Kezie Foods: Wild Game Hotpot
Continuing slowly through my exotic meat parcel from Kezie Foods, I thought that their Wild Game Hotpot would make a nice dinner for a Sunday evening. This is another of their Wild Gathering Gourmet ready meals, in which they take quite typical everyday ready meals and give them an exotic Kezie twist. In this case the Wild Game Hotpot features venison steak pieces, pheasant breasts, and diced rabbit, all cooked in a red wine and juniper berry sauce with carrots, leeks and kidney beans, finished off with a garnish of parsley. This might not seem quite as exotic as some of their other offerings (Kangaroo chilli con-carne springs to mind!), but it's still a more exciting take on a fairly run-of-the-mill dish.
As I mentioned whilst reviewing the Thai Green Soup, I've thrown my cooking habits out of the window for this selection (particularly my prejudice against microwaves), and left myself in Kezie's hands when it comes to preparing their foods. As such, I once again followed their suggestion that it was best microwaved from frozen, and served it up with some roast potatoes and vegetables to round off the meal - as a lighter snack they recommend just having the hotpot with a fresh bread roll, but my appetite's bigger than that!).
It's been a while since I had either venison or pheasant, and I've never tried rabbit before, so I found myself in the same boat as I did with the Thai soup, in that I wasn't immediately aware of which meat was which! The first thing I'd have to say is that, once again, there was a lovely aroma coming from the hotpot as soon as it was removed from the microwave. It wasn't exotic meat-specific, but rather a general hotpot aroma, but still it was nice way to start dinner!
I started off with a piece of pheasant breast - being the only bird in the dish it was easy to identify - and I actually found it quite tough to cut into, almost resulting in the hotpot bowl catapulting across the room and ending the review early! Once I'd got into it though it wasn't as tough to chew, but I was a bit disappointed with the flavour. The hotpot sauce tastes delicious - with the strong rich wine flavour mingling with the sweet aftertaste of the berries, and a mildly spicy kick right at the end - but it almost overpowers the pheasant's own natural flavour - there is a subtle, background taste, but it's so close to being lost that it's difficult to identify.
Next I tried one of the two red meats (I think it was the rabbit, but I can't say for certain!). Again it was a little tough to cut through, but in this case the flavour came through with a little more emphasis, complementing the sauce rather than taking a backseat to it. Finally I tried the second meat (the presumed venison steak). In contrast to its two companions, this was incredibly tender and was easy to cut with just the edge of my fork, and the strong gamey flavour actually dominated the previously unassailable red wine/juniper comination! Out of the three meats in the hotpot it was definitely my favourite.
All three meats were present in the hotpot in generous quantities, although the sauce very nearly stole the show! The vegetables in the hotpot were nice enough (I find it hard to get more excited than that about veggies!), and helped to round off and balance the dish nicely.
I would have to say though that I don't see this as a "ready meal" in the strictest sense of the term. For me the definition of a ready meal is that the meal is fully prepared for you, and all you have to do is throw it in the oven/microwave and put your feet up. With the hotpot it would be more accurate to say that the hard part of the meal has been prepared for you, but the fact that you still need to sort out your own potatoes/veggies etc. throws its ready meal status into question.
At £3.99 the Wild Game Hotpot is a fair price for a high-range ready meal (when compared to supermarket's high-range offerings), but the question of it actually being a ready meal or not may throw the value-for-money factor off a little bit.