of Irish ingredients and also local Irish (as in Kilbeg Dairies Marscapone which is about 2 miles from me and the chicken which is reared about 8 miles away). I liked that. I did not like the mushroom medley which had the “unusual” mushrooms packed so that there seemed to be a lot more than there were with a strategically placed label!

The wine: initially I thought it was grossly overpriced as tasted it straight from the fridge. A big no no. It really only needs a light chilling or remove at least half an hour before opening.

Mâcon-Lugny
Mâcon-Lugny
Mâcon-Lugny
Mâcon
Mâcon
Mâcon
Mâcon

3. Tesco (27/01/2014)

Fish Pie with Marrowfat Peas and O’Hara’s Leann Follain Stout

Ingredients

Salmon Irish 2 darnes €2.99 each
Cod Irish €4.01/370g
Fresh king prawns cooked €4.17/125g (cooked in Ireland plant no)
Peas €1.09 can
Carrots .99/1kg
Potatoes €3.99/2kg

1 bottle stout €2.79

Store cupboard: Onion, leek, garlic, flour, butter, milk, creme fraiche all Irish, wholegrain Dijon mustard

Garden: thyme and parsley

Fish pie and marrowfat peas

Cost per serving: serves 4 very generously at €4.15 per serving or 5 for €3.32.

Verdict: I can’t remember the last time I bought fish in a supermarket and was horrified at the price. There is a very fine fish shop in Navan where it would cost half this and it would be a lot fresher. The prawns although have an Irish cooked plant number, if you squint at the label for several seconds you can just about make out farmed in Indonesia/Thailand/China.  I did not want to cook with pork for obvious reasons (I rear my own pigs). The selection of lamb was very poor. I also found it really difficult to source Irish vegetables. Even celery was Spanish. Tesco was hugely disappointing.

O’Hara’s Leann Follain – I didn’t open it on this occasion (no alcohol mid-week) but I have tasted O’Hara’s beers and stouts in the past and I have yet to have one I didn’t love.

Overall Verdict:
This exercise has truly brought home to me how much food we import here in Ireland. I actually had to do a lot of searching and squinting at labels to buy Irish. Limiting the majority of ingredients to being Irish meant that dishes using pasta and rice were out. I’m not sure if the Irish brands of pasta are actually Irish but I do know they are rubbish and I would not cook with them. I found Tesco by far the most frustrating to shop in.

So although I always try my best to buy Irish and in season; if I had to shop solely in supermarkets I would find this difficult, particularly at this time of year. I will continue to buy vegetables (organic) in my local farmers’ market, fish from my fishmonger, meat from my butcher and I will continue to cherry pick the rest from my three local supermarkets, prioritising Irish within reason.

Overall I would say SuperValu was best, with Aldi second and Tesco tailing behind.

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2 Comments

  1. Yes would be interesting to do both Lidl and Dunnes. But they are 17 miles from me so not worth the effort.

  2. Well done on the exercise. I would probably have guessed at the outcome, but then we are lucky with an really good SuperValu in Portumna. I must try and do a similar exercise with our local Lidl – I know you don't have one near you!

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