Sunday, 31 August 2014

Waitrose Seriously Creamy Stem Ginger Ice Cream

These delicious beauties are one of the most indulgent treats I've had in a very long time. They're a little pricey and pretty unhealthy but so delectable economics and waist lines don't even enter the decision.

Dark chocolate and ginger is probably my favourite flavour combination. I love strong, intense taste experiences, so two very distinct flavours in one product makes for a lovely balance. If you like the dark chocolate and ginger biscuits you can buy you'll love these.

When I opened the pack, I was very surprised, if not a little overwhelmed, by the sheer size of them. They might be £2.99 but you certainly get a lot for your money. As such, they're 300ish calories each with around 30g sugar per stick. However, I suppose this is the same as a lot of chocolate bars and because of their size they last a lot longer and you feel more satisfied.

And these are worth every calorie. Creamy, cool, melt in the mouth ice cream is swirled with a spicy, sweet stem ginger sauce and encased in a shell of deep, dark chocolate with bits of ginger studded throughout for further explosions of flavour.

The sensation of shards of dark chocolate snapping in your mouth, followed by a cooling ice cream with the warmth of ginger is sublime. The flavours complement each other perfectly for a delicious dessert. I will definitely buy these again.

Score: 9/10

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Yeo Valley & Go

Sometimes simple things just work. I've mentioned I've got a bit of an obsession with overpriced, unnecessary breakfast options. I'm a bit mad about cereal anyway and breakfast is probably my favourite meal of the day. So for me it's always a real treat to buy an expensive breakfast as an occasional purchase.

Again, this Yeo Valley and Go isn't economical, compared to a box of cereal but it is very tasty and makes a great choice if you need something on the go or on impulse. It's transportable, it's self contained and it's pretty healthy.

It's made with organic ingredients and the yoghurt is completely unadulterated - so nothing but yoghurt and with no added sugar unlike most yoghurts out there. It's cooling, smooth and refreshing.

There is a little organic sugar in the granola but this is necessary for crunch and taste. There isn't that much granola in the pack and it's portion controlled so you won't be bingeing on sugar. With seeds as well, the granola is crisp, crumbly, moreish and sweet. It provides the perfect counterbalance to the delicate yoghurt.

I wouldn't have one of these everyday but it made a nice change.

Score: 7.5/10

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Marks and Spencer Salt and Pepper Kale Crisps

Kale is the new in vogue superfood in the spotlight at the moment. I do try and pick healthier snacks most of the time so thought these would be nice change. The ingredients list is very streamlined: just kale, cashew nuts, dried yeast, lemon zest, black pepper and sea salt.

As such, it's a very natural product, which I like. The whole bag is 118 calories so nothing to worry about on this front. Due to the natural ingredients, it's low sugar and because of the cashew butter coating, it's actually pretty high in protein with 24.2g per 100g and 6.1g per pack.

All in all, it sounds pretty good but it does have a frankly ridiculous price tag of £2. Yes, £2 for one little bag. Granted, it is a healthy snack and nuts are quite pricey but I can't help suspect M&S are taking advantage of a fad here.

I wasn't sure what to expect but opening the pretty paper bag revealed lots of large, crispy, crunchy pieces of what does look like dried kale. I was pleased at how in tact the pieces were as I suspected it would just be crumbs and shards.

Taste wise, it's a very unusual, slightly bitter, yeasty taste, which I really liked but would definitely polarise. The crunchy, brittle texture gives you the crisp like satisfaction and they have a lovely savoury, salty taste with a good kick of umami. The cashew coating also comes through in the aftertaste for a smooth, nutty finish.

I really enjoyed these but unless you know you'll like them, it's not worth the £2 risk. They are a really tasty treat that is actually really good for you - but then so is raw spinach, which is a lot more economical

Score: 7.5/10

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Walkers Paul's Pulled Pork in a sticky BBQ glaze crisps

Today it was time to try another of the Walker's limited edition 'Choose a flavour' range and as pulled Pork is one of my favourite foods, this seemed like a no brainer.

Just on the description alone, I imagine this flavour is polling quite strongly as pulled pork is so on trend now. It's certainly seems like a good match for crisps.

Unfortunately, whilst I loved the concept, like the chip shop curry flavour, it isn't executed that well. The flavour is mostly just sweet and actually quite like tomato ketchup crisps. There is some after taste that is meaty and savoury but it's only slightly of pork and not that obvious. Mostly, the taste is sweet with a bit of salt. It's not horrible by any means but it doesn't deliver what the description promises.

Looking at the list of flavourings in the ingredients, it seems these are quite cheap crisps. Walker's have good ideas but I imagine something like Tyrell's or Kettle would have delivered a more complex and truer representation.

Score: 6.5/10

Friday, 15 August 2014

Rachel's Organic Rice Pudding

I'm a big fan of Rachel's yoghurts but have never got around to trying the rice pudding - mostly due to the fact I can usually only find it in 500g tubs, which is probably a bit much. However, upon finding a 150g individual portion, I finally got around to buying one.

Even before opening it, I was salivating at the thought of trying this. I find rice pudding such a simple treat. It's relatively natural and unprocessed and lower in sugar and fat than most puddings. Rachel's is also synonymous with high quality and simple ingredients and this is no exception. Just milk, rice, a very little amount of sugar and cream for a little luxury and some egg.

Luckily it lived up to my expectations. Seriously smooth and milky, it was pure comfort food. It's sweet and creamy but not overly so, so that it's very clean tasting. It's actually quite a good palate cleanser because it is a sweet and soothing finish to a meal rather than a high sugar hit.

The texture is spot on. It's thick but still velvety with an almost yoghurt like consistency. With subtle vanilla undertones, it's just a simple milky nursery treat. And because it's natural, real ingredients and organic, I feel it's guilt free.

Price: 75p
Available: Major supermarkets

Pros: Creamy, luxurious, organic and simple
Cons: Not as indulgent as other desserts

Score: 7.5/10

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Sainsbury's Coloured Dim Sum with Ginger Soy Sauce

This was a really cool and eye catching product I found in Sainsbury's recently. Dim sum is a big trend on the dining out and restaurant scene but this is the first foray into it from a supermarket I've seen. Packaging and product wise, I thought it was visually stunning and it really did leap off the shelf. The dim sum are brightly coloured and so ornate and the box is very sleek and modern too.

With prawn beetroot shumai (the flower shaped dim sum), the prawn turmeric huaco (the yellow shell) and the oriential vegetable chive gyoza (the long green piece), it's a really interesting mix. It certainly looks impressive, almost like a beautiful box of treasure. All the pieces were really delicate, exquisitely shaped and so elegant.

These only needed a couple of minutes in the microwave and, actually considering they were cooked in this manner, came out really well. The pieces were warm and inviting and smelt so aromatic and tempting. As dim sum, they're supposed to have a steamed texture rather than crispy and this met that criteria very well. Very soft, plump and bursting with filling yet they hold their shape and don't fall apart when you pick them up or even when bitten in half. Often party food or small pieces like this can make a mess but these stay perfectly intact.

I absolutely loved each of the three varities. The shumai was slightly sweet and tasted very fresh and the gyoza felt very meaty and substantial for a vegetable dim sum and had a great mix of textures and tastes with a deliciously savoury flavour. The star of the show for me was the prawn turmeric huaco. With a slight sweet and hot edge, it really sets off every taste bud and gets you take to notice.

The ginger soy dip complemented all of the pieces beautifully and, again, added to the visually impressive look of the product. It wasn't overly salty but had real depth of flavour that balanced with the dim sum.

These could probably be used for starters, sharing or snacking but I actually ate the entire tray on my own for a lunch. At around 30 calories a piece, the whole packet was only about 300 calories so certainly not too calorific. And yet I felt satisfied due to the complex taste and the fact I feel I had quite a bit to choose from.

I was very impressed by this selection. It's light and delicious and very different to a lot of other ready meal type offerings.

Price: £3
Available: Sainsburys

Pros: Light, flavoursome, interesting, visually impressive, well balanced and a good mix
Cons: Probably not very economical for feeding lots of people

Score: 8.5/10

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Marks and Spencer Wasabi Popcorn

Another wasabi themed product from M&S! This popcorn was a really interesting snack that hopefully sticks around permanently. The entire bag is only 139 calories and believe me it's a pretty generous portion. You feel like you've had loads to eat but it's still very light so you don't feel bloated or guilty.

Now this can be said of loads of popcorn - it's generally a light and healthy snack. But the flavouring of this is genuinely innovative and has a wonderful taste that kicks every tastebud into touch.

It's got a real nice kick of wasabi heat that's fairly spicy that is made even more interesting with a touch of sweetness and sugar that balances it out for a real savoury and sweet edge.

The corn texture was light and airy and every piece was fully coated in the intense, delicious flavour so there were no bland pieces in the entire pack. It's a really stimulating eat that makes you sit up and take notice. It's not often packaged snacks genuinely capture your complete attention with every mouthful but the lively and uplifting flavour of this really awakens your tastebuds.

Price: 80p
Available: Marks and Spencer

Score: 8/10

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Marks and Spencer Cream Cheese with Wasabi

I've been dying to try this wasabi cream cheese from M&S for ages now. I love these innovative combinations they've done for the summer of flavour range - taking the exotic and intense and applying it to every day foods.

Again, this takes a regular staple of mine - cream cheese - and combines it with a polar opposite. Cream cheese is mellow, cooling and mild. Wasabi is intense, hot and spicy. The packaging certainly sets up the sense awakening powers of wasabi with bold and vibrant colours.

Opening it up it looks like a standard block of cream cheese - albeit a particularly thick and creamy one. This being M&S, it's a full fat and indulgent product - none of that reduced fat here! I liked the fact the pack is resealeable for freshness. That, coupled with a plastic lid as well means it stores really well and keeps it creamy and lucious consistency.

Now I used this on toast for breakfast for a real power punch to my senses at the beginning of the day to wake me up. It spreads beautifully, instantly melting across the warm toast and sinking in, permeating every crumb with indulgent richness. The wasabi wasn't overly strong to my tastes but I love wasabi and apply it liberally to sushi. Others who tried it said it was definitely pretty hot for them.

For me, I got the flavour and a little bit of heat but it's certainly not like eating wasabi by itself. The cream cheese's coolness certainly blankets any intensity out so you get a little pep and spirit that makes it different to regular cream cheese but it's not a sinus hitting powerhouse by any means either.

I really enjoyed this and it's nice to try genuinely new. My only issue is that at £2.49, it's fairly pricey and whilst the ingredients list of cream cheese, salt and wasabi makes it very natural - it also means you could probably replicate it by just squirting a little wasabi into regular cream cheese. Nevertheless, this is a new and exciting eating experience and certainly makes a really interesting alternative to just butter or regular cream cheese on a bagel or toast.

Price: £2.49
Available: Marks and Spencers

Pros: Rich, creamy, decadent cheese. Interesting and innovative. Resealable pack. Flavour but not too spicy
Cons: Pricey. I'd like it a tad stronger

Score: 7.5/10

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Walker's Emma G's Chip Shop Chicken Curry Crisps (Do us a flavour)

There are certainly a lot of reviews out at the moment for the new limited edition Walker's flavours created by members of the public so I decided it was time to get in with the hype and try a pack out.

I went for the chip shop chicken flavour, created by Emma G. To be honest it's the first packet of Walker's I've had in years. I prefer hard, crunchy ‘proper crisps' like Kettle or Tyrell's so these limited editions are good in that they've encouraged me to try Walker's again. I love a gimmick!

Pouring them out, I was pretty impressed by the amount in a bag. It seemed a pretty decent amount and kept me satisfied. For all the promise of chip shop chicken curry, the smell really didn't really evoke this. Granted, it smelt like curry powder but didn't match the creamy and rich tones of a curry.

Taste wise, it didn't really match up to my expectations either. They were pleasant enough but pretty mild and bland. There were subtle chicken undertones but nothing different to standard chicken Walker's crisps. Mostly, it was just curry powder flavour and one without any heat or intensity either.

I did quite enjoy these but not enough to buy again and I don't think this will be the winner's flavour.

Pros: Bit different
Cons: Underwhelming

Score: 6.5/10

Waitrose Lemon and Sultana Danish

During my last trip to Waitrose, I was so impressed by the beautiful sweet treats at the patisserie counter. So many plump, juicy buns studded with fruit and elegant and sophisticated pastries. It was a tough choice but I eventually went for a lemon and sultana Danish. They looked so inviting with a generous serving size, an attractive swirly appearance and lots of visible lemon icing and juicy fruit.

Sorry, I even took a picture of the box from the Patisserie counter as I thought it was so beautiful. It makes just a simple cake feel like a premium gift from a boutique!

I took this back home and had it as an utterly indulgent treat with a cup of tea. And utterly indulgent is the only way to describe this. At over 500 calories, with 34g of sugar, this really is something that should be definitely filed under 'occasional treat'. But at the same time, it was so delicious I didn't feel remotely guilty. If you're going to splurge, make it on something worthwhile like this.

With real butter and high quality ingredients, this sublimely melts in the mouth, coating your tongue in a sweet, rich flavour with the fresh zest of lemons. It's sweet and naughty but not sickly and the bountiful inclusion of sweet, sticky, swollen sultanas add further bursts of sweet juiciness.

The pastry had the most beautiful texture. Fluffy, soft and unbelievably buttery. It was again rich and decadent. Sometimes Chelsea buns and this kind of pastry can be a bit bread and cake like but that certainly wasn't the case here. This was as good as anything from a real baker or patisserie and probably better than most too.

As I said, it is 500+ calories but you could easily split it across the two swirls and each would still be a good portion size. This easy so delicious though that I just ate the whole thing and just went to the gym a bit more instead!

Price: £1.35
Available: Waitrose

Pros: Generous portion size, great quality ingredients, rich, sweet and indulgent
Cons: Definitely not kind to your waistline

Score: 9/10

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Waitrose Scottish Raspberry Yoghurt

I don't really buy that many yoghurts beyond plain or Greek. I tend to eat them more for breakfast rather than buying fruity or indulgent ones as a snack or treat. Whilst yoghurts are nice, I just don't see them as ever being decadent or luxurious enough for this purpose. However, I was in the mood for something sweet for a dessert tonight that wasn't too bad so decided to give this Waitrose Scottish Raspberry Yoghurt a go.

Ingredients wise, it's certainly quality. The milk is from the West Country as is the 12% whipped cream for a touch of luxury. It also contains 18% actual Scottish raspberries rather than relying on fake, synthetic flavoring or artificial sweeteners. Whilst it may not be a healthy choice as such due to the cream and sugar, at least it is all natural, real food that you recognise. And I would rather eat a higher calorie and fat product that's real than a fake substitute that probably won't deliver.

And this really delivers. Just peeling off the lid you can smell the authentic raspberries and there's lots of little pieces studded throughout the pretty pink yoghurt.

The texture is absolutely sublime. Maybe it's because I haven't eaten this kind of yoghurt for so long but I was really impressed by the creaminess. The texture is thick but not set, making it lusciously smooth. It tastes so decadent and rich with the fat providing a delicious mouthfeel.

The raspberries shine through too. It doesn't taste sickly sweet like other raspberry flavoured yoghurts and is fruity and fresh. The portion is just right - leaving you totally satisfied and like you've had a treat but not stuffed or guilty.

This has really changed my opinion of luxury yoghurts and I'll definitely consider these for more midweek desserts.

Price: 80p
Available: Waitrose

Pros: Creamy, indulgent, natural, a proper dessert experience
Cons: Obviously not as healthy as plain yoghurt

Score: 8/10

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Sainsbury's Chapati

I quite often have a chapati instead of a naan as a side to Indian meals. They're a lot lighter, less bready and not as filling. Admittedly, I would probably prefer a naan in most cases but if you want a lighter curry experience, they're a good choice. So it was nice to see Sainsbury's now do their own version in the fresh ready meals chiller sections.

You get two in a packet, which seems right to me. I don't want the masses of naans or breads you get in other supermarkets or particularly the ones you find in the ambient aisles. I just wanted a little something extra to go with a homemade curry I was making that wasn't as calorie heavy as a naan since I was going to have rice with it as well.

Visually, they look very good. Very thin and flat with a lovely colour and lots of grooves, air pockets and texture for an authentic feel. They're super quick to cook - you can either heat in the oven for 2-3 minutes or dry fry them in a pan for a minute each side, which is what I did.

And either I was very lucky or the cooking instructions are spot on because this really did cook to absolute perfection. It had a lovely crisp texture that when you tore a bit off sent lots of lovely little shards and crispy bits scattering over the plate - just like when I have one at an Indian restaurant. It definitely mimicked the unleavened flatbread well.

That's not to say it's dry or crunchy - it is still a soft, doughy bread at heart for mopping up sauce but due to its thiness it has a little crispiness and interesting flavour from all the air pockets.

If I'm honest it did taste a bit like naan rather than the more dense texture of a chapati from my local but it was lovely nonetheless and a lot tastier than most other supermarket naans. It may not be fully authentic but it's a good choice for a homemade curry. And then when I eat out I will go back to a proper, high calorie naan!

Price: 80p but currently 25% off at 60p
Available: Sainsbury's

Pros: Good value for a little extra, less calories than naan, visually appealing, cooks well, lovely taste, texture and feel
Cons: Not as good as an authentic Indian restaurant version (but then again supermarket stuff never is)

Score: 8/10

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Artisan Grains Greenwheat Freekeh

This interesting box of grains I came upon by pure chance whilst in the Wholefoods section of Tesco. I didn't go out searching for it but spotting it upon shelf, I knew it was something I wanted to try.

This freekeh works in a similar way to other carb side dishes with meals like couscous, rice or bulghar wheat. The only difference with this is that it seems to be more like quinoa with a lower carb content and a very high protein content to keep you going. It has 18.5g of protein per 100g - more than Greek yoghurts! It's also high in fibre, low in salt, sugar and fat and has a low GI of 43. All in all, it's pretty healthy!

This was on special offer at the time I bought it at £1.29 and I think it should have been around £1.69 if I remember correctly. The bag contains 200g, which is supposedly 4 servings so it does cost a bit more than things like rice, noodles or couscous. However, with its health benefits and high protein content for a grain I am happy to pay the premium.

It's extremely easy to cook - just as simple as rice or couscous as opposed to the long boiling time for things like black eyed beans. The pack recommends adding some olive oil and salt and then just covering with boiling water and simmering for 15 minutes. So very quick and hassle free.

I then just stirred through a variety of veg and served it as an accompaniment to a chicken escalope. Texturally, it's similar to couscous - nice and bobbly with a soft, nubbly texture. It's probably a more complex taste though - a lot more nutty and it has a bit more bite and holds its own. The olive oil really enhances it and I could quite happily eat a bowl of this by itself. It doesn't paricularly absorb sauces as much as couscous I would say and would tend to work better for things like salads or as an accompaniment as I did.

The pack also gives loads of great recommendations for serving suggestions - things like a healthier alternative to egg fried rice, as a stuffing for chicken, a Tabbouleh style salad and a sundried tomato, feta and basil dish. All of them sound really delcious and I think I was a bit unimaginative with my first cook of it so I'm really looking forward to eating this in lots of different ways!

Available: Tesco
Price: £1.29 on promotion

Pros: High protein, low GI carb, lots of fibre, lots of ways to cook it and use it, tastes delicious and makes a nice alternative to other grains
Cons: Less servings per pack than other grains so slightly more costly

Score: 8/10