Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Marks and Spencer Mini Stollen Bites

It's that weird period between Christmas and New Year where we all lose track of time, what day it is and start to get cabin fever. Desperate to get out the house, I've been to the gym today and been on two seperate walks as well despite how cold it is where I am. Braving the bitter cold and bracing winds is all worth it though when you get back into the warm with a nice cup of Aldi Mulled Wine teabags and one of these little beauties from M&S.

Now I used to love stollen probably about 7 or 8 years ago back when it was new to the UK and found in Aldi or Lidl. However, since then I decided actually it's really rather bland - or at least the Aldi/ Lidl ones I used to get - just dry, flaovurless bread with the only good bit that smidge of marzipan in the middle. However I was buying some party food from M&S in their 4 for 3 deal for some picky bits between Christmas New Year and got these for something sweet.

Although pricey at £4 for 9 mini bites, this is very much quality over quantity when you compare it against the big breeze blocks of dry stollen. These are amazing. So soft, so moist - all squidgey with not a hint of dryness. They're bursting with currants and sultanas and there's a huge chunk of marzipan in each one - beautifully soft and moist with a rich and creamy almond flavour.

The sultanas are also rum soaked and this is what maybe makes these so delicious. It's not overwhelming but you can taste a rich, booziness and with the soft, melt in the mouth texture and sweet juiciness, the flavours and textures all marry together for the perfect bitesize treat.

They never get overly sweet - I find two is just enough to satisfy a sweet craving and they taste festive but light too. An absolute winner here and my love of Stollen has been rekindled.

Price: £4.00
Bought at: M&S

Score: 10/10

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Aldi Mulled Wine Teabags

From Christmas coffee yesterday to Christmas tea today. I have been searching desperately for these mulled wine teabags from Aldi ever since I first saw posted on social media. I've made a number of trips to Aldi, desperately looking for them but returned each time empty handed. However, my local store finally got them 5 days before Christmas - a mini Christmas miracle.

I love mulled wine but I love all Christmas food and it's to do with all the spices - nutmug, cloves, cinnamon, ginger...stollen, mince pies, spiced red cabbage, Christmas pudding - I find you either love all Christmas food like this or you hate it all. Well I'm definitely in the former camp.

Priced at £1.89 these are reasonable for 15 pyramid 'luxury' tea bags and part of Aldi's Specially Selected range. The packaging is maybe a little cheap versus genuine high end teabags and the bags themselves are a little flimsy but hopefully the taste would be great. Fruit teas can be disappointing at the best of the times - promising the taste of cherry bakewell or whatever and then tasting like a weak, insipid water with a hint of fruitiness.

Now these certainly smelt amazing when I added hot water. Genuinely with my nose over the mug, it was genuinely mulled wine. The bag said brew for 3-4 minutes but I left the bag in for longer and left it in whilst I was drinking. Initially I thought it was a little watery tasting and not delivering on the mulled wine front and was particularly lacking the mouthfeel of mulled wine - which you have to expect as it's a tea.

However, the longer I left the bag in, the more the flavours came out. Syrupy, slightly sweet with warming spices and a genuine red wine fruitiness, it really did taste like mulled wine. Aldi, you have surpassed yourself here, this is the perfect drink for a cold evening after a day out Christmas shopping. Just add a mini mince pie and this is the taste of Christmas without the alcohol

Price: £1.89
Bought at: Aldi

Score: 8/10

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Marks and Spencer Christmas Coffee Capsules

When it comes to Christmas, I'm pretty susceptible to any food or drink that promises a Christmas twist. Make it sound a bit festive and I'll buy it without questioning it. I love my Nespresso machine anyway and whilst the official Nespresso pods are the best, I've found the M&S compatible pods a reasonable substitute. Now Nespresso's Christmas offering has been stellar this year - Apple Strudel, Linzertorte and Sachertorte - all of which I found deliver the promised flavours.

This M&S Christmas pod doesn't specify any specific flavour but it's a mix of carefully selected beans from Ethioia, Brazil and Central America which they claim has a seasonal deep and dark flavour with hints of cocoa and clementine. At the very least the packaging is red and so are the pods.

I made my coffee as a lungo with a little steamed milk so this may have some impact on the flavour profile. It is quite a rich, dark coffee but I didn't find it overly strong or bitter but this may be due to the addition of a little frothed milk. It's very much a deep roast and I think as an espresso would be pretty strong - it's a lot richer than the average Nespresso pod but very satisfying.

I tried to get any hints of Christmas flavouring but couldn't really detect any. There was certainly no clementine although I could taste faint hints of a deep, dark cocoa, which worked well with the strength of the coffee. It's actually a very nice coffee pod -bold, full tasting and powerful but it's no really Christmassy as such. Arguably it works well with the cold weather and is very much a winter day coffee , great for a Christmas breakfast or a cold morning but don't expect anything overtly festive. It certainly doesn't have the promised flavour of the Nespresso seasonal editions.

A great coffee overall and one I enjoy drinking but just be aware it's not really Christmassy.

Price: £3
Bought at: Marks and Spencer

Score: 7/10

Friday, 16 December 2016

Graze Supersnacks - Beetroot Crisps with jalapeño chickpeas and sunflower seeds

I used to get Graze boxes loads a few years ago, I loved their interesting and creative mixes of healthy snacks that get the right balance of offering some nutrition but feeling really treaty and special. However, healthier eating is becoming so much easier nowadays and the supermarkets are offering loads of new products, energy balls, crisps alternatives and free from options.

However, Graze have recently launched a range of new supersnacks and being a fan of the company, I re-signed up for a delivery. One thing I love about Graze is the fact it’s a surprise which snacks you’re going to get in a box. It’s like a little Christmas surprise when it comes in the post!
In my box, was one of the new supersnacks, which was a mix of beetroot crisps, jalapeno chickpeas and sunflower seeds. All good, healthy, wholesome ingredients that are completely vegan but actually seem interesting and not too worthy. In addition the pack offers 4g of plant protein and is under 100 calories.

It makes a nice savoury snack and helps curb those cravings when you’re just looking for something to graze on. The beetroot crisps are pure beetroot rather than fried in oil like most veg crisps and aren’t salted so whilst not as crunchy and tasty as proper veg crisps, they are still crisp and are lighterwith more of the beetroot flavour coming through. The jalapeno chickpeas are crunchy with a really nice spicing to them as well and these two elements are very moreish. The sunflower seeds….are just sunflower seeds and to be honest are a little dull but they are very good for you.

The ratio is a bit out for my liking with only a couple of beetroot crisps and a lot of sunflower seeds but overall this makes a delicious alternative to crisps.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Pret Vegan Christmas Baguette - Very Merry Christmas Lunch

This baguette from Pret maybe isn’t the most Christmassy sandwich on the market but It’s nice to see somewhere offer a fully vegan lunchtime choice and to offer a special Christmas sandwich for vegans as well. Since opening their pop up veggie only Pret in summer, it’s been a runaway success and is still open now despite being launched as a temporary, one month pop up. Pret do really delicious veggie options – combinations I wouldn’t necessarily think of doing myself but that really work.

Here you have slices of roasted carrots, along with parsnip puree,  crispy onions and then topped with festive chutney , watercress and a good sprinkling of pistachios for crunch and a bit of apple sauce for sweetness. All of this is encased in a good old Pret baguette – pappy, mass produced bread this certainly isn’t. It’s crunchy, nutty and wholesome tasting with bits of grain for a nice mix of textures and providing a malty flavour.

This combo just really works and was absolutely delicious. Each ingredient probably isn’t that interesting on its own but together it’s a fantastic mix of flavours and textures. Nice firm carrots that are crunchy but also soft and let in the mouth, the parsnip puree adds richness and creaminess and this is all complemented by the sweetness of the apples in harmony with the natural veg sweetness. The festive chutney adds delicate spicing and tang and the watercress keeps if fresh and light.

I just wish such delicious things were more widely available. When something tastes as good as this, it hands down beats any meat based sandwich out there. Christmas food is traditionally seen as stodgy, fattening and unhealthy so how great to have something slightly festive that is so good for you and so nourishing. Definitely one worth checking out before it disappears off the shelves.

Price: £3.75
Bought at: Pret
Score: 8.5/10

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Tesco Spekulatious Thins Cinnamons Review

I'd say speculoos biscuits are pretty well known in the UK now, whether its Ben and Jerrys or jars of spread, this lovely spicy sweet mix is making it's way into everything. But it all originates with the humble speculoos biscuit and in my mind, much as I could eat the stuff all year, it's really meant for cold, dark winter days and especially Christmas!

 Tesco's thins are out as part of their Christmas range and despite the odd bit of breakage in the box, look very attractive with a nice simple design and a nice thin shape. Just opening the pack is unleashing the scents of Christmas and is really warming.  Lots of cinnamon, cloves and ginger.

What's really nice about these is, for a sweet treat, they're very light. With all the mince pies, cakes, biscuits, rich dinners, parties and nibbles, sometimes when you have a sweet craving you just want something a little less guilty and at just 29 calories each, they're perfect when you want a Christmassy treat with a hot drink without going into full on indulgence.

Although thin they are fairly large, so you do feel you're getting a proper biscuit and they go so well with coffee (particularly if you have a festive one like the new Nespresso limited edition Christmas pods). They have a nice crisp texture that isn't overly hard or brittle and the lovely festive scents come through in the taste as well with a quite strong ginger and cinnamon festive flavour.

Perfect for a sweet nibble with a coffee or even tea and not as heavy as most of the other tr

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Marks and Spencer Scorched Squash with Beetroot and Pomegranate Relish Christmas Wrap

I'm definitely sold on veggie wraps and sandwiches nowadays. You can get some very bland ones if people don't know what they're doing and aren't that interested in plant based options but when done well the flavour combinations and textures are so much more interesting than meat ones and this festive veggie wrap from M&S sounded really interesting.

M&S always do pretty good wraps and they're veggie sandwiches are definitely more interesting than the bog standard cheese/egg/ falafel and homous you're limited to in so many places and for Christmas they've really upped the stakes. Scored squash sounded fantastic and along with the butternut squash, it contains spinach, carrot and a Christmassy beetroot and pomegranate relish which offers a nice seasonal variation on cranberry sauce. It also contains parsnip mayo which sounded yummy and comes in a thyme and sage wrap.

This is such a fantastic sandwich and beats anything a meat sandwich come offer. There's so many different rextures, tastes and mouthfeels going on and they work together perfectly. Although the base, the wrap is actually really tasty and you definitely get the sage and thyme coming through. It's very Christmass and actually reminds me of turkey in many aspects!

The butternut squash is roasted to bring out its flavour and its  soft flesh offers a creamy partner to the delicious parsnip mayo and their softness and creaminess works well with the cool crisps of spinach and carrot. The relish adds a nice sweet finish and rounds off the whole thing nicely.

This is a fantastic wrap and one I'm going to overdose on until the big day itself. As an added bonus a portion of the proceeds go to Shelter as well. Win for charity and a win for tastebuds.