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Not very different

Updated: Jul 22, 2021

So today I picked up the Coles magazine, and having written about the Woolworths one and confessed my illogical bias and having now done my first skim of the Coles version I decided to probably bore you all to death and do a bit of a comparison, just to check my prejudices.

So yes - on balance I do prefer the Coles version but I will admit that this might be just the particular recipes within these particular editions rather than any fundamental difference. Indeed I was quite taken by the number of directly and indirectly comparable recipes there were. So I thought I would first look at those and see if they revealed anything, and then make some more generalised comparisons. Spoiler - probably my preference for the Coles Magazine is indeed quite illogical. In no particular order:

Chicken pasta - on the left Coles Creamy chicken and bacon pasta, on the right Woolworths One-pot creamy pesto pasta

They are not directly comparable but there are some definite similarities. I think I mentioned the Woolworths recipe yesterday as a typical recipe that anyone might throw together from what was in the pantry at the time, and significantly both of these recipes are in the Weeknight sections of each magazine - quickly thrown together stuff for the fundamentally uninterested cook. I'll give Woolworths the win for appearance here and having now checked out the recipes I will also give Woolworths the prize for fewer remade ingredients. Indeed they even get you to make the pesto, and cook the chicken. Coles uses the roast chicken you can buy in store, and there is no pesto. Perhaps the only plus is that they suggest watching a video on how to do a similar thing with salmon. Expanding your horizons? Bear in mind that both of these are really aimed at the cooks with limited skills and not much time. Both of these are supposed to take 20 minutes. A win for Woolworths I think.

Mushroom bolognaise - They both have a recipe for mushroom bolognaise so this is directly comparable. Woolworths on the left, Coles on the right.

Not much to choose from in terms of appearance here although the Coles one looks better on the page. But really what do looks have to do with it? Well actually quite a lot I suppose. If it doesn't look good we just pass it by. Anyway both of these don't look amazingly appealing, but not amazingly awful either. Again we are still in the Weeknights sections so not looking at complicated stuff. Coles uses a product called Coles Australian Mushroom Mince. Which is the sort of product that raises my ire. Not so hard to chop mushrooms surely - or even put them in a processor and chop them there? But on the plus side Coles adds a bit more nutrition by adding a can of lentils to the mix. And I don't have objections to canned lentils. Well maybe the lentils - they are just so easy to cook anyway, but certainly canned beans are very useful things to have in your cupboard. Besides although Woolworths uses real mushrooms they do resort to bottled Macro Organic chunky tomato garlic and basil pasta sauce. Coles suggests red wine - or vegetable stock. Neutral on this one. I prefer my mushroom pastas creamy and Coles do actually have a recipe for Creamy mushroom and zucchini fettuccine.

Minestrone - well sort of. On the left Coles' Hearty veggie and pasta soup, on the right Woolworths Healthier slow-cooked minestrone soup both from Slow-cooker sections in the magazine. As I said yesterday I don't have a slow cooker but lots of people do. They are very fashionable. And full marks to Coles for telling you how to make this without using a slow-cooker. Both of these magazines have several slo-cooker recipes.

We're still in the Weeknights sections though, so lots of Woolworths and Coles products involved, and nothing very complicated. But there are several differences. Different pasta, different vegetables. Everything in the Woolworths recipe is from their Macro Organic range - even the fresh vegetables. So expensive. The winner here is Coles I think - a far better range of vegetables, and really, apart from a tin of tomatoes and the pasta everything else is 'real'. You don't have to use their Coles Spinach and Ricotta Agnoletti after all - you could just use any kind of pasta. The Woolworths version is so very self-consciously healthy.

Beef tacos - sort of the same finished product but two very different approaches. On the left Coles Pulled beef tacos from ex MasterChef winner Michael Weldon and on the right Woolworths Beef brisket tacos.

This is probably not a fair comparison. Because the Coles version is pushing its gourmet credentials here, whilst the Woolworths one is just an assembly job. The beef brisket is already cooked - Woolworths COOK slow-cooked beef brisket in a Bourbon Flavoured BBQ sauce, served with a packet coleslaw kit and bottled barbecue sauce. The only thing you have to do is slice a Granny Smith apple. Coles uses a bottled chilli sauce, and they both use bought tortillas, but everything else in the Coles recipe is 'real', and you have to cook the beef mixture. Mind you this recipe is part of the main advertising push for Coles in this particular edition of their magazine - their sponsorship of MasterChef, and the MasterChef kitchen pots and pans that you can get with special points if you buy enough things instore - or buy with actual money. It is also part of their 'meet the farmer' effort in this edition - cattle farmers from Queensland. Both magazines always feature one of their producers - Woolworths had an avocado farmer this time. I actually think that Coles choice this time was a poor one because it was for beef raised on a feedlot - grain fed, rather than grass fed grazing cattle. Feedlots, to my mind - and to many - are the big bad villains of the cattle industry. However, Coles wins on the taste front. Woolworths on the quick and easy front.


On the left Potato and pea samosas with raita, on the right Jamie's veggie samosa parcels

Jamie I love you but these are not samosas, and calling them samosa parcels is a bit of a cheat. You just don't make samosa with filo pastry and they are not long rolls. Mind you Coles does suggest using frozen shortcrust pastry - but then it is still in its Weeknights section. Jamie moreover uses ready-made curry paste - which is fine but a bit of a cheat, and his filling is rather different from what you expect of a samosa - tomatoes, lentils? Which is not to say that what he has produced here won't taste good. It's just not a samosa. Whereas the ones on the left are much nearer to what we expect of a samosa. So a win for Coles here.

Caramelised, bananas and upside-down - so let's end this little exercise with dessert. On the left, Coles Vegan banana and caramel tart, in the centre, Woolworths Upside-down caramelised banana cake and on the right Coles Upside-down pineapple cake.

These are not directly comparable I know, but it was interesting to see the focus on upside-down cakes, bananas and cakes that had been cooked in a slow-cooker. I should probably have included one of Woolworths slow-cooker cakes as well. Their upside-down version above is a baked cake. And bananas - definitely not in season at the moment. I noticed they were $4.00 a kilo today. Should I say "Great minds think alike" - or just supermarkets think alike?

If you're still with me after all of that - I thought it was a fun exercise, and there are a few other similar recipes as well - then I will move on because enough is enough of that.

Just a couple more things. Coles, interestingly enough, is rather more aggressive in its self-promotion. They always have, near the end of their magazine, a section on all the worthy things they do - the charities they support, and this is also boosted here and there in the publication. There's a thing on Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Foundation for example - complete with a recipe from the lady herself and how you can contribute by buying Carisma potatoes. I know Woolworths also does a lot in the charity field, but they don't push it so hard in their magazine. They should. As I said before Coles is also aggressively pushing MasterChef in most of its current editions - partly to get a bit of kudos from the sponsorship and partly to push those pans.

So has any of this done anything to change my personal preference? Alas no. And now I see it's even more illogical - aggressive advertising, feedlot grain-fed beef ... But, in this edition at least there were many more recipes that I could be tempted to try. It just seems more varied to me, and has more little tips and tricks and suggestions for variants than Woolworths. Deep-down though I think I'm probably just being prejudiced, for a reason I cannot put my finger on. So rush off to your local supermarkets and see if you can pick one up - if they still have some. They disappear quickly.

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