Thursday, 31 July 2014

Wholefoods Market Chocolate Hazelnut Butter

I'm increasingly eating more and more nut butters. They're delicious and a bit different and really liven up bread, croissants and bagels. Not to mention they're healthy with lots of good fats, vitamins  and a high protein content to keep you satisfied.

This version I bought from Wholefoods Market is a little less healthy as it's a chocolate based one. However, it is a much healthier alternative to the likes of Nutella. Essentially, it's only made from hazelnuts and milk chocolate drops and nothing else - so no weird artificial ingredients and less sugar.

The really cool thing about this is you get to make it yourself in store. There's a machine that freshly grinds and processes the two raw ingredients and pumps out the butter into a pot and you're in control of how much to take. This was great for me as I could try it without needing to buy loads and meant I wouldn't be tempted to overindulge and eat too much.

Now I admit it doesn't look that pretty and is a bit dry looking but it was lovely. Texture wise, it was a lot thicker and stiffer than Nutella and it was more difficult to spread on my toast. However, this is due to the high hazelnut content and the fact it is freshly ground rather than overly processed. It definitely wasn't as smooth as Nutella but then again Nutella is only 13% hazelnuts rather than hazelnuts being the key ingredient. Nutella also has no actual chocolate in  - it's just cocoa powder whereas this has cocoa butter and cocoa mass for real milk chocolate. So you can forgive it for not replicating it.

It also tastes quite different. It's less sweet and has more depth and flavour. The high amount of roasted hazelnuts give it a delicious toasted nuttiness, whilst the chocolate adds creaminess.

This made a lovely indulgent breakfast and frankly you don't feel too bad eating it as it's fairly natural.

Score: 7.5/10

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Lidl De Luxe Hazelnut Coffee Syrup

I'm a huge coffee fan and am always trying to replicate authentic lattes and espressos at home. I love my Tassimo machine and always look to add a little continental sophistication to my coffees, often with an amaretti or tuile biscuit on the side.

When I saw these bottles of coffee syrup in Lidl, I knew I had to buy a bottle to replicate my beloved hazelnut lattes for a little indulgence at home. These 350ml bottles are a mere £1.49 and there's also vanilla and caramel versions too. This is great value. An entire bottle for less than the price of one hazelnut latte from Starbucks.

And this really is the same product. It has that lovely nutty, sweet smell you find in hazelnut lattes in coffee shops and it is the exact same taste as well. It's smooth, warming and comforting.

This really enhances my lattes at home and is something I will continue to look forward using as a weekend treat for lazy breakfasts.

Score: 8/10

Monday, 28 July 2014

Marks and Spencer Pretzel Roll

After really enjoying the feta, caramelized onion and sundried tomato scone from the M&S in store bakery, I went back again to try something else from the tempting new ranges and went for this pretzel roll.

At 50p, it's competitively priced, especially as it's a bit different. The roll looks very attractive with its shiny glossy outer, a lovely cross and sprinkles of large flakes of salt.

The salt really makes this. Granted, it does taste very salty but I found it quite enjoyable with a lovely savoury taste that really does mimic the crisp, snack pretzels you can buy.

The texture is also great. A bit of crust but mostly quite soft and chewy with a bit of tang. It really livened up my lunch and makes a nice change.

Score: 7/10

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Meridian Smooth Peanut Butter

After absolutely loving the hazelnut spread from Meridian that I regently tried, I stocked up on the peanut variant when I saw these 455g jars for a mere £2.

I went for the smooth version just to try a different texture to the hazelnut spread. Like the other Meridian nut spreads, this had a refreshingly simple ingredient list of just pure peanuts. No oil, no sugar, no salt, which is always a good thing in my opinion.

This had a lovely sticky texture that coats your lips, your tongue and every taste bud. It's quite loose and you will need to stir it before use as the natural oils seperate and is quite tricky to get from jar to bread cleanly. But it's totally worth the stickiness.

It has a very different taste to normal peanut butter. You can really taste natural peanuts and it is this distinct roasted nut taste you get rather than salt. This also makes a wonderful snack, breakfast or for post gym sessions. It's also high in protein and really satisfies me when I feel a bit peckish. I haven't tried using it in cooking yet but I imagine it would also be really good used for chicken satay or in stir fries as well.

Score: 8.5/10

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Marks and Spencer Porridge with Berry Compote

If I'm completely honest with myself, there is no excuse to spend£1.70 on a pot of porridge, especially considering I could buy over a kilo of raw oats for that price.

Except that this porridge I picked up from M&S was so delicious I didn't really regret wasting that much money. Available from the chilled cabinets, this is a very natural and healthy product. The porridge contains only oats and semi skimmed milk and the compote contains redcurrants, sugar, water, blackcurrants, raspberry and cornflour. That's it, and all things you would find in a normal kitchen.

The porridge pot just heats up in the microwave and then you can add the fruity compote into it and eat it straight from the tub. I guess M&S is catering for on the go breakfasters who don't mind paying a premium for convenience because it is overpriced for what it is. You could basically get porridge from Pret or Eat for that price, a Quaker instant pot is about a £1 and you can buy a bag of oats for even less than that.

However, this is absolutely delicious. For a healthy option, it just feels so overly indulgent. The porridge is rich, thick and creamy with a lovely smooth milky taste. The compote tastes of actual fruit rather than sugar and is dark, sweet and tangy. The two blend perfectly together and if I'm honest I felt like I was eating a luxury rice pudding instead of a breakfast.

It's overpriced, it's unnecessary but it's just so silky smooth and tasty. I will definitely buy this again albeit as an occasional pricy treat.

Price: £1.70
Available: Marks and Spencer

Pros: Healthy, natural, convenient, utterly delicious
Cons: Very ovrpriced

Score: 8/10

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Bananas and Walnuts

Rather than only posting reviews, I've decided to occasionally post musings on other food I've eaten or been inspired by. After reading a lot of raw/clean living recipes online, I was inspired tonight to have a little go at making a healthy, raw, deconstructed banana bread.

Okay, it's literally just a bowl of banana and walnuts but it is essentially capturing the essence of banana bread. Lovely, sweet, creamy banana to balance out the little nuggets of brittle, crunchy, savoury walnut.

We all know we should eat healthier and this makes a lovely, simple pudding that I enjoyed a lot more than I should have, considering it's no sticky toffee pudding or cheesecake.

Take the time and rather than just eat a banana standing up from your hand, make it seem a little special. I simply squidged an extremely ripe organic  banana (and usually I like my bananas green) into a bowl so it had a mushy, pudding-esque quality and topped with crumbled up organic walnuts. You want to break the walnuts up finely so there's a little bit in every spoonful, like there is in every bite in banana bread.

That's it. No sugar, no wheat, no fat. Just pure natural ingredients. Lots of vitamins and potassium from the banana and heart healthy fats from the walnuts. A nice pudding doesn't always have to be processed and bad for you. It's also a great way to use up overripe, sticky bananas that I would usually reject from having with cereal.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Rowan Hill Bakery Bagels (Lidl)

After the disappointment from the Vitasia wasabi paste I tried from Lidl, I didn't expect much from these bagels. In my experience, pretty much all store bought bagels are a waste of time and taste like ordinary bread rolls with a hole in the middle. Usually, if I want bagels, it's only the in store bakery ones that are adequate.

I did appreciate the packaging of these. Firstly, you get four rather than the usual five in a pack. Bagels are lovely but I try to have healthy breakfasts most days so they're not something I want too much of. Furthermore, they come in 2 sachets of 2 bagels for freshness so you don't feel the need to eat all of them before they go off.

I was a little concerned that the expiry date was in 3 months time rather than 3 days, which you find on most bagels. On the plus side, it means they make a good standby, although I did worry what was in them to achieve this.

Opening them up, they looked thick, plump and bouncy. They had a nice, soft, squigy texture although didn't smell overtly strongly and did have a slight roll like consistency.

They did, however, toast very successfully and smelt inviting and comforting. Nice and crisp on the outside, they were still dense and chewy with that lovely bagel texture on the inside.

There was a good balance of salt and sweet, which give bagels their malty characteristic. With hazelnut butter on one half and blueberry conserve on the other, this made a lovely treaty breakfast. At 79p for four, they're worth a go and are certainly no worse than other supermarket bagels.

Score: 7/10

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Meridian Crunchy Hazelnut Butter

As I've started going to the gym lot recently, I've been looking out for high energy and high protein snacks to keep me going and this hazelnut butter from Meridian hits the mark perfectly.

Everything about this paste is right for me. It's a nice small 170g jar so you know you'll get through it okay and means it's easy to carry around as I often take this to work.

This product is also absolutely pure and natural. There is literally one ingredient: hazelnuts. 100% hazelnuts and nothing else. No oil, no salt, no sugar like most spreads on the market. As a result, I feel great snacking on this. The fact nuts are full of healthy fats and pack a protein punch makes this perfect for satisfying hunger pangs as it keeps you going for longer. I've been having it a lot for breakfast recently too as it really keeps me going until lunch on a bagel or toast.

Taste wise, it is absolutely delicious. I was taken aback when I first ate it by how strongly it reminded me of Ferrero Rocher (minus the chocolate obviously). It feels really, really indulgent with a thick, creamy, melting mouthfeel and a gorgeous roasted nutty taste. And yet it really is just hazelnuts!

This will be a regular purchase for me from now on as it seems very versatile. I use it for breakfasts and pre gym boosts but I imagine this would be lovely in baking and if you mixed some melted chocolate into it, it would probably taste like a natural version of nutella.

Price: £2.99
Available: I picked mine up in a Whole Foods market but Waitrose and Holland and Baratt stock it too

Pros: Utterly delicious, natural, no sugar, no salt, nice small pack size
Cons: Sometimes the nut oil naturally separates but just give it a stir to mix everything again (it is a natural product after all!)

Score: 9/10

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Vitasia Wasabi Paste (Lidl)

I am generally quite fond of Lidl and Aldi products - whilst I am ultimately a brand lover (I find brands tend to do more exciting flsvours and more innovative new ideas), I have found some really great products in the Discounters.

Unfortunately, this wasabi paste from Lidl was not one of them. I love wasabi and sushi - the hotter the better. It totally clears the sinuses, revitalises you and works so well with fish. This wasabi was certainly a good price - 89p for 43g. I've seen similar types of product for £2 and upwards.

Packaging wise, I thought it looked a little cheap. There is some Japan style imagery and writing going on but it looks a bit cartoony and so cheapens it. However, the ingredients were reassuring quality and natural - it's made up of 75% horseradish, 10% horseradish powder, some mustard seeds, some wasabi, salt, turmeric and some colouring. This is in stark contrast to lots of other wasabi pastes that are full of sweetners and maltodextrin.

Squeezing it out, the disappointment set in - it didn't look great. The green was quite dark and muted and looked a bit dull and fake - not bright like wasabi I've had in sushi packs and in Japanese restaurants.

Eating it, again, it failed to deliver what I had hoped for. It certainly tastes fine but it just tasted like horseradish sauce, not surprising considering the high horseradish content. I like horseradish sauce but, as I ate it with tuna, I was strongly reminded of roast beef. It's not very hot - it certainly won't make your eyes water and isn't as peppery as I want wasabi to be. It was perfectly edible and I'll definitely finish the tube but it wasn't really wasabi, lacking the salty umami flavour I crave.

Price: 89p
Available: Lidl

Pros: Good value, tastes fine
Cons: Doesn't taste like wasabi - more horseradish sauce

Score: 4/10

Monday, 14 July 2014

Foodie Market Natural Seed Mix (Aldi)

This is a very short review as this is a very simple product. I picked this seed mix up in Aldi for the absolute bargain price of 65p. It's nothing complex - just sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, goji berries and pine nuts. Nothing artificial or nasty, just clean, natural ingredients.

I liked the fact it's just a small 100g bag as, much as I like this kind of product, it's not something I want to keep eating loads of so it means you can get through it without getting bored of it.

Everything in it was very fresh and of high quality. The seeds were crunchy and crisp and the berries soft and plump, not shrivelled up and dried out. The ratio is done well too. Enough berries for sweetness but not so much that this becomes overly sugary. I will definitely pick these up again. Perfect pack size and perfect price.

Price: 65p
Available: Aldi

Pros: Healthy, natural, good price, good pack size
Cons: Pack isn't resealable

Score: 7/10

Sunday, 13 July 2014

GU After Dark Hot Chocolate Souffle

GU, like Ben & Jerry's, Hotel Chocolat and Dunkin' Doughnuts, seems to be one of those brands that everybody raves about. Many years late to the party, I finally decided to give the brand a whirl and see what all the fuss was about with these dark chocolate souffles.

At £3.59, these aren't cheap for just two but I certainly felt it was justified based on the quality of ingredients. At 300 calories per pot it's obviously never going to be a healthy treat, but it reassuring how short the ingredients list is and that it is mainly high quality, natural ingredients like chocolate, eggs, butter and sugar. If you're going to be indulgent, better to do it with 'real' food.

Chocolate makes up 36% of the product and is the no 1 ingredient. The fact cocoa mass, not sugar, is the main component of the chocolate demonstrates it's premium dark chocolate rather than standard chocolate. The dessert is also pretty low in sugar overall. At under 16g per 100g you'd be hard pushed to find many yoghurts, let alone desserts, hitting this mark.

The packaging is also very high quality and looks very deluxe both on the outside and the little pots within. I like the fact they are individually sealed as it makes them perfect for freshness and portion control. The jars are high quality and look like the type of thing you get in a restaurant. I even kept mine as it was too nice to throw away - so an extra bonus!

These were very easy and quick to cook. 12 mins in the oven and they came out perfectly just like the pack said. They smelt gorgeously chocolatey and were puffed up and moussey. The perfect souffle texture.

If this was given to you as a dessert in a restaurant, you'd happily pay for it. It was rich, intense and so chocolatey. The top had a nice, thin, chewy crust. There was a moussey creamy texture underneath and, right in the middle, dark oozing pools of molten chocolate.

Portion size is just right. Enough to get a good chocolate hit and feel you've had a treat without being too much as it is very intense. My only issue was, much as I enjoyed it, I didn't enjoy it enough for 300 calories. There are other treats I'd rather use it for. However, for chocolate lovers, this would be a great choice.

Price: £3.59
Available: Major supermarkets

Pros: Premium, reuseable pot, portion control, high quality ingredients, restaurant quality, fairly low sugar, so chocolatey
Cons: Very pricey, 300 calories for very little

Score: 7/10

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Marks and Spencer Feta, Caramelized Onion and Tomato Scone

Salty, creamy feta. Sweet caramelized onion. Juicy, soft tomatoes. All lovely and a pretty well recognised combination but something largely restricted to quiches and tarts so I was intrigued to try this new scone from the M&S in store bakery.

I do love a good scone but I traditionally slather mine in jam making it a sweet treat so it was interesting to try a new savoury version. It certainly looks like a scone with a lovely even, golden bake that's just the right size. Slight and a little dainty but still substantial enough to feel you've had a treat. I also the crumbled sprinkling of feta on the top.

The scone cuts in half beautifully and has a lovely firm texture with a soft, yielding crumbliness as it enters your mouth. Funnily enough it still has the traditional scone smell that is slightly sweet but this is crossed with a faint feta smell that is savoury and very appetizing.

As said, I usually cover a scone in something, but as I expected this to pack quite a lot of flavour, I kept it simple with a faint spread of butter. That said, I'd imagine this would pair beautifully with some slices of cheese on top and a little chutney of some kind. It may be something I'll try in the future.

Luckily, this scone is so full of flavour, it really holds its own. It does have the standard scone flavour but one that is rich and buttery. Every mouthful delivers different combinations of flavours and textures and its jam packed with the added ingredients. It's a well known combo for good reason and the creamy cheese marries perfectly with the slow roasted onions and tomatoes.

It's all deliciously savoury and moreish and makes a nice alternative for lunch or afternoon tea.

Price: 60p
Available: Marks and Spencer

Pros: Good quality base scone that is buttery with great texture. Generous with ingredients. Something a bit different. Competitively priced.
Cons: Best eaten on day of purchase so short life

Score: 8/10

Friday, 11 July 2014

Tesco Greek Dip Selection

It seems crazy now how many different dips you can buy. A few years ago it was pretty much only houmous, guacamole, salsa and those naff mixed sets for breadsticks. I love how much more there is available nowadays as retailers release ever complex and innovative flavours like piri piri houmous and beetroot and mint dips. The only problem is trying to decide which ones to try first.

This little mixed Greek section by Tesco caught my eye thanks to offering 3 dips in one and not in vast quantities either so you can test a few things without being obligated to go though loads of it or wasting any of it. It's a nice mix of common houmous, tzatziki and also a red pepper and feta dip for something a little different.

The houmous wasn't anything to get ovely excited about but it was nice nevertheless. It had a lovely smooth texture that was quite mild but also decliously thick and full of chickpea flavour. It had a faint nutty taste but didn't overwhelm the biscuits I was eating it with.

The tzatziki was my favourite in the selection - it was really cool, really refreshing with a slight tang and had a lovely meltingly smooth texture in the mouth. The coolness of the yoghurt was absolutely lovely and the faint minty tones made this a great summer dip.

Red pepper and feta dip was the most unusual element of the mixture but it's not too wacky of a flavour combo either. It had a lovely faint aroma of feta and again the texture was spot on, being very smooth, sleek and creamy. The feta bought lovely notes of saltiness whilst the red peper bought gentle sweetness and two fuse together perfectly.

I liked the fact that the mixture allowed me to try a few things at the same time without needing to open lots of different pots. My only bugbear is that the cover is a flimsy plastic sheet rather than a resealable plastic lid like you get on larger packs of dips. This means it doesn't store as well but as the quantities are quite small, this isn't too much of a problem.

Price: £1.35
Available: Tesco

Pros: Nice mix, lots of textures and flavour. Feta and red pepper brings something new.
Cons: Hard to reseal and keep fresh


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Waitrose Cod Fishcakes with creamy parsley sauce

I'm actually quite partial to supermarket fishcakes so long as they're good quality and not bulked out with weird technno ingredients. They make a nice easy meal and they're not too processed. However, they need to be very meaty and not be hard, crispy or shrivelled up. I've always particularly enjoyed M&S' melt in the middle fishcakes but bought these as part of a 3 for £10 meat and fish deal at Waitrose.

The fishcakes are a really good size. If you're only having one fishcakes then it needs to be pretty substantial and these meet that mark. They are lovely puffed up domes that are bursting with filling inside.

They were reasonably quick to cook, needing only 25 mins in the oven and, for once, these fishcakes survived the cooking process, staying completely intact. Usually with melting middle or sauce filled fishcakes, I find they tend to burst or leak out whilst in the oven but happily this was not the case here.

Golden and crisp looking, they were quite aromatic in a homely, comforting sort of way as they came out. Cutting one open, I was really pleased with the ratios. These fishcakes have a fish content (30% cod) and very little breadcrumbs on the outside. Indeed, it's only a thin crust that gives a little crunch but it is the filling that is the star of the show - there's loads of it and it's pillowy soft and melt in the mouth.

The parsley sauce in the middle drizzles out as you cut it open, saturating the soft white filling with its savoury and creamy properties. Again, the ration is perfect. It's enough to moisten the fishcake without making it overly pappy helping it to stay intact. The sauce is nice and peppery but doesn't overwhelm the rest of the fishcake so you can appreciate the filling properly.

These fishcakes made a really quick and easy supper with some potatoes and veg. The fact they use such high quality ingredients and are really tasty and satisfying makes the whole package a really good buy.

Price: £3.99 or 3 for £10 at the moment
Available: Waitrose

Pros: Lovely meaty filling, cooks perfectly, perfect ratios of filling, sauce and breadcrumbs
Cons: Only two in a pack so not the most economical buy

Score: 7/10

Monday, 7 July 2014

Propercorn Sweet Coconut and Vanilla

I always look out for interesting popcorn flavours. Popcorn makes the perfect healthy snack as I feel I get so much in a bag that there really is a substantial amount to munch on and yet it is so low in calories. However, the regular sweet or salty variants are a little boring for me so anything promising new and exotic flavours always garners my attention.

This Propercorn popcorn ticked all the boxes intially. It's only 109 calories for a pretty big bag, the flavour is new and not done by anyone else and I think the packaging looks so cool. It's very bold and bright and brings to mind the tropics but in a funky pop-art style.

Opening the bag, they certainly smelt the part. The aromas were absolutely heavenly. A very sweet and mild, authentic vanilla scent was infused with a real strong coconut smell. It actually smelt very similar to both Nice biscuits and also the coconut ring biscuits you can buy in the supermarket.

This bowl I poured literally only used up half the pack so you certainly do get a lot in the packet! Eating the popcorn, I was a little disappointed. It was certainly flavoursome and did taste of coconut and vanilla but it is very subtle indeed. The popcorn is light with a great, airy texture but I would have enjoyed it more if the coating of coconut and vanilla was more pronounced. It did taste a little plain to me and wasn't as indulgent as both the packaging and smell would suggest.

However, because of the thin coating of flavour, this is a very low sugar sweet snack, which is always nice. It certainly curbs a sweet craving and has enough flavour to provide a healthy snack that you can enjoy without the guilt. But for a real treat or for sharing in front of a movie I would probably look for other brands of popcorn that are a bit more treaty (albeit a little bit naughtier).

Price: 79p
Pros: Healthy, low calorie, low sugar, lovely smell, sweet, light and airy so you don't feel weighed down after eating
Cons: Flavouring isn't as strong as I would like or as strong as the delicious aroma

Score: 7/10

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Twinings Lemon Zest

Another fruit tea review! I often buy the lemon and ginger Twinings, which I really enjoy, but spotted this lemon zest version in the supermarket, which I've never tried before. With it being summer, I was hoping for something zesty and refreshing. It certainly looked very summery with lovely bright yellow packaging and the attractive picture of the lemon segment.

Opening the box unusually didn't provide a very strong smell. Usually Twinings and fruit teas in general are heavily and intriguingly fragranced but only a light lemon scent could be detected.

However, with fruit teas it's ultimately about the taste. The tea was pretty subtle and a little underwhelming. It wasn't watery or weak to its credit and has a nice lemony zest that is light, mild and refreshing.

Compared to some other Twinings I've had though, it didn't really 'wow' me. It tasted nice but ultimately you could probably get the same effect from just putting a slice of fresh lemon in a mug of hot water!

Price: £1.49
Available: Major supermarkets

Pros: Healthy, light, refreshing
Cons: Nothing to get particularly excited about

Score: 6.5/10

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Nairns Muesli Breaks Oatcakes

After reading about these via GroceryGems , there was no way I was going to let these slip by when I had the chance to buy them. This is the exactly the type of healthy snack I love. I recognise all the ingredients and they're all natural and things you'd find in a normal kitchen: oats, currants, Palm fruit oil, demerara sugar, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, salt and raising agents. That's it!

The box and the individual packs within are designed with really  bold and cool packaging. I also appreciate each individual pack contains only 2 biscuits as most similar products contain 4, which is too much. This allows you to have better portion control without the biscuits going off. The slim packs are also very compact and transportable, making them a really convenient on the go snack or for taking out and about.

The oatcakes have a lovely appearance. All toasted and dark with lots of sweet currants clearly studded throughout. They also have a pleasing rough and gritty texture that makes them feel very rustic. I also love the cross that divides each oatcakes into 4 segments although the biscuits do not snap along these lines.

Initially, I was a little disappointed with the taste. I think because they are named ‘muesli breaks‘ I was expecting quite a sweet, fruity flavour, similar to a granola bar. However, these are first and foremost oatcakes so a slightly savoury, heavy flavour is the dominant taste with a nice crumbly texture.

They are not as sweet tasting as breakfast biscuits and once you get over this, you can appreciate them more for what they are. They're primarily oat cakes but the currants lighten them up for a slightly sweet edge. You wouldn't dunk them in tea but they do make a good choice for a sweet craving.

They're pretty filling thanks to the oats and only 2.1g of sugars per biscuit. They'll definitely be something I'll be buying again.

Price: £1.69 for 8x2 biscuits
Available: Waitrose

Pros: Low sugar, natural, convenient, light but filling and a tasty healthy snack
Cons: They're no replacement for a proper biscuit

Score: 8/10

See the full range of Nairns at