30 November 2015

Chicken and Bacon Chow Mein (#Amoy) [By @Cinabar]

Im a big fan of quick and easy food, so when Amoy asked if we wanted to try out some of their sauces I couldn't resist. They sent some of their instant noodles too so it was time to get creating.
We decided to go for the Chow Mein to start with, and picked up some diced chicken, bacon lardons and a bag of stir fry veggies. Whats more we thought we'd make it as a quick but tasty dinner on a work night.
We had a recipe to follow, but altered it slightly for our own tastes. We added the chocken as an extra as I like the idea of mixing chicken and bacon, but I think it would work well with a number of meats, or indeed prawns.

We started off by frying the chicken and bacon lardons is a dash of oil until cooked. We added some onions, followed by a tables spoon of dark soy sauce and the rest of the veggies.

We added the Chow Mein sauce next, which smelt wonderful especially when combined with the aroma from the bacon and onions.

The noodles went in next, they started off as a block and soon broken down into fine noodles. The final touch was another tablespoon of soya sauce just to add a little saltiness to the final flavour.
The meal was very quick to prepare, even after a full day at work. I loved adding the noodles straight to the pan, so simple. The flavours were outstanding, far surpassing any ready meal or take-way. The Chow Mein sauce was the good balance of flavours, the soya sauce and ingredients balanced it off so very well, it was the perfect savoury flavour. It was meaty, tasty, slightly salty but fresh and moreish. We all cleared our plates and cant wait to try some of the other goodies we were sent.
By Cinabar

29 November 2015

Christmas At Cadbury World Shop [by @NLi10]

It's officially Christmas now that Cadbury's World has their tree up!

Also the factory shop is FULL of the future contents of kids stockings (and today oddly about 200 Brownies). I settled for picking up a few cheap things and those I'd not seen before.

But first - the cafe! Hot melty rocky road and freshly made Cadbury's Hot Choc and an extra slice of triple layer Victoria sponge for good measure. 

And then on to the Freddo Faces. These seem to be a fairly new addition to the Freddo family, and you only get three small bags of 7 in the box.

They look like ugly buttons.

They don't travel too well, shaking in the box means they aren't quite perfect froggies. In fact they look more similar to misshapes (which are seasonal and not usually available until next year)!

They taste like big buttons and are top quality chocolate. It's a little more adult and satisfying than a bag of buttons, but only just.

Also we picked up a box of these - 18 bars for £5.40 - result! Naturally I've given more away than I've eaten as it's the season of giving - and I'm still full of chocolate from super lunch!

Cadbury is well worth a visit at any time, but that goes even more so at Christmas and Easter.

28 November 2015

Heston Toffee Apple Mulled Cider (Waitrose) [By @spectreUK]

This 5.5% volume Toffee Apple Mulled Cider was created by Heston Blumenthal especially for Waitrose. Served in a 750ml bottle this mulled cider has toffee and caramel added during its creation. It sounds to me like a rather sweet cider appley fix. I first couldn't decide whether I'd drink it warmed up in the microwave as a pick me up on a cold night or just for a chilled refreshing treat. Looking at the bottle it was clear that there was plenty of this cider to go around. So I opted for a pint of chilled mulled cider to start with. On pouring this still cider there was a very sweet toffee smell on top of the lightly spiced apple cider. This dry cider had a very mild spice to it and the toffee caramel sweetness came at the end of the flavour. Having said that, there wasn't a great deal of flavour. This Toffee Apple Mulled Cider was very easy to drink asides the dryness, which made me need to drink more. It also made me feel it wouldn't work warmed up, as it didn't quite work chilled! Not one for me I'm afraid. I prefer big on flavour; big on cider and big on spice to warm my cockles on a cold Winter's night.
By Spectre

27 November 2015

Ribena Limited Edition Winter Spice (Sainsburys) [By @Cinabar]

I came into work this morning to a particularly sticky task to unpick. I won’t go into the boring work details but I will go into the fantastic drink I had to fuel me during the problem. One of the lovely ladies at work managed to find the new Ribena Winter Spice, something I had been keeping my eye out for but to no avail. She found it in a large branch of Sainsbury’s so I’ll have to have another look for a bottle for home for myself, but she riskily left this bottle in the staff room, mental note not to drink it all…
Unusually for Ribena this is a drink which it recommends to have hot as a Winter warmer. I poured some into the bottom of my mug and added some freshly boiled water. I absolutely love spices such a cinnamon and star anise and this drink had lots of those sorts of flavours added. Thankfully they didn’t overpower the underlying blackcurrant taste, so the drink didn’t loose its identity, they did however enhance it no end with a fab spicy edge.
What more could you want on a cold day than a hot fruity drink filled with seasonal spices that feels warming and christmasy. I thoroughly enjoyed my mug of drink so much, I snuck back to the kitchen and made myself another, here is hoping she doesn’t take the bottle home any time soon.
By Cinabar

26 November 2015

Aldi Deli Salads - Chicken & Mango, Chargrilled Chicken [by @NLi10]

Instead of making up my own lunch bowls using Tesco ready cut salads and nuts, while in Aldi I picked up a few ready made ones to check out.

It is a round bowl - I slid the package open just so you can see the variety.  There is lots going on in here.  As you can see there is a little tub of goo too. In this case it's a tangy mango sauce to go with the spicy chicken. The salad was all great, fresh and crispy. A bit of a cheaper selection than the Waitrose salad with your more typical peppers and lettuce, but very welcome at lunch time. The dissapointment in this one was the chicken, it just wasn't that exciting.  The spice wasn't that noticeable, and it lacked flavour. Overall though, with the sauce it worked well enough to have again.

Here we have the second version with tomatoes instead of peppers, and a little more variety in the greens. The star here is the thick balsamic dressing sauce, which sticks to everything and really brings it to life.

Even though this one had been in my fridge a day longer somehow the chicken in the sauce was much tastier. I usually pick the cucumber out of things, but I used the sauce to make even that edible. A lovely lunch and my favourite of the two - and at about half the price of the Waitrose salad I'd certainly eat either of these again. They were less impressively filling than that one though,

25 November 2015

Dark Chocolate With Sparkling Wine (Aldi) [By @Cinabar]

I shop regularly at Aldi anyway but after I saw their Christmas catalogue land on my doorstep I couldn’t resist having a nosey in store to see what was new. Yes, I purchased mince pies early, partially with the thought of reviewing them at some point but more likely just to scoff them well in advance of the big day.
I also found some new chocolate bars, and in amongst the range was this very curious sounding Dark Chocolate With Sparkling Wine. A quick glance at the back of the pack said that there was popping candy involved and that sealed deal, the bar was in the trolley, next to the mince pies, which were on top of the Christmas bows and wrapping paper pack…

The chocolate itself has some gold coloured decorations, albeit not very many and just enough to show through the window on the packaging. It opened in the style of an envelope, which was quite posh and made it quite gift worthy. The aroma from the chocolate was surprisingly sweet and fruity and not what I had been expecting.
I snapped a piece off and it did have a firm snap, despite being a thin bar. I liked the rich tone of the dark chocolate, but the main flavour here was the Sparking Wine. The flavour was rather sweet, and almost pear like. It made me think of Schloer. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was a very nice fruity combination. The sparkling element of the wine was from popping candy, and this had a bit of a mild crunch and lovely fizzy feel. I like popping candy, it always makes me smile.
I have a sweet tooth too so really liked the bar, but if you were expecting complex dark flavours this bar doesn’t delivery that. If you are after a fun fruity bar that looks quite posh, its perfect.
By Cinabar

24 November 2015

Kabuto Noodles Chicken Laksa (@KabutoNoodles) [By @SpectreUK]

Kabuto Noodles very kindly sent me three new flavours to try. Along with this Chicken Laksa, there is Vegetable Laksa, and Chicken Pho. I've tried a few of Kabuto's noodle flavours before and rather enjoyed them. I've recently seen them sitting proudly in Waitrose, so they're readily available for you to try. This Chicken Laksa is a noodle pot with coconut, chicken, chilli and coriander in the ingredients. I'd forgotten just how full the cardboard pot would be of noodles. No mixing here, just add freshly boiled water and leave the lid on for a few minutes. After a stir I could see plenty of diced vegetables mixed in with the multitude of noodles. There was a ginger and turmeric smell mixed in with the coconut and chicken. Once the concoction had cooled a little I found this Chicken Laksa was very tasty. It was a really different twist on the traditional chicken soup, mainly because I actually liked it! I've never been keen on chicken soup as a traditional soother when I'm ill, rather preferring tomato soup. Not that I'm ill right now (fingers crossed), but I'm just stating a fact. With this Chicken Laksa I could taste the chicken, the millions of pieces of diced coriander mixed with the heat from the chilli and the warming ginger spice and turmeric, as well as the cooling qualities from the coconut. A complex group of flavours that'll clear your nose and sooth you from any cold or flu over the winter period. Or just because you fancy a spicy chicken noodle soup. Nice one Kabuto.

Information on the pot;
85g pot (450g with freshly boiled water added), has 342 calories, and has 6.1g of fat, 15g of sugar and 2.3g of salt. Please see photograph for ingredients.
By Spectre

23 November 2015

New Cadbury Amaze Bites - Brownies (Ocado) [By @Cinabar]

Marketing is a funny thing. I recently went on the York Chocolate Story tour during which they talked about the history of chocolate right from the Aztecs through to modern day brands. The branding bit caught my attention, and one thing in particular was that one chocolate supplier started off by trying to sell chocolate drops covered in a coloured shell as Chocolate Beans. They did okay, but weren't a big seller. They thought about their marketing and rebranded them as Smarties and behold a product that went on to stand the test of time.
Why all the history? Well let's face facts these Amaze Bites stand out because of the product name and packaging. If they had been sold as Chocolate Brownie Pieces, they just wouldn't have caught my attention in the way they did. Write on the tub OMG and and brand them with a up to the minute name and suddenly you have my attention. Yes I know what that says about me, but clearly it's everyone else too!

Inside the Amaz Bites tub I was quite pleased to see that it looked quite full, and that the pieces of chocolate brownie looked a nice size, kind of a two bite thing. They are pretty amazing and do indeed live up to their name. The brownies are soft but quite dense, they feel moist too. The biggest thing is that they are so very chocolatey, they are rich and full of flavour. A complete chocolate fix in a couple of bites. The chocolate coating adds to this and mixes up the texture just a little. I have to say a couple of these in an afternoon with a cup of coffee is the perfect treat, but they would also be good for sharing with friends or in offices as the Christmas season approaches. These might be something I wouldn't have picked up if it hadn't been for the branding, but now I've tried them they are certainly something I'll be buying again.
By Cinabar

22 November 2015

Waitrose Ham Hock, Egg & Potato Salad [by @NLi10]

The train journey to London is often cheaper if you go a little later in the morning and it's a nice place to sit and have lunch (as long as you buy before boarding). Snow Hill station in Birmingham has a lovely Waitrose right outside so not only is there an actual choice of foods, but it's a reasonably healthy selection too.

I picked up this bottle for a drink - not spotting that it's essentially just water. I'd have rather just had a larger plain water in hindsight. Oh well.

The main is a lot more exciting - a ham hock egg and potato salad, and the salad is a mix of fruit and veg too. It was all crispy and flavoursome, although me tipping all of the mustard dressing on it probably doubled the calories and masked the subtlety of the flavours. A whole egg was a nice touch, and the combination of quality ham and fresh peas was not something I'd have gone for normally but I just couldn't resist all that green! My only downer on the experience was I had to eat it with a spoon as they'd run out of knives and forks! 

I'd chose this again happily, but there are lots of similar salads in Waitrose to try. Possibly a little more expensive than many would like but certainly worth it for the convenience and tastiness of having a mixed salad as you hurtle towards the capital.

21 November 2015

Against The Grain Beer (Tesco) [By @SpectreUK]

This Against The Grain beer brewed by the Wold Top Brewery, in Yorkshire, is rather peculiar in the sense that it contains no wheat. Yes wheat free beer! On seeing this on the label my curiosity in the shop got the better of me and I had to put the bottle in my basket. Let's hope my curiosity didn't kill the cat! It does beg the question of what is this 4.5% volume beer brewed from then if it's not wheat? Well it's made from lager malt and maize, which makes it well below the standard 20ppm of gluten for people with gluten intolerance and this beer also has a huge non-coeliac fan base.
It poured cheerfully into my beer glass and the bubbles tickled my nose hairs as I took a whiff. This blonde beer has an initial malt smell that mixes with a citrus punch. This smell transcends into the flavour. There was a touch of malt to start with, and then a big hit, punch and kick of bitter citrus flavour from the hops that literally beat up my tastebuds right through each mouthful and into the aftertaste. Big on flavour and big on bitterness. This beer has shown wheat the door and let it get smacked on the backside on the way out. No wonder it's won plenty of awards. I reckon it's perfect for spicy meals and fishy meals, or even spicy fishy meals! Give it a go and see if you're ready to go Against The Grain!
By Spectre

20 November 2015

Gu Velvety Praline Tartlets (Sainsburys) [By @Cinabar]

Gu is one of my favourite makes for desserts, one I associate with luxury. I know their dessert range well, and when I saw a new variety it was inevitable I'd pick a pack up. As someone who is a big fan of nuts the word praline in the title was a complete bonus too.
There are two tartlets in the box and they look neatly designed with two thin lines of light icing for decoration. Packaging was minimal in that it was just card board, sealed in the middle. This is probably more environmentally friendly but it did feel a bit unsafe. Like if you put them in the fridge near the onions they might absorb the aroma. I didn't for the record, it was just a thought I'd had. Perhaps I've become too used to the over packaging we normally get these days.
I a cut a chunk out of the tartlet and gave it a taste test. I have to admit to finding it a bit dull. Perhaps the pastry was a little thick, and not well flavoured. There was a strange crunchy section in the middle too, that didn't taste of very much. The layers of filling weren't a strong taste either, just very mild nuts and I couldn't distinguish between them. It's the first Gu pudding I've become bored of, despite usually loving nutty flavours (literally and metaphorically). At 487 calories per tart I had been expecting something a bit more. I have to confess to giving up on it and wishing I'd picked up a box of their Key Lime Pies instead, well at least I know what I'm buying next time.
By Cinabar

19 November 2015

Trop50 smooth orange (by @NLi10)

As part of my Tesco meal deal there are many choices, most of them are fizzy sugar water.  I tend to go for the fruit juices as they at least contain a little more nutrition with the naturally occurring sugar.  Here we see a diet version of orange juice. A noble idea, let's see what it's like.

Trop50 has half of the sugar of the normal Tropicana.

So - the diet one is mostly water, and 42% orange juice. They have to add vitamins and colour to overcome the differences. And then they top it off with sweetener.  The real juice has 72 kcal...

The new juice has 32 kcal which is half.

The real question is are we losing half of the nutrients by losing more than half of the juice? We know from Fuhrman that nutrients per calorie is the key and I'm not entirely sure this holds up reliably. Surely having the juice with the orange bits in it is even better than either of these too! Diet food confuses me.

How does it taste though? Not so bad - and very similar to the fortified euro orange drinks that Aldi and Lidl have. It's less sharp than the comparative smooth Tropicana, but it's quite nice in its own way. I'd rather have the maximum bits, maximum sharpness and a much larger portion. That said - 15g of sugar in 150ml is two teaspoons which is quite a lot and more than I'd put in the same amount of tea!  Maybe the sugary drinks tax people have a point.

Overall, probably not a diet solution, but a decent alternative flavour.

18 November 2015

Chilli & Garlic Pitta Chips (@soffleschips @brown_and_green) [By @SpectreUK]

These pitta chips are covered with olive oil, chilli and garlic, as well as salt and pepper before being oven roasted for extra crunch. Produced by Soffles in London, these pitta chips were first produced as a pre-dinner accompaniment with beer for friends and family. They proved so popular that Soffles decided to create a business out of them. There was a garlic smell on opening the packet, with a hint of chilli in the after smell. These pitta chips were really very crunchy in a hearty munch munch kind of way, which was great for taking the frustrations of a new job out in the biting! The Scotch Bonnet chilli heat hit me straight away filling my mouth with fire mixed with the lovely roasted pitta flavour. The garlic came in the aftertaste rounding out the chilli burn and rather expertly cooling my mouth down ready for the next pitta chip. Having said that my nose started to run after a few pitta chips and the chilli burn in my mouth just kept on giving. Right... Better go a find a good beer to have these with!
Information on the packet;
60g with 246 calories, 1.8g of sugar, 6.12g of fat and 1.2g of salt. Ingredients included; garlic, scotch bonnet, olive oil, flour, pepper, yeast, salt and water.
By Spectre

17 November 2015

Sprout & Pancetta Romana Pizza (@PizzaExpress) [By @Cinabar]

I’m not sure how but I’ve never been to Pizza Express. We don’t have one locally, but after Googling there is a branch centrally in Birmingham, a city we visit fairly regularly for shopping trips. I don’t really have any excuse for not having visited before. Anyway we were having a holiday in York and as there was a branch of Pizza Express very near the hotel this felt like the perfect opportunity to give the place a try. The menu was the seasonal edition, and sprouts were on it, quite literally. This seemed a bit of at first on a pizza menu, but as it turned out, Pizza Express weren’t joking.

There were two pizza available with sprouts as a topping, the difference being the addition of some pancetta which was on the one I chose. Having made my order somewhat cautiously, I still wasn’t sure what to expect, I was hoping they wouldn’t be whole sprouts on the pizza as that just sounded a bit weird.
When it did arrive I have to admit I hadn’t been expecting the egg on the pizza, and this confused me. I said to my family that it was weird to have an egg on a pizza, and got the response “they put Brussel Sprouts on your pizza and you are worried about the egg?”. Fair comment I suppose.

The pizza had plenty of topping; strips of pancetta adding a lovely salty meaty touch, mushrooms working well, onions adding a bit of spice and of course the diced sprouts. These were actually really nice, I don’t associate the vegetable with pizza, but they worked far better than expected, paired up with the pancetta they were actually delightful. Very clever stuff from Pizza Express, showing there is more to sprouts than just christmas day.
By Cinabar

16 November 2015

Giant Caramac Buttons (Poundland) [By @Cinabar]

My sweet tooth is not a new thing, ever since I was a child I knew I had a high tolerance for all things sweet. Caramac was a favourite “chocolate” of mine and I used to love the thin bars, wrapped in their red wrappers. I would eagerly munch down on the toffee flavoured chocolate and can even remember its texture being slightly grainy. I know its not technically chocolate, but it is the closest thing I can compare it too. I have such fond memories of receiving a Caramac Easter Egg one year… those were the days.
When I was browsing the sweets and chocolate items in Poundland I spotted these new Giant Caramac Buttons and they brought back such good memories that I had to pick them up. I hadn’t intended to review them, yes they are new, but only in shape. Caramac has been available in the UK since 1950s.

I opened up the bag and inhaled the aroma, it wasn’t that distinct, slightly caramel like. I was immediately disappointed by the shape too, “giant” buttons means something more akin to being palm size, like the Yorkie Man Size Buttons, not ones which are just slightly bigger than a pound coin.
Oh well, it was taste time. These were sweet, the definition of the toffee that I was expecting was barely there. Just a slight hint of caramel, but not that sweet strong flavour, these were just vegetable fat and sugar. The texture was smooth too, not like I remember. I became bored of them very easily, the magic was gone.
Yes childhood memories aren’t that reliable, but this just wasn’t right to me. Have you tried them? Do they meet your expectations compared to childhood memories? In my opinion they taste and feel so different.
By Cinabar

15 November 2015

Our Broken Plate, or Evidence Based Diets [by @NLi10] @RayCronise

As someone who is Public Health trained, but loves snack food I am saddened by the Obesity Epidemic.  Seemingly in a single decade people have increased in size to the point where what is considered normal has shifted. Combined with the (admittedly reduced) number of smokers ours is predicted to be the first generation since the Victorians that has a reduced average life expectancy compared to the one before it.  This seems crazy - we've got a lot more science and technology on our side - what are we doing wrong?!

Way back in April this year I found out about the research that Ray Cronise and his team had done, purely through the weight loss of Magician Penn Jillette. Essentially they are looking at a lot of the myths and theories we hold about food and could potentially revolutionise how we eat - using information that we kind of already know. The book from this research - Our Broken Plate (well one of two books if you count Penn's 'Presto') is now in it's final stages and is up on Kickstarter here - which is why I'm putting this up now.  It's already fully backed so don't worry about that unless you want the rewards - once a KS hits target it's much less riskier to wait until the project is complete, although it's bound to be a pain to find the book in the UK initially.  It's worth taking a look at for the video and updates of where the research is at (indeed a lot of that is on Ray's blog in the links at the bottom of this post).

The diet side, which I've discussed on here before , is based on the work of Dr Fuhrman who advocates that if you make up 90% of your diet from unprocessed fresh foods then you will become more 'healthful'.  And it works - I lost almost too much weight (from just over 1st to just below 1st and I'm 6'4") by following the diet and have had to work hard to put it back on without just resorting to the typical western diet. and just putting it back as belly fat again.

I'm looking forwards to looking the research behind some of the other aspects such as mild cold stress (not freezing, just less constant heat) increasing our calorie consumption, and how Ray's body reacted during his recent 21 day water-only fast, amongst other tales.

Now the food angle (which is admittedly what we mostly care about here) is more refined they have begun to use the term Evidence Based Diet.  This means that instead of looking at what worked for the one example model on the weight loss poster we are treating each aspect of the diet as a separate health experiment and tracking how this made a difference.  This also means looking at what it is about eating a lot more cruciferous vegetables compared to pizzas makes the most difference.  Indeed the main take home message for me was that it's about the amount of nutrients per calorie and not about the amount of calories per gram.  Switching from stodgy sandwiches to salad & nut lunches was a pleasure and probably the biggest change for me.  Breakfast removed all the sugar so I no longer went to work hyper, and with the almond milk (that I loved?!) I was consuming so much less that I had to increase the size of all my portions just to keep up.

I've not managed to keep all that up though.  I got taken down by some underlying virus that made me move quickly back to the milk and sugar breakfast just to try to put some comfort food back in the routine (even though I love my blueberry porridge!) and when work is busy I don't always get time to pop to buy the weeks supply of premade salads.  The new blender has helped to use up the fruit that was starting to get a bit squishy and I think really kick started the recovery.  Switching to 4 meals a day and being less picky about what I ate when out was the final push towards putting the weight back on and I like to think I'm doing it right - but there aren't really any guidelines for the 'underweight' version of the healthy diet other than eat a lot more nuts and larger portions.

Also a problem on the diet was finding things to review that didn't cause massive sugar spikes or get me back on the caffeine (another easy slip for me), I'm sure that not everyone wants to read about the latest trends in Kale or what I put in the Blend Active this week!

Anyway - I figured that it was interesting enough to talk about the book becoming a reality, and the next time I talk about it will probably be me trying the techniques out.  Heck I may even do some actual exercise!  Now that will require me to take on more calories...

From here on out I suspect that the massive piles of christmas things in the food aisle will occupy my time... and if you too want an early signed copy of Our Broken Plate then check out the Kickstarter.

Our Broken Plate

Ray Cronise's Blog - Thermogenex

Potential Declining Life Expectancy In American Adults

Our Fuhrman reviews

14 November 2015

Diet Chef Mediterranean Pasta (Tesco) [By @SpectreUK]

Here is a quick five minutes to prepare ready meal for those that are watching their waistlines, or alternatively those that are greedy like me and use it for excuse to eat more crisps and drink more beer. This Diet Chef Mediterranean Pasta just needs 200ml of freshly boiled water and to be left stand for five minutes. On peeling back the lid the contents looked pretty disappointing. No wonder this is for dieters, as the pasta looked tiny.

I was starting to think that I'd need to go out for fish and chips after writing this blog. However, I added freshly boiled water and found a trusty metal fork from the cutlery draw. I could see the bits of black olives, courgettes (Cinabar just had a shiver... Hates them!), red pepper and herbs floating around in the reddish sauce as the powder in the pot liquified. I stirred the concoction a little and began to wait. I wasn't sure what I was waiting for. I was kind of hoping the pasta would grow remarkably in size and fill the kitchen. I had visions of feeling the fool and having to phone the fire brigade to come and cut me out of the house, as huge mutant pasta strips smashed through the windows and popped the roof off the house like a pointy cork off a champagne bottle. Five minutes past, the pasta had grown a little but never passed the water 'fill line'. I have to say though the pasta had absorbed much of the liquid and was fluffy and light, the red sauce was now a thick ooze. Although clearly a diet meal at 192 calories, and been as though it said it everywhere on the plastic pot, and also the portion size seemed quite small, having said that it was very tasty indeed. I could certainly taste the black olives in the rich tomato sauce which had a light herby flavour. If I have another one of these for a dinner meal I'd probably have two pots... Stuff the diet!
By Spectre

13 November 2015

New Milk White and Dark Chocolate Bar (M&S) [By @Cinabar]

This new bar from Marks and Spencers is just pretty. That is why I picked it up, it just looked so lovely on the shelf. There are three chocolate varieties and they are all marbled into the bar, and the bar is a set out like a series of peaks. Visually it is pretty stunning.

The ingredients are just white, milk and dark chocolate but the presentation of them means that each mouthful of the chocolate gives you a slightly different combination of flavours. Admittedly the peaks of chocolate make it a bit difficult to share out the pieces, but I’m happy to forego this as I like the design so much.
The white chocolate is so creamy and sweet, it is a proper soothing chocolate.The dark has a lovely bitter tang and the milk chocolate has a good cocoa flavour with a creamy edge. Allof the chocolates are smooth and thick when they melt, clearly of very good quality. The different combinations of these chocolates is a pleasure too. A dark piece with a bit of white choclate brings balance for example. This makes the bar interesting to eat too.
Ok hands up I like novelty, and this bar comes with plenty of that. On a more practical note it would make a fab stocking filler. The chocolates aren’t flavoured so it is easy to eat, and it will make people smile if they receive it as a gift.
By Cinabar

12 November 2015

Wilson Grange Apple Balsamic Vinegar [by @NLi10]

As part of the expanded lunch time routine I picked up a few luxury items to jazz up the salads.

On one of our farm shop visits I got this Wildon Grange Apple Balsamic vinegar and it's pretty special. It says on the bottle that it was hand bottled by Adam which suggests it's a fairly small company, or one that names its machines.

I'm not sure that I really knew what to expect going in, but the apple flavour is there as a kind of sweetness over the strong vinegar taste. Going for a large portion of walnuts in the salad was a good move as they naturally complemented the flavour.

 As there was no nozzle to control the pour I think my portion was a little conservative and with the nuts and big salad that I could have maybe been a bit heavier handed. I have the other half of the salad tomorrow though so I can gradually tweak it. 

It's probably a bit more expensive than I'd have liked at £6 a bottle, but like fine wines I think that it's nice to have a quality blend to perk up lunchtimes at work and encourage me to keep eating salads as the winter gets going.

11 November 2015

Salted Roasted Giant Corn (Waitrose) [By @SpectreUK]

Produced by Inka Snacks these Salted Roasted Giant Corn are my latest adventure into alternative snackdom. To be honest with you I’m not and have never been a big fan of popcorn even let alone roasted giant corn, which I’ve never tried before. On pouring out the packet of giant corn next to my lunchtime sandwiches I first thought that these orange coloured giant corns didn’t look particularly appetising. They certainly had a strong crunch to them, weren’t overly salty, but had a curious chilli burn to them that raised a few notches whilst I shovelled them unceremoniously into my mouth. I quickly noted that they were indeed moreish. I had a quick glance at the ingredients and noticed the paprika which explained the orange colour and the chilli pepper powder which explained the lovely medium chilli burn. I reckon they should rename them to Chilli Roasted Giant Corn, although that might spoil the surprise!
Information on the packet:
48g packet with 215.5 calories, 6g of fat and 0.78g of salt. This Salted Roasted Giant Corn was suitable for vegetarians and was gluten free, GMO free, and nut free. Please see photograph for ingredients.
By Spectre

10 November 2015

Caramel Fudge Hot Chocolate (@CostaCoffee) [By @Cinabar]

It was so hard to go into Costa and see the Christmas menu is back and not order the Black Forest Hot Chocolate. It is a favourite drink of mine, but as a good food and drink blogger I felt I had to try one of the new drinks. This year although the Black Forest hot chocolate is available the other seasonal hot chocolate drink is Caramel Fudge Hot Chocolate.
I ordered two of the drinks, one for myself and one for my mum and watched barista make the drinks. It started with a couple of pumps of syrup, then the regular hot chocolate mix on top. The topping was very pretty though. He dusted the drink with some cocoa with edible gold sparkle in it. Then he very carefully balanced a disc of chocolate lattice on top, the holes in the lattice showing off the gold base powder. By the time I got back to the table and was ready to have the drink I realised that the chocolate lattice had turned glossy as it melted and was easy scoop off and eat with the spoon.
The drink itself was a bit odd for me. Not bad by any means, but the syrup made the drink so very buttery, that it tasted a bit rich. My mum was enjoying her drink and pointed out that fudge was made with butter and sugar so it matched the description. True enough I guess, but it all tasted too strong for me. I found it too sweet and the buttery edge was, well weird if I’m honest. My mum said she’d have it again, so it seems a bit marmitey,
Have you tried it? What did you think? My next drink in Costa is definitely going to be the Black Forest Hot Chocolate!
By Cinabar

9 November 2015

New Beef Fillet Steak & Chargrilled Veg Pitta (@NandosUK) [By @Cinabar]

So I went to Nandos, a restaurant famed for its chicken, and had steak. I don't even mean a chicken steak, I mean a full on beef fillet steak, served in a pitta. Obviously my intention when I went into to Nandos was to have some of their chicken but there was a neat "New" label next to this dish and I found myself ordering it. It just seemed such an odd concept having a different meat in a chicken restaurant. I guess I felt like one of those people who go to Indian restaurants and order chicken and chips.
The steak is seasoned with the usual options of spice levels, so I opted for my usual Medium heat. It comes with chargrilled veggies served in a pitta, and I chose peri-peri chips and coleslaw to accompany it.
When it arrived it looked like quite a decent sized piece of meat, and there was plenty of veggies like chargrilled red peppers in the bread. These were actually in a base of tomato sauce that did make eating the Pitta a little bit more difficult, as it leaked some of the tomato while I was working my way through it and I ended up needing serviettes to keep my fingers clean.
Although I was ordered Medium heat (my usual) it did feel hotter than that, and had a stronger tingle and burn. Perhaps there was some extra heat mixed in with the veggies or maybe the chef was a little more heavy handed with the spice pot. I could still pick up on the meaty flavour of the beef though, and I have to say it did work nicely with the Nandos spices. The veggies added a nice mix of texture and the peppers and tomato taste worked well with the meat. The steak itself was soft and a good quality piece of meat, which meant it was easy to eat in the pitta bread. I recommend the coleslaw to cool the mouth if the heat is too hot for you too.
The New Beef Fillet Steak & Chargrilled Veg also has the option to be served in a Wrap instead of a Pitta and I think I might try this next time as I suspect it would hold the sauce better and avoid the sticky fingers I ended up with. I would happily go back to Nandos and order the beef again, it works well and is a nice addition to their menu. Nice to see the chicken experts doing something different.
By Cinabar

8 November 2015

Waitrose Frozen Croissants & Pains Au Chocolat [by @NLi10]

They say that the smell of freshly baked bread is one of the best ways to impress prospective buyers.  Our house has a tendency to smell of cats (or at least their food and leavings) so I popped some of these onto the Ocado order to both serve as a nice weekend breakfast and fragrance provider.

As you can see - they are frozen (like the ones you get from the in store bakeries are before they arrive) and to my surprise you get 10 in a bag. That seemed like a lot, but I popped them on the tray and they looked tiny!

I even put 4 on the tray and took the photo and closed the oven before I chickened out and redid it with another one of each kind.

Turns out they expand pretty nicely and are normal sized after all! I think I had the oven a little high as the bottoms were a little dark and they had puffed up more than I'd expected.

They were indeed of in-store quality, and I wouldn't be shocked if there are cafe owners that are using these or similar to impress their customers.  The pastry is flaky but still moist in the centre and the chocolate was of a good quality, and not too dark. I was surprised that the mix wasn't as buttery as I'd expected, but if you had these with jam and butter then you could easily tweak this to your preference.

These are worth waking up a little bit earlier to make (or in our case getting up due to a kitten sitting on your head and popping these in once they have been fed). I may even sneak down early one work morning and put these in so that I can go out in the cold having had a warm continental breakfast.