Sunday, 25 January 2015

Pieminister Pie Pots - 4 flavours [by @NLi10] @pieminister

I spotted a tweet by someone who had received a box of some new Pieminister goodies and contacted them to see if we could have a box too - they said yes!

It turns out that the new products are not so much pies as the bits inside a pie in a pot - Pie Pots!  Realistically they have a few tweaks that i'll get to, but as a concept it should work quite well. Even better than this it only takes 4 mins in the microwave to cook - which means I can eat these at work!  I took the first one on the very day I received them in the post.  We've recently suffered from a massive downsizing of the available catering at our hospital so decent hot filling lunches require planning and a trek to find. Bringing your own in is becoming an increasingly appealing idea.

I ate the first half during a presentation (in the dark!) but after we escaped I still had some of the Matador pot left.  The most noticeable difference is that there is potato in here instead of pastry around the outside - a LOT of potato.  Luckily they soak up the sauce and have a lovely flavour. Also they cook really well in the microwave unlike pastry.  In typical Pieminister fashion everything is large and distinct from the potatoes and meat down to the beans.  This was a spot on lunch, spicy enough to be interesting but easily eatable, and with a variety of textures and tastes floating around.  I'd rather have the equivalent pie but I can't do that at work.

The following day I varied things up by going for the Chicken version.  Essentially this is cock-a-leekie but with potatoes and again huge chunks of ingredient.  The flavour was much milder than the Spanish themed pie, but still nice.  There was probably more chicken in here than steak and chorizo in the other pie, but it was still mostly potato.

I'm not sure whether I preferred this to the first one or not.  They are very different takes on the same idea.  Again - I'd rather have the pie, but that's not going to happen.

My third pot was the Moo & Brew which is the steak and ale version of the pots. 

Kind of somewhere between the two above pies as it's sauce based but not spicy - more of a gravy and similar to the Moo pie (that again I'd have rather had).  There was more steak here than the first one.  And again the mix and ingredients were lovely.  This was my least favourite of the three, but still a great lunch and when I reordered these from Ocado for this week I still added one of each.

The final pot was eaten by my partner.  She is a vegetarian - and the Meany Bean was suitable for vegetarians so I thought it only fair that she had a quality lunch too.  In all pots the potato still has the skins on too which I'm not usually that keen on, but here it works.  My partner prefers potato this way so she was happy with this too.  She suggested it was very tasty, and filling enough to reduce snacking in the afternoon and to want more.  I ordered three of these so I could try one and she could have a couple.

And we even used the strong refrigerated box to build a fort for our new kitten!

While pies are not suitable for kittens the padded box they came in was perfect for hiding from the bigger cats after she's spent a while terrorising them.

My main problem with the pie pots (apart from the fact that they are really stew pots and not pie related) was that I thought they may be too costly for lunch every day - but Ocado has them on two for £6 at the moment and £3 a day is very comparable to buying food at work and cheaper than the meal deals in the shop.

While I won't have them every day, in the winter it's certainly a nice surprise of a range and something that I plan on having often.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Win a Hotel Chocolat Valentines Goody Bag

If you read the review for the Hotel Chocolat Valentines Goody Bag you will have seen a what gorgeous gift set it is, and how the chocolates inside are just divine. The lovely folks from Hotel Chocolat are offering up a Valentines Goody Bag to one of our lucky readers as a competition prize.

If you want the chance to get your hands on the chocolates from Hotel Chocolat, simply fill in the Rafflecopter form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck!!

• A winner will be chosen at random
• UK residents only
• If we can’t get in touch with a winner in a reasonable amount of time to obtain an address another winner will be selected
• If you have any questions about this competition, please send me an email or leave a comment below

Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale (Ocado) [By @SpectreUK]

Brewed by Wells and Youngs in Bedford this Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale reminded me of a time we were travelling back from a holiday and had stopped at a service station for dinner. There was a French couple sat at a table nearby and the woman said "Sticky toffee pudding" quite loudly. It was a fairly bizarre moment as such a heavy French accent stating the name of a very British pudding was rather arresting! I do rather like sticky toffee pudding, especially with custard, but that's beside the point. And if you're a regular reader you'll know I rather like my ale too. I do rather like French women as well, but that's also beside the point. There was a time when I was young, and that does seem unlikely looking in the mirror these days, when my parents took me and my sister on holiday to France. We were ordering in a restaurant one lunchtime and a rather attractive woman in a French Maid's type outfit came up to me and pinched my rather chubby cheeks stating in a French accent "What a cute little boy!" Hence I've been rather taken by French women's ascents (and French maids outfits) ever since.

I digress Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale... The label promised this ale would be "full of rich sticky toffee-ness", which sounded good to me after a huge steak lunch down town. On opening the bottle there was definitely a toffee sweetness to the bitter hoppy odour of this dark amber ale. It poured thickly into my beer mug with a good frothy creamy head. On taste there was a strong hoppy bitter kick mixed with a light toffee sweetness to start with. The toffeeness intensified, not over poweringly mind you, to then almost apologetically bump into a heavy malted flavour. The toffee mixed with the malt to follow through into the aftertaste. I wouldn't say this was the sweetest ale I've ever tasted as some of the chocolate ales and porters have been quite sweet and perfect for pudding, but I certainly wouldn't eat anything savoury whilst drinking it. This makes a perfect late night ale, it's bitter and strong flavoured enough to make your tastebuds sit up, but with an added sweet and mild creaminess to send you off to bed feeling rather content with yourself. I'll certainly have another one or two or more at some point. So don't be put off if you don't like sweet pudding ales, as this is a hammerer. It slaps you with strong bitterness to start with, then gives you a sweet cheeky pinch and makes you feel on top of the world. A sensation I doubt you'll forget in a hurry!

Information on the bottle;
500ml bottle at 5% volume. Ingredients included; natural mineral water, barley malt, sugar, hops, yeast, caramel, and natural toffee flavouring.
By Spectre

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Valentines Goody Bag (@HotelChocolat) [By @Cinabar]

This lovely selection of goodies from Hotel Chocolat is reminder that it isn't long to Valentines Day! The lovely folks from Hotel Chocolat asked if I wanted to review their Valentines Goodie Bag, and how could I resist. The smart gift bag comes sealed with a ribbon and looks like it is packed with contents. I really enjoyed diving into all the goodies and seeing what was there.

The first thing I noticed was the lovely bag of champagne truffles. The dusted milk chocolates have a thick milk chocolate case, and a silky smooth truffle inside with a nice twist of champagne. They taste very luxurious and the flavour balance is spot on. The champagne is strong enough to be noticed, but it works with the chocolate rather than against it. There was a duo of chocolates too, with an Eton Mess and a praline heart to bring some tastes of the selection boxes available.

There are two milk chocolate bars in the bag, one of which is ornately decorated with a solid heart on the front, the other is undecorated, but just as nice. Hotel Chocolat milk chocolate is in a league of its own, it is one of the few chocolates where you can really pick up on impressive cocoa taste, and appreciate all its tones. It isn’t the creamiest milk chocolate but it is pleasantly sweet and moreishly smooth. There are beautifully decorated milk chocolate hearts hidden the Nudge Nudge box too for good measure, each with doves and flowers embossed on them, so romantic.

My favourite item in the box were the Passion Fruit Truffles. They are heart shaped and decorated with bright Valentine’s pink. I love fruit creams and these were so much more than that. The thick white chocolate shell was mellow and creamy and helped tone down the strong zingy passion fruit truffle inside. The combination was perfect the soothing chocolate bringing out the best of the sharp fruity taste.

There is a good variety of chocolates in the bag, something for every taste. This the sort of gift that would be perfect to share on Valentines, but try not to judge your loved one if they don't split the bag with you. These chocolates are a bit too nice. ;-)
By Cinabar