Saturday 31 January 2015

Nairns Stem Ginger Oat Biscuits

I buy a lot of Nairns stuff anyway but when I saw these on a special buy in Lidl for 89p, I thought I'd give them a try as well. I often buy the Nairns Muesli Breaks and Astrobites as they're a real guilt free biscuit treat with significantly less sugar than other biscuits.

These follow the same mould and have a lot of the same benefits. The first big plus is that the box contains 4 individually wrapped packs of 5 biscuits. This helps keep them fresh (nothing worse than massive packs of biscuits you don't eat frequently and then start to go soft), helps with portion control (though I like to think I wouldn't eat 5 in one go) and means you can take a pack out and about with you - so handy fot lunchboxes or journeys.

Nutritionally, like a lot of Nairns products, they have something going for them. Firstly, these biscuits are made from oats rather than flour so are wheat free and this means they're slightly lower GI and help keep you slightly fuller for longer. They're also 44 calories a biscuit and most importantly to me lower in sugar than other biscuits. They claim 40% than a standard biscuit and it's just over 17g of sugar per 100g with only 1.7g a biscuit, which is really great.

But of course, something can be very healthy but if it can't deliver on taste credentials, then you might as well not bother. Luckily, these are very tasty and actually more so than the other sweet Nairn biscuits I've tried. They taste less overtly oaty, like the Muesli Breaks, and have a really good gingery kick.

I absolutely love ginger and these have a really nice spicy warmth to them. A bit of demerara sugar keeps things nicely sweetened without being overly sweet at all. The inclusion of actual stem ginger is what really gives them a kick and actually they dunk quite well in tea too. They're never going to be quite as nice a ginger nut - although arguably these are way more gingery - but for the improved nutrition, they are easily substituitable for normal biscuits as they're delicious in their own right.

Score: 7.5/10

Monday 26 January 2015

Tyrrell's Coconut and Caramel Popcorn

The popcorn popularity seems to show no sign of halting as more and more interesting flavours appear on our shelves. I never used to eat popcorn when your choices were either sweet or salt bytes after embracing Propercorn with its vanilla and coconut and Waitroses Ginger and Wasabi flavour, I now am firmly team popcorn.

Tyrell's who I always associate with innovative and exciting flavours of crisps do some interesting popcorn too such as a sticky toffee popcorn version. But this version, with coconut, was always going to be my first choice.

Opening the bag, the smell is fairly indistinguishable. Slightly sweet but no real overpowering scent to speak of. The pieces are all delightfully fluffy and light. No kernels here. And like all popcorn is a guilt free snack. You could pretty much eat the entire bag and it wouldn't be more than the average muffin. And per third of a bag, there's only about a teaspoon and a half of sugar.

But of course, anything guilt free is never quite as nice as something naughty and that's true here too. The taste is nice but it's quite mild without a really good hit of coconut. It's addictive and you want to eat more but it's not a proper sweet treat. As something to mindlessly graze on or to curb a sweet tooth on a diet, it's brilliant but I wouldn't choose it over a lot of other snacks.

Score: 6.5/10

Saturday 17 January 2015

Marks and Spencer Xmas Tree and Shooting Star Snack Mix

I picked this leftover Christmas treat as it was reduced to only 50p. There's not really a lot to say about them - they are just plain, salted extruded snacks in the shape of Christmas trees and shooting stars.

I was pleasantly surprised by how intact the shapes remain and they do look festive. Taste wise, they're plain but in quite a nice way. There's something unfathomabley addictive about them. You just want to keep eating more and more with their satisfying, crispy texture and deeply salty hit.

The salt is my bugbear about this product. At 2.68g per 100g, it's ridiculously unhealthy and because they're so moreish and in a large, unsealable bag, it's too easy to overeat.

Score: 6.5/10

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Aldi Specially Selected Venison Pate with Burgundy Wine

I found this looking in my cupboards after I bought it ages ago. I'm not really sure why I bought it but assume it must have been ridiculously cheap, coming from Aldi.

It certaintly sounded nice and very premium and luxurious with the burgundy wine and venison is a more unusual meat. However, whilst perfectly adequate, that's all it was. It spreads fine, tastes okay and was meaty enough with a richness that I quite liked but that's all I can say.

The wine didn't come through and overall it was pretty non descript and tasted like any basic Brussels pate really. There's also something quite spooky about pate that is ambient rather than bought from the fridge in the supermarket. An expiry date of 2017 didn't help - I don't really want to think of what's in it to keep it 'fresh' for that long.

Score: 5/10

Sunday 11 January 2015

Marks and Spencer Count on Us Chicken, Spinach and Ricotta Pizza

I try and eat as healthily as possible but at the same time when it's the weekend or you want a treat, I still want to be involved in the ritual of things like having a pizza for a movie night in. So I was intrigued by this new low calorie offering from M&S. To be honest, I'm very much against 'diet' foods. When fat is tripped out, usually something like sugar is added plus a whole load of weird, unnatural sounding ingredients.

Thankfully, reading the ingredients for list, there wasn't one single thing I didn't recognise or wouldn't have in my own kitchen. Surely, there must be some kind of catch? Well, I guess one is that when you get this out of the packaging, it that is pretty petite in size. But then again, I quite like this. I hate how big supermarket pizzas are. I always feel I have to wat a whole pizza as that's part of the experience but they're so big in diameter that this really isn't a good idea (and most supermarket pizzas are meant to serve 2 or 3). It's nice being able to eat a whole pizza and know that you are exceeding the recommended serving size. No waste and no going back for more than you should!

It cooks in only 9 mins and looks appetising enough. You can see plenty of peppery chicken and some nice blobs of ricotta.There isn't that much cheese across the pizza, which I guess keeps the calories down so it's no where near as nasty as a normal pizza or a take out. However, it is tasty in it's own right. I would say it's more akin to a flatbread with topping than a traditional pizza.

The base is nice and crispy but, as said, more like a flatbread without the doughiness of a true pizza. It is liberally smeared with tomato sauce for flavour and you do get enough topping to make it tasty enough. The blobs of ricotta and the chicken are the highlights and each slice with a bit of these on are the nicest. The ricotta is creamy and melting and the chicken has an uplifting kick from the pepper.

It didn't feel like a proper treat and lacks some indulgence but at 370 calories for the entire thing with less than 1.4 g of salt, you can'y really complain. Two slices of Dominos is likely to be 400 calories!

Score: 7/10

Saturday 10 January 2015

Hotel Chocolat Christmas Gingerbread Chocolate Spread

I have been absolutely dying to try this since I saw it posted on GroceryGems. I absolutely adore gingerbread - anything with cinnamon, ginger, molasses and all those warming winter spices is a winner in my eyes - and nothing is more suited to cold winters than the spicy, homely smell of gingerbread. I completely forgot about it with the run up to Christmas but luck was on my side and I found the very last jar in my local store - I practically dived on it to stop anyone else snapping it up!

I only discovered Hotel Chocolat last year but I am now such a big fan. Not only do they have the most interesting and innovative ideas and flavours, I love the fact this is 'real' chocolate. Lots of proper cocoa mass and butter without the need to bulk it out/cheapen it with sugar and weird ingredients. This is as far removed from the like of Nestle as you can imagine. High quality and for that reason I love it - you get less and it costs more - but it's worth it for the better taste and reduced sugar.

Opening up the tub, you can smell the gingerbread instantly. It's subtle but warming and makes you want to dive in with a spoon. It's a much thicker texture than I was expecting but this is likely due to the fact that it's made with hazelnut paste without the need for oils. Rather than Nutella's sticky, oily texture, it's more alike to a nut butter.

Neverthless it's really easy to spread. It melts beautifully on warm toast and oozes tantalisingly. This made the ultimate weekend breakfast. It's sweet but not overpoweringly so and not in the least sickly or sugary. The gingerbread notes work well with chocolate and is done masterfully so you can taste both the warming notes of ginerbread and the sophisticated darkness of chocolate both seperately and together. It tastes so decadent and indulgent and yet when you look at the ingredients, it's natural and actually not too bad. It utterly melts in the mouth and is so creamy.

It's utterly delicious and if you're lucky enough to spot a jar left over anywhere, I throughly recommend grabbing it before we have to wait until next Christmas.

Score: 8/10

Friday 9 January 2015

Marks and Spencer Bircher Muesli

In January, I'm sure a lot of us look to eat healthier after the indulgences of Christmas. I've spoken before of my love for bircher muesli. It's the ultimate feel good food. Healthy and nutrient dense but yet still feels special and a bit of a treat. For me, it's like a spa session for your taste buds - pampering with wellness.

Previously, I've loved the dry ambient muesli from Rude Health and also the chilled ready ones from Moma. This is an individual chilled pot, probably aimed for on the go but I bought it as a Friday treat for myself. It looks thick and creamy and rather beautiful with a sprinkling of pistachios, cranberries and pomegranate seeds.

Also embedded in the lovely thick yoghurt is lots of nice big strips of fresh apple, harking back to the original Swiss style. These adds loads both in terms of texture and taste. They keep the pot sweet and fresh. The apple, along with honey and cinnamon, give the muesli a sweet, faintly spiced flavour that is lovely.

Unusually, this recipe has no softened oats, instead containing a bit of granola. Actually, I didn't miss this core component that much as there's lots of inclusions for texture and the granola adds a little crunch.

My only bugbear was the few pomegranate seeds. I like pomegranate seeds but they're watery, tart and refreshing flavour is so strong, they don't work with the softness of bircher muesli. Luckily, there's only a few and the cranberries and pistachios work providing nuttiness and sweetness.

At £1.85, it's definitely overpriced but makes a nice treat.

Score: 8/10