Last week I took a trip to London to attend Iceland’s Autumn collection showcase at the swanky Aveqia. The purpose of the event was to unveil their up and coming Autumn range of products and to see how they can be prepared. The menu focused around the themes of new vegetable innovations, luxury fish and the launch of Iceland’s new own-label ice cream, and the tasters were prepared under the supervision of Neil Nugent, Iceland’s head chef, who also took the time to come and chat to us about the food and answer any questions we had.
The food was truly some of the best I have ever eaten, all of it cooked from frozen. Many of the dishes and combinations of ingredients I would never have been able to come up with but it was all absolutely delicious and it was really interesting to see frozen food used to create such fine dining.
We started off our tasting session with a tuna sashimi served on cauli-rice. Now, I am a pescatarian so I do eat fish but I’ve always been quite fussy with it and have never been able to bring myself to eat it if it is even the tiniest bit under-cooked. The sashimi was seared around the edges but raw in the middle so I was extremely hesitant about trying it; I forced myself to anyway and much to my surprise I actually really liked it! My experiences with frozen tuna thus far had been that it is a bit dry, tough and overly fishy; this was a whole different kettle of fish (pun intended). It was perfectly soft, moist and delicious and it will definitely become a regular in my freezer. Another surprise was the cauli-rice; I’ve made it before at home and hated it (whilst on a failed and never to be repeated attempt at the 5:2 diet…) but this one was actually pretty tasty. It is made with just cauliflower, olive oil, salt and pepper and takes two minutes in the microwave making it perfect for a quick, healthy meal.
Next was a delicious amber grain crumpet (made with oats, sunflower seeds, millet seeds, flax seeds and wheat) topped with crab and served alongside cornflake coated deep fried avocado; yes it may sound strange but it was an absolute revelation, I will definitely be attempting to make it myself at home. Another revelation was the fact that Iceland sells frozen avocado! I didn’t even know that you could freeze avocado! Currently it is only available in London and only for a limited period, but here’s hoping that it gets extended to other stores; it solves the problem of avocados only being perfectly ripe for two minutes before turning to mush!
That was swiftly followed by red shrimp chilli gnocchi (we were eating our tasters with chopsticks, it turns out that gnocchi is extremely difficult to eat with chopsticks – they are slippery little buggers! I found that skewering them rather than trying to catch them between the chopsticks was the best way forward). We also tried red Argentinian shrimp schnitzel; I am a sucker for breaded and fried things so I loved this!
Trout fillet on sour dough toast with riced super greens was next; the greens are a mixture of broccoli, spinach, courgette, curly kale and wakame and like the cauli-rice can be steamed in the bag from frozen in minutes. They went perfectly with the trout and sour dough and it would make a lovely brunch dish I think.
Next up were four tasters that I sadly wasn’t able to try – venison with pickled blueberries (a very interesting idea that I will be trying myself – the blueberries that is, not the venison), bonfire chicken toastie with sour cream and pink pickled onions (Neil remarked that the Breville sandwich maker is the new taco), gastro sausage roll and Belgian Blue steak which is a high protein, low fat steak. Judging by everyone else’s reactions they were all incredibly good.
If you follow my blog regularly then it can’t have escaped your attention that I have a sweet tooth, so obviously what I was most looking forward to was the desserts and they did not disappoint! We started with a trio of tarts – Sicilian lemon, raspberry tarte and millionaires tartlet – crisp pastry with soft caramel and rich chocolate ganache. I don’t think I can pick a favourite of the three as they were all equally delicious.
That was followed by a selection of Iceland’s new ice creams served on top of warm Welsh Cakes (a combination I wouldn’t have thought of but it worked!); unfortunately they didn’t even last long enough for me to take a photo, I was too busy stuffing my face! We tried chocolate brownie, salted caramel and my favourite of the three, peanut butter ice cream which was out of this world. It contained peanut butter fudge pieces and peanut butter sauce and I could have eaten an entire tub of it!
As if that wasn’t enough ice cream, the meal was finished off with a triple dipped chocolate ice lolly (a layer of dark chocolate, one of salted caramel and one of milk chocolate); I was pretty stuffed by that point but I wasn’t going to let that stop me and I thoroughly enjoyed it
As well as all of the tasters there was a table laden high with Iceland’s new range of breads, pies, pizzas and tarts – carb heaven!
I think that a lot of people may have misconceptions about frozen food – that it is not as good or as healthy as fresh; but that couldn’t be further from the truth. What a lot of people don’t know is that ‘fresh’ fish and meat has often been previously frozen and defrosted, meaning that it is not quite as fresh as you might think it is. Whereas Iceland’s fish and meat are frozen immediately, preserving the freshness. Also, there is no need to use extra preservatives to keep food fresh when it is frozen – freezing is a natural preservative!
The event certainly showed me that it is possible to create fine dining from frozen and that Iceland’s products are all exceptionally high quality. I have resolved to start shopping there more often as I was so impressed with the range; the seafood in particular was incredibly good AND reasonably priced!
The crab meat, red Argentinian shrimp, gnocchi, extra lean venison haunch steaks and frozen blueberries are all available instore now and the rest of the products in the Autumn collection will become available between 11th September and 8th October.
This post is sponsored by Iceland, thank you for supporting the brands that allow me to continue doing what I love – playing with food and making a mess of my kitchen.