Saturday 31 May 2014

Hotel Chocolat Easter Selection

It's certainly a long way from Easter now but I'm still working my way through this lovely box of chocolates I received. The original review can be found here where I tried the Salted Caramel Egglet, the Orange Bow Tie Bunny and the Apricot Ganache Egglet - all if which were of the highest quality with really innovative flavours with real impact.

Today, I tried the Raspberry Zinger Egglet, the Irish Coffee Egglet and the Praline Bow Tie Bunny. Just to reiterate my previous review, these are just as good to look at as they are to eat. They're visually stunning and the attention to detail is immense, especially on the egglets, which have lovely vivid colours and small ‘H‘ stamps on.

Raspberry Zinger Egglet:

Described as "Smooth raspberries with a zingy touch of lime, balanced in a creamy white chocolate ganache".

This one was slightly too sweet for my tastes. However, you can't fault for an authentic, creamy raspberry flavour that isn't synthetic. I probably would enjoy it more if it used a dark chocolate shell to counteract the rich, sweet filling. White chocolate fans would love it though and the centre is creamily indulgent.

Irish Coffee Egglet:

Described as "An after-dinner treat of coffee cream liquer and our high-cocoa white chocolate".

Previously, the salted caramel egglet was my favourite in the collection but this just edges it. I often don't like chocolates with alcohol in as they can be very harsh but Hotel Chocolat have done a wonderful job here. The cream centre has a strong alcohol flavor but it's not overpowering. Intead, it adds a really delightfully full-on kick. The coffee flavour is strong and intense but also creamy and sweet. It all works perfectly with the rich dark chocolate outer shell.

Praline Bow Tie Bunny:

Described as "Our smartest high-cocoa white bunny filled with a smooth hazelnut milk chocolate praline".

Now just as I thought the Irish coffee egglet was my new favourite, this trumps it - and this coming from someone who isn't even really keen on white chocolate! The filling in this is just gorgeous -it's like an even better version of Nutella that is jammed full of real hazelnut flavour rather than fake flavouring or oils. The praline is dark, bubbly, moussey and utterly creamy with a lovely smooth chocolatey taste and the hazelnuts just bring it alive. This was so moreish it's a shame there's only one in the pack!

Price: £12
Available: Not any more as it's long past Easter but Hotel Chocolat

Friday 30 May 2014

Muller Light Limited Edition Inspired by Bali: Coconut with a hint of lime

I'm not usually one to buy Muller Light yoghurts as I prefer thicker Greek style yoghurts, which tend to be more filling and are more natural. However, I'm a massive coconut fan so when I saw this limited edition version I ended up giving the brand another go.

Inspired by Bali, the packaging is wonderfully tropical, evoking images of beaches and palm trees. Initially, I was a little unimpressed with the texture. As these are fat free, they're quite weak in consistency and very runny. I like my yoghurts thick and creamy so the mouthfeel of this wasn't to my tastes.

On the other hand, this lack of fat means the entire pot is only 99 calories. It makes quite a satisfying snack as it's quite a big pot, so you feel you're getting a lot but it's still light so you don't feel bloated.

The yoghurt did taste of coconut quite strongly, which I liked but it was the hint of lime I really enjoyed. It was zesty and sharp and provided a nice counter hit to the sweetness of the yoghurt. This was necessary as this has sweetner in, which makes for a bit of a sickly after taste, which I didn't enjoy. I like the concept and flavour of this yoghurt but would enjoy it more in a more natural and thick yoghurt that's not so artificial.

Price: 68p
Available: Major supermarkets

Pros: Low calorie, substantial yet not overfilling, nice flavour combination
Cons: Little too sweet and fake aftertaste. Weak texture.

Score: 6.5/10

Boots Meal Deal: Santa Fe Salad, Metcalfe's Skinny Cinnamon Popcorn and Apple & Elderflower Vitamin Still Water

This rather brief review is a 3 in 1. Whilst travelling and on the hunt for something for lunch, I decided to give the Boot's meal deal a go. I'm a pretty big fan of its range because it offers so much more variety and some really cool and quirky brands in its selection unlike places like Tesco and Sainsbury's, which force you to choose from a more limited selection.

I also love how most of the Boot's options are slightly more healthy and, in my opinion, this coupled with the breadth of choice more than justifies the additional 29p it costs compared to other meal deals. It was a tough choice (especially when choosing from the wide variety of snacks) but I eventually settled on the Santa Fe salad, a bag of Metcalfe's Skinny Cinnamon popcorn and the apple and elderflower vitamin water.

Intially the salad looks slightly underwhelming and not that appetizing with a lot of lettuce. However, hidden beneath this is actually quite a generous layer of deliciously sweet mixed bean salad with a little bit of a kick to it.

There's a good helping of tomatoes and sweetcorn too and lots of lovely shreds of creamy cheese that is slightly salted and works well with the crisp freshness of the leaves. The cheese is in quite thin strips that help keep this under 200 calories yet still packs a subtle punch. My only criticism was the scant supply of Mexican spiced chicken, which was full of flavour and I would have liked more of.

Score: 7/10

The cinnamon popcorn was nice but didn't exactly blow me away. I do like Metcalfe's but felt this didn't live up to what I was expecting. I love anything cinnamony so was sure I'd love this but felt the coating wasn't strong enough.

Every now and then you'd get a piece fully smothered in the sweet spice, which was really delicious with a lovely warming sensation but, on a lot of the pieces, the scent and taste was too underwhelming. It still made a healthy snack though at only 117 calories and isn't as sugary as most treats.

Score: 6.5/10

The apple and elderflower vitamin water I chose more for taste than health as I'm pretty sceptical about these type of claims and realise plain water is probably the best thing you can drink. It's a lovely vivid green colour and has a really nice smooth apple flavour that has a subtle tang but is mostly refreshingly sweet. Elderflower, which can be quite a tricky flavour to get right, was distinct and provided an interesting, sharp aftertaste. The whole drink was also pretty thirst quenching.

Score: 7/10

Overall, I really liked the Book's meal deal. It offered value, a great choice with some hard to find brands and was a healthier alternative to a lot of lunch deals out there.

Price: £3.29
Available: Boots

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Haagen Dazs Secret Sensations - Tiramisu

When I buy ice cream, I usually buy Ben and Jerry's as I love the wacky exciting flavour combos. I've always appreciated the quality of Haagen Dazs but usually don't find the choices as exciting. However, this has all changed with this delectable tiramisu ice cream. As a huge coffee fan, I knew this would be an ice cream for me!

As part of the secret senstions range, this has melting hearts of sauce throughout - in this case pockets of coffee sauce. You're supposed to leave the tub out for 15 mins before serving, allowing it to become seductively runny.

Opening up the tub revealed a lovely pale ice cream, studded with little sponge pieces to mimic the ladyfingers in a real tiramisu and dark pockets of the coffee sauce hearts. A lovely real coffee smell was apparent upon removing the lid. Like other Haagen Dazs ice cream, the quality of ingredients shines through  with real coffee extract giving the ice cream its authentic smell.

Apologies for all further photos as I did get into a bit of a mess serving this as the pockets of sauce really can only be described as melting! Upon my first taste of the ice cream, I knew I had found a new firm favourite. The main coffee ice cream is deliciously smooth. The use of real cream, whole milk and mascarpone cheese give it the richest, creamiest mouthfeel, which slowly melts and blankets your tongue with it's silky softness. The coffee flavour isn't weak at all, being noticeable and full of flavour.

The soft sponge pieces bring extra texture and interest to each mouthful. Soft and sweet, they do a great job of replicating the coffee soaked ladyfingers of a real tiramisu. I love the variety these bring to the ice cream, bringing a tasty cake like quality that makes this into even more of a real dessert.

But the star of the show has to be the secret sensations of sauce. I'm not sure how they achieve but, after leaving for fifteen minutes, the hearts of coffee sauce are not in the least bit frozen but lusciously runny and sticky. The sauce is amazingly thick and decadent and whilst it might make for a messy experience, it is totally worth it.

It oozes and melts all over the ice cream, almost like pouring on a rich fondue sauce that never solidifies. There is plenty of it as well, coating the coffee ice cream with even more coffee flavour. The whole thing is perfectly indulgent and is a pretty good replica of tiramisu in ice cream form. If you like coffee ice cream, you will have to try this.

Price: £4.99 (bought on promotion for £2.49)
Available: Major supermarkets

Pros: Sweet, sticky and indulgent. Delicious pockets of melting sauce. Generous with sponge pieces for interesting and varied texture. Premium ingredients. Strong, authentic coffee flavour
Cons: A bit messy to serve and even messier to eat

Score: 8/10

Monday 26 May 2014

Bonne Maman Caramel Sea Salt Butter Galette

As I've said before, I absolutely love the Bonne Maman brand and the association of continental holidays it brings. I'm pretty familiar with the lovely conserves they make and I also like the chilled desserts they do, like mousse au chocolat and creme caramel, but I've never seen their biscuit range before. When I spotted these lovely, continental looking galettes in Sainsbury's, I was eager to give them a try.

The range comes in four fairly simple flavours: Traditional French Butter, Chocolate, Lemon and Poppyseed and Caramel Sea Salt. They all looked extremely tempting but I plumped for the caramel sea salt as I'm really into savoury and sweet combos at the moment.

A nice feature about these galettes is that they are individually wrapped in twos. I always like products that come in this format as it's great for portion control and stops you munching your way through an entire packet of biscuits. It also means your biscuits stay fresh and they would be good for taking out and about with you. Admittedly, you only get ten biscuits per box and at £1.50 they are at the higher end of the market. However, these are a more premium biscuit in my opinion and I'm happy to pay for quality over quantity.

The ingredients are certainly good quality with fresh eggs and simple ingredients. Each galette also contains 29% fresh butter and there are no oils in them like most biscuits. This is really evident upon opening them as they have the most delicious buttery smell with a lovely sweet caramel backnote.

The're also very attractive in appearance, despite the basic look. Perfectly round with a nice caramel glaze providing a subtle sheen, they're a good size with a satisfying snap. The service has an interesting look with its maze of cracks and lines. The texture is spot on thanks to the butter too. Soft and crisp at the same time, they don't crumble everywhere yet have the most delicious buttery mouthfeel.

They have a lovely buttery taste with a subtle yet still very detectable caramel flavour with a faint saltiness to it. These are not particularly sweet and actually have quite a simple taste but this is a good kind of simple. They still feel very rich and indulgent but with no sickliness at all.

I had these outside with a cup of coffee and it really was a very nice break in the day. These feel very continental and sophisticated and I will definitely be purchasing these again in the future.

Price: £1.50
Available: Sainsbury's

Pros: Simple yet indulgent. Lovely buttery and caramel flavour. Good quality ingredients. Individually wrapped packs.
Cons: Butter content makes them slightly fattier than other biscuits.

Score: 8/10

Sunday 25 May 2014

Tyrell's Smashingly Cinnamony Apple Crisps

Tyrell's is one of the crisp brands I actually really quite like but very rarely buy. They use simple, natural ingredients and have the best crunch and texture but I just don't find the flavours interesting enough to buy usually. I happily eat them when offered, enjoy them and say I'll buy some but then rarely do. However, when I spotted these apple crisps, they seemed unusual enough to grab my attention.

Like all Tyrell's products, they look premium with a high quality bag with charming, quirky messages on pack. I love the brand's ethos with the alternative five a day of:

  • A mug of hot chocolate
  • A sing-a-long in the car
  • A stroll through a farmer's market
  • A brand spanking new notebook
  • A whole bag of apple crisps
I like brands that don't take themselves too seriously and are fun. These are, like other Tyrell's products, pretty simple: just dried apple with some oil, sugar, cinnamon and flavoring. With this essentially being just apples, it's always great to find treats that also give you a bit of goodness as well.

Pouring these into a bowl, you get a pretty decent sized portion and it's nice to see the bag protects the crisps quite well so they're not all crushed. Initially, I was little disappointed that the cinnamon smell was quite faint as these are described as having "a light dusting of this thoroughly cockle-warming spice" giving the crisps "a rather jolly, apple pie-ish quality".

However, this could be because these apple slices are a more natural product and don't rely on synthetic smells to make them more appealing. And whilst the aroma might be a bit underwhelming, the taste most certainly isn't. I would rather have a stronger taste over smell any day.

Tyrell's weren't lying when they say these are like apple pie, although I would say they taste exactly like a really good apple crumble. They're utterly delicious, fairly sweet without being overly sugary and with a heavenly spicy cinnamon flavour.

The cinnamon isn't too strong or overpowering but really emphasises the natural sweetness of apple, whilst adding even more flavour. If you like cinnamon, you will love these. As I said, these taste exactly like an apple crumble but these are obviously a lot healthier. The taste is so similar, I could even imagine dipping these in custard!

I would definitely buy these again, although I think sadly they're not that easy to get hold of. I bought these in a farm shop of all places and haven't seen them in any major supermarkets. It would be great if these were more readily available.

Price: 97p
Available: Bought in a local farm shop

Pros: Natural and simple. The closest you can get to apple crumble without actually eating one. Well seasoned and spiced
Cons: Slightly expensive. Not easy to get hold of.

Score: 8/10

Saturday 24 May 2014

Mini High Bake Water Biscuits by Sainsbury's

It sounds a bit strange to get so excited and be so positive abut product that is actually so plain but I really rated these new mini water biscuits from Sainsbury's.

Essentially, they are literally nothing more than six bags of very plain crackers but everything about the execution of these delivers and exceeds what other crackers are doing.

Firstly, I like through fact they're six individually wrapped bags rather than one big bag. Usually, I open crackers and don't get through them that quickly so they start to go off. These individual bags mean I can just open each bag as and when I need it, so there is no waste and I don't feel pressurised to eat more than I want. These mini bags also means they're easy to transport so really convenient for taking out and about. The bags are well protected with air and none of the crackers were broken in any way in the bag I ate.

Opening my bag, I was really surprised by how many crackers it contained. Often with mini or portion controlled packs, you only get six or seven little bites but there were plenty of crackers in these. I suppose they are very flat but even so it's still a very generous portion and makes for a very satisfying snack.

These are also perfect for a light snack as, even with all those biscuits, the bag is only 81 calories. The ingredients list is very simple: flour, oil and very little sugar and salt - so as snacking goes these are pretty healthy.

Yes, they're pretty plain but I still found them an enjoyable eat. The biscuits are firm, crisp, with a nice snap and crunch. I didn't find them dry either and they would also be great for dunking into houmous or dips as well. They're well seasoned and very moreish. With such a low calorie content, these make a great alternative to crisps. You get the crunch, the bag and a savoury hit and with no guilt.

Granted, these aren't the most exciting thing ever and I would never call them a treat but they'll definitely be something I buy regularly as they make a simple, healthy snack and are great value in relation to other healthier snacks.

Price: £1.20
Available: Sainsbury's

Pros: Simple, natural and wholesome. Fills a savoury snack craving. Satisfying. Portion control and great for on the go.
Cons: I suppose they're not full of flavour compared to other snacks

Score: 8/10

Friday 23 May 2014

Marks and Spencer Beetroot, Quinoa and Wheatberry Salad

As the days (in theory) get warmer, I increasingly want fresh salads for lunch. However, as well as nutritious it needs to be delicious. Iceberg lettuce and cucumber just won't cut it. This beetroot, quinoa and wheatberry salad from M&S looked to provide something a bit more interesting. The vibrant, intense colour alone is enough to stop you in your tracks.

As well as a really cool colour, it's the variety of shapes, sizes and textures that make this appealing. The dark, sweet beetroot comes in both soft, juicy chunks and elegant little strips and the grains are soft and bubbly and don't stick together. This salad also packs in sweet, sharp apple and savoury pecan nuts and also comes with a little pot of cider vinegar dressing for even more oomph.

I also added some fresh tomato and pepper but frankly the salad pot has enough interest to carry itself. The beetroot is very mellow and sweet, complimenting the fruity bursts of refreshment from the crisp apple. However, it doesn't get overly sweet as the plain, calming presence of the quinoa and wheatberries offsets and tempers the fruit and veg.

The star of the show for me was the pecans. There were plenty of generous sized pieces proving crunch and nuttiness. The pecans must have been toasted as they have a lovely savoury flavour with a very subtle hint of honeyed sweetness. Every bite of these nuggets again counteracted the salad and fruit for a lovely mix of tastes and textures.

I only ended up using half the dressing as I found it very sweet and a bit too intense. However, a conservative splash added a little extra kick to the salad.

This box in itself made an adequate lunch with a bit of bread. But this would also be good for sharing at BBQs or spooning onto a plate as a little side element to a main meal.

Price: £2 or 2 for £3
Available: Marks and Spencers

Pros: Interesting grains, lovely mix of flavours and textures, generous with both quantity and quality of ingredients
Cons: Dressing was a little on the sweet side and a bit too strong

Thursday 22 May 2014

Green & Black's 70% Organic Dark Chocolate Egg

I'm still very slowly working way through the chocolate I was given for Easter and have finally got round to cracking open this premium egg by Green and Black's.

I'm not sure how much this cost as it was a gift but it would have been substantially more than a standard chocolate egg. But like all Green and Black goods, the price premium is justified through the quality. It's in a very attractive box and the wrapping is very simple. No unnecessary plastic here - it's just the egg in some foil and in a cardboard box.

Opening the egg reveals some nice little touches like the brand logo and some simple but elegant criss crosses. The ingredients list is again extremely small and natural and sugar is not the main ingredient, instead using a higher level of quality cocoa solids. And of course, it's organic.

Taste wise, this is pretty much standard Green and Black's. Smooth, very dark and intense. A little bit is enough to satisfy a sweet craving without oveindulging. It's slightly bitter in a good way and creamy without being overly sweet. It is pretty much a standard bar of Green and Black's but in an egg format, but for someone like me who prefers dark quality chocolate it's a great alternative to the standard eggs out there.

Pros: Not overly sweet or sugary, healthier than standard Easter eggs, organic, great quality ingredients, a little goes along way
Cons: Very expensive way of buying Green and Black's as it's their standard bar but in an egg shape. Doesn't do anything new.

Score: 7/10

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Marks and Spencer Garam Masala Spiced Nut Mix

I am always on the lookout for healthier snacks and particularly enjoy finding new treats that are still nutritious to review. When I spotted these garam masala spiced nuts in M&S, I was intrigued by something I hadn't ever seen before. Nuts, nutritious as they are, tend to be pretty plain and not exciting.

This mix is again part of the summer of flavour range and promises an interesting blend of sesame seed coated cashews, spiced peanuts, roasted chickpeas and dried coconut slices. Just looking at the mix through the bright, funky bag reveals a mish mash of shapes and colours.

A lovely aromatic scent arose from the bag upon opening and pouring some out revealed the quality of ingredients. You recognise the components and the nuts, seeds and chickens provide a real energy and nutrient boost.

But these are tasty as well as healthy. The mix is covered in all manner of spices from cumin and lemongrass to kaffir lime leaves and coriander. Of course there's also some chilli present but these aren't in the least bit hot - just huge hitting flavour with lots of crunch. These are as addictive as crisps and I would happily get these out for social occasions.

The sesame seed cashews are the highight of the mix. Slicked in the sweet flavour with lots of crunch, although they do have a tendency to stick together. However, all the elements are extremely moreish and the coconut adds fragrance too. It's a totally addictive bag and has made me eager to seek out more of these nut and seed mixtures that have added flavours.

Price: £2
Available: Marks and Spencer

Pros: Unusual, exciting flavour, nutritious, reasonably well priced. Something new
Cons: Would be nice if the bag was resealable

Score: 7/10

Monday 19 May 2014

Santa Maria Fajita Seasoning Mix, Tortillas and Salsa

I received a lovely box full of Santa Maria goodies, courtesy of a BzzAgent campaign. Santa Maria who used to go under the Discovery brand name are well known for the extremely exhaustive list of Mexican groceries they offer. On the Tesco website alone they have 90 products!

In this pack I received:
  • A Mild Fajita Seasoning Mix
  • A Pack of 8 Plain Tortillas
  • A bottle of medium salsa
  • A five peppers spice grinder
  • A packet of Heat, Spice, Shake Corn chips and a satchet of Smoky BBQ sauce to coat them

With so much choice and a wide variety of exotic flavours, it was difficult to decide on what to use first. In the end, I decided to save the intriguing corn chips you heat in the microwave and the pepper grinder and decided to keep it fairly basic and make fajitas with salsa.

The first thing I loved about the seasoning mix was just how simple the suggested recipe on the back of the back was and how few ingredients it required. Santa Maria suggests simply coating some chicken strips in some oil and the mix and then frying it, adding an onion and a green and red pepper and then stuffing into tortillas. I decided to up the veg content and colour of my mix by also adding a yellow pepper and some sweetcorn and using a red onion instead.

Coating the chicken in the oil and seasoning mix revealed a lovely dark, spicy looking colour and the moment it was exposed to heat, the spicy scents of cumin, chilli, paprika, oregano and garlic filled the kitchen bringing a little Mexican to the UK. The ingredients list is pretty simple - made mostly of spices - although I'm not keen how salty the mix is. Salt is the no1 ingredient in the mix, which I don't feel is necessary as surely the other spices are more than enough to make a tasty meal by themselves.

After adding the other veg, I had the most delicious looking pan full of vibrant colours, aromatic smells and an assortment of shapes and textures. The mix smelt heavenly - really savoury - and I was impressed at how quick and easy making this was. It barely took 10 minutes, required very little prepping and only needed one pan to cook - meaning there was very little washing up after!

The wraps provided looked very high quality - not as papery as supermarket own label versions. They're slightly smaller, which I appreciate, and a nice doughy, soft texture that isn't dry. Santa Maria recommends warming them so I popped mine into the microwave for a mere 30 seconds. However, again these are a little too salty at 1.2g of salt per wrap.

 With everything assembled, it was time for the tasting. One thing I love about fajitas is that it's fun finger food. Not only is it speedy and quick, it's like bringing street food into your own kitchen. I dolloped the mix onto tortillas and then squeezed a large blob of the salsa Santa Maria provided on as well. The wraps looked so tempting, positively bursting with filling, spicy smells and exotic flavours.

All the components worked brilliantly together. Lovely, soft tortillas, a hot, filling mix and some cool salsa for an array of textures and tastes. The mix I received was mild and usually I like my food hotter but this was still delicious. With a nice blend of many different herbs and spices, the chicken and veg was bursting with flavour and was ever so succulent. The salsa was also very good as well. With jalapeno peppers and coriander in, it has a lovely tangy taste that again isn't spicy but still has tonnes of flavour and impact.

Overall, I was very impressed with this kit. I love Mexican food and everything I received just made the whole cooking process more approachable. It was fast, it didn't make a mess in the kitchen and is great for those short on time but who still want to use fresh ingredients. The only thing I would suggest is that they lower the salt content. At 1.6g of salt per quarter of a pack and 2.4g of salt for two tortillas, this isn't the healthiest meal. Santa Maria recommends the kit serving 8 but realistically I think most people would eat two fajitas each. There's so much flavour from the other ingredients that the extra salt just isn't necessary in my opinion. However, this is still a lovely, tasty meal that would make a speedy treaty tea or would be great when you have mates round. I can imagine getting this type of thing in for when the World Cup is on!

£0.89 for the fajita seasoning mix
£2.09 for the salsa
£1.59 for the tortillas

Available: All major supermarkets

Pros: So quick and easy so great for those short on time. There's a sense of fun and spectacle with the assemble-it-yourself approach so great for social gatherings. Lots of flavour and really tasty. No mess and no fuss. Something a bit different.
Cons: Salt content is a little too high for my comfort

Score: 7/10

I received this kit and reviewed it as a BzzAgent. I can't wait to use the spice grinder and heating corn chips so expect a review of these next week!

Sunday 18 May 2014

Twinings Mango & Strawberry

With the hot weather, regular tea just doesn't cut it - it feels too hot, too dark and too heavy. So a fruit tea from Twinings seemed a more refreshing and lighter drink especially in this strawberry and mango flavour. There are lots of warming fruit teas for winter with spices and cinnamon but this seems more appropriate for summer.

Like all Twinings fruit teas, this has a simple list of natural ingredients and the bags are an intriguing dark red with various bits of fruit clearly visible. As a fruit tea, it's also caffeine free, which is good for these hot days when you want to stay hydrated.

This tea was really fruity with a strong strawberry sweetness that wasn't synthetic and a mellow mango background that made this lovely and thirst quenching. This would also be great to have cold as well if you let it cool and refrigerated it. The flavour comes through well in this and isn't as weak or bland as some berry fruit teas I've tried so could hold it's own as a cool drink too.

Price: £1.40 (bought on a £1 promo at Morrison's)
Available: All major supermarkets

Pros: Sweet, refreshing, healthy and an interesting flavour for a fruit tea
Cons: Mango could come through more strongly.

Score: 7/10

Saturday 17 May 2014

Solero Mojito Flavour

On what's been the hottest day of the year so far, today's review was going to have to be on ice cream. Browsing the ice cream aisle offered loads of choice and there were plenty of new things that caught my eye but ultimately I was won over by the cool, tropical packaging and interesting flavour of these Soleros.

Solero is a brand I haven't bought for years. There's nothing wrong with it but I've always thought it to be a bit dull and old fashioned, albeit a refreshing treat, so it's great to see the brand doing something a bit innovative and modern and injecting a bit of life into it.

Th packaging makes you feel quenched and refreshed just looking at it and brings a little of the tropics and holidays home. As a big rum lover, its great to see it in something it hasn't been used in before, although it is only 0.5% rum so don't expect to get drunk on it!

Opening the pack revealed a cool, pale, icy looking colour that looked very refreshing. The lolly consists of a lime and lemon ice flavoured with rum and mint and has a zesty lemon and lime pulp core. It's all the components of my favourite cocktail but in a summer treat.

From the very first lick, I felt immediately more chilled. The ice was so cooling in the heat ad the zingy citrus fruits made this feel like a nice light treat that freshens you up rather than weighs you down. The one thing that really stood out for me was just how much this tasted like a mojito.

Though the rum is very faint, the zesty lemon and lime and the sharp cooling mint come through really strongly to deliver a delicious sweet, cooling punch that really replicates the flavour of the cocktail authentically.

I also absolutely loved the crisp green core. It has a really interesting texture. I'd like to say gritty but that makes it sound bad when it's not. It's fresh and packed full of flavour with a more crystallized, rough texture that provides an interesting contrast to the smooth, minty ice.

I really didn't expect these to be as good as they were and Solero have done a fantastic job in making something that packs lots of flavour. It's not watery and weak like other ice lollies and captures the refreshing hit of a mojito. They're also only 55 calories as well so very much a not too guilty treat.

Price: £2.49 for 3 (bought on a £1.49 promo at Morrison's)
Available: Major supermarkets

Pros: Refreshing and cooling, authentic Mojito taste, good portion size, interesting core, a light eat.
Cons: Pricier than other ice lollies

Score: 8/10

Thursday 15 May 2014

Marks & Spencer Summer of Flavour Mini Chicken Kebabs with pomegranate, garlic and cumin

Yet another bright, flavoursome and exotic uplift of some plain old chicken in M&S' Summer of Flavour range. These petite little kebabs are tender little balls of minced chicken spritzed up with some spicy, earthy cumin and sharp refreshing pomegranate for a modern take on middle Eastern flavours.

The packaging is certainly bright, colourful and eye catching suggesting flavour, health and modernity. Like a lot of M&S products, this contained simple, natural ingredients that you understand and recognise. Opening the pack revealed four cute little kebabs of perfectly round balls on wooden skewers. There's not a lot in the pack but it does mean no waste and they would be great to take out on picnics.

Having previously enjoyed other Summer of Flavour products warmed up, I again decided to heat these in the microwave and used them for a proper meal with some brown rice and veg.

These were not as heavily aromatic and scented as some of the other bits in the range I've tried but they still smelt savoury and fragrant and were very inviting when warm.

The meat quality was great. It came off the skewers easily and cleanly and was tender, soft and succulent. They utterly melted in the mouth due to their smooth texture with no gritty bits and the cumin provided a real flavour impact.

They're not spicy but have a strong earthy taste that's interesting due to the use of lots of spices. The pomegranate didn't come through very strongly but I guess you wouldn't want these to be sweet. Nevertheless, a little bit more sharp fruitiness would be welcome.

Once again, I really enjoyed the exotic and modern take on standard deli items and this made a really nice, simple (if not cost effective) dinner.

Price: £2.50 but bought on a 3 for £6 deal
Available: Marks and Spencer

Pros: Beautifully succulent meat, simple and versatile uses, attractive, lovely earthy cumin flavour
Cons: Only 4 in a pack, pomegranate is too subtle

Store: 7/10

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Vita Coco Lemonade

I've recently started drinking more and more coconut water, using it as a post-exercise drink. I find it very refreshing and a bit more substantial than water due to the potassium and minerals it contains. Vita coco is a brand I really like. I love the cool, funky packaging with its bright, loud colours and tropical theme.

However, coconut water is not for everyone and some people find the taste quite offputting and strange. This Lemonade flavoured coconut water might be something that appeals to those who think they dislike coconut water. Like all Vita Coco bottles, this has a really modern design that leapt off the shelf and really stood out.

Pouring it out into  a glass, it had a really inviting golden glow - it didn't look watery or weak but really fruity and refreshing. A lovely lemony scent could very easily be smelt and it did smell quite similar to the still lemonades you can buy from the juice aisles in the supermarkets.

Gulping the liquid down, I felt instantly more energised and hydrated. The lemon flavour is quite dominant masking the usual coconut water flavour you get. However, the coconut flavour is still present with the aftertaste for a nice little hit of tropical flavour too. If you think you don't like coconut water, you might well like this as it offers all the health benefits but with a less powerful taste.

The water was very drinkable indeed and I really enjoyed its sweet, zingy taste.

Price: £1.69 for 330ml
Available: Major supermarkets

Pros: Refreshing, full of minerals and vitamins, lovely flavour, not as strong as standard Vita Coco
Cons: Only available in small 330ml bottles - a larger bottle would be ideal

Score: 8/10

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Sainsbury's My Goodness! Greek Style Yogurt on Strawberry Compote

Sainsbury's earlier this year released a range of new healthy ready meals called My Goodness but this is the first time I've ever seen the brand used on something else. This yogurt caught my eye for a number of reasons. Firstly, it promised an usual flavour, described as "velvety Madagascan vanilla yogurt layered onto strawberry compote with a hint of rose". Secondly, it's a really generous large 240g pot positioned as a yogurt for breakfast and thirdly for its health credentials.

As part of the My Goodness range, this yogurt contains one of your five a day with a whopping 36% of the product coming from strawberries. It's also actually a very low sugar yogurt. It's only sweetened with agave syrup and sweetner rather than sugar so only contains 6.1g sugar per 100g or 14.6g for the whole pot. Most yogurt contain 14g+ per 100g so this is a much better choice if you're looking for more natural products.

The pot looked really inviting and despite getting shaken around quite considerably on the journey home kept its distinctive and attractive layers with a smooth creamy Greek yogurt top and rich red compote underneath.

Opening it up, the Madagascan vanilla scent delicately arose and you can see lovely little specks of it flecked throughiut the pure white yogurt. The yogurt was luxuriously thick and by itself had a deliciously creamy taste that melted in the mouth. The use of real vanilla was obvious in the taste: the yogurt was not in the least bit sickly or artificial.

The compote underneath was also very simple and natural. Mostly made up of strawberries, it had a nice thick and almost jelly like cosistency with lots of lovely chunks. The strawberry compote was sumptuously tangy and the rose flavouring was very subtle. Whilst I was intrigued by the rose element, I didn't want something that tasted floral or like Turkish delight and this added extra has been handled very well.

The rose flavouring is so subtle that you can't detect it as such but you're aware that it is there as there is a slight richness and sourness behind the strawberry's sweetness but it is very, very understated indeed.

I was really impressed by this pot. I had it only with some blueberries for breakfast and that was substantial enough and the entire pot was only 132 calories. Considering most low calorie yogurt are very small and unfilling, this really hit the spot due to the thickness of the Greek yoghurt. Whilst I wouldn't buy this regularly at full price, at the £1 promo price I paid I was more than happy. A natural, tasty, filling breakfast with good health credentials - it's hard to argue with that.

Price: £1 promo price (otherwise £1.69)
Available: Sainsburys Local

Pros: Unusual and interesting flavour combo. Filling. Lower sugar than other yogurt. Very generous serving size. A whole portion of strawberries in each pot
Cons: Expensive to have every day

Score: 8/10