31 May 2016

New Popcorn Cappuccino (@CostaCoffee) [By @Cinabar]

We have been visiting Wales so I ended up trying this new Costa Popcorn Cappuccino drink in Cardiff, which is not my regular branch. I have to say my first thoughts of the Costa in Cardiff was that somebody really aught to be sent round to clear tables, there were empty tables but all were stacked with used cups and plates, the place wasn’t even that busy. We ended up clearing our own table and stacking those cups on plates on another semi-full table. I’d really expect more from a branch of Costa, it was just such a contrast to the Costa we usually use which is immaculate.
Anyway the staff on the till were friendly enough and seemed excited about their new Popcorn Cappuccino. I liked the cocoa dusted palm tree on the top too. The drink is made with a glug on Monin Syrup, which are the ones I buy for home use as they are such good quality. I didn’t even know they made a popcorn flavour syrup, so this was all new to me.
I took a sip of the Popcorn Cappuccino and rather enjoyed it. It does taste of popcorn, but surprisingly isn’t too sweet. The creamy nature of the flavour is the most predominant and it works nicely with the frothy milk making a very soothing drink. It is sweet enough and does a nice job of recreating a popcorn flavour, that ends up working rather well with a rich coffee taste. I know they put a palm tree on the top but popcorn doesn’t seem that summery to me? The latest Tic Tac flavour is popcorn, so it might be becoming one of the trend flavours of 2016, time will tell I guess. I’m still going to enjoy this drink while I can, as I think it might be a Limited Edition.
By Cinabar

30 May 2016

Bounty Coconut Hot Chocolate (Waitrose) [By @Cinabar]

Following on from the rather delicious Bounty spread I tried the other week, the other new coconut product on the shelves is this new Bounty Coconut Hot Chocolate. Unlike the spread this does actually contain chocolate, and of course plenty of coconut. The drink states that it can be made with either hot milk or hot water, but for me it has to be hot milk for a proper drink.
The pack states that you need three teaspoons per mug and that the drink has “chocolate pieces”. After I had put some in the mug I had to fish around to find the chocolate drops to take a picture of, they were there but there weren't that may and they blended in wth the powder as it was all the same colour.

I microwaved some hot milk and mixed it all together, the chocolate and powder dissolved easily and well. It's so quick and easy to microwave milk, and did I mention these drinks are so much nicer with milk than water.
I took a sip and was very impressed with the flavour of the Bounty hot chocolate. The flavour of coconut was soothing and very creamy. The sweetness from the chocolate was spot on and the milky base worked well. It was very much like drinking a liquidised Bounty bar, which was certainly its aim. The balance of coconut and chocolate was at a good level, and it managed to feel pleasingly tropical too.
My only negative comment is the pouch this hot chocolate comes in. They cost £1.80 but don’t have much contents at all, it will get used up in no time, particularly if you are making drinks for two. It is not like having a proper jar of the stuff. Still the drink is a bit of a treat and not an every day drink, but I would just prefer a bigger container!
By Cinabar

29 May 2016

Organic Black Bean Spaghetti & Ragu Arrabiata (@NLi10)

The final protein pasta in the range from Holland & Barrett is the black spaghetti. I always dread black food as it usually contains something like squid ink that I'd not want to eat. This is just squashed black beans, it should be fine right?

In the pot it goes, looking disturbingly like the seaweed, but with a faint beany smell.

It cooks pretty well and loses a little of the scary colour in the process.

Here we see it paired up with some Ragu Arrabiata spicy sauce. This is a pot that you put in the microwave for a minute or two (depending on how far you make the pot go) and add to the dinner to make it have a spicy kick.

With the nacho burger (veggie) then this makes a decent meal and has extra protein and nutrients compared to the regular version.

The protein pasta doesn't taste all that different to the mung bean flavour that we reviewed before. I think I need to take greater care over the time I cook them for to make sure they don't go too soft, but we both enjoyed the whole meal and could have had more.

I hope that these bean pastas cross over into the mainstream and that they become a touch cheaper and more available.  As it stands I have no qualms in making the special trip and paying a little extra to have this a couple of times a week.

28 May 2016

Chiron Beer (Waitrose) [By @SpectreUK]

I do enjoy a good pint or two of pale ale. The Thornbridge brewery in Bakewell, in the UK, brewed this Chiron American Pale Ale. The 5% volume golden pale ale was brewed with Thornbridge’s mantra of “innovation”, I guess for brewing an American pale ale in England, “passion”, which makes me think that this beer was brewed by a bunch of people who probably drunk most of each batch before it was bottled, and finally “knowledge”, possibly of how to have a sneaky swig while the boss isn’t looking.

I tried to look up why this beer might be called “Chiron”. Apparently, so my source of all things knowledgeable (not Cinabar this time; Wikipedia instead) tells me a Chiron in Greek mythology was the oldest and wisest Centaur, who served as a teacher of the youth; a ‘Centaur mentor’ so to speak. That seemed good enough for me, but it didn’t go anywhere near in explaining the image of a women with an ample cleavage on the front of the bottle, but it caught my eye, so what the hey!

On opening the pale ale there was the hoppy citrus smell I was expecting. On taste there was an instant citrusy bitter delight from the hops, which levelled out in each mouthful to the biscuity malted barley flavour the label had mentioned. It was this flavour description that had first tuned me into wanting to write a blog about this finely balanced American pale ale. Its initial hoppy citrus smell and flavour wakes up the palate with a swift kick, then to be superbly balanced by that delicious malted barley flavour that works its way into the aftertaste. A fine beer that I’d hope our American friends would think quite innovative, brewed and drunk with passion, and finally the knowledge to buy it again at the first opportunity!
By Spectre

27 May 2016

Ugly Unsweet Water Grapefruit & Pineapple (@uglydrinks) #GlugUgly [By @Cinabar]

When Ugly Drinks asked if we wanted to try their new soft drink range I was struggling to get passed the name. Why would you call your drinks Ugly? I guess it stands out as a brand name… but that is all I’ve got.
Soft drinks usually fall into two categories, sugary or artificially sweetened. I tend to go for the artificially sweetened, but Ugly Drinks adds a third category to the market, not sweetened at all. As I’d picked Grapefruit And Pineapple I was starting to imagine the drink might be very sharp. Please keep in mind these drinks don’t cheat by being sweetened by fruit sugars either, they are calorie free.
I pulled away the neat foil lid and popped the ring pull to an effervescent fizz. I poured out the clear drink, and noted that it was pleasingly bubbly. I took a sip and the flavour was a little strange, but very pleasant. As promised there was no sweetness, just a lovely light hint of very natural tasting fruit flavours. They were light enough not to be sharp, but strong enough that you knew what they were about.
You know when you pick up one of those bottles of mineral water with a “hint of strawberry” or whatever and when you sip it, it tastes oh so sweet and screams artificial fruit? Well, I guess Ugly Drinks made theirs how you would have wanted that to taste. Water, with a proper hint of fruit, and nothing nasty, just a genuine hint of nice natural flavour. It might take a couple of sips for you to become accustomed to the taste, but it so very refreshing both in terms of flavour and innovation of ingredients.
By Cinabar

26 May 2016

MaxiBon chocolate - Euro biscuit choc-ice (by @NLi10)

This is another one of those reviews which I've never written because I take the product for granted. If I'm in mainland Europe and it's hot then it's fairly safe to say I'll eat a MaxiBon at some point. I've been doing this for close to 20 years.

In the UK the practice of putting a slice of ice cream between two wafers or biscuits seems to have vanished. As it's something that I grew up with I get very nostalgic for these.  And boy have they evolved over the years.

Here we have the latest iteration - it's a MaxiBon chocolate but it has so much going on.  Firstly you can now see that only half of the bar is ice cream covered by biscuit so it doesn't melt, the top half has been dipped in chocolate instead.

Here we see its White choc coating, normal choc biscuit and ice cream and dark choc chips. 

In Toledo it's still better to eat this in the shade than to risk a meltdown. It's a very filling bar, and once you bite into it it's a race to finish before you lose some. We had a table and a nice can of Aguarius in the shade so managed without issue.

A couple of the import shops stock these in the UK but I think it is better kept for the blazing heat and the spectacle of trying to explain exactly which of the different flavours you actually wanted.

25 May 2016

Extra Hot Jalapeno Mustard (Sainsbury’s) [By @SpectreUK]

When Cinabar mentioned “Hot Beaver” to me, this is not what I had in mind. Barbequed furry dam making rodent anyone? Beaver Brand produced this Extra Hot Jalapeno Mustard. They were established in 1929 in the USA, and are a family owned company who have been making condiments for three generations. This rather angry pink mustard has red and green chilli flecks running through it. The ingredients told me that the peppers included in this fiery mustard were cayenne, red jalapeno, green jalapeno, red chilli, and ancho. I squeezed out a fairly large dollop of this pink mustard, which sat rather menacingly staring back at me next to my chips. I scooped a little onto my knife for a first taste…

There was an initial tasty condiment flavour of relish followed by a chilli bomb blast that probably would have knocked me off my feet if I hadn’t already have been seated. I think steam actually came out of my ears! This tasty Jalapeno Mustard is definitely extra hot. No lie there. It went perfectly with my chips and made me glad to have mayonnaise with my fishcakes to cool my palate. The vegetables on my plate were also a blessing so I mixed between the angry pink blob and my chips to the veggies, to the hot pink blobbed chips to fishcakes and mayonnaise to… you get the idea. Very tasty, very hot… okay; Extra Hot Beaver!
By Spectre

24 May 2016

Tic Tac Special Edition PopCorn Sweets (Poundland) [By @Cinabar]

This summer the Special Edition Tic Tac flavour is Popcorn! Although we have seen a few interesting flavours over the years, they do have a tendency to be fruity when it comes to Tic Tacs so this is quite a jump.
The packet is smartly wrapped too, with its red and white stripes to look like a cinema pack of popcorn, the sweets however are plain white. I only note this as the re-released banana Minions Tic Tac have cute little Minion designs on them!

The flavour of the Tic Tac is initially quite strange, not bad I hasten to add, I just had difficulty processing the taste with the idea of it being a Tic Tac. The problem I think arises from the fact that it tasted like popcorn but felt hard and was the same size and texture as an unpopped kernel. My initial reaction to it was that it felt like I’d accidentally tried to eat a hard bit of popcorn, and it took a second for me to process that this was just a sweet with the same feel and flavour. This is actually testimony to the fact the flavour is really good, it does taste a lot like sweet popcorn. They have a very good flavour, they are creamy and recreate the taste authentically.
These may not be refreshing in the way that most Tic Tac sweets taste, but they are fun and do the job well. These are nice to try and a good innovative flavour too that will undoubtedly amuse the folks at work. I’m just not sure anyone will be writing a petition to get the flavour to become a permanent addition to the range.
By Cinabar

23 May 2016

The Burger Priest - Wolverhampton Reviewed @TheBurgerPriest [By @Cinabar]

It was really nice to hear of a new burger bar opening in Wolverhampton. The city is going through a lot of changes at the minute, it is being heavily invested in and although this means there are plenty of works and potential going on, it also means there hasn’t been much new opening up recently. I think we are starting to see the beginning of the changes, there are plenty of things promised, like new department stores, but The Burger Priest is one of the first new restaurants to open in a while.
The Burger Priest is fast food burger bar, but it is still very smartly themed, mostly in a pseudo religious way. For example they don’t have opening times they have Worship Hours (11am-10pm), and many of the seats are styled on church pews. Its very smart inside and I liked the attention to detail on the theming. The openings times also mean if you are planning a theatre trip to Wolverhampton Grand it is perfect for a pre-theatre meal.
The menu is very comprehensive and we chose a Vatican Burger (with cheese and bacon) and a Classic American Dog. You have to order chips and sides separately, but I was over the moon to see sweet potato fries on the menu. As we were in a themed burger bar, it felt appropriate to have milk shakes, we ordered a Salted Caramel shake and a Mint Choc one too. Unlike most burger places The Burger Priest is licensed and has a number of beers available, and of course soft drinks too.

The drinks came over very quickly and we gave them a taste test, both were lovely and thick and made properly with ice cream. The mint one had chocolate chips in it and was very refreshing, the salted caramel was lovely and creamy and had caramel bits for texture.

The food came shortly afterwards, and were laid out on trays, with the fries, some burger relish and a little coleslaw on the side. I chose the regular sized portion of sweet potato fries and had more than I could eat, I tried folks, I really did! They were beautiful by the way, crisp on the outside and fluffy inside, so cooked perfectly. They are absolute heaven dipped in mayo, you should try it.
My burger was superb. The beef was very meaty and had a lovely smokey hint to it, like it had been barbecued. The juicy burger and crispy bacon worked like a dream. The brioche bap was a lovely addition too, with its light buttery flavour. The food here was good, seriously good. Like wise the hot dog had a slightly smokey flavour and was thick and juicy, a classic done really well.

We went the first Saturday they were open, and I lost track of the number of staff who asked if we were okay or needed anything else. I was impressed by how fast the food came too, given how busy they were. The staff are clearly very attentive and seemed to genuinely care that we were enjoying our food and wanted to know what we thought of the place. Well let me tell you the burgers and food here are fantastic, the church theme keeps it fun and the service was very quick and friendly so we can’t wait to go back and explore the menu further. It ticked all the boxes and I'm converted.
Two meals and two large shake came to £25.
By Cinabar

22 May 2016

BBQ Beef Brisket Pizza from @PapaJohnsUK (by @NLi10)

There is nothing that symbolises games night more than delivery pizza.  When Papa John (himself) asked us if we wanted to try the new variety of BBQ Beef Brisket Pizza we jumped at the chance and invited a few friends round.  We'd barely cracked into the cards when the delivery arrived.

We'd asked for an XXL Pizza of the new variety and a regular veggie one to go with it.  We ended up with two large pizza which is OK  - but we did have to immediately put some garlic bread in the oven (which kind of defeats the object of delivery...).  As there were 5 of us we would have 4 slices each, if we'd realised in advance I'd have ordered a second one to come too!

Here in all it's spirally magnificence is the pizza.  It has a sauce that looks like regular BBQ but is sweeter and has cola in it.  Im not sure whether this counts as a caffeinated pizza - but I'm sure when I have a whole one to myself we will find out.

The beef brisket itself is small and potent, but maybe a little less of the focus of the pizza than I was expecting.  With the double meat offerings you get a lot more topping by quantity, but on balance I felt it worked well.

Naturally the vegetarian didn't participate in the voting (she had 4 slices of The Greek which is spicy with olives and feta).

Here we have two thumbs up, and two thumbs sideways.  Not a terrible result for a pizza that wasn't chosen to suit their tastes.  Leaving me til last the comments were:
  • Nice but a bit too sweet for my taste (sideways)
  • I had a better Beef Brisket pizza last week (sideways)
  • I liked it but I'm not really a fan of beef on a pizza (up)

The pizza one of our group preferred to this was actually a Chicago Town cook at home pizza that focused more on chunks of meat.  Rest assured this will be sought out for review.  As a pizza for a group to share though it came out OK.  The thing was - two of the meaty tasters actually preferred The Greek veggie option due to it's spicy tangs and strong olive flavours.  I think I maybe should have chopped up the included chilli for them to add to the BBQ, but it just shows that there are plenty of options on the menu and when people get to choose they do find one they like best.

I however quite liked it - it wasn't as filling as I'd hoped (but then I can eat a large PJ to myself in one sitting so that's not too shocking) but it was a good satisfying flavour.  The meat was quite dense and crispy even though it wasn't that numerous.  The sauce really was the star though and if this was available in a squirt bottle like ketchup I think it'd find a fair few fans.

Overall I really enjoyed it and am happy we got the chance to try it out.  Snacks were required, but we were always going to have those anyway.  Any other take-away providers that want 4-6 players to eat & tweet about their latest releases should get in touch!

21 May 2016

Waitrose Duchy Organic Old Ruby Ale (Waitrose) [By @SpectreUK]

This rather posh sounding Waitrose Duchy Organic Old Ruby Ale was brewed in Oxfordshire. The 5% volume ale was produced using barleys from selected organic farms, as well as from the Duchy Home Farm in Highgrove. One of the barleys is called Plumage Archer, which I have to admit that I haven’t heard of before and that’s the reason why I’m writing a blog about this particular ale. Always happy to try new things, especially where beer is concerned, I popped open the bottle as quickly as possible. There was an almost biscuit smell on opening the bottle from the rich blend of malted barleys. The ruby ale filled my waiting beer glass and I couldn’t help but reflect how pleasing the colour of ruby ale can be. The traditional reddish colour compared to the muggy rainy day outside promised satisfaction and renewed energy into tired limbs from a hard slog at the gym earlier in the day. On taste this ale had an initial rich biscuit flavour as the blend of malt barleys worked together washing around my pallet, the hops entered the game later in the taste with a slight bitterness moving into the aftertaste. This is a beer that warms me up just to look at it, my lips smacked involuntarily before tasting, then my mind was spirited away on velvety cushions to yesteryear where hard working folk wearing flat caps toil away on steam powered traction engines somewhere nearby shovelling coal into their muffled clanking machines as they belch soot. Whereas my mind relaxes in an old wooden rocking chair beside an open fire in a heaven made of malted barley, mainly Plumage Archer, and a touch of hops to round the taste. Mmm…
By Spectre

20 May 2016

Bounty Bar Coconut Spread (Morrisons) [By @Cinabar]

This jar of Bounty Spread arrived with our online order. I looked at it curiously, as I would have thought a Bounty spread would have chocolate in it. A Bounty bar consists of a soft coconut filling and a thick coating of milk chocolate, but this was just coconut. I would say that the chocolate element of the Bounty was significant enough to warrant being represented, so I had a bit of disappointment when looking at the jar.
Next there was a quandary, what do you spread Bounty Coconut Spread on? I couldn’t picture what it would work on. Coconut on toast just sounded weird, actually everything I though of sounded weird. I was more guided by what was on the shelf, and I popped a Giant Crumpet in the toaster and waited. The next issue was butter or no butter? I went no butter, which turned out to be the right choice.

The spread wasn’t that solid and thus spread quite easily, it seemed to melt a little on the hot crumpet and go slightly glossy. I could see the flecks of real coconut in it too. Finally the taste test, oh my word this stuff is good. It is sweet, creamy, and has the most gorgeous rich coconut taste. It is so soothing and smooth, and so much better than the centre of a Bounty, and I say that as someone who loves a Bounty bar. I’m not sure how they did it but they created something quite magic here. It really doesn’t need any added chocolate.
At least I’ve answered the question; what do you put Bounty Coconut spread on? The answer is everything, toast, crumpets, scotch pancakes, waffles, digestive biscuits even - we’ve never finished a jar of spread so quickly!
By Cinabar

19 May 2016

Nesquik Milk Slice - Chocolate Flavour (by @NLi10)

Over in Europe there is a premium for snack foods that don't melt. Here we have a cake bar based around the powdered milk-shake flavour from my childhood Nesquik.

You get four stickered together and the ones on the outsides are a little damaged compared to the ones in the middle.

Inside they look like this.

Bunny hieroglyphics, a relic from a forgotten age. Looks a bit like he has vampire teeth too, the history books gloss over that fact. It's very soft and spongy and its decently cakey.

Inside we have a chocolate creme - exciting enough to make you want to eat all the bits that stuck to the wrapper, but maybe not the main event it could be.

While I enjoyed this it was a little less filling than I'd hoped for and didn't taste particularly like milkshake. If there is a red flavoured one then I should like to try that, but I think I'd rather have a wafer or the milka cake bar with the choc chips than this.

18 May 2016

Snyder's Honey Mustard & Onion Pretzel Pieces (Waitrose) [By @SpectreUK]

Snyder’s of Hanover, in North Caroline in the USA, was established in 1909 and specialise in baking Pretzels. These Pretzel Pieces are Honey Mustard and Onion flavour. The front of the packet states “Bursting with flavour!” with the word “flavour” spelt in English rather than the missing “u” in American, which I very much appreciated on noticing the packet in our local supermarket. There was a sweet honey smell on opening the packet followed by a slight sting in my nostrils from the mustard; this aroma was enveloped by a keen whiff of onions. The packet was full of broken pieces of baked Pretzel, which was what I was expecting, as I’d expect the packet would have been much larger otherwise! The pieces were a little like the broken biscuits you get from some manufacturers. You know the reject biscuits that weren’t perfect enough to add to premium packets, but taste just as good, cost slightly less and why waste food? Here it looked like someone had gone mad with a hammer in a Snyder’s shop. On first taste the sweet honey flavour hit my tastebuds like a beehive hit by a freight train, followed by a mild zing from the mustard coupled with the all-enveloping onion flavour. I found these Honey Mustard and Onion flavoured Pretzel Pieces an innovative break (excuse the pun) from the broken biscuits idea. They were a very tasty treat indeed and certainly moreish enough, as I polished off the whole packet in no time.
Information on the packet;
125g packet has 615 calories, with 29.9g of fat, 11.3g of sugar and 2.8g of salt. See photograph for ingredients.

17 May 2016

Viva Mexico Restaurant- Edinburgh - By Leena

Whist visiting Edinburgh I was recommended by the travel agent to eat out here. Whilst it is a small restaurant the atmosphere was relaxing and the d├ęcor was wonderful. Staff were pleasant and the service was great.
I had the Chicken Enchilada which tasted delicious, served with rice and refried beans- this tasted like a traditional homemade Mexican meal. Although the prices were quite steep the portion sizes were big! For dessert I tried the warm chocolate fudge cake served with vanilla flavoured ice cream. Not being s great fan of fudge, it did not taste very rich which I liked. Overall very pleased and if you’re looking for somewhere cosy to eat I would recommend!
By Leena

16 May 2016

7Up Free Mojito (Boots) [By @Cinabar]

I don’t think I can remember in all the time og writing this blog (8 years) there being a limited edition flavour 7Up released at any time in the UK. I do know if you search you can find Cherry 7Up, but that is usually as good as it gets, and that has been out for a long time.
Consequentially I as very intrigued to find a new flavour in the meal deal in Boots. It sounds like it is aiming itself at the grown up market as it is named after the Mojito cocktail, although it is still a soft drink, and sugar free too.
The 7Up Free Mojito is fairly subtly packaged, although the bottle cap is a different colour I still think you could pick it up and not have noticed until you tasted it. Particularly if you were in rush during a work lunch break.
The drink, like a Mojito, is heavily flavoured with garden mint and this works really well with the lemon and lime flavour. The mint taste is unmissable giving a lovely cooling fresh herby taste to the drink and it is a lovely addition. The citrus taste is still strong, but it benefits from the twist of mint, making it feel like a soft drink aimed at adults.
This is a refreshing drink. I imagine if you can find a larger bottle it would be perfect shared in glasses with a sprig of actual mint, while someone battles trying to fire up the barbecue. Perfect for the summer.
By Cinabar

15 May 2016

Magnum mini Double Peanut Butter (by @NLi10)

Praise the sun, for with it comes warmth and the opportunities for ice creams.  Late last year we rescued a fridge for our office that had a large freezer so this year we can snack on cold things on the 5 days of summer we actually get in the UK.

On special offer at the moment - magnum mini duo.

These are new to me, if not a whole new range. Following on from the metallic magnums comes one with two layers of chocolate with something in between.

In this case we have peanut flavoured ice cream and a peanut butter style spread in between the he chocolate. Yum!

Usually with a Magnum the chocolate loves to leap to the ground in a bid for freedom - here it sticks together and would have to crack similarly on both layers to escape - more chocolate to enjoy!

The flavours were quite similar to Hershey cups which suggests this is an American recipie, but the chocolate is he usual high Magnum quality.

Secretly I'm hoping that the rest of the office aren't keen on this flavour so I can quietly devour them all.

I do like the portion size of the mini too, I know I've said this before but after a long walk home from work they are a justifiable way to cool down before you cook. And with more varieties (and 12 for £4 at Tesco) I'll be making space for more.

14 May 2016

Gosnells Mead (Beer 52) [By @SpectreUK]

This Gosnells Mead was very kindly sent to me by Beer 52, who supplies by postage beer day to subscribers. Although this makes me sound like a bit of a drunk; I have tried a lot of beverages in my time, however I’ve never tried Mead. Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water. Various fruits, spices and or grains can also be added to the Mead in the brewing process. Made in Gosnells London Meadery, the label states that this is a fresh take on Mead noted for its crispness and refreshing taste. Well it’s been a very hot day here, so I do need to be refreshed before the Eurovision Song Contest tonight. On opening, the carbonated Mead had a sweet honey smell with additional spicy undertones. The cloudy blonde fizzy Mead has an Olde England smell about it, like something out of the Middle Ages. It had a sweet honey flavour followed by a bitter spicy taste that agreed with the crispness on the label, whilst leaving a spicy honey aftertaste. It was like nothing I’d ever tasted before. A new experience from a drink that originated in Asia from around 7000BC, and boy it really tastes strangely appealing. Why isn’t this stuff in the shops everywhere, and brewed by everyone? I want more Mead!
By Spectre

13 May 2016

Passion Fruit Eclairs (Marks & Spencer) [By @Cinabar]

We popped into Marks and Spencer with the hope of finding a treat for dessert. We were looking for something fresh and summery, and of course Marks didn’t disappoint. They had many lovely looking goodies to choose from, but I decided on these Passion Fruit Eclairs. They sounded like they had a nice twist on a classic pastry treat.

The icing on them is yellow, and they are ornately decorated with a mini swirl of white chocolate on the choux pastry which makes them look quite smart. I took my first bite, and the flavours weren’t quite what I was expecting. There was definitely a lot of passion fruit, but if anything it was slightly tart and not the sweet treat I’d been hoping for. I investigated a bit further, the icing on the top was sweet, but it was the fluffy creme filling was what added the acidic sharpness. It was flavoured with passion fruit, but not in a fun sweet fruity way.
The pastry itself was a nice texture, soft but firm enough to hold it's filling. The icing on top was soft enough for your teeth to sink straight into it, the filling was lovely and light and soft, the flavour was a bit more full on.
After a couple of mouthfuls I found the flavour was growing on me, it was zingy and fresh, and probably a good dessert for a hot day. You just need to keep in mind the expected sugary blast was countered by some strong fruity flavours.
By Cinabar

12 May 2016

Organic Edamame & Mung Bean Fettuccine - Holland & Barrett (@NLi10)

More protein pasta - and this time it's because I've made it back to Holland and Barrett to get the rest of the range.  Here we have a two bean Fettuccine.

Mung and Edamame are great fresh, so let's see what they are like pastafied.

It looks the part, boils quickly and retains texture.

Like rice pastas it doesn't have the same bite as wheat, but is much better for you in terms of nutrients than that. It also has a slight bean taste which adds to your healthy meal - or Herta Fankfurters should you wish to.

Another one for the restock pile, which is a good job as I got two bags due to the penny sale. Loving this direction that H&B are taking and now the smaller stores are getting this in too it's even easier to move towards total nutrition.

11 May 2016

New Aero Caramel Mousse (BHS) [By @SpectreUK]

I have to admit that I haven’t had an Aero bar for ages, not that I dislike them, because I’ve always enjoyed their chocolatey bubbly goodness, but I haven’t seen an Aero advert for years and used to like watching them on TV. They used to remind me that there are other chocolate bars on the market. This new Aero Caramel Mousse reminded me with a chocolately bubbly caramelly (I know… sorry!) reminder. You see, some people (okay… Cinabar) may say that caramel in chocolate bars is boring as she likes fillings that are a bit more whacky in her. Well dress me up in a three piece brown tweed suit and call me boring, because I like caramel and I’m proud of it! Besides, this is Caramel Mousse, which is different to runny caramel isn’t it? On pealing back the wrapper I found raised and rounded blocks of chocolate in a bar (see photograph).

There was a decent smell of chocolate and caramel on opening the wrapper. There was the traditional bubbly Aero chocolate at the bottom of the bar with aerated caramel mousse inside the top of the block.

The bar tasted of pure bubbly Aero milk chocolate to start with then a smooth Caramel flavour joined in and transported me on joyful chocolatey bubbles through to the aftertaste. It comes in a resealable wrapper stating half a bar as a serving of 97 calories, with 5.9g of fat, and 9.6g of sugar. I ate the whole bar and it was very nice indeed. This is a treat for any chocolate and caramel bar lover, and definitely not boring.
By Spectre

10 May 2016

Walkers Tear n Share Sticky BBQ Ribs (Morrisons) [By @Cinabar]

Here we have a new flavour of Walkers crisps and a new sharing bag design! Firstly let me explain to you Spectre’s methodology for crisp opening. He opens the bag like anyone else does, but then he tears down the side of the bag neatly leaving the crisps on what essentially becomes a crisp plate. Its fiddly to do but he is the master of it. Walker has made his life a whole lot easier by packaging their sharing crisps in a new sharing bag.

You simply put two thumbs on the markers at the top and pull it apart to create a bowl to share from. The bag came apart nice and easily when I pulled and it did the job perfectly. I thought it’s a really innovative way to pack sharing crisps and it worked well.
The crisps themselves were really good too. They are thicker cut than regular Walkers, but not too much so. The crunch was good but the crisps certainly weren't overly hard.
The flavour was where they excelled though. There were hints of tomato, barbecue sauce, meatiness and a lovely underlying tang of spice. Basically they had all my favourite ingredients on a crisp. They were a lovely combination of flavours and I’m not so sure about the sharing, it was more about fighting over them! :-D
By Cinabar

9 May 2016

Gousto Cooking Recipe Box (@GoustoCooking) [By @Cinabar]

The lovely folks from Gousto asked if we wanted to try out a Gousto Recipe box, and we thought it would be fun to give it a try. The idea is that you go on the website and pick one or two recipes from their selection and the numbers of people you want it for (2 or 4) and they send you all the ingredients, including the meat, in a cold box via courier. Exciting stuff! There recipes change every week, but for ours we went with ‘Greek Lamb Pasta with Feta and Dill’ and ‘Lemon and Chive Crusted Salmon’.
When the box arrived we were all very impressed, it was still very cold, it had been packed with ice packs and wrapped in excellent insulting material, and split into sections, chilled and non-chilled.

All the items were fresh and measured into portions and we couldn't wait to get started. There was enough ‘sell-by’ for us to have the meals over the following three days, but we had them the first two consecutive evenings.

Greek Lamb Pasta with Feta and Dill
The instructions were easy to follow, we started off by chopping the herbs and veggies in preparation. The onions were their usual painful selves, but I was pleased that the olives had been pre-pitted. We fried off the onions then added the lamb, tomato paste, oregano and garlic and got that browned.

Meanwhile the pasta went into boiling water to get that started. Next we added the chopped tomatoes, olives, bay leaves and ketchup (never underestimate the addition of some ketchup in your pasta dish).
We added a little water from the pasta pot to get the Ragu to the correct consistency and gave it a good stir. The bay leaves were found and fished out too! The dill got added next and the crumbled feta cheese topping.
The dish was fantastic, I loved the rich herby tomato flavour. I am a fan of pasta, but not usually with lamb. It was an easy to prepare recipe with results that meant every bowl was cleared.

Lemon and Chive Crusted Salmon
Next up we went for a fish dish. Again we started by prepping the veg, this time chopping the potatoes and trimming the green beans. The first thing we did was heat a shallow pan very hot and put the salmon in skin side down to cook the skin. It sizzled pleasingly in the pan.
In a bowl we mixed the breadcrumbs, half the chives and lemon zest. We also added olive oil which I think was the only ingredient we took from the cupboard that hadn’t been included in the box. We placed the salmon on a baking tray and topped it with Dijon mustard, not ingredients I’d normally combine but thats the point.

On top of the mustard we added the breadcrumb mix and then baked the salmon. The potatoes were simply boiled and dressed with the rest of the chives.
The beans were cooked in a way I'd never done before. They were essentially cooked in the shallow pan with a splash of water and capers. Not sure I have ever had capers on their own before, just in tartar sauce. They were served with mayonnaise mixed with olive oil and lemon juice.
The dish looked stunning when served, I loved the arty drizzle of lemon mayo on the beans. The mix of texture on the salmon were spot on, the crumble added such a nice mix crunch and the mustard was fab. I would never have combined mustard with salmon, but the mild Dijon worked very well with it. It was such a good meal.

I really enjoyed using flavour combinations I’d not tried before, lamb and pasta, and who would have thought salmon and mustard would work so well. Both meals resulted in completely cleared plates and were thoroughly enjoyed dishes. I like that the Gousto boxes add a bit of adventure to cooking but in a safe way. The recipes are easy to follow and in terms of convenience you cant beat having the ingredients measured and delivered to the door.
I realise the boxes aren't cheap, but you do get a fab selection of food and well thought through interesting recipes. Plus you can have as many or as few boxes as you like, so there is no long lasting commitment. If you want to give Gusto a try, yo can what recipes are available this week at: https://www.gousto.co.uk
By Cinabar