31 December 2013

McDonalds – Festive Deluxe and Matchmakers Cool Mint McFlurry [By @Cinabar]

As we count down towards New Years Day, we thought we'd take a trip to McDonalds. For all the snacking we get through we don't eat at fast food restaurants nearly as often as we should. We decided to have a trip to see The Hobbit Part 2 and had some pre film burgers.
There was no doubt in my mind what I was going to try, the festive menu of course.

Festive Burger
To be totally honest I'm not sure how this is festive, in that there isn't a hint of cranberry sauce, or any other traditional Christmas ingredient. There is however a very special burger, and it is fully loaded with goodies. On top of my burger there is bacon, cheese, black pepper mayonnaise, tangy barbeque sauce, red onions and the bun was even cheese topped. Wow, it was quite a taste sensation. I loved the spicy hint to the mayonnaise from the pepper, and the meat feast nature of the burger with its extra bacon. I'm not usually a fan of onions, but liked the sharpness they brought. It was a satisfying meal and was thoroughly enjoyable. It made me wonder why we do go to McDonalds so rarely, as it does make a great pre cinema treat.

McFlurry Matchmaker
There is a tenuous link between the festive nature of Matchmakers and Christmas in that we do always seem to have them at this time of year, but they aren't obviously seasonal. Oh well, who doesn't like chocolate mints!
The first thing I noticed with my ice cream was it's appearance. As I looked on the menu board at the neat fluffy white ice cream topped with chocolate pieces and sauce and then I looked down at what I was actually given which was much more of a mess.
This aside though, it did taste really good. The vanilla ice cream has tons of chocolate sauce, and there were loads of tiny matchmaker pieces too, which added a lovely fresh mint flavour and good crunch. The cold nature of the ice cream ensured the chocolate bits stayed extra crisp.
I actually loved the McFlurry and would have it again, despite its appearance! Just goes to show you shouldn't judge a book by its cover!
By Cinabar

30 December 2013

Taste the Difference Orange & Cranberry Ice Cream (Sainsburys) [By @Cinabar]

This seasonal ice cream sounded like just the thing for a post Christmas pre New year dessert. Having ice cream for pudding one night seemed like a much lighter idea than all the other goodies that have been eaten over the season; i.e. mince pies, Christmas pudding, Stollen etc. Yet this new flavour of ice cream still seemed Christmassy as it at least contained cranberries.
When the tub was opened I realised it was a rippled ice cream, with a creamy colour for the base flavour and a dark red sauce. I scooped some out, and though it looked rather pretty in the bowls.

Once I gave the ice cream a try, I really couldn’t make my mind up about it. It was a strange flavour combination, and the more I ate the more I seemed to confuse myself, I definitely didn't hate it, but it puzzled my taste buds somewhat.
The base flavour was that of a caramelised orange. It was a strong taste, rich but with a hint of burnt sugar about it. It was like the sugar had caught in the pan, rather than just darkened. Think really dark black treacle, with just a gentle orange taste. It was citrusy, but it had the strangest hint of liquorice in their too. There was ginger mixed in somewhere as well and slightly bizarrely soft biscuit pieces (as they weren’t mentioned in the title or on the front of the tub).
In contrast to this the cranberry ripple sauce was very sharp, and tart. If the main part of the ice cream had been soothing and sweet it would have worked a dream, but in contrast with the caramelised orange taste it was all just a bit full on.
I was left thinking all the ingredients were good, they just didn’t go together - I imagine it is a bit like eating fish fingers and custard, if you see what I mean.
By Cinabar

29 December 2013

Leftovers (home made preserves) [Review by @NLi10]

It's the 29th of December - one of those limbo days where as it's fallen on a weekend nobody is quite sure what they should be doing. We popped to Asda, and then caught up on the Christmas telly that is clogging up the digi box.  I sense a board game this evening may be in order.

For Christmas I was given two coincidental presents of home-made origin in matching jars - chutney from Kailash on the left and Blackcurrant Jam from Stacey on the right.  They are balanced on the promo card from a future review so that I don't get jam everywhere...

As it is clearly left-overs season and home-made preserves are great as a side for this kind of thing I decided that I would use them for this.  To make it a fair evaluation of the products (and because I don't really have many leftovers as I tend to eat at other people's houses over Christmas) I bought some nice fresh ciabatta to heap them onto.

Rocket and pesto humus was added to the chutney one, where as the jam was expertly spread onto some butter thing we had in the fridge.

I ate the jam first as I suspected it's flavour may be the more delicate of the two.  I was right and this was a lovely sweet blackcurrant flavour.  It was more of a jelly than a sticky jam and still had decent berries inside to give it a great texture.  I may have to make some scones to go with this, as it felt too good to just use up on toast or sandwiches. I like the idea of using sweet fruits as a side topping to cold meats (cranberry jelly for example) so may be decadent and have a few lunches with this.

The chutney, which I believe was apple and cranberry, was potent as expected.  I'd presumed that it would be spicy, but was much more tangy and no less nice for it.  I'm glad I added a few other things to it, the chutney easily overpowered the rocket and the pesto flavour was almost invisible.  This I think would also go well with the cold meat plates and half pork pies that I have pictured.

Most of the leftovers and things I've acquired over Christmas have been sweet, and mostly chocolate based.  This is all good - I love all these things - but a little home made touch that enables the 26th to 30th turkeyfest that usually occurs to be more varied and exciting is a fab idea for gifts.  As I know we are having a similar event for New Years (with the family traditional huge ham) these will be put to very good use indeed.

28 December 2013

Nik Naks Snackers - Spicy Mix (Sainsburys) [By @SpectreUK]

These Nik Naks Snackers (try repeating that when you've had a few) sport themselves on the front of the plastic tub as "A delicious snack mix of Nice 'n' Spicy flavoured Nik Naks, chilli flavour corn chips, multigrain crispy bites and rice crackers." I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were no flavoured nuts in this plastic tub, as so often fellow Snackers out there may be allergic to nuts. The Nice 'n' Spicy flavoured Nik Naks are my favourite flavour of Nik Naks, so I knew I couldn't go far wrong with these amongst the rest of the variety of snacks in the tub. The chilli flavour corn chips had a muted flavour, especially compared to the Nik Naks. I expected something called "chilli" to have a spicy chilli burn, but they were quite mild with a nice crunch though. The multigrain crispy bites had a decent spice and a strange square corrugated appearance that reminded me of bacon bites. I liked them very much, they had a bit of a barley and tomato taste to them mixed with their spiciness. Their spicy aftertaste was quite hot afterwards. The rice crackers had lovely chilli heat and spicy shellfish flavour. These coupled with the crispy bites made my nose run a little after eating a decent handful. There was enough Snackers in the tub to share with Cinabar on a couple of occasions whilst watching films during the Christmas period. We really enjoyed these Nik Naks Snackers and just couldn't put the resealable tub down once we'd popped it open. Also available in this range are Hula Hoops Salted Mix, Wheat Crunchies Cheese Mix (although this should be either Bacon or Worcestershire Sauce Mix, as they are the best Wheat Crunchies flavours), and Disco Salt and Vinegar Mix.

Information on the tub;
Made by KP snacks limited in Ashby-de-la-Zouch. 190g tub. Each 30g serving has 155 calories, with 1.9g sugar and 8.6g fat. See photograph of rather extensive ingredients!
By Spectre

27 December 2013

Lir – Delicious Chocolate Cupcake Selection [By @Cinabar]

These fab chocolates are from Irish company Lir, and have won a Great Taste Award. This particular selection box are their cupcake selection and each one looks like it is in a mini cupcake case, but none of them contain sponge or wrappers. This didn't stop Spectre trying to take one out of its chocolate case and it crumbling as he realised his mistake!
Anyway there were six varieties in the box:

Triple Chocolate Heaven
I decide to start with the chocolate that sounded the simplest, essentially a chocolate truffle. The chocolate has a milk chocolate case, a milk chocolate ganache and a dark layer of chocolate on top (with a stripe of milk chocolate). The first thing I noticed was just how thick the chocolate was on the outside and on top, the dark chocolate lid overpowered everything, it had such a rich strong flavour. The truffle inside was silky smooth and gave the chocolate an edge of sweetness for balance. The chocolate had a heavy cocoa aftertaste. Pure chocolaty goodness.

Praline Perfection
Well when a chocolate describes itself as perfection, it does get your hopes up, particularly as a chocolate and nut lover! This is the chocolate pictured with a sprinkling of nuts on top. It has a milk chocolate case and is filled with a silky praline. The flavour is very nutty and sweet and there is a wonderful crunch in the texture to. It has a full on nut flavour, as well as plenty of cocoa and as such pretty much lived up to its name, yum!

Lemon Dazzle Cake
More than anything else this chocolate just didn't look as expected. Lemon creams are usually in white chocolate, or have some sort of visual clue to their fruity filling. This chocolate is all dark, with a dark chocolate cup and lid. The filling consists of lemon mousse which is fresh and zingy, its sharp sweet taste working rather well with the all dark chocolate casing. The flavours are strong but work well together; it's the kind of chocolate that makes you go mmmm.

Blueberry Thrill
If you'd have asked me to guess the flavour of this chocolate I'd have said cappuccino if it was based on looks alone. The minute you smell the chocolate it becomes clear there is some berry goodness inside. It has a milk chocolate case, with a white chocolate lid and a lovely strong blueberry mousse inside. The flavour is strong, but distinctively that of blueberries with a hit of distinctive berry flavour but with its delicate floral aftertaste. The white chocolate adds a creamy tone to the blueberry but the milk chocolate taste lingers on the palate. A really good blueberry cream, and it's nice to see it included in a selection box like this.

Raspberry Blush
This chocolate was a bit easier to guess the flavour from the appearance, with its tell tale pink lid, it was easy to assumes it contained some sort of summer berry flavour. The case on this one was white chocolate which was creamy and the raspberry flavour was present in a mousse but rather more delicate than the other chocolates I'd tried from the box. It was pleasant and sweet and natural, by all means a nice raspberry taste, but it was lacking the zing that the other chocolates had.

Caramel Carousel
Last up was the caramel, which was encased in a dark chocolate, and dusted with white chocolate. As I bit in to this I expected it to leaky runny caramel everywhere, but it wasn't that kind of filling. The caramel was soft but more solid and not gooey at all. The flavour was gently sweet like brown sugar, but with the soothing edge of vanilla mixed in. It had almost a warm taste, and not sharp like some of the salted caramels on the market. This could add easily have been called a vanilla truffle and nobody would have questioned it. Seriously tasty, but not a classic caramel at all.

We really enjoyed eating our way through this box of chocolates, and can’t wait to see what other goodies Lir make. I received this box as a gift, but have spotted them for sale on Amazon if you fancy giving them a try yourself.
By Cinabar

26 December 2013

Quorn BBQ Chicken Style Pizza Bread [review by @NLi10]

A good while ago I spotted this Quorn pizza bread and popped it in the trolley. It's a frozen lunch size snack and perfect for a weekend.  Only it's not. You see you need to oven cook this from frozen, wrapped in kitchen foil. That in itself isn't entirely unexpected, but it requires 40 mins at gas mark 6.

This is odd, because a regular pizza takes less than half of that time and is larger, and possibly thicker if you chose a deep pan. Then, you could cook a whole garlic bread afterwards and still have some time spare. This makes this small quick snack a lot more hassle than the full meal version of the dish - which is a bit crazy!

It cooks well enough and the topping is lovely and deep, but as a meal it wasn't that filling.  I did think that if you had a party and put say 4 of these in the oven to share then it may work, but pizzas are just easier to slice and share AND cook. I'd love a Quorn topped pizza with a similar rich and deep topping.  The texture of the bread was interesting, but not worth the extra problems.

25 December 2013

Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale (@TebayServices) [By @SpectreUK]


This dark brown ale was brewed with hard well water from eighty-five feet underground at the Samuel Smith Old Brewery in Tadcaster, which is the oldest brewery in Yorkshire and was established in 1758. To make it sound even tougher, this ale was fermented in stone squares to create its rich dark colour and nutty flavour. There was definitely a roasted barley and nutty odour on cracking the metallic seal and popping open the bottle. It was howling with wind and pouring with rain outside when I started pouring this Nut Brown Ale on the Monday night before Christmas Eve. If we hadn't had central heating and a gas heater, I could easily imagine settling down late at night to enjoy this sumptuous brown ale in front of an open fire with some chestnuts roasting on metal prods. Taking the serving suggestions almost to heart, after all I have to rebel a little bit now and then, I decided to enjoy this ale with a spicy Spanish Paella. There was a strong roasted barley flavour throughout the taste of this ale, leading on a steely bitterness from the hops and leaving a lip smacking roasted nutty aftertaste. The Nut Brown Ale extenuated the chilli, peppery and paprika spices in the Paella, whilst complementing the chicken and spicy chorizo amongst the diced red peppers, peas and thick juicy rice.

I happened to know that I had a three bird; roast turkey, chicken, and goose with pork stuffing on Christmas Day, with purple sprouts, roast potatoes, and plenty of my favourite pigs in blankets. So if I had been lucky enough to have had another of these Nut Brown Ales I'd certainly have enjoyed it with that meal. With its strong roasted barley and nutty palate, I reckon it would also have washed the Christmas pudding down a treat. With this weather outside it seems unlikely it will be a white Christmas this year in the Midlands, but at least I could enjoy it with a hearty brown ale in a warm house and with good company. Cheers! Merry Christmas!

Information on the label;
550ml bottle. 5% volume. Ingredients included; water, malted barley, yeast, cane sugar, hops, roasted barley, seaweed findings, and carbon dioxide. Best served at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or 13 degrees centigrade. Vegan friendly. Serving suggestions with stilton cheese, game such as; roast grouse, pheasant, partridge (so if you fancy eating a partridge from a pear tree!), roast and barbecued duck, guinea fowl; peppered steak; spicy foods; teriyaki, Thai food, Malaysian and Chinese Food, and biryani.

24 December 2013

Morello Cherry Bottle Green With a Hint of Grapefruit (Waitrose) [By @cinabar]

This fab new drink from Bottle Green is a limited edition. It is a sparkling drink flavoured with morello cherry and a hint of grapefruit. I love Bottle Green products, they have had some fabulous innovative varieties in the past, and this one seems like a rather refreshing combination. Previous favourites include a rather cleverly out together blackcurrant and coffee drink.
Back to this one though. When you open the bottle you get a little fizz and hiss when the cap comes off, and once poured out it has an appealing pink tinge to the drink, rather like a rosé. Although this is a soft drink it is clearly aimed at the adult market so don't go expecting a super sweet cherryade. This has a grown up flavour, it's delicate, neatly combined and is just sweet enough. The cherry taste is lovely and natural, and in no way way overpowering. There is a slighter sharper aftertaste from the grapefruit that really gives this drink a nice edge. It adds a citrus taste, that just makes it so refreshing. The sparkling nature of the drink is spot on. Some pops can be ridiculously fizzy, but this just has a nice hint of bubbles, making it fell special rather than being over carbonated
This new drink is perfect for the grown up market, it tastes fruity and its delicate flavour just makes it thoroughly enjoyable. Perfect for those who fancy an alcohol-free fizz for a special occasion or just as a bit of post Christmas indulgence.

By Cinabar

23 December 2013

Heston From Waitrose Earl Grey Tea Stollen (@Waitrose) [By @Cinabar]

As someone with German heritage, Stollen is a staple cake for my family at this time of year. One of the lovely ladies at work brought in some Stollen in for everyone to try, as her husband had been working in Germany. I was quite surprised by how many people there hadn't tried it before. She converted a few people there though, with several of them saying they'd like to pick one up from the Christmas German market. It is actually far easier to find than that though, with many of the supermarkets stocking it. Some with many varieties.
Waitrose has gone one step further and unleashed Heston on this traditional Christmas treat. Well I couldn't wait to see what he'd done with one of my favourite cakes, he does like to add the odd unusual ingredient to get the taste buds working.
This very special Stollen has a layer of rich mincemeat and the dough is flavoured with a favourite ingredient of Heston, Earl Grey tea. I should have seen that coming. Once the box was open I took the Stollen out of the box and spotted that it was dusted with a heavy sprinkle of what looked like icing sugar, but this being a Heston cake, it was tangerine flavoured sugar, and it smelt amazing.
The cake cut easily, it still had the trade mark heaviness of Stollen, but it still felt quite light when eaten, which is impressive when you think about all the goodies packed into it. There were loads of fruity currants, raisins and sultanas giving it a very seasonal flavour. The extra taste from the tea was pleasant and floral, I do like the flavour of bergamot and felt it went really well with the fruit and citrus edge that this cake had. The marzipan in the centre was just a small amount, not too strong, but just to enough to ensure the original recipe was upheld in some respects at least.
It is a clever set of tastes as it still manages to be distinctly Stollen, but it does have its own twist. I absolutely loved it and it the perfect alternative dessert for this time of year, or for visitors with coffee – if you are willing to share. ;-)
By Cinabar

22 December 2013

Cauldron Italian Herb Tofu (@Waitrose) [Review by @NLi10]

Here we have a tofu-recipe review.  It's not quite exciting enough for Veggie Christmas dinners in this format but it's a start.

In Waitrose recently I found some pre-flavoured Cauldron tofu.  Usually this comes in the dried form, but here it's all soggy and malleable.  I decided to get one for review as it had 'new' on it.

First up you compress the Tofu to get it to your desired consistency and remove some of the excess water.  I left it plied up like this while watching Ross Noble do his going around the country via Tweets show.  We had a few to catch up on so we got to watch them while we ate too.

As an accompaniment I went for couscous - which while it has the texture and properties of cat-litter is actually quite nice.  I carefully tipped an approximate amount into a bowl and stuck the kettle on.

I chopped up the tofu (which here looks like smelly cheese) and lightly flash fried the outsides to make it crispy.

I threw some Schwartz at the couscous along with some scissor cut sun dried tomatoes from my ingredient shelf.

I served both with some of that fab Little Doone balsamic dressing I reviewed a while back, and had a lovely meal while Ross chased Leslie Joseph around outside a cafe.  A quick and simple meal that was pretty filling and decently healthy (you may want to add veg of some sort too - I'd run out of leafy greens...)

The tofu benefited from the extra flavours that it had been infused with - the normal version can be a bit plain unless you spend time soaking or dressing it.  This was very quick and easy to put together, and you could have just fried the tofu straight from the pack and then added a sauce for a very good flavoured meal.  I think that I'd choose this over the plain tofu and maybe even over the pre-packed and chopped tofu as you have more control over it. The pre-chopped can just be added to things without even much heating though so that has it's own set of recipes for the summer.

21 December 2013

Ginger Fight! (Tesco) [Various Ginger Beers By @SpectreUk]

No it's not a couple of Redheads in a jelly wrestling competition. This is a few Jamaican style ginger beers sparring against each other. I can't help thinking I've lost a few readers there, but that's understandable considering jelly could be considered as a snack, and this is primarily a snack blog! However, I digress... So many drinks companies out there profess to have the perfect recipe for non-alcoholic Jamaican ginger beer that I just had to try a few against each other.

Abbott's KA Traditional Jamaican Style Ginger Beer

The can told me, well it didn't talk as such, but the label stated that Kenneth Abbott had been a young adventurer and had travelled to the Caribbean to find recipes for soft drinks. Made in Glasgow this sparkling Traditional Jamaican Style Ginger Beer had been one of them. There was certainly a healthy fizz on opening the can and a strong biting smell of ginger. The bubbles and fiery ginger odour tickled my nose hairs right up until my lips touched the opening of the can. I took a good swig and almost coughed as the sweet flames of ginger root bit at the back of my throat and made my nose twitch to the point of sneezing. This is by far the strongest ginger beer I've tasted, even without the addition of alcohol. The sweetness isn't saccharin, but natural lip smacking sugary goodness. The almost vicious ginger bite lingered right through to the aftertaste with the added sweetness, leaving a glorious sweet ginger flavour in the mouth that just kept popping at me when I licked my teeth. Even once poured into a glass this fizzy lemonade coloured drink made my nose itch on final lips approach, the sides of my mouth burn, and the back of my throat want to run home and cry for my Mummy! If this ginger beer was a Redhead it would be a buxom Scotish maiden with a caber to toss in each hand and woe betide anyone who dared to wrestle with her!

Information on the 330ml can;
Per 330ml serving there was 206 calories, with 51.5g of sugar and a trace of fat. Ingredients included; carbonated water, sugar, flavourings containing ginger root extract, citric acid, and preservative E202.

Extra Fiery Old Jamaica Ginger Beer

This Extra Fiery Old Jamaica Ginger Beer was produced by Cott Beverages in Kegworth, near Derby. The can stated that this ginger beer contained extra fiery Jamaican root ginger. After my beating from the Abbott's caber tossing ginger nut, I was a bit confused at just how more fiery a ginger beer could be. Perhaps I was just about to find out or was I to be disappointed? Breaking open the can I at once noticed that the odour of ginger was less than the crazy Abbott's. No nose tingling effect on approach to this drink. This is where I made my first mistake. This ginger beer goaded me in on a wave of fizzy ignorance. I took a haughty big swig and was entrapped in a fiery ginger fizzy haze for a few moments before gulping the burning liquid down. My nose was tingling quite heavily at this point. So much so that I sneezed. I then laughed at my foolish over confidence and then sneezed again. This ginger beer didn't have the sweetness mixed with the spice of the Abbott's. It had a full on ginger burn that simultaneously tickled the inside of my mouth with the fizz and set fire to the inside of my mouth with the spice, leaving a tantalising spicy ginger aftertaste. This ginger beer isn't like a crazy caber tossing Redhead. It's more like a ginger secret agent enticing you in with her ponytailed beauty only to kick you repeatedly with the poison tipped dagger on the end of her black thigh length boots!

Information on the 330ml can;
Per 100ml this ginger beer has 63 calories with 15.7g of sugar and traces of fat, so not much different health wise than the Abbott's. Ingredients included; carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, stabilisers containing Gum Arabic and Quillaia extract, preservative sodium benzoate, and flavourings of ginger root extract.

Light Old Jamaican Ginger Beer

In the olden days when I was a lad most drinks and snacks that professed to be sugarless tasted a bit weird and more often than not way too over poweringly saccharin for my tastes. Light snacks and drinks have come a long way since then, but I still drink full sugar Ben Shaw's Shandy, as any sugar free shandys I've tried on the market still taste odd to me. Having said that and after the cutthroat Redhead secret agent review above for Cott Beverages full sugar ginger beer, I was certainly intrigued by their claims of "Same Fiery Taste" on the bottle. Indeed on opening the bottle there was a good fizz and a healthy whiff of ginger to entice my taste buds. On taste this ginger beer certainly had fire, but it didn't make me sneeze this time. This ginger beer had a sweet saccharin taste, not unpleasant or overpowering, but dissimilar to the pure sugar flavour of the brutish Abbott's ginger beer and without the super bashing of ginger to go with it. Instead the ginger mixed with the sucralose to form a fiery sweet blend that didn't make me sneeze, didn't burn my mouth out, but did make me want to drink more and more with its initial fiery ginger kick followed by its saccharin sweetness. This ginger beer didn't have the same ginger fear factor as the two full sugar varieties, but certainly was very tasty and was an excellent healthy alternative for those who like to save their teeth and limit the size of their bellies. This ginger beer reminded me of a coaxing pig tailed cheerleader with a switchblade behind her back. One quick stab of the blade and if you survive the sweetness prevails!

Information on the 500ml bottle;
Per 100ml this ginger beer has 0.5 calories with no sugar and no fat, so if you want a healthy alternative ginger beer this is probably your best bet. Ingredients included; carbonated water, sweetener sucralose, citric acid, stabiliser Quillaia extract, preservative sodium benzoate, and flavourings of ginger root extract.
By Spectre

20 December 2013

Beef Bourguignon Crisps #loveeverymouthful (@TescoFood Finest) [By @Cinabar]

Although I have been trying a few Christmas flavours of crisps, I still couldn't resist picking up these beef ones when I saw them. I love meaty flavours of crisps, and these sounded like they had a nice twist to make them a bit special. They were also a bit of a break from the turkey flavour ones I’ve been eating!
I've tried a lot beef crisps that claim to have a hint of something else with them, and on a numbers of occasions I've been disappointed to discover all I could taste was beef. When I opened up this bag the aroma did seen to be that of a quite generic flavour, and I was a little worried as I poured them out to share. They did look nice though, large crisps all sprinkled with a hint of brown seasoning.
It turns out that I needn't have been worried on the taste front. Once I properly tried one the flavour that came through was most impressive. It was rich, and very much that of a meaty stew made with a glass of red wine in the sauce for good measure. It was actually a wow moment after my first bite. There was a hint of gravy, and it was quite a complex and tasty sets of flavours.
The base crisp was lovely too, nicely crunchy, without being overly hard. The flavour of the sauce was spot on, there was a proper depth to it, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed them. As fan of the meaty flavours, these will definitely be on my shopping list again.
By Cinabar

19 December 2013

Something Special for Advent Feat. Mr. Tumble [Review by @NLi10]

This year I wasn't going to get an advent calendar, but in Tesco on about the 5th of the month they had them for 50p.  Who am I to turn down a cheap and easy review!

Introducing Mr. Tumble!

I knew very little about Mr. Tumble before this experience.  I know his name is Justin because there are apps that my 2 year old cousin taps away at and gets read stories by with his name in.  I certainly had never heard of something special and was surprised to learn it's a TV show for little ones!

Mr Tumble isn't your typical TV clown though as pretty much everything he does is via the BBC and is full of educational value and worthiness.  Again - I didn't know this before getting the calendar. I guess a clue should have been that a 2 year old picking up an iPad, skimming to find one specific story app and then requesting you help her clear the cobwebs isn't something that happened back in my day.  The dreaded Teletubbies never did that!  Also Mr Tumble plays all the parts so is frequently dressed up as Mummy Bear or Cinderella which I think is all kinds of good.  He also sells the parts particularly well, which has lead to conversations with my older cousins with phrases such as #HailTumble and #Tumble3:16 as he'd make a pretty good Sports Entertainer too.

The doors contain typical 'chocolate' offerings which are both too small to be satisfying and yet able to get stuck at the back of your throat as they don't melt properly.  Behind the doors you have a variety of characters in the Tumble universe (seems to be a sketch show) and catchphrases and Christmas sayings.  If he has glasses on he's Granddad, a white hat and he's a chef (maybe even Chef Excellence himself!), always with the painted red nose.

As long as he doesn't appear at the end of my bed at 4am with an axe and say this I'm perfectly happy with the situation.

And then, suddenly, it all went bad.  

Presumably there is a deadline for calendar submissions and they only have time for 14 actual good doors on the calendar.  With 10 days to go we are introduced to the horrible concept of 'sleeps'.

There are no catchphrases and no pictures on the doors. Now I may as well be marking the days on the wall of my cell with my own blood in little tally charts.  You do get a (contextless) picture of Tumblemania in the background to try to keep things interesting, but this endless and lazy countdown has spoiled what was a good fun thing to have.  

Has everyone else's calendars done this too?

At the very least it's a talking point to explain to visitors why a 34 year old man with no children is doing with a Mr. Tumble calendar.  I had pictured me destroying it utterly by the end, but Mr. Tumble deserves better.  I'd suggest introducing your under 5s to him at the earliest opportunity, but they have probably already introduced him to you.  

Something Special indeed.

18 December 2013

Nando’s Smokey Portuguese BBQ Peri-Peri Marinade (@NandosUK Waitrose) [By @SpectreUK]

I must point out that Nando's is a favourite restaurant of mine. The only problem is that it can be difficult to find a seat in our local restaurant as it can get pretty busy on the evenings. That said, I'm not surprised as I've never had a bad meal there and I expect no-one else has either. I have a favourite meal too; medium hot Peri-Peri half chicken with Peri-Peri covered chips and side salad. We usually share some olives to start with whilst we wait for our mains and keep topping up my refillable lemonade. I then pick every morsel of chicken off the bone. It can take a while, but it tastes so good I just can't leave any.

Cinabar found this new Nando’s Smokey Portuguese BBQ Peri-Peri Marinade in a local supermarket. The label recommended to marinade chicken, fish, beef or lamb for fifteen minutes prior to cooking. I told her for starters that I wasn't much of a marinader, let alone much of a cook. I can burn boiled eggs and the amount of times I've given myself food poisoning over the years it's a wonder I'm not dead or undead! The label also stated that you can barbeque, baste, grill or stir fry with this marinade, which all makes for a very versatile sauce. At this I decided to try this marinade initially as a sauce with chips! I know, you're probably tutting at this, but I wanted chips that Saturday night and Cinabar's Mom didn't feel like cooking or marinading. I did manage to get some chips out of her though! ;-)

After tackling the annoying plastic covered lid on the top of the bottle there was a garlic and chilli smell to the thick bitty textured brown coloured sauce. I wasn't sure what the bits were, they looked liked flecks of garlic and minute pieces of African Bird’s Eye Chilli. There was a smokey blend of tomatoes, garlic, and rich per-peri flavour in the taste with a sweet aftertaste of honey. This marinade was not a classic barbeque flavoured sauce. It didn't taste like a regular run of the mill BBQ sauce but rather like a different style of BBQ sauce altogether, as there was too much garlic in the flavour for that. Not overpowering garlic in a sense, but certainly not for the faint hearted vampire. There was a mild to medium heat to the marinade and I reckon that it would be best on chicken wings as an alternative to those I always enjoy so much in Chiquitos. This was a lovely marinade that went perfectly with my chips and the next night I mixed the marinade into a bowl of baked beans in tomato sauce, which was gorgeous. I would definitely have this marinade again and may hopefully convince someone to marinade me some chicken wings. Fingers crossed anyway! ;-)

Information on the label;
270g glass bottle. Marinade was made in South Africa with no artificial flavours, colours, preservatives or added MSG. Ingredients included; water, sugar, tomato paste, garlic, white vinegar, thickener (corn starch), vegetable oil, salt, lemon, honey, stabilisers (xanthan gum, propylene glycol alginate), Spices (including Bird’s Eye Chilli), Colouring (Caramel), Flavouring (Smoke), Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein (Soya), and Antioxidant (Calcium Disodium EDTA).
By Spectre

17 December 2013

Beech's Fine Chocolates: Luxury Brazils

When Beech's got in touch and asked me if I wanted to try some of their Luxury Brazils I couldn't resist taking them up on their offer. For me chocolate coated Brazil nuts are associated with Christmas, and it is a treat I used to get every year, but for some reason not the last couple. I was looking forward to these to rectify that this year! I am a huge fan of nuts and chocolate!
Beech's chocolates have been around since the 1920s, and are a traditional brand, which I was award of for their chocolate creams. They make a selection of fruit creams, coffee creams, but best of all rose and violet creams. Seriously if you haven't tried them, you missing out!
Beech's Luxury Brazils come in both dark and milk chocolate, and various sized boxes, but I decided to start with the dark chocolate version.
Once the box was opened you could see the Brazils sitting nearly in their box. They are a natural product, so some were larger than others and had to be encouraged to leave to leave the snugly fitted packaging! They were laid out in a nice pattern, although spacious this box only retails at £3.99 so are still excellent value.
I cut one of the nuts in half, and was impressed to see the chocolate coating on each one was rather thick. It is a 55% cocoa chocolate, so although it is dark it still has a pleasant hint of sweetness to it too. The nuts underneath was firm and crunchy, and a good flavour. The nuts and chocolates worked perfectly together, and reminded me of an old seasonal favourite. I thoroughly enjoyed munching on these while wrapping presents, it totally put me in the mood for Christmas. I can't wait to start on the milk chocolate version too!
Website: http://www.beechsfinechocolates.com
By Cinabar

16 December 2013

Classic Christmas Selection - H Box (@HotelChocolat) [By @cinabar]

We are big fans of Hotel Chocolat chocolates here at Foodstuff Finds, and couldn't resist having a look at their seasonal selection box, to see what goodies it contains. The first thing we noticed was that several of the chocolates seemed to be themed especially for Christmas, which is a lovely touch. They were in my selection when it came to giving them a try once cold evening.
Inside the box thought I was immediately drawn to the pistachio topped green chocolate. A glance at the menu inside told me it was a Pistachio Praline Crunch. I realise I'm always drawn to the nut chocolates, but it was the hint of green which caught my eye. I loved the shape of the chocolate, with its folds of praline inside the dark shell. There was a lovely hint of extra sweetness inside too from cherry which brought out the pistachio flavour really well.
The Christmas Mess was a seasonal twist on an Eton Mess. The base fruit flavour was cranberry and strawberry which was pared with Hotel Chocolat's signature white chocolate. The meringue added a nice but of texture to the fruity flavours, and made this one fell really special.
I was also drawn back to the nutty chocolates and found myself drawn to another, Christmas themed, praline. This time it was the Nutmeg and Almond one, which didn't have a hint of marzipan, and focused instead on a truer almond taste. The nutmeg added a nice tingle of warm spice and turned it into the perfect winter chocolate.
The Mulled Port was a liqueur chocolate of sorts, without being too strong on the alcohol. There was a hint of orange and Christmas spice that made it taste perfect for winter, and it was lovely and warming. If you are after a stronger alcohol hit I'm reliably informed the Rum Punch could blow your docks off!
My final chocolate was the Cranberry Cup, which was full of fruity flavour. It created a proper berry blast to the senses, complement by that wondrous creamy white chocolate - wow.
The other taste testers agreed that all the chocolates were divine. They loved that they were a special Christmas box set with unique flavours, and thought it was beautifully packaged too. We'd all be over the moon if a box of these found its way under the tree for us. ;-)
By Cinabar

15 December 2013

Waitrose Seriously Delicate All butter Lavender Shortbread

Here we see the second in a series of lavender flavoured foods that I've tried recently. After the savoury oatcakes this sweet version is quite different.

This is Waitrose so as usual they have tried to make the best thing possible and then figured out the price, instead of trying to make a price point product. Because of this we have distinct folded layers in the shortbread and lots of air to enhance the flavour, a genuine butter taste and noticeable bits of lavender.  

The sugar on the outside is also not obtrusive and adds to the crunch nicely. The texture is crumbly and works well, but the flavour is still a little odd. The lavender works better with the sweetness but sits slightly at odds with the butter. While enjoyable (as all good quality shortbread is) it wasn't a rush out and buy variety.

It was however much more popular with colleagues who were far more keen to have second helpings of this than the previous offering. The novelty and cool factor add together to make this a nice little gift and something that would go down well with the hot drinks over Christmas.

14 December 2013

Pirates Versus Gingerbread Men (New @McVities #Biscuits) [By @SpectreUK]

Memories of my childhood consist partly of late Saturday afternoon's after shopping spent at my Auntie and Uncle Fred's house. My Uncle Fred taught me the basics of woodwork and bought me toy cars, whilst my Auntie started my love of Walker's Ready Salted crisps, this was before I tried them washed down with beer, and fed me Animal Biscuits whilst I watched the football scores. Not that I knew what was going on or ever supported any teams, but I have always strangely found the announcer's voice soothing and sometimes still watch the football scores today! This is why Cadbury's Animal Biscuits are the favourite biscuits from my childhood. Cinabar occasionally buys me a box now and then when I've been good, so it's quite a rare occurrence! When she bought me two boxes of McVitie's mini chocolate biscuits I knew something was up. "'Pirates versus Gingerbread Men', sounds like a great title," she said, ever the taskmaster!

McVitie's Mini Pirate Crew

McVitie's have brought out these new Mini Pirate Crew biscuits, which are a different take on Cadbury's children's chocolate biscuits. As you can see from the photograph there was four crew members joined together for "crack' n' snap" fun. There was a fun Snakes and Ladders type game on the back of the box. There were six packets in the 155g box, with two crews in each handy lunchbox sized packet. The biscuits were covered on one side with lovely milk chocolate, and the biscuits were slightly crunchier digestive style biscuits than Cadbury's Animal Biscuits. These biscuits made for a fun and tasty alternative lunchbox sized chocolate biscuit treat that I'm sure would appeal to children and parents alike. If you don't like pirates there's always McVitie's Mini Jungle Friends crack 'n' snap biscuits to try, though these may be a little overly reminiscent of the Animal Biscuits variety.

Information on the box;
Each pirate crack 'n' snap crew biscuit contains 65 calories, with 4.5g of sugar and 2.8g of fat. No artificial colours or flavours, and no hydrogenated vegetable oil. Ingredients included; wheat flour, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, dried skimmed milk, butter oil, lactose, soya lecithin, vegetable oil, milk solids, salt, sodium bicarbonate and ammonium bicarbonate.

McVitie's Mini Gingerbread Men

Now I like Gingerbread Men just like most other people, especially in the cold winter months as ginger has its spicy warming effect. Give me a large Gingerbread Man and I can happily torture him for a while, biting his limbs off one after the other before the finishing bite to his neck! Sounds gruesome I know, but if you say you haven't done it you're probably lying. Just like anyone who say's they haven't bitten the top off a Fizzy Cola Bottle and pretended to drink it!

Covering half of each Gingerbread Man with milk chocolate sounds a bit out there to me. Besides how can I torture a Mini Gingerbread Man anyway? These biscuits are Animal Biscuit sized and the days of biting daintily into most sized biscuits have long since passed me by. I usually dump a good wad of Animal Biscuits in my mouth at a time. The only reason I crack 'n' snapped the Pirates was so I could play the Snakes and Ladders type game on the back of the box! Anyway, I digress... There was a mild smell of ginger on opening the silvery packet inside the box. These smiley Mini Gingerbread Men had a mild spice from the ginger and a milky sweetness from their half covering of milk chocolate. The 25g serving suggestion quickly went out the window and I devoured most of these ludicrously moreish Gingerbread Men in one sitting and in not so dainty handfuls.

Information on the box;
100g box. Each recommended 25g serving contains 120 calories, with 9.6g of sugar and 5g of fat. Ingredients included; wheat flour, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, dried skimmed milk, dried whey, butter oil, soya lecithin, partially inverted sugar syrup, molasses,vegetable oil, ground ginger, salt, sodium bicarbonate and disodium diphosphate.

Both boxes of biscuits were very tasty indeed. The Mini Pirate Crew can give Cadbury's Animal Biscuits a warning cannon shot across their bow, with a "Shiver me timbers!" They also had the fun Snakes and Ladders game on the back of the box, which I'm sure I saw one similar on the Animal Biscuits' box when I was a child. If I was to pick between the two though, Animal Biscuits would win as I prefer the softer less crunchy biscuit. If I was to pick an alternative to Animal Biscuits with a spicy edge, the Mini Gingerbread Men would be my first port of call. Just like Animal Biscuits I just couldn't put the packet down. So much so that I didn't mind the crunchier biscuit or the fact that I couldn't torture the Gingerbread Men, I had to finish them off quickly and on mass instead!
By Spectre