Every now and then a brand comes along that seems to have your name written all over it. You could almost imagine you were used as their pen portrait.
In my case, it’s a range of curry sauces called Holy Cow! Check them out at www.holycowsauces.com.
There are so many things about this brand that I like.
I like the way it looks. They may be competing with the likes of Sharwood’s, Uncle Ben’s and Patak’s. But the packs look completely different, with their see-through sachets and simple, colourful labels.
I like the name too. Memorable, funny. Innocent-esque!
Also, it may be ambient but I want to think it’s chilled. Certainly the packs go straight in the fridge as soon as they arrive home.
The recipes themselves all sound familiar but with a pinch of provenance:
Delhi Tikka Masala
Pricing is broadly on a par with the competition at £1.99, although that is for 250g. The jars are all much bigger, although they get up to all sorts of fun and games with price points and sizes:
Patak’s £1.89 for 450g
Sharwood’s £1.75 for 420g
Uncle Ben’s £1.79 for 400g
Loyd Grossman £2.09 for 350g
Amazingly, Tesco own-label is £0.75 for 500g. And Tesco Everyday Value for the same size jar is 25p. Hang on, I’m just going to check that again. No, that is correct. 25p!
Holy Cow! has a story to tell, too. Someone’s mum, a woman called Kiran, developed the sauces in her home using recipes “that have passed down generations”. The brand was created in 1999 and after years of selling to independent delis and foodservice, they broke into supermarkets in 2009 with Asda.
They were in Tesco too, but recently seem to have vanished from the multiples. Now you can only get them through Ocado. Oh, and Amazon. Amazon and food, who’d have thought!
There’s more. They’re free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. They’re gluten-free, nut-free and suitable for vegetarians and coeliacs.
There’s even a social purpose. They donate a free school meal in India for every Holy Cow! Curry Sauce sold in the UK or Germany. 116,000 donated at the last count.
But it’s the brand promise that I really buy. Very considerately, they’ve printed it on the label - ‘Home Cooked Curry in Minutes!’
That’s just spot-on for me on a Wednesday night. They do taste, to my mind anyway, home-cooked. As it says on the pack, their sauces have ‘layers of flavor (and a kick of heat!)’. They’re certainly different to the sauces in jars, which always seem rather one-dimensional in flavour.
It’s not that we cook Indian curries at home either. Other types of curry, yes, but not Indian. Indian curries are for restaurants and takeaways. Friday night.
So what Holy Cow! does is create a promise based on replicating an experience that never actually happens. Clever!
But of course the other part of their promise is ‘…in Minutes!’ It’s true, all you need is some cooked meat, fish or veg and rice and you’re there, 10 minutes tops. Older packs actually have a different promise on them - ‘Home Cooked Curry Made Easy' - but they obviously decided at some point speed was of the essence.
Either way, now I get to have an Indian on a Wednesday as well as a Friday. And I don’t feel bad about doing it because it’s ‘home-cooked’. Result!
Of course we could cook an Indian curry on a Wednesday night, as opposed, essentially, to heating one up. It’s not impossible, I gather.
But the barriers are the same for us as they for most people. The tensions in midweek cooking are always some combination of time, skill and will.
Time, because by the time of night we often start to cook, the day has gone and taken the last of our energy with it.
Skill, because we don’t actually know how to cook a good Indian. We haven’t got the know-how.
Will, because we can’t really be bothered. The reward is not worth the effort.
So really, for me, it’s all about Freedom. Freedom from cooking. Freedom to have curry twice a week. Freedom to simply enjoy food. Freedom!
And as Micky Flanagan said on Mock The Week in a section called ‘Things You Wouldn’t Say to a Celebrity Chef’: “Gordon, calm down, it’s only a bit of tea.”