MADE by Tobie Puttock is a new range of ready-made meals from well known chef and restaurateur Tobie Puttock. When The City Lane first received an invite to the launch of the product, I’ll admit that I was both curious and sceptical. Ready-made meals in Australia are, on a whole, disappointing and whenever we have tried something like this from the supermarket it’s never come close to meeting our standards for a decent meal. It doesn’t have to be this way though, and indeed when I lived in London I’ll admit to eating many a ready-made dinner from M&S Simply Food or Waitrose after a long day at the office.
Tobie is well known for his time as a chef in Italy, the UK and Australia, as well as his TV appearances and collaborations with Jamie Oliver. He might not be Italian by heritage but when it comes to food he’s Italian through and through. To launch MADE, the space at Prahran’s Arteventa was taken over. It’s an unassuming spot in an alleyway next to a carpentry workshop. In fact, the place is owned by the carpenter next door and all of the furniture was made by him. Back to the food though.
Tobie explained to us that the idea for MADE was something that had been in his head for a while. The aim was to create restaurant quality, home cooked meals in ready-made form. As one would expect, this is no easy feat. I spent some time speaking to Steve, a food scientist that worked (and still works) with Tobie on MADE and it was fascinating to hear about the various challenges that the team encountered when trying to make various recipes work without making compromises. For example maintaining flavour and texture while ensuring a minimum 30 day shelf life and no artificial preservatives. It was all very “Heston-like”.
The food is already precooked in a proper kitchen so from the consumer’s point of view it’s all very simple. Bring a pot of water to the boil, pop in the vacuum sealed bag and leave it for the stated time on the instructions. Everything we ate during the night except for the anitpasto at the start was from the MADE range, along with 2 sneak preview dishes being tested outside of the kitchen for the first time.
Wine guru Matt Skinner, who also happens to be one of Tobie’s close friends, was on hand to tell us about the wines that he selected to match with the various dishes we were going to be eating that night.
French Beans & Fancy Butter
Made with: Green Beans, Salt, Butter, Shallot, Garlic, Parsley, Lemon Juice, Cracked Pepper.
These were a great start to the meal. The beans had just the right level of crunch and a nice flavour from the herbed butter. It was interesting to hear Tobie talk about how the vegetables were actually one of the most difficult things to get right, mostly because of what the cholrophil does over the time the vegetables are in the bad. Namely they turn brown very quickly. Still good to eat when brown, but not something that people will want to buy. The veges therefore have a shorter shelf life than some of the other meals.
Braised Lamb Shanks
Made with: Lamb Shanks, Flour, Olive Oil, Sea Salt, Cracked Pepper, Onion, Carrot, Celery, Garlic, Rosemary, Sage, Bay Leaf, Chardonnay, Chicken Stock.
Very much in tune with the philosophy of MADE, the braised lamb shanks had meat that was falling off the bone with a real home cooked flavour.
Eggplant & Chickpeas
I don’t have the full breakdown of ingredients for this one as it was a test dish that may or may not see the light of day as a retail product. If the reactions of everyone at the table were anything to go by I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on shelves! It’s one of those vegetarian dishes that’s quite “meaty” and was full of rustic flavour.
Made with: Free-Range Chicken Thighs, Olive Oil, Sea Salt, Pepper, Onion, Garlic, Rosemary, Pancetta, Tomato Paste, Button Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Chardonnay, Kalamata Olives, And Chicken Stock
This was one of my highlights of the night. Nothing fancy, just a spot on home-style chicken cacciatore that was full of flavour with really tender meat.
Kale with Mustard & Capers
Made with: Kale, Shallot, Garlic, Salted Capers, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Yellow Mustard Seeds, Brown Mustard Seeds, Ground Black Pepper, Yellow Mustard Powder.
Either you’re a fan of kale of you aren’t. I tend to like it baked or juiced so this wasn’t really my thing but it was definitely an example of “it’s not you it’s me”.
Sweet Potato Mash
Made with: Sweet Potato, Maple Syrup, Nutmeg, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Pepper, And Sea Salt
One of the simplest dishes was one of my favourites. It was nice and creamy with some really good flavour coming from the well balanced spices. This also came out with 2 of the other MADE meals – Manuka Honey Carrots and Real Mashed Potato, both of which were great.
We were also served the Braised Chicken Thigh which I neglected to take a photo of but can assure you was also delicious. These tasty poached pears weren’t part of the MADE range and were another test option that may find its way onto shelves in the future. I really enjoyed these as they weren’t overly sweet and had a perfect texture that balanced soft and crunch well.
Overall I was very impressed by the range of meals that I tried from the MADE range. The food is genuinely good and I’d happily eat these at home on days when I can’t be bothered to cook something from scratch. In fact just this weekend I was busy on my computer with City Lane work when Lauren cooked up some lunch for the 2 of us. I assumed that it was leftovers from something Lauren had cooked the previous night when I hadn’t been home for dinner but it was in fact the chicken cacciatore from one of the packets we were given to take home after the event. Says it all really.