K and I have only recently started to live together on a full-time basis. Up until a few months ago, he would spend a few nights at my place each week, and the rest of the time back at his parents’ house. Over time, the ratio gradually tipped more in favour of staying at my place, to the point where he would be here five nights out of seven. We’ve only recently decided together that it’s time to make it official, with the purchase of a new chest of drawers for his belongings, a joint bank account, an increase to my internet plan (for two people), and other couple-y things.
As part of this change, I’ve had to learn how to officially cook for two again. Living alone, you become accustomed to getting home late after work and fixing yourself a dinner of beans on toast…or cornflakes…or two minute noodles…or half a packet of chips. When there’s two of you though, you become more aware of bad eating habits, and I’m trying to make sure we have a proper dinner most nights, with leftovers for work lunches the next day if possible.
That’s why I was pleased to be able to have the opportunity to try Lenard’s new range of “Barbie Bags”. They’re freshly prepared in-store, so they’re a healthier option than a frozen meal or takeaway. They also don’t require much effort as you pop them straight onto the barbecue or oven, so even if you don’t get home until 7pm, you can be having a hot meal by 8pm without needing to spend half an hour prepping ingredients, then another half an hour slaving over the stove.
This is becoming really important to me as I have barely a week left of work before I go on holiday for a month, so I’m finding that I’m working long days to make sure everything’s in place before I leave. The last thing I want to do when I come home is slave away in the kitchen! (Instead, I spend that hour doing house things like laundry, and cleaning, and paying bills, and all that exciting stuff that’s part and parcel of being an adult.)
There are three types of Barbie Bags: Smokey Spanish Paella, Creamy Mushroom Risotto and Chicken Snags in Onion Gravy. I tried all three, testing both the barbecue and oven methods.
Smokey Spanish Paella
We decided to cook the paella on the first night, testing the oven method rather than the barbecue method. Following instructions to the T, we removed the label and placed it in a pre-heated oven for fifty minutes, turning halfway through as directed.
Verdict: the rice was unfortunately a bit underdone – for perfect rice, I would recommend cooking this Barbie Bag either at a slightly higher temperature or for longer if you are planning on cooking it in the oven. The flavours of the paella were really beautiful though it could have done with some more veggies, and the chicken (on the bone) was done perfectly and was still really moist. The bag worked really well in that way, as it sealed in all the steam during the cooking process even though it didn’t expand the way it was supposed to. A 7.5 out of 10.
Creamy Mushroom Risotto & Chicken Snags in Onion Gravy
I did these two Barbie Bags at the one time for some meal variety, when I went over to my not-quite-parents-in-law’s house for dinner. My not-quite-mother-in-law did some roast veggies for the side, and K and I did these two bags on the barbecue, again following instructions to a T (30 minutes on the barbecue on medium heat, turning halfway through).
Verdict: The risotto really proved how hard it is to cook the Barbie Bags perfectly – while the paella the night before was underdone, the risotto was burnt and overcooked, though we followed instructions perfectly. It’s worth taking any cooking instructions with a grain of salt, and just trusting your instincts considering that ovens and barbecues can differ a lot from house to house. There was a funny smell coming from the risotto towards the end of the cooking process, but we left it on the barbecue per instructions. Never again!
We managed to salvage about 70% of the risotto, but had to throw the rest of it in the bin. What we managed to salvage was dry, and quite bland because it had been overcooked. With more moisture, it could have been a half-decent risotto. A 5 out of 10.
The chicken snags on the other hand, were really quite delicious and perfectly cooked – they were juicy and simple but tasty. The onion gravy in particular really set off the simple chicken flavours of the sausage. Even my not-quite-mother-in-law enjoyed them, which says something as she doesn’t often eat sausages. My not-quite-father-in-law was a fan of the onion gravy, going back for seconds. In his words, “It’s really hard to find a good commercial gravy, but this is actually quite good!” A 8 out of 10.
Because this meal (risotto and chicken sausages) was really quite carb and protein-heavy, the veggie element really helped to balance the heaviness of the meal.
Overall, I rate the Lenard’s Barbie Bags a 7 out 10.
If it was based purely on flavours, the Barbie Bags would get good ratings – the flavours are clearly excellent. However the difficulty in cooking them using different ovens and barbecues makes it really hard to judge when the dish is cooked perfectly, and can really affect the quality of the dish.
My top tips for cooking these Barbie Bags right would be: 1) err on the side of cooking at a higher temperature and longer time if you are cooking in the oven; 2) cook for a shorter time on a lower flame on the barbecue. Also to ensure a well-rounded meal, add a vegetable side to balance out the carbs and protein!
Lenard’s Barbie Bags range in price, but generally retail for around $18 per bag. They will feed four people – two adults and two children I think, or four adults if you add a side salad to bulk out the meal. You can find your closest Lenard’s store (in Australia) here.
Note: I received these three Barbie Bags from Lenard’s free of charge for review purposes, however all words and opinions are my own.