Sunday Times Food Awards

Foodies, here's where to buy SA's tastiest ready-made ... EVERYTHING!

From sarmies to samoosas and kids' meals to koeksisters, here are all the winners of the Sunday Times Food Awards

21 December 2017 - 13:47 By Hillary Biller
Lasagna, carrot cake and hummus were some of the ready-made foods that our readers sampled during the course of the Sunday Times Food Awards.
Lasagna, carrot cake and hummus were some of the ready-made foods that our readers sampled during the course of the Sunday Times Food Awards.
Image: 123RF/alex9500; 123RF/bhofack2; 123RF/naltik

ABOUT THE SUNDAY TIMES FOOD AWARDS

Our blind-tastings were free and fair!

Sunday Times food editor Hilary Biller has been on a mission to find out which supermarkets make the best ready-made meals, snacks and desserts with the help of our readers.

Starting in late 2016, and carrying on throughout 2017, we put out calls to readers asking them to join various taste-testing panels.

At each tasting session, the readers were presented with a selection of ready-made foods which, if necessary, were prepared according to the packaging instructions by the chefs at HTA Culinary School in Randburg, Joburg. Each product was served 'naked' without packaging or branding.

The readers were asked to rate the products according to a selection of criteria such as appearance, taste and texture.

An auditor on hand to monitor the objectivity of the blind-tasting process, from removing the packing to numbering the products, overseeing the preparation and adding up the scores.

AND THE WINNERS ARE ...

Here's a round up of the winners from each category of the Sunday Times Food Awards.

MAINS

BEST CHICKEN PIE

Slow Roast Chicken Pie from Pick n Pay

What the judges said:

  • Mohini: Nice pastry, good gravy although there could be more. The texture is chunky and moreish.
  • Stephanie: This pie has the most filling of the three we tasted.
  • Jacqui: Quantity of filling is great but taste is bland.
  • Sarah: Nice, big pieces of chicken in the pie.
  • Akira: The pastry has an aftertaste.
  • Kathy: Delightful look, gorgeous crust and jolly tasty.

BEST BEEF PIE

Beef steak pie from Woolworths

What the judges said:quich

  • Judith: A lovely saucy filling with good flavour. It tastes homemade.
  • Terry: Filling is generous and tasty, as is the pastry.
  • Pearl: Tastes pretty good, although a little salty.
  • Bianca: This pie made me smile - intact pastry, delicious and flavourful filling.
  • Mark: Tasty filling, this is a good beef pie.
  • Selvin: Plenty of gravy, soft meat with lots of flavour.
From left: Chicken korma and rice from Pick n Pay, Woolworths and Checkers.
From left: Chicken korma and rice from Pick n Pay, Woolworths and Checkers.
Image: Christoph Hoffmann

BEST CHICKEN KORMA

Chicken korma and rice from Pick n Pay

What the judges said:

  • Emil: Chicken is soft and tender. Rice is perfect. Just the right amount of sauce.
  • Mitha: The best chicken - spicy and tender.
  • Donovan: Good flavour and spice, with gentle bite.
  • Prinita: Spicy and fragrant but too many coriander seeds in the rice.
  • Marcel: Looks appetising, nice and spicy. Chicken is a bit tough. I would definitely buy it.

BEST BUTTER CHICKEN

Butter chicken with rice from Pick n Pay  

What the judges said:

  • Rebecca: Outstanding flavour.
  • Kat: Very much nicer than the other two. There is more spice and I can taste more of the butter.
  • Nomvuyiso: This curry smells just proper. It is spicy. It looks better, the sauce is good and there are more pieces of chicken.
  • David: Chicken pieces are uniform in size and well-cooked. Nice fruity taste.

BEST CHICKEN BIRYANI

Chicken biryani with a sachet of raita from Pick n Pay

What the judges said:

  • Kat: Nice peas, potatoes crisp and brown, chicken in even chunks with a nice bite.
  • Dave: It has just the right amount of 'bite'. Peas were confusing. Authentic dish.
  • Jenny: Very flavourful, potatoes were good.
  • Julie: I liked the chicken pieces. Well-balanced with texture in the rice. Lots of flavour and potatoes are well-cooked.
  • Praneeta: I would buy this.
From left: Chicken biryani from Pick n Pay, Woolworths and Checkers.
From left: Chicken biryani from Pick n Pay, Woolworths and Checkers.
Image: Christoph Hoffmann

BEST HAWAIIAN PIZZA

Large Hawaiian pizza from Pick n Pay

What the judges said:

  • Tasters liked the plump pieces of pineapple and generous slices of ham. The cheese browned nicely and the base was crispy, although some said it was too toast-like and could have had a narrower border. Overall, it was rated very decent for a store-bought pizza, if a little on the bland side.

BEST LASAGNE

Bella Vita lasagne from Checkers

What the judges said:

  • "Flavour and texture good but could have more mince."
  • "Pleasant peppery flavour. The pasta is good."
  • "The creamy sauce was delicious and I loved the cheesy top."
  • "I had to have a second portion to discover that the meat is very finely minced and I would prefer it more chunky."

BEST MINESTRONE SOUP

Rustic minestrone soup from Pick n Pay 

What the judges said:

  • "The vegetables were diced to a good equal size. The spinach added a good green touch. Good balance of veggies to pasta, although it could be less sweet."
  • "Great thickness. Great variety of vegetables but why add spinach?"
  • "It needs more salt and pepper."    

BEST MACARONI CHEESE

Macaroni cheese from Woolworths

What the judges said:

  • "It looked appealing, with a brown crust as it was baked in the oven."
  • "The pasta was coated in a creamy sauce, which some tasters said could do with more cheese."
  • "The pasta was a little doughy but overall it was declared a good mac ’n cheese."

BEST QUICHE LORRAINE

Quiche Lorraine from Pick n Pay

What the judges said:

  • The pastry was thin, crisp and melt-in-the-mouth and tasted as if it was made with butter. It was a good quiche from the pastry to the filling, a moist custard described by the tasters as soft and fluffy with uniform pieces of ham.

BEST ROTISSERIE CHICKEN

Rotisserie chicken from SPAR

What the judges said:

  • A well-presented chicken with good texture. The skin was an attractive brown colour although not crisp. It was declared juicy and firm but tender. Some felt the seasoning was its only downfall.

KIDS' READY MEALS

BEST KIDS' CHICKEN POTATO MEAL

Yummy chicken meal from Woolworths 

What the judges said:

  • Jayden, 10: This smelt and looked good but did not taste as good as it looked.
  • Bavini, 9: The mash and gravy were great.
  • Ketso, 8: The mash was very nice and soft, the chicken delicious. Veggies were slippery.
  • Tumang and Dipuo, 10: Tumang: great crunchy veggies, chicken soft and tender and I'd buy this for my daughter. Dipuo: I'm not really a fan of veggies except carrots.
  • Stephen: Kids' Sunday lunch in a container, a winner for my 11-year-old but my younger son said that the peas were a tiny bit hard.

BEST KIDS' SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE

Oh My Goodness! by Gordon & Matilda Ramsay Spaghetti bolognese from Checkers 

What the judges said:

  • Neo, 7: It tasted delicious and looked yummy and I would ask my mom to buy it.
  • Tumang and Dipuo, 10: Tumang: spaghetti is tender but a bit oily and it lacked seasoning. Dipuo: it looked so delicious and tasted very nice. The texture was delightful.
  • Shriya, 7: It tastes a bit sour.
  • Troy, 10: I loved it.
  • Stephen, Liam, 11 & Ryan, 9: it's a bit heavy on pasta, with too little sauce.
  • Revina: It looked like a homemade pasta dish but taste didn't live up to the look, and tasted processed.

BEST KIDS' MACARONI & CHEESE

Oh My Goodness! by Gordon & Matilda Ramsay Cheesy macaroni from Checkers

What the judges said:

  • Bavini, 9: The cheese was smooth and great and the mac was nice and soft.
  • Liam, 11, and Ryan, 9: The sauce was a bit "sandy" in texture but the pasta was well cooked with a nice cheesy flavour.
  • Darryl and Hannah, 8: Hannah said the sauce was "bumpy" and a little grainy. Darryl: I think the portion could be bigger.
  • Keratilwe, 8: "It looks delicious and tastes good but doesn't have salt."
Oh My Goodness! by Gordon & Matilda Ramsay Cheesy chicken, rice & veg from Checkers.
Oh My Goodness! by Gordon & Matilda Ramsay Cheesy chicken, rice & veg from Checkers.

BEST KIDS' CHICKEN RICE MEAL

Oh My Goodness! by Gordon & Matilda Ramsay Cheesy chicken, rice & veg from Checkers

What the judges said:

  • Kgaogelo and Neo, 7: The chicken was well cooked and the overall meal was nice and tasty. I will definitely be buying this for Neo.
  • Revina and Jayden, 10: Much better presentation and appearance than the other sample. However, it needs more seasoning.
  • Mohini and Suvhan, 12: The chicken was too tough and chewy. Please blend the broccoli because it was too chunky and kids don't like whole broccoli.
  • Shriya, 7: It is quite thick but I liked the broccoli pieces and tangy cheese taste.
  • Keratilwe, 8: The chicken was tender, the texture of broccoli was well cooked and I even asked for seconds.

BEST KIDS' COTTAGE PIE

Oh My Goodness! by Gordon & Matilda Ramsay Beefy cottage pie from Checkers

What the judges said:

  • Hellen: This is delicious and very tasty. It has enough of everything.
  • Teboho and Khaya, 8: The appearance was appealing and my child enjoyed the taste. I would definitely buy it.
  • Hannah, 8: The corn is crunchy and it tastes sweet.
  • Bavini, 9: The mash looks green and it tastes sweet.
  • Shriya, 7: Tastes delicious and I love it.
  • Neo, 7: It's very nice and I would ask mummy to buy it every day for me.

SNACKS

BEST BEEF BILTONG

Kalahari Beef Biltong from Checkers

What the judges said:

  • James: Good biltong, great to munch during the game.
  • Puleng: Too nice!
  • Caroline: Loved it, looked great, not too thick.

BEST BEEF DROËWORS

Kalahari Beef Droëwors from Checkers 

What the judges said:

  • Joy: Moist and a little sweet.
  • Wynand: Tasty but still a little too wet.
  • Nthabi: My favourite, just right.

BEST CHICKEN CHIPOLATAS

Chicken Chipolata Sausages from Checkers

What the judges said:

  • Roy: A really good sausage.
  • Despina: Appearance, taste, flavour and texture excellent. Would recommend it.
  • Joy: Well-seasoned, texture good

BEST BEEF SAUSAGE ROLLS

Beef Sausage Rolls from Woolworths 

What the judges said:

  • Yvette: The filling is quite compact but the flavour is good.
  • Laura: Pastry is nice and crispy.
  • Caroline: Good size, oily, but tasty.
Cocktail-sized chicken pies left to right: Pick n Pay, Checkers and Woolworths.
Cocktail-sized chicken pies left to right: Pick n Pay, Checkers and Woolworths.
Image: Christoph Hoffman

BEST MINI CHICKEN PIES

Roast Chicken Cocktail Pies from Pick n Pay 

What the judges said:

  • James: Looks great. The filling is tasty but there's not enough.
  • Nthabi: Delicious but a bit too salty.
  • Shantal: Too little filling for the size of the pie.

BEST MINI VETKOEK

Beef Curry Vetkoek from Pick n Pay 

What the judges said:

  • Wynand: Sweet bun, good curry.
  • Despina: Delicious.
  • Puleng: Sweet taste, looks good.

BEST MINI SAVOURY PANCAKES

Mini BBQ Chicken Pancakes from Pick n Pay

What the judges said:

  • Shantal: The pancake part was perfect but I'd have liked more filling.
  • Rory: Doughy pancake but nice filling.
  • Nigel: A little sweet for a savoury.

BEST CHICKEN SAMOOSAS

Chicken Samoosas from Checkers

What the judges said:

  • Despina: Excellent taste and texture. These are recommended.
  • Joy: Flavours good, crispy & spicy.
  • Yvette: Nice and golden on outside but little filling.

BEST SPICY HUMMUS

Roast Red Pepper Hummus (Spicy) from Woolworths

What the judges said:

  • Caroline: Easy on the mouth, smooth and tastes good.
  • Christian: Could be more spicy.
  • Rory: Well presented, nice colour.

BEST HUMMUS

Traditional hummus from Pick n Pay 

What the judges said:

  • Nigel: Beautiful flavour, a definite to serve to guests.
  • Rory: Best all-rounder with nice texture and flavour.
  • Liz: I eat a lot of hummus and this is a strong contender.

BEST EGG MAYONNAISE SANDWICH

Egg mayo sarmie from Pick n Pay

What the judges said:

  • Described as having a good flavour — thanks in part to the addition of chives — it was well seasoned. Tasters enjoyed the brown bread, the quality of the bread and the chunkiness of the filling. This was found to be a good example of an egg mayonnaise sandwich.
Our judges weighed butternut and creamy spinach dishes from leading supermarkets against each other.
Our judges weighed butternut and creamy spinach dishes from leading supermarkets against each other.
Image: Christoph Hoffmann

SIDES

BEST BUTTERNUT & CREAMED SPINACH

Sweet butternut & creamed spinach from Woolworths

What the judges said:

  • Judith: The butternut is not cooked through, and tough. The feta cheese was a nice addition to the spinach.
  • Sarah: It needs salt, otherwise it's good.
  • Thami: Delicious.
  • Sahil: Spinach is well flavoured but butternut is underspiced.
  • Kathy: The butternut is cut into smaller chunks and easier to digest.
  • Sean: Butternut was very bland but the spinach was awesome and tasty.

BEST GREEK SALAD

Greek salad from Woolworths

What the judges said:

  • Tasters agreed that this was the freshest-tasting salad: attractive, crunchy and with quality ingredients.
  • Some said it contained too much lettuce and that the onions were too thickly sliced.
  • A couple felt it could have done with more "tasty bits" - olives, feta and tomatoes - but one taster called it "the best buy by far".

BEST ROTIS

Butter rotis from Woolworths

Judges's comments:

  • Tracy: Delicious, the only one of the four we tasted that I would buy.
  • Joseph: Authentic taste. I would definitely buy it.
  • Kitso: A little oily but it tastes fresher than the others.
  • Prinita: It looks the most authentic and more salty than the rest. Too oily though.

BEST GARLIC BREAD

Ready to Braai Garlic Baguette from Checkers

What the judges said:

  • "Lovely appearance, great taste and enough garlic."
  • "Big on taste, lovely buttery filling with the right balance of garlic and herbs."
  • "Good quality of bread and real butter. It has a nice crispness to it."

BEST POTATO

Potato salad from Pick n Pay

What the judges said:

  • A well-blended salad with lots of flavour and a fresh taste. There were chives, which gave it another dimension, although for some it lacked salt. Mayonnaise dressing was lovely and the combination of ingredients blended well.

BEST COLESLAW

Coleslaw from Pick n Pay

What the judges said:

  • There was a good balance of cabbage and carrots but mayonnaise was runny and not thick enough for a coleslaw, although it tasted fresh and the carrots were sweet. The panel enjoyed the creamy taste but some felt it lacked salt.
From left: sticky toffee puddings from Checkers, Spar, Woolworths and Pick n Pay.
From left: sticky toffee puddings from Checkers, Spar, Woolworths and Pick n Pay.
Image: Christoph Hoffmann

DESSERTS AND TEA TIME

BEST STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING

Sticky toffee pudding from Pick n Pay

What the judges said:

  • Graham: Light and succulent.
  • Jennifer: Very nice texture and not too sweet.
  • Judith: Buttery, soft and warm.
  • Thami: Pudding well baked and delicious.
  • Pearl: Tasted so delicious and almost luxurious. It could do with more sauce.
  • Sahil: Good for 4-6 people but uneven sauce distribution.
A South African favourite, koeksisters are a sweet syrupy delight.
A South African favourite, koeksisters are a sweet syrupy delight.
Image: Christoph Hoffmann

BEST LAMINGTONS

Chocolate lamingtons from SPAR 

What the judges said:

  • Fatima: Perfect cake — texture and size good.
  • Sharien: Perfect lamington.
  • Zaheda: Very good appearance, perfect size. Coating tasted good.
  • Koketso: Looks good, nice moist texture and not too sweet.

BEST BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

Blueberry muffins from Woolworths

What the judges said:

  • Tracy: Lots of blueberries!
  • Koketso: Slightly dry but good overall.
  • Shivani: Most appealing of all muffins with a sufficient serving of blueberries.
  • Diana-Kay: This was lovely in comparison to the other muffins.

BEST KOEKSISTERS

Tuisgebak koeksisters from Pick n Pay

What the judges said: 

  • Tracy: I like a soft koeksister and this was soft and sweet.
  • Carol: Too soft for my liking.
  • Laura: Loved the taste but texture a bit strange.
  • Amkelani: Attractive appearance and very tasty.
  • Denise: Light and fluffy and syrup is not overwhelming, appearance inviting.

BEST BROWNIES

Rich brownies from Checkers

What the judges said:

  • Wendy: Tastes like a slab of chocolate. Not a single nut in sight.
  • Aadila: Absolutely delicious. Melts in the mouth.
  • Miranda: Lots of chocolate, not as appealing to look at but taste is tops.
  • Vanilla & caramel cupcakes: Checkers 

BEST VANILLA CUPCAKES

Vanilla & caramel cupcakes from Checkers 

What the judges said:

  • Liberia: A perfect cupcake, tastes good.
  • Ansa: This cupcake has the advantage that it is larger, looks appealing, texture is great and it’s moist.
  • Dede: An excellent cupcake, the last to taste and the best of all four.
Cupcakes are a party favourite.
Cupcakes are a party favourite.
Image: CHRISTOPH HOFFMANN

BEST CARROT CAKE

Carrot cake from Pick n Pay

What the judges said:

  • Wendy: Best-looking of all carrot cakes, I loved the layer of icing in the middle.
  • Val: It looks good and has enough carrots for a carrot cake.
  • Denise: My favourite — moist, and icing divine.
  • Rich brownies: Checkers 

BEST HOT CROSS BUNS

Traditional hot cross buns from Pick n Pay

What the judges said:

  • These buns scored high on appearance, with a shiny glaze and consistent crosses.
  • The panel liked the soft, light texture and good amount of fruit and spices.

BEST CHRISTMAS CAKE

Luxury Christmas Cake from Checkers

What the judges said:

  • Daisy: An excellent cake, well baked and well spiced.
  • Loraine: I love it although it's a bit pricey.
  • Amina: My number one but it didn't look that great and a bit sunken in the middle.

BEST MINCE PIES

Mince pies from SPAR 

What the judges said:

  • Ashton: The pastry and sugar topping is lovely and the filling nice and moist.
  • Heather: Crispy pastry but a bit crumbly. Spicy moist fruit. Excellent.
  • Charlotte: Beautiful to look at but a slight acidity in the filling.
  • Jakkie: Spice just enough, not overwhelming.

BEST LEMON CHEESECAKE

Lemon Swirl Cheesecake from Woolworths

What the judges said:

  • "Well balanced, I enjoyed the lemon flavour."
  • "I'm not a fan of the ginger-biscuit base but there's more cream cheese and real cream than the other samples."
  • "It looks great, good texture and filling, has a pleasant lemon taste."
  • "A lovely dessert. All the elements are well balanced."

BEST MALVA PUDDING

Malva pudding from Woolworths

What the judges said:

  • Good flavour and not overly sweet. Rated a perfect malva pudding.

BEST PEPPERMINT-CARAMEL DESSERT

Peppermint caramel dessert from Woolworths

What the judges said:

  • The dessert was topped with chocolate shavings, which gave it points in the appearance category.
  • Some felt it was too soft with layers that bled into each other.
  • General consensus was that it tasted delicious.
  • "This dessert passed with flying colours - great textures, smooth and crunchy," said one taster.
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