Friday 18 January 2019

Pricepoints: Don't beef about the oxtail soup

Now that our economy is heading back towards the 1980s and Duran Duran are on tour again, it is time for a revival of some '80s foods such as Angel Delight and packets of Oxtail soup.

In fact, packet soup never went away, it just got a little outclassed by fresh soup in cartons and plastic sachets. For some reason Ireland has always consumed far more packet soup than our European counterparts (who prefer tins) and this is still the case.

Smell and taste are our best sense-memories, so one or two of these soups sent me straight back to my mother's kitchen and the school dining hall. Oxtail was my favourite flavour of (packet) soup from childhood, but by my 20s I was buying actual ox's tails and making them into stews instead.

All the samples contained ingredients such as flavour enhancers, emulsifiers and colourings and only the Aldi and Centra versions declared itself to be free of MSG, so these were judged on flavour alone.

ERIN 57G, 850ML, €1.12

Dark brown colour, smooth texture, familiar oxtail flavour although lighter than some of the others in the test. The meat content was very soft but tasty and the rich, salty, beefy flavour lingered on the palate. Overall this was a very tasty soup from one of the most iconic brands in Ireland and was closest to the oxtail soups of my childhood. 7.5/10

CENTRA 40G, 760ML - €1.29

Centra's Oxtail is only available in cup-a-soup portions and it also declares itself to be MSG-Free. It is a reasonably rich and smooth soup with a pleasant beefy aroma. There are small pieces of tender meat, with a light but distinctive oxtail flavour with a good overall taste. Very good effort altogether. 6/10

DUNNES 106G, 1420ML, €1.09

This was one of the most difficult to get smooth and, despite copious stirring, it still contained dozens of lumps. Light-brown colour, salty and sweet beef flavour that tasted rather artificial and very little like oxtail. Tiny pin-head sized pieces of meat, certainly nothing you could chew. Disappointing. 3/10

SUPER QUINN 61G, 850ML, €0.92

Classic flavour, just like I used to be served in secondary school by Miss Vaughan. This had small pieces of chewy meat, a rich salty oxtail flavour and a reasonably smooth texture. It was difficult to get this smooth despite much stirring, but overall this was tasty and revived childhood memories. 6.5/10

KNORR 103G, 1500ML, €1.45

Smooth rich soup with good beefy initial flavour and a strong background flavour of oxtail on the finish. This contained some small pieces of soft meat and good salty beef flavours. In addition, this thickened easily and contained no lumps. A classic soup but perhaps not quite enough punchy oxtail flavour for the purists. 7/10

TESCO 58G, 850ML, €0.65

Made in Ireland for Tesco. Light brown colour, vaguely beefy smell. Salty oxtail and beef flavours that was easy to thicken and was lump-free. This product was very like the taste I remember from the 1970s. In addition, this contained small chewy pieces of meat (which is a good thing) and it had a pleasant lingering beefy finish. 7/10

SUPERVALU 57G, €0.69

Smooth light soup with a salty-sweet beef flavour and some small pieces of very soft meat that disintegrated in the mouth. This had a pleasant aroma and flavour, but was closer to the taste of beef stew than the rich oxtail flavour I was hoping to find. Reasonable quality and good flavour but there are not enough ox’s tails for my taste. 5.5/10

ALDI SOUPREME 59G, 850ML, €0.55

Vague beef smell and taste, but you really had to search to find it. This did not taste much like oxtail and had an odd flavour not unlike burnt vegetables. This also contained little globules of brown jelly and no bits of meat. Not recommended and nothing like any oxtail soup I have had before. 2/10

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