Anjum Anand Original Mango Chutni

A couple of months ago I became an uncle for the third time which was very nice. It meant I had to make my well practised journey along England’s motorways ( M4, M25, M40, M42, M6 and M58  if you’re interested) from London to Ormskirk to meet my new niece Amber for the first time. It was of course a delight to meet her, hold her and see her cute, puking face staring up at me. However meeting Amber was not the only reward after my long journey I also got to go to a newly opened branch of what I believe to be the UKs greatest supermarket Booths. If you’ve never heard of Booths it’s probably because they’re trading exclusively in the north of England focusing on Lancastrian, Cumbrian and Yorkshire suppliers. Booths are like Waitrose but better, they’re ethically sound, treat their staff well and if you’re ever near a branch you should treat yourself and take a look around.

The last time I went to a Booths they had a frozen James Martin meal that I had never seen before, nor have I seen it since – unfortunately at the time I wasn’t anywhere near a freezer so I let the opportunity pass and have had to add it to the growing list of celebrity endorsed products that I missed. That list also includes a Hairy Bikers Fish Pie, A Stavros Flatley (remember them???) kebab and some Liz Hurley Beef Jerky. What I am able to review however is some Anjum Anand Mango Chutni which I spotted and put in the trolley.

Anjum Chutni Packet

Anjum Anand is the host of Indian Food Made Easy as well as the face of the Spice Tailor brand. I hadn’t seen the chutney or as Anjum says “chutni” anywhere before but I have tried her Mangalore Herb Curry  and that was delicious so I was quite hopeful about the chutni. I made a few different curries and invited my office round for dinner and put the chutni out with some Sainsbury’s papadums and it seemed to go down very well. I have always used mango chutney in this way just plopped on the side of a curry, but Anjum’s packaging tells me that it is far more  versatile than that and can be used as a marinade or a glaze. The website goes one step further and makes this confusing statement “Try it in dishes instead of ketchup, it I in tastes more flavourful and cleaner.” so make of that what you will.

Chutni opened

The chutni looked nicer than your average one which tends to be a slick of sweet, bright orange jelly. Anjum’s version was a deep orange colour like a posh marmalade and was flecked with blacks seeds, I’m not sure exactly what kind of seeds they were but they made the chutni look appealing. I  broke off a bit of papadum and dunked it in the chutni, it was sweet, it also had a sharpness and complexity of flavour from the spicing, it was delicious. It was nicer than any supermarket chutney I have had before, and nicer than most of the stuff you get from a take away as well. I won’t make any claims that it is more or less authentic than any chutney I have tried before, because in all honesty I wouldn’t know what an authentic one tasted like but, it is the one I have enjoyed the most. Anjum has not broken the mould here, it still has the comforting familiarity of a mango chutney, it’s just that it tastes nicer.

The Spice Tailor brand has been around for a while now and is appearing in more and more supermarkets, this can only be a good thing as from the two products I have tried they are well ahead of the competitors. Next for me to try is one of their naans when I can track one down.

Anjum Anand Original Mango Chutni – 225g jar (sorry I’ve lost the receipt so don’t know the price)


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Jordi Cruz Mushroom, Truffle and Parmesan Corn Cakes

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you may remember a couple of weeks ago I wrote about my trip to San Sebastian to try some of the worlds best cuisine. Whilst I was there I did not pass up the opportunity to seek out international celebrity chef endorsements and what I came up with was some corn crackers from Spanish chef Jordi Cruz.

You may never have heard of Jordi, but he holds the illustrious title of being the youngest chef in Spain and the second youngest chef in the world to have ever won a michelin star. Jordi was a mere 24 when this honour was bestowed upon him. He was pipped to the post of being youngest in the world by our very own Aiden Byrne who pulled it off at an impressive and as yet unbeaten 22. Unfortunately for Aiden he hasn’t managed to bag one in later life and his latest venture Manchester House crosses it’s fingers each year when the guide comes out.

Unlike Aiden, Jordi has gone onto to continued acclaim with michelin, winning stars at a variety of restaurants and currently holding 2 of them at the ABaC Restaurant and Hotel. But Jordi hasn’t stopped at michelin stars, he has taken the natural next step and created some corn cakes for a company called Bicentury. Bicentury it appears is a brand targeted at women. The headline on the English version of their site reads “THE FLAVOR TAKES CARE OF YOUR BODY Bicentury, for women who know how to take care of” which is both grammatically baffling and a cliff hanger of a sales pitch.

Jordi Cruz Packet

It’s no coincidence that this female aimed brand have recruited Jordi, he is quite the pretty boy and even at 37 he looks like a fresh faced, innocent young lad. He’s a bit like a Spanish Vernon Kay, but instead of sending sex texts to super models behind his wife’s back Jordi is helping women lose weight by creating corn crackers at 46 kcal a piece. He’s quite the modern man.

Jordi Cruz crackers

I opened the packet and despite Bicentury being very clear that Jordi had created corn crackers, I was expecting to find thick rice crackers inside, but no, they were thin pappadum like creations. I took a bite and they had a great crunchy texture, more like a crisp than its softer, chewier counterpart the rice cracker. There was a blast of truffle, an aromatic undertone from the parmesan and a lovely saltiness that sticks to your lips to keep the flavour coming when the cracker itself has gone. There was no discernible mushroom flavour (apart from truffle) but that was no loss as they were delicious. I was preparing myself to hate the corn cakes, I thought they would be bland, cardboardy and not worth bothering with, but I was wrong.

So often when a mass produced product is billed as being “healthy” it is at the expense of flavour, but not so with these creations – they were lovely in spite of being healthy. I found them very moreish and therein lies the problem with them as a healthy product – they might only be 46 Kcal each, but work your way through a full packet in one sitting and the health benefits soon start to wane.

My time in San Sebastian cemented Spain as the best place for culinary delights, the Pintxos were a dream, the prices were reasonable and even their celebrity endorsed products are up to scratch. Te amo España. Maite zaitut Espainia.

Jordi Cruz Mushroom, Truffle and Parmesan Corn Cakes



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Linda McCartney Cheese and Leek Plaits

I’ve been writing this blog for a few years now and up until this point I have never reviewed a Linda McCartney product. This is is partly because she’s dead and it didn’t seem fair to criticise her vegetable based goods when she is no longer on this earth with the capacity to defend herself. Then I thought, well that’s irrelevant as no celebrity I have ever criticised has given two hoots about my insignificant blog, so why should Linda be any different. I also had reservations about reviewing a product where the celeb involved had had no say in it’s creation. Then I thought if the people behind Linda’s range were happy to make money off her name then it was fair enough that I should review it, when her name was emblazoned across the packet. And so it came to pass that I have a packet of two cheese and leek plaits.

Before starting to write this blog I had a think about what I could say about Linda and it became apparent that I actually knew very little about her and what I do know could be summed up in 3 points:

  • She’s a vegetarian
  • She married Paul McCartney
  • She’s a vegetarian

I then googled her and learnt she’s a photographer, musician, animal rights campaigner, entrepeneur, publisher. This is an impressive skill set and I feel sorry that I have essentially reduced her identity to pop stars wife and vegetarian. Apart from the greatest hits of Wings I would say that Linda’s greatest legacy is the food brand that she left behind. I can’t think of another mainstream brand that caters solely for vegetarian and vegan diets and for that Linda should be proud. With such a strong presence  her products must be good and so it was time for me to try them.

Linda McCartney Plait Box

The instructions told me to brush the top of the plaits with milk or egg and cook in a fan oven for 25 minutes. I did exactly that and when I opened the oven a pale, sorry looking slab of pastry was staring back, so I left them in for another 5 minutes, then another, then another, then another and eventually after 45 mins of cooking I served up my cheese and leek plaits. I cut into them and had a taste. It was a revelation in blandness and strange textures. The pastry was horrible, it did flake were it was cooked on the outside, but deeper in it was oily and even after close to double it’s allotted cooking time it was stubbornly uncooked. It tasted powdery and certainly not like a good rich buttery puff, a closer look at the ingredients provided the answer – the pastry was made with rapeseed oil.  The packet suggested that the filling contained cheese but the grainy, pale congealed gloop that oozed out of the pastry was nothing that I would ever have recognised as cheese. On closer inspection it turns out that the “cheese and leek plaits” actually have potato mixed into the filling.  Potentially a cheesy mash would have been great but instead of cheesy mash I got a wall paper paste textured sludge, made up of water and vegetarian cheese 20%, potato flakes (whatever they are) 11% and actual potato 10%.  They were seriously horrid and if this is the best food that vegetarians have representing them on the shelves then I feel nothing but pity.

Plaits on a plate

After such a depressing mouthful and a ruined dinner I started to feel bitter and angry so took to the packet to see what else I could find wrong with it. Apart from the claim that it was an “Improved recipe” it was hard to pick fault as there were many positive things like “Made in Britain” – good for the economy, “We always use the least packaging possible” and “This carton is sourced and made from sustainable forests” – good for the environment. Then there was a quote from the McCartney Family ” Mum believed that the kitchen was the heart of the home and we are proud to carry on  her ethos of honest, delicious, vegetarian food that’s good for animals, the earth and you” they were doing all the right things and I was about to give up when the ingredient list caught my eye and I spotted “palm oil” amongst them. Palm oil is one the food industries biggest evils and apart from meat eaters probably does more damage to animal welfare than anything else. After the “sustainable forest” packaging line the use of palm oil is a mockery. Palm oil is guilty of killing off vast swathes of rainforest.

At the risk of getting overtly political on a blog that is usually focussed on taking cheap shots at celebrities, it is laughable that a product associated with animal rights would use  palm oil. It is responsible for the deaths of 50000 orangutans in the past 20 years, some of them have been hacked to death by machetes or buried alive. Other animals affected by palm oil are the Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Sun Bear, Pygmy Elephant, Clouded Leopard and Proboscis Monkey.

I basically copied the previous paragraph from Say No To Palm Oil so rather than me keep banging on about it here you should probably visit their website instead. But needless to say Linda has undermined herself with that one!

Linda McCartney Cheese and Leek Plaits £2.00 for 2 plaits

3/10 but I’m deducting 3 points for the palm oil so 0/10

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Heston from Waitrose Salt Beef Sandwich

The Heston from Waitrose brand is as strong as ever, when Heston signed up it could have been a doomed endeavour, a flash in the celebrity endorsed food product pan, but it has survived. I suspect the main reasons for this are that the products are generally good and they keep developing and reinventing the brand, they stick with the good products and get rid of the rubbish ones. It is also good for me as it means I won’t run out of things to review as there’s always something Heston based to fall back on.

The sandwiches are not a new addition to the range, they have been around for a while now and as well as the salt beef there is also a coronation chicken and at one point there was a prawn cocktail one but I haven’t seen that in a while so it might have been discontinued.

The thing about a salt beef sandwich is that it’s a classic, there is a good way to do it and a bad way to do it and serving it chilled and wrapped in cellophane is not a good way. A good salt beef sandwich is a piled high mountain of thick cut, hot, soft, pink meat, it is salty and unctuous, the fat melting and delicious, when you lift it up the meat should fall out and mess up your clothes, the mustard should burn your nostrils and once finished you should be coated in meat juice and fat and smell of beef for hours. Trying to recreate this on a supermarket shelf was never going to be easy.

Heston Salt Beef Packet

Supermarket sandwiches are rubbish at the best of times, they are where food goes to die, they are the thing you buy when you really can’t be bothered putting any effort into your lunch or when you’re at a service station and the only other option is an even worse fish and chips that costs £12.

The packaging describes the sandwich as “A pretzel roll filled with flavoursome salt beef, sharp gherkins, Emmental, mayonnaise and zingy American mustard” which actually sounds pretty good.  I took a bite and the beef was tasty and soft, it wasn’t the thick slab you’d normally get in a salt beef sandwich but the flavour was there. The mustard was good and the gherkin did add the sharpness it promised. To be honest I have no recollection at all of the cheese so the best I can say is that it mustn’t have been horrid. The pretzel roll was sweet, chewy and a bit dry, but the dryness was eased by the mayonnaise. Overall it was an enjoyable sandwich.

Salt Beef Sandwich

Making a judgement on Heston’s Salt Beef sandwich is a tough call; in the supermarket sandwich pantheon of mediocrity it is right at the top, but on the leader board of great salt beef sandwiches see Gaby’s Deli, Selfridges Brass Rail and Delancey and Co it really doesn’t come close.  Ultimately I think it should be judged against other supermarket sandwiches as that is where it is being sold so….

Heston from Waitrose Salt Beef Sandwich £3.50



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

James Martin Kitchen Coffee and Pain au Chocolat

I have just returned from San Sebastian the city with the highest number of michelin stars per square metre after Kyoto. If you want to eat well there are few better places to be and not just because of the michelin overload. I ate the most incredible Pintxos I have ever tasted, there was sea urchin, lobster, beef cheek, octopus, a mini vegetable stew to name a few – of everything I ate there was not one bum note and each one was between £2 and £3, it is dining heaven.

Once I had worked my way around the Pintxos bars I headed to Mugaritz, which is currently voted the 6th best restaurant in the world, and got stuck into a tasting menu. Eating at Mugaritz is an incredible experience and I understand why they have received all the accolades, however it is quite academic cooking. I can best describe it as like watching a slightly tricky foreign film – it’s enjoyable, you appreciate the experience, you admire the work and skill that has gone into creation of it, but when it ends you don’t feel like you want to watch it again.

But why am I banging on about the delights of Spanish culinary magic on a blog that normally talks about Katy Perry’s crisps and the like, there are hundreds of better blogs than this for that sort of thing. I’ll tell you why, it’s because to get to San Sebastian I had to go via Stanstead Airport and when I was in Stanstead Airport I had the pleasure of visiting James Martin Kitchen to get me in the mood for all the high quality food to come.

James Martin Kitchen is like a celebrity version of Pret a Manger. It sells sandwiches, wraps, fruit and yoghurt pots, coffee, pastries and granola bars (coming to this blog soon). As it was 5am when I got there I wasn’t much in the mood for anything too exciting so I went for the basics and ordered a coffee and a pain au chocolat. When I had tried them both I wasn’t much in the mood for them either.

JM Coffee

The coffee was horrible. It tasted like it had come from one of those machines you get in a Kwik-Fit reception area. The only advantage of the Kwik-Fit coffee is that it tends to be free. I ordered a latte and it had no discernible flavour, it was way too hot and was extremely milky even for a latte. It wasn’t a nice smooth creamy milkiness but a watery frothy bland milkiness. Were it not for the fact that there was an unpleasant lingering aftertaste I would have thought there was no coffee in it. It was the coffee equivalent of Mrs Doyle’s cup of tea.

JM Pain Packet

Still, places can screw up their coffee but come good in other areas and so it was that I started to eat my pain au chocolat. According to James himself it is made from pastry which “is freshly made on site every morning at 3am” and as it was only 5am I should have been in for a real fresh pastry treat. Oh dear. I suspect what actually happens is that James makes the pastry at 3am, freezes it for 6 weeks, rolls it in mud, dries it out with a hair dryer, steeps it in oil, sends it to a warehouse in Slough  for a couple of days before baking it for a few minutes less than it needs to be baked for and leaving it on a shelf for 3 weeks. It was nasty, it was worse than one of those Tesco ones that has a use by date 6 months in the future. It was raw and for a man who recycles the same joke about using too much butter every single week on Saturday Kitchen he had not let butter anywhere near the pastry I ate.  So all in all it was a failure.

JM Pain au Chocolat

So whilst I may have had a weekend of food luxury it did not start off so well. My advice to you is do go to San Sebastian. Do not go to James Martin Kitchen for your pre flight snacks.

James Martin Kitchen Latte – £2.50 (ish)


James Martin Kitchen Pain au Chocolat – £2 (ish)



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sour Blueberry Candy Kittens – Jamie Laing

Just over a year ago I wrote about the apple and elderflower flavour Candy Kittens sweets and in spite of myself  and the inherent sexism of the brand I was impressed, if you’re interested you can read that blog here. Now here we are one year on and Candy Kittens are still going strong and have released a few new flavours of which I am trying sour blueberry. As the packet clearly states “Blueberries aren’t just for muffins you know!”.

Candy Kittens Blueberry

Candy Kittens are the brain child of Made in Chelsea star Jamie Laing and after what appears to be a roller coaster year for him are now doing very well. In December 2014 OK magazine reported that Candy Kittens had made a loss of £260,000 – which is roughly the cost of a cupboard under the stairs in Chelsea so probably a hit Jamie could take. But then just when things were looking bleak, Chelsea’s favourite newspaper the Telegraph reported that Jamie had struck a deal with Sainsbury’s to get his gummy creations stocked there – all was well with the world once more.

Other advancements in the past year include some additions to his online shop where you can now buy a Candy Kittens poster featuring Jamie sporting  garish lycra leggings and a naked torso on which is written I love candy in lipstick. Jamie is flanked by sexy “Candy Kittens” and they’re all holding silver balloons that spell out candy – yours for just £5. My bedroom wall is now complete. If a poster isn’t your  thing you can also buy gift cards up to £50 in value, branded pencils and a pink (of course it’s pink) notebook. There really is something for everyone.

Candy Kittens Face

But the thing it is really all about is the candy so how is that doing? Well to be honest it’s still pretty good. The sour blueberry flavour is sharp, but not sharp enough to force you to contort your face like a baby sucking a lemon, this is countered by the sugary coating. The texture is great and they are juicy so I don’t doubt the claim that they’re made from real fruit juice.  In a blind taste test I can’t guarantee that I would guess it was blueberry flavour but then it is a sweet and sweets never taste of the fruit they’re pretending to be. If you look at one from the back they’re quite cute and appealing and are shaped like the outline of a kitten, turn one around though and what is supposed to be a “CK” on the front is not clear and it looks more like Hello Kitty after an acid attack so they may want to rethink that.

Overall though I think Jamie has pulled it off once again. I’d happily try another flavour in the future and now they aren’t just in TopShop, Selfridges and online that’s going to be much easier.

Sour Blueberry Candy Kittens – Jamie Laing



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Heston from Waitrose selection!

This post documents a menagerie of Heston at Waitrose products that I have eaten recently but that have remained unblogged – so it’s time to play catch up. Unfortunately in the wide chasm of time that has opened up between the eating and the blogging I have replaced my phone and lost all my photos so this will be an image light post. However I will aim to provide links to photos where appropriate. So here goes…

A couple of months back I did the most middle class thing I’ve ever done. I had a Waitrose based picnic whilst sat in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace before watching a Burt Bacharach concert. The concert was great, Burt had some cheesy backing singers to belt out the numbers for him and he even tried to sing a couple himself. His voice cracked through Alfie and for a man nudging 90 he did a great job. At one point he nearly swallowed a cough sweet and started choking, I was worried I was about to witness his final moments but he pulled through.

However I don’t imagine you’ve found your way here for music criticism you’re probably more interested in my middle class picnic. So not to disappoint you I can reveal it consisted of a baguette, some olives, chorizo, sun dried tomato, chips and dips, a pot of Heston’s chicken liver parfait and a chocolate Gu pot. The Gu pot was really crap and  I only wish it was celeb endorsed so I could write about it here but alas it’s not so you’ll hear about a parfait instead.

The parfait comes in a mini kilner jar (which fitted right in at Hampton Court Palace) and when I popped the lid there was a satisfying yellow top of hardened butter. I plunged my knife through and scooped out a dollop of parfait and a bit of the butter and spread it onto my baguette. When it first hit my tongue I found it a bit strange, it tasted more of alcohol and sugar than anything else, but that soon melted into a rich, smooth as silk parfait that packed a real punch. The parfait didn’t reach the dizzy heights of Heston’s Meat Fruit (as served at Knigtsbridge Restaurant Dinner) but it did only cost £3.99 when packaged in a jar as opposed to £17.50 when it’s served disguised as a tangerine. If chicken liver parfait is your thing then you could do a lot worse than this one.

Heston from Waitrose Chicken Liver Parfait – £3.99 for 80g


Next up are a couple of recent additions to the Heston range – his Spicy Mary Tomato Sauce and his Ultimate Barbecue Sauce. Both of them are far less successful than the parfait. The sauces are fresh, have short shelf lives and they need to kept in the fridge. I’m not sure what the main difference is in the production of Heston’s tomato sauce and a bottle of Heinz Ketchup, but I do know that ketchup will quite happily sit there for over a year without any cause for concern and Heston’s version needs to be eaten within a week. Maybe Heston was hoping that the short use by date would mean people would get through it quicker and buy more bottles, but in reality I don’t think that anyone would return for a second bottle once they tasted the first.

In the Spicy Mary Tomato Sauce – Heston has gone for a riff on a Bloody Mary and incorporated some vodka into the mix, the result is like the product of a late night student experiment that was conjured up for a dare. It tastes like he has taken tomato puree, mixed in a splash of vinegar and then stirred in the vodka. It’s cold, raw, grainy and nasty and shouldn’t be inflicted on any unsuspecting food stuff – I stuck it on a burger that I was very much looking forward to and consequently ruined my dinner.

A couple of days later it was time to try the Ultimate Barbecue Sauce and this time I erred on the side of caution. The packaging suggested that the sauce could be used either as a marinade or applied directly, I poured some out and dipped in some bread to test the water. It did taste like barbecue sauce so it made it out of the starting blocks, but as a sauce it failed in much the same way as the tomato version had – it was grainy and raw and felt like it needed cooking through to be enjoyable. I suspect that if I had gone down the marinade route this would have been passable but in it’s straight from the bottle-gloopy-over sweetened-claggy-made-me-want-to-sick-in-my-mouth form it was not an appealing prospect.

Once again Heston has proved himself to be hit and miss, but that’s all part of the fun. I’ll keep on eating his stuff, he’ll keep on producing it and our merry dance will continue. With Christmas around the corner there’s bound to be plenty more in store.

Heston from Waitrose Spicy Mary Tomato Sauce £1.49 for 175ml


Heston from Waitrose Ultimate Barbecue Sauce £1.49 for 175ml


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments