Anjum Anand Garlic and Coriander Naans

This is the third product I’ve tried from Anjum Anand’s Spice Tailor range having previously enjoyed the Mangalore Herb Curry and the Mango Chutni, both products were a success. Based on my first two experiences of Spice Tailor it is one of the more successful celeb endorsed ranges on the market. I was looking forward to completing the trinity of products by following sauces and condiments with a naan bread side.

Naan Packet

Apart from on packets of Spice Tailor products you may recognise Anjum Anand from BBC series Indian Food Made Easy. It was a lovely programme that did what it said on the tin, but the recipes required an army of spices, so when the Spice Tailor range arrived on the scene it saved a lot of hassle and a chunk of money by putting a decent sauce in a packet and removing the need to buy a jar of spices that you use once and then leave in the cupboard for the next decade.

The naan bread continues the Spice Tailor theme of lovely packaging and they look like the real deal. The packaging describes the naans as “flame baked” which on one hand is a good thing as naans are at their best when scraped off the side of a tandoor, blistering, charred and pillowy but on the other hand its a bit weird to see a pre-scorched lump of bread, wrapped in cellophane with a two month use by date ready to be sprinkled with water and reheated.

Naan cooked

I heated the oven and stuck them in for a few minutes before tasting. The naans had retained some of the smokey charred flavour from the flame baking and they had a satisfying chew to them, however they didn’t come close to a freshly made naan straight from the tandoor. They had a strange synthetic flavour going on and a quick glance at the ingredients led me to suspect that it was something called Calcium Propionate which was lurking in the mix. The naans were supposed to taste of garlic and coriander but those flavours were so subdued that, were it not for the fact that the packet advertised them I wouldn’t have noticed them at all. However after saying all that negative stuff they didn’t taste at all bad; texturally they were a success and had none of that sofa stuffing feel that a lesser naan has and overall they were the nicest naans I’ve had off a supermarket shelf.

Anjum Anand Garlic and Coriander Naans for £1.99 for 2

6/10

On a different note but whilst I’m writing about Indian food – a friend has put together a cookbook to help victims of the recent flooding in Chennai. Please follow this link https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/Capgeminibpocookbook and give as generously as you can. It’s full of great recipes including one from author Vanessa Lafaye.

 

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Heston From Waitrose Christmas Pudding Ice Cream

Christmas is well behind us and the memory of anticipation, presents and joy seeps away in the consciousness. January has been and gone with it’s sales, blue Monday and oppressive misery. February is here and two Easter bank holidays are just over the horizon, so I thought it was the perfect time to reflect and write a post about a Christmas themed foodstuff.

Heston goes to town with his products during the festive season and to me a Christmas pudding ice cream sounded like a wonderful idea. Christmas pudding ice cream, Christmas pudding souffle, Christmas pudding bon bons are all the kinds of thing that Brian Turner would come up with on a Saturday Kitchen Christmas special to help you use your left overs. For Heston though the ice cream is not just a way of using up the scraps it is a dessert in its own right worth special care and attention and charging £4.49 for.

Christmas Pudding ice creamTub

I was hopeful for the ice cream as I love Heston’s Christmas pudding so much and thought if he captured some of that delicious rich flavour within a frozen custard then I would be onto a winner.  Sadly that was not the case. The first bowl I had was really disappointing and incredibly sweet,  if it was on one of those food investigation programmes where you are confronted with mounds of sugar to show how much you eat in a week then a couple of scoops of this stuff would be a few days worth and have you reaching for the insulin. It was powdery and grainy in texture and tasted largely of cinnamon. After eating that bowl I put it aside for a few weeks and didn’t blog, then I  revisited it recently to see if my opinion had changed. The second bowl I’m sad to say wasn’t much better but I noticed more chunks of dried fruit which added an extra dimension to the sugar, powder and cinnamon. For those whose formative years were in the 90s, it recalled Gino Ginelli’s Tutti Frutti but where Gino’s had luminous chunks of candied peel Heston’s ice cream was a more subdued pastel shade.

Christmas Pudding ice cream bowl

Having said all that it wasn’t the worst ice cream I’ve ever had there were citrussy notes, a slight boozy kick and it was reminiscent of a Christmas pudding it just didn’t really taste as rich and full flavoured as it could have done.

Heston From Waitrose Christmas Pudding Ice Cream £4.49 for 500ml

5/10

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Heston From Waitrose Chocolate and Passion Fruit Popping Candy Bites

Christmas is behind us and New Year is but hours away and it is time for me to play blogging catch up on all the festive treats that I’ve consumed over the past two weeks. This time of year provides plenty of bounty from Heston as he goes to town with overpriced products on Waitrose shelves. Historically they have been a mixed bag of horrors and joys so you can never quite tell what lies in store. The first thing I tried this season were his chocolate and passion fruit popping candy tarts. I had some inclination how they would play out as my girlfriend had previously made a version of this recipe from scratch – the ingredients cost as much as a weekly food shop and it took three days to complete, but it was incredibly good and won a work baking competition, so this factory made version had a lot to live up to.

Popping Candy Bite Box

Bites

I took them out of the box and they were a bit bashed from transit with some of the chocolate topping being glued to the inside of the packet, this meant they didn’t look like the prettiest of things and were slightly deformed, however I remained undeterred and had a taste. They were good! The chocolate ganache was dark and incredibly rich, in fact it was verging on being too rich but then the very sharp passion fruit cut through to balance it out. The bites were the opposite of subtle – they were full on hits of flavour and were all the better for it. The popping candy came through at the end and was a fun addition, being popping candy it didn’t add any flavour but that’s not the point of it. Popping candy is the dining equivalent of having Adam Rickitt on Question time, there’s no substance, it causes little offence but it’s quite fun to have around. If I had one criticism of the bites it is that they needed an extra texture like a biscuit base, but maybe Heston can add them in next year. At £6.99 for eight they aren’t cheap, but it is Christmas and what better time of year is there for people to pay over the odds for food. Get them quick whilst the Christmas range is still in stock.

Heston From Waitrose Chocolate and Passion Fruit Popping Candy Bites £6.99 for Eight

8/10

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James Martin Yummy Bar

A few weeks back I wrote of my trip to San Sebastian and how I had a coffee and pastry from James Martin Kitchen whilst at Stanstead. I wasn’t expecting the best snack I’ve ever tried, but neither was I expecting one of the worst – both coffee and pastry were disgusting.  I’m not easily dissuaded though so while I was there I also picked up a Yummy Bar which I think is meant to be James’ version of a Pret Love Bar.

With the pastry the James Martin Kitchen website made claims about the freshness of the product – it was baked at 3am etc blah bah blah. The Yummy Bar did not go down that route and was open about the fact that they are actually made by a company completely unrelated to James. The packet boldly states that the Yummy Bar has been made by http://www.traybakes.com so whilst it may be covered in James Martin branding the packaging is the only bit he’s involved with.

Yummy Bar packet

Still James is happy to put his name to the bar and has used descriptions like “no half measures” and “a proper indulgent treat” so it is worth giving him the benefit of the doubt and putting his claims to the test.

I pulled off the wrapper and the bar looked appealing, it had distinct layers, firstly an oaty base, then a layer of “luxurious caramel” and it was topped with cranberries and nuts. Putting aside James Martin Kitchen’s track record and the farming out of the product to the folks at traybake.com I was looking forward to trying it and so I got stuck in.

The first thing to say is that the name is misleading – this is far from yummy. In fact it is devoid of anything that would normally be described as flavour, it was a bland, exceptionally sweet brown slab. Considering the extensive list of delicious ingredients it is startling how they can have been used to such poor effect. All being well I should have tasted luxury caramel, jumbo oats, salted butter, dried cranberries, flaked hazelnuts and almonds but all I did taste was sweetness and sugar. The sweetness was no doubt down to the following ingredients that were in addition to the aforementioned caramel, they are – glucose syrup, golden syrup, sugar, golden syrup (again) and brown sugar which is a pretty impressive list and reads more like a diabetes warning document than the necessary components to create a Yummy Bar.

Yummy Bar

So once again James Martin Kitchen was a blistering disappointment. I suspect the reason it exists within an airport is because it has a captive audience, it isn’t really dependent on repeat customers or regulars, it is dependent on unsuspecting travelers being duped into thinking they are getting a quality product because that Yorkshire bloke from Saturday Kitchen has whacked his name and face all over it. Well be warned people, avoid it at all costs, walk around the corner and go to Leon or even Burger King and you’ll eat better.

The one positive from all this is that the packaging says “Enjoy and do let me know what you think.” with a link to their Facebook and Twitter pages so that’s exactly where I’m going to post this blog. I do hope they’ll get back to me.

James Martin Yummy Bar £2.75 per bar

3/10

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Heston from Waitrose Chicken with Sherry Cream

Hooooray! It’s nearly Christmas and I can’t wait. Christmas doesn’t only mean a good chunk of time off work and a whole load of presents, it also means Heston comes into his own. I still think the hidden orange Christmas pudding is a winner, as is his Earl Grey stollen. He no longer makes the puff pastry mince pies which many people thought tasted of toilet cleaner but which I enjoyed, and thankfully he never revisited these prawn horrors. There are a whole raft of other products that Heston trots out at Christmas some of which I will be reviewing over the next couple of weeks. One Heston product that is not a seasonal one but that I have only just got round to trying is his chicken with sherry cream. The fact that it has sherry in it could provide a tenuous link to Christmas but as it’s available all year that obviously isn’t what Heston was getting at.

Chicken sherry packet

The packet states “With complimentary flavours of sherry, mushrooms, cream,  and smoked pancetta,  this must be the ultimate chicken dinner.” well I suppose it could be, but when I pull the foil tray out of it’s cardboard sleeve and pull off the film lid it is a greyish colour and I really don’t think food should ever be grey. Regardless I stick it in the oven for 35 minutes and a fragrant sherry scent fills the kitchen.  The cooking has taken the edge off the grey colour and it is now a gentle beige which is far more appealing. However even with the improved colour tones whilst the chicken is sat in the foil tray it looks very meals on wheels, so I transfer it to a plate and it starts to look quite appealing.

Chicken sherry served

I dig in and it’s a strange dish, the cream sauce is thin and watery and the sherry adds more sweetness than seems natural. Interestingly the two chicken thighs have been left with their skin on which would be a wonderous thing if the skin was salty, fatty and crisp, instead it is flaccid, wet and flobbedy. The whole baby onions are a nice flavoursome touch, the button mushrooms have a rubbery texture and no detectable flavour and the thin sauce is screaming out for a bit of seasoning. The chicken itself is tender but again needs a blast of salt to let it reach it’s full potential.  Overall I didn’t find it very enjoyable, but with a few tweaks I think it could be. Onwards and upwards I suppose, bring on the Christmas treats and let’s see if Heston can pull it back.

Heston from Waitrose Chicken with Sherry Cream £4.99 for a meal for one (mine was in the reduced aisle for £3.89)

4/10

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Tom Kerridge Goose and Ale Pie

With Christmas just around the corner it is the perfect time to try some goose stuffed into a pie. I’m a fan of goose and every year have a go at persuading my family to forego dry old turkey and give goose a go, every year I fail. This is partly due to the fact that the ratio of money pounds to pounds of goose meat is not great and also down to the fact that my dad is one of the worlds fussiest eaters and if we put goose in front of him it might just ruin his Christmas and nobody wants that on their conscience. So I am stuck with turkey and have to get my goose fix in other ways and luckily for me Tom Kerridge stepped up to the plate.

Last week I wrote about a dodgy panna cotta that Tom created for his Chef of the Season range at Harrod’s. It was a big disappointment but everyone can have an off day and so I have given him a second chance with his goose and ale pie. To be fair, a pie is more Tom’s thing than a panna cotta, he’s all about big hearty, delicious yet refined food and his pie looked a real beauty.

Goose pie

Initially I was planning to take the pie into work and eat it for lunch, but Tom suggested it would be at it’s best warmed up so I stuck it in the oven and had it for dinner. It came out looking like something from a photo shoot, it was perfect! An evenly baked golden brown pastry housing generous lumps of meat, and shreds of green cabbage, it looked incredible. The only negative was that it appeared to be dry due to a lack of ale based gravy, but apart from that win win win.

I took a bite and after some brief mastication soon realised that whilst it was a looker, it had no personality to speak of. There was a vast selection of textures but no flavours. The pastry was crumbly but tasted of nothing. The meat was a bit tough and chewy and considering the hefty punch of flavour you’d expect from goose, it tasted of nothing. The cabbage had some crunch, however it tasted of nothing. The lack of gravy really became evident in the eating as the more I chewed the more moisture got sucked from my mouth until chewing became such a chore that a drop of Bisto would have been welcomed with open arms. I don’t think the pie had been seasoned at all and I’m at a loss as to where the ale was.

Goose pie cut

I can’t remember the last time I ate something that came with so much promise, but delivered so poorly and I’m surprised that it was Tom Kerridge who let the side down.

As I mentioned in the panna cotta post the food at the Hand and Flowers is delicious and the recipes in Tom’s books are great (we’re particularly fond of his chicken kiev) so if you want to sample some  of his food then save up and book at the Hand and Flowers or buy one of his books, but give Harrod’s a wide birth!

Tom Kerridge Goose and Ale Pie £6.95 from Harrod’s

4/10

 

 

 

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Tom Kerridge Whiskey Panna Cotta

For the past few years Harrod’s have had a “Chef of the Season” and it is currently the turn of Tom Kerridge. Tom is the Bristol born smiley chef who can’t be mentioned without someone saying he runs “the only pub in the world with 2 michelin stars” which he earned at his pub the Hand and Flowers. Tom is also famous for presenting 2 television series, winning the main course on Great British Menu twice and for losing an astonishing amount of weight. It is not unfair to say that Tom used to be huge, he was like a walking mountain and then he lost it all and turned into a svelte chap. Well done Tom! Losing all that weight can’t have been easy for a guy who cooks delicious pub food. I ate at the Hand and Flowers a few years back and had some incredible sweetbreads, a venison and beetroot tart and a souffle of dreams – if I was confronting that on a daily basis I don’t think weight loss would be an easy ask.

So Tom comes with a great track record and the dishes on offer at Harrod’s range from starters such as potted Cornish crab with cucumber chutney or game terrine with cranberry relish to main courses of beer braised ox cheek with pearl barley and braised carrots or goose and ale pie (coming to this blog soon) with desserts of spiced orange cake with plum and cinnamon sauce and the topic of todays blog post a whiskey panna cotta with blueberries and thyme. Everything in the counter looks beautifully presented and delicious and considering this is Harrod’s, the dishes aren’t ridiculously expensive.

Kerridge Panna Cotta

The panna cotta arrived in a plastic serving dish with a side tub of oats to sprinkle on before serving. It was topped with a couple of thyme leaves, three blueberries and a light, watery jelly that caused the blueberries to slide around on top like an edible ice rink. I sprinkled on the oats and got stuck in. Unfortunately for a dessert with so much promise it was a bitter disappointment. Texturally it was all shades of wrong, there was the aforementioned watery jelly, coupled with an over set yet bland panna cotta, mixed with the burst of dry blueberry, all finished with an admittedly pleasant oaty topping. It was like trying to eat the ingredient equivalent of opposing magnets, you put them in your mouth and try to force them together but the harder you try the harder they repel and you end up with a mouthful of mulch with whiskey back notes. Underpinning all this though is a poor quality panna cotta and when the main element isn’t good nothing is going to save it. Instead of a rich, wobbly, creamy spoonful I got an under powered, almost rubbery white lump that seemed to be relying on whiskey to add some flavour because there wasn’t any inherent flavour in the panna cotta itself.

Panna Cotta Spoonful

I had high hopes for this one and was sadly let down. Considering the skills of Tom Kerridge and the attractiveness of the dish it was a shame that it didn’t deliver the goods. At least I have a goose and ale pie still to try so fingers crossed Tom will find redemption there.

Tom Kerridge Whiskey Panna Cotta – £4.95

3/10

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