Ever wondered what soldiers are going to be eating when they are sent abroad? Well the MOD has re-launched their ‘menu’ for soldiers, and are looking for feedback. Many thanks to Tim Hayward who writes for “The Word of Mouth” blog in the Guardian for sending me the new multi-climate ration pack.
So a large heavy cardboard box arrived filled with an array of products and meals in the format of boil-in-the-bag. My first thought was that this should be an adventure. Admittedly I can do this from the luxury of my own home and not in a bunker under fire somewhere. Spectre did offer to make machine-gun noises throughout the experiment, but I declined, which didn’t entirely stop him! So anyway, for one day only, I guess I was eating army style.
First up – Breakfast
To be honest I’m not much of a breakfast person, unless I am staying in a hotel! I found the silver foil bag marked Pork Sausages, Omelette and Beans – and I boiled it. A few minutes later I snipped the bag open and poured it onto the plate. It looked more appetising than I expected! There were five mini sausages, a small omelette and a fair amount of beans. Taste wise it was acceptable, but nothing stunning. I think the issue was that the beans have quite a muted flavour, and my taste buds were expecting the sweeter flavour associated with brand beans. The omelette was nice, although small in size, but with the sausages made the whole meal quite filling. It could have done with a slice of toast to soak up the sauce, but I guess the wonders of boil-in-the-bag haven’t come up with the science for that!
I checked the menu, it seemed Mexican Tuna Pasta was on the cards. After cooking, this looked a little more school dinner-esq than I imagined. On the plate there were pasta twists, tuna, and both cheese and tomato sauces. To be honest, I may have over cooked it a little as the pasta was slightly too soft. In my defence, there were no cooking instructions on this one! Taste wise, this was really good. The Tuna was quite succulent, and the Mexican theme meant that it had nice spices, with kidney beans and sweetcorn to add texture. Very pleasant, far better than it looked.
For dinner this evening chilli con carnie was served with pilau rice. Pilau rice is more usually associated with Asian cuisine, but I will let this minor detail pass me by. This aside, after cooking, it looked the most tempting of all the meals. There was also a mini bottle of Tabasco sauce to add spice for those with braver palettes. Firstly the rice was seriously good. I was worried that after cooking it might go clumpy, but the grains were loose and also very flavoursome. The chilli was also meaty, had a good spice and was really nice. I found the heat from the spice perfect, and didn’t need the extra bite from the Tabasco sauce.
Wow, a chocolate chip cake! Regular readers will know of my sweet tooth and love of chocolate in general! Although I have to say the concept of a boil-in-the-bag chocolate chip cake did worry me a little. It seems a strange idea, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a boil-in-the-bag dessert before. I boiled the cake (even that sounds weird), opened the foil bag and found a chocolate chip sponge cake. The cake is actually made by Baxters, and was very pleasant. The vanilla based sponge was tasty, and the chocolate chips added flavour and sweetness, the whole consistency was fluffy and it was nice having a hot pudding. Very enjoyable.
Inside the box were three sachets of granules to mix with water to make fruit drinks. To start with I had the O2GO – Orange & Cranberry drink, which is designed to give you energy. It had a very sweet, but pleasant orange flavour. Next up was the Uelzena Cherry electrolyte drink powder, which also contained a fair few vitamins. It was sharp, though not as sweet as the Orange and Cranberry drink, but it was drinkable. Finally there was the Lemon Energidrikk, which was very sweet and reminded me of lemon sherbet. None of the drinks were horrible, but I’d have no desire to hunt them down in the shops either. They taste okay, and you know they are doing you good, but you wouldn’t have them unless you had too.
Ok the traditional tea and coffee section included:
2x Typhoo teabags
2x Kenco Smooth Roast coffee
1x Eurogran Hot Chocolate with a hint of orange
It's probably not worth going into too much detail about Typhoo or Kenco, they both make good tea and coffee, and I’m sure everyone has already tried them. I would like to make one comment though, if there are four hot drinks, and only four whiteners, one per drink makes for very dark tea and coffee. That’s a quick fix for this ration pack, double the number of whitener sachets.
There is one other hot drink in this section, the Eurogran Hot Chocolate. To be honest I was dreading it. I am quite fussy when it comes to hot chocolate, even when it's well known brand names it is still hard to find a decent chocolate drink. According to the instructions this makes two mugs worth and only uses hot water to make it up. Firstly, it dissolved into the hot water incredibly quickly, the packet says ‘stir vigorously’ but that is unnecessary as it mixed so well.
The drink itself is really good. There is a strong hint of oranges and a good flavour of chocolate and I was rather impressed with the drink. So impressed that if they stocked this in my supermarket it would be a new regular purchase!
Fruit Bar – This was allegedly a strawberry flavour bar, but the flavour isn’t quite distinguishable as that, it comes over as just being syrupy and over sweet. The dull brown looking colour doesn’t help either!
Imperial Fruit and Nut
Not much to report here, a classic and tasty snack bag with peanuts and raisins.
Berry Combo Fruit Grains
These are small squares of what I can only describe as raspberry concentrate. Surprisingly tasty! Think: solidified raspberry jam.
Is this a drink or is this a snack, to be honest it is somewhere in between. It is like a very thick smoothie, and tasted pleasant, sweet and fruity.
Acadia Boiled Sweets
Oh my word, how can boiled sweets be so bad. The flavours were indistinguishable, unless they were actually aiming at tasting like children’s cough medicine. I gave one to Spectre and he spat it out. They really are that bad. Why they couldn’t just put a packet of Fox’s in there is beyond me.
I have written about Oreos before, and I do really like them. However Spectre’s reaction was that he was surprised that American biscuits had made their way into a British ration pack. Perhaps there should have been some Jammy Dodgers there instead!
Here are the other items in the box, which don’t contribute to your calorie intake! You get a couple of anti-bacterial hand wipes, some matches, aqua tabs for purifying water, tissues, a plastic spoon and some dental chewing gum.
The meals are far more interesting than I imagined that they would be. I never thought that they would include products with spices like the Chilli Con Carnie, or the Mexican Tuna. Generally speaking, the main meals were far better than I thought they would be, and are impressive given the cooking method. My only niggle with the pack are the minor details, for example not enough whitener for the tea and coffee, a poor fruit bar, sweets that aren’t particularly nice. It's good overall, they just need to improve on the minor detail. Even in the current state though, I wouldn’t be disappointed if I was given this. I’d certainly be full, there is far more here than I normally eat!