Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Snack Food Review: “Britains Best Pork Scratchings” “Pork Scratchings by post”

30 September, 2010

AN unusually quick review this evening. Mostly because there’s not much to say about this particular snack food. Why post at all? Because I know there are a LOT of people out there who love their pork scratchings as much as I do, which is why I picked up this enigmatic bag whilst in Cardiff recently.

“Britains Best Pork Scratchings” “Pork Scratchings by post” bag

At a stall in the temporary outdoor foot market in Cardiff Bay was a purveyor of pork scratchings. For £2 per bag, you get this large, transparent bag. The only thing to describe about it is the business card contained within.

“Britains Best Pork Scratchings” “Pork Scratchings by post” card

There you have it. Going by their pricing, what looks like good value pork scratchings by post. You have to admire the ambition of calling them “Britains Best Pork Scratchings”.

The Yahoo.co.uk email address hints at the fact that they don’t have a website. And the “quite” typo which should probably read as “Keep the old man quiet gift”, confirming that these aren’t the product of a large manufacturer.

Every single one of these packaging quirks and shortcomings can be immediately forgiven if the scratching are delicious. I’m looking for decent sized pieces, flavour and taste without excessive-salting and a generously sized bag. Well, we’re off to a flying start with that last point.

“Britains Best Pork Scratchings” “Pork Scratchings by post” close up

Here’s a photo of the first few pieces I grabbed. Hoping that they’re representative, you’ve got to say that they haven’t skimped on size. The porky and seasoned smell is not bad either, plus they’re not too greasy to the touch.

What are they like? Some pieces are hard as granite, some have soft porkiness. Seasoning, if there’s any at all, is light and I can barely taste the salt.

What do I like so far? I’m loving that they are straightforward, uncomplicated, good value pork scratching. The variety and hand-made feel are all good.

What don’t I like so far? If you’re looking for a sophisticated, seasoned snack, this isn’t for you. Some of the harder bits are also nearly as hard to chew as boiled sweets.

To sum up, these seemingly unbranded pork scratchings “by post” are good. If you like your pork scratchings to be traditional, straightforward and uncomplicated, these are for you. If you do have a dad or uncle who likes traditional pork scratching with a bottle of ale, I’ve no doubt these would be a great little gift. Now I’m going to stop eating, and save the rest of the bag for when I have a beer to enjoy them with.

Have you tried these? What did you think of them? Are you the man who made them? If so, then leave a comment below!

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Snack Food Review: Monolith Isumrudnye Pickled Gherkins

12 March, 2010

A QUICK post for the handful of other people who are searching for the perfect pickles. Here is a jar of Monolith Isumrudnye.

Monolith Isumrudnye Pickled Gherkins jar

I choose it from the shelves of Russkij Bazar in London’s East-End because it looked genuine, what with the Cyrillic. It turns out to be fake Russian, made by German manufacturer and distributor Monolith Gruppe for the huge East-European market in its backyard. Or so I was told by the pleasant lady who runs the shop.

Monolith Isumrudnye Pickled Gherkins front label

With a label like that, how would you know it’s not actually from Russia? Or Belarus? Or Ukraine? Or Bulgaria? Or… are those all the countries that use Cyrillic? If you know what any of those words or names mean, leave your translations in the comments section below.

Monolith Isumrudnye Pickled Gherkins back label

The sneaky depths of the product deception are revealed on the back. No more traditional looking Cyrillic. Just your typical multi-lingual EU product label. Monolith’s German address and web address are on there (www.monolith-gruppe.eu in case you were wondering).

The ingredients are cucumbers, spirit vinegar, sugar, salt, spices, acidifying agent, citric acid, oak leaves and flavour. That’s right. This jar contains tree foliage. I’m sold on the idea. Next I want to find one with pine cones and barn owl. It does mean however that it shouldn’t be too salty, unlike the last ones few I’ve tried, thank god.

So what do Monolith Isumrudnye Pickled Gherkins taste like? How do they compare and should you get some?

I like ‘em. They’ve got a nice, savoury taste. A hint of vinegar and a mildly salty finish. None of which are overpowering. They’re quite crunchy, though could be crunchier, and about the right size to be a good finger food snack.

Comparing them to the salt gherkins would be like comparing tangerines to oranges. But I will anyhow, and declare Monolith Isumrudnye Pickled Gherkins one of the best I’ve had for some time. Try them if you’re not so keen on salted gherkins.

Have you tried Monolith Isumrudnye Pickled Gherkins? Can you translate any of the words or names on the front label? Then I want to hear from you. Leave your opinions, corrections, recommendations, insights and places to buy, in the comments section below.

Snack Food Review: Steinhauer Oгурчики чесночнЬіе (Salted Pickled Cucumbers (Gherkins))

16 November, 2009

IT’S been months since I did one of these. But I know from the comments that at least one of you out there likes reading about pickle cucumbers and gherkins, and is looking for that elusive perfect pickle. So for that one lonely person, and myself, here is a super quick review of Steinhauer Oгурчики чесночнЬіе, which I think, transliterates as Steinhauer Ogurgicky Chesnochnia something or other. If you know your Cyrillic, do please leave your proper translations in the comments at the end of the post.

I bought this jar at the Brick Lane Sunday market in London’s East-End for £1.70 pence. Why did I choose this one? The Cyrillic writing on the label. That’s how you know you’re getting real East-European food.

The left-hand-side of the label reveals what I can call them until my Cyrillic improves.

Under The English language section, they’re called “Salted cucumbers with garlic”. Not much else of note. Mostly a list of herbs and leaves that mean little to me. Plus the address of the East-London based importer, Monolith-UK Ltd.

Over on the right are a few more small-print details.

The net weight is on top, followed by the drained weight. All you need to know is that when full, it’s a big, heavy jar. Not massive. Just big.

There’s also an address and a web address of www.monolith-gruppe.eu. It’s also worrying. That’s a big, German importer. And I can’t find anywhere that says where this jar came from. Sure, it has some Cyrillic. But it also has the very Germanic name Steinhauer. I’m beginning to suspect that these are more Bavarian than Bulgarian.

Regarless of that, they could still be good. So, what do they look, smell and taste like? Let’s find out.

What do they look like? They look like cucumbers. Small-ish.

What do they smell like? Not bad. Excellent, in fact. It smells of all sorts of herbs. Best smelling pickles I’ve tried yet.

What do they taste like? They’re salted cucumbers. They taste salty. Luckily, not too salty. Instead, being quite mild and easy to eat. You can taste a hint of those herbs and garlic as well. More good news is that they’re fresh and crunchy.

To sum up, Steinhauer Salted Cucumbers with Garlic are not bad. If you like salted cucumbers, they’re the best I’ve tried so far. I’ll go for the sweeter variety next time though. Are they the perfect pickle? They’re good, but not quite perfect.

Have you tried them? What do you think? Do please leave your translations, corrections, places to buy and anything else you want to share with the world, here in the comments.

Snack Food Review: MS Authentic Black Country Pork Crunch Savoury Pork Snack

12 August, 2009

I WASN’T going to do another one of these, but the combination of my curiosity and your enthusiastic response to MS’ Traditional Pork Scratchings convinced otherwise. From Costcutter on Brick Lane, here is a bag of MS Pork Crunch; an Authentic Black Country Savoury Pork Snack.

MS Pork Crunch front of bag

First impressions are that they didn’t exactly splash out on the packaging. There’s little to disguise the fact that this is a transparent plastic bag. Nevertheless, it says everything you need to know. Plus you see exactly what you’re getting.

If, like me, you remembering how delicious MS’ Traditional Pork Scratchings were, you won’t care that it looks like it was made on a kitchen table. You will already have pulled one from the cardboard shop display that pork snacks are, for some reason, hung on in shops.

The back of the bag has much the same details as MS’ Traditional Pork Scratchings.

MS Pork Crunch back of bag

The top ingredients are pork rinds and salt. So you might want to skip these if you care about health. If health isn’t your thing, your teeth might be. If that didn’t put you off, they still recommend it only for “people with strong healthy teeth”. Besides the story about them producing Authentic Black Country pork snacks for over twenty-five years, the only other detail worth reading is the address where they came from. And yes, it was “produced in the heart of the Black Country” in Wolverhampton no less.

So what are MS Pork Crunch like? How to they compare to other “Seasoned Pork Rind” snacks? I’m looking forward to finding out.

MS Pork Crunch close-up

MS Pork Crunch are surprisingly easy to describe. They are big, chunky, crunchy, meaty, tasty Quavers. If normal Quavers are too feeble for you, you will love Pork Crunch. Unlike every other seasoned pork rind, this is the easiest to eat of the whole lot. I don’t know why they have the “healthy teeth” message. They are about as challenging as a thick-cut crisp.

What am I enjoying about MS Pork Crunch? A lot of things. They are a lot of fun to eat. And they taste of pork. Not too salty either. This could go very well with some light, summery ale. I also love how they do something different with the pork rind formula. I’ve not yet seen anything else on the shelves like this.

What am I not enjoying about MS Pork Crunch? Very little. Some people will say that they aren’t real pork scratchings because it isn’t as hard as granite. It’s also hard to find. And when you do find it, there’s a good chance that they have already passed their “Best Before” date. Frustratingly, they do not have a long shelf-life.

To sum up, MS Authentic Black Country Pork Crunch is a delicious snack food. They are chunky, porky Quavers. They are unlike any pork scratchings I’ve tried before. And just like that other MS pork snack, I think it is worth your time and money to look out for this tasty post-beer snack when you do your shopping.

Have you tried MS Pork Crunch? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your angry criticisms, praise, opinions, corrections, suggestions and places to buy here in the comments.

Snack Food Review: Mr. Porky Pork Crackles

1 May, 2009

AMAZINGLY, people started reading my quick reviews of pork scratchings. So, for those people, here is another one: Mr. Porky Pork Crackles.

Mr. Porky Pork Crackles front of bag

If you missed the story so far, let me re-cap. Mr. Porky Prime Cut Scratchings were mostly big and tasty, but too salty. Mr. Porky Pork Scratchings were smaller, tasty and not as salty, but still too salty. MS Authentic Black Country Traditional Pork Scratchings on the other hand were big, tasty, not too salty and brilliant.

Mr. Porky Pork Crackles back of bag

The back of this small bag is much the same as the back of the other Mr. Porky bags. There’s a message telling you not to attempt them if you have dodgy teeth. There’s an address for their parent company, Red Mill Snack Foods Ltd in the West Midlands. There’s a website address of www.mrporky.co.uk. A list of ingredients which reassuringly for your heart, lists “Pork Rind, Pork Fat” and “Salt” as their chief ingredients. And there is a table of nutrition information with big numbers next to protein and fat.

How are pork crackles different to pork scratchings? What are they like? Should you try them? Let’s find out…

Mr. Porky Pork Crackles open bag close-up

How are pork crackles different to scratchings? They don’t have the chewy porky bit. These are just the crackly, fatty surface. The result is a much tougher, crunchy and harder to eat snack.

What do they taste like? Much of the porky taste came from the bit below the crackle. That makes these pork crackles lack any real porky taste. And, although seasoned, you can’t taste much else at all. Maybe there’s some hints of something peppery, but mostly it’s salt.

What do I like about Mr. Porky Pork Crackles? They might not be perfect, but they get the job done. They are a crunchy and tasty snack. If you’re not looking for anything more, these are perfectly fine.

What don’t I like about Mr. Porky Pork Crackles? Well, their too small. About the size of popcorn is too small to be a real, meaty snack. They don’t have enough porky material to deliver a porky taste. That leaves the taste in the hands of the underwhelming seasoning. And you just can’t escape how salty they are. Not as bad as some, but still saltier than you’d like. And your fingers get covered in grease and seasoning dust.

To sum up, Mr. Porky Pork Crackles deliver a slight variation on the pork scratchings formula, but, like the other Mr. Porky’s, they fall into the trap of being too salty. Yes, they’re perfectly fine. I’ll happily scoff many more bags of them. But maybe it’s time for a new and improved Mr. Porky with more taste and less salt?

Have you tried Mr. Porky Pork Crackles? What did you think of them?

Do please leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Snack Food Review: Smiths Cheese Flavoured Moments

26 April, 2009

SMITHS Scampi Flavour Fries are one of the best snacks you can buy. But, they aren’t the only flavoured corn snacks in Smiths “Savoury Selection”. Take this small bag of Smiths Cheese Flavoured Moments for example.

Smiths Cheese Flavoured Moments front of bag

Instead of a picture of the sea, this time the front has a picture of cows in fields. The illustration of the snack itself again looks like two pillows. And they describe it as a “Cereal Snack With Delicious Cheesy Centres”. The back of the bag is just as predictable, if informative, as the front.

Smiths Cheese Flavoured Moments back of bag

It is almost exactly the same as the bag of Scampi Flavour Fries. So I won’t waste your time going over the same old details about customer service departments and boring tables of nutrition information and ingredients for this 28g bag.

How will Smiths Cheese Flavoured Moments compare to the outstanding Scampi Fries? What will they taste like? I’m feeling peckish, so let’s find out.

Smiths Cheese Flavoured Moments open bag close up

Funny looking, aren’t they? The best way I can describe them is trapezoidal corn lumps. I feel the urge to use them as packaging materials the next time I sell something on eBay. These have the added benefit that unlike some other snacks, your fingers won’t get covered in grease and dust flavouring.

What are they like to eat? They are a crunchy snack. But the inside is a surprise. Inside the crunchy corn exterior, is a cool, soft and cheese flavoured interior.

Do they taste of cheese? Yes, but in the same artificial way that “strawberry” flavoured things taste of what manufacturers think strawberries taste like. That is to say, not realistically.

What do I like about Smiths Cheese Flavoured Moments? I like the strange combination of crunch and cool, soft cheesy bit. You just don’t expect it. I like that they aren’t greasy or too salty. And the flavour is okay.

What don’t I like about Smiths Cheese Flavoured Moments? That taste. There’s something not right about it. Cheese doesn’t taste like this. It tastes flavoured.

Unlike the Scampi Fries, they’re just not as fun, and they taste like flavoured corn. Sure, they are perfectly adequate, but why would you choose this over something tastier? In conclusion, Smiths Cheese Flavoured Moments are fine, but not yummy enough to be a favourite.

Have you tried Smiths Cheese Flavoured Moments? What did you think of them?

Do please leave your opinions, corrections, recommendations, requests and places to buy in the comments.

Snack Food Review: Princes Mackerel Fillets in a rich tomato sauce

21 April, 2009

THE last time I tried tinned mackerel fillets, they were John West Mackerel Fillets In Curry Sauce. And they were not good. The fish were fine, but John West never put enough sauce in the tin. And that made them dry and tasteless. The last time I had Princes tinned fish however, was with Princes Herring Fillets in tangy mustard and dill sauce. Had that herring been alive, it would have been swimming, thanks to the copious amount of sauce in the tin. So, what will Princes Mackerel Fillets in a rich tomato sauce be like?

Princes Mackerel Fillets in a rich tomato sauce front of tin

What can I say about the front of the tin? Not much. It’s 125g, the same as the John West. And there used to be a price sticker for 99 pence, until I peeled it off for this photo.

One of the sides has the address for their consumer department in Liverpool. And a web address of www.princes.co.uk. Besides that, you have to look at the back for more to read.

Princes Mackerel Fillets in a rich tomato sauce back of tin

Not that there’s much to read here, either. There’s a recipe for mackerel pasta salad. There’s something about how good Omega 3 is for you. There’s a reassuringly brief list of ingredients where mackerel is 70% of the contents. There’s the big list of nutrition information that no one ever reads, which says it has lots of protein and fat. And that this is a product of Denmark.

So, are Princes Mackerel Fillets in a rich tomato sauce better than the Jon West effort? Is this the snack you should buy? Let’s find out.

Princes Mackerel Fillets in a rich tomato sauce open tin

First impressions are good. The mackerel fillets are practically floating in sauce. And in a bowl, you get two big, solid pieces of fish and plenty of sauce.

They are as tasty as they look, as well. The tomato sauce isn’t spectacular. But it serves its purpose. The fish is excellent, easily breaking into fork sized chunks. Together, they work brilliantly.

What do I like about Princes Mackerel Fillets in a rich tomato sauce? I like that it fixes what was wrong about the John West mackerel fillets. The fish quality is just as good, but Princes, again, remembered to put in enough sauce. This stops it from being the dry, tasteless experience the John West was. I also like how it doesn’t fall into the trap of being too salty, like Princes Herring Fillets were.

What don’t I like about Princes Mackerel Fillets in a rich tomato sauce? At 99 pence, they were a little on the expensive side from the off-license I bought them from. The sauce isn’t exactly inspired, either. Besides that, there’s little to complain of.

How can I sum up Princes Mackerel Fillets in a rich tomato sauce? For their sheer easy of snacking, they have to go to at least near the top of the tinned fish leader board. Better than the extraordinarily salty Princes Herring Fillets, not as dry as John West Mackerel Fillet, they are roughly on a par with the excellent John West Boneless Sardines In Tomato Sauce. This is a very, very good snack food.

Have you tried Princes Mackerel Fillets in a rich tomato sauce? What did you think of them? Do you work for Princes? Then do please leave your corrections, opinions, requests, recommendations and places to buy in the comments.

Snack Food Review: Smiths Scampi Flavour Fries

17 April, 2009

PORK scratchings, pickles and tins of small fish aren’t the only snacks you can enjoy. You could have oysters, fois gras or nibble on some diced albino tiger cub. If like me however, you only have 49 pence to spare, then you might want to consider this: a small bag of Smiths Scampi Flavour Fries.

Smiths Scampi Flavour Fries front of bag

And first impressions are not bad. The bag is in a funny green colour, unlike anything else for sale in the shop. The middle has a picture of a traditional fishing port. And there’s a picture of some strange beige lumps. They’re either pillows or pictures of what these scampi fries will look like.

The banner across the bottom of the bag describes them as a “Cereal Snack With A Delicious Scampi & Lemon Taste”. Does that fact make them high-end crisps?

Smiths Scampi Flavour Fries back of bag

The back of the bag is full of information. None of which is interesting. There’s all the usual big-brand stuff about consumer services departments and storing away from bright lights. They have a website which is www.walkers.co.uk, because of course, Walkers owns the old Smiths brand.

There’s a small teaser on the bag for their Bacon Flavour Fries and Cheese Flavoured Moments “Savoury Selection”. A table of nutrition information which will scare you with large numbers next to the word ‘fat’. Then there’s a list of ingredients for this 27g snack. Like more ingredients list, it’s impenetrable.

This only leaves one thing to do. To open the bag and report to you what they are like. Should you buy them? Let’s find out.

Smiths Scampi Flavour Fries open bag closeup

Yes they do look as funny as they do in the illustration on the front. Only much dustier. You’ll be licking a thick layer of flavouring dust off your fingers by the end.

They smell of fish. Sort of. Whatever it smells of, it smells strong. And tasty.

Are they actually tasty? Yes they are. They are like nothing else. They taste of fish, but in the form of a crunchy little snack. Imagine a combination of fish and pork scratchings, and you’d be near. In case you’re wandering, they are completely hollow. Inside the cocoon of scampi and lemon flavoured cereal snack there is nothing to be found.

What do I like about Smiths Scampi Flavour Fries? I think they’re incredibly tasty. They manage this without being too salty either. They’re not like many other snacks on the market, so they get marks for being different.

What don’t I like about Smiths Scampi Flavour Fries? Very little. If you were to nitpick, you could say you dislike the somewhat unnatural taste. Or that you don’t like the way it leaves grease and tiny bits on your fingers. But they are minor complaints.

What’s the verdict on Smiths Scampi Flavour Fries? I think they are outstanding. I love their tangy, fishy taste in the form of a strange bag of crisps. They could go well with whatever beer or spirit mix you have to hand.

Have you tried Smiths Scampi Flavour Fries? What did you think of them?

Do please share your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments.

Snack Food Review: MS Authentic Black Country Traditional Pork Scratchings

15 April, 2009

BOTH bags of pork scratchings that I’ve tried so far have been from Mr. Porky. And both have been excellent. But they’re not the only pork in town. Here is a bag of MS Traditional Pork Scratchings from a convenience store on Brick Lane.

MS Authentic Black Country Pork Snacks Traditional Pork Scratchings front

The MS name at the top has a border with words describing it as “Authentic Black Country Pork Snacks”. To hammer home the point, most of the bag is coloured black. Under the window into the bag’s contents, are the reassuring words “Finest quality Hand cooked Seasoned Pork Rind”. I don’t know about you, but the words “Traditional” and “Hand cooked” are making me salivate.

MS Authentic Black Country Pork Snacks Traditional Pork Scratchings back of bag

The back of the bag has lots of information on it. It opens with the list of ingredients which, happily, starts with pork rinds. Less happily for your heart, the second ingredient is salt. There are lots of other ingredients, some natural, some not, but all too boring to list here.

Helpfully, they have allergy advice. And there’s a big table of nutritional information. But unless you want to shock yourself with the huge fat and sodium figures, it’s best not to read it.

On the other column is the few sentences you want to read. They tell us that they’ve been making these pork scratchings for over 25 years. And that they use an “Authentic Black Country recipe”. Also making an appearance is that familiar warning that it is “Only Recommended For People With Strong Healthy Teetch”. Sound advice indeed for this kind of snack.

Also on the back of the bag, they tease you with a hint of another, probably tasty snack “Try our Authentic Black Country Pork Crunch”. Darn, that’s another snack I’ve got to look out for. If you find it before I do, leave a comment letting me know what it’s like.

The label closes with their “Heart of the Black Country” postal address. An address of Midland Snacks Limited in Wolverhampton. Apparently the Internet hasn’t reached that corner of the Black Country yet as they have no website or email address.

What are MS Traditional Pork Scratchings like? How do they compare to the Mr. Porky I’ve tried so far? I’m looking forward to finding out.

MS Authentic Black Country Pork Snacks Traditional Pork Scratchings open bag

First impressions are that these a big pieces. Maybe even bigger than Mr. Porky Prime Cut. But, like Prime Cut, there’s a variety of big and small. Somehow, these don’t look as dusty. In fact, they don’t look as well done. They look a little less crispy.

To eat, the taste is a pleasant porky seasoning. Not too salty. There’s just a gentle taste of pork and of things like pepper which must be the seasoning.

The texture depends on what the piece you eat happens to look like. If it’s a small and crinkly bit, it will be like chewing on gravel. Pick up a bigger piece, and it’s like eating some fresh, chewy pork with a crunchy top. And that seems to be what MS Traditional Pork Scratchings are about.

What am I enjoying about MS Authentic Black Country Traditional Pork Scratchings? I like how different they are to the competition. These have a decent sized chuck of regular pork attached to a decent sized layer of crunchy rind. All of which tastes good and isn’t like pouring a sachet of salt into your mouth. I also like how easy they are on the teeth compared to some of the competition.

What don’t I like about MS Traditional Pork Scratchings? They’re hard to find down here. Who know if I’ll ever get to try their Pork Crunch. Some people might object to the non-crunchy bit of the rind. Not me though. I can’t even criticise them for not having many in a bag, because they’ve compensated by having a lager than-you’d-expect bag. If you genuinely like pork scratchings, there’s like to criticise about them.

How can I sum up MS Authentic Black Country Traditional Pork Scratching? They are an excellent snack. If the strong saltiness or gravel-like texture of other pork scratchings puts you off, then try these. As far as I can tell, they are the real ale of the pork scratchings world.

Manufacturers, if you can top these, then get in touch. If you’ve tried MS Traditional Pork Scratchings, do please leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments.

Snack Food Review: Nut Cracker Crunchy Roasted Corn Chilli & Lemon Flavour Corn Snack

13 April, 2009

I PICKED up this oddity from a shop on Brick Lane. According to the front, it is some kind of chilli and lemon flavoured roasted corn snack. Sounds intriguing and delicious.

Nut Cracker Crunchy Roasted Corn Chilli & Lemon Flavour Corn Snack front of bag

The back label is similarly enigmatic.

Nut Cracker Crunchy Roasted Corn Chilli & Lemon Flavour Corn Snack back of bag

The ingredients are… okay. I think. Maize, soya bean oil and seasoning sound right for the snack like this. The bag is a small 40 gram size. It lists the nutrition information. Which you will no doubt ignore. And it was packed by Berkshire Foods Ltd in Gosport, England.

The interesting bit, though, is that near the “Best Before” date we learn that Nutcracker is a trade mark of Nutcracker Ltd. A company from Nairobi, Kenya. What we have here, is an African snack food. A fact that immediately score it points of interesting-ness and curiosity value.

What are Nut Cracker Crunchy Roasted Corn Chilli & Lemon Flavour Corn Snacks like? Do I think you should buy them? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Nut Cracker Crunchy Roasted Corn Chilli & Lemon Flavour Corn Snack open bag closeup

They are as funny looking as they are on the front of the bag. The look half-way between corn from corn on a cob and popcorn. And with a funny orangey colouring and a dusting of flavour.

What are they like? Eating them is a strange experience. They’re not soft, but crunchy. Very tough and crunchy. Amazingly, they’re like pork scratchings.

How do they taste? The bag makes them sound as hot and spicy as a jar of chilli sauce. But they’re not. They’re as hot and spicy as hot chilli Doritos are. And that’s no bad thing. Hot chilli Doritos are very nice. You can even detect a tiny hint of lemon. But I get the impression that were it not for the heavy dusting of flavour, they would have no flavour at all.

What is there to like about Nut Cracker Crunchy Roasted Corn Chilli & Lemon Flavour Corn Snacks? I like how funny they are. I like how heavy and filling they are, making this tiny bag a real snack. And I like the strong but not inedibly strong flavour.

What don’t I like about Nut Cracker Crunchy Roasted Corn Chilli & Lemon Flavour Corn Snacks? They are hard work. They are heavy, crunchy and chewy. Not fun and light like some snacks. Some people won’t like how strong tasting they are. But they’ve got to do that because on their own, there is no taste at all. It would be like eating, well, raw corn. The other downside is how hard they are to buy around here.

To sum up, Nut Cracker Crunchy Roasted Corn Chilli & Lemon Flavour Corn Snacks are a quirky and filling little snack. I’ve never had anything like this before. And I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised too. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you’re looking for interesting snacks, you can do worse than Nut Cracker Crunchy Roasted Corn Chilli & Lemon Flavour Corn Snacks.

Snack Food Review: Princes Herring Fillets in a tangy mustard and dill sauce

12 April, 2009

SO FAR, my favourite tinned-fish snack is John West Boneless Sardines In Tomato Sauce. But recently, bigger tins have been catching my eye in the supermarket. Princes have some gigantic 200g tin of Herring Fillets. One in tomato sauce, the other “in a tangy mustard and dill sauce”. I’ve opted for Princes Herring Fillets in a tangy mustard and dill sauce because tomato is everywhere. Mustard sauce is harder to get right.

Princes Herring Fillets in a tangy dill and mustard sauce front of tin

Not only is it by far the biggest tinned-fish I could find. It’s also the first I’ve reviewed here by that other big-name in tinned-fish; Princes. At more than £1.10 pence in my local Tesco, it’s the most expensive as well. Normal sized tins are around 60 to 90 pence.

On one side of the tin is the guarantee of quality where you will find the Liverpool address of Princes Ltd Customer Care people. They have a website printed on there too, at www.princes.co.uk. I wouldn’t bother clicking the link though. It is a boring corporate website. All they have about this product is some vague information about the Princes brand, which is one of very many they own. If you have a business studies assignment to write however, it would be a very good place to look.

Here is the other side of the tin.

Princes Herring Fillets in a tangy dill and mustard sauce back of tin

And there is nothing interesting to say about it. It starts with a recipe for herring wraps. The yellow stripe is about the benefits of Omega 3 fish oils, reminding you to eat two portions of oily fish a week. Under that is the nutrition information, which nobody reads.

Then we get to the ingredients. These are slightly interesting. It’s mostly good stuff like herring fillets and mustard. With only a tiny amount of not so good stuff like an E number. The very worst news however is that it is not a product of Liverpool, but of Germany. Why, with our fishing fleets, can we not have any tinned fish coming out of our very own country? Why? Please, someone explain this madness.

So, what are Princes Herring Fillets in a tangy mustard and dill sauce actually like? Let’s find out.

Princes Herring Fillets in a tangy dill and mustard sauce open tin

Well, it doesn’t lack sauce. Three’s so much of the stuff, you can’t see any fish. What happens when you tip it into a bowl? They look like this.

Princes Herring Fillets in a tangy dill and mustard sauce tipped into a bowl

You can see big pieces of fish, and fish skin. The photo looks yucky, but it’s not as bad as it looks. I’m just happy that there’s enough sauce to go around this time. Unlike some tins of fish.

It smells tasty, too. For some reason, it reminds me of the way Big Macs at McDonalds smell. A similarity in the dill pickles and mustard sauce they use perhaps?

But what are they like to eat? A few mouthfuls in, and the results are good. The herring fillets fall apart into neat little chucks that make eating them a doddle. The pieces with skin pose little challenge to eat. There are no manky bits or bones to worry about. And there’s more sauce than I can handle. This does make a nice change.

The sauce is tangy and tasty. Not very mustardy, but you can forgive it that. It’s tastier than the smattering of sauce you find in most tinned fish. That said, it is a bit salty for my liking.

What am I enjoying about Prices Herring Fillets in a tangy mustard and dill sauce? Quite a lot of things. The fish is tasty and easy to eat. The sauce is mostly excellent. The tin is bigger than most, so it’s good if you’re hungry. This is shaping up to be an excellent light snack.

But what am I not enjoying about Princes Herring Fillets in a tangy mustard and dill sauce? About two-thirds of the way through now, and the saltiness is getting to me. Make sure you have a drink to hand when you snack on this. I also cant’ help noticing that your basic herring doesn’t have much of a taste, Besides that, these tins are a little harder to find in the shops than your usual tins of sardines.

So where does this leave Princes Herring Fillets in a tangy mustard and dill sauce? They are an excellent snack. There’s more fish and sauce than most other tins. Which is good because most other tins never have enough. I just can’t ignore how salty they are. If it wasn’t for that, they could be my new favourite. Recommended for hungry tinned fish fans.

Have you tried Princes Herring Fillets in a tangy mustard and dill sauce or the ones in tomato sauce? What did you think of them? Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments.

Snack Food Review: John West Sild

3 April, 2009

SO I’ve found some good tinned fish. John West Boneless Sardines were tasty and free of yucky bits. John West Mackerel Fillets In Curry Sauce were okay, but too dry. But there’s bound to be better out there. Which is why I’m trying this: John West Sild In Tomato Sauce.

John West Sild In Tomato Sauce front of tin

I don’t know anything about sild. But the picture on the front looked nice. And it features a competition to win a “luxury get-away to the Isle of Mull”. I couldn’t resist picking up this 110g tin from the shop-shelf in Tesco.

The sides and back of the tin don’t tell much about Sild either. The back is just a big list of ingredients and Nutrition Information.

John West Sild In Tomato Sauce back of tin

It has 232 calories and 14.3g of fat. Which is uninteresting. What do Sild go with? How do you eat them? The tin doesn’t say. You can thank me for taking the risk on your behalf, in the comments at the end of the post.

So, what do John West Sild In Tomato Sauce look like? What are they like to eat? Should you try them? Let’s find out.

John West Sild In Tomato Sauce open tin

To its credit, they look delicious. More so than most tinned fish. And it gets better when you tip them into a bowl.

John West Sild In Tomato Sauce in a bowl

Look at that. Real little fish. They haven’t been processed into oblivion. Granted, sild aren’t the biggest fish, but you could tell that from their small tin. And they look yummy.

So, how do they taste? I’m three sild in, and first impressions are good. There’s no bony or disgusting manky bits. Instead, you can happily eat everything in there. Most conveniently, each sild is the right size for a mouthful. One sild, one fork, one mouthful.

Picking one apart however does reveal some yuckiness. Sild, it turns out, are vertebrates. And as such, they do have spines. And a tiny bit of mankiness. Sure, you can arduously remove every piece. But from the few I’ve eaten so far from this tin, you don’t need to. Unlike sardines, you can chomp away without worrying about bones or yuckiness.

If I had to criticise John West Sild In Tomato sauce, it would be the taste. Or lack thereof. Sild, I’ve learnt, don’t have much taste. John West have done their best to compensate by filling the tin with tomato sauce. But John West are never going to pick a flavourful sauce. The result is a snack that tastes a little of fish, and a little bit more of tomato sauce. But ultimately, not of very much.

What do I like about John West Sild In Tomato Sauce? I like that they are exactly the right size. I like how easy and clean they are to eat. If, like me, you think sardines are icky, these are easier, yet still sardiny in character. I also like how John West have filled the tin with enough sauce this time.

What don’t I like about Job West Sild In Tomato Sauce? There’s not much to hate. They’re not boneless, so that might bother you. But the bones are so unobtrusive, you’ll be hard pressed to even notice. Especially if you’re hungry. If you want something fishy or with real flavour, you might want to look elsewhere.

To sum up, John West Sild In Tomato Sauce are a good value, easy to eat fishy snack. Easier than sardines, not as dry as mackerel fillets, more adventurous than boneless sardines. Just lacking any real taste. These are worth your time. Give them a try and leave a comment at the end of this post.

Have you tried John West Sild In Tomato Sauce? What did you think? Do please leave your opinions, corrections, requests and recommendations here.

Snack Food Review: Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers

21 March, 2009

IF Turkish pickles like Baktat Pickled Gherkins are salty. And sweet and sour pickles from Mrs. Elswood and Wardour were delicious. What will these Lithuanian pickled cucumbers be like?

Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers jar

This jar I bought for about £1.30 pence from an East European seller at the Brick Lane Sunday market. I’ve never seen them anywhere else. Although I’m sure you could if you scoured the East European shops around London.

I think the manufacturer is Rivona. But I could be wrong. Translators, do please leave a comment at the end of this post. What does Rosiškio Marinuoti Agurkai mean?

The ingredients list describes, in English fortunately, sweet and sour pickled whole cucumbers. So they should be nice. Sugar and salt are high on the list of ingredients. But something seems out of place. Normally, in a jar of pickles, they throw in lots of spicy and peppery things. This is no exception. But, for some unknown reason, it is mostly carrots. Just look at the bottom of the jar. It it literally packed with little pieces of carrot. One of the worlds least tasty vegetables. Why would they do that?

Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers ingredients side of label

Also looking into the jar, there’s something unusual about the cucumbers. Normally, they’re small, long and thin. Like a half-smoked cigar. But these look fatter.

Over on the other side of the label, and there are a three other useful bits of information.

Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers barcode side of label

The first is that this is a gigantic 760g jar. The second is that it comes from somewhere called Rokiškis in Lithuania. That would explain one of the words on the label. The last detail is the web address. The one printed on the label is www.rivona.lt. Their English language version is at http://www.rivona.lt/en/titulinis_en.html. They seem to be an importer of everything except beer.

So, what will they taste like? What will they look like? And should you buy them? Let’s find out.

Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers open jarRivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers on a forkRivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers missing a bite

They are one of the most pungent pickles I’ve ever smelt. They smell pickly, so nothing unexpected. They’re also covered it bits of all the things they put in the jar. Just look at the photos. Pieces of carrot, onion and spices are strewn over the pickled cucumbers. The fatness of the cucumbers has an interesting side effect too. They are full of seeds.

What do they taste of? They taste sweet and sour. Neither really dominates. It has the tanginess of vinegar and salt balanced by sweetness. They are not bad at all. The vegetables and spices add something too. Is that carrot I can taste?

Texture is a bit different to normal as well. With them being quite a lot bigger than some pickles, the crunchiness is much more interesting.

What do I like about Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers? I like the taste. I like tastes of the sweet and sour and the other things they crammed into the jar. And I like the big pickled cucumbers they use.

What don’t I like about Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers? If you want strong tasting pickles, look elsewhere. Some people might not like the taste of vegetables, either.

To sum up, Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers are very good. I like them. I wanted something quirky, and these deliver exactly that. Their size and their funny taste make them an excellent snack.

These are much more interesting than the rather generic Wardour and Cypressa and all the other jars you see in corner shops. I like Lithuanian pickles. And I think you should try them too.

Have you tried Rivona Rokiškio Marinuoti Agurkai Pickled Cucumbers? Can you translate anything? Do please leave your opinions, translations, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments.

Sweets Review: Tilley’s Emerald Toffees / Oatfield Emerald Chocolate Caramels

19 March, 2009

THE last bag of Tilley’s brand traditional sweets I tried was Jargonelle Pears. They were a nice, but unexciting sweet experience. Something I’m expecting to be repeated here, with a bag of Tilley’s Emerald Toffees.

Tilley's Emerald Toffees / Oatfield Chocolate Caramels front of bag

Everything worth saying about the outside was said before, when I looked at their Jargonelle Pears. That means I can skip the boring part and get straight to telling you what these Emerald Toffees taste like. Or does it?

Something is amiss on the back.

Tilley's Emerald Toffees / Oatfield Chocolate Caramels back of bag

The back is where they list the ingredients for every single one of their sweets. Except, that is, for Emerald Toffees. I’ve been up and down the alphabetical list and they are simply not there.

Does it bother me? Not even slightly. You don’t eat sweets because you’re worried about antioxidents, sucrose and sodium bicarbonate. You eat them because you want your taste buds to have a party.

If, however, you are the sort of person who does worry about such things, then you’ll want to look at the bottom right-hand corner of the bag. That’s because the full Northants address of Tilley’s Sweets Limited is printed there. As is a telephone number, fax number and email address (info@tilleyssweets.com). You can even visit the website, www.tilleyssweets.com, where you discover that Tilley’s is part of Zed Candy. Are there any independent sweet makers left in the country? Comments at the end of the post please.

In the bag, there are about twenty of these little things.CLOSE UP

Tilley's Emerald Toffees / Oatfield Chocolate Caramels open, wrapper and unwrapped

I admit it. I didn’t expect to find chocolate covered anything in the wrapper. Looking closer at each wrapper does reveal some answers. Oddly, they have Oatfield branding. Which could explain why the ingredients weren’t listed on the bag. And, although the word “Emerald” is on there, they’re also called “Chocolate Caramels”.

Actually eating them reveals yet more questions and answers. What they are, are small rectangular pieces of something caramely and toffee-ish, covered with chocolate. There’s even something almost nutty or nougat-like about the taste. The whole thing is chewy enough to give you a minute or two of chocolaty, chewy, sweetness.

What do I like about them? A lot. I like the tastes of chocolate plus all the other confectionary tastes that I’m not talented enough to identify. I like how much chewy mileage you can get out of each one. And I liked the surprise of finding something completely unexpected in the wrapper.

What don’t I like? I don’t like not knowing that they are. Are they Oatfield Emerald Chocolate Caramels and not Tilley’s Emerald Toffees? And if I had to nitpick, I would say that they’re not exciting enough. Nothing is going to fizz loudly or turn your tongue blue.

What are they all about? That’s harder to pinpoint than you’d think. We might have a rogue batch here. Have these sweets landed in the wrong bags by mistake during packing? If you know the answer, do please leave a comment at the end of the post. Whatever the case, these Emerald thing-a-ma-bobs are delicious traditional sweets. They might not have any novelty value, but they are darned nice confectionary.

Have you tried these, whatever their true identity is? Have you got any insight or answers to the profound questions raised in this piece of serious journalism? If so, then do please leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Snack Food Review: Wardour Pickled Sweet and Sour Gherkins

18 March, 2009

SO far on my search for the perfect pickle, results have been mixed. Cypressa Gherkins were plain. Baktat Pickled Gherkins were salty and awful. Mrs Elswood Pickled Whole Sweet Cucumbers on the other hand were delicious, sweet and cucumbery. Tasty, but lacking the tangy-ness that I’m looking for. So what will Wardour Pickled Sweet and Sour Gherkins taste like?

Wardour Pickled Sweet and Sour Gherkins jar

At £1.25 pence for a 670g full jar, it seems like quite good value. The jar certainly looks packed with plenty of unidentified stuff besides the gherkins.Can’t say that I’ve ever heard of “Wardour Famous Food” though. Have you?

Over on the left-hand-side of the label, and we can see all the little details that you’d want to know about what’s in the jar.

Wardour Pickled Sweet and Sour Gherkins left of label

There’s a big table full of nutrition information. While I’m going to ignore. There’s a list of ingredients too, which you should pay attention to. On the other jars of pickles, salty or sugary water was the order of the day. Wardour’s sweet and sour gherkins however have spirit vinegar and sugar as the order of the day with salt and spices behind. And that is going to make these taste different to any I’ve tried so far. Not different to plenty of others on the market mind you. You’ll see the same thing on plenty of jars on shop shelves.

For the very curious, there’s a web address on this side of the label. Oddly, it’s not wardour.com. But rather www.waissels.com. That’s because Waissel’s is an importer. Their Wardour page is at http://www.waissels.com/wardour/index.htm.

Over on the other side of the label, there’s little to report.

Wardour Pickled Sweet and Sour Gherkins right of label

As you can see.

So let’s move to the interesting bit. What do Wardous Pickled Sweet and Sour Gherkins taste like? Will they be better than the ones I’ve tried so far? Should you buy them?

Let’s find out.

Wardour Pickled Sweet and Sour Gherkins open jarWardour Pickled Sweet and Sour Gherkins on a fork

They’re the right size for your fork. They’re chewy. But the taste is something else. The main taste is sweet, like Mrs Elswood Pickled Whole Sweet Cucumbers. That was unexpected because sugar isn’t the top ingredient. But it doesn’t end there. The vinegar adds a tangy angle to the taste and rounds it off nicely. There’s also some hints of the spicy stuff that’s also in the jar.

What do I like about Wardour Pickled Sweet and Sour Gherkins? A lot. They are tasty and delicious.

What don’t I like? Not much that I can think of. I would like more tangy-ness and a little less sweetness. They are savoury snacks afterall. I could ask for the same flavour but in the form of pickled cucumbers. But those would be minor complaints.

To sum up, Wardour Pickled Sweet and Sour Gherkins are a great example of what pickles should be. Not totally perfects. They are tasty though. Well worth your purchase.

Have you tried Wardour Pickled Sweet and Sour Gherkins? What did you think of them? Got any requests, recommendations or places to buy that you want to share? Then do please leave a comment here.

Snack Food Review: Mr. Porky Pork Scratchings Seasoned Pork Rind

15 March, 2009

WHAT goes better with a bottle of ale, than a small bag of crinkly pork fragments that are as crunchy as gravel? Mr. Porky Prime Cut Scratchings made by Red Mill Snack Foods Ltd in Wednesbury, West Midlands, were inconsistent, but tasty. Here is the ubiquitous (you can find them in most corner shops) cousin of Prime Cut Scratchings, Mr. Porky Pork Scratchings. The down-to-earth, straightforward seasoned pork rind pork scratchings.

Mr. Porky Pork Scratchings front of bag

There’s not much to say about the front. It’s unmistakeably a Mr. Porky snack. They are, apparently, “Best Ever”. I’ll take their word on that. What does the back say?

Mr. Porky Pork Scratchings back of bag

No, not much different to the other Mr. Porky pork scratchings. That’s good, because it means I can whizz through what it says without dwelling on the boring small print. If you want to read absolutely everything, then read my post about Mr. Porky Prime Cut Scratchings here.

The main ingredients are, unsurprisingly, pork rind, pork fat and salt. There’s a few other things too, but, pleasingly, no E numbers. The full address of Red Mill Snack Foods Ltd is on there in case you want to write to them. But I think you should go to their fun little website at www.mrporky.co.uk instead.

There’s also a big table of Nutrition Information where you can read about how much fat and salt you’re about to consume. But you don’t want to worry yourself by reading it. Make the most of these snacks now. Quickly. Before the nanny-state bans them or slaps a tax on them.

So, what do Mr. Porky Pork Scratchings look like? What do they taste like? And should you buy them? These questions I shall answer now…

Mr. Porky Pork Scratchings open bag close up

They are smallish pieces and tiny pieces of seasoned pork rind. About the size of popcorn. They smell a little of salt and seasoning. But not very strongly.

What do they taste like? They taste of seasoning and salt. I can’t taste much pork in there, but it is there. Hiding in the background. There’s nothing strong about the way Mr. Porky Pork Scratchings taste.

They’re not very tough on the teeth either. These are crunchy with very occasional chewiness. The crunchiness isn’t hard going like some pork scratchings. Just satisfyingly crunchy.

What do I like about Mr. Porky Pork Scratchings? I like the easy to eat crunchiness compared to hard as rock other pork scratchings. The taste isn’t off-putting in anyway. Even the most timid of snackers will be able to stomache the lightly salted and seasoned Mr. Porky Pork Scratchings.

What about the downsides? Well this ubiquitous little bag is so little, that you don’t get much for your money. You’ll have finished them before you’ve even begun. If you want extreme crunchiness or taste, you won’t find it here, either.

How can I sum up Mr. Porky Pork Scratchings? Quite easily. They are simple, straight forward, adequately tasty and easy to eat. For pork scratchings that is. Almost so inoffensive, you could call them boring. No wander they are what nearly every corner shop in the land chooses to stock.

Have you tried Mr. Porky Pork Scratchings? Do you work for Red Mill? What do you think of them? Do please leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments.

Snack Food Review: John West Boneless Sardines In Tomato Sauce

10 March, 2009

THESE are my favourite tinned fish. So far. Unlike Brunswick Canadian Style Sardines, you don’t spend half an hour picking out the bones and mankey bits. And unlike John West Mackerel Fillets in Curry Sauce, they aren’t dry. So far then, John West Boneless Sardines In Tomato Sauce avoid the major pitfalls of tinned fish. But what do you think? And there’s always room for improvement. Time once again to cast a critical net into the sea of tinned fish.

John West Boneless Sardines In Tomato Sauce top of tin

The tin is quite a lot larger yet flatter than most tins of sardines and mackerel. The end result of which is that John West Boneless Sardines weigh 95g. 30g less than the mackerel fillets and 11g less than the very bony Brunswick sardines. That means about a tenth of your usual tin of sardines consists of bones and that grimy stuff you don’t want to eat.

Around the very this sides of the tin is some writing. One side informs you of how doctors recommend that you eat at least one oil-rich dish of fish a week. Imagine how useful it would be having your product recommended by doctors. That’s an endorsement that’s hard to beat. My goal is to find doctors to proclaim the health benefits of emailing me ones bank account details and passwords. I intend to use the proceeds to buy the worldwide stock of oily fish, making me the healthiest and longest living human in the world.

On another side, they say that there might still be some tiny bones in there. So be careful. That the ingredients are sardine fillets, water, concentrated tomato puree, sunflower oil, salt spice and that it may contain mustard. Then the sad news that it was produced in Portugal for John West Foods Ltd in Liverpool. If you can think of a good reason why our own fisherman and fish processors couldn’t produce this for John West, do please leave an explanation in the comments at the end of this post.

The underside of the tin is utterly packed with detail.

John West Boneless Sardines In Tomato Sauce underside of tin

There’s a recipe for Sardine Pizza. Opening instructions. The barcode. And a huge table full of nutrition information. None of which I understand. Fortunately, they’ve summarised the important bits at the bottom. This can has 156 calories and 9.5g of fat. Is that a lot? If you know the answer, leave a comment at the end of the post.

Once open, you’re met with filleted sardines. Filleted sardines that look a lot more fish-like than the filleted mackerel I tried a few weeks ago.

John West Boneless Sardines In Tomato Sauce opened tin

What’s more, if you coerce them out of the tin and into a bowl, you can see for yourself something that is recognisably fishy. Yes, you can see the skin. And yes, that is a delicious dollop of tomato sauce from the tin.

John West Boneless Sardines In Tomato Sauce in a bowl

What do they taste like? They taste of sardines in tomato sauce. Exactly what they should taste like. They crumble into easily edible chunks with little prodding from my fork. And there is zero mess or preparation. No stringy bones to uncover, attempt to remove and miss pieces of. No gunky grey manky bits to pick around. With the healthy dose of tomato sauce, these John West Boneless Sardines In Tomato Sauce aren’t dry, either.

Are there any downsides? From what I can tell, John West drew up a list of downsides to their tinned fish and produced their boneless sardines range as an answer. Because it addresses nearly everything I thought that was wrong with other tinned fish.

But there must be something. If I had to nitpick, it would be the sauce. In Tesco, there was only tomato sauce, which I have here, and sunflower oil. Fine If you’re making a sandwich, but hardly exciting. Maybe salty old sea dogs are the only people who eat tinned fish. The sort of people who don’t like exciting flavours. I don’t know. But I know that I would love to have some seriously spicy and interesting flavours to go with these perfectly prepared sardines.

How can I sum up John West Boneless Sardines In Tomato Sauce? If you want a tasty, good value, easy to eat small tin of fish, I know of no better choice. The sauce might be boring. But it’s worth it for the time you save picking out bones and other gunk you normally get. A must try choice for the lazy fish fan.

Have you tried John West Boneless Sardines? Do you work for John West? Did you like them? Got any recommendations, requests or places to buy? Then do please leave a comment here.

Sweets Review: Devona Jelly Babies

27 February, 2009

IN for testing this time is a bag of Devona Jelly Babies. The same Devona that brought me nice-but-dry Toasted Tea Cakes last time. And from the same Brick Lane Sunday market stall. Though I’m sure you can get them from lots of shops too.

Devona Jelly Babies bag

Being a Devona brand of bagged sweets, it looks much the same as every other bag of Devona sweets. That means very little writing or labels to get in your way. And that’s a good thing, because you can see exactly what you’re getting.

Devona Jelly Babies print on front of bag

The print on the front and bottom-right corner suffers though. I’ts just too easily scratched off. Not as bad on this one, but Toasted Tea Cakes was almost impossible to read. This time, we can finally read that it comes from Appleton & Sons Ltd. And what’s more, they’re local, coming from Bow in E3. That makes these, and all Devona sweets, proper East End sweets, and that scores them bonus points.

Devona Jelly Babies barcode

The barcode and ingredients on the other side however are badly scratched off. Honestly, you’d think there was someone going over each bag with wire wool before they left the factory.

What I can make out is that this is a 160g bag. And that sugar, glucose syrup and gelling agent and lots of E numbers make up the bulk of these jelly babies.

What do they look like close up? Like this…

Devona Jelly Babies jelly baby close-up

As far as I can tell, they’re bigger than the more mainstream jelly babies out there. I’ve counted five different colours. And each one is covered in a kind of sugar that leaves white marks on your fingers. Like the sort that icing for cakes is made out of. What’s it called? Caster sugar? Is that it?

So, what are they like? The sugary surface gets them off to tasty a good start. There’s an almost hard surface. One you bite through, you get a soft, moist jelly interior. It tastes a little of the colour of the jelly baby. But not much. Mild sweetness and mild jelly flavour are where the flavours and tastes end. These jelly babies are all about the funny texture.

What do I like about Devona Jelly Babies? Quite a lot more than any I’ve tried so far. They’re not too small. The combination of solid-ish body and squishy insides make them an interesting eat. They’re not too dry. And there’s nothing too strong to put off even timid sweet fans.

What don’t I like about Devona Jelly Babies? For a start, there’s not enough in a bag. You’ll polish them off in moments. They don’t have enough taste or flavour. There’s little to surprise you. No explosion of fizz, crackle, tang or sourness.

To sum up, Devona Jelly Babies are very edible little sweets. Not exciting. Just satisfying and tasty.

Have you tried Devona Jelly Babies? Do you work for Devona? Then do please leave a comment. What did you think of them? Got any requests, recommendations or places to buy?

Snack Food Review: Mrs Elswood Pickled Whole Sweet Cucumbers

29 January, 2009

THE pickles I’ve tried so far have been disappointing. Cypressa Gherkins were tasteless and Baktat Pickled Gherkins were too salty. Probably because salt was one of the main ingredients. So, to get that tasty, tangy, crunchy pickle, I’ve looked out one that doesn’t have salt as one of the chief ingredients. For this little experiment, I’ve picked out what must be the UK market leader: Mrs Elswood Pickled Whole Sweet Cucumbers.

Mrs Elswood Pickled Whole Sweet Cucumbers jar

I love the “Mrs Elswood” name and logo. She is the archetypal Jewish mother. And for a jar of pickles, that’s perfect and ironic at the same time. A bit like having Welsh Coal Miner brand Welsh Cakes. For the culturally oversensitive, don’t worry, I have ancestry in both of the groups I’ve just offended.

Back to the jar of pickles, and the barcode side of the label reveals some interesting information.

Mrs Elswood Pickled Whole Sweet Cucumbers barcode side of label

Unlike the last two jars I tried, this one is British. It comes from Empire Food Brokers Ltd from Northolt. Wherever that is. They have a web address which is www.empirefoodbrokers.com. They have an annoying, Flash heavy website. So to save you time, the Mrs Elswood homepage is at http://www.empirefoodbrokers.com/main/mrselswood.htm

The other details are the weight. Net weight is 670g. Drained weight is 360g.

The other side is packed with information.

Mrs Elswood Pickled Whole Sweet Cucumbers other side of label

Because these are from here in the UK, you get a big table full of nutritional information. Where you’ll be pleased to see that there is very little fat. Albeit compensated with lots of carbohydrates and sugar.

Over on the ingredients list, the list is cucumbers, acetic acid, sugar, salt, onions, mustard seeds, flavouring, firming agent (calcium chloride) and colour E101. Not many of which I know anything about. There’s a fine selection of other gubbins in there besides the cucumbers. You can see that in the photo. There’s more sugar than salt which will hopefully make them taste better. These aren’t dill cucumbers either.

What are they like? Will thy be tastier, tangier and crunchier than the competition? Should you buy a jar? Time to find out…

Mrs Elswood Pickled Whole Sweet Cucumbers jar open

The first thing you notice is just how big they are compared to the petite dill cucumbers in most other jars. Therein lies the trade-off. Each one makes a little snack in its own right. But you get fewer per jar.

Mrs Elswood Pickled Whole Sweet Cucumbers on a fork

The first thing you notice, the thing that catches you totally off-guard is how sweet they are. Even though I knew that sugar was high up on the ingredients list, I just didn’t expect it to taste sugary. If you’re not used to it you will be surprised because you simply don’t expect to taste sugar on a cucumber out of a water filled jar.

Sugar isn’t the only thing in the taste. There hints of the salt, onions and mustard. All of which makes it a bit more interesting. But mostly it’s about the sugar.

So the tastiness is accounted for. What about tanginess? It has some of that. But the sugary-ness makes tanginess almost irrelevant.

How about crunchiness then? It has some of that too. The cucumbers make a satisfying crunch. But they’re a bit softer than I’d like. Overall, perfectly adequately crunchy is what they are.

What do I like about Mrs Elswood Pickled Whole Sweet Cucumbers? Quite a few things. The unexpected sugariness makes these quirky and edible. Very edible. They would be fantastic in sandwiches and things. In fact, anywhere you want the benefits of pickled cucumber without salt and vinegar. I like how big these cucumbers are. Big enough for your fork or to put on a plate with your lunch. Not so big that you need help to hoist it out of the jar.

Are there any downsides to Mrs Elswood Pickled Whole Sweet Cucumbers? For some reason, they kept reminding me of the pickles you get in subs and burgers. That meant I had a constant urge to eat a Hearty Italian bread roll. Evidently, they use sweet pickles in subs and burgers. Mind you, that’s no bad thing. Some people won’t like it though. Also, there’s that trade-off again. I’ve had two so far and there are only six left.

To conclude, Mrs Elswood Pickled Whole Sweet Cucumbers are the best I’ve tried yet. They have the right size and taste for snacks on their own or as an addition to a sandwich. Which is not something I recommended about the other two. This is well worth buying.

Have you tried Mrs Elswood Pickled Whole Sweet Cucumbers? What did you think? Do please leave your corrections, opinions, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments section.

Sweets Review: Devona Toasted Teacakes

26 January, 2009

TILLEY’S Jargonelle Pears were a good start. Perfectly respectable. But lacking that eccentric yummy-ness that sweets need. Time to see if Toasted Teacakes from Devona fare better.

Devona Toasted Teacakes front of bag

This little bag was bought from the same place as Tilley’s – a trader at Brick Lane’s Sunday market. And it’s a plain little bag. There’s a “Devona” roundel sporting the words “Quality sweets for over 50 years” stuck on. But little else. Or is there?

There are some words printed on the bottom-right hand corner. Only they’ve been rubbed into illegibility. I think it used to say “Toasted Teacakes” and something else. But what that other thing was, we may never know.

The back of the bag isn’t exactly crammed with detail. What we get instead is a little white box.

Devona Toasted Teacakes back of bag

In that box, we learn that these sweets are called Toasted Teacakes. That they are make mostly of desiccated coconut and sugar. That the bag weighs in at 140g. And… not much else besides. This bag is leaving the sweets to do the talking. So let’s find out what they’re like and if you should buy a bag.

Devona Toasted Teacakes open bag

They look yummy enough. I’d describe them as little cylinders of coconut that’s been lightly toasted at each end. Which is what I’m hoping they taste like.

That’s exactly how they taste. They taste a little of coconut. Nothing more to say about the taste. But there is something to say about the texture.

Normally when you enjoy a coconut based sweet, it crumbles as easily as sand. Not Devona Toasted Teacakes however. These are as solid and as chewy as popcorn. Something that catches you by surprise. You don’t expect coconut to be as chewy as this.

What do I like about Devona Toasted Teacakes? I like coconut. I think it should be in everything. It doesn’t taste as if it’s been pumped full of chemicals. Which is good. It’s chewy enough for you to get a good few seconds out of each one. And you get a good number in each bag.

What of the downsides to Devona Toasted Teacakes? There’s not a lot of flavour. And compared to some sweets on the market, they don’t surprise you enough. When you bite into the chewy coconut, you half hope to be greeted by an explosion of fizz. But that doesn’t happen. Which could make them a little boring.

To sum up Devona Toasted Teacakes are yummy in a conservative coconut way. If you like coconut based sweets, you’ll probably enjoy these. If you like exciting or funny looking sweets, keep looking.


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