Home > Categories > Food > Heat and Eat > Beak & Sons - Beef & Ale Casserole review
A hearty, slow-cooked casserole with a kiwi twist on classic British fare. Made with chunky pieces of beef, carrots and onions in a rich ale gravy, crafted with Good George Amber Ale.
Slow cooked until the meat is meltingly tender. Heat it while you prepare your favourite sides. Serving inspiration: with creamy mash to soak up the delicious gravy and some fresh greens.
Every attempt I have made to slow-cook a good beef casserole dish has ended... not 'badly', but not well. It was always edible but no matter what I threw in, or didn't, they all turned out tasting the same - slightly burnt tomato with some meat. Thus, when I am in the mood for a casserole-style meal, I tend to go pre-made. Usually, it's a canned version, but this might have me changing my mind when in the supermarket next.
I wanted it simple, but tasty. Usually, I find casseroles with ale to be a little hoppy and bitter, so I paired it with a mildly-sweet kumara mash with some parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper mixed through it, and used that to make a 'bowl' on the dinner plate for the casserole to sit in. After heating the casserole in the microwave as per the instructions, it was piping hot and ready to serve in under 8 minutes.
It comes down to how assumptions can trip you up. I had assumed this would be like all other beef & ale casseroles I have tried, where the flavours from the ale come through quite solidly. In this case though, I actually found it was, on its own, mildly sweet as well, meaning the meal as a whole came across quite sweet rather than a balanced savoury. However, it was still very tasty, and with some adjustments to the flavours I add to the meal there's definitely a delightful meal in here.
Preparation was simple, quick and effortless, the results were pleasant and enjoyable - this is something I would keep in the fridge or freezer for those last-minute 'got to cook something fast but fancy' situations... that unexpected dinner date, or guests arriving out of the blue needing a couch for the night... that kind of thing. Surprisingly generous with the meat while being rather light on the veges did have me grabbing for the bag of frozen mixed vege to bulk it up a bit. This also meant that I got three fairly good portions out of a single pack - really makes it good value.
Overall, this is another great addition to the Beak & Sons range, well worth exploring if you want to get some variety into your weekely menu without needing to devote extra time or energy to preparation.
What do you do when you wake up late and have to rush off to work without breakfast or being able to prepare lunch? Some would starve themselves and go without for the day, or end up buying $20 worth of unhealthy food from a bakery or takeaways (some would just go to work late, but let's ignore them). Luckily for me, I had a Beak & Sons product sitting in the fridge, that only needs reheating. So today for lunch, I enjoyed some Beef & Ale Casserole.
I could easily have split the pack in half and had some for breakfast, and the rest for lunch, but instead, I decided to have an earlier lunch and eat the whole two portions at once (did I mention I love to eat?). As I had no sides pre-prepared the two portions easily became one without overdoing my daily calorie intake.
Cutting the pack open, it was very easy to squeeze it into a microwaveable dish and reheat for 5 minutes. What worked out well, is that the meal did not carry a strong aroma, so I certainly wasn't getting any side glances as my meal cooked (unlike Sally and her fish curry). The beef in the product comes in reasonably sized chunks; nothing too small or too large, and with a bit of pressure they break down into smaller pieces. The beef pieces did have a little bit of toughness to the exterior (compared to the Honey Mustard Pork Casserole variant), but that would come down to the 5-minute blitz in the microwave. If I had given it a full 20-minutes to slowly heat up in an oven, it would no doubt have been much more tender, but as a quick reheat in the microwave, it is remarkably soft.
As with the other casserole variety, the carrots and onions that come with the meal are very small and amount to little more than flavour enhancers for the Ale jus. If I did have more time and patience, I would definitely recommend adding more chunkily cut vegetables to beef up the meal (excuse the pun). The flavour was enjoyable, albeit a little sweet, but the ease to prepare, store and, transport around makes this a great meal for those on the move that don't have the time or space for cooking big hearty meals, but also don't want the calorie overload from getting McDonald's again for the third time that week.
Being on a road trip often means compromising on "real" food. We had been travelling for three days and had spent the first two nights with family, but our third night was spent at a holiday park with shared facilities as we had all opted for a day-long tramp into the mountains and figured we would be too tired to drive back to their house afterwards. Everyone else opted for takeaways, but we were not so keen. Besides, we had the pack of Beef & Ale Casserole in the chilly bin, and there was a decent size microwave in the holiday park kitchen, so why not? They even had a couple of microwave bowls with vented lids so we were in business.
Preparing our meal was a breeze. We had a bag of potatoes so put several of them into the microwave to bake first. Potatoes hold the heat so we knew they would stay hot while we heated the casserole. Both of us were surprised to find out how meaty the product was. It was full of good sized chunks of beef, at least as much as we would expect in a home cooked meal, with a smaller amount of carrot and onion. Not only was the legend on the side of the pack telling the truth when it stated that it contained 50% beef, but that meat had stayed whole during the slow cooking process.
As it was heating, there was no strong cooking smell which might linger and irritate other campers - just a warm, fragrant aroma of meat and vegetables. That aroma lived up to its promise as we both took our first mouthful. The flavours were so well balanced that there was no need for added salt; and although we could make out that added extra, it was not obvious that it was ale. There was a slight spicy sweetness to the dish, but nothing overt because the different elements blended so well together. We both felt that it was equal to, if not better than, a similar restaurant meal and at a significantly lower cost.
The preparation was painless too. In fact, it was so quick that we had finished our meal before the rest of our party had returned with their takeaways. I timed it; altogether, it took 10 minutes between the pack being opened and the meal being dished up. Four minutes for the product itself, and a total of three minutes for the potatoes (in two separate batches). And only two plates, two spoons, and a microwave dish to wash. Better still, all for a meal that could conceivably be offered to dinner guests under the guise of being home-made.
We talked about taking a couple of packets on our next overnight trip. I have another cousin who likes to go on bush walks and spend a night or two under canvas. He is an experienced bush ranger, and knows how to safely set a campfire for cooking. We could do better than take a couple of packets with us in an insulated backpack, and while the meal was heating in the billy, prepare some damper to have with it. I am useless at making damper but his is totally edible and would go perfectly with the casserole. Better than having to pack bulkier items like bread or potatoes. We will be staying with him sometime in January so watch this space!
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