Little yummy snippets …Quark (aside from being the sound a well breed duck makes, or a sub atomic particle), has been a regular in my basket for about the last year. The Lake District Diary produces a British quark in three flavours, original, lemon and vanilla. For those not in the know it is a soft spreadable cheese that barely contains any fat. Use it in place of yogurt or cream cheese. Ed has been enjoying it on his muesli, and I have been adding a generous dollop into my morning smoothie where it provides a good protein boost. From £1.25 a 250g pot in many supermarkets. Twitter @LDDCQuark
My spirit of choice has always been gin – be it a G&T of the driest of dry martinis. Beefeater 24 is flavoured with grapefruit and Seville orange peel, as well as Japanese Sencha tea. Different but not too out there. Beefeater suggest a triple citrus, gin and tonic in a 2:1 ratio with slices of lime, lemon and orange. Perfectly refreshing for the summer evenings. Twitter @BeefeaterLondon
Grab them while you can! The seasonal Moser Roth Pannacotta Chocolate Bars from Aldi are back. We had some last year and really rather enjoyed them. Milk chocolate filled with a creamy moussy pannacotta flavoued filling topped with fruit jelly. We still think that the passion fruit is the clear favourite, but, if the space in the treat tin is anything to go by, all were enjoyed. Twitter @AldiUK
When I judged the Quality Food Awards last year I was both surprised and impressed by the offerings from some of the discount supermarkets. Also from Aldi are these soft brioche burger buns from their Specially Selected range. Light as air and very soft they are perfect for a burger, or a mound of pulled pork. The come ready sliced so freeze pop in the toaster and enjoy for breakfast with butter and jam too. 99p for 4. Twitter @AldiUK
The main lessons I learnt on my tour of Italy with Cirio in May were the essence of Italian food is great ingredients simply cooked, less so very often is more, and that there are massive regional differences – making the term Italian cuisine somewhat meaningless. A selection of Gran Cru Italian olive oils from Filippo Berio bears this out.
- Toscano, from Tuscany has a yellow green colour, an aroma of almonds and is delightfully balanced, fruity with a peppery finish
- Monti Iblei, from Sicily, is a golden green, intense with a hint of tomato leaves,
- Dauno, from Puglia, is a similar golden green, intense, grassy and fresh.
They are all very different indeed and I am looking forward to experimenting with them in different dishes, I think they would make an excellent present, and would love to be given another set once these have been used up. £9.99 a bottle from the Filippo Berio online boutique. Twitter @filippoberio.
The whole world has gone bonkers for chia it seems. The Chia Co have produced 4 flavours of instant Oats & Chia mixes, just add water, stir and enjoy. The fact that they are instant makes them perfect for work, but at only 200Cal per serving they are simply not enough to keep me full until lunch. However they are absolutely perfect for adding to a smoothie to thicken, add some bulk and flavour as well as getting all the benefits from the chia. Available from selected Tescos. Twitter @TheChiaCompany
We love cheese and really enjoyed our box from The Dairy Girl a new cheese box delivery company. We received a classic box (£21.95 plus £4.95 delivery) with 5 perfectly ripe, beautifully wrapped cheeses presented nestling in straw in an attractively branded cardboard box, complete with tasting notes and a cheese care card. The cheeses were unusual, the smoked Wedmore and Clava Brie were both new to me. Unlike many of theseservices you can pick and choose which cheese you receive – so could exclude goat’s or blue for example. Living in London with access to shops selling good cheese the service is an indulgence, but I would still be delighted to receive a box as a present and it would make a great gift too. Twitter @thedairygirl.
As well as growing tomatoes the Isle of Wight Tomato Stall produces a number of tomato products. Their rich,slightly spiced tomato chutney (£3.85 / 300g) and deep, sweet but not too hot chilli jam (£3.85 / 220g) went very well with the Dairy Girl cheeses. Twitter @IOWtomatoes.
The arrival of Boxerchips immediately took me back over 30 years and triggered an earworm of Boxerbeat by JoBoxers, which featured on my first compilation album Superchart 83 given to me with a cassette recorder for Christmas all these years ago. We really enjoyed the crisps, packed into card boxes inside the traditional packets, making them less crushable and thus perfect for picnics. Lovely thick crunchy kettle style crisps with big flavours. Available from Ocado and selected smaller retailers. Twitter @spudmuckers
I am aware how good kiwi fruit are for you, but really find them far too acidic for me. Gold kiwi fruit are far sweeter than regular kiwis with all the nutritional benefits. One to add to your shopping basket if you see them, I was surprised at how good they were.
Beautifully presented chocolate bars from Creighton’s with the wrapper designed by Betty & Walter. We tried dark chocolate pineapple and dark chocolate with fig and pink pepper. I was really looking forward to them, but sadly neither quite worked for us as we really did not like the flavours and end notes of their base chocolate. Twitter @wearecreightons & @bettyandwalter
Super Natural Energy drinks are the prettiest of pink colours and delicately flavoured. Of course they are sweet but they re marketed as energy drinks. Filled with fruit juice and caffeeine from green coffee beans they provide a more nautral liquid jolt. Twitter @supernaturalnrg
If you have not tried Argan oil yet then you must. Alassala products are from organic Moroccan argan. The oil tastes like a very rich mix of toasted almonds and oats, and the almond & oil paste is even more intense. Delicious. Twitter @alassalaargan
Lovely Greek ideas from Gaea, I tend to cook less in the summer and rely on delicious things in jars to embellish salads. I am always keen on jarred roasted peppers as it is so much easier, and cheaper, than preparing my own. Twitter @GAEAproducts
To ensure the set of your jam with low pectin fruits you can either use a jam sugar, or this, new to me, bottled pectin from Certo. Untested by me.
New from Nairns are some new oatcakes. Firstly certified gluten-free chocolate biscuits – I did not realise that oats are gluten-free, but are all too often contaminated but gluten-free grains growing in the same fields. When growing the oats the farmers walk the fields and remove any other grains growing, the oats are tested and then processed in a gluten free bakery and then tested again to the standards from Coeliac UK. What we really liked was the low level of sugar in both the chocolate biscuits and the muesli breaks (2.3g & 2.1g per biscuit) a fraction of other similarly marketed snacks. We shall be buying the muesli breaks again and I’ll be popping a packet in my bag when I am out for the day. Twitter @nairnsoatcakes
We love the Collective Dairy! Delicious thick creamy yoghurts made from West Country milk. New to the range is the selection above. We loved the crème brûlée flavour, just like the traditional pudding but with fewer calories and no crunch. The blood orange is tangy and refreshing and very generous in the amount of fruit puree. We also enjoyed the individual portions of beetroot and blackcurrant – an excellent paring and the new yoghurt drinks are excellent for breakfast on the fun. Twitter @collectivedairy
Ready meals from Charlie Bigham are generally very well received, my parents are huge fans, and my mother was sent some vouchers to try some meals, as well as the new currys. As ever a very favourable review. “Thank you to the people at Charlie Bigham’s for sending us the vouchers. We are no strangers to Charlie Bigham’s food, we enjoy the Traditional Fish pie and the Steak and Ale pies – all very good, also one of my favourites is the Moroccan Chicken Tagine. The new Chicken Tikkia Masala is definitely one to add to our favourites. The sauce was a lovely colour Good size pieces of tender chicken and the rice was extremely good- no need to add water halfway through cooking. I really appreciated the foil (need to cover the dish when cooking) was tucked behind the carton Served with a chilled drink it was a good supper“. Twitter @charliebighams
Win a £30 set of Filippo Berio Gran Cru Oils
— Helen Best-Shaw (@FussFreeHelen) July 22, 2014
Disclosure: I was sent a £30 set of Gran Cru Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Filippo Berio for review. Giveaway terms: 1 entry per person. 1 prize. 1 winner receiving a £30 gift set Gran Cru Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Filippo Berio. UK Delivery only. Giveaway not associated with Twitter. No cash alternative. You must follow @fussfreehelen and RT this giveaway tweet to enter (https://twitter.com/FussFreeHelen/status/491571596096970752). Closes 11.59pm BST 31st Aug 2014. Winner chosen at random using random.org from valid entries. Open to existing followers. Winner will be informed by DM. If prize isn’t claimed within 1 week a new winner may be chosen. Fuss Free Flavours’ decision is final.
Many thanks to all the brands for samples received. All images my own.