Heston From Waitrose Toffee Apple Mulled Cider

I’m writing about Heston’s mulled cider out of season, Waitrose brought this to the shelves at the latter end of 2015 in time for bonfire night and also to catch the Christmas crowd. I bought a bottle before Christmas but stuck it in the cupboard and haven’t had it since. That’s partly due to the fact I don’t drink so it’s not the most obvious thing for me to write about and partly because it sounded a bit horrid and I wasn’t sure I want to try it. I almost cracked it open when I had my work colleagues round for dinner but there was a greater interest in aperol spritz and wine so it stayed in the cupboard, then I took it back home for Christmas certain that someone would want it at some point, but the bottle just got funny looks and stayed on the shelf so it came back to London. So here we are on the cusp of March and the festive drink has not found it’s place so I thought I’d take the plunge and give it a go.

What is a bit confusing about this product is that I had always believed that mulled wine or cider should be served hot, but it isn’t clear from the bottle if it should be warmed before serving. Certainly the past tense terminology in the name suggests that the mulling has already happened and so if it is already mulled do I just pour it from the bottle and drink? Then I got to thinking that maybe I don’t even know what mulled means. Is the mulling process letting the drink infuse with spices and the warming up bit has nothing to do with the mulling process? I was so confused! The bottle wasn’t explicit on the matter and said the following things:

  • Toffee Apple Mulled Cider. Mulled cider enriched with the flavours of toffee & caramel for a lively, complex and irresistibly drinkable finish.
  • Refrigerate after opening and use within 5 days.
  • No need to mull it over – apple and dark caramel is a classic combination providing a cider with a refreshing depth of flavour.

I took the above to mean that all the work required had been done and Heston’s brew was ready to go straight from the bottle. Consequently I assumed that mulling refers to the infusion of flavour rather than the heating process which is good to know and the long wait to try the drink was proving educational.

Toffee apple cider

I poured out a glass and it was a satisfying golden colour, it looked crisp and fresh. The cider smelt of vanilla and candy floss which would be fine at a fairground but as a winter tipple it was incongruous. I took a sip and it was gross! It did have that farm like taste of cider but it was blasted away by sugary, butterscotchy, cream sodaish flavour that made for a horrible combination. I know the bottle stated that it was toffee apple so the sweetness was to be expected and I was happy to make a leap of faith and give it a go,  but sadly I wasn’t proved wrong. This was another fail for the Heston range and I’d be very surprised if it returned this year.

Heston From Waitrose Toffee Apple Mulled Cider – I think it was about £5 for a litre



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Maria Sharapova Bubblegum Balls

Maria Sharapova is a Russian lady, she’s famous for being beautiful and rich and for having boyfriends – at least that’s what Google would you have you believe. Type her name into Google and if you move past her official website, instagram and Twitter accounts you can see a lot of pictures of her looking fabulous in a bikini and lots of articles about her wealth and beauty. I clicked a link to an article in the Telegraph and learnt that she has a boyfriend who bought her a lot of roses, this boyfriend incidentally plays tennis, but the article neglected to mention what Maria does.

Being led by the internet, it appeared that the most important thing to do was look at pictures showing how sexy she was, so I did that. Handily Google categorised the images for me to help me further understand what was most important and looking from left to right I can exclusively reveal that this is the order they were in: 1st, Esquire magazine (lots of bikini photos); 2nd, Sports Illustrated – interesting maybe this beautiful lady has something to do with sport but the photos were all bikini shots; 3rd, Grigor Dimitrov – this is her boyfriend and the next category by which to define her; 4th, Tennis – it seems that as well as wearing a bikini and having a boyfriend she also plays tennis; 5th, Height – a vital topic and presumably only in 5th place because the photos show Maria in high heels rather than a bikini; 6th, Wimbledon – a pattern is emerging it looks as though there’s more to Maria than first meets the eye and it seems that beauty, wealth and boyfriends aren’t the whole story and Maria is actually the sixth best female tennis player in the world. Who knew?

Facetiousness aside it is alarming how the greatest achievements of one of the worlds best sports women are side stepped to focus on looks and boyfriends. Even when you dig a little deeper the articles start to talk about wealth and how she has been the highest paid female athlete in the world for the past ten years. I am not criticising this success, in fact that success is why I am writing this blog as Maria runs a side line in sweets under the brand Sugarpova. A portion of the profits from Sugarpova goes to the Maria Sharapova Foundation which is aimed at “… helping children across the world achieve their dreams.” which is a pretty noble endeavour.

Sugarpova bag

Sugarpova have a range of products including gummy sweets and chewing gum. I have a selection of chewing gum tennis balls called the sporty mix. They look great fun and are a mix of lurid colours and e numbers, the attention to detail on the tennis ball look is pretty good too.  I picked one up and got ready for a chew but was taken by surprise at the level of resistance the chewing balls had against my teeth – they were rock hard and took a fair bit of saliva before they yielded into a gummy chew. The packet suggested that they were fruit flavoured but this feels like a stretch as they just tasted sugary sweet which quickly waned to leave a flavourless rubbery lump in my mouth, like eating an elastic band. I persevered working my through a blue one, a green one, a yellow one and an orange one but they all had exactly the same effect and if fruit had been anywhere near this packet I’d be very surprised.

Sugarpova balls

So whilst the media ignores Maria’s sporting achievements I can’t ignore the fact that her chewing gum is horrible. It may be helping children achieve their dreams but it’s only helping me achieve a diagnosis of diabetes and despite what the packet may claim this is far from the “taste of victory”.

Maria Sharapova Bubblegum Balls $4.99 for a bag + $.30 tax + shipping = total cost of not worth bothering with.


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Levi Roots Rum and Coffee Chocolate Puddings

I thought the Reggae Reggae range was on the decline as I haven’t seen many new lines from Levi in a while. There is of course the great Reggae Reggae sauce original that is always on the shelves but a couple of years ago there wasn’t a supermarket aisle in the land that didn’t feature a Reggae Reggae product. There was pizza, pasties, sauces, frozen meals, ready meals, crisps, curry sauces the list was endless. However over time the ubiquitous brand has lost some of it’s presence and apart from Reggae Reggae coconut milk in B&M Bargain you don’t always stumble across a Reggae Reggae product.  I had found the relentless expansion of products tedious and silly and Caribbean/Italian fusion was not a cuisine that was going to be missed from many peoples diets so not seeing it didn’t cause me much concern.

Rum and coffee pudding packet

But then last weekend nestled amongst the microwaveable crumbles and apple pies I spotted that familiar bright packaging and Levi’s happy face staring out. It turns out Levi has moved into the pudding market and produced some rum & coffee melt in the middle chocolate puddings and I felt quite joyous about it. In my basket they went, closely followed by a tub of extra thick double cream.

If you have a microwave you can have one of these puddings hot and plated in less than a minute, but if like me your kitchen is a microwave free zone you’ll have a 25 minute wait on your hands. I tipped the puddings out and served them up with a generous dollop of thick cream.

Rum and coffee pudding served

The chocolate sponge wasn’t going to win any awards, it had that taste that is difficult to describe but lets you know unequivocally that it was produced in a factory, it lacked the freshness and richness that comes with a baked chocolate pudding straight from the oven. It was no better or worse than any other supermarket chocolate sponge but it did nothing to elevate it above the norm. But when the spoon went in and the rum and coffee middle slooped out and mingled with the cream it became a rather delicious mouthful. The filling fell more on the side of rum than coffee, it was rich and delicious and the alcohol cut through and prevented it from becoming over claggy. I liked it.

Levi’s first foray into puddings was a success. It wouldn’t stack up in a michelin starred restaurant, but it would sit quite comfortably on a TGI Fridays dessert menu and compared to other supermarket puddings it would definitely hold its own. Well done Levi and I look forward to trying the stem ginger one next.

Levi Roots Rum and Coffee Chocolate Puddings


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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


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 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


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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


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


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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


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