Jamie Oliver New Yorker Sandwich

Apart from war, famine, incurable disease and Maria Miller there is nothing in this life more depressing than a pre-packaged supermarket sandwich. They are the most soulless, uninspired, miserable thing that could be inflicted on a person at lunchtime. There are so many more interesting things you can spend your money on than a £3 meal deal, so why there is a market for rip off sandwiches in a box I will never know.

Jamie New Yorker Box

Rip offs in a box don’t get any more dramatic than Jamie Oliver’s range at Boots which is where I picked up his version of a “New Yorker” for £3.90. Yes you read that right, £3.90 for a pre-packaged, mass produced sandwich from Boots, it’s enough to make you want to jam your face into a Jamie Oliver blender. It’s not that I mind paying out for a decent sandwich; for instance at Anderson & Co just round the corner from my flat you will get the best sandwich you ever ate for £5. It features insanely good sourdough, thick cut ham, piccalilli and salad. It fulfills all your sandwich desires and if all prepacked sandwiches tasted like that, the world would be a glorious place. But unfortunately they don’t. They taste like chewy doormats with nasty fillings that you’d be ashamed to serve your cat.

Jamie Sandwich

With all that said you’re probably wondering if I enjoyed this Jamie Oliver sandwich, and the short answer is, surprisingly no. No I did not. It was crap. The dark wholemeal bread was dry, had an awful texture and tasted of floor underlay. The filling was pitiful, really, really embarrassing. If I had a salt beef sandwich in New York it would be approximately a foot tall and I would not be able to eat it without getting covered in slabs of beef that dropped out because the bread couldn’t contain them. Jamie turns all that on it’s head and offers  two thin slices that you can barely taste because it’s so salty and the gherkin with it’s vinegary sharpness overwhelms the lot. The whole thing ends with a blast of mustard that overtakes even the gherkin. If the salt beef was multiplied ten fold then the balance might be just about OK but as it stands this is a failure of epic proportions.

Jamie made a big deal about his trips round America and learning from the culture and absorbing the food heritage, then he comes back and produces this dross for the UK market. For his next series he should hand out a “New Yorker” to everyone he meets in NYC and explain to them that this is what he believes a good New York deli sandwich to be and then with the cameras rolling we can all watch as he’s laughed out of town.

So if you are in a position where the only thing you can get for lunch is a pre-packed sandwich, then whatever you do, don’t make it this one. It really is the bottom of the barrel and you deserve better. Even Maria Miller deserves better.

Jamie Oliver New Yorker Sandwich £3.90

2/10

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Heston from Waitrose Ginger and Acacia Honey Hot Cross Buns

This was going to be a blog about Karlie Kloss, super models, David Chang, cookies, New York, Momofuku Milk Bar, my friend Philippa and how my blog was now so cool I was reviewing international products. But owing to a cruel twist of fate and some unscrupulous dealings with the NatWest international fraud team I’ve bounced back to earth and resorted to Waitrose and Heston’s 2014 Easter offering.

You see Karlie Kloss current super model of the day has put her name to some cookies that are being sold at uber cool NYC hang out Momofuku Milk bar. They are donating some of the profits to charity and selling a tin of them for $22, which is obviously outrageous for a few biscuits, but too good an opportunity to miss when you write a blog obsessed with celebrity endorsed food products. So when I discovered that my friend Philippa was on a jaunt to New York I swiftly enlisted her help to buy me a tin. It was a perfect plan until NatWest cancelled Philippa’s card, seriously restricting her spending power and my ability to write about products currently sold on the other side of the Atlantic. I know how distraught you must be feeling right now  at this missed opportunity, but I’d ask you to put your woes to one side, be selfless for a moment and spare a thought for poor Philippa who found herself in the commercial capital of the planet without a dime to her name. It’s not all bad though because Heston comes a close second to Karlie Kloss and as it’s the first time since Christmas that I’ve visited his range he is due another review.

Ginger Hot Cross Bun

Heston had some hot cross buns last year flavoured with mandarin and Earl Grey tea that didn’t taste of Earl Grey or have any mandarin in them, so I was keeping my fingers crossed for a hit of honey and ginger in the ginger and acacia honey version that he has come up with this year. In my review last Easter I was complimentary about the generosity of plump fruit but a bit down on the actual bun. I don’t know if I was just being a miserable grump last Easter or if Heston has changed the recipe but this time around I loved his buns. The dough was soft and bouncy and had a good texture – very different to cheaper buns that you could squash and use for cladding. The ginger gave the bun a bit of spice but it wasn’t so overwhelming that it ruined all the other flavours, in fact it proved the perfect partner to the honey which was the more prominent flavour with it’s sticky sweetness. Again the fruit was generous and plentiful and if it weren’t for the fact they cost £1.69 for a pack of two I’d quite happily devour packets of them. So if you’re in the market for a superior hot cross bun then I think your search is over. Enjoy.

Toasted Hot Cross Bun

Heston from Waitrose Ginger and Acacia Honey Hot Cross Buns £1.69 for two

8/10

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Raymond Blanc – Chocolate Delice

It’s been a good couple of weeks on Michelin Microwave. Last week saw the dizzy heights of potato heaven and the week before was my first experience of Raymond Blanc’s new frozen desert range when I experienced his cherry clafoutis. This week I return to that range and sample the chocolate delice.

I’ve written before about Raymond’s endorsements of mass produced products and they range from the not so great Pertwood Muesli to the brilliant fish pie via a delicious but not outstanding rhubarb and frangipane Tart . The worst accusation I can level at a Raymond product is mediocrity, which is more than I can say for many other chefs competing in this market. It also means every time I approach a new product it is with hope and positive anticipation, unlike the dread I feel when I’m about to try the latest Ainsley Harriott disaster; I guess this is no surprise and reflects their culinary standing. When I ate at Le Manoir (Raymond’s restaurant/hotel of dreams) I was filled with hope and positive anticipation and I wasn’t disappointed. It is one of the greatest restaurant experiences in the land and I recommend you re-mortgage or sell a kidney or something so you can afford the bill, you won’t regret it. But if such a thing as an Ainsley Harriott restaurant opened, my expectations would be as low as a pygmy goat’s kneecap. All this is to say that I was looking forward to sampling the chocolate delice.

Delice box

After a few hours sat in the fridge defrosting, the delice is ready to be eaten. It looks a picture of chocolaty heaven and the description on the box lives up to the appearance, it says “Rich, dark chocolate ganache on a crunchy hazelnut base. Indulge yourself, s’ il vous plait.”. In case unlike me you don’t have a D in GCSE French and need some help “s’ il vous plait” means please (no need to thank me).  I plunged the knife in and there was a satisfying resistance which signified a dense slab of pudding was coming my way. The delice was a delight (see what I did there) the rich, heavenly ganache was bitter and grown up like a good dark chocolate dessert should be. The only negative was that is was a bit grainy, perhaps this was due to the chocolate having been frozen, but to be honest it tasted so good that I wouldn’t let that bother you too much. The addition of hazelnuts in a chocolate dessert is always a good thing and that was the case here, they came in the form of a layer that is somewhere between crisp and crunchy. There is no word in English for this texture but in French I am reliably informed it is called “craqounet” which sums it up perfectly.

Chocolate Delice

I think this is one of the finest deserts you are likely to find in a freezer cabinet anywhere, especially if they’re still on offer for the bargain £3.80. I’m really looking forward to trying the pear and walnut dacquoise if I can only find a supermarket that stocks one – if I do it’ll appear on here in due course.

Raymond Blanc – Chocolate Delice £3.80 (introductory offer) for 400g

9/10

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Michel Roux Jr and Albert Bartlett Potatoes

Just when I get round to reviewing a bag of Albert Bartlett potatoes due to their endorsement by Michel Roux Jr, a Guardian headline appears in my twitter feed that says “Michel Roux Jr leaving BBC and MasterChef in row over potato“. Who would have thought it! There has been some knotty wrangling going on to do with “commercial interests” and apparently the fact that Michel endorses Albert Bartlett Potatoes causes some issues for the BBC. The Guardian piece highlights some of the anomalies in that e.g James Martin and cookware, there’s also Raymond Blanc and muesli, pans and puddings so it all seems a bit odd. It’s a bit sad, as being a fan of Masterchef Professionals I think Michel will be missed and the bookies are already taking odds on his replacement; it’s 25/1 to one on Tom Aikens, Sat Bains, Tom Kerridge and Mark Sargeant so get your bets in early and you could be quids in.

I find it strange that everything has fallen apart over the potatoes as the endorsement is fairly low key. There were a couple of TV ads over Christmas and Michel does have a recipe on the back of the bag (as does Andrew Fairlie) but his face isn’t plastered all over the front and his name isn’t prominently featured on the packaging. You could quite easily buy a bag in blissful ignorance that Michel played any part at all in the marketing – and there a few endorsements where that is true. Even when Albert Bartlett take out a full page ad in Observer Food Monthly it is in the form of a semi editorial piece that mentions Michel and the picture of him outside Le Gavroche is more an action shot than it is a gurning, grinning celeb who wants to flog you spuds. It could of course be a clever trick to make you think they aren’t giving the hard sell, meanwhile they’re secretly controlling your mind and that’s how I came to buy a bag in the first place.

OFM ad

All that being said this is an endorsement of the first order – there is no pretence that Michel has had anything to do with the development of the product, it is an endorsement simply based on the fact that Michel likes the product; the logic being if it’s good enough for Michel it’s good enough for us. I guess it was time to try them.

Albert Bartlett Potatoes Bag

There is an old Irish saying “A potato is a potato is a potato.*” which means one potato is as good as another. There is another saying that goes “A man with a potato is a rich man indeed.*” and a third that says “Worry not what potato you have, worry only if you do not have a potato.*”. All these sayings basically mean don’t be precious about your tubers because nobody can really tell the difference - a school of thought I fell into until Albert Bartlett came along as these spuds really are brilliant.

Roast Potatoes

I tasted them boiled, roasted and also mashed and in each of those forms they were the finest example I ever tried – a versatile spud indeed. The boiled potato was full of flavour and had a delicious almost creamy texture. The roast version was golden and crisp on the outside with a fluffy inside and tasted so much of potato that all other white lumps of starch I’ve ever eaten pale into insignificance. Then there was the mash - the smoothest, creamiest example I’ve ever had in my own home. I can see why Michel gets behind Albert Bartlett, I’m behind them too and if they ever want me to endorse them I’d be happy to and there’s no risk of me losing a contract with the BBC either.

Michel Roux Jr and Albert Bartlett Potatoes £2.45 for a 1.5kg bag

9/10

* Completely made up sayings

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Raymond Blanc Cherry Clafoutis

Raymond has been dipping his toe in the mass market for a while with limited success; there was this muesli that tasted of dust, then there were the recently launched fish dishes - I tried the fish pie, it was pretty darn good but I haven’t been able to find it since and there is no mention of it on Raymond’s website so can only assume that the range has been discontinued. There is the ever present Maison Blanc range, (which seems to keep pootling along in spite of dubious quality) and I learnt from the comment section on one of my blogs that Raymond has little to do with that these days and messy divorce proceedings means that the business is now in the hands of his ex wife. So Raymond doesn’t appear to have conquered the ready made market. Not a man to be defeated he recently launched a range of frozen desserts that is stocked in Waitrose and Sainsbury’s, he tweeted about it a lot at the time of the launch but has gone a bit quiet since – presumably he’s waiting to see how it goes down.

Clafoutis Box

The range consists of three desserts, a pear and walnut dacquoise, a chocolate delice (I’ve got one in the freezer) and the cherry clafoutis that I’m writing about today. I took it out of the box and baked it for 35 mins, it came out looking golden and delicious and extremely appetising. The box makes a bold claim that it could serve 6-8 people which is one of the biggest piss takes ever made by a frozen dessert, in reality this pudding can only feed half that amount and I reckon if you were hungry two people could get through it quite happily.

It was a two man job with left overs that I was going for when I baked it and presented one bowl of sloppy, creamy batter dotted with Griotte cherries to Naomi (my girlfriend) and another bowl to me. Naomi took one tiny mouthful and announced “This tastes sour, like UHT milk and factories and I don’t like it all.” and then left the rest. To be fair I knew exactly what she meant and it wasn’t an incorrect description – but I wasn’t going to be put off so easily and persevered. Once I’d got over that initial UHT flavour I started enjoying myself and actually found it quite delicious. The helping of Griotte cherries was very generous considering that the price of a punnet costs roughly the same as a small Vietnamese village and the whole clafoutis (with introductory offer) was only £3.80. The batter was smooth and unctuous and I had possibly undercooked it a bit, but when coupled with the sour burst of delicious cherries it was a pudding I was happy to devour.

Clafoutis baked

The box says that it is best served warm and after eating mine and Naomi’s portion I let the left overs go cold and nibbled at them over the next few days. It was still pretty good,  but only for eating the bits that had been undercooked when warm, the correctly cooked bits had turned into a rubbery lump that was like eating window sealant with cherries. The cherries were still great though.

I think Naomi made a mistake giving up so early, if she’d pushed through and got over her initial UHT fears a world of cherry wonderment lay in store.

Raymond Blanc Cherry Clafoutis £3.80 for 500g (introductory offer price)

7/10

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Jamie Oliver/Jimmy Doherty Maids of Honour

I spent the month of February with a self imposed supermarket ban, it was an interesting experiment and not actually as difficult as you might think. It was hard trying to find multi packs of crisps and yoghurts that weren’t priced so high they’d make a Russian oligarch weep, but put them aside and it was easy to do. I wasn’t so enamoured with the project that I will never return to supermarket buying (in fact on the 1st March I headed straight to Sainsbury’s) but in the long term I do hope to reduce my expenditure that feeds the profits of corporate behemoths. Anyway the reason I say all this, is that when you write a blog about celebrity endorsed food products and remove supermarkets from the equation you set yourself up for failure.

I think we can all agree that the main reason a celeb puts their name to a food product is to make money, and the best way to make money is to sell as much as you can, and the best way to sell as much as you can is to get supermarkets with their huge marketing potential and disproportionate share of the food market to sell them for you; ergo no supermarkets means dramatically reduced celebrity endorsed products available to write about.

My previous two reviews I wrote because they were products I’d picked up in the past and stuck them in the cupboard waiting for their moment to shine, but once they were gone I hit a brick wall. Salvation came in the form of Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast and a trip they made to “The Original Maids of Honour Shop” in Kew. In case you don’t know, a Maid of Honour is a little puff pastry case filled with a sweet cheese curd and they are as close to pastry perfection as you’re likely to get. They were originally created in Tudor times and have been served in the shop in Kew since 1887 – I’m not here to give you a history lesson though so if you’re interested you can read more on their website here. Then Jamie and Jimmy came along and decided to mix things up a bit by creating new versions of the originals in the form of chocolate, brandy and vanilla, strawberry, and apricot flavours which are now for sale in selection boxes in the shop. The Jimmy/Jamie involvement is mentioned on their website but when you enter the shop there is no sign of them anywhere and they aren’t credited on the displays – this is a wonderful thing and a far cry from the aforementioned supermarket hard sell. The only nod to Jamie and Jimmy is on a box that looks like this stating that they are flavour “variations inspired by Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty”, I stole that pic from twitter because when I went in they had run out of Jamie/Jimmy boxes so I was left with the original version.

Maids of Honour box

Anyway onto the tasting… I warmed them up for a few minutes and settled down with one pot of Earl Grey, one girlfriend, one knife, two plates, five maids of honour and spent about seven minutes making them disappear. They were absolutely heavenly. My only negatives were that the brandy and vanilla one, didn’t have any discernible brandy hit which is a shame as I think it would have worked well – it still tasted great, just not of brandy. The chocolate one didn’t quite work for me as the gooey chocolate and savoury cheesiness were at odds with each other, but as there was only a little blob of chocolate at the bottom it didn’t put me off that much. The apricot one was delicious and surprisingly for me the strawberry was too, I don’t normally like strawberry themed things (although I do love strawberries) but the balance was just right so it wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet. However, for me the original plain version was still my favourite and if Kew wasn’t such a schlep I’d be heading in for a regular fix.

Maids of Honour

Jamie Oliver/Jimmy Doherty Maids of Honour £1.55 each

8/10 (but 7 for the chocolate and 9 for the original)

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Sean Wilson Bread Sauce

If you have been keeping up with the media recently you would be forgiven for thinking that Coronation St was only good for producing people who managed to get embroiled in and cleared of sex abuse charges – by my reckoning the current tally is four. However it would be unfair to label the soap as such because it also features people who are famous for acting. In my previous life as an actor I had the pleasure of working with a couple of smashingly talented former corrie actors in a one off drama for the BBC - there are clips online and whilst I’m self absorbed enough to mention them, I’m not self absorbed enough to include a link.

Anyway sex abuse and acting isn’t the whole story, Coronation St also brought Sean Wilson to public consciousness and being a versatile chap he put acting behind him and started to make cheese. I haven’t yet tried his cheese, but I hope to soon and will report back in due course. Sean also created a bread sauce packet mix which is stocked exclusively in B&M for the bargain price of 29p. Sean proudly tweeted about it here stating it was part of his Signature Range, but for all my internet searching I have yet to find any other products that feature in this range thus making it a range of one thing and therefore not a range at all.

Bread Sauce packet

Bread sauce for all it’s apparent simplicity is a tricky thing to get right, it can end up just being hot milk with soggy breadcrumbs and lacking any flavour at all, or at the other end of the scale it can be gloopy gruel with an overwhelming blast of mouth numbing clove. There is a fine line to tread when it comes to the texture of bread sauce, it ranges from sloppy baby sick to lumpy porridge, with perfection sitting somewhere close to lumpy porridge. All that is to say, that as a product in a packet it is not easy to get right, but then if Sean has mastered cheese, bread sauce shouldn’t be too tricky.

The packet says “We have sourced the very best, clean ingredients possible.”.  I did a double take – they have sourced “clean ingredients”! Is it just me or is that a really odd thing to stress? I mean I’m all for hygiene and keeping away from filthy, disease riddled ingredients but I’ve never bought a product before that has felt it necessary to highlight the fact they only use clean ones. They also go on to say “… we believe we have brought you the easiest and the best Bread Sauce available today!” which is quite a claim, so being safe in the knowledge that the sauce was not only clean it was also the best it was time to get cooking.

Bread sauce cooking

The bread sauce is very easy to make, all you need to do is mix the stuff in the packet with half a pint of milk, bring to the boil, simmer for 1 -2 mins and serve. The sauce had a decent texture sitting a good few notches above baby sick, but resembling Ready brek more than adult porridge, but sadly that is where the positives end. It smelt of onion rings and the flavour was overwhelmingly of onion flavouring coupled with an unwelcome sweetness. There was no hint of clove, bay or pepper and it was a one dimensional pan full of milky coloured gruel that I was going to let nowhere near my delicious roast chicken.

Why when the cheese making was going so well for Sean, did he allow his name to be put to this stuff I have no idea and if I do ever find any other products in the signature range I won’t be in any hurry to try them.

Sean Wilson Bread Sauce 29p for a 40g packet

3/10

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