31 January 2014

Extra Mild Super Tasty One Pan Rice Meal [By @Cinabar]

The lovely folks at Old El Paso kindly sent through some goodies for us to try, in return for an honest review. This One Pan Rice Meal is one of their new products so it won’t surprise you that it was the first item I wanted to try. The kit is also available in a Chilli and Garlic variety too, but I was tempted by the Extra Mild version, which is essentially lime. Now I know the packet mentions chicken as the advised meat, but as a bit of a seafood junkie we decided to rebel. Prawns and scallops have a delicate flavour so we felt it would absorb the spices in a similar way.

I opened up the box and found three packets inside, one sauce, one spice and one rice.
Officially you start off by browning your chicken in a pan and cooking it through (if you choose to use prawns/scallops though leave them until nearer the end as they don’t take much cooking), then add some veggies to cook through, it recommend peppers and sweetcorn.
The rice packet goes in next and you stir that in for a minute. After this you add in the other two pouches; sauce and spices, and 350ml of water. It does look like a lot of water, but after 10 minutes of simmering it had all been absorbed by the rice or evaporated. Oh my it smells good when it is cooking! Thats it, all that is left is to serve it, so it is a quick meal too.
We shared it out on plates, and it smelt delicious, and I have to say the large prawns looked like they were perfect for it. The flavours were incredible. The creamy lime flavour was delicate, but its zesty taste just brought everything together. I loved the tangy spices too, there was nothing hot but a warmth from some coriander which was intermingling perfectly with our added veggies and seafood. Every mouthful was a pleasure, and as full as I was after gobbling down my large portion, I still wanted more, I knew it had made it onto the list of things I’ll have again!
It is healthy too, the packet says there are only 202 calories per portion (plus whatever extra meat/veggies) so it just goes to show that healthy food really can be tasty too. I can’t wait to try the chilli and garlic version, and we may even use some chicken with that one! :-)

The official recipe and pack info is available here: Old El Paso
By Cinabar

30 January 2014

Genova Kids Cake Bar // Marrakech Market [review by @NLi10]

There are many forms of snack acquisition (snacquisition?) when abroad in a country whose main language isn't English.  My favourite is Point & Pay - which accounts for this particular item being the Kids variety.  I was pointing at the grown-up darker chocolate version - honest! 

We see the bar here at sundown over the main market square in Marrakech - we are in north Morocco - and the main languages are French and Arabic. While I hastily grabbed a few Arabic phrases my French is as terrible as it's always been and is a mash of cross over words and anglicised versions. Maybe the shop owner just figured I couldn't handle the grown up version.

The bar is a typical euro style cake bar, coated in chocolate and protected with card so that it doesn't squash or cover you in the chocolate in the heat.  The flavours are fairly strong and chocolatey and the cream is noticeable but not the main attraction here. It's lighter than I was expecting and was a nice pre-dinner snack.  I didn't eat it in the cafe where this was taken - apparently that would be rude...

We did get nice pictures of the market at sunset though!

I liked this sufficiently to pick up some Italian versions in Asda when I got back, but I think real cake is better and I'd rather have a bit more flavour and biscuit to crunch.

29 January 2014

Nandos Peri-Peri Grooves Spicy Chicken Crisps (Boots) [By @SpectreUK]

I recently wrote a blog about Nando’s Smokey Portuguese BBQ Peri-Peri Marinade and also how much I love our local restaurant. We've also written about previous Nando's large grab and share bags of crisps in the past. These new "Groove Cut Potato Chips" (or crisps) caught Cinabar's eyes in a local shop and when she brought a few packets home I just couldn't wait to try them.

On opening the packet there was predominantly a Peri-Peri smell from the reddish tinted crinkle cuts crisps inside. The barbecued chicken flavour tickled my taste buds first like a mother hen being chased around my mouth by an angry African Bird’s Eye Chilli. Then the tangy biting Peri-Peri flavour slapped my tongue and mouth with tasty chilli fire. These groove cut crisps had a decent crunch with a full on spicy Peri-Peri barbecued chicken flavour. They were very tasty and oh so very moreish. Once I'd finished the bag I just wanted more and more. I do hope Nando's brings out a grab and share bag of these crisps too!

Information on the packet;
Marked on the Peri-ometer as medium heat. No artificial colours or MSG. Flavoured with genuine African Bird’s Eye Chilli (Peri-Peri). 40g packet. See picture for ingredients and nutritional information.
By Spectre

Foodie News Burst 29/1/14

I do get quite a few press releases about new food goodies coming out, and I also keep up to date with the trade websites - so I thought a new semi-regular news update where I share what I’ve learnt might work quite well? I also though if people found interesting items in shops and let me know I could include those too? Do let me know if you like the idea, send an email or leave a comment below.

I think the most important news at the minute has to be that Walkers Do Us A Flavour is back! Walkers are calling for people to tell them their suggestions for a new flavour of crisps. They have done this in previous years, but this time there is an added element you have to start with a base ingredient, either: Somerset Cheddar, Devonshire Chicken, Norfolk Pork, Dorset Sour Cream, Vale of Evesham Tomatoes or Aberdeen Angus Beef. Then get creative! You could win £1million! To enter your flavour choice go to http://www.walkers.co.uk/create 

There is a new flavour of Jelly Belly coming out, and it has got Spectre rather interested! The new flavour if Draft Beer and it will be launching here very soon! https://jellybelly.com/info/promotions/beerBeanLaunch

Tic Tacs are launching a new flavour too, Apple Burst, which I really am looking forward to. They will be available from February. http://www.sweetretailing.co.uk/index.php/new_sweets_chocolates/view/tic_tac_apple_burst_to_launch

The success of Rowntree Randoms has inspired them to launch a mixed bag called, Sweet and Sour. http://www.sweetretailing.co.uk/index.php/new_sweets_chocolates/view/rowntrees_randoms_sweet_n_sour

With the exception of salted popcorn, I’ve not got on very well with the savoury stuff, but I will hunt out Butterkist’s new Thai Sweet Chilli. http://www.talkingretail.com/products/product-news/butterkist-debuts-new-flavours-for-2014

It is nice to see that there are new Skittles flavours on the way to the UK market, Wild Berry. http://www.talkingretail.com/products/product-news/wrigley-unveils-skittles-wild-berry-variant

Finally ever thought about adding chocolate to your savoury crackers? Cadbury think we’ll all want to give it a go with their new bar: http://www.sweetretailing.co.uk/index.php/new_sweets_chocolates/view/new_cdm_mash_up_countlines\

28 January 2014

Heston: Lemon and Earl Grey Panna Cottas (@Waitrose) [By @cinabar]

It hadn’t been my intention to write about two Heston products in a row, but somehow fate stepped in and it seemed the best thing to blog about tonight. I had got a new meal kit to try out which will have to wait till friday, circumstances dictated that we ended up waiting on an emergency plumber and had the water turned off! Eek - but it is all sorted now.
Anyway, I digress. After a quickly put together tea of toasted bagels with cold meats and cheese, we thought we’d treat ourselves to a posh pudding at least, and I still had goodies from Heston to try.
These rather fancy Panna Cottas are flavoured with Early Grey tea, a favourite ingredient from Heston, and have lemon curd and a lemon crumble. The crumble is actually housed separately and looks a little like a third dessert in the pack, but is just to ensure it stays crunchy before being placed on the dessert. I feel I do have to mention the packaging, there was lots of it. A cardboard sleeve was inside the clear plastic shell cover, which was also around a black plastic base. Each of the two desserts were in plastic pots, both with plastic lids and the crumble also had its own plastic container and again a plastic lid. Thats quite a lot of materials for what is essential a pudding the size of two yoghurt pots. At least they recycle in my area!

Once we had set up the desserts they did look pretty, and the clear container did allow us to see all the layers. I thought the crumble made the dessert, it had a fresh lemon taste, and worked well with the Earl Grey Panna Cotta, the taste reminded me of putting a slice of lemon in a cup of hot tea. The Panna Cotta was super creamy, but quite soft. I’ve had them before and they have been a little firmer, but the softness worked well with the crumble giving a nice mix of textures. Once I’d worked my way down to the bottom of the pot, the lemon curd waiting there was quite full on. It had a strong zesty lemon flavour which was sweet and tangy. That too worked well with the creamy Earl Grey taste, playing on the contrast.
It was a really good fresh citrus dessert, that went down rather well after out quick tea. It is one I’d have again, as it is a nice twist on a classic pudding.
By Cinabar

27 January 2014

Heston - Ginger & Acacia Honey Hot Cross Buns (@Waitrose) [By @Cinabar]

I was actually in Waitrose looking for some new Saffron Buns, which I’d seen advertised recently, when a new creation from Heston caught my eye. The easter goodies get earlier and earlier as I’m sure I say every year, but I can’t resist Hot Cross Buns, and a new flavour too meant I just had to pick them up. Last year we had Earl Grey and Mandarin Hot Cross Buns from the culinary creative man, but this year’s special from him is ginger and acacia honey.
As per last years Hot Cross Buns, you can’t help but notice the size of these. When split they barely fit in the toaster, a toaster which was specially purchased for its extra wide setting and ability to toast bagels etc. I love that the buns are so substantial, it makes them feel like a proper treat.
When they were cooking away there was a lovely pleasant smell from the toaster, Spectre likened it to incense, as they had a fragrant warming air to them. They didn’t burn, honest, the aroma was just from heating them up!
I chose to have mine plain with just a little butter, so I could fully appreciate the taste of the bun. The first thing to note was that it did taste very much like a Hot Cross Bun, and the strong incense smell had disappeared. There were the usual background seasonal spices, and plenty of fruit packed in their too. What came with it was an extra edge from the ginger, mellowed by a lovely sweetness from the honey. The flavours mingled together well and left us with a nice hint of zingy candied ginger brining out the rest of the Hot Cross Buns flavours. They were yummy, and I’ll certainly being buying them again.
For the record I did also find the Saffron Buns I had been looking for, but somehow this took preference when it came to deciding what to have first from the Foodstuff Finds cupboard.
By Cinabar

26 January 2014

Lindt - Hello My Name Is Cookies & Cream [review by @NLi10]

When Cinabar reviewed the Strawberry version of these I always intended to pick one up but never did.  On the day before a winter sun break I spotted and added the Cookies and Cream variety to my travel bag.

I'm not sure what I expected from this really, I guess that cookies and cream suggests a decent amount of biscuit for me to crunch on.  It turns out that it's more cream, but with Oreo-like crunchy bits floating in the soft, white chocolate.  This was very pleasant and contrasted nicely with the outer choc.  It was a little too sweet by the end, but this was easily counteracted by eating it as two halves while doing part of an open-top tour of Marrakech. 

I'd probably be more likely to explore the range than jump on this variety again, and they are a little pricier than I'd usually go for.

Naturally I picked up some of the local Moroccan snack foods, but those are to follow in the next few reviews I do.

25 January 2014

Samuel Smith's Organic Apricot Fruit Beer [By @SpectreUK]

I've never been a fan of apricots, though not as bad a my feelings on bananas, as regular readers may know after my tustle with banana beer, but pretty much as bad. Let's face it, people in the almost know don't even bother to use apricots to ruin smoothies, as they already have bananas for that purpose. There is a packet of jam tarts that you can buy from supermarkets that have three different flavours of jam in them, strawberry, raspberry and apricot, and let's just say that my mom always ended up with the apricot tarts as I would always eat the others and leave the duds!

This Samuel Smith's Organic Apricot Fruit Beer was brewed at the Melbourn Brothers Brewery using traditional brewing equipment and techniques, and only using either organic ingredients or those that have been approved by someone who I expect can approve the use of organic and non-organic ingredients together. Melbourn Brothers Brewery only use traditional brewing methods with the best ingredients, which implies a certain level of dedication to realising pure quality of flavour over mass production. During the brewing process there is a primary and secondary fermentation with different yeasts and an "extended maturation", before the beer is transported to Samuels Smith's brewery in Tadcaster. Apricot fruit juice is then blended into the brew.

Apricots can be pretty deadly. Just think about those glowing orange coloured tarts that I put my poor mother through! Although having said that apricots pretty much taste like a cross between an orange and a peach. I was expecting this beer to taste a little bit like a cross between Timmermans's Peach Lambic beer and one of my favourite summer beers, which is Orange Peel beer. On opening the beer bottle there was a sharp smell of apricots wafting over the traditional wheaty beer smell. On taste there was indeed a sharpness from the apricot flavour that worked well with the malted wheat and barley undertones, and also the bitterness from the hops. There was an initial sharp orange twang followed by the soft peachiness one would expect from being attacked by an overly aggressive apricot. This Samuel Smith's Organic Apricot Fruit Beer did remind me of a blend of the two afore mentioned beers. I'd certainly recommend that you give it a try and if you want it to wash down a good meal, try it with a fishy dish like a good salmon steak with plenty of potatoes and vegetables on the side. Mmm... Hungry now...

Information on the bottle;
355ml glass bottle at 5.1% volume. Brewed at Melbourn Brothers Brewery in Stamford, in Lincolnshire, then blended and bottled at The Old Brewery, in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire. Best served at 44 degrees Fahrenheit, 7 degrees centigrade. Ingredients included; water, organic malted barley, organic malted wheat, organic cane sugar, organic apricot concentrate (4%), organic apricot extract, organic hops, yeast and carbon dioxide (both of which have been approved non-organic ingredients).
By Spectre

24 January 2014

Choceur - Mint Swiss Chocolate Bar (@AldiUK) [By @Cinabar]

I’ve recently been shopping in Aldi a bit more than usual. There is a branch that has opened up quite near me, and I am loving discovering lots of new products and goodies, and some German classics. Lots of people have recommended savoury groceries to try, and our freezer is pretty jam packed, but I had my eye on the confectionary too as you can imagine.This particular bar seemed a bit like it had everything you can think of in the ingredients list, milk chocolate (30% cocoa), honey, almond nougat and mint and I knew I had to give it a try.
The chunks of chocolate are interestingly shaped as I’ve noticed are a lot of the nougat flecked Swiss style bars, but these broke fairly easily into their allotted pieces. The texture of the chocolate itself was fairly firm, but not overly hard. It had a bit of softness that allowed the chocolate to give and melt quite easily in the mouth. I loved the added texture from the almond nougat, it gave the bar a pleasant feel and wasn’t sticky.
The first flavour that hits you is the sweetness of the chocolate, and cocoa, this is followed by the mint and honey taste with a hint of nut front he almond. There is a lot going on there, but it is rather well balanced and each flavour shows its face nicely without being lost. If the mint were any stronger it would overpower everything and the magic would be lost, as it is it may seem mild but it is spot on to complement the other flavours.
I admit I was a bit skeptical as to whether all the flavours would work together and I found myself very pleasantly surprised. It's an easy eating bar, with a lovely minty twist, and one I’ll be buying again!
By Cinabar

23 January 2014

H2EMP - still lemon [review by @NLi10]

My humble paper shop is responsible for a fair few of the oddities that I find.  Here is one such drink - H2EMP is one of those water+ drinks that seem to be all the rage now we've realised that calories in drinks are by far the easiest to cut out of our diets without increasing misery.

This takes great care in saying that it contains hemp, but not the THC and states in no uncertain terms that it "will not get you high". It does however say that it will hydrate you and make you a bit more alert - but I guess that could be said of any water based drink.

I chose the lemon flavour.

The lemon is very lemony but not sharp, and certainly doesn't taste too artificial. It's a very drinkable taste, and not unlike the lemon wipes that you get after some Indian meals. I think that ignoring any pseudo health benefits it's actually a nice bottle of water, but at 75p I guess it has to be more than that.  And I think that mine was reduced.

It's suitable for everyone as essentially it's water and plant based, but it's nice to see something without sugar that doesn't taste slightly flat.  I did feel more awake after drinking it, but I drank it fairly early on when on a coach so it caused multiple loo breaks that maybe another drink wouldn't have. I'd happily have a second flavour though - or this one again. I prefer it to the vitamin water things and it's a nice non sweet alternative to Ribena and juices. 

22 January 2014

Pork Scratchings with Garlic (Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight) [By @SpectreUK]

The Garlic farm has been growing garlic on the Isle of Wight for the last fifty years, ever since the founder, Mrs Boswell, harvested her first kitchen crop. The Garlic farm also produce a range of chutneys, relishes, sauces, and now these pork scratchings, and all with a good helping of garlic. These garlic pork scratchings were double roasted in small batches to combine a garlic flavour with a porky crunch snack. From the description on the packet I was expecting these pork scratchings to be quite crunchy, but not tooth breaking. The traditionally designed paper packet had an olde authentic English look about it that really appealed to me. On opening the packet the pork scratchings didn’t smell particularly garlicy just like high quality scratchings. They had a heck of a crunch and did not melt in my mouth. They were very salty with an initial garlic taste that was quite strong, then salt followed by roasted pork. The garlic taste travelled through to the aftertaste producing a garlic salted pork flavour. These pork scratchings were very nice indeed. I liked them a lot and thought they went well with the beer I was guzzling at the time. The only trouble was that these pork scratchings were so salty I wanted another beer straight after eating them, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing!

For the ingredients please see the photograph.
By Spectre

21 January 2014

OK Diner Restaurant Review (Cannock @OKDiner) [By @Cinabar @SpectreUK]

Spectre and I have often driven passed the OK Diner in Cannock, and talked about going in, but have never quite seemed to get the chance. I had the day off for my birthday, (feel free to tweet me happy returns) and so thought we’d try it out for a birthday lunch. Ok Diners are a chain with eight branches across the UK.
I absolutely love the look of the outside of the building, we don’t get this sort of thing usually in the UK, with its fab aluminium structure and tall sign in the car park. Even from the very outset it makes you feel like you are somewhere a bit special. It only gets better inside with the blue and red booths, and fabulous decor on the walls, the whole place may as well be singing The Star-Spangled Banner. In fact the music being played was all 1950s retro American rock n roll, which did add to the ambience nicely. We were seated quickly as we had chosen to go on a fairly quiet weekday lunch time, I suspect this is the kind of place that gets packed on a friday or saturday night. After a browse of the drinks menu, there was no question as to what I’d be ordering, the Million Dollar Shakes sounded amazing, and I was desperate to try the Peanut Butter Cup version. It wasn’t quite a million dollars but at £4.50 I still knew it was going to be good.

What came was a large glass full of my milkshake and a top up jug with nearly as much again in it. The shake consists of chocolate and caramel ice cream blended with peanut butter and chocolate drops. It was thick, rich, salty, chocolatey, sweet too and packing a heck of a peanut punch. Think liquidised Snickers bars, and me saying “oh my” every time I took a sip of the fabulous shake, it had the wow factor. Spectre on the other hand had a Budweiser. Ok he gains a point as it is american, but I’m not sure he was totally playing along with the theme.
For mains I ordered a burger and fries, but had a helping of cheese and mushrooms on mine. Spectre went for the bacon and cheese burger and had for the larger sized burger too, perhaps he was staying with the theme after all! When they arrived we were impressed by the amount of food, and the generous helping of chips, excuse me, french fries. They were cooked perfectly fluffy on the inside but with a lovely golden colour and light crispiness to the texture on the outside. I was dipping mine in the French’s mustard provided on the table, yum!

Both burgers were cooked freshly, and really tasty and meaty. My burger was big, and Spectre's burger was larger still! The salad on them was crispy and fresh, and there was a nice crunch from the onion. The bread was fluffy and sesame seed topped, giving it an authentic feel.

My burger was loaded with cheesy mushroom and it did make it just a bit more indulgent! Spectre loved the bacon on his too, and we both cleared our plates completely. After the meal I finished off the rest of my shake and sadly didn’t have room for dessert, which is a shame as I had my eye on the pancakes on the menu. Guess we’ll have to go back to give those a try, and frankly I can’t wait till we do! It is a fabulous themed restaurant serving quality food with a friendly service, whats not to love. Two mains and two drinks cost £26.
By Cinabar

20 January 2014

Sweet Coconut & Vanilla Popcorn (@ProperCorn Boots) [By @cinabar]

I seemed to have spent a fair bit of the month writing about chocolate, which is one of my favourite topics. I am aware that quite a few people are having a healthier January after all the indulgence of Christmas, so I thought I might try and hunt out a snack which is both tasty and sweet, but healthier too. What better option that popcorn?
This is not just any popcorn either this is the new flavour from ProperCorn, and it sound like a rather tempting tropical mix. Its Sweet Coconut and Vanilla, and I couldn't wait to give it a taste. ProperCorn are proud that their popcorn is “proper” and by this they mean it is made well. Each and every piece in mine was fluffy and cooked perfectly, soft but crunchy. In my bag there were no uncooked kernels either. Also the ingredient listed were entirely natural, which is a nice touch too.
Did I mention the whole bag only has 109 calories, and provides quite a substantial serving. It is a filling snack and great to munch on while watching a film (or indeed in my case the first episode of the new season of Mr Selfridge). Popcorn certainly has less calories for its serving size compared to a lot of crisps.
As I poured out some of the popcorn to take a picture I could immediately smell sweet coconut, and it was a lovely natural aroma.The flavour doesn’t disappoint when you tuck in either. It is pleasantly sweet, but creamy and smooth too. The coconut is a soothing flavour, and the vanilla works well with it. It does have a nice tropical edge, but still remains pleasing and easy to eat. The coconut and vanilla seem to balance each another out, with the vanilla keeping the coconut creamy, but not loosing its smoothness. There is the slightest hint of salt to the taste too, which just gives it a little bit of definition. I love the mix of sweet and salt, and definitely saw it as an extra flavour enhancer.
I don’t eat a lot of popcorn, but when I do I really enjoy the stuff. This was a fab example of why I should make the switch from crisps too popcorn a bit more often!
By Cinabar

19 January 2014

L'Oreal Men Expert - Hydra Energetic - Taurine, Vitamin C and Charcoal[review by @NLi10]

While looking for some post Christmas birthday presents in Boots I found the range of man cleaning stuff that I bought in a summer sale was now in a winter sale.  Although they didn't have the moisturising one that seems to agree with my skin they had some new ones - and at half price they were only slightly more expensive than the usual things I'd buy.

Interestingly they contain quite a lot of ingredients that we more commonly associate with high performance energy drinks, and the packaging looks like it was designed by Tony Stark.

First up we have a charcoal wash with a magnetic effect. Interestingly they have trademarked Magnetic for use In this context. This is interesting because the product is not metallic, the things I have on my face are non metallic, and no magnetism is involved. Soap works because water bonding to one side of it causes the other side to attract grease and so it becomes much more effective than just water.  There are probably science words associated with this kind of bond, but I've long forgotten those. I'm pretty sue there isn't any magnets involved.

This acts like a face pack for men.  The mud-like charcoal can be put on like war paint to Freak ones partner out, and then washed off to make your face clean. As with most decent cleaning products you can get away with using far less of this than a cheaper version so it seems to last for ages.

I think I preferred the moisturising one (now demoted to travel bags to use that last little bit) but this is a fair replacement.

Next up we have the super serum. This is essentially an expensive moisturiser, or a cheap aftershave depending on your view of the world. The odd, but cool, vacuum tube like packaging helps with the space age feel and it's a pleasure to use.  It makes your face feel tingly and cold when you put it on, and leaves behind a smooth and moisturised layer that is slightly tacky but fine for everyday.

The question is, what does the food in  this actually do? As well as the advertised taurine and Vit C there is menthol and mint, which are the cause of the cooling sensation - the bit that makes it feel like it's working.  I'm not aware of being hyper stimulated in the mornings since I bought it - if anything I'm more tired - but my skin has been ok.  I think that like the packaging the taurine and vit C are there to catch the eye and fire the imagination - after all when not in the half price sale this is £15! It does smell nice and would travel very well so I'd only recommend this to someone who needs to appear more awake and refreshed and pleasant smelling than they ought to be after a long trip or heavy night out.

18 January 2014

Battle of the Green Teas [By @SpectreUK]

I've tried plenty of green teas in the past and even blogged about a few, such as my favourite Jasmin Tea. Green tea is supposed to help with digestion, so I like a good cup of green tea after lunch at work or after dinner especially when I've eaten something spicy. I love Japanese restaurants, such as Mount Fuji, for their fine food and selection of green teas such as Sencha and Houjicha. I also love regular green teas, such as green tea from Twinings. I found these two boxes of green teas languishing on the Foodstufffind's shelf and thought I'd let them fight it out after a trip to the local Chippy for some heavy greasy food to digest.

Mao Feng Green Tea (Westmorland Service Station)

This Mao Feng Green Tea was produced by Teapigs, in London, which are a favourite brand of mine, as they are the only company so far that I have found that can produce chocolate flavoured tea that I like! Just a quick look on Google told me that Mao Feng comes from the Anhui Province, in China. Apparently Teapigs use the whole leaf in their tea temples, which are perfectly spacious for the three minutes suggested infusion using one bag per mug. The shredded tea leaf filled the tea temple as I poured freshly boiled water over it in my tea mug. As it infused there was a definite bitey green tea smell from the light green liquid that tickled the hair in my nostrils. The taste was a smooth almost enchantingly delicate green tea flavour that soothed my stomach after my tasty yet slightly greasy chips and battered sausage, even leaving a soothing aftertaste to wash the grease away. I also felt a calming and relaxing effect from drinking this tea that soothed my mind and senses, not to dozing off point, but at least to ease the incessant buzzing of thoughts that constantly drive my head. I could have drunk one cup after another of this Mao Feng Green Tea all afternoon, which is rare for me as I hardly ever drink tea (he snorts tea out of his nose as he lies terribly!).

Information on the box;
15 Biodegradable tea temples, which weighs 37.5g. Ingredients included; green tea (keeping it simple, I see...)

Green Tea Chai

Looking at the ingredients of this Green Tea Chai produced by Higher Living, in West Sussex, I could see that this was certainly a more complex drink than the Teapigs' Mao Feng Green Tea. The question crossed my mind as to whether this more complex green tea would add to the relaxing effect that green tea should have on the mind and the belly (and my belly is pretty sizable to get the whole thing relaxed), or could its complexity take away some of the experience? I noticed on the box that Higher Living only uses ingredients grown to the highest standards and avoids using synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, which is good to know as these can be harmful to wildlife.

There was a definite mixed spice odour from the tea bag, with cinnamon being the most dominant smell. I undertook the suggested four to five minutes infusion, again using one teabag in my tea mug. The mixed spice smell from the teabag seemed to change on infusion to a predominate cardamom smell, with cloves and cinnamon in the background. The odour transcended to the taste with an initial mixed flavour of cardamom and cloves soon replaced by a fiery bite from the cinnamon. This was a very warming drink that didn't particularly relax me whilst drinking it as the brutish cinnamon thwack at the end of the flavour exploded between my senses, but the cold weather outside begged me to drink more. I would more likely drink this tea to warm myself up before leaving for the Chippy and sitting on a cold park bench to enjoy my greasy salty chips and battered sausage.

Information on the box;
20 tea bags in a 40g box. Ingredients included; green tea (56%), cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.

Verdict: I enjoyed drinking both of these green teas very much and realised on tasting them that they were both at different ends of the spectrum where flavour and venue were concerned. For an all year mind and after lunch or after dinner belly soother I'd happily drink gallons of the Mao Feng Green Tea, whereas for a winter green tea warmer I'd pick the Green Tea Chai with it's fiery spice to heat me up against the chill outside.
By Spectre

17 January 2014

Duke Of Delhi - Dark Chocolate & Toasted Coconut Mix Bar [By @Cinabar]

We have tried some strange chocolate concoctions in the past, and we thought we'd petty much seen everything. When the lovely folks from the Duke Of Delhi got in touch and asked if we wanted to try their chocolate even we were taken aback. At first I thought I'd misunderstood, Bombay Mix in chocolate? Oh yes!
There are actually a selection of different bars, and I will be giving them a try over the coming weeks but first up was the dark chocolate with coconut (and Bombay Mix) as it seemed like a good place to start.
Once the bar was unwrapped I discovered a dark glossy looking chocolate bar, which was very ornately moulded. You can’t tell the Bombay Mix is there until you break a piece off, then you can see little bits  hiding inside. I went for a cube and found it to be quite interesting on the taste buds.
The first thing you notice is the texture, it is quite a solid bar, and then it is really rather crunchy from all the added in ingredients. The very first flavour to hit is the coconut, and there is a mild creamy taste from this followed by a hit of dark chocolate. Its 60% cocoa so does add a good strong chocolate taste. The next part is a spice that develops as you eat, it's not too hot, but there is a tingle left on the palette. Then lots of interesting additional flavours appear, there is a nuttiness and the flavour of having just munched on Bombay Mix. I kid you not!
Now it is a bit of a strange bar, but it works better than expected. It takes your taste buds a few minutes to acclimatise to the combination! The flavours are curious and it is one to try out on friends to see if they can guess the flavour, and an ideal gift for those who like something a bit different.
One thing it did do is it made really keen to try the actual Bombay Mix that Duke Of Delhi make, as some of those have some intriguing ingredients too.
By Cinabar

16 January 2014

Skittles Shake (Tesco) [review by @NLi10]

Yup - that's right.  Someone thought it would be a good idea to take fruity sweets and to turn them into a milk-shake.  I can see Skittles ice-cream working though, AND this was on 2 for £2 at Tesco so I decided that at the very least it was probably filling and gave it a go.

As with most modern milkshakes this is sealed and super treated so while it's better cold it will survive a trip out to play cards.  The reaction of the other people said it all - they were not keen.  Unusually for a public review no-one tried any except me!

The taste is essentially like the aftertaste you get when you cram a whole load of different skittles in at once.  For my tastes it could have had more purple skittle and less yellow, but it wasn't that strong and it wasn't terrible.  It was filling enough and by the end the taste had kind of worn off and it just tasted like milkshake.

I'm not sure I'd rush out to buy more, but I did drink the second the following day with no ill effects and wasn't tempted to give it away or tempt our teenage review team into trying it.  All in all it's more gimmick than great drink, but if you've been looking for the great skittles taste with none of the texture or chewing then this may be for you.

15 January 2014

Cafe Latte Truffles (Hotel Chocolat) [By @SpectreUK]

Most people that know me know that I am not a coffee person. I'm a bit of an English fuddy-duddy who prefers his pot of tea after a good meal in a restaurant and can never understand the fascination with the mind boggling array of different ways to present coffee. I prefer to wake up first thing in the morning to a good English Breakfast Tea and a good hearty English Breakfast. To see me drinking coffee is a rarity to say the least. Having said that it is certainly rare, but I do enjoy the very occasional cafetiere, but can't bear instant coffee or coffee from a machine. The only coffee I do enjoy on a fairly regular basis is Turkish Coffee at a favourite haunt of ours in Wolverhampton called Cafe Maxim's.

Changing the subject slightly, Cinabar plying me with chocolates is generally a good idea, although chocolates with a soft coffee centre can be pretty touch and go. The white chocolate from Hotel Chocolat is a huge favourite of mine. It's luscious, creamy, smooth and not too sweet or sickly like some white chocolates on the market can be after eating an enormous bar. Cinabar saw these Cafe Latte Truffles in the Hotel Chocolat shop and thought she'd take a chance. They had quite a hard yet creamy white chocolate shell with a dark chocolate chip topping. The soft coffee coloured ganche centre had a luxurious light coffee flavour. These Cafe Latte Truffles were moreishly absolutely delicious and I would definitely have them again. I would certainly recommend them as a treat after a good meal at a dinner party as an alternative to chocolate mints.

Information on the packet;
Described as milky chocolate and mellow coffee truffled together. Presented in a 90g packet of six Cafe Latte Truffles. There were 237 calories, with 16g of fat and 22g of sugar per 45g serving, which equates to half a packet, although I ate all six in one sitting! These chocolates were suitable for vegetarians. For the ingredients please see photograph.
By Spectre

14 January 2014

Choceur - Belgian Chocolate Waves: Orange (Aldi) [By @cinabar]

I've been on a recent trip to Aldi, and in amongst the groceries these chocolates caught my eye. They reminded me of an email I had about six months ago from someone asking me if I knew whether Cadbury still made Snaps, and if not did anywhere sell anything like them. At the time I couldn't think of anything similar on the market so had to reply back with a negative response. These chocolates do sort of fit the bill, and were also available in a mint edition too.
When I opened the box I was a little disappointed with the internal packaging. To make the best use of the space a giant stack of chocolate slithers would have been heaven, instead there was a tray which held three stacks of smaller chocolate waves. It did feel a bit spaced out, the box is quite large considering the contents.
Each of the chocolates consist of a flat oval of chocolate, slightly curved in the middle. Pressed into each one are crunchy bits of rice crispies, and there is a lovely aroma of orange.
The chocolate pretty much worked as a one bite sort of treat. The initial impact is orange, then the sweet milky tones of the chocolate kick in and the two flavours work nicely together. Sweet citrus and cocoa were made for each other. The rice crispies add a light crunch and give the chocolates a bit of substance. They quickly melt in the mouth and you find yourself reaching for another. The orange variety certainly make a good snacking chocolate, but I can imagine the mint would do well after a meal with coffee. I'm certainly going to pick up a box to try next time I'm in Aldi.
By cinabar

13 January 2014

Cadbury Creme Egg Biscuits (Poundland) [By @Cinabar]

There are quite a few Cadbury biscuits out, with the range expanding well since I first tried them in 2010. It has been a little while since a new product was added though and what better way to start the new year than to combine the traditional Creme Egg with this biscuit format.
As I’d heard these biscuits would be getting an early release in 2014 I did have my eye out for them. Regular Creme Eggs invariably appear on the 1st January, so I thought these might too and put myself on full alert. We’ve searched everywhere for them, my mum even checked Waitrose for me, but it was all to no avail.
Over the weekend I had a browse in Poundland, for bargains more than Foodstuff Finds, but sitting on the shelf were the mythical Cadbury Creme Egg Biscuits. Fab! The last place I expected to see them first was Poundland. Yes the shop is famed for its value, but isn’t usually the best place for new products, even if it does get its fair share of import goodies.
Inside the box were six chocolate coated biscuits spaced into stacks of two in their plastic tray. I broke one in half and could immediately see the layer of Creme Egg fondant, with both its white and yolk looking pretty on top of the biscuit base. I thought that was quite clever, as I wasn’t sure how it was going to work.
I gave these biccies a munch and was impressed to find that the Creme Egg fondant did make its presence known in flavour too, not just visually. There was a nice chocolate taste from the thick coating, the biscuit was chocolatey too and had a nice baked flavour, but the sweetness from the fondant kicked in and gave these an extra burst of indulgence. It is sort of like a thick sugary syrup I guess, but it was specifically the Cadbury taste that worked so well. I like the oozing layer of fondant egg, and felt that it gave the biscuits a nice texture. Crunchy but gooey. My only disappointment with them was that they were fairly small and there was only six in the packet. It's such a shame - I’m going to have to go back to Poundland next weekend and stock up! ;-)
By Cinabar

12 January 2014

Ainsley Harriott Spanish Chorizo & Paprika Soup [review by @NLi10]

I got a soup bowl for Christmas - celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott has a new range - and so we combined it all into one.

I've had a lot of lovely soups recently, mainly spicy ones which is something I'd never expected to like. This is like that, but is one of those newer style soups that isn't in a can and is presumably fresher.  The container has two portions which is nice, but also annoying as the lid is shocking - you couldn't carry it about.  I cooked it in my new bowl (with it's lid on) and had a tea in my I love gaming mug.

The soup was thicker than expected, but with no real chunks of ingredient that you could identify.  The picture is a little different.  This would have been an issue, but it was really really nice and filling so I couldn't complain too much.  I think that the taste was restaurant quality, but the texture and contents wouldn't be quite up there.  A good lunch with a bread and drink (for the heat) but not a must buy.

11 January 2014

Magner's Specials; Spiced Apple and Rhubarb Cider (@MagnersUK Tesco) [By @SpectreUK]

Magner's have been producing Irish cider in Annerville, County Tipperary, since 1935. This original Magner's cider has been specially blended with rhubarb and cinnamon spice. The bottle stated that this flavoured cider was "subtly sweet and tart", so I was expecting the usual bite I get from rhubarb puddings in the summer time and also mixed with the wintery flavour of sweet cinnamon. The pinkish cider had a feisty fizz on opening the bottle, so much so that I almost lost some to the bubbles bidding to escape on release of the bottle top. There was a strong apple cider odour to this drink mixed with a twang of rhubarb and an afterthought of sweet cinnamon spice. The taste almost followed suit with the smell. There was a strong initial full bodied kick from the apple cider, then a tantalising sweetened taste of rhubarb which was tickled playfully by the spice from the cinnamon. I've never been a huge fan of cinnamon myself, as many an apple pie or strudel has been ruined by its overuse, but having said that used proportionately cinnamon can have the same winter warming spicy affect as ginger. This cider's cinnamon spice did indeed have the warming effect that I had been looking for on this wet and windy start to the New Year. I just need a few more of these Spiced Apple and Rhubarb Cider bottles and a good old sing-a-long; everybody now; "Oh... it's a long way to Tipperary... Hic!"

Information on the bottle;
500ml glass bottle at 4% volume. Ingredients included; original Irish cider blended with natural rhubarb and sweet cinnamon flavourings.
By Spectre

10 January 2014

Gourmet Chocolate Pizza Co: Strawberry & Champagne Chocolate Pizza [@ChocPizzaCo] [By @Cinabar]

The nice folk at the Gourmet Chocolate Pizza Co got in touch and asked if we wanted to try one of their chocolate pizzas and give it an honest review. Although NLi10 has experienced one before, I couldn't wait to give them a try! I had a browse on their website and this strawberry pizza caught my eye, okay yes, it was the edible glitter... and a mention of popping candy - long may I never grow up!
Just incase you were wondering when I say pizza, there isn't actually a dough base, just thick chocolate, but they do come in a super cute pizza delivery box. Although I only had a small one as a sample, the pizza did look absolutely beautiful when it arrived. It was decorated symmetrically with a red candy strawberry in the centre which was extra eye catching. The glitter on the top did appeal and gave it a proper celebratory feel. For me it was perfect for getting rid of the back to work blues!
I attempted to break a piece of the pizza off to try and I found that it wasn't too keen on breaking on its seem lines, but that doesn't really matter. When I first tried the pizza the thing that hit me the most was how good the quality of the base chocolate was, it tasted really good. All to often novelty chocolate products look nice but lack quality, that was certainly not the case here. The chocolate was thick and creamy with a rich cocoa taste and a well balanced sweetness, I was thoroughly impressed. Packed into the base were freeze dried strawberries adding their sweet berry flavour.
The toppings all looked the part, but again tasted really good. The red sugar coated chocolate beans added some nice colour and texture, and the white chocolate crunchy balls a nice blast of sweetness. The chocolate curls were messy, but did look smart on top. Mixed in with it was a gentle dose of popping candy delivering a fizzy tingle to emulate the champagne.
I think the folk at the Gourmet Chocolate Pizza Co should be congratulated for coming up with such an interesting novel idea, but executing it with some really tasty chocolate and ingredients. I’d be over the moon to receive this as a gift and it is one of those items that is sure to be remembered.
By Cinabar

9 January 2014

50 Ingredient Rocky Road [review by @NLi10]

Here we have another festive themed present that I received - this time made by my mother.  She's become our family expert at the humble rocky-road and has taken inspiration from many places to get to this point.  And recently she made a batch that contained FIFTY separate ingredients! This is from the remainders of that batch, but in a lovely festive shape (and. Box)

Here we have the humble snowman - resplendent in his three chocolate colours.  But what lies within I hear you ask?

Everything!  You can see things like meringue, space rocks, toffee, citrus sweets, maltesers and other things in this one part of his hat alone. There are chocolates of many flavours, mini chocolate versions of box-of-chocolate things. There is marsh mallow there is nougat!

I didn't get the full final list of things that went into this - you can get an idea of the scale from the last picture - it was huge.  It's been very enjoyable to eat and call out what you find over the post Christmas weeks, it goes very well with tea.

There is just enough base inside and solid top chocolate to make sure that you aren't over sweeted and I haven't had a bad slice yet. A very yummy end to the Christmas leftover season indeed.