31 March 2014

Belinda Clark -Gourmet Marshmallows (@BCConfectioner) [By @Cinabar]

I have a sweet tooth, and do like marshmallows. I’ve always just had the pink and white ones before, and either had them with a hot chocolate in winter or a barbecue in summer. It's not really adventurous but there isn’t a lot you can do with the plain marshmallows you pick up in the supermarket.
When Belinda Clark got in touch she asked me if I wanted to try her gourmet marshmallows, I said yes, but wasn’t really sure what to expect, some variation on the pink and white I mistakingly thought. Oh my was I wrong. These take marshmallows to the next level, they have interesting flavours and look stunning - I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. She sent me four flavours and some of the Foodstuff Finds team decided to sample them over the weekend as an indulgent treat.

First up was rose, these were light pink in colour and were decorated with a darker pink embellishment. The first thing we noted was just how fabulous the texture was, they were soft and light and melted in the mouth. The topping did add a nice bit of crunch but the mallows themselves were just lovely and light. Much nicer that the mass produced slightly chewy marshmallows you get in the shops. The rose flavour was delicate, it was like a mild turkish delight, sweet and deliciously floral.

Passion Fruit
Next up we decided to try out the tropical sounding passion fruit edition. These were a pale yellow in colour, and looked even more fluffy than the rose variety. The aroma once the bag was open was quite strong, and it smelt wonderfully natural and fruity. The taste was sweet, zesty and zingy, sort of citrusy and full of flavour. These turned out to be Spectre’s favourite as they were just so natural and fresh tasting. They really are something a bit different.

The raspberry ones looked awesome, they are pink in colour but also coated in pretty dark pink raspberry dust which made them look really appealing. The flavour wasn’t as intense as the colour, but the berry taste came through in a very satisfying way. You make think you’ve tried raspberry marshmallows before, but these would show you what can be done!

Salted Caramel
Now of all the marshmallows this one looked the most impressive. For a start they were chocolate coated, and if that wasn’t good enough there were peanuts on top and caramel streaked throughout! Wow! I enjoyed how the texture worked, the chocolate and nuts were solid, but the squidgy marshmallow underneath just felt really lovely and soft. The flavours were stunning, chocolate, nuts and caramel are some of my favourite things, and this did them justice. The very slight hint of salt gave them an edge, and made them feel grown,

These product have proven that there can be so much more to the marshmallows when compared to the ones we are so used to buying in the shops.The texture is better, the flavours are natural and the concept is genius. No longer would you waste them dipped in hot chocolate or toasted on a barbecue, these are for savouring. These are the kind of sweets that will make you rethink marshmallows, they truly are a gourmet product.
By Cinabar

30 March 2014

Bahlsen Pick Up! [Review by @NLi10]

Occasionally in the snack food critics life something confusing happens where you can't remember reviewing something, rediscover it, and then find your original review and agree with yourself.  In the case of the Bahlsen Pick Up! Bars the reverse is true.  I often mentally write the review while eating, sometimes make a few notes, take the pictures and then write it all up later. In the case of these I foolishly didn't take the picture. This caused me to think that I'd already written about them and to carry on as usual.

While eating one of the last ones in the pack I had the sudden realisation of what had occurred.  Pictures were hastily taken so that it could be added to the review stack.

Chocolate lovers buy chocolate bars. Biscuit lovers tend to just buy a packet of biscuits. It's a bit odd when you are out, to walk around town eating from a packet of biscuits - you get funny looks. Especially when it's a big pack like the savers or values range and you aren't sharing them with anyone.  To this end the biscuit bar was invented.  Biscuit lovers know which these are and seek them out - basically it's anything with a higher biscuit ratio than a Twix. The most popular example was Penguin in the UK, which seems to have gone out of fashion these days, which is just a Bourbon biscuit coated in milk chocolate.

This Bahlsen Pick Up! Is essentially two of the Bahlsen regular biscuits with a thick, hard slab of chocolate down the centre to add variety and legitimacy to the experience, and to trick chocolate lovers into buying it.  The creamy rich flavours of the biscuit are very familiar to anyone who has eaten from this range and do not dissapoint.  The only problem is that when you are used to eating a stack of the choco Leibniz biscuits that one bar isn't quite satisfying enough.

I've kept these stashed at work for emergency use only (which is why there were some left a good few weeks after we got them) but I'd say these would be perfect for sneaking into break rooms and for giving to relatives who have visited with their cup of tea - just like Penguin in the 90s.  With the right advertising these could become a staple tea time snack, but I fear that the health conscious kick may have put these just out of the reach of such P-P-P-Imortality stakes.

Will buy again, and probably keep in rucksack for trips as these are pretty hardy and a good way to eat a few dozen biscuits without getting the look in public.

29 March 2014

McVitie's Fruit Rolls Apple and Strawberry (Sainsburys) [By @SpectreUK]

The fruit rolls I'm most accustomed to are fig rolls. In fact I've been eating fig rolls since I can remember starting to eat biscuits. In fact fig rolls are amongst my favourite biscuits next to Jam Sandwiches, ginger biscuits and of course Jaffa Cakes (though I'm never quite sure if they really are biscuits!?) My favourite brand of fig rolls is produced by the legendary Lyons. They might come in different packets in Asda and Sainsburys, but I think they are still made by Lyons. Another famous biscuit maker is of course McVitie's. Cinabar found these two new flavours of Fruit Rolls and asked me if I would blog about them. I agreed at once. Such is the taxing life of a food blogger...

Apple Fruit Rolls

There was a baked biscuity and sweet apple smell on pealing back the green outer packet. Twelve slim ridge cut golden baked biscuits with a pureed green apple filling were revealed in a plastic container. The biscuits had a light crunchy texture with sweet juicy apple filling. I found these biscuits lovely and flavoursome, healthy feeling and certainly moreish. Before I knew what had happened six biscuits had disappeared in quick succession and there was no excuse, because I was the only person in the room at the time of eating! These biscuits have a pleasant unintrusive flavour to them like my favourite fig rolls. I'd recommend you try these with a lightly spiced afternoon tea in the garden with a good book on a sunny afternoon.

Information on the packet;

Per 17g biscuit there was 65 calories, with 1.4g of fat and 7.4g of sugar. See photograph for ingredients.

Strawberry Fruit Rolls

On opening the red outer packet there was a pure sweet strawberry smell, almost completely dwarfing the baked biscuit odour. There was another twelve slim ridge cut golden baked biscuits in the inner plastic container, but this time they had a dark pinkish filling. The outer biscuit had the same light crunchy texture as the apple fruit rolls, but with a shock attack of pure strawberry flavour once I'd bitten through the biscuit, and then my taste buds went back to the baked biscuit flavour to remind me that I was eating a biscuit rather than a sweet strawberry. Again I found these biscuits very moreish and another six disappeared from view rather quickly, which left me feeling more than a little piggish. These explosive strawberry biscuits would be a good snack after a picnic on a sunny day sat on the beach or in a park somewhere. I can just imagine saying; "Pass the Scotch Eggs please, Dear. And when are we going to have some of those lovely strawberry flavoured fruit rolls?"

Information on the packet;

Per 17g biscuit there was 66 calories, with 1.5g of fat and 7.5g of sugar. See photograph for ingredients.
By Spectre

28 March 2014

Soreen New Chocolate Mega Loaf (Available Morrisons) [By @cinabar]

Soreen is a firm favourite treat of mine and has been for years! They have had different editions of their fruit loaf in the past, from banana flavour to cereal bar format, but this really stood out as something exciting, Chocolate Mega Loaf!
Soreen asked me if I wanted to give it a try and very kindly sent a loaf over, the official packaging wasn’t quite ready so they also sent me over the photograph above too. The thing about this being a mega loaf is that it opens up a lot of possibilities, from cutting slices off and serving with custard through to having it with ice cream like a proper dessert. I do intend to give those a try but for the first test I went for the traditional neatly sliced and served with butter.
What impressed me the most was how well they incorporated the chocolate into the flavour. The expected flavour of dark fruit was still very much in the frame, but along with this came a rich chocolate flavour that worked well with it. The texture was still moist, soft and squidgy, the addition of the chocolate chips throughout gave it a bit of substance as these bits were more solid.
Slices of this with butter made a rich, chocolatey fruity delicious treat, and I thought it was a fab new product for the range, I can’t wait to try out a few other serving suggestions, and having it as a proper dessert too. For those wondering if the loaf does prove to big for you, it freezes too, if you need to put your treat on hold! :-D
By Cinabar

27 March 2014

The Biltong Company - Original Sticks & Sweet Chilli Jerky [Review by @CaptainKindling]

The Biltong Company - Original Sticks & Sweet Chilli Jerky

Continuing with my new duties as Foodstuff Finds' designated carnivore, I was recently given a choice of a couple of products from The Biltong Company.  Originally from South Africa, Biltong is on the rise in the UK at the moment.  They do a range of different products, so to get a little bit of variety in both flavour and texture I chose their original sticks and sweet chilli jerky.

Seeing as it was in more managable, bite-sized chunks I started with the sweet chilli jerky as a lunchtime snack.  I am a big fan of both jerky and sweet chilli, but had never tried a combination of the two, so I had quite high expectations going into this one!  The first thing to notice is the size of the chunks - unlike your typical off-the-shelf supermarket jerky which tends to be finely shredded, the jerky in this pack came in very generous portions.  The 125g size bag was the smallest size available, and this still felt like it was more than enough to snack on for a few days.
To keep the meat well preserved the jerky was kept well-sealed, so when I opened the pack I was hit by a potent waft of both beef and chilli in equal measure.
As you'd expect with jerky, you need a decent set of teeth and strong jaw muscles to dig into it!  The sweet chilli taste hit me first of all, but as it softened up the beef flavour was released more and more, eventually leaving the chilli as a tingling aftertaste.  I managed to get through five or six pieces before my teeth started to ache, so I begrudgingly allowed the rest of the office to try a piece before popping the rest into a tub to return to over the following few days.  For my colleagues this was their first taste of jerky, and it was met with a positive reaction all round.
As a jerky fan I know that the natural flavour of dried beef is a very strong one, and so it's difficult to add a flavour which won't be completely overwhelmed.  In this case the chilli competes for its place very well, but I couldn't help but feel that the sweetness was lost amongst those two strong flavours.

After a few days of finishing off the jerky and letting my jaw muscles recover, I moved onto the Original Stick.  As the photo shows, this was just one solid slab of dried meat, which made it quite an inimidating prospect!  I was slightly tempted to just go nuts and have at it like a dog with a chew stick, but decided to be a bit more sensible and use a knife to cut off strips as and when I fancied a nibble.
As with the sweet chilli jerky, there was a strong aroma released as soon as I cut through the vacuum packaging.  On this occasion it was overwhelmingly peppery, and personally I found it a bit much!
I have to admit the overpowering aroma made me a little bit hesitant when it came to tasting time, but in fact it didn't taste nearly as strong as it smelled.  The pepper was there, though more as a complementary taste, allowing the full flavour of the beef to come through.  Being a dried meat product it was quite salty, but not as salty as many other products I've tried.  According to the ingredients label it did also contain worcester sauce and coriander, but neither of these were particularly apparent to my tastebuds.
In terms of the texture, it was actually surprisingly tender!  I'd geared myself up for another jerky-esque war of attrition going into this, but it was much softer and more managable on the teeth.  While I did decided to play the nice colleague and offer tasters around the office, I did feel as though this was something I could have selfishly tackled on my own!

To summarise I'd say that the sweet chilli jerky is something I could have as an occasional treat, but the original stick was something I could happily have on a regular basis.

The Biltong Company  does have a wide range of products to choose from starting from £2.80 for a 125g pack, so if you're a fan of dried beef or just fancy taking the plunge and giving it a try then they'll probably have something to take your fancy.

26 March 2014

Humdinger! Vibrant Veg Thai Style Sweet Chilli Edamame Beans (Waitrose) [By @SpectreUK]

I'm always on the lookout for interesting alternative snacks to nuts and crisps. These Vibrant Veg Thai Style Sweet Chilli Edamame Beans from Humdinger in Hull seemed to fit the bill. I've reviewed a few Wasabe Peas in my time to know that roasted veg can be quite crunchy so was expecting quite a crunch with these Soya beans. I noticed the main ingredients (asides the beans) were mustard and paprika, so was expecting a spicy burn, not as much as the nose hair singeing sensation of Wasabe Peas, but something at least to set my taste buds alight.

On opening the packet I was pleased at the spicy mustard and paprika smell from my initial sniff. I poured a few of the reddish green nuts out onto my lunch plate and popped a couple in my mouth. There was certainly a good crunch to these roasted Soya beans. No nose hair frying Wasabe burn here, but as mentioned none was expected. However there was a decent spice from the paprika mixed gingerly in with the fiery mustard. The beans didn't feel oily to the touch or palate. I couldn't help popping more and more beans into my mouth and soon had a burning tongue and runny nose, which didn't make me look too handsome whilst sat in the centre of the canteen at work. I wrapped up the packet and decided to have the other half with my lunch the next day. I'd recommend you give these lovely hot and very healthy feeling (see nutritional information below) roasted Soya beans a go, but don't forget the elastic band to save the rest of the packet, as they are not only hot but pretty filling!

Information on the packet;
110g packet per 100g is 472 calories, with 26.1g of fat and 45.1g of sugar. High in fibre, protein and minerals (potassium, phosphorus, iron and manganese). Ingredients included; Edamama Soya Beans (84%), flavouring (mustard and colour: paprika), sunflower oil.
By Spectre

25 March 2014

Peanut Hottie: Peanut Butter Flavour Hot Drink (@PeanutHottie Sainsburys) [By @Cinabar]

When I saw this drink on the shelf I wasn’t sure what to think. I like peanut butter, you can safely declare me a fan, but I still wasn’t totally sure that I would want a drink made from the stuff. Obviously curiosity set in and I still bought the jar, I just wasn’t sure what to expect.
I popped the kettle on and opened the jar, the annoying cardboard seal finally relinquished the contents after putting up a fair defence and only giving in after it had been torn into several pieces.
The contents inside were grainy, light in weight and slightly orange in colour. I added the suggested 5 teaspoons to my mug and made a cup for my mum (who requested some hot chocolate powder in hers to make it Snickers like) and then looked into the tub slight shocked at just how much of the contents I’d already used up.
My drink mixed up quite easily when I added the water, it just needing a bit of stir to dissolve in, and there in my mug was essentially a hot peanut butter drink. I gave it a taste and the flavour wowed me, its not often I say that. I’m not sure what I was expecting but the sweetened golden flavour of peanut butter was like magic. The nutty flavour came through perfectly, although it was lacking the hint of salt you’d normally associate with the flavour, the sweetness added the perfect soothing touch. Think peanuts dipped in honey, it was pure heaven. I’ve just finished my latest online Sainsburys order and duly added another jar to be delivered, because I’m totally hooked. And yes, if you feel like replacing a couple of teaspoons of the mix with hot chocolate, my mum confirms that works perfectly too!
By Cinabar

24 March 2014

Aero Bubbly White - Limited Edition (Newsagent) [By @Cinabar]

So a while back Aero ran an online competition to let the public choose their new flavour for 2014. The options were strawberry, lemon, cappuccino or white. Now if I'd known about the poll at the time my vote would have gone quite contently with cappuccino, coffee is a much underused flavour when it comes to confectionary, and it's rich tones work like a dream with the sweetness of chocolate. Alternately the fresh and fruity option of either strawberry or lemon sounded like they to would bring something new to the market. Fruit and chocolate sound very summery and fun. So what won then? White chocolate, wow what an adventurous lot us Britain's can be, we went for the plainest sounding flavour.
Oh well, I don't have anything against white chocolate it is just that I was hoping for something a bit more daring for a new limited edition. First things first once the wrapper was off I was a little more confused as I was met with a bar that looked like a regular milk chocolate Aero, it was only the bubbles inside that were white, the outer coating was still milk chocolate. If we are going to have a white chocolate edition Aero it would have been nice if it had been pure white chocolate.
Okay so flavour wise I can't complain, the bar tasted sweet and creamy and had a nice hint of white chocolate mixed in with the more dominant milk chocolate flavour. I love the texture of bubbly chocolate, it feels firm and then melts so much easier than regular chocolate in the mouth. It is pleasurable to eat.
I enjoyed this bar and I'd be lying if I said otherwise. It was really nice to munch on with a cup of coffee while having a lazy Sunday afternoon. It did hit the spot in terms of a sweet chocolate treat, it is just that it isn't a wow bar. When I see it I just can't help thinking about the cappuccino bar that never was too. Why can’t we have more coffee and chocolate bars? The Aero Cappuccino could have been out of this world.
By Cinabar

23 March 2014

Get Fruity - Apricot, Orange & Ginger [Review by @NLi10]

I like fruit and I like cereal bars.  When people offer to send them to me though I do check that there are no raisin/sultana bulk outs going on.  The people behind Get Fruity assured me that their Apricot Orange & Ginger was raisin free but that they would include the other varieties in the package too - just in case.  Now that's confidence in your recipe!

The bar itself is mostly oats with the flavour of the fruit and the chunks making up the majority of the texture.  The oats are quite finely ground which is very unusual and may mean that people that are not fans of cereal bars could find themselves liking these, especially children.  Apricots are not my first choice of fruit as it can go horribly wrong, but here the tang of the orange and the strong flavour of the oats mean that it's a nice combination.  The flavour lingers afterwards in quite a refreshing way.  There is no refined sugar or artificial malarky going on in these either, which you really can't tell. It still has enough sweetness to feel like a treat and these are just small enough to fit into that category.

I wouldn't want to have to rely on these for energy during a long hike, but I'd still stash one in the backpack for a nice fruity hit.

Look how red it is!  I decided to risk the 'Moist Mixed Berry' flavour as everyone knows the red fruit is the best fruit, although this contains the dreaded raisins.   The flavour isn't overpowered by them which is nice, but you can tell they are there.  The rest of the flavours are similarly nice like the apricot bar, but there is less chewiness to the fruit.  This just provides a variety of experience so isn't a detrimental factor.

I think I preferred the apricot version, but this is probably due to my anti raisin bias.  I'm saving the final flavour, strawberry for another day, but I will be eating that and not giving it away as originally planned.  A good little range of treats that actually contain a lot of interesting flavours and surprised me.

Turns out that this is a relatively new company and they are just on sale locally at the moment but will be at the NEC food and drink expo 24th to 26th March.  You can find more at getfruitybar's website, but I'm totally sure that these will be picked up by one of the major stores and you'll be able to drop them in lunchboxes and work drawers pretty soon.

22 March 2014

Purely Pickled Eggs (@PurelyPickledEg) [By@SpectreUK]

Pickled Eggs With Horseradish

This jar of free range Pickled Eggs With Horseradish was sent to me especially by the Purely Pickled Eggs company. They may have read that I have a love of most things pickled, especially pickled eggs. Pickled eggs usually go fantastically well with fish and chips from the local chippy. However, horseradish is a fantastic accompaniment to beef. So I immediately had a quandary. Should I try the first of these pickled eggs with fish and chips or on the side with a juicy beef sandwich? I just simply couldn't decide, so I thought I'd try the first egg on its own and enjoy the rest of the jar at my leisure with both meals.

I felt a little odd giving the jar a quick sniff on opening. I usually sniff beer, but I couldn't help my curiosity. There was indeed a hint of horseradish in amongst the wine and malt vinegar odour. There were peppercorns and squared chopped pieces of horseradish dancing around in the bottom of the jar. A pulled the top slightly discoloured egg out of the jar with a metal fork and for some reason beyond my self control gave that a sniff as well. The strength of horseradish and mixed vinegars tickled my nose hairs. I began to salivate. I took a big bite out of the pickled egg taking care not to break teeth on the metal fork. Safety first here at Foodstufffinds of course. The horseradish, pepper and vinegars had mixed well together forming an overall spicy flavoured pickled egg that was dominated by horseradish, with a mild pepper kick that lead to the vinegars and a final polish of lemon. I found these Pickled Eggs With Horseradish lip-smacking. It was difficult to stop licking my lips after eating one. I wanted another straight away, but realised my next tasting was Pickled Eggs with Spicy Vinegar, so will have to look forward my beef sandwich meal!

Information on the jar label;
Weight: 360g full and 165g drained. Suitable for vegetarians. Ingredients; egg (would be a bit surprised if there weren't any), wine vinegar (with sulphites), malt vinegar (with barley), horseradish, spices (peppercorns), and lemon juice.

Pickled Eggs with Spicy Vinegar

I picked up this jar in a garden centre farm shop, which is one of Cinabar's favourite haunts. I was quite taken aback by the amount of spicy and herby ingredients. Cinnamon and ginger certainly complement apple, but I was unsure how cloves, coriander and garlic would taste with the cyder vinegar and eggs. On opening the jar I gave it involuntary sniff. There was a dominant smell of allspice and cinnamon mixed with the cyder and malt vinegars. There was a mix of ingredients dancing around the bottom of this jar. I pulled the first slightly discoloured pickled egg out of the jar with a clean metal fork giving it a now customary sniff. There was a mix of warming allspice and cloves dominated by a citrusy coriander odour from the egg. on first bite there was an initial complexity of the burst of spicy and herby flavours that took my breath away and all followed by a vinegary cyder apple aftertaste. This was a lovely complex mix of flavours starting with warming winter spices of allspice, cinnamon and cloves blending into an early Spring coriander and garlic, then a heat from the mustard and pepper followed by cider apple and vinegar. These sumptuous Pickled Eggs with Spicy Vinegar would more than complement a roast pork or ham sandwich lunch with a decent wedge of Cheddar cheese on the side.

Other pickled egg flavours in the range (get it?) are Chilli, Beetroot, Fruity Balsamic and also Garlic. I'll certainly be looking out for them.

Information on the jar label;
Weight: 360g full and 165g drained. Suitable for vegetarians. Ingredients; egg, cyder vinegar (38%), malt vinegar (with barley), spices (allspice, coriander, mace, peppercorns, mustard, cinnamon bark, chilli, cloves), ginger, and garlic.
By Spectre

21 March 2014

Ben & Jerry’s Greek Style Frozen Yoghurt - Raspberry & Chocolaty Chunk (Sainsburys) [By @Cinabar]

I was actually in the ice cream section of Sainsbury’s looking for some of the new Core flavours from Ben & Jerrys, which I couldn’t find, but my eyes spotted the neat New label on this Greek Style Frozen Yoghurt.
The flavour was raspberry and chocolate, with a promise of proper chunks of chocolate which sounded rather good. Obviously when it came to opening the tub the battle began. The plastic seal around the tub had no perforations to allow me to tear into it. I tried and tried to rip it by hand, and my nails are quite good, but it wouldn’t give. I went and got the scissors but even with them I struggled as it was on so tight I couldn’t get the point of the scissors under the plastic very easily to work my way in. After a struggle I finally reigned victorious and got the lid off. This little delay meant that the ice cream was soft enough to scoop when it was opened. Well played Ben and Jerry’s a clever solution to selling ice cream that isn’t soft scoop. I do find a lot of Ben and Jerry’s quite solid and difficult to get out of the tub if it is fresh from the freezer.
The ice cream was a pale pink in colour, and it became apparent very quickly that the chocolate chunks really were proper chunks, they were huge, almost like pieces from a bar! The flavour was super tasty too. The raspberry was delicate, but still fruity. The greek yoghurt added a nice hint of sour, but a fresh flavour, with a creamy aftertaste. The berry’s stood their ground and it became reminiscent of a bowl of fresh raspberries with a spoon of greek yoghurt on top. The chocolate added another dimension, and were an absolute treat when you had one on your spoon. This was a full on chocolate hit, which mixed up the texture but also delivered a fab strong cocoa flavour, which was like magic. Did I mention the chunks were proper chunks?
I may not have been able to find the new Core flavours from Ben & Jerry’s but one thing is for sure with the Greek one being this good I’m going back to see there are any other flavours in that range. I just need to find a strategy to allow me to get into the packaging!
By Cinabar

20 March 2014

Special K Multi-grain Porridge with Red Berries [review by @NLi10]

This is part 3 in a round up of various porridges I've eaten recently.  Part one was the 10K hours apple & cinnamon porridge  and part two was the Dorset Cereals Raspberry Porridge.

Part three is actually about the porridges that started it all off.  Kelloggs got in touch and asked whether I'd like free cereal - specifically small sachets of porridge.  Thinking I could make these easily at work I said yes, only to discover that I needed a lot more than just a kettle!  See the Dorset review for all the details, but essentially you need a microwave, fresh milk and some patience.

Here is the mix pre-taking it downstairs to be microwaved.  Note that this time I didn't follow the timings exactly as I watched it like a hawk and every time it went to bubble over the top I stopped and let it shrink again.  I still need to invest in a bowl...

And here is the finished article.  Again it looks like a tiny portion and while isn't as filling as the other two is enough for a light breakfast or a nice evening snack.  The flavour isn't as strong and certainly isn't as sweet (and given the nature of the product neither of these are a surprise) but the texture is very satisfying and not mushy.  It's a nice porridge and like the others gives the office a good homely smell that confuses visitors.

Being the cheapest of the options, and the healthiest I think this is easy to recommend for people looking for the basic option. The simplest of the three to make and easily the most flavourful was the 10K but at three or four times the cost it's not something you'd have every day.  The one I'd probably automatically go for though is the Dorset as it's just a little bit more like a treat.  As i'm essentially only eating these on days I work late it pays to have a little incentive to keep you going and the extra fruit (and probably sugar) is most welcome.

That said I'm working my way through the Special K three flavours too (the plain is plainer, and the honey and almond is sweeter) and enjoying them all.  I was not really a big fan of porridge in the morning as hot breakfasts are better on a plate than a bowl, but after these I may be willing to slot them in as a pre-bedtime snack cereal if I can find space in the cupboard.

19 March 2014

Buddy's Bourbon Flavoured Beer with a hint of Honey (Waitrose) [By @SpectreUK]

The label on the bottle stated that J.W. Buddy or "Buddy" to his friends came up with the idea to brew beer with bourbon and a hint of honey. For a guy who's recovering from a rotten chest infection and still has a dreadful cough (okay, I'll allow you to feel a little bit sorry for me), the idea of drinking a cool glass of beer with a fiery kick of bourbon to sooth my aching throat really appealed. I remember back to my late teens on entering my regular public house coughing and sneezing and the busty blonde barmaid, Charmaine, insisted that I have double Brandy with sugar on the house. Ah... The memories...! Anyway, I grew up with alcohol being a keen soother for sore throats. In later life I've learnt that a couple of squeezed lemons, a touch of orange juice to dull the fire and a big dollop of honey mixed in a cup and super heated in the microwave can sooth just about any sore throat. Having said that and being fresh out of lemons and brandy, I have a bottle of beer with bourbon and honey and a little bit of hope on my side.

On opening the bottle I was taken back by the strength of the "hint of honey". This was no mere "hint", but this fizzy beer had clearly been brewed mainly with honey and not just sugar. The rich blonde beer fizzed merrily in my USS Enterprise beer mug. I kept giving it a good sniff to seek out the bourbon. Honey was the main odour with a hint of whisky spirit to the smell. There was a definite kick of whisky (bourbon) to the sweet honey taste. The sweet honey was good for my cold and helped the bubbles tickle and sooth my sore throat. The added fire from the bourbon in the beer also helped to numb my poor throat and warm my cockles ready for my bed. I have to say J.W. Buddy definitely knew what he was doing when he originally brewed this beer. I know I'd certainly liked to have called him "Buddy"!

Information on the label;
330ml bottle at 5.1% volume. Brewed by Global Brands limited in the United Kingdom to a recipe licensed from Buddy's Brewhouse, in Michigen, USA.
By Spectre

18 March 2014

New Magnum with Marc De Champagne 25 Years (@MagnumUK Sainsburys) [By @Cinabar]

Magnum are celebrating their 25th birthday. This confused me a bit as it means that my memory of eating them as small child is a fake one, but they just feel like they have been around forever. Please stop trying to work out my age now. ;-)
Anyway as it is Magnum’s 25 year anniversary they are going with a silver theme and have introduced their fist silver Magnum. They come in a pretty silver box, but lets face it the impressive part is the silver coating on the ice lollies themselves. I know I have a thing for novelty, so yes these did make me smile when I pulled the wrapper off! They looked fab! It was more pearlescent in real life and not done justice by the camera, but you get the idea.
Under the shiny coating there is a thick layer of milk chocolate that cracks when you bite in, and it reveals the pale ice cream within, with is layers of Marc De Champagne flavour.
The taste is well balanced and the Marc De Champagne comes through nicely, without being overpowering. It adds a warming twist to the flavour, but still allows the creamy flavour of the ice-cream and the sweet chocolate to work their way in their too.
It is nice to see something a bit different on the market, and these hit the spot for me. Yes they have a novel element but it is pulled off in a rather elegant way. The flavour was carefully chosen, and well balanced, it is something special without being to heavy. In short I loved these, they tasted perfect, indulgent and looked really smart. These are going to be my Magnum of choice for 2014, and here is to wishing them well with another 25 years of ice cream happiness.
By Cinabar

17 March 2014

Choc + Chocolate Mallow Drinking Chocolate (Sainsburys) [By @Cinabar]

It's not a secret that I’m easily influenced by bright and shiny packaging, and this hot chocolate with it colourful bag was hard to miss on the shelf. The product is called Choc+ the idea being that the hot chocolate is effectively chocolate plus other goodies, in this case marshmallows. I also picked up the bag with fudge, as that was also in a remarkably pretty packet. Shallow of me, I know! ;-)
Anyway according to the bag you put 21g of the mixture into a mug (4 teaspoons apparently) and add a little milk before microwaving. It was a bit weird spooning into a mug as it is essentially chocolate drops and mallows in the bag, but it looked quite generous in the bottom of the cup.

You microwave it with the drop of milk and stir, to create a paste. The marshmallows hadn’t dissolved at this point which surprised me, I thought they might become lost very quickly. I topped up the cup with the rest of the milk and microwaved it until hot. Again the marshmallows were more intact than I thought they would be, which was a pleasant surprise. They floated to the top of the drink, albeit a little smaller than when they went in.
Now I was suspicious of the drink before I took my first sip, despite having what looked like a great deal of chocolate added to the cup, the mixture was paler than expected. Although there was surface chocolate, underneath that the drink was almost milk coloured. I took my first sip and the packaging may well have been bright, but the flavour was not. It tasted muted, mildly chocolatey with a hint of sweet, but not special. If I had this in a cafe I wouldn’t complain but I’d make a mental note not to bother again. It amazed me that you could add that many good ingredients to a cup of milk and still end up with a cup of vaguely flavoured milk.
Now I know I’m a harsh critique when it comes to hot chocolate, I want an indulgent sweet treat with a full on cocoa flavour, and this just didn’t meet my expectations.
By Cinabar

16 March 2014

Dorset cereals - raspberry porridge [review by @NLi10]

In a continuation from the previous porridge reviews I have managed to collect all the necessary ingredients (sachet & milk) and all the required equipment and utensils ( microwave, spoon, bowl - well I've used a mug, that's the same right?) so can try the sachet prodigies as afternoon work snacks.

Here we see the small portion you get in one sachet.  I'm aware of these oats and seeds cereals being much more filling than they look so I'm using exact measures.  Well as exact as 2/3 of a sachet of milk allows for.

This brings back memories of childhood eating of cereals directly from the bag in the box by pouring the milk in.  Only the Kellogg's selection box size packs allow for this, but it's still a nicely indulgent thing to let kids do and it reduces washing up.

I put the ingredients together and microwaved it for the required amount of time.  And this happened.

Oh dear. Mini volcano! What appears to have occurred is that the high, straight sides of the mug are not as conducive to heat removal as the slopey bowl they suggested.  I will have to find a microwave safe plastic bowl for work for future cooks.

At this mid point it looks more like porridge and does have a nice raspberry smell and a pleasing texture.  I mix and re microwave as directed.

Here is the finished brew, including a shot of the newly cleaned microwave so that any people I work with don't blame me for any communal mess.

While it took longer to sort out than suggested and created far more washing up than the previous bowl based 10K porridge, as mentioned at the time this was a lot cheaper. 

The flavour is not quite as strong and distinct as I'm used to with Dorset products, but it was still more than acceptable and was of a good size for a snack. I got a box with around 10 of these in so I'm pleased that it's really good. The fruit in it was noticeable and I liked the idea that some of the flakes were plain and some had flavour as this created a variety in between mouthfuls.

15 March 2014

Whittard's Spice Imperial Tea (Whittards) [By @SpectreUK]

Being a big tea drinker I've always been a big fan of Whittard. Established in 1886 by Walter Whittard, whose first venture was a small shop in Chelsea, in London, selling the finest tailored blends of tea, coffee and hot chocolate. I must admit I hadn't seen many Whittard's shops around for sometime, but stumbled across one when we were wondering around Portsmouth on our last holiday. I picked up this rather fetching traditional looking tea box as I always have a fancy for spiced tea, as some readers may know from my blogs in the past. On popping open the silver bag in the box I was taken back by the heavy orange smell mixed with cinnamon and cloves. I quickly scanned the box and was a little confused to find that this black tea is best drunk without milk! On infusing the thick dark tea I found that it was almost coffee coloured. I restrained the urge to add milk and decided that I would try the first mug without. There was always forty-nine other tea bags left in the box to decide whether I preferred milk in Spice Imperial or not, and then of course there would be a long long trek back to Portsmouth.

On first smell I let the steamy dark liquid tickle my nostrils with its orange and spicy fragrance. On first taste I could definitely pick up on the orange peel to start with followed by cloves and then cinnamon, there was a soft sweetness to the brew also that followed the orange peel and spices balancing out the flavours with vanilla. This was an excellent expert brew delivered by an excellent expert tea blender. It's just a shame there isn't a Whittard's shop nearby where I live anymore. There was an apt quote from Noël Coward on the top of the box open opening that stated; "Wouldn't it be dreadful to live in a country where they didn't drink tea?" I heartily agree!

Information on the box;
125g box with 50 rounded tea bags. Ingredients included; black tea, cinnamon, citrus peel, cloves, and dark vanilla pods. Origin; Indonesia.
By Spectre

14 March 2014

Shapers Maple Popcorn - Boots [By @Cinabar]

I was looking for a lighter snack to munch on while shopping in our town centre. Popcorn is usually a good lighter choice, so when I found Shapers Maple Popcorn in Boots, I thought I’d give it a try.
When I saw that they were Maple flavoured I did assume that these would be Maple Syrup and would be sweet, but that wasn’t what I found. I mean they clearly where meant to be sweet, but they had obviously held back on the sweetness aspect, as a calorie saving. These are in the Shapers range, and the whole bag only has 92 calories, but they still tasted a little ‘healthy’ for my liking. The texture too wasn’t that impressive. They had some crunch to them, but were boarding on a little chewy instead of fluffy in places.
The flavour had a hint of something else in there to, something savoury that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It was like it was trying to emulate bacon soaked in maple syrup, (a fabulous American style breakfast) but missing the strength of either taste. They were a bit muted, like they were trying to remind you they were low calorie.
The popcorn wasn’t unpleasant by any means, it is just that I’ve tried some seriously fab flavours from other brands recently, some of which were low in calorie too. The bag certainly makes an inoffensive and filling snack, just don’t go expecting to much.
By Cinabar

13 March 2014

Kezie Foods: Zebra Meatballs [Review by @CaptainKindling]

We got offered a large selection of exotic meats that none of our regular reviewers were brave enough to try so I invited a good friend of mine, and fellow blogger CaptainKindling to give them a try.  If you want to read more of his stuff then head on over to his regular home of Games & Tea and see what you find...

Kezie Foods: Zebra Meatballs

Another day brings another one of Kezie Foods' exotic offerings to my dinner table.  They do  whole range of meatballs from different, unorthodox sources, and the pack included in their food bundle were zebra.  Like kangaroo, this was a meat I'd tried before, but had again been semi-cremated on the barbeque, so I was looking forward to seeing how the meatballs would fare.
Once again I followed Kezie's cooking instructions from their website - as of this point they hadn't steered me wrong yet, and I don't go in for meatballs very often so they're not an area of great experience for me.  In this instance it was a pan-frying job , so after browning off the outside of the meat, I just cooked them for around 5 minutes and they were ready to go!  Kezie recommend serving them up with spaghetti and your favourite sauce, which is the choice I went for, but also suggest just having them with a dipping sauce as a light bite alternative.  Given their quick and easy cooking process that did strike me as a tempting idea, and seeing as I only used half of the pack I might be heading to the supermarket to browse the dips tomorrow!
But I'm getting way ahead of myself.  As I said, for these 6 meatballs I decided to serve them up with spaghetti and sauce.  Normally I'm a fan of my spices so would have liked to go for a tomato and chilli sauce, but I didn't want to run the risk of overpowering the zebra flavour, so I went for a safer option in tomato and basil.

Well first of all Kezie were bang on the money with their cooking instructions.  After browning time plus 5 minutes the meatballs were cooked perfectly throughout without beginning to dry.  I ate the first one after rescuing it from the sauce, so that the flavour would come through uninhibited, and boy what a flavour!  Zebra has a very strong and distinctive gamey flavour to it - strong enough that I probably could have gone for that tomato and chilli sauce without the flavour getting lost.  When mixed into a big forkful along with the spaghetti and tomato & basil sauce the flavour of the zebra still came through.
The meatballs are also very lean compared to beef, and it really comes through in the taste and texture.  As much as I love my carnivorous side, I do feel a little guilty on the old ticker when I'm tucking into a fat steak or juicy burger, but felt fairly guilt-free with zebra.  The only downside is - much like burgers - you're a little limited on how to use them, but if you're planning a meatball dish anyway then they're well worth a go!  Like I said, I'm really looking forward now to seeing how they work on their own with perhaps a barbeque dip...

A pack of 12 zebra meatballs from Kezie cost just £3.15, making them a realistic alternative for an interesting spaghetti dish.  12 should feed two people quite comfortably, as 6 was enough for me alone and I'm quite a big eater!

12 March 2014

Mug Shot On The Go - Spicy Sweet and Sour Flavour (Tesco) [By @SpectreUK]

"Mug Shot On The Go" implies something that's very quick and easy to make on the move, possibly between meetings on a busy working day. I'm on holiday at the moment, so decided to simulate rushing around the house by waiting to the last minute to have my lunch and start watching a three part Great War drama about the beginnings of World War 2 called 37 Days. I quickly read the simplified diagrammatical instructions on the container whilst I boiled the kettle, fetched some bread for dunking, and sorted out some fruit for a healthy pudding. I used a metal fork, as there was no free plastic fork, but that didn't matter as plastic forks always get replaced with a solid metal one and the unused plastic variety just ends up cluttering the utensil draw. Remember; plastic bends if used in freshly boiled water, though if you're at work with possibly no utensils available then using your fingers could be rather messy!

There was a "Fill line" on the side of the container, but if you require a thinner sauce you could just ignore it and fill the container more. I opted for the thicker orange brown sauce which was lovely with bread dipped in it as it soaked up the thick gooey sauce, which didn't drip too much so was easy and mess free to eat. Amongst the thick stringy ribbon noodles there were diced carrots, red peppers and green peppers. The sauce had a spicy sweet and sour flavour with a mild jalapeño pepper chilli heat for an extra added kick. The Ribbon noodles weren't too stringy so I only had to mop my chin once during eating. The sauce was not nose-sweating chilli heat, but it had a pleasant tongue tingling wake-me-up spice that wouldn't leave you a mess in the office or on the run whilst out and about, but would go some way to keep you awake in the following after lunch meeting. The noodles didn't fill to the brim as the serving suggestion on the top of the cardboard container image suggested, but this Mug Shot certainly was nice and filling, especially with dipping a couple of pieces of brown bread. I would definitely have this Mug Shot again and will keep a weathered eye out for any other flavours!

Information on the container;
Made by Symington's Ltd., in Leeds. Contains Wheat Gluten, egg and celery. 67g pot without water, 275g with water at 261 calories, with 13.8g of sugar and1.7g of fat. No artificial colours or preservatives. Suitable for Vegetarians. Ingredients in photograph.
By Spectre

11 March 2014

Phileas Fogg - Louisiana Sweet Smokey BBQ - American Style Bubble Chips (@PhileasFogg) [By @Cinabar]

Sometimes I buy snacks without the intention of blogging about them. They just sound nice, and in the case of these Phileas Fogg Bubble Chips I thought I’d written about quite a few Phileas Fogg goodies already on Foodstuff Finds, and although they are new to me I don’t think they are newly out. The thing is when I gave them a try all that got turned on its head and I knew they were very much blog worthy.
These ‘chips’ are mostly round in appearance, and look quite thick, but as they have air in them they do still have a light crunch. The taste is where them come alive, they are just so full of flavour. There is some dark pink/orange seasoning on them and the aroma from it is enough to let you know these are going to hit the spot.
The taste is sweet, but warm and spicy. I could pick out barbecue sauce, sweetness from tomato, spice with a little chilli, a fab hint of smokey flavour and even some onion. There is a lot going on there, but they work like a dream. It has been a while since I enjoyed a bag of crisps so much. The crisps do have a strong taste, but I like that and I found myself liking my fingers after I’d finished.
If you are looking for a bag of crisps that delivers an unequivocal barbecue taste with a moreish crunch, these are the crisps you’ve been looking for.
By Cinabar

10 March 2014

Giannis Ice-cream Deluxe Gold Latte Macchiato (Aldi) [By @Cinabar]

Sunday was a beautiful day, it was the first day the sun has been warm this year, and although it wasn’t hot enough to think of barbecues, it was hot enough for ice lollies. I decided to have a look in the freezer section of Aldi to see what was on offer, and the Latte Macchiato seemed to shout ‘buy me’ at me. Lets face it if I had to categorise my top favourite flavours; chocolate, coffee and nuts would all be in my top five, so how could these ice-creams possible go wrong?
There were three in the box for the rather remarkable price of £1.49. I saw from the packet that these Giannis Ice-cream had won an award, so it was all looking good. The ice creams looked to be a good size when I opened them with a generous helping of almonds pressed in to the chocolate case. They were shaped a little like figures of eight. I took my first bite and found myself a bit confused, I went back to check the box to ensure I’d picked the coffee edition, and it clearly stated Latte Macchiato on the packaging. Why was I tasting a plain filling with a chocolate and nut shell? I thought for a moment that perhaps it was like a proper Latte Macchiato where there are layers of milk with a sharp espresso in the middle, and that maybe I’d find my coffee fix further down. Sadly not, the sweet creamy flavour carried on throughout.
Now here is the thing, cream, chocolate and nuts works really well, and so my taste buds were quite happy. It was a rather enjoyable treat in that respect and lovely on a sunny day. However if you are going to say Latte Macchiato on the pack please give me some coffee flavour too. The only hint of coffee I had throughout the entire ice cream was when I had finished it, and there was this vague flavour left on the palate like I’d drunk a cup of coffee about an hour before. I’m not sure if I just got a duff batch, or whether they are supposed to be like that - but if it if going to promise coffee it needs to deliver. Look how far down coffee is on the ingredients list, bearing in mind they are always ordered by the ingredient with the largest quantity first, its 23rd on the list. I’m just hoping the peanut box I picked up at the same time has a bit more flavour.
By Cinabar

9 March 2014

Fuel your 10K Hours - Apple & Cinnamon instant porridge - Asda [review by @NLi10]

I've been buying a lot of instant porridge style snacks recently.  I haven't managed to review many of them because I haven't managed to eat many of them!  You see my thinking was that I could just throw some hot water into them like a pot noodle and then have a lovely afternoon snack.  I don't enjoy porridge for breakfast, but do like it as a late evening thing and thought I could move it to a  work snack slot.  

Unfortunately most of them require milk and a microwave.  This turns it from a simple spontaneous act into a complicated set of tasks.  The nearest microwave is two floors below me, and we never have a decent supply of communal milk so I'd have to buy it on the way in - and the two shops nearest my office don't even sell milk! 

My third attempt at this I picked up this FUEL Apple and Cinnamon as not only did it have a flavour I like, it was a brand I've reviewed with success before and it was also on sale and didn't require a bowl.  On the back it said it only required boiling water up to the fill line - hurrah!

Similar to this Special K porridge that Cinabar has written about I just clicked the kettle on and filled it like I would a noodle.  The texture looks a bit odd in the photo, but it turned out all right.  There were hard, sweet apple bits and a reasonable grainy texture to the porridge.  Sure, it's not home made fresh on the stove, but it really did hit the spot and was surprisingly filling for such a small amount.

The Dorset & Special K sachet varieties that I have specify milk and microwaves so I shall have to sort all that out before I do their proper reviews, but I did quite enjoy this one.  I think that due to the water only set up it is more expensive than the regular porridges but I guess you pay for convenience.