This week: Sainsbury's Minced Lamb Casserole with Mint Dumplings, 450g, microwave or oven, £2.39 rating 3/5
Mindful of childhood warnings to "keep out flu with a pound of mince" and still in the grip of a 20th-century lurgy, I plump for comfort food: the "Classic British" range from the UK's most totalitarian general food retailer. Real "classic British" - fried Spam butties, for one - is inexplicably rare in the ready meal world, but numerous pot-based casserole-related items aren't. The Minced Lamb Casserole drew a round of applause from office colleagues who were impressed by its simple John Majorish decency.
After five minutes cooking, the lamb casserole developed a thick, swamp-like surface film which looked capable of supporting a small cat. Two ovoid dumplings poked through this membrane like testicles in a bath. But once I got past this unappetising initial stage, it delivered adequately rather than showily. Very British, I thought. The chunks of carrot and swede were invigoratingly crunchy rather than processed to pap; the gravy had clearly come from a real animal and the meat, at an honourable if not generous 21 per cent of content, put in a reasonable innings. Only the dumplings let the side down, being floury balls of not-very-minty stodge. Then I realised that that's what dumplings are supposed to be like and let it go. You simply shouldn't kick a dumpling when it's down.