Wendyl Wants To Know

Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl Wants to Know: You'll have no beef with 'fast food' from the 70s

Diamond Rice Risotto Roast Beef. Photo / Supplied
Diamond Rice Risotto Roast Beef. Photo / Supplied

Diamond Rice Risotto Roast Beef
$3.43 for 200g

Rice risotto was one of the first packaged meals to hit supermarket shelves and gave women like my mother an easy dinner in the 70s.

It was called a "meal solution" and meant you could simply throw it all in a pot, come back 20 minutes later and hey presto - rice risotto.

Many of us have since learned how to make real risotto, Italian style, which doesn't taste anything like this product.

When I first looked at the ingredients list my eye went straight to "risone pasta" - little bits of pasta in the shape of rice - and I spent the afternoon fuming that there was no rice in my rice risotto.

On later inspection I realised there was rice, but for some reason this product uses both.

And after earlier finding Maggi Beef Stock only had 1.5 per cent beef I was keen to find the "Roast Beef" in this product:

Rice (58 per cent)
A lot of this product is rice. In each 50g dry serving (before it is cooked with water) you will get 29g of rice.

Risone pasta (wheat)
Risone is little pieces of pasta which look like rice. This may be in here for variety and texture, but would be annoying for people avoiding wheat.

Sugar
As the third ingredient on the list this is very high but for each serve you get 2.5g which is about half a teaspoon.

Flavours (gluten, milk)
This is where the "beef" comes in. There is no beef in this box, or natural beef flavouring. I can only assume these are artificial flavours as the word "natural" has not been used. The fact they are from gluten and milk doesn't make them any more natural.

Salt

Hydrolysed vegetable protein (maize)
HVP is used in a lot of processed food to fill it out. It is simply proteins - in this case from corn - broken apart into amino acids. They are mainly used as flavour enhancers. The problem is that during the chemical breakdown MSG or monosodium glutamate may form in the protein. So people avoiding MSG may be consuming it without knowing if this ingredient is on a label.

Onion powderThis will be ground dehydrated onions, in here as a flavouring.

Herbs and spices
Take a guess. A variety will be in here to add to the flavour.

Flavour enhancer (621)
This is MSG. So if you were worried about it being in the HVP here it is again. MSG is avoided by healthy eaters. There is anecdotal evidence that it can cause asthma in some people and the New Zealand Government requires it to be labelled, even behind a code of three numbers. But despite many people reporting symptoms such as mood changes, nausea, migraine and abdominal discomfort there are no scientific studies to prove these reactions.

Colour (150d)
This is a colouring called caramel, which can be misleading as we think of lovely burned sugar caramel. We're half right. In this case 150d means sulphite ammonia caramel which means the sugar or carbohydrate is heated with sulphite and ammonium compounds which can have side effects such as bowel problems and many health advocates advise avoiding this colouring if you have a sensitivity in this area.

Sunflower oil
As oils go sunflower oil is pretty good and a very common ingredient in processed foods.

My recommendations
Call me old-fashioned but I quite like to know that when I'm eating something called Roast Beef Rice Risotto it will have beef and rice. There was rice but also pasta and a bunch of flavourings which are designed to make my tongue think I'm eating roast beef along with colouring.

I can see why this box would be appealing to a busy mum eager to get a rice dish on the table in 20 minutes. But having looked at the instructions they are pretty much exactly the same as making a risotto from scratch.

So here's an idea. Buy some Arborio rice, chop an onion and fry them both for a few minutes. Then pour on some hot stock, put the lid on, let simmer and come back in 20 minutes. You will have rice risotto and will have eliminated the artificial flavours and colours found in this product.

Highlights

* Says "Roast Beef" but no beef found anywhere near this product.

* Contains pasta as well as rice.

* Takes just as long to make as a real risotto.

Do you have a food product you would like featured in Wendyl Wants to Know?
Email wendylwantstoknow@gmail.com with suggestions. Unfortunately Wendyl cannot correspond with readers.

- NZ Herald

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