30 November 2013

Pop Up Soup – Spicy Lentil & Coconut [By @SpectreUK]

I’d been saving this Spicy Lentil & Coconut Pop Up Soup, which Team Grasshopper had very kindly sent me, for a cold and rainy day. It came to lunchtime on my own one Saturday with cold dollops of rain washing the morning frost away for me to select this soup from the Foodstufffinds shelf, and make a hearty doorstep ham and mustard sandwich as an accompaniment. I popped open the lid and pulled off the plastic cover, added freshly boiled water and stirred well whilst the concertinaed plastic container slowly rose. The powdered soup mixed well together into a thick creamy concoction. There was a definite initial punch from the lentil, chives and onions in this creamy mix of coconut, mushroom and spicy pepper soup. It tasted fantastic and I really enjoyed the complexity of flavours blended together in this smooth mixture with the added warmth from the peppery spice, which followed through into every lip smacking aftertaste. The size of this soup pot was perfect for a lunchbox. I would definitely have this soup as a spicy warming starter to an evening meal or again as an accompaniment to a sandwich or some bread and cheese for lunch.

Information on the label:
The 25g recyclable Hopper Pot of 100% natural soup had a cardboard sleeve to slip over the Hopper Pot whilst eating on the move. The Hopper Pot contained 100 calories, with 5g of sugar and 2g of fat. The vegetarian friendly ingredients included; potato starch, lentil four, fat powder, potato powder, maltodextrin, caster sugar, dried mushroom, yeast extract, oat bran soluble fibre, salt, onion chopped and powdered, garlic powder, chervil, chives, black pepper, caramelised sugar powder, and white pepper
By Spectre

29 November 2013

White Hot Chocolate (@CostaCoffee) [By @cinabar]

I am a big fan of Costa’s Black Forest Hot Chocolate, so much so that it was hard not to pick it on my last visit. In the name of Foodstuff Finds, and trying everything on the menu, I was rather drawn to the new Christmas launch of the White Hot Chocolate.
When mine was made up I was a little surprised by just how much cream was on my drink, now I’m all for a bit on top of my drink, but if you look at the picture, it started from the T on the Costa logo – oh my. I also noted it came topped with a berry sauce (cherry I think) which seems like an odd combination for a pure sounding drink. Interestingly the Costa website lists this drink as: “topped with cream and white chocolate sauce” but also shows a picture of a drink topped with red sauce.
Anyway once I’d managed my way through the cream, I got to the white hot chocolate. The first thing that hit me was that it tasted very syrupy and it even felt a little thick and slightly gloopy. This was very sweet, and although it did have a flavour of white chocolate about it, it tasted like brown sugar with a hint of something else something even vaguely floral. Even my sweet tooth was a bit taken aback by the strength of the drink.
Although it did what it said on the tin, ie an albeit very sweet white hot chocolate flavour, by the end of it I couldn’t imagine myself ordering it again. Perhaps I just had too much cream, or it was made with far too much syrup, or perhaps I just knew I was missing out on the wonderful Black Forest Hot Chocolate?
Anyone else tried it? What were your thoughts?
By Cinabar

28 November 2013

Zeffirellis, Ambleside (restaurant review) [by @NLi10]

Sometimes you stumble upon a place that seems like it was custom made for you.  This is one of those odd examples.  While on holiday recently in the Lake District (specifically Ambleside) I noticed a restaurant that was linked to the town cinema and offered a combo deal. I picked up the leaflet, joking that we could do that when it was too rainy to do walks.  As it turned out it barely rained at all, but it did get dark early.  This left us with nice long evenings to sit and read or to enjoy the local area so we ended up at Zeffirellis.  All we knew going in was that it was an Italian restaurant.  One look at the menu when seated told us much more.

Turns out it is an all vegetarian restaurant! This meant that Ms. NLi10 had the unusual option of a whole menu to choose from and so had to take extra time to figure out the best selection.  I feel if we'd realised this sooner that we could have eaten here multiple times.  The actual restaurant was very posh and the main courses were around £10, which made the £18 two courses and a movie deal pretty good value.

One of the dishes on offer was a rainforest pizza that donated enough money to buy an area of rainforest 40 times the size of the pizza. This also meant we got to do some mental maths for free, calculating the size and what could live there.

The toppings were fairly standard for a home-pizza with lots of things I like such  as chillies and spinach and peppers, but what was probably most interesting was the base.  As frequent readers will know, I love odd textures, and the rough base which was both crisp and made from a course flour was an absolute delight.

It really didn't take long to demolish, and it was spicy enough to linger but not enough to burn out the flavours.  It was also satisfying enough that I didn't notice the lack of meat on it.

Seeing as we'd already paid for both courses it seemed rude not to go for an epic pudding!

In the background you can see my partners apple cheesecake which was also nice (and still veggie) but I dug into my pile of red flavoured ice creams and top quality wafers.  It almost defeated me but I did manage to get there in the end!  It wasn't as special as the pizza (the cheese cake was pretty unique though) but was a good finale to a wonderful meal.

Then we went to watch Thor 2.  THis was also good, and it turns out the cinema(s there are three!) are owned by the same guy as the restaurant and they've been doing this for years.  The screen we saw the film on wasn't huge but it was sharp and the sound quality was good. 

We had a nice chat afterwards with one of the people running the place and found out a bit about it and that they also do the live Theater in cinema productions that we like.  If we were locals we'd have to investigate some kind of discount scheme!

All in all a very positive trip and one that has made us keen to go back to the area. Well worth an excursion if you are anywhere in the Lake District and have similar tastes to us.

27 November 2013

Fresh Milk & Real Fruit: Raspberry & Blueberry (@Frumoo) [By @SpectreUK]

Made with Fresh Milk and “Real” Fruit (as opposed to that plastic fruit you sometimes find in reproductive bowls on reproductive tables in old mansion houses to show what plastic period dressed dummies would eat if they could move from their static positions in front of pretend log fires, because now let’s face it, if the “real” staff made a “real” log fire the whole plastic reproduced mansion house would melt into a gooey puddle of “real” plastic goo), this pasteurised milk drink with raspberry and blueberry needed to be shook well after a period in a “real” refrigerator. On opening the bottle there was a milky fruity smell, with a definite odour from the raspberries first followed by the blueberries. I must admit that the taste was a little more subtle than the smell. There was a raspberry zing first then a heavy hit of blueberry, but they mixed well together with the very creamy, almost naughty feeling milk. This drink gave a “real” creamy fruity flavour to the taste buds. I thought this drink perfect for a healthy feeling after lunch or dinner treat. I really enjoyed it and would certainly have it again.

Information on the label;
The 230ml bottle had 76 calories and 2.1g fat per 100ml and was made with British Dairy Farmer’s Milk, by the Lake District Dairy Company. This pasteurised milk drink with raspberry and blueberry needed to be kept refrigerated. The ingredients included; Milk, raspberry puree, water, sugar, blueberry puree, pectin, natural flavour, citric acid, and food colourings (from radish, pumpkin, apple, and tomato).
By Spectre

26 November 2013

Chiquito Restaurant Review [@TheChiquito] [By @cinabar]

Chiquito is a major chain of Mexcican restaurants here in the UK, there are 68 (according to Wikipedia at least) of them up and down the country, one of which is just a stones through from us so we thought we'd try out the new sizzling menu.
We prebooked so we were seated quickly, and greeted by staff in full Christmas mode, including wearing reindeer antlers! Wow, talk about getting in the mood. The place was decorated beautifully too.

I had a look at the drinks to begin and picked a mocktail called Yucatan Breeze. It was a citrus affair, and came decorated with a sprig of mint and a piece of passion fruit to show off its tropical edge. There was a lovely sour bite from the lime which was softened by the passion fruit and pineapple, it was a wonderfully refreshing drink, and it was beautiful to look at too.

We were also given some spicy popcorn as an aperitif.

For a starter I went with Tostadas, which consisted of a toasted mini flatbread topped with sweet potato and feta cheese, there were other options for a topping but I'm going through a phase of loving sweet potato, so I couldn't resist! When it came there was also plenty of salad on top which helped keep the flavours together. I enjoyed the contrast of the cheese with the sweet potato, but did find the Tostadas a little dangerous to eat. I'd recommend a knife and fork rather than balancing them!

For my main course I went with the Southern Fried Chicken and BBQ Pulled Pork. I was impressed by the presentation of the meal and the number of sides. There were chips, onion rings, coleslaw, BBQ sauce and a corn on the cob (which was passed to Spectre as per family tradition). The sauce was lovely and spicy, but sweet and tangy too. It went well with the meaty flavours and I loved the cheese topping which helped mellow the sauce. Both the chicken and pork were very moist and well cooked meats, and the combination made the platter fell like a proper feast. The flavour of the breadcrumb coating on the chicken wasn’t lost, it added a nice spice. If you are a fan of barbecue sauce this really is the perfect meal.

Okay so my main course was pretty substantial, but I still had room for dessert, let's call it a skill. As you may have picked up on from reading this blog I'm a bit of a chocolate fan to say the least, so the choice here was obvious: Toffee Popcorn Brownie. After we ordered there was a bit of a delay on our desserts. We went on a Friday night, and as the evening drew on the restaurant got busier and busier. After we chased the puddings arrived shortly after.
Mine was certainly worth waiting for; the brownie was soft and rich with a good strong dark chocolate taste. The popcorn on top added a bit of texture, and there was a creamy vanilla ice cream and strawberry garnish on the site to mix up the flavours and textures further. The dessert was without question a chocolate lovers dream.
Aside from the slight delay on puddings the service was excellent and the waitress was friendly and knew the menu well. We paid about £30 for three courses, including a cocktail, we all had a fab evening with good food and it certainly got us in the Christmas spirit too. There are so many fab things on the menu, it is definitely a place will be going back to very soon. :-)
By Cinabar

25 November 2013

Cumberland Sausage & Wholegrain English Mustard Crisps #loveeverymouthful (@TescoFood Finest) [By @Cinabar]

I have spotted a lot of turkey flavour crisps out at the minute but I still have an eye out for flavours I haven't tried before and I managed to spot these in Tesco. I love crisps with a rich meaty taste, ironically turkey flavour is a firm favourite of mine, but the idea of some added meaty spice made these really appeal.
Once the bag was open the aroma was heavy with spice and herbs and it made me look forward to the crisps. They had a good crunch, and were of a medium thickness. They felt nice to bite into without being too firm and sharp. The flavour though was quite something, it was rather full on.
The initial hit on the taste buds is very much that of pepper, followed by the distinct flavour of pork. Here the complexities of the flavour kick in further, and under the heavy spice and pepper I could detect herbs; sage in particular, and somewhere in the background a hint on mustard. Given the name of these crisps and the fact that it is supposed to be English mustard I did expect that specific flavour to be stronger, but you can't for a minute accuse these of lacking in taste. They are heady with flavour and a warmth from the seasoning that leaves a tingle on the taste buds even after each crisp is finished.
In short I thoroughly enjoyed these crisps, but they came across more as spicy sausage rather than with mustard; the bag still didn't last long though!
By Cinabar

24 November 2013

Tebay Services baked goods (@TebayServices) [by @NLi10]

Cinabar has often spoke about a mythical land up North where there is a service station like no other.  Instead of identikit Costa and WH Smiths and machines to steal the pounds out of parents pockets its like one giant Farm Shop with a restaurant with food cooked on the premises made from local ingredients.

This place is known as Tebay services and as we were up that way we decided to stop and have a look.  The other, previous Tebay goodies are reviewed here.

While in the giant shop part (filled with stuff even I haven't seen before) I spotted the fresh cakes and we took a couple to eat in the car.

First up we have the Raspberry & Almond Blondie.

This was my choice and had large whole almond halves and decent sized raspberries and a divine texture that was just firm enough to keep it all together.  Ordinarily I'd offer to share this kind of thing to try all the flavours at the table, on this occasion I did not.  Though the slices were small it was filling enough.

My partner had the Ginger crunch.  It must have been nice as I didn't get offered any to try either!  She said it was very nice and I could see it also had big chunks in it and a thick layer of chocolate on top.

If you are anywhere near the Lake District in the UK then it is very much worth planning your journey around Tebay Services.  Sure, the new breed of places with Waitrose in are less unpleasant than we are used to, but this was a joy.  If it were more local you'd be tempted to go just to shop - and I think we could do a years reviews just on their products alone!

23 November 2013

Salty Dog – Flame Grilled Steak Crisps (@saltygrrr) [By @spectreuk]

A while back I tried Salty Dog Ham & Wholegrain Mustard flavour and also Ready Salted flavour crisps on a trip to the local garden centre. I recently had a drive back to the same garden centre and picked up a packet of Flame Grilled Steak Crisps to have with my lunch at work one day. I was amused that Cinabar had such troubles trying to photograph the shiny packet too. I have had quite a few different varieties of beef flavoured crisps in my time and wanted to see how Salty Dog’s Flame Grilled Steak Crisps stood up to them. On opening the packet these crisps had a light smoky beef smell to them. The crisps had a lovely smoky salted beef flavour and a decent crunch. They weren’t bursting with the beefy flavour that most beef crisps I have tried have a habit of doing, but that was strangely a welcome change. They didn’t overpower my ham and mustard sandwich, Mini Marmite Cheese and tomato; these crisps complemented their flavours, making for a pleasant lunch full of flavours rather than; “eat the beef crisps... my sandwich tastes of beef crisps, my cheese tastes of...”

Whilst I was at the garden centre I had the Strong Cheddar Cheese & Onion Salty Dog crisps, which were very nice indeed, and went very well with my usual tuna sandwich. They had a lovely strong cheddar cheese flavour with a decent bite from the onion and a lip smacking saltiness. It’s obvious from the depth of flavours of these Salty Dog crisps that the small family business in Chesham, in Buckinghamshire, really does care about the fine quality crisps that they produce. I now not only look forward to visiting the garden centre for my fat meaty tuna sandwich, but also for these crisps, as it’s the only place I know where to buy them from. Watch out, as these Salty Dog crisps definitely bit back! :-)

Information on the packet;
Suitable for vegetarians
40g packet in which there were 192 calories, with 11.3g fat and 0.9g sugar.
Ingredients: Potatoes, sunflower oil, flame grilled steak flavour (yeast extract, rice flour, onion powder, dextrose (wheat), sugar, salt, flavourings, paprika). These crisps contain wheat and gluten.
By Spectre

22 November 2013

Burt's Guinness Rich Beef Chilli Crisps (@BurtsChips) [By @cinabar]

I discovered these crisps in the independent newsagent a short walk from my work (we were on a mission to buy milk, which we did) but these caught my eye on the shelf. Although I have tried Guinness crisps before, they are amazing if you haven't already picked them up, this still sounded like an intriguing flavour combination. The addition of chilli does sound a bit curious; I could have imagined the crisps working some beefy notes, but spice too? Well I couldn't wait to try them.
I opened up the bag and the aroma of chilli became immediately apparent. It dawned on me they meant proper meat chilli as in with rice rather than chilli it its purer form. The crisps were thickly cut, and speckled with a dark brown seasoning.
I bit into one and the flavour was distinctively that of chilli con carne. The spice was nice, it had a pleasant tingle but staying at the level of warm rather than being too hot. As the meaty chilli flavour died down the after taste was very much that of dark malty Guinness. Gosh these were seriously tasty moreish crisps; I just wish I knew somewhere else that stocked them. Perhaps I need to volunteer to fetch the milk more often at work?
By Cinabar

21 November 2013

Devnaa Signature Chocolate Collection (@NotOnTheHighStreet) [by @NLi10]

A goodly while back our friends at (the now TV advertised) Not On The High Street .com sent me a goody package - and I think this is the final item.  We've been nibbling away at these for some time and decided to take the rest of the box on holiday with us.

Inside the luxurious pink & purple box is an assortment of Asian inspired chocolate treats.  Here is a list:

While the flavours are not anywhere near curry chocolate as I initially expected this is a good thing.  The flavours are on the whole very delicate and well balanced.

I think that my favourites were the Rose & Ginger cream and the Almond & Orange Praline due to the fruity contrasts, but there really were no bad chocolates in the box.  The chocolate itself was understated but of a decent quality, and the fillings (which really are the star attractions) had flavours that really linger making this closer to a Hotel Chocolate experience than just a regular selection.

If you have someone to buy for this festive season who likes chocolate and Asian dining then this may be what you are looking for.  Recommended, but more as a gift than something indulgent to buy yourself.

20 November 2013

Original Spree (Import Shop) [By @SpectreUK]

Original Spree are roughly one and a half centimetre wide discs, which are hard on the outside, very crunchy, and they shatter into a tasty powder in the mouth once bitten into. There were five colours in the cylindrical packet. Yellow had a fizzy sour lemon flavour, which gave me a real buzz and I really couldn’t get enough of this flavour. I could have happily eaten a whole packet of yellow Sprees and probably got half the way through another. Orange had a fizzy sour orange flavour. Again, I had an instant buzz from this flavour. I really liked it. I was very impressed so far by these sweets. My tasting session was going very well. Although I was wary of the red and purple colours because I was expecting the dreaded cherry and grape flavours I was so accustomed to when trying Wonka’s sweets. Red, of course, had a fizzy sour cherry flavour. There was an initial unpleasant cherry zing from these sweets that would probably appeal to some, but not to me sadly. However, I did enjoy the sweets as the sour cherry flavour progressed in my mouth. Still red colour was not my favourite flavour so far. Purple was a sour grape flavour with a chemical aftertaste. Please stop with the grape flavour. It just doesn’t work as a sweet! As I’ve said a thousand times (okay... exaggeration) that grapes are like natural sweets, there is no point in trying to copy a natural sweet, when the natural sweet always tastes better. Green was the mildest of these sour sweets, and had a good fizz followed by a slight watermelon flavour. The greens were very nice actually and were a refreshing change from the red and purple colours. I really enjoyed these Original Spree sweets, the yellow and orange flavours were fantastic, green gave a pleasant buzz, red a little uncomfortable, but not so bad, but purple was best not to mention!
By Spectre

19 November 2013

Haribo Christmas Chocolate Cupcakes and Fairy Cakes (@OfficialHARIBO Asda) [By @Cinabar]

Christmas isn't really complete without festive sweets and Haribo never disappoint with their selection. This year they have branched out into some rather smart cakes, all lovingly topped with Haribo sweets, and they do look beautiful!
There are two types available, the Cup Cakes and the Fairy Cakes:

Haribo Christmas Fairy Cakes
These come in multi packs of six and consist of a small chocolate sponges with a little chocolate icing and a single Haribo sweet on top. They are quite mini when you take them out of the packaging, but they would be perfect for a kids party, as they are small but cute. The chocolate sponge is tasty, and the chocolate icing adds a lovely touch. I couldn't decide as to whether I should pick off the Haribo sweet and eat it after, or if I should eat it with the rest of the cake? So I had two so I could test both options! ;-) Obviously it worked perfectly separately, but I rather liked all the flavours together too, it added a nice bit of texture and a fruity flavour.

Haribo Christmas Cupcakes
These fab looking cakes come topped with several Haribo sweets and are available in twin packs or a spectacular Christmas tree shaped tray of twelve. Like the fairy cakes they have a chocolate sponge base, but on top of these is a huge swirly dollop of soft chocolate icing topped with sweets. These felt a bit more substantial to eat than the fairy cakes and a better size for adults. The bonus of having the extra sweets and icing on top makes them extra special.

I think it is fab the way Haribo are diversifying with these new cakes, they are really fun looking and wonderfully seasonal. I can't imagine a nicer treat for a party or for work colleagues on the last day before the Xmas break. Or get a twin pack and treat yourselves!
By Cinabar

18 November 2013

Matcha Green Tea Hot Chocolate (@Prestat) [By @cinabar]

As unusual combinations go this one really caught my eye. Matcha, green tea, is a favourite drink of mine, I've seen it in many forms, from a regular tea through to a green looking latte drink, but this one is still a new one on me. I opened up the box and found it was full of pale green flakes!
To make the drink I followed the instructions and heated a drop off milk in a mug and mixed it with 5 teaspoons of the flakes and stirred it to make a paste. I then topped up the mug with more hot milk and mixed it all together. It actually came together quite easily and made a nice smooth drink without there being any lumps. The packaging suggested you could add cream at this time but sadly there wasn't any in the Foodstuff Finds fridge. :-(
The drink itself is pale green in colour and did remind me if those Matcha lattes I've had in Japanese restaurants. I took a little sip and picked up on a different flavour to the one I was expecting, Earl Grey tea. After that initial fragrant taste the smooth sweet tones of white chocolate and Matcha did appear, and were leafy and sweet and very soothing. I like the Earl Grey taste at the beginning, it was fresh and almost citrusy and it did break up the flavour. However I did have a look at the packaging to see if I was going mad, but it did contain Bergamot (the flavour behind Earl Grey tea) so at least it made sense as to why I could taste it. This is a bit different to any hot chocolate I've had before, but it was certainly easy to drink. I loved the flavour combination, its cleverly executed and one I'll be wanting to have again and again.
I’ll will have to get some more though, it is the only hot chocolate I’ve ever seen Spectre drink, and now he is using up the box!
By Cinabar

17 November 2013

Marybake - Belgian White Chocolate Butter Flapjack [by @Nli10]

At work, by the tills in the canteen there are a variety of fattening and unappealing snacks at slightly inflated prices.  Being a hospital canteen this is advisable - we all gravitate towards the actual meals and the fruit (and the free water instead of the £1.40 fizzy drinks).  On one occasion I spotted a slightly different range.  Appealing packaging and large lumps of recognisable ingredients in a 95p bar that looked just perfect to pull me through the late shift.

There were a range of flavours but I felt that white choc was the one for me.  When the allotted time of about 6pm came I opened it up and sampled away.  The texture was a lot more rough than I'd expected, almost close to biscuity and the visible chocolate bits were in abundance in the actual bar too.  Unlike most flapjack snacks this wasn't stodgy and tasted like it advertised.  This was a winner! I'm not sure whether these will be in stock all the time at work, but for the odd occasion I will be happy to pop one of these on the tray next to my wrap and tap water as a little treat.

16 November 2013

Honey Chrysanthemum Tea Drink (Vanguard Market) [By @SpectreUK]

Honey Chrysanthemum Tea Drink sounded to me like something someone would drink when they are ill, struck down by some sort of strange pretentious bug that only people who drink obscure pretentious drinks may catch. It sounded soothing yet weird enough for a cure for any ailment that you may pick up whilst holidaying in the Far East. I did like the translation on the side of the 250ml cardboard carton which stated; “Please consume immediately after opening”, as if it would go off immediately afterwards if not drunk there and then! I decided to be slightly rebellious when I opened this carton; I had a decent swig and then popped into the kitchen to wash the dishes, leaving the carton on the side table where I usually sit to watch the TV. I could feel the carton glaring at me from the living room as I washed the dishes. It was nagging at my senses as I could just make out its irritancy from the corner of my eye as I pulled the plug from the sink, leaving the dishes to drain for Cinabar to put them away later that evening. I must admit that first sip had played on my mind during the few moments away from the carton. The dark yellowish clear liquid had tasted like I’d had a tea drink prepared by a swarm of bees that had just happened to have visited a flowerbed full of Chrysanthemums that very day. There was a floral sweet honey taste embellishing the light tea flavour. I’d expect if I was to eat a Chrysanthemum that had been wiped over by the juice from a thousand bees and dunked to steep in a vat full of tea; this would be what it would taste like. If I’d have had any ailments at the time of drinking I’m sure that these would have been liberally washed away. The honeyed sweetness and floral healthy goodness mixed in with the light tea flavour is still begging me to buy another carton. And I’m sure I would down it in one full gulp immediately after opening!

Information on the label;
Manufactured by Vitasoy, in Hong Kong.
98 calories. Ultra high temperature technology - no preservatives.
Ingredients: Chrysanthemum Extract, water, sugar, honey, acidity regulator, stabiliser.
By Spectre

15 November 2013

Baked British Gammon With Winter Berries Crisps #loveeverymouthful @Tesco Finest [By @Cinabar]

It's the time of year when all the Christmas goodies are appearing in the shops, and this means that the seasonal edition crisps are in stock! Okay there are a fair few brands that have the obligatory turkey flavour, but this new variety from Tesco Finest sounded even better. Baked British Gammon With Winter Berries Crisps!
We eagerly opened up the pack to share and could immediately smell some rich meaty aromas. The crisps were fairly thickly cut, they had a nice crunch without being too hard. The flavour was really good, interesting and complex. The ham taste was the first part to appear, it was distinctively that of gammon, with a nice salty meaty flavour, that almost seemed to have a hint of smokiness.
What followed was the fruity aftertaste, I swear I could pick up on a hint of orange, but it wasn't mentioned on the ingredients list. What was clearly there was the Christmas classic cranberry sauce, which worked rather nicely with the meat flavour. The mellow meat taste was enhanced by the zingy acidic fruit that followed, and it gave these crisps the complexity of the flavour. There was also a subtle herby background which gave even more depth.
These crisps turned out to be rather moreish, and the packet didn't last long at all. They were a lovely way of representing a different sort of Christmas crisps. You could just imagine the gammon joint coming out of the oven, covered in orange slices and dripping in a fruity glaze - yum!
By cinabar

14 November 2013

Aussiemite - Yeast Extract [by @NLi10]

Mite.  I'm not sure exactly what it means in a food context but it appears in a few significant places.  MarMite is the main one in the UK, VeggieMite in the AUS.  Here we have a new yeast extract spread (new to me anyway) called AussieMite.  This sounds like something that you have to watch out for on holiday (poor guys got an infestation of aussiemites) but does seem to match the naming convention that exists for these foods. Except for Bovril, which may have meat in it or something.

Fairly unassuming and normal so far.  The ingredients suggest that corn is used to feed some yeast and then someone decided to eat the black stuff that comes out.  I'm pretty glad they did though as this is an interesting one.

Seen here on the Co-op's finest 4-for-a-pound bread rolls we have some AussieMite.  I forgot to take the picture before having a bite, but you get the idea.

Essentially this tastes like a less sharp Marmite.  I think that it's more universally loveable as that edge that makes people screw their faces up isn't apparent.  It also somehow has a fruitiness to it that I hadn't expected.  I had two cobs of this and was generally satisfied with the amount I'd put on - I maybe could have gone for more.

While it's no Nuttella (I can't picture many people eating this out of the jar with a spoon) I do think that this is one I won't have trouble finishing the jar of.  I almost want to spring the other jar on relatives so that they can see how it compares to their usual black, suspicious goo but I think i'll have a few more lunches with it first and see how fast my supply depletes.

13 November 2013

Koka Noodles – Curry Flavour (Chinese Market – Birmingham Indoor Market) [By @SpectreUK]

The six chillis on the front of this polystyrene cup of noodles were the first thing to catch my eye in the Chinese Market I frequent in search of imported goodies from far off places. Okay, I know that sounded a bit dodgy, but I assure you that I’m there just for food! These Koka Noodles were manufactured in Singapore, which is certainly far away enough from Birmingham, England. The only thing I know about Singapore is that it has an amazing zoo. Oh, and a large amount of British troops surrendered there to the massed ranks of the Japanese army in the Second World War. So that’s two things I know about Singapore, I guess. I’ve always wanted to go to the zoo there and I’m sure I’ll make it someday, with Cinabar in tow both gazing in awe at the wonderful and exotic animals there. The second piece of knowledge made these noodles particularly fitting to munch on during lunch on the 10th November. I know we’ve fought in just about every country in the world and lost brave soldiers and also many people at home during the Second World War through bombing raids that were also fighting to keep this country standing. Yet when after the few moments silence we traditionally have on the Sunday before the 11th November, the origin of these noodles struck a chord in me for the brave men who suffered such hardship in the Far East after their surrender. It may have had something to do with the Commando comic I had been reading that day too, which had British prisoners of war building a road under their Japanese guard’s watchful gaze.

Anyway, I digress, back to the noodles... On peeling back the lid I noticed two sachets set on top of the hard clump of stringy noodles, and the obligatory plastic fork, which I dumped in the cutlery draw in favour of a metal one. One sachet had lots of bits of food in it. I popped it open to find lots of shredded pieces of carrots, some peas, and sweet corn. The other sachet was labelled “curry”, which had brownish powder inside it. There was the usual type of cooking instructions on the top of the pot; add freshly boiled water, stir, blah, blah... So I ignored them, dumped in all the satchets, boiled the kettle and readied my metal fork for stirring. I filled the plastic pot up to the mark and stirred well, but the sauce was still very watery for a good while. The noodles started to soak up some of the liquid and I used a piece of bread to soak up some more. The concoction certainly smelt very nice, I noted the pieces of chives mixed in with the stringy noodles, sweet corn, shredded carrot and few peas. The brown curry powder stirred in well, but was bubbly to start with, which I’ve not seen in a pot noodle before. Tasting the soaked bread there was a decent chilli spice to the curry sauce. Not the hottest pot noodle I’ve tasted though, as that honour still goes to Nong Shim Hot and Spicy. Yet this curry noodle pot was definitely the best “curry” flavoured pot noodle I’ve ever tasted. It was very tasty, and not at all sweet or slightly synthetic as regular pot noodle curry flavours can be. This curry sauce had a decent spice that made my nose sweat a little and it actually tasted like curry. It certainly felt healthy with all the bits of vegetables bobbing around amongst the stringy noodles. I would have this Koka Noodles Curry Flavour again, particularly over any of the British curry pot noodles.

Information on the label;
70g pot of noodles
Ingredients: Noodles: wheat flour, edible palm oil, salt. Flavour: salt, curry powder, flavour enhancers (e numbers), sugar, spices, tapioca starch, flavourings, chives, hydrolysed vegetable protein, and caramel.
By Spectre

12 November 2013

Mr Kipling Exceedingly Merry Black Forest Whirls (Tesco) [By @cinabar]

For reasons I don't completely understand the flavour of Black Forest Gateaux seems to have become seasonal, and is getting an association of being Christmassy. At this time of year I don't see that as a bad thing, in fact it means there are loads of goodies for me to lap up, but come next spring I'll be mourning the missing flavour.
As a fan of all things chocolate and cherry when I saw these whirls in Tesco the box went straight into the trolley. There are six in the box, all dusted with a sprinkling of icing sugar.
The biscuits themselves are very crumbly and almost cake like in texture, it was nice a texture though, almost melt in the mouth. They are a bit messy to eat mind, as the crumbs and icing sugar get everywhere!
The cocoa flavour was good, not to overpowering to cover the biscuit taste but certainly enough to add some serious chocolaty goodness. The cherry added a pleasant zingy fruit flavour that I really liked, but Spectre too enjoyed it, as he isn't a great fab of cherries I figured there must be an element of generic fruitiness rather than pure cherry. There was a creamy flavour intermingled with the chocolate and cherry that really gave these the full black forest gateaux experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed one of these with a freshly brewed coffee. In fact everyone who tried them was commenting on how nice they were, so I must pick up another box or two before Christmas and stock up.
In other exciting related news Black Forest Hot Chocolate is back at Costa, get it while you can!
By Cinabar

11 November 2013

Bottle Green Blackcurrant & Coffee Cordial (Waitrose @bottlegreen) [By @cinabar]

When Bottle Green got in touch and asked if I wanted to try their new autumn cordial, I have to admit to expecting a fruity affair, so I found this just a little bit different. Yes it contains blackcurrants but paired with coffee? I’ve never seen anything like that before and I just couldn't wait to try it.
As the nights are drawing in and there is a distinct chill in the air I thought I’d try making it with hot water to warm us up after a long Monday at work. When the water hit the cordial the aroma was distinctively that of blackcurrants, and it did smell fruity and pleasant. The drink looked quite dark, even with a healthy amount of water added, I guess its coloured with dark fruit and dark coffee, but it made it difficult to approximate how much liquid to add, so I just filled the mug.
I took my first sip and let the flavours develop. Initially there is a strong sweet but sharp blackcurrant flavour which flowed onto the taste of bitter coffee. The very first so tasted like blackcurrant cordial, but afterwards I was left with the flavour in my mouth like I'd just had an espresso. It's a strange combination, but the flavours complement each other rather well. I admit the first couple of sips took a bit of adjusting to, but after that I was totally convinced. I loved the complex fruity taste and how the coffee flavour, which was dark and strong like an Americano filled the senses. The drink feels perfect for the colder evenings, a proper winter warmer.
It’s lovely to try a new flavour combination that works so well. I certainly recommend it if you are after something a bit different to an afternoon tea or coffee, and it is one I'll be stocking up on as the autumnal weather kicks in.
By cinabar

10 November 2013

Coco Cafe Latte & Mocha [By @NLi10]

Some things are nice. When you combine two nice things sometimes you get amazing! Chocolate and peanuts are a good example - you wouldn't think these go together (unless you are American and used to this) but the Snickers is a really nice snack.

Here we have the combo of coffee and coconut milk (and chocolate).  I like all of these things individually, but how does this mix fare.

These arrived packaged up nicely with coffee beans and shredded paper so that the smell wafted out when you opened it.  This was a pleasurable experience.  As we have documented my fun with caffeinated products a few times I decided to save these for a Friday where sleep wasn't necessary and took them to the local games shop.

Unfortunately these are drinks in little boxes - there is no way to photograph the content while you are out so here is a close up of the packaging.

My favourite coffee is probably the latte (usually a decaf, but I can cope with one regular no problems) so I started with that.

First you get a coffee hit, then you taste the coconut behind it. This is a confusing sensation and while it isn't unpleasant it wasn't something that I loved.  I wanted the milkiness, I wanted more sweetness and I wanted a rounder flavour.  I did keep drinking it though, and the lady who runs the game shop became interested enough to have a sample  - and absolutely loved it.  When foisting review stock on unsuspecting people the ultimate complement is that they not only want more but they then want to buy some for themselves.  I promised to bring in the Mocha flavour on my next visit.

I gifted her the Mocha as this combo wasn't really to my liking, but I did have a sip just to confirm.  This added the sweetness the other was lacking, but I still couldn't quite get past the odd combo.  She however loved this too and was most grateful for the gift,

I think that if you are looking for a coffee-like drink with high caffeine levels that is a bit more summery, or a touch unusual then you'll probably love this.  If you are the person who love the fact that no-one else likes the coffee chocolates in the box and gets to eat them all this could be your new favourite thing.  I think i'll stick to my green smoothies!

9 November 2013

Mini Babybel Gouda flavour (Tesco) [By @SpectreUK]

I’ve never been too fond of the red covered Babybel, as it has always tasted quite plain to me and not very interesting. Strangely I like different items of food to taste plain and some foods I prefer bursting with flavour. I suppose it also depends on mood. Sometimes I feel like a flavoursome bag of crisps to go with my lunch and other times I want a plain bag of Ready Salted or No Salt crisps with a good flavoursome pint of pale ale whilst enjoying an action packed movie on the box. As I’ve discussed before; the lightly salted or No Salt crisps can bring out the flavour of beer rather than block it out like more flavoursome crisps can do. However, I digress... I do like cheese to be flavoursome. Give me something fairly stinky or blotched with bits of blue any day over something dull, yellow and bland. I tasted the Goat’s Cheese Mini Babybel a while ago and loved it. I have the Goat’s Cheese Mini Babybel in now as a regular fridge friend next to my Barry Norman’s Hot and Spicy Pickled Onions and Mini Marmite Cheese.

This Gouda flavour Mini Babybel had an orange packet and yellow outer shell. Like the regular plain Bablybel and Goat’s Cheese variety there were six Babybels in a net bag. On unwrapping this cheese smelt a little Swiss Cheesy, which was promising... It tasted creamy and a little plain to start with but the main Gouda flavour came at the end of chewing and travelled into the aftertaste, which was lovely. This Babybel definitely didn’t taste bland; it tasted “Gouda” rather than “bada” (sorry!), and I would definitely have it again. Welcome, dear friend, to the Barry Norman Hot and Spicy Pickled Onion shelf!

Information on the label;
Cheese specially made with Gouda, which is a naturally high source of calcium. Made in France with natural cheese and free from artificial colours. Each Babybel is 20g. Per Mini Babybel there was 68 calories, with 5.6g fat, and traces of sugar.
By Spectre

8 November 2013

Fudge Kitchen - Chocolate Gourmet Miniatures (@fudgekitchen) [By @cinabar]

Fudge Kitchen have come up with a very different looking chocolate selection box consisting of nine chunks of chocolaty sounding fudge. None of the pieces are what you'd expect from a traditional selection box in that none of them are dipped in chocolate, but they do have a chocolaty theme and look no less impressive. I've never seen fudge presented in this way before, and I couldn't wait to tuck in.
Firstly I was pleased to see that the pieces of fudge were decently sized, taking at least two bites rather than a quick whole bite. I also felt that the selection of flavours was really interesting and varied, with the presentation being top notch. All of the fudge pieces were different and each one looked nearly decorated. Some has lines of chocolate, some fruit or nuts and one had edible gold lustre, fab!
There were a few traditional sounding flavours like the Belgian Chocolate Swirl and the Rich Chocolate Classic, but these were still perfectly executed with rich enjoyable flavours. I liked the White Chocolate and Raspberry fudge, it was very buttery and the smooth flavour of the white chocolate worked perfectly with the tang of raspberry that ran throughout.
It goes without saying that the Hazelnut Heaven was high on my list too, as regular readers will know I love chocolate and nuts. This was a smooth fudge that had both hazelnut and cocoa entwined. It reminded me of a buttery soft praline and oozed luxury, a proper treat.
On the more daring side sat the Chilli Chocolate, which I approached with caution. The sweet flavours of chocolate fudge filled my taste buds but what followed was a distinctive chilli tingle, which turned into a mild burn that lingered for a minute even after three sweet had gone! It certainly showed the exotic side to this selection box.
I loved trying all the different fudges and thought that this box would make an excellent gift. It's really nice to see fudge presented in this way, allowing you to really appreciate all the different flavours. If you are looking for a gift for a chocolate lover but want to get something a bit different, I don't think you could go wrong with these Chocolate Gourmet Miniatures.
By Cinabar

7 November 2013

Marks & Spencer ESPANA Marinated Chicken with Patatas Bravas and Garlic Alioli [by @ NLi10]

Recently I got bought a Marks and Spemcer ready meal from their recently launched ESPANA range, and quite enjoyed it!  This has resulted in another trip to the similar Spanish packet meal section with very similar results.

This time we have a few strips of marinated chicken, a lot of patatas bravas and a sachet of what I believe is garlic mayo.  When heated for the required time and plated out it looks like this.

As you can see - I need to practice my drizzle effect.  The food itself was actually again rather nice, but more muted in flavour.  The small amount of strong flavoured sausage suited the other dish well, but the chicken strips get a little lost here.  The potato is more than good enough to compensate though and the balance is still one that is both pleasing  and filling.  I did feel it lacked in the vegetable area, but this wasn't a deal breaker.

I'm sure that we will continue to try this range and discover its full repertoire - at least until they move onto another nationality's cuisine!

6 November 2013

Alcoholic Ginger Beer - Ginger Grouse (Sainsburys) [By @SpectreUK]

When I first saw this bottle in the supermarket I couldn't work out why they had called it Ginger Grouse. I did go out with a ginger “bird” when I was about sixteen years old, and she was a pretty fiery character, but I still can't see what that would have to do with it. I then read the label on the bottle and found that this ginger beer was brewed in Scotland and contained the Famous Grouse Whisky. The label recommended pouring this ginger beer over ice and adding a wedge of fresh lime and “good company”, but I couldn't be bothered with the first two and so I decided to drink it straight. There was a strong smell of ginger on pouring the beer into my beer mug. There was also a hint of whiskey lurking behind the ginger, like a spirited after-smell. The ginger beer had a kind of ginger colour, not as dark as beer, and not cloudy like some ginger beers can be. On tasting there was a big bite of ginger as an initial taste which also followed into the aftertaste, merging with an extra alcoholic hit from the Famous Grouse Whisky. I thought this was a lovely innovative drink as I haven't seen whisky mixed with ginger beer before. I certainly didn't feel that it needed an additional wedge of lime as there was already enough citrus in the overall flavour. I was also glad not to have added any ice as when I was drinking this ginger beer it was a dark cold night outside and pouring with rain. The warming effects from the whisky and spice from the ginger tickled my throat and warmed my cockles. I do hope I can find more of this Ginger Grouse to enjoy over the cold winter nights that are slowly closing in on us. Brrr... Cheers to Ginger Grouse!

Information on the label;
Served in a 500ml bottle, at 4% Volume, and brewed by Matthew Gloag And Son Ltd., in Perth, Scotland. Ingredients Included; carbonated water, sugar, spirit based alcohol (70%), blended Scotch Whisky (30%), natural flavourings, citric acid, caramel, and preservatives sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate.
By Spectre