Thursday, 7 June 2012

Forgotten Favourites: Fishfingers & Liquorice Allsorts

I've spoken before about foods we love but just never seem to eat very often until a wave of retro cravings and sentimality forces up to satisfy that need. Today, this was fishfingers and liquorice allsorts. Two very different products but both forgotten favourites of mine that deserved to be resucitated.

The fishfingers came about after a conversation about fishfinger baguettes with a friend. For something so simple, this really satisifies on all levels. The crunchy carbohydrate goodness of a crisp, crunchy baguette, the cooling tartare sauce and the soft, warming fishfingers - it's a perfect threesome. What I love about fishfingers is how the breadcrmbs and tender cod all meld into one. The outside isn't crunchy and crisp (that's what the baguette is for) but forms a delicious skin around the melt in the mouth fillet inside that blends seamlessly with it but adds its own flavour.

And liquorice allsorts? Well, this was the result of a buy one get one free offer (damn supermarkets and their sugar peddling!). Alongside some Bassett's Jelly Babies (which frankly, I can't wait to get my teeth into), I purchased some liquorice allsorts. I absolutely adore these - to be frank, they are a strong contender for my favourite sweet.

But I think the reason I never eat them, is that they are an acquired taste. When a family member buys sweets for a Saturday night in or a colleague is getting sweets to share round the office, they never choose the poor liquorice allsrot because not everyone likes them. Instead, you usually end up with some bland rubbish to appease those who don't possess tastebuds. (It's the same with Marks & Spencer mini bites - in an effort to please everyone, we always end up with the dullest choices at work - the brownies and chocolate rolls - why can we never have the absolute ecstacy of the Oatberry Clusters or the sweet clusters of Rocky Road?)

I, for one, love the simple Allsort and its sweet but peppery charms. Even to look at, they're pleasing. All those bright, neon colours so striking in the way they contrast one another. I would much rather have a picture of liqorice allsorts on my wall than a Van Gogh. They're just so tempting looking. And as for taste, something so sweet is inevitably going to be a winner in my book. Combine that with a lovely texture, that is chewy and almost gritty but also soft and yielding and it's sweet nirvana.


I probably won't have fishfingers or liquorice allsorts for while now as they'll get lost in the sea of tempting choices I face everyday but though they may be temporarily forgotten, they'll never die out. They're just too good.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Rude Health 7 Grain Granola Honey Nut

'Breakfast like a King' is a phrase that's always bandied around but I do truly believe that breakfast is the most special meal of a day. It's the first thing we eat, setting us up for a day of what we can only hope will be filled with culinary delights. A good breakfast is so important to me, it's a celebration of waking up and the promise of a new day and if I don't have something tasty and satisying, it's automatically makes me just a little bit downcast.

Unfortunately, Rude Health's 7 Grain Honey Nut granola didn't fulfil what I want from my first meal of the day. The company's website reiterates the importance of breakfast and eating like a king at a breakfast but I felt this was more of a pauper's breakfast.

I absolutely adore granola. I've spoken about it before being the cereal equivalent of cocaine and I usually cannot trust myself to have it in the house (I once consumed a 600g box of Quaker Oat's Granola in 3 days) but I felt like having an indulgent breakfast and bought it because it was on special offer (another mistake, it's always worth spending more on food).

The granola isn't horrible as such but it is lacking. Whereas the Quaker one gives you great boulders of sweet, crunchy oats, this comes out as a pathetic rubble. The honey nut flavouring is nice but it's not as sinfully satisfying as the Honey granola from Dorset Cereals. The lack of raisins or any other dried fruit takes away the nice mix of textures and tastes you get from other granolas and the whole thing is just a bit dull.

I am an incredibly greedy person so it's no suprise that my biggest disappointment was the portion size. The recommended portion size is 40g. I went over this and measured myself out 50g. But this barely covered the base of the bowl. It was a sad scattering of small rubble, not the impressive mountain of clusters of oats, punctuated by fruity dots of joy that I usually expect from a granola. Sure, I could of had more but looking at the nutritional content, 50g was sufficient. And for something fairly indulgent, it doesn't taste very special.

I love food so I'm loathe to criticise any of it. Rude Health granola isn't bad - it was just disappointing. I did enjoy but it didn't wow me and when I cleared my meagre bowl, I felt unsatisfied. And that is not how I want to start my day.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Coronation Chicken

What with it being the Jubilee Weekend, (and I had the most beautiful banquet of British goodies imaginable yesterday to celebrate at a family buffet yesterday) what better time to celebrate that renowned national dish that is Coronation chicken.

Coronation chicken was created by Constance Spry, a florist, and Rosemary Hume, a chef, as a celebratory dish for the coronation of the Queen. It was supposedly inspired by Jubilee chicken, a dish prepared for the silver Jubilee of George V, mixing chicken with mayonnaise and curry. Modern day versions are very different - some include raisins (essential in my opinion), some flaked almonds and some creme fraiche. Recipes vary so much - and this is what makes coronation chicken so amazing - but also so disliked by some.

For a supposed 'national' dish, I know very few people who like coronation chicken. And this is the result of varying recipes and version. To take supermarket versions, for example, there is marked differences in quality in the various ones available. The Sainsbury's one I've tried is a horrendous mess. If this is people'e experience of Coronation Chicken, no wonder people turn their noses up at it. A claggy, gunky orangey mess that is far too sweet and is sickly with its mess of a mayonnaise.

The M&S one is by far by absolute favourite. Spread into a soft brown roll, sprinkled with a crunchy seed topping, it is hard to imagine a nicer lunch. It is a gloriously golden yellow, speckled with dots of spice that perfectly counterbalance the sweeter elements. The tender, generous sized pieces of chicken are lovingly coated in the smooth, silky sauce that has enough spice to provide a bit of bite but is never overpowering.

In time for the Jubilee, they've released a coronation chicken sandwich in their food to go range. I had this for lunch last Friday and it so satisfying. Sandwiched between onion bread with a generous helping of this beautiful deli filler, it more than justified its £2.50 price tag. They've also released coronation chicken hand cooked crisps. Wonderfully crunchy, with bite, texture and lovely spicy flavouring, these made an appearance at our Jubilee party yesterday and, of course, I had far too many.

I think people think they dislike coronation chicken because of the afore mentioned bad supermarket versions but also because of frumpy versions given to them at school or being force fed badly made versions by elderly relatives. At our Jubilee party, amongst many other delicious offerings, my aunt made a gorgeous coronation chicken. Though it was missing he raisins that I feel are essential to the dish's identity, it was still an absolute pleasure to eat. It wasn't swamped in mayonnaise, which is the cause of a many a bad coronation chicken, but rather, sparingly coated in a beautifully creamy, not claggy sweet and spicy sauce.

Piled high on slabs of a gorgeous bread from the local deli, this was food heaven. Soft, doughy bread with a mountain of fragrant, herbed flecked chicken heaped on top - it was no wonder I went home with tight jeans.

Coronation chicken is a national treasure for a reason. When it's done right, like this, I can think of no better reason for my love of being British.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


I have four main food weaknesses:
  • Anything Sweet
  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Anything Bitesize
These four devilish foodstuffs are things I can and do graze on constantly, consuming in them in vast amounts. To be frank, I am lucky I'm not the size of a blimp thanks to these food demons and my insatible love of consuming them.

Bitesize things are particularly difficuly to resists. That "Oh just one more" inevitably leads to "Oh ****, I've just eaten the entire box/ packet/ container - Marks and Spencer mini bites are particularly bad for this (especially the Oatberry Cluster ones).

Crisps, too, are always a danger. That lovely crunch, the hard texture, the tangy flvours - it's no wonder we all can easily munch out way through a family sized bag. So, how nice is it, once in a while to find a bitesize snack that is relatively healthy.

Popchips are essentially crisps, which have not been fried but rather 'popped' - apparently they take potaotes, add heat and pressure and a 'little pop magic' - so you are left with something with more flavour and substance than baked crisps but without the guilt of fried crisps.

The barbeque ones  I sampled really did stand out from other crisps. The texture in your mouth and that satisfying crunch as your teeth sink into the smoky discs really are different from the usual crisp experience. They feel lighter but they also have enough substance behind them to satisfy.

Tastewise, the barbeque flavouring is a really deep, sweet sensation with a tiny bit of bite amongst that throaty smokiness. Sweetness and heat are perfectly in sync to provide a barbeque crisp that isn't as synthetic tasting as those awful Walkers ones.

At £1.89 a bag, these aren't cheap but they do make a nice treat and, better still, it's a guilt free treat.

Monday, 21 May 2012

White Chocolate & Custard Biscuits

Another lazy Sunday afternoon led to some more baking and once again it is from a copy of BBC Good Food. Rather than cakes, I decided to make biscuits. Not just any old biscuits, white chocolate & custard biscuits. Now making your own biscuits may seem a fairly archaic practice, considering the amazing range even the smallest of supermarkets offers. But making biscuits is one of the nicest baking experiences in my book, simply because it is so unnecessary.

You make biscuits because you want to potter around the kitchen – it’s not urgent and it’s not needed. It’s why I also like making things like granola, bread and chutney. You make them because you want to be cooking, not because you have to be cooking. And when you can make something as nice as these biscuits, it’s all the more worthwhile.

These lovely golden biscuits had the perfect texture. Soft enough to melt in your mouth but with enough of a shortbread-crunch to give it some interest. The pale, yellow of these biscuits cheers you up just by looking them and the little drops of white chocolate buried underneath their cracked surface makes them even more appetising.

The custard powder, which went into these, is subtle, but it gives the biscuits a lovely vanilla taste that far surpasses any shop bought custard cream. And until you can buy shop bought custard creams that are packed full of sweet, melt in the mouth specks of white chocolate, these will always come out on top.

From BBC Good Food June 2012:

140g softened butter
175g caster sugar (I used golden caster sugar to make these golden ovals even more sunny)
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
225g self raising flour
85g custard powder
85g white chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Line 2-3 baking sheets with baking parchment. Put sugar and butter in a food processor and whiz until light and fluffy. (I couldn’t be bothered to get my food processor out of the cupboard so I did everything with an electric whisk in a mixing bowl and they turned out great).

2. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.

3. Sift the flour and custard powder together and tip into the bowl and pulse to form a dough. Scrape out of the food processor and mix in the white chocolate chips by hand.

4. Pull out pieces of dough and roll them into portions just smaller than a walnut (you should get about 25 biscuits) then place on the baking sheets, with a little space between them to allow for spreading. Press each biscuit down lightly with your fingers.

5. Bake for 12=15 minutes until golden. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Whittard's Amaretto Coffee

Much as I love eating, I can't really pretend to be a connoisseur. Nowhere is this more apparent than in my taste (or lack of) in coffee). I like Starbucks and I'm unashamed to admit. Yes, it's mass market and it's not refined or even proper coffee, but getting myself a plastic cup of American-chain goodness brightens up my morning okay?

Coffee critics will further look down on me because I can't even have a proper coffee - it has to be so pumped full of flavoured syup that it's barely a coffee. My beverage of choice would always be a gingerbread latte or perhaps the hazelnut latte. No, it's not classy, but I do love the warming, toasty feeling I get for having a hot cup of coffee with that lovely gingery or nutty aroma and taste.

So if you're a coffee snob, this product is not for you: Whittard's Amaretto Coffee. Adding to the crime of being flavoured is the fact it's instant coffee. But please, do not let this put you off. This is pure joy in coffee powder form.

I absolutely adore Amaretto. A Jack Daniels topped with Amaretto and Coke is one of my favourite drinks but then I just love anything to do with almonds. Frangipane is one of the nicest baking tools available - a thick, almondy paste blanketing whatever pastry you're making. The Bakewell Tart and Battenburgs are behemoths in the cake world. And as for marzipan.. well let's just say when I'm making a Christmas Cake, I'll need to buy two packets to cover the cake because I literally can eat an entire slab of the that almondy, pliable block of suagry gold by itself, each piece greedily torn off and ending up in my mouth rather than the cake.

So I was always going to inevitably love this coffee powder. The Amaretto flavour is subtle; you are drinking something that tastes of coffee, not an Almond drink. But that unique scent and taste of almond is hidden and swirling around the drink and at the back of your mouth, touching it with its glorious, sweet taste.

At £4.50, it's not cheap.But it is worth it (and the amount of free samples I was taking in Whittard's, I had to buy something). This provides a comforting mug of almondy bliss, that is the perfect partner for a lazy Sunday afternoon on the couch with a magazine and a couple of biscuits.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Peanut Butter & Forgotton Favourites

Of all of today's moments of food heaven, it was something as simple as plain old peanut butter that stood head and shoulders above the crowd. Considering I've also made a lovely sweet and sour stiry fry with brown noodles, had copious free flavoured hot chocolate samples at Whittards and bought a beautifully sweet cinammon pretzel coated in a blanket of sugar at Westfields, this is no easy feat.

But what was it amount this tub of gungy goo that lines the shelves of even the most understocked coner shop, that made it stand out so?

Obviously, taste was probably the critical factor. This wasn't just any old peanut, this was an M&S Thick and Crunchy Peanut Butter. So attractively packaged in the new Simply M&S design (and quite good value at only £1.38), this peanut butter had the most gloriously thick and gungey texture. As I spread it across a perfectly crisp piece of toasted French Pain de Campagne, there was friction and it stuck to the knife. This is eaxctly what I want from peanut butter - it was fabulously sticky.

Better yet was the way this smooth, thick goo stuck to the roof of my mouth, blanketing my tongue and tastebuds in a rich, creamy, peanutty goodness. Speckled throughout were great big shards of peanut. These weren't the pathetic little tokens cheaper peanut butters offer you but, rather, were crunchy, providing heft and bulk.

But I think the reason I enjoyed this so much was because I so rarely eat or buy peanut butter. I don't know why this is, I love peanut butter, but somehow it never makes its way into my shopping factor. It is an overlooked and forgotten favourite of mine. We all have them, whether it be foods from our childhood or things that are hard to fine.

So think about something you love but you just never seem to get round to buying and go and get some! The pleasure of devouring a personal pleasure that you rarely eat just makes the eating experience that bit more special.