30 September 2015

Sausage Casserole @Pot_Noodle (Sainsburys) [By @SpectreUK]

I haven't had a sausage casserole for ages. I used to have them nearly every week when I lived with my parents, so when Cinabar passed me this Sausage Casserole Pot Noodle I was excited and dubious at the same time. Could Pot Noodle pull off a traditional sausage casserole and without the sausages? I couldn't tell just by looking at the pot! Traditionally Pot Noodles have been the staple diet for students and late night snacks after an evening down the pub. Even though I'm waiting for a start date to begin my new job, I'm still technically a student. After a gym session and a good swim I decided to pop open this Pot Noodle and give it a try. I added the sachet of tomato ketchup after the boiling water and gave the Pot Noodle noodles a good stir so the sauce and vegetables would be well mixed. The Pot Noodle had a meaty sausage smell with diced pieces of carrots and onions bobbing around in amongst the noodles and thick brown sauce. The Pot Noodle had a thick wholesome gravy sauce and meaty sausage flavour with a mixture of herbs such as parsley and sage, as well as spices such as black pepper. This was a really tasty healthy feeling meal and perfect for dunking bread. I thought that this was a really good Pot Noodle, and not just for students and boozers, so give it a try.

Information on the pot;

90g pot with 414 calories, 16g of fat, 4.5g of sugar and 1.6g of salt. Ingredients (see photograph) included no artificial colours or preservatives. Vegetarian friendly.
By Spectre

29 September 2015

Pho Vietnamese Street Food (@PhoRestaurant Grand Central Birmingham) [By @Cinabar]

Living close to Birmingham we couldn’t resist visiting the newly refurbished Birmingham New Street station, and the newly revamped shopping centre called Grand Central. The name Grand Central comes from the original name of Birmingham train station when it opened back in 1854, before it got that seventies make over.
When we were looking around we were impressed by the number of interesting places to eat that had also newly opened. Loving to try something new we decided to eat at Pho, a trendy looking Vietnamese restaurant that over looked the new station. We arrived just before 12 o’clock and the place was about two-thirds full.
We were given a paper menu and left to explore all the interesting sounding dishes, the names of which are shown in Vietnamese, but with good English explanations underneath. It is always fun to order to the waitress trying to pronounce things you have no idea how to pronounce, and await the polite correction. As we had never had Vietnamese food before this was completely new territory.
I went for Nem Hai San for my starter, followed by Com Tam Rang for my main. Essentially a seafood spring roll to be followed by a chicken and shrimp dish with rice. The place was very busy by the time we ordered, (we stared at the menu a fair bit) and I was worried the service might be slow, but drinks arrived very quickly and the starters followed shortly after.

On a side the drinks were lovely also, I had a homemade lemonade which was very pleasingly zingy, and Spectre went for a Vietnamese beer to keep the theme.

My starter didn’t look exactly how I had picture a Spring Roll, as it was quite a bit fatter, but you could see it was full of prawns, crab meat and pork. The dipping sauce it came with was moderately hot but sweet, and complimented all the flavours. It was quite filling though, but very tasty.

Spectre went for the Nem Nuong, which was pork meatballs. It arrived as generous portion and he found them to be flavoursome, and perfect dipped in the spicy sauce.

My main course was a dish of rice with all the goodies mixed in. It came with a ginger sauce on the side, which I didn’t eat much of as I’m not the biggest fan of ginger. The rice dish was lovely and spicy, I’d say a good medium, enough to get a burn on the tongue that is tingly rather than hot. The chicken pieces were moist and succulent and broke up the textures perfectly. The shrimps added flavour, but were quite small, although there were plenty of them mixed in.

Spectre went for Beef Bun, a bowl which came with noodles, beef, beansprouts, salad, dipping sauce, and a more recognisable Spring Roll on the side. His dish was quite varied and he mixed things up to eat them. He said; “That was fantastic” when he licked his lips and finished the bowl, which is about at positive as he can be.

For dessert I had Banha La Dua, the Pandan Pancake. It was green when it arrived, and had a good coating of moist roasted coconut. The texture of the pancake was soft and spongy and the coconut added a lovely creaminess to the flavour. It came with a scoop of coconut ice cream, which was silky and certainly would be soothing for those whose main courses proved too hot.

For drinks afterwards I tried a Vietnamese Coffee, which came with a layer of condensed milk at the bottom(!) which was a nice strong but sweet drink. Spectre went for a Jasmine tea which was the whole flower in a mug, it opened once hot water was added.

I thoroughly enjoyed our meal and trying out a new place. The food was spot on, interesting and varied and somewhere I want to go back to so I can explore the menu further. I spoke briefly to a member of staff who said the restaurant prides itself on its authenticity to the traditional Vietnamese recipes, which means you get the chance to try a bit of a different culture right in the middle of the UK, and the rail network.
By Cinabar

28 September 2015

Nitrogenie Ice Cream @AltonTowers @Nitrogenie [By @cinabar]

We have just come back from our annual trip to Alton Towers, which we filled with much adventure, from enjoying the slides in the water park to the twists and turns of Spinball and the other great rides. On our wander through the Gloomy Wood, on the way to Nemesis, we walked past this new ice cream bar, Nitrogenie. As Alton Towers is a theme park and we were enjoying our day out we felt we should have ice creams, and Nitrogenie looked like an exciting place to try. The ice cream is made fresh in front of you, but there are no long waits here as they use Nitrogen to super quickly freeze and create instant ice cream. They also use a pinch of magic, allegedly, but it looked more like a custard base and fresh ingredients.
I went for the Salted Caramel Honey Comb Crunch, and the cook/scientist donned his goggles and set to work adding my ingredients and the cold Nitrogen to speedily turn it into my requested dessert. It was fun to watch.

The finished product can be served in a tub or cone, but I thought the tub looked a little safer. What impressed me was the consistency of the finished ice cream, because of the methodology used by Nitrogenie it gives it a super smooth finish, which just feels so lovely and velvety. I loved the flavour too, it was sweet and the caramel tones shone through. There were plenty of chocolate honeycomb chunks throughout the ice cream and sprinkled on top, the salt was just a mild hint. These added a lovely flavour, and gave a nice mixed texture to the tub of ice cream.
All in all this was a fun way to enjoy an ice cream at a theme park, it's nice to watch them making it and the finished product is good as it is just so very silky. Novelty yes, but why not when you are at Alton Towers.
By Cinabar

27 September 2015

Fuhrman Revisited [@NLi10]

A short few weeks ago I tried embarking on the Fuhrman diet - and 8 weeks later here is what happened!


Eat Lots Of Fruit 

This was easy for me. Plenty of berries, loads of stone fruit (plums and such), avocados (are they fruit - they must be), and then even more berries. I basically replaced all my snacks with fruit.

Eat Mostly Raw Fresh Food

Health = Nutrients per Calorie.  Maximising this is the secret to healthfulness! (Apparently)

This is what lunch looks like. This has been the most simple and effective change to do. Get a £2 Tesco salad bowl - add nuts, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar. Takes a while to eat, but worth it. Full all afternoon. Granted I think the salad bowl was designed for two, but frankly it's about the right size.

And in 8 weeks, despite two festivals and a lot of eating out I lost a stone. For context, that's pretty much all my excess body fat gone - according to the BMI calculator I'm now underweight again! This wasn't the goal - I wanted to get healthier and gain wait, but burning off the fat without doing any extra excercise was an unexpected bonus.

Things I Failed On 

Treats and things like meat are supposed to be rare and appropriate. For me this became far too regular - I wanted to eat out and eat well but it was just impossible. Festivals were all pies and noodles - and when the events are pre catered you can't do much about that.

I managed to switch breakfasts to soy milk and porridge with fruit on which was very successful, but by the end of the weeks I was back on the cornflakes (plain ones) for speed.

Evening meals were awkward due to cooking for two, but apart from adding non whole meal grain I largely stuck to it.

Im amazed it worked as well as it did to be honest, but I think that if I'd stuck to it fully I'd have done even better. I'd have had to up the veg I ate to get to the calories I need though!

26 September 2015

Curious Brew Lager Beer (Waitrose @ChapelDownWines) [By @SpectreUK]

The curious name of this beer took my fancy when I first saw it. There is a question mark on the bottle cap that also heightened my curiosity. They say that curiosity killed the cat, but from reading the label this 4.7% volume premium lager beer sounded like a curious treat rather than a curious killer. Produced by the Chapel Down Winery in Kent, which is England’s leading winemaker, this beer was brewed with pale malt, Saaz and Cascade hops. It was then re-fermented with Champagne yeast and a rare hop called Nelson Sauvin, which has a unique fragrance or so the bottle label curiously lead me to believe. I popped open the 330ml bottle and took a hefty whiff like a food blogger in a warzone. The pale malt shone through in the odour just above the mixture of bitter hops crashing into each other like three armies with their shield walls. This golden lager filled my expectant beer glass fizzing and bubbling like a playful liquid hand grenade. I was already licking my lips before I set my tastebuds to the task. This is a full-bodied bitter biter of a lager that keeps giving flavour throughout each mouthful. There’s citrus undertones, flowery overtones and the pale malt whirling around the twisting squirming battling hops like a bomber with it’s bay doors open. What a lager, what a beer. Curiosity just made this cat want more and more…
By Spectre

25 September 2015

New Cadbury Hot Cakes - Butterscotch (Sainsburys) [By @Cinabar]

These must be selling like hot cakes...it's difficult to resist using that line when this new product from Cadbury is actually called Hot Cakes. Technically they are room temperature cakes until you microwave them, but thats just me being a bit pedantic.
Any these new Cadbury Hot Cakes come in a box with two chocolatey squares inside, and the pack states they should be microwaved for 15 seconds, but not to do two at a time, which is oh so tempting. These are quite chunky pieces of chocolate sponge and aren't at all pop tart like, and certainly would be suitable for breakfast. When I first rad the press release they sounded like you’d be able to toast them too, but they are too chunky and sticky for that.
They consist of two layers of chocolate sponge, a butterscotch filling and a good coating of Cadbury chocolate, with a decoration on top too.

I microwaved them (oh let's pretend I microwaved both at the same time as a science experiment and not because I'm a rebel or lazy). Anyway I only did two for twenty seconds and the butterscotch liquified and started oozing out, so they were clearly "done".
The flavour was awesome, the chocolate sponge was rich and sweet, and the texture was firm but still fluffy. The butterscotch added a lovely caramel taste throughout and the gave the hot cakes a nice sugar rush.
I think these Hot Cakes should be a cupboard staple, they are so quick to heat and serve and yet taste and feel like a proper hot pudding. I think they would even take a dose of custard really well and that would turn them into an extra special treat. The chocolate and butterscotch flavour is just super yummy.
By Cinabar

24 September 2015

Meat Free Chicken Nuggets - Quorn [by @NLi10]

Meat free products with meat in its name is often a confusing idea. It's not for lifelong veggies - who thinks that meatballs and chicken nuggets are the must have items that you are missing out on? And it's unlikely to satisfy those that are true meat freaks - they aren't indistinguishable - and they haven't performed that well in taste tests.  I guess that they are to try and tempt people over, and for people who are tempted to move back.

I thought it would be fun to try the Chicken Nuggets as they were a staple food as a child, every Friday without fail (until we discovered pizza!). Here you see that they even made a few shapes so that you can tend they are real. Reassuring for me, and a bit freaky for my veggie partner who has never eaten the chicken variety.

The ingredients are fairly un exciting, it's just soft tasty Quorn hidden in some batter. Much better than mechanically reclaimed bird meat in theory.

Not suitable for all diets, but petty healthy really.

We had ours with kale, and Heinz Baked Beans (despite all the sugar) and Heinz Ketchup (so more sugar there then).

To be honest, I'd not expected much from these, but they do actually work. The batter solves the great veggie problem that there isn't really and sizzle in veggie things. This means that they have a varied texture and work as nuggets. I'm tempted to try these on my sister who is an aficionado of the bird bites, and see if she can tell. The good ketchup and sides helped a lot. We had the rest of the bag with waffles which was proper old school. 

My veggie partner said that if I bought them again she'd happily have them but it really took some coaxing to have that first bite. Another victory for Quorn.

23 September 2015

Just Crisps Sea Salt and Black Pepper (Brown and Greens, Trentham Gardens) [By @SpectreUK]

These Just Crisps Sea Salt and Black Pepper flavour were cooked in cold pressed rapeseed oil, which has 35% less saturated fat than sunflower oil. They were made from home grown potatoes on their Wade Lane Farm in Staffordshire. These crisps were sliced and cooked with their skins left on, so I was expecting a decent crunch. I like my sea salt and black pepper crisps to have a good saltiness and a medium hot spicy black pepper kick that knocks me for six with each mouthful. Having said that, I do like to have a beer with sea salt and black pepper crisps on the odd occasion, although not today, as these crisps were with my lunchtime beef, cucumber and horseradish sandwich. On opening the packet there was a good spicy peppery smell and a light saltiness. On first taste the decent crunch was definitely there, with a good tastiness from the potato mixed in with a light saltiness and a medium peppery kick. Not too overpowering on the pepper front. So perfect for beer that I changed my mind and cracked open a bottle of Kingfisher to wash my lunch down with.

Information on the packet;

40g packet at 100g has 526 calories, with 2.4g of sugar, 32g of fat and 1.34g of salt. Ingredients included; potatoes, cold pressed rapeseed oil, dextrose, sea salt, black pepper, sugar, rice flour, onion powder, yeast extract powder, yeast powder, and natural flavourings.
By Spectre

22 September 2015

Golden Oreo (Morrisons) [By @Cinabar]

I have to start with a big thanks to a lovely lady from work for finding these for me. My local supermarkets (Sainsburys/Aldi) don’t seem to have them so I’m a bit late to the party in trying them.
These are a new flavour from Oreo (for the UK at least) and unlike the peanut butter “flavour” ones don’t have a Limited Edition labels attached to them, so I’m assuming they are a more permanent addition.
The biscuits have the usual “stuff” inside, ie a sweet vanilla cream, but this time the biscuits are golden instead of the usual dark almost black cocoa colour. They look nice and immediately I’m reminded me of custard creams.

I have to admit I always thought the reason I like Oreos so much was due to the combination of dark biscuit and vanilla filling, but I think it might be the filling that triggers it, because these were divine. These stand so well without the chocolate that clearly the “stuff” holds its own and that Oreo know how to make a good golden biscuit. The flavour is lovely and sweet and the creamy vanilla filling just work so well together. I’m just hoping our local Sainsburys stock them soon because I need another pack.
By Cinabar

21 September 2015

New @J2O - Midnight Forest: Orange/Cherry/Chocolate (Sainsburys) [By @Cinabar]

I am a big fan of J2O and will happily lap up any new flavour they bring out for us. I have been loving the Garden Rose that came out for summer and was sad to see it disappear from the supermarket shelves. In its place though is another brand new J2O flavour, and it just sounded amazing.

Midnight Forest is a mix of orange, cherry and chocolate (!), this is the first J2O to contain cocoa as an added non fruity ingredient. I think with the exception of the edible glitter in Glitter Berry, all the main selling points have been the fruity combination of flavour (however the last one was rose).
The name J2O Midnight Forest will possible end up making this the drink of Halloween, with its mystical sounding theme, and its fairy tale like design on the packaging. The name and variety also reminds me of Black Forest Gateaux, which is also a combination of chocolate and cherries albeit without the orange.
Flavour wise the drink does have an orange base flavour, its quite strong and zesty but nicely sweet too. The next taste to hit is the rich sweet cherry taste, which ends with a delicate but pleasing hint of chocolate. I think they have been deliberately subtle with the chocolate flavour, it is a new in drink form and therefore an unusual combination. The cocoa element is there enough to raise the flavour and add its soothing taste, without stopping this being essentially what it should be, a fun but fruity drink.
I bought two packs of four of these bottles, and having now tried them I’m really pleased I did. I’m happy that J2O are bringing out such fun and unusual combinations, and I hope this one gets the status that Glitter Berry has, where fans keenly await its return each year.
By Cinabar

20 September 2015

Peru - land of Avocados [by @NLi10] @avocadoBrother

Once again we trek to the tiny post office the UPS guys deliver the big boxes to, and once again we get exotic fresh food from around the world - in a themed parcel.

This time it was from Peru.

The groovy black box with stylised writing opens to reveal...

A small box and a lot of red paper which hides...

Velociraptor eggs!

Ok, so these are actually advocados but a boy can dream, right?

The red box contains a glass/resin mix coaster with some hand woven textiles in it. It's quite sweet and looked breakable (cats) so went straight to work.

And hidden right at the bottom of the parcel was a lovely document case which happens to be a perfect fit for my iPad Air! I'll stick to my more robust case I think, but this is a nice option for a more fun occasion.

Oh yes - the food!  Avocados are a strange thing, they seem to be something people either love or avoid.  These are the darker Hass variety, which is a specialty of Peru.  They also require perfect timing to get them when they are ripe, but you can always slow nature down with the fridge.

It's easy to get the edible bits out with a spoon, a bowl full of tasty tasty avocado bits.

And here we can see my attempts to lightly fry it before adding the rest of the ingredients. Unfortunately I forgot to take a pic with the tomatoes and herbs in it - I must have been too hungry. We had it as a kind of salad/sauce on pasta which was healthy and delicious. And we still have some left for lunches.

I'd quite like to go to Peru, and now I know they have healthy fresh veggie food available I've got no excuses!

19 September 2015

Black Bob Cheddar and Bitter (@1CheshireCheese, Trentham Gardens) [By @SpectreUK]

This is an unusual blog about a bitter called Black Bob that was especially brewed by Tolletts Farm in Macclesfield to wash down a good lump of The Cheshire Cheese Company’s Black Bob Cheddar Cheese. 4.5% in volume this amber ale had a hoppy bitter smell to it on popping open the 500ml bottle. This was a deep flavoursome bitter living up to its name with oodles of bitter hops bashing at my tastebuds, followed closely by malty goodness that travelled into the aftertaste to leave a wholesome traditional ale taste in my mouth.

I took a few good swigs of the bitter before moving to the lump of cheese Cinabar had kindly prepared for me from the 200g block. The cheese had a strong Cheddar smell and was a creamy yellow colour on pealing back the black wax surrounding it. I have to agree that the bitter and the cheese were made for each other (literally), although they both could easily be enjoyed separately. The combination made for an exquisite pudding. The cheese had a very strong initial Cheddar flavour that merged with a delightful creaminess that danced nimbly around my tastebuds like a cow on roller-skates. The bitter ale complemented this strong cheesy creamy flavour with its mixture of hops and barley malt. Perfectly washing each bite down and leaving a strong creamy cheese and bitter ale flavour in my mouth. An unusual pudding for me, and yet it seems like I’ve been missing out on a traditional concept that’s previously been trounced by chocolate and cakes. Time for a change I think…
By Spectre

18 September 2015

Beer52 - Beer Club - @Beer52HQ [By @Cinabar]

Spectre was recently asked if he wanted a sample box from the Beer52 beer club. Obviously he said yes, and this fantastic box arrived.
The idea of the club is that they send their members a selection of either 8 or 10 great beers every month, with a snack and a copy of their magazine Ferment. The beers are exclusive or small batch beers, so the chances are you will never have tried them before. When Spectre first heard this he took it with a pinch of salt, he has reviewed 120 beers here at Foodstuff Finds, which is rather impressive. He is the sort of person who has exceeded any supermarket supplies, however impressive the shelf, he has usually tried them all. Yes I probably should be worried! :-D
His face lit up when the box arrived, they were all new to him. Every single one! Some of the beers were foreign, and they had intriguing names. They were all carefully chosen to provide an interesting selection of goodies, and Spectre was reading all the labels in anticipation.
The magazine was a nice edition giving some background on the beers, and a bag of spicy popcorn works well for any beer fan.
If the excitement from Spectre is anything to go buy, I think this is the kind of neat selection of beers that is an absolute ideal gift for any beer connoisseur.
Spectre will be reviewing the beers very shortly, he can’t wait to get stuck in.
Their website is available here: Beer52.

You can also get £10 off your first box using the code: FOODSTUFF10
By Cinabar

17 September 2015

Thai Fruits - Rambutan & Mangosteen (Asda) [by @NLi10]

As part of the final few weeks of the fruit and veg based diet experiment I decided to try these exotic Thai fruits.  I was sure I must have had some as part of the fruit breakfasts that we got in the hotels, but didn't remember either of them.

There are three of each in a box, and a little pamphlet that I presumed told you how to eat them.

Unfortunately it did not - but I'd looked at the solo versions of the packets in Asda and so knew they were basically exotic stone fruits.

First up I tried the spikey Rambutan.  Slicing around the edge exposed something that looked like an undersea monster and not a fruit. It had a certain lychee like quality to the fleshy bit.

The flavour was sweet and familiar, I've had something that tastes like this before - possibly a Thai fruity drink. Really quite pleasant in flavour and texture, but the stone and casing mean that it's not all that easy to eat on the go. You also need a few to be satisfied!

Finally I tried the mangosteen.

This was a tough hide to cut through and the first thing my Tesco fruit knife hasn't butchered with ease.  Once the waxy hide is torn asunder the middle looks a bit like a white brain. I expected it to pulse.

The little segments are soft and both sweet and sour in quite an unexpected way - it's practically candy! The larger segment hides the stone so is more of a challenge to eat.  Again this was an unexpected hit.

Neither of these tasted like I had expected and both would be something I'd want again without hesitation if they were easier to open and contained more fruit! I guess I'm just a picky western consumer, and jealous that the fruit has probably travelled more than me.

16 September 2015

Ceylon Lemon Tea Drink (Day In Supermarket) [By @SpectreUK]

Made by Vitasoy in Hong Kong this Ceylon Lemon Tea Drink was served in a cardboard carton with phrases printed on it such as; "unique tea taste" and "irreplaceable taste". I've never liked lemon tea, so I was a bit concerned even with the phrases printed on the carton. I was a bit apprehensive before opening and was starting to wonder why I'd bought the drink in the first place. However with some trepidation, but not much as I considered how bad could it be, I popped out the straw and opened the carton. After a couple of sips I realised I liked it. I'd left the carton in the fridge all day and quickly realised I like cold lemon tea. A fact that I had no idea of until today. I hate hot lemon tea with a passion. It makes me feel like I'm drinking a cold remedy! This carton of cold lemon tea had a light mix of Ceylon tea and black tea to it and a decent, but not over sweetness. Very refreshing and not one bit like a cold remedy.

Information on the carton
250ml carton with 42 calories per 100g, 0g of fat and 10.5g sugar. Ingredients included; water,mustard, lemon juice from concentrate (0.5%), Ceylon tea (0.2%), tea (0.2%), acidity regulator (E330 and E331), flavouring, and antioxidant (E300 and E301).
By Spectre

15 September 2015

New Thorntons' Toffee Apple Caramels [By @Cinabar]

Thorntons have released three new chocolates for the autumn season; these Toffee Apple Caramels, Toasted Marshmallow chocolates and some white chocolates flavoured with candy floss! They are all based after seasonal sweet treats. The Marshmallow ones have already been reviewed, and the candy floss ones will be following shortly. All are available either in the mixed box selections or in individual bags like these ones.
There are eight chocolates in the bag and they are shaped liked chocolate cups. The base chocolate is standard Thornton's milk chocolate and the filling is a fruity liquid caramel.
I was impressed that the milk chocolate was quite thick, its creamy sweet flavour complementing its sweet filling. The apple is not subtle, it is gorgeously fruity and teams up with rich but sweet caramel oh so well. It is like eating a toffee apple in that it is very sweet, perhaps too much for some, but it does exactly what it aims too.
These chocolates bring back that wonderful childhood feeling where overloading the sweet taste buds is part of the fun. These are definitely my favourite so far, the marshmallow ones were subtle, but these don’t have that issue. They are a great twist on the regular Thorntons' liquid caramel chocolates. There is a hint of novelty but in summary a fab new product.
By Cinabar