Monday 30 June 2014

Marks and Spencer's Coconut Water with Watermelon

After returning from holiday, I still desperately needed a sense of the sun and the tropical so went straight for this coconut water from M&S. This is something I've never seen before, even from my preferred coconut water brand of Coco Vita, so was eager to give it a try. Watermelon is also a very unusual flavour in anything and has yet not had its turn of being a trend.

The ingredients list is fairly simple and short. It‘s half coconut water and half watermelon mostly, although there are a few stabilisers and flavourings too.

Pouring it into a glass, it looked cool and inviting with its pink colour and sweet smell. However, I found the watermelon very overpowering. When Vita Coco release flavours, they only account for a small proportion of the drink. With watermelon accounting for nearly half the ingredients here, it lost the coconut water edge.

This might be good for those who find coconut water not to their tastes but I found the watermelon a bit strong and a little sweet, making it difficult to finish a whole glass.

Price: £1.99
Available: M&S

Pros: Unusual and unique flavour. Price is very competitive. It's much cheaper than all the big coconut water brands.
Cons: Watermelon dominates the drink and it loses any coconut edge.

Score: 6/10

Saturday 14 June 2014

Twinings Intensely Blackcurrent and Rhubarb

I found a free sample of this tea in a regular pack of Twinings Strawberry and Mango (which I also recommend). I'm not sure exactly how this infusion range is any different to the regular Twinings fruit teas but they cost £2.49 for 20 teabags, compared to the other fruit teas at around 1.50.

Opening the pack, I instantly got the aroma of rhubarb, which was really intriguing. It's a fruit I love, especially in a crumble, so it's interesting to see it in a tea.

This is also blackcurrent and vanilla flavoured so a real powerhouse of flavours. The blackcurrent comes through much more strongly when hot water is added and is the dominant flavour when drinking. The vanilla is very subtle in taste and although initially the rhubarb flavour does get a bit lost, it does provide a sweet aftertaste that lingers.

The tea had flavour and wasn't weak or watery but I don't see how it would justify the higher price tag when Twinings make a vast range of equally nice flavours at a lower price.

Price: £2.49
Available: Major supermarkets

Pros: Unique, new flavour concept. Sweet and refreshing. Healthy.
Cons: Overpriced with no justification for it

Score: 7/10

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Friday 13 June 2014

Hotel Chocolat Salted Caramel Puddles

As I've said before, I came upon Hotel Chocolat pretty late and am now playing catch up on discovering just how delectable their range is. When I tried their Easter Selection box, it was the salted caramel egglet that I was particularly taken by. When I saw these salted caramel puddles, I bought them hoping to get the same taste intensity and experience.

Salted caramel is a pretty old trend now but it's still one I love as I like the depth and savouriness it brings to the sweet caramel. Like all Hotel Chocolat products, these look very nice. Effectively, they're chocolate buttons but still look very attractive. They're smooth and glossy and very uniform in appearance with a nice bit of engraving on the pack.

And taste wise, they're far superior to any chocolate buttons I've ever eaten. Hotel Chocolat chocolate is less sugary with more good quality cocoa mass. This gives the chocolate a nice natural sweetness that has more depth. The buttons melt in the mouth and are creamy with no bitterness.

There's no actual caramel in these as they're flat buttons so there's no room for filling but the salted caramel flavour is very authentic and utterly delicious. It's buttery with lovely amber notes, with the merest hint of saltiness that brings it to life.

The little pack was only 40g but because the quality and intensity is so high, I was satisfied with this. Hotel Chocolat stuff is so good I'm more than happy to have quality over quantity.

Available: Hotel Chocolat

Pros: Smooth, high quality chocolate with an intense, delicious flavour
Cons: Price (but worth it)

Score: 8.5/10

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Thomas J Judge's Fiery and Flavorsome Jalapeno Melts

Initially I only bought these crackers because Tesco was clearing them out but I'm so glad I did as these are a great little brand. Fudge's make premium biscuits and this is all evident with the funky, cool packaging with a retro image and some quirky bits of text.

Inside reveals a nice little box lined up with the golden crackers. They're very thin and petite and would be great for serving to guests either before or after a meal. The ingredients list is refreshingly short and natural. Nothing but products you recognise and would use if you made your own crackers.

The crackers have a lovely crisp and short texture that crumbles in the mouth beautifully. Made with cream and butter, they have the most buttery taste that isn't in the least bit greasy.

The cheese is powerful without being overpowering and best of all it's an authentic cheese taste from actual cheese, rather than flavorings. And behind the initial tangy cheese flavour is a really hot and tasty kick of jalapeno. I absolutely love the heat these provided. It's full of flavour, peppery and with a real kick. If you don't like chillies these will probably be too hot for you but I loved it.

Whilst £3 might be a lot for these, they make a really sophisticated nibble that is a little different to what else is out there.

Price: £2.99
Pros: Natural, real ingredients. Authentic taste. Lovely fiery jalapeno kick. A nice, light eat that's not too filling.
Cons: Pricey. Very high salt content

Score: 8/10

Saturday 7 June 2014

Montezuma's Dark Chocolate Lordy Lord with cocoa nibs

I much prefer dark chocolate to milk and love this treat but I do tend to stick only with Green and Black's 70%. Boring I know, but it's so good I can't see any reason to branch out usually. However, this Montezuma bar caught my eye, thanks to the inclusion of cocoa nibs.

The packaging certainly stands out. Unlike most dark chocolate slabs it comes in a cardboard box and is then wrapped in, what I think, is some pretty cool and premium looking foil. This is a really good pack design for me, as it means after you break a bit off it's easy to store away and keep fresh. Chocolate slabs usually end up crumbling everywhere and are difficult to wrap up again so this is a nice touch.

The bar is a lovely dark colour and has a lovely deep and rich cocoa smell. Taste wise, it has very different qualities to other dark chocolate I have eaten. It's a much firmer texture with a bit of snap and bite whilst eating so has less of a creamy mouthfeel and doesn't seem to melt in the mouth has much.

However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It has its own smooth, distinct taste that feels richer and a bit more sophisticated. I also love the cocoa nibs. There's plenty of them and they add bite and crunch and really tickle your tongue with their pleasing, almost slightly bitter, nuggets of darkness.

This bar feels more premium than other dark chocolates I've had and I will definitely look to try out the brand again.

Pros: Lower sugar treat. Dark, rich and interesting flavour. Cocoa nibs make this very different. Cardboard box for freshness.
Cons: Doesn't melt in the mouth as much as other chocolate

Score: 7.5/10

Thursday 5 June 2014

Muller Light Skinny Cappuccino

Despite not being that impressed by the Bali Coconut and Lime Muller Light Limited Edition, I somehow ended up with the new skinny cappuccino flavour in my basket during my latest shop. I love anything coffee flavoured so it was an easy sell.

From a packaging perspective, I think it looks quite nice. Especially the lid, which mimics a cappuccino frothy top. The coffee flavour yoghurt is also sprinkled with little flecks of dark chocolate to further replicate the beverage in yoghurt form.

Unfortunately, I feel the product suffers the same drawbacks as the coconut and lime version I tried. Muller Light is low in fat and this is only 99 calories but means it loses creaminess and mouthfeel. The texture is too weak for my liking and particularly doesn't fit the cappuccino theme. Cappuccinos are milky, frothy and thick so this doesn't recreate the experience fully.

In its defence, the coffee flavour is distinct and the dark chocolate sprinkles add extra texture and flavour. However, the sweetners make this a little sickly sweet and unnatural for my tastes. If you like Muller Light, you will probably enjoy this but I think a cappuccino flavour would work better in a Muller de Luxe or as a mousse as I need that thick creaminess and velvety texture for something masquerading as a cappuccino.

Price: 68p
Available: Major supermarkets

Pros: Low in calories and fat. Large portion size. Obvious cappuccino flavour.
Cons: Disappointing texture. Too watery. Little overly sweet.

Score: 6.5/10

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Starburst FaveReds

Though I absolutely love sweet things, Starbursts have never really appealed to me. Much like Haribo, Maom and other chewy sweets, they've always seemed just pure sugar with very little actual flavour or taste beyond gelatine and some artificial colours. If I do have sweets, it is usually liquorice allsorts or jelly babies, which I've always found more appealing.

Part of the problem with Starbursts in the past has always been I've found the flavours pretty mundane - blackcurrant, lime, orange, strawberry - nothing to particularly get excited about and they all taste pretty artificial, especially the strawberry one, which I actively avoid.

I did however, have a voucher to try the new Starburst FaveReds so though I'd give them ago. And in their favour, I think these fruits are much more to my tastes - raspberry, cherry, red apple... and unfortunately the strawberry one makes an appearance too.

Based around these red fruits, I think this is a much more modern take on fruit sweets. I actually enjoyed the raspberry and cherry one quite a lot as these are two of my favourite fruits. The sweets are still pretty artificial tasting to me but two ot three of these on a car journey would be quite pleasant.

The red apple one is also likeable - still very sweet with a little tang to it. I still do not like the strawberry one but then I've never liked anything artificially strawberry flavoured. It has to be real strawberries or nothing for me. However, whilst I wouldn't buy Starbursts as such, I would definitely have one or two if they were offered round and if you like chewy sweets, you'll probably like these quite a lot.

Price: 55p
Available: Majot retailers and newsagents

Pros: More modern and interesting flavours
Cons: Little artificial and a bit too sweet (but then what do you expect from this kind of sweet?)

Score: 7/10

Monday 2 June 2014

Santa Maria Selection of Spices: Five Peppers Grinder

As when I reviewed the Santa Maria tortillas, fajita powder and salsa, this grinder came courtesy of a BzzAgent campaign. I really enjoyed the fajitas I made - they were quick, simple and oh so tasty. However, I really wasn't comfortable with the overly high salt content of the products. I like my food to have flavour but without the salt.

This simple little grinder on the other hand is a great piece of kit to have in the kitchen. Rather than just black peppercorns as you get in most grinders, this contains black, green, pink and white peppercorns, as well as allspice. It's a much more interesting mix and looks very colourful in the clear plastic grinder.

I tested this with a very simple recipe. I simply poured some basil infused extra virgin olive oil over a haddock fillet, tendersteam broccoli and santini tomatoes, then gave the whole lot a good dusting with the pepper mix and then simply cooked in foil in the oven. No mess, no prepping and no cleaning. Very easy!

The grinder is really good quality. It doesn't get stuck and is very easy to use. It needs little effort and the peppers are ground really finely, come out easily and you have full control over how much you use. I like my food peppery so gave the dish a really good sprinkling. The ground pepper looks very attractive over the fish thanks to the multitude of colours.

Removing the parcel from the oven, it smelt very peppery and savoury. I served it with some pasta and though it was only simple ingredients with minimal flavours, it was still very tasty. The pepper was actually quite mild for my tastes so I would need to grind on a lot more next time for more impact. However, it's great to find a meal component that is natural and simple and can be used freely for flavouring.

Price: £3.99
Available: Major supermarkets

Pros: Simple and natural. Easy to use. A bit different.
Cons: Need to use quite a lot. Potentially a bit expensive for what it is

Score: 7/10

Sunday 1 June 2014

Marks and Spencer Handcrafted Aromatic Chicken Pastries with coconut and lime leaf in a paprika pastry

Coconut seems be everywhere at the moment, which is great for a huge coconut fan like myself. At the moment I love it in savoury foods. It works brilliantly with spices and makes anything taste exotic.

These pastries from M&S promised a new flavour combo I've never tried before. They look really attractive - very dainty and petite but at the same bulging with ingredients with the pastry plumped up from the treasures within.

You can cook these in the oven, which I imagine would make the pastry crispy but I scoffed these straight from the packet along with a salad. They were positively bursting with flavour and tasted very fresh.

The chicken mince is brilliant quality, very succulent and tender, and melts beautifully in the mouth. There's so much spicing goin on in the meat - I could detect the warmth of ginger, the freshness and spark of lemongrass, earthy cumin tones and a mild bit of chili heat. Plus, there's lots of lovely fragrant coconut too.

I couldn't really detect paprika in the pastry but that's likely to be due to the sheer number of flavours working together in the filling. These are utterly moreish and would be lovely for picnics.

Available: Marks and Spencer's

Pros: Succulent, juicy meat. Full of exotic, fragrant flavours. Generous filling with great quality ingredients.
Cons: Only four in a pack. Paprika pastry could have more impact.

Score: 8/10