31 July 2017

New York Cheese Cake Doughnut Krispy Kreme By @cinabar

This will be the second doughnut I’ve brought from the American Daydreams collection which are new at Krispy Kreme. The new doughnuts have been brought out to celebrate 80 years of Krispy Kreme, I can’t believe they have been going so long. Not sure they have been in Britain that long, but heck any excuse for a celebration and new doughnuts sounds good to me.
The first doughnut I tried from the range was the rather fabulous Pecan Pie Doughnut, that was topped with maple syrup icing. It was complete heaven, and it got me excited about going back to Krispy Kreme and trying the New York Cheese Cake Doughnut.

This new doughnut is a round filled doughnut, topped with a white icing and a biscuit crumb.
I tucked in and found the flavours to be very muted. There was a hint of vanilla, but this was quite a delicately flavoured doughnut. The filling was white and fluffy, and had a flavour of cream cheese, but it was very mild. These lighter flavours meant that the biscuit crumb stood out more, giving a nice baked taste and a crunchy texture. It was a very pleasant doughnut to eat, I did enjoy it, but given the exciting choices at Krispy Kreme I wouldn’t rush to have it again. Ultimately this was a bit mild for me, and the Pecan Pie Doughnut wins hands down for my tastebuds. Did I mention I like nuts though? There is a still a Peanut Butter and Jelly one left for me to try, and I think that might be up my street too.

30 July 2017

Naturally Nourished - by Sarah Britton, the perfect veggie starter book (@NLi10)

Occasionally I get something in the post that I personally find hard to review.  Maybe it's the simple pots of Peruvian Quinoa, or yet another quality organic cola - some things are good, but hard to put in to words.

While I was away in Italy a few 'food parcels' arrived and were looked after by neighbours including this rather large book.

Blogger Sarah Britton has brought together a collection of wonderfully photographed vegetarian dishes that reads like somewhere between a recipe book and a lifestyle manual.  There are lots of fundamentals (which I really get along with) before you get to the recipes so that you don't feel you have to just follow blindly and can tailor everything to your taste.

Some of these basics - like the building block idea are just more detailed versions of things most of us subconsciously do.

Essentially you choose a thing from each section - and end up with a meal.  A lot of the vegan things I review on here are essentially taking one of these steps out and then you add the sauce and the grain and you get a meal.  Fry's vegan bits and bobs are now completely essential for me as they have so many more complex flavours than the Quorn 'beginner veggie' foods can.  Here though it's stripped right back - which is great for budgets and picky eaters alike.

What I can't get on with is a couple of the 'flavour boosting' ideas - namely adding salt and oil to the dish as an auto-condiment topping.  Salt to really bring out the flavour, and oil to make the dish more satisfying and hunger busting both sound superficially fantastic but the Eat To Live/Nutritarian in me is horrified!  Both of these run completely contrary to what we want to be advising people.  If you want your food to be more fatty and flavoursome on top add some seeds!  Granted she has a section on adding vinegar too (the Joel Fuhrman approved smarter version of salting everything) so not all the ideas are bad, but this theme does carry over into a few of the recipes and there are a lot of nutrient free calories floating around that just plain don't need to be there!

Between this and the kitchen staples section of the book at the end there are 10 pages of 'me' style tips and tricks which I found fascinating (I always love to see how other people think about food whether I agree with them or not.  The other 230 pages of the book are the recipes, which realistically I'm going to skim read.  There are some fab ideas in here too, like the three different seasonal variations on the Minestrone soup, but for me the stars are the pictures.  Not only are they bright and colourful but they don't feel staged and forged like a lot of books do.  These look like someone has just taken pictures of their meals as they made them, and they did a great job!  Dirty bowls and spoons and real cutlery help bring home the honesty of the food thats here - and being a vegetarian book I can take any of the ideas and run with it without too much effort.  The food labelling is great too with vegan and gluten free options highlighted.

This book would be ideal for a newly converted veggie (or upgraded vegan) and is almost the perfect gift for a parent who is looking to say "I approve of your new lifestyle choices".  Heck I know a few people I'm going to link the blog to after I finish writing.

For my cooking style though - I have all the vegan basics down. I have the Eat To Live cookbook to ignore and do my own thing instead of, and I have At Home In the Whole Food Kitchen to try and skim the basics from too.  Naturally Nourished has some great higher end recipes that I'd love to try, but I'm not sure that I have the time, patience or skill to try.  So I'm going to pass the baton. While I can totally review the lifestyle section and the achingly beautiful pictures I'm going to need to recruit one or two veggie friendly people I know to make some of these things to try out.  And you know - I don't think the author would mind that.  The book was written as a way to bring people together over food so hopefully I manage to do that and I'll report back in the future.

In the meantime you can look at Sarah's blog My New Roots for a few of these very recipes and some lifestyle tips, but be warned - it's very mouth watering stuff.  It also looks like there is an app version of this which I'd probably get along better with as I can just say "I have these three things - what do I make".

29 July 2017

Pure Hopped Cider (@DegustaboxUK @Purityale @WestonsCiderMil) By @SpectreUK

This Pure Hopped Cider was produced through collaboration between the Warwickshire Brewer, Purity, and the Herefordshire cider-maker, Weston. Made from cider apples local to Herefordshire, and English Target Hops from Worcestershire, there seemed like oodles of the English green and pleasant countryside in this 4% volume cider. I certainly haven't had a cider mixed with hops before, and so was taken aback by the innovative idea. I was hoping to be equally bowled over by the taste experience.

On opening the 330ml can there was a light cheerful fizz. There followed an altogether alien smell. There was cider apples and there was citrus hops in the same can. This aroma was so different to any beverage I have smelt before I just couldn't stop taking the odd sniff whilst writing this blog. Simple so it seems, hops and cider, the smell I couldn't get over. Besides, there was something parting them. The more sniffs I took I could smell the grand old oak vat that this cider had been matured in. A wall of solid oak between the two smells. I couldn't help but start to worry that this wooden wall would be unbreakable in the taste.

There was a slight murkiness to the golden coloured cider that filled my glass. On taste this cider was initially dominated by the citrus hops. No mere dash of hops here. And this hop flavour had not only broken through but somehow merged with the wooden oak wall, as next came the oaken flavour which in turn travelled to an almost tart sweet yet dry cider apple flavour. This was certainly a complex group of flavours to have in a cider. Not one I've experienced before, and definitely one I'd be happy to experience again. Now where did I put those pork scratchings…?

28 July 2017

Mentos Mix on The Beach Edition (WH Smiths) By @Cinabar

I haven’t bought Mentos in a long time, and they used to be a regular item on my desk at work. I think this might be more about the fact that where I used to work had a shop that sold a rainbow of flavours, and in my new job there isn’t anywhere to impulse buy them. Having said that I couldn’t resist when I saw a new flavour variety at the newsagent, I bought myself a tube to try.
The name is a bit odd sounding “Mix on The Beach” and it does sound like a bad cocktail! Oh well the fruity flavours themselves look lovely. Mentos are hard sweets, which go chewy fairly quickly and as such are nice to munch on. These are the same, and there are three colours in the pack.

First up I tried a pink one. It took a while for the flavour to develop but it had the perfect mix of passion fruit and mango. The passion fruit was slightly tart and the mango was juicy and sweet, the whole thing tasted lovely and tropical.
Next up I tried the orange coloured one, unsurprisingly the flavour was very much orange, but there was softer tones of peach mixed in with this too. It had a good citrus taste, very zingy and refreshing.
Finally I had the pale peach coloured one, and couldn’t work out from the flavour what it was supposed to be. I would have guessed bubblegum, but that doesn’t exactly fit with the tropical theme. According to the packet it was strawberry and banana, to me it was juicy and sweet, and if anything slightly sherbety. too.
They were all good flavours though, now I’m looking forward to seeing if I can find any other limited edition flavours, I’ve missed my Mentos.

27 July 2017

My little green exotic KitKat (@NLi10)

Yesterday, while picking up green tea bags, iced tea in a bottle, and green tea pocky (theme!) I spotted and picked up the Macha Green Tea KitKats. They are expensive £5.50 for a bag of 12 - and they are half the size of a normal two finger KitKat so that's pretty steep.

Anything with green tea in is automatically intriguing and as the chocolate is green too I figured I'd splash out.

There is lots of helpful context on the bag, but it's all in Japanese, so we have to go to the website to get the low down - or just open up and have a look.

The bars are tiny but really imperial looking, someone deserves a raise for this one. 

And inside, with a real English 5p for scale is the short, two finger sample of the bar. It may even be less than two of these to a normal bar length!

Luckily the website has all the info on that we need. This is actually OTONA NO AMASA (or sweetness for adults) and contains Uni Gyokuro tea leaves to make authentic Uni matcha paste. And I have to admit it's a really smooth ride, and does taste like the real thing.  The green isn not disappointing either, with the colours being bright enough to convince you that a decent amount of the real product is in here. Possibly not worth 50p a bar as it's only 6 small bites, but as a rare adult treat it's certainly interesting enough to pick up.

And evidently a lot of other people think so too as the BBC has just reported that these import flavours have caused Nestle to have to open a whole extra factory. While this is essentially not that exciting on the face of it, it does means that we may get more variety in the UK and the prices may reduce too. Excellent news. 

26 July 2017

Fusions Cheddar & Red Pepper flavour (Morrisons) By @SpectreUK

These new Cheddar & Red Pepper flavour Fusions have 50% less fat in them than regular potato crisps. They are made with potato flakes and oven baked. They are sported as ‘light & crispy’ as well as having a ‘mouth-watering taste’. They mention ‘real ingredients’, so I expect the ‘Cheddar’ part of the flavour is real Cheddar cheese and I’m also expecting some spiciness from the red peppers.
On opening there was a strong smell of red peppers from the packet. There was an added cheesiness at the back of the aroma, that suggested red pepper spice first and cheese after in the taste. On taste the red pepper and then paprika were the immediate dominant flavours, with the cheesy flavour close behind to balance the spices. There was a good clean crunchiness to these moreish crisps and I found I wanted more on emptying the packet. Always a good sign… ;-)
Information on the packet;
The 22g packet has 96 calories, with 3g of fat, 1.9g of sugar and 0.23g of salt. Please see photograph for the ingredients.

25 July 2017

Pecan Pie Doughnut (Krispy Kreme) By @cinabar

On our way to Center Parcs last week we stopped at a service station that sold Krispy Kreme, and I spotted the new American Daydream doughnuts. We didn’t pick them up, as we were in a rush and on a tight schedule, but I regretted not having bought them. Once we were settled into the Center Parcs village we explored the supermarket on site and I was excited to see they too had Krispy Kreme, and the new Pecan Pie Doughnut was sitting on the shelf. This time we were definitely buying doughnuts!

My Pecan Pie Doughnut was a ring doughnut, topped with brown icing, nuts and a white chocolate drizzle. As regular readers will be aware, I’m a big fan of nuts, so knew this was going to go down well with me. The doughnut was firm but still fairly spongey. The taste was overwhelmingly maple syrup flavoured, which is from the heavy dose of icing. It was sweet and rich and like having maple syrup poured over it, but without the stickiness. The nuts were a lovely touch, and went well with the maple syrup flavour. They also added a nice bit of crunch to the texture. I have to admit the white chocolate was a bit lost, but it looked pretty. The maple syrup flavour was very overpowering, and I mean that in a good way! The Krispy Kreme Pecan Pie Doughnut was heaven!

They have also brought a peanut butter and jelly doughnut in their American Daydream range and New York Cheesecake. I might try and pick up one of the other flavours at the weekend, for research purposes you understand.

24 July 2017

Cloggs Coffee House Blend Review [By Uxorious]

It’s 8am and I have a lot to do today! Do you ever get that déjà vu feeling? I have a research article to write (I’m a physicist by the way), a paper to review, a grant application to prepare and the never-ending line of emails to clear. I’m sitting in front of my laptop and I need to get going! This calls for caffeine, a lovely espresso will kick-start my day. It’s not procrastination, it’s coffee. One of the benefits of working from home is access to my lovely espresso machine. Today I’m going to try some Cloggs House blend beans, which have arrived in the post for me to sample.

I live in Yorkshire, which is where you’ll find Cloggs Coffee Company. They hand-roast all their beans and you can visit them in person, have a drink even, at their coffee shop in Dewsbury. I intend to pop in, now that I know it’s on my doorstep. (That’s taking my doorstep to be about fifteen miles in length, but for a good a coffee what’s distance but a relative concept. Did I mention the physicist thing?) They also have a website (www.cloggscoffee.com) and not only do they sell coffee beans, but tea, hot chocolate and coffee machines. What caught my eye was a ROK Espresso maker, which looks absolutely stunning and is hand powered, so if you are reading this I’ll take one of them and the ROK coffee grinder for my birthday please. Or Christmas. I’m really not that choosy.

All their coffee beans are ethically sourced and they sell both blends and single origin coffees. I’m drinking their House Blend. It combines Arabica Brazilian, Columbian and Peruvian beans. It’s not long before my bean to cup machine is powered up and out drizzles golden brown espresso. Looks good, a solid deep crema has formed. You can see the remains of this in the photo below, sorry I started drinking before the camera came out! I’m only human.

The aroma is quite soft to me, but pleasant. The flavour is likewise mild, very rounded, and warm, with a subtle sweetness to it. This espresso is mild on all the senses, but very moreish. There are no bitter tones and the coffee has a lovely lasting gentle aftertaste. This is a beautiful, any time of the day, espresso. Revitalised, caffeinated, I’m ready to work, but darn it, first I have to write a review of this coffee for FoodStuffFinds. But don’t worry! I’m a physicist, so I’ll use my time machine, go back to 8am, and paradoxes aside, I’m sure I’ll find I’ve already written this.

23 July 2017

Five Italian Carbonara (@NLi10)

When I went to Italy my goal was to try as many things as possible - but also to eat a whole lot of Carbonara!  This dish is really hard to find in the UK - that is it's really hard to find a Carbonara which isn't spaghetti in cheese sauce with some ham called a Carbonara.  Carbonara doesn't have cheese in the sauce (some people put a little in for thickening, but it's mostly cream, the salty taste is from the meat) - you add the cheese to the top when you are finished to the taste of the diner.  In my case you just don't add the cheese and life is good.  The 'Carbon' part is the black pepper - and that should be in the sauce already.  Us Brits really seem to struggle with this concept and just treat it as a kids dish and give out macaroni cheese and have done with it.

A visit to Italy was the perfect time to see it done properly.

And I struck gold on the first attempt.

Around the corner from Santa Croche (where Stendhal's Syndrome was first described) tucked down an unassuming side street (Borgo Allegri?) we spotted a nice little place we could sit outside in the shade and I ordered the above Carbonara - and it's perfect. The meat is luxurious and not too thick, the spaghetti was al dente and coated in the creamy black pepper sauce and it was probably the best Carbonara I've ever had. The deep bowl masks the generous portion too.  I wrongly assumed this was how all the carbonara would be over in Italy so I decided to vary things a bit.

The next evening I thought I'd order something I'd not really heard of - and it ended up being Carbonara without the meat - but with much thicker pasta. This was a lovely restaurant in Florence and as usual was stocked with the wines and smells that Italy provides so well.  At first I was a little disappointed that I'd ordered something so basic, but the pepper and pasta flavour was just so rich and good. I really should start taking pictures of the menus and restaurants so that I can go into more detail!

Back at the camp-site one evening the girls just had 'light bites' so I grabbed a Carbonara! This was like a good version of what I'd do at home, the sauce was cream and a whole egg (so it was a little eggy) and had chunkier meat in and not quite enough pepper (but there was plenty on the sides and table to suit).  This wasn't by any stretch an expensive meal and fitted the hole in my stomach perfectly.  If I'd been served this in the Uk I'd have been pleased, basic and effective.

The next offering on the other hand was not quite what I'd planned.

I'd wandered around a bit of Florence looking for something exciting to eat - I'd thought I could have a luxury meal for one then pop back to the campsite.  Instead I decided to see what the tourist trap places served for Carbonara - buoyed on by the incredible pizzas we had in view of the tower of Pisa.  Everyone at the tables seemed to be enjoying the food, it wasn't massively expensive and it had nice views of the square.

Not only did they only have Sprite instead of the Italian soft drinks, but I got easily the worst Carbonara of the visit - and possibly the worst one in my Adult memory.  It was basically a plate of warm spaghetti that they had stirred cream and ham into and then coated in cheese.  No quality bacon, no pepper at all, and the meat tasted awful in places with a fatty aftertaste!  Maybe they thought they were doing the tourists a favour by matching their low expectations - maybe they thought people would give this to their kids.  This will teach me to try out the hot spots without using trip advisor!  There was no name on the outside of the restaurant presumably so you find it harder to give them bad feedback. I ate most of it, but left zero tip.

I couldn't leave Italy with that being the last Carbonara, but wanted some more variety.  I spotted this on one of the last days of the trip.

It's essentially a hybrid of ravioli and carbonara which suited me fine.  Each little pasta parcel is packed with meaty creamy goodness and it's clear that a good amount of thought went into the composition of this - making 'just pasta' a more exciting meal than a plate of peppery worms.  This was my second favourite Carbonara experience.

Overall I think that I'd happily order the four non disappointing ones again.  Campsite carbonara has very different criteria to the restaurant grade variety, and I'd happily go back to Florence just to try the first one again.  Although I'm sure I could find that somewhere new, or closer to home.

22 July 2017

The Leveller Beer (@CenterParcsUK Shopping Mall) By @SpectreUK

We bought this beer from the shopping mall in Centre Parcs, in Sherwood Forest. We've just spent a week there after many years of Cinabar trying to coax me to go. Earlier this year a new spa opened there and knowing I'm a lover of saunas and steam rooms, Cinabar gave the final push. What a spa it is, with four steam rooms; one of which has a tropical shower in it, and three saunas; one of which is high up in the trees so you can admire the view whilst slowly cooking. It is a really good spa with lots of relaxation rooms too, like the Scandinavian Snug room with furry blankets and funky Viking music.

Before the week away Cinabar had shown me a grand list of activities that we could book, so I plumbed for Scuba Diving and also Laser Clay Pigeon Shooting. I wanted to go actual Clay Pigeon Shooting some years ago with Cinabar's brother and father on a stag do, but had shoulder problems from a car accident, and couldn't take the kick from the gun. No recoil here and I was pleasantly surprised to come third out of ten in the competition. The Scuba Diving next day was a really intuitive beginner's course and hour's fun swim underwater. I'd recommend both activities to anyone. Great fun. Not to mention the Crazy Golf and the Parc's fun pool with its slides, deadly rapids and wave pool. The lodge we stayed in the woods was lovely too, surrounded by trees, squirrels, all manner of birds and bread hungry ducks in a large pond nearby.

Anyway, back to The Leveller, which was brewed by the Springhead Brewery in Retford, Nottinghamshire. Brewed since 1990, this 4.8% volume beer was produced with English ingredients in the manner of Belgian Trappist beers. This dark brown beer has a crisp sweet burnt toffee smell to it on opening. In taste dark chocolate malt springs to the fore shoving aside the bitter hops that try to push through before the aftertaste. There the sweet caramel malt lies coating the tongue with that almost burnt toffee flavour as it mixes with the chocolate malt. Mmm… quite the pudding beer, if I do say so… Like the sweet surprise of a good holiday away, though dashed when the bottle is empty and it's time to go back to the humdrum!

21 July 2017

Iced Tea Pomegranate and Hibiscus Drink (Marks and spencer) By @Cinabar

I was in Marks and Spencer food hall with my mum, and I was after a drink to take out. I was browsing the shelf and my mum suggested an orange and passion fruit drink. As nice as it sounded I said I was after something a bit more unusual. A voice piped up and said the weirdest sounding drink is the Iced Tea Pomegranate and Hibiscus Drink. It was another shopper, I asked him if he had tried it, and he said he was thinking of buying it, and that he had read all the flavours of the other drinks and that this was the most interesting. Clearly a fan of interesting foodie items, and who can resist M and S for that.
This Iced Tea Pomegranate and Hibiscus Drink is a new drink, in the Spirit of Summer range. With the drink selection made I gave my bottle a sip. Mostly the flavour was of pomegranate and this gave it similarities to pure juice, it was fruity but not too sweet. It reminded me a little of red berries, and was very tasty. The tea came through as a slightly leafy bitter aftertaste, and the Hibiscus added some light floral tones. The drink was very pleasant and refreshing, and made a nice change to the usual flavours, perfect on a warm day. I hope the other shopper enjoyed his bottle as much as I did.

20 July 2017

Monty Bojangles - Popcorn Carousel (@NLi10)

I love the Monty Bojangles range - it's like the Fentiman's of chocolates and it's still just about unknown enough that you can surprise people with them as presents and still wow them.

And I found a whole stack of a new to me flavour in Home Bargains for £2 a box (half price). Joy.


the idea behind Popcorn Carousel is initially a bit odd sounding, but essentially you take their standard rich chocolate truffle, and then add some buttery salted popcorn to the mix in the centre to cause a texture clash and to add some saltiness.

And it's amazing!


As usual taking one out of the box  leaves you with cocoa everywhere and those that dare to try to eat it in multiple bites will end up with even more so.  They are small enough to justify pipping in with a single bite and enjoying the melt, and then the flavour hit all in one.  And the main thing that you get is the rich butter that comes alongside the chocolate and bowls you over. There is a hint of the saltiness, and the texture of the popcorn is possibly more welcome than the surprise of the popping candy. Athe whole combination is amazing and has resulted in a trip back to the store. 

We now have a further two boxes at home waiting to be sprung on guests, and then finished by ourselves. Top marks.

19 July 2017

Ace Tea: Earl Grey and Lady Rose (@AceTeaLondon) By @SpectreUK

Ace Tea very kindly sent us some of their teas to blog about. Ace Tea have blended their teas to add an original twist to traditional blends. They state that the teas can be drunk hot, iced or blended in a cocktail. I personally like my tea hot and quite strong, so leave the teabag in quite a long time and squeeze it to death before removing. Never one for cocktails, virgin or otherwise, and the only time I drink cold tea is if I've forgotten about it at work! Anyway…

Earl Grey

Ace Tea have blended their Sri Lankan black tea with Oil of Bergamot to create the traditional tea flavour Earl Grey, with added Lemon Essence, and they've also put in orange and lemon peel, and cornflowers. I have to say that this is a very smooth combination of flavours. Of course the Bergamot springs to the fore on first taste, but there are floral undertones mixed with a spritely citrus zest. This is a very tasty and refreshing Earl Grey, especially after a time of digging around in the garden followed by drinking it down whilst watching the Mixed Doubles at Wimbledon.

Lady Rose

This is a big worry for me. I always hate anything flavoured with roses. From Turkish Delight to chocolate rose creams, rose water to rose lemonade; I can't stand any of them! This Lady Rose is their usual Sri Lankan black tea blended with Rose Petals and Rose Essence. Worst nightmare. At least I really enjoyed the Earl Grey!

… Anyway, opening the box of 15 tea stockings I tentatively smelt the first teabag. Yep, roses with a hint of black tea! Oh, boy… On taste it doesn't taste all that bad actually! If you like rose flavoured things, you'll be well in here, but also if you like floral drinks too. I do like floral beers, as some hops can be quite floral in flavour. So, this actually made me wonder what rose beer might taste like. Madness, I know!

Anyway… there is a stronger flavour of black tea to this Lady Rose, but the rose flavouring is by no means secondary in strength as it is springs to the fore after a split second of black tea and then it bashed at my tastebuds right through to the aftertaste. Having said that, and this is the weird masochistic part, I actually weirdly enjoyed it, and from that strange fact I will finish the box of this Lady Rose.

18 July 2017

Mini Cheddars - Stilton Edition (Sainsburys) By @Cinabar

I don't regularly buy Mini Cheddars. It is not that I dislike them, I’ve enjoyed them in the past, but they aren’t something I pick up very often. I guess they go into the category of being nice, but not regular purchases. Having said that there was a lot of advertising for these new flavoured Mini Cheddars around Saisnburys, so much so that I thought I had to pick up a bag. They had adverts for them on the trolleys, on the security tag machines by the doors, and in the aisle themselves, this was not a subtle quiet product launch.
Mini Cheddars are going for some new varieties which have gone from a generic cheese to more specific types. I decided to pick up a bag of the Stilton edition, as it is a cheese I love. The packet is blue, as the cheese should be, and it came in a multipack with six bags. I opened my bag up and had them with my lunch.
I have to admit the flavour was spot on, the cheese had the very distinctive flavour of Stilton, it was tangy and strong and worked remarkably well with the little biscuits. The biscuit flavour wasn’t overwhelmed either, it came across in a tasty creamy after flavour. The texture was the usual light crunch, which were nice and easy to eat. I was very impressed with these Mini Cheddars Stilton Edition, they reminded me how good Mini Cheddars are, and now I’m keen to try all the new limited edition cheese flavours they have brought out. I can't imagine them beating these yummy Stilton ones though.

17 July 2017

New Galaxy Swirlers - Shortbread Crunch (Sainsburys) By @Cinabar

This bar of Galaxy is designed to be swirled in a hot drink. When I saw that it was Shortbread Crunch I assumed that the main part of the chocolate was biscuit, and that this was ultimately for dunking.

What I actually had was a fairly regular bar of Galaxy, with a few shortbread bits mixed in, all in a new layout. The design inside shows that that each piece is meant to broken off and swirled in coffee or hot chocolate, hence the name Swirlers. I went to break one Swirler off, and two came away, I tried to break these in half and they split, but into several parts. I tried to break one off the other side, and it came away neatly. Not the best start though. I made myself a nice big mug of coffee.

Next I swirled it in my drink, but it made the chocolate melt and slippery. I ended up with a finger imprint on the end I was holding and sticky fingers. There wasn’t enough biscuit to soften like a proper biscuit, which is the best part of dunking. The drink gained nothing from the traces of added chocolate, and the chocolate gained nothing from the hot liquid.
Conclusion, I just ate the rest of the bar like regular chocolate, and it was divine. I’d forgotten how good Galaxy can be.

16 July 2017

Croatian Paste Chocolates - ChocOlive & ChocOrange (@NLi10)

Picked up at an airport by a colleague, today we have odd long bars of hand-made chocolate filled with paste matching the flavours on the box.  I was purely intrigued by the fact that it has Olive filling inside one of the varieties.

So first lets talk basics. These are nice, slabs of chocolate and are very fragile on top and strong underneath. The boxes are designed so that travellers can protect their investment and the tops don't cave in until you want them to.  The Dark choc is the Orange, and the Milk is the Olive.  I'm not sure this matters.

We tried to break them off in orderly lines - but it just didn't work - so we popped them in the fridge and tried again.  They basically shattered and there were no perfect chunks - but this created a pleasing effect where no two pieces were the same and we probably ended up eating more than planned at each sitting.

The goo was very much a solid paste and not like a caramel or liquid centre - which was good because that would not have worked with the shards of chocolate we had.

The orange wasn't that exciting, it tastes of orange, but less so than the typical UK roses and quality street options.  Enjoyable, but not that memorable.

The olive paste it turns out is mostly olive oil flavoured. This is even weirder than the salty olives I was expecting and am now craving.  Again - it was pleasurable to eat and not something I'd really ever hunt down again.

The chocolate however was great quality and probably the actual star.  Both versions were nice, and I guess you could have swapped the contents and not had any noticeable effect (although the weaker flavour was the Olive so they probably balanced it out for us).  Often things brought back from holidays are all packaging and no substance, but these are cool enough and interesting enough that I'd be tempted to grab some more if I wanted to dump currency at the airport and surprise my friends. Not a classic, but a good solid regional variation.

15 July 2017

Sheppy’s Vintage Reserve Cider (Waitrose) By @SpectreUK

Not one for drinking cider, you may know, but I've recently found out that it's one of the best drinks to wash down a good packet of pork scratchings. Sheppy's Vintage Reserve seemed a little posh sounding to wash down one of my favourite snacks. However, the drink sounded very traditional as the Sheppy family has been a farmer cider makers since the early 1800s, and we can't get much more of a traditional snack here that isn't pork scratchings! This 7.4% volume cider was made using traditional methods dating back to those times. Using cider apples from their own orchards in a single year, this one being from 2016, they are then aged in oak vats.

So chilled and ready my cider sat proud next to my bag of pork scratchings, but of course, I thought I'd try the cider first on my clean palate. There was the distinguishable smell of cider apples on opening the bottle, a touch of bitterness to start with followed by sweet apply goodness. Lightly sparkling, there was a jolly fizz on pouring this cider into my waiting glass. On taste the balance of the aroma transcended to the flavour. There was an almost nose twisting bitterness to start with, but well before it overpowered my senses the sweetness kicked in smoothing out the drink and making it a moreish treat. It almost seemed a shame to open the packet of pork scratching, but c'est la vie!

14 July 2017

Mr Kipling Eton Mess Bakewell Tarts (Morrisons) By @Cinabar

These new Eton Mess Bakewell Tarts from Mr Kipling are part of the summer range. They are a twist on a regular Bakewell Tart and have the addition of pink icing, fruit jam and meringue, to give the feel of the summer dessert. There are six pink pies in the pack, and they look very pretty and tempting.
They are in metal foil cases, and were difficult to get out of these as the pastry kept crumbling around the edges, I could tell the pastry was very soft. They were a little difficult to serve.

I gave one a try and found that these Eton Mess Bakewell Tarts were all about the pastry, and for my tastes there was too much of it. The distinctive flavour of Bakewell Tart was muted by the flour and pastry flavour and the Eton Mess addition.
There was a hint of raspberry jam, but any fruit flavour was difficult to pick up on. I liked the crunchy meringue on the top, this added a good mix of textures. These Bakewell Tarts look lovely, and would be fab packed on a picnic. They are sweet and pleasant, but I couldn’t help thinking I preferred the more distinctive flavour of regular Bakewell Tarts. I’ve never been a big pastry fan, but can normally cope if the filling is strong or plentiful, these weren’t particularly. I guess this is why deep filled mince pies are my favourite.

13 July 2017

Meat free Prawn Katsu with Tricolour gnocchi (@NLi10) #Vegan

We've already established that Fry's are the reigning kings of frozen vegan things - so lets dive in to the deep end and see how they make Vegan scampi!

Naturally it's a bit like their chicken nuggets, but they have involved a chef and really gone to town.

I'm presuming he's off Masterchef based on the text. And he recommends a spicy tomato chutney - which sounds amazing - but I didn't have one so I made a little Katsu sauce.  We picked this up from Webbs Garden Centre's expensive gift section.  It's pretty potent!

I just mixed it with some water and reduced it down as I didn't have any coconut milk to hand, and didn't think to use almond milk.  It worked pretty well.

I served with gnocchi because I really fancied some and it's quicker than doing a stir fry.  

The vegan scampi were interesting, there was a definite herby flavour and they almost seemed to be harder on the outside and softer in the middle giving them a bite similar to a prawn. The veggie taster wasn't as put off by these as the chicken style nuggets we had and ate them all no problem.  More please!

The Katsu was a little strongly made, but was a welcome kick to the meal and also vegan which was good.

Naturally you could make a less childish looking meal by adding veggies and a proper stir fry with noodles - maybe on a night when I have more fresh ingredients and time!

12 July 2017

Haagen-Dazs Salted Caramel Ice Cream Bar (Morrisons) By @SpectreUK

Not one for writing about ice cream, Cinabar implored me to write about this Haagen-Dazs Salted Caramel Ice Cream Bar. Personally I prefer to have a milk chocolate bar of some description and a black coffee after dinner, or a white chocolate bar and white hot chocolate drink. However I needed to cool down after a hot day at work, followed by a hot cramped train journey and then over heating a little watching the Wimbledon Women's Tennis during my evening meal.

Before I knew it, Cinabar had thrust a Haagen-Dazs Salted Caramel Ice Cream Bar in my hand. After unwrapping, on first crunchy milk chocolate coated bite I could see that there were small pieces of soft salted caramel in amongst the vanilla ice cream. There was a sweet saltiness to the ice cream as a whole that seemed to increase in flavour the more I ate. This was indeed a totally delicious chocolatey sweet and salty caramel ice cream treat, and I certainly wasn't disappointed.

Information on the packet;
Three ice cream bars in the box, at 70g each, having 257 calories, 18.3g of fat, 17.6g of sugar, and 0.34g of salt. Please see photograph.