Sunday 29 September 2013

Space Raiders Pickled Onion

Another crispy selection from the local newsagent run by the amazingly cheerful man.

After careful scrutiny of the back of the packet I find the Space Raiders trademark is registered to United Biscuits who make Jaffa Cakes and Twiglets. This information is in very tiny writing, and the Space Raiders brand doesn't seem to feature on the United Biscuits website. According to Wikipedia, Space Raiders are made by KP but that brand doesn't feature on the United Biscuits website either. Oh, wait, apparently KP was sold to German brand Intersnack in December 2012. It's all terrifically complicated.

Space Raiders have a very strong flavour. I love silverskin pickled onions, although not so keen on the larger pickled onions, so I was dubious about how these would taste. But it's a pretty good approximation of the genuine pickled onion taste and just as strong. Perhaps it's not such a bad thing you only get 22g in the bag: any more and all the skin would get burnt off the inside of your mouth.

So here we have a pickled onion flavour, reconstituted maize, alien-face-shaped crunchy snack. With a great big green alien face on the packet. Could this possibly be yet another savoury snack aimed at children? They do have their own Facebook page... and only 20p....
Not a snack to go with a gin and tonic or a glass of sherry. Maybe a Swiss wine would work? I always drink Fendant or Johannisberg with an Assiette Valaisanne; a plate of cold meats (jambon cru, viande séchée, saucisse sèche and lard), and local cheeses with pickled gherkins and onions. It seems a pretty good combination.

Anyway, despite the luminous green alien on the packet, these "cosmic" corn snacks are rather good. They have pretty much the same bubbly texture as most quaver-style corn snacks, perhaps a little thicker than some but with a good soft bite. There's plenty of flavour dust and the flavour goes all the way through. I'm impressed. Yes, snack fans, I rather liked these bonkers crispy things.

Don't forget the most important thing of all.... these crunchy oniony snacks come in the shape of an alien's face. Wow. I gather that in the bad old days when all of us in Europe were allowed as many E numbers as we liked, the pickled onion flavour snacks were bright green. What a shame I missed that! Ordinary "crunchy corn snack" colour just isn't the same.
Yes I know they are frightfully bad for me. But they are suitable for vegetarians, and baked not fried, and the packet does tell me I should keep active for a healthy lifestyle. Probably the embarrassment of being spotted buying a bag with a luminous green alien on will help with the healthy lifestyle because I likely won't be doing that again. Lying in bed on a Sunday morning taste-testing Space Raiders, however, will not.

Private thought: I wonder if my brother will read this? He doesn't seem to believe blogs exist. Let's find out.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

M&S Sour Cream & Onion Pitta Chips

I have to admit right from the start that I'm not mad keen on these pitta chips from Marks & Spencer. They seem very hard - perhaps they're meant to be hard but that doesn't seem such a good thing - and once you get past the seasoning it's a little like eating one of those famously hard biscuits, the Bath Oliver. Never had a Bath Oliver? What about a Rich Tea? Both of them taste of nothing but plain biscuit with a hard crunch. Bath Olivers definitely win in the hardness stakes although they are rather more buttery. (There is a Chocolate Oliver biscuit which has a very thick layer - very hard - of dark chocolate over the plainness that is the Bath Oliver. Rather good. You can nibble the chocolate off so you don't actually have to eat the biscuit if you don't want.)

These crisps are supposed to be square. Or squarish. The top (or front) is shiny and toasted, with a scattering of onion flavouring. The bottom/back looks like badly toasted bread. In my packet the square chips were few and far between. It seemed that many of them were broken which was a shame.
The oniony part of the flavour seems to be mostly on the shiny toasty top. So that all gets licked off at once. Then when you bite there is a waft of sour creaminess which is quite an interesting sensation - and a good taste. And then there's all the dry biscuityness.

Apparently they are baked with genuine pitta flour. Yes? So how come pitta bread isn't all dry and biscuity?
I find online that you can buy pitta chips made by a company called New York Style. They appear to be an American company although it is very difficult to tell from their website: they have no address or any other details. The only thing that makes me fairly sure is the recipes which feature cups. English recipes never feature cups as a scale of measurement.

Perhaps Marks & Spencer sent their product testing team to the USA and brought back a suitcase full of pitta chips and thought it a good idea to develop their own? On this evidence I'm not certain that was such a top plan.

So. Really hard and rather dry and biscuity.
Not nearly enough flavour, although I like the onion a lot.

Unless this is what pita chips are always like I feel this is a missed opportunity to introduce the UK to something tasty and new. I left these a week and went back and tried again. No. Sorry. Not worth the effort.

And seriously, if pitta chips are all like this, the question is why?

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Extra Cheese Flavour Snacks

A thousand thanks to kind Nick, Katy and baby Theo for bringing me crisps from Corfu.

These cheesy puffs are, according to the packaging, made by Chipita SA based in Athens. However, there is no mention of any cheesy snacks on the Chipita website. I can find croissants, strudels, jams, "chocolate products" - actually hazelnut spread mysteriously available in two flavours (I really wish there was more detail about that - are there two different kinds of hazelnut or what?) and other mostly sweet products. Nothing savoury.

Apparently Chipita have production centres in places as far afield as Bulgaria, Mexico and Nigeria, and export to places like Moldova, Azerbaijan and Australia. So they sound like quite a massive company. They have a brand called 7Days which sells in over 35 countries, the website tells me proudly, "Baked to make you Smile". It has strong market position and high awareness levels (allegedly) but unfortunately I have never heard of it. Not spent enough time in Moldova evidently. Or Azerbaijan. Obviously I just haven't lived. Maybe one day....

It's not a very good website, lacking in detail in every direction, not clickable, and liable to change from Greek into English at the drop of a hat and for no reason at all so I didn't glean any information on Extra cheesy puffs. But somebody must make them so we must suppose it's probably Chipita.

Anyway, to the Γαριδάκια με τυρι (crisps with cheese: thanks very much Google translate) which are much like the usual English cheesy puffs only a little tougher perhaps. The taste is very similar, maybe not so strong as you would expect, and the colour, again very similar although perhaps not such a  bright orange. The texture is much the same, with a little less flavour dust (so less of the bright orange finger effect). So all in all, pretty similar to what you'd expect here in the UK.

What is a bit different is that, and you can't see this very well on the packet, the cheesy puffs come in straight (straightish) or circular rather than little curls; I wasn't expecting that. Perhaps some of the Greek tells you what to expect. The circles of cheesy puff look a little stressed. It's as though they don't really want to be forced into a circle although (knowing nothing about production methods I am only guessing) I imagine the circles of gloopy puff mix are extruded from some machine into the required shape and then dried. Why would the circles all look a bit stressed? I don't know but they kind of do.

It says γαριδακια απο αγνεσ πρωτεσ υλες on the back of the packet, and using the handy drop-down Google translate virtual Greek keyboard I have translated this as.... shrimp from agnes raw materials. I'm a bit puzzled by that. Yes, yes, I know Google translate can be very dodgy and I've obviously got something wrong here but after much effort this is the most sensible translation I have come up with. The ingredients list resolutely refuses to have the word shrimp in it. Which is good for me because I don't really want to eat shrimp. But it's a mystery and probably will remain so unless I find someone who actually speaks/reads modern Greek. However, I never knew you could get a virtual Greek keyboard so I learned something new today.

So, these are not bad at all. I don't think they are so yummy as proper UK style cheesy puffs but they are pretty good. So high marks to Extra whoever they may be.

And here is Theo enjoying the Corfiote sunshine. Thank you Nick for permission to show your handsome son.

Sunday 22 September 2013

M&S Hand Cooked Spicy Tomato

You know how your favourite things always get cancelled or discontinued?

Like the wonderful Firefly starring Nathan Fillion. OK so he has gone on to conquer the world as Castle but that doesn't bring back the truly fabulous and much-missed Firefly. Or the brilliant and greatly under-rated Murder in Suburbia with Lisa Faulkner (since winner of Celebrity Master Chef) and Caroline Catz (now in Doc Martin) as two women detectives. I couldn't believe this was cancelled after only two series. The current "two women detectives" show Scott & Bailey I found absolutely dire in comparison but it's now on series 3. I bet they never re-enact a murder scenario with models of Darth Vader and My Little Pony.

Does anyone remember dark chocolate Toffee Crisp in the blue wrapper? Milk chocolate Toffee Crisp is very good but the dark chocolate version was better.

This is not a modern phenomenon. My mother never got over her favourite face powder disappearing in the 1950s. And as for the gall of Bear Brand tights; they stopped making her favourite colour tights in 1970 something. I thought I would never hear the end of it. Of course, my mother died in 1995 so she doesn't mention it much these days, but you get the picture.

Once upon a time, before I joined the family, Zweifel made a tomato flavour crisp. I never got to try but apparently it was sensational. The family, I suppose I really mean Terry, talks about them a lot. So I picked up these crisps in Marks & Spencer to see if they might in some small way compensate for the loss of the Zweifel crisps.

Wow these are crispy. Crunchy too. Huge. And very very spicy. 

Again (see Smiths Spicy Tomato Snaps and Golden Wonder Tangy Toms) the flavour isn't really tomato. It's more tomato something: sauce, soup, chutney. I'm puzzling to work out what exactly but it doesn't really matter. I'm leaning towards the chutney as there's plenty of vinegar going on. These crisps are a spicy tomato something but the spiciness is what you notice.

Quite unusually, in my researches so far, the flavourings include mace and cardamom. And also "flavouring (contains barley)". Sorry? What does barley contribute to a spicy taste? I think I've only knowingly ingested it in lemon barley water (dull and a bit lemony), pearl barley as featured in hotpots and broth (nastily gloopy and not adding positively to the taste), and I suppose barley sugar sweets which hardly qualify for the spicy scale.

The huge spiciness and sheer size of these crisps means that a packet lasts a lot longer than you might expect. The size means you approach them with caution, and the spiciness ensures you don't eat too many at a time. So, good value.

Both Terry and Luke have indicated that they approve. I do too. Although, of course, these crisps are nothing at all like a Zweifel tomato crisp (wrong thickness, wrong taste...) that hardly seems to matter.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Smith's Twisted Flamin' Hot

"Twisted (TM) soft, melty, deliciously twisty packed full of your favourite Flamin' Hot flavour" says the packaging in orange type on a swirl of red and cerise. I'm not convinced that anything called "Flamin' Hot" is in fact my favourite flavour. However, here goes...

Wow! Really hot. Possibly even flamin' hot. And extremely twisted. But in other respects just like an ordinary corn puff.
Very nice texture, good crunch, orangey yellow and really twisty. I would not describe these as melty though. A little bit too dry. The colour and taste all seem to be on the outside which is a bit of a shame.

I tried these twisty puffs at my desk at lunch and wasn't too impressed. I thought them too hot, and too dry. So I didn't finish the bag. I took it home to photograph the remaining twists and scan the packet. And then I accidentally helped myself to another twist, and another while I was drinking a glass of wine.

What a vast improvement.


How odd that a crunchy snack apparently designed for children tastes so much better with a glass of wine. My lunchtime glass of water was clearly not good enough.

So it turns out that these get a very good review; both for the amazing twistyness and the flamin' hot flavour. Shame about the dry element, but hey, just have another swig of wine.

Well done Smiths. Not a bad job. Suitable for vegetarians too.

But I mustn't forget the tongue twister printed on the back of the packet: tremendously tingly twisty twisted tickle the taste buds and tantalise the tongue, because totally twisty twisted are the tastiest tingliest twisted snack in town. "Ooh twisty!" it says.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Walkers Crinkles Simply Sea Salt

"More flavour in every groove" shouts the bright red packaging.

Mmnn.... I'm not so sure. These are top quality crinkle crisps with a terrific crunch. There is nothing whatever wrong with the texture, the thickness or the crunch. But....

But the simply sea salt flavour is really a bit dull for my taste buds.

I guess I have learned to love crisps with a very strong taste. Actually, I read an article on the BBC website not long ago about how some people have more taste buds than others - or really how some people have fewer taste buds and therefore feel the need to chuck salt and other flavour enhancers all over their food. I have a feeling I fall into this second category.

Most crispy crunchy snacks are so laden with flavours these days, that simple basic saltiness is not enough. I am damning these crisps with faint praise because of my own personal tastes, which is a shame, because there is nothing whatever the matter with them.


(a) I bet they would heat up very nicely as a roast potato substitute with a chicken on a Sunday (see Great British Summer beef burger handcooked potato crisps for more).
(b) I'm sure they are wonderful with dips. I have used up my sour cream and chive dip quota until Christmas so I can't test this out just now, but I am willing to bet these crisps work very well with a good dip. Sour cream and chive is my favourite.

The Chef says he really likes plain salted crisps. He likes the purity. That's what he said. So I have tried again at the end of the packet. Still not the world's most exciting flavour but a pretty good crisp nonetheless.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Bissli BBQ Flavour Wheat Snacks

Ever hopeful and possibly flying in the face of experience, I thought I'd try another kosher snack.

Here we have the dynamic cartoon duo previously featured on the packaging of Bissli falafel flavour wheat snacks, also promoting the "BBQ" snacks. The nerdy one with the glasses is looking a bit more cheerful, and the red-haired one with the scraggly beard is standing at a different angle so you can't see his earring. I'm still not convinced I would use this couple to advertise my snack but there you are.

So. Here we go. I am opening the packet now. Urrr. I mean seriously urrrr.
I'm not eating these. Yuk yuk yuk. Yuk.

The smell when you open the packet isn't too bad. A little bit dog biscuit. Not too bad.
Look like those pasta twirls don't they? Quite innocent really.

But the taste! It's like my neighbour's barbecue before he even begins to cook anything - at this stage he's run out of the house and is spraying the barbecue with something that looks like petrol. Wait wait! His apple tree is burning down and the garden is filled with clouds of smoke..... Who thought this flavour would be a good idea?

Kosher. Suitable for vegetarians. No preservatives or food colouring. But oh dear. In a major way.

Marks out of 10? No. Very sorry. But no.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Simba Mrs H S Ball's Chutney Flavoured Potato Chips

"Roarrrrs with flavour" says the packaging.

And indeed these South African crisps are pretty tasty. It could be because they are flavoured with the famous Mrs H S Ball's Chutney. Or it could be that they are flavoured and coloured with more E numbers than I've seen in one product in a very long time. 13 E numbers plus MSG and a mystery ingredient TBHQ which is a form of butane. Dear me.

I suppose they have different rules about E numbers in South Africa; the packet even has a sticky label that warns me it "contains colourings which may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children". Amazing. I have checked my behaviour and attention span but I can't find any adverse effects. I feel just like someone who has eaten a few too many chutney flavoured crisps.

I have only seen this particular packet in real life, but the website shows that all the Simba flavours feature this imposing and cheerful cartoon lion wearing a crown. Obviously, coming from South Africa, it would feature a lion. Who wants a crisp brand featuring a hartebeest or a kudu? There's a potato wearing a crown on the back of the packet. I think it's a wannabe Simba Chippie. Which I suppose is a crisp?
Interesting flavours from Simba; smoked beef, creamy cheddar and Mexican chili. They even have a limited edition Steers Monkey Gland Sauce flavour. Somehow that sounds utterly disgusting but perhaps monkey gland sauce isn't made of monkey glands? (No of course not says google - it's mostly made of tomatoes, ketchup and chutney but no two recipes seem to be the same. How disappointing that there are no glands involved although, as I say, that does sound disgusting.)

These are crinkles but more finely crinkled than most British crisps I have come across. They almost look as though they've been crimped with a goffering iron (as used by Mrs Tiggywinkle). There's plenty of flavour dust and - I was going the check the colour but I find I have accidentally eaten the whole packet. Damn. I think the colour is fine.

So would I recommend these South African crisps? Yes. Absolutely. For the taste and crunchiness. Although [health & safety message], take care with those E numbers guys and don't stand too near the barbecue.

Sunday 15 September 2013

Bissli Falafel Flavoured Wheat Snacks

Oh dear.

Perhaps Yom Kippur was not a good day to try another kosher snack. Well serve me right because these are not very nice.

The falafel flavour is just right but there's too much wrong with these to make them enjoyable. 
For a start, they look like fish food.
There is a strong falafel smell when you open the bag, and each, erm, wormy bit tastes quite strongly of falafel but you have to go on adding to the falafel taste. If you don't add to the taste (eg keep on eating) it wears off almost at once and then you just have an ultra crunchy wormy wheaty thing that tastes of nothing at all. At a pinch you could say maybe they taste of shredded wheat but what's the lure in that? There's no flavour dust; nothing much to lick off your fingers - just what you get when you crunch.

They are extremely crunchy. Quite hard - very hard. And really quite odd. Or at any rate, quite odd to someone (me) who has never been presented with stuff that looks like fish food as a savoury snack.

I'm looking hard for something nice to say. Suitable for vegetarians. No preservatives or food colouring (no paprika! Or not on the list of ingredients). Kosher.

And what about the two young men on the packet? There's the nerdy-looking one with glasses and a necklace, and the red-haired one (check out the ear ring) with the scraggly beard. Is this a strange way to advertise your snack? It does seem a little weird.

I've tried to say something nice but Terry says firmly these are pretty foul in every department. So there we are.

Saturday 14 September 2013

Cheetos Pandilla Sabor a Queso

Yes... well I'm not really quite sure what to say about these sort-of cheesy snacks.

Kind friend Susan brought them back from Mallorca. She bought the maddest looking crisps she could find, and they are pretty mad: reconstituted potato snacks shaped like ghosts and bats. I don't know if they are only produced at this time of year - in plenty of time for Halloween - or if you can buy them all year round.

The packet, which is mostly purple,  shows several ghosts and bats (actually a lot more ghost- and bat-like than the contents of my packet, although that may have suffered from being stuffed into a suitcase and manhandled by British Airways) and also the less than charismatic Chester Cheetah who advertises the Cheetos brand all over the world.

I read online that Chester Cheetah leads the life of a (cartoon) mega star. He strikes me as a combination of the Pink Panther and Leisure Suit Larry desperately aspiring to be James Bond. Chester wears dark glasses all the time. Even the cuddly toy wears dark glasses. Apparently he has featured in a long-running series of TV commercials, and even two video games, and since 2007 has been aimed at adults rather than children. Weird.

You can ring Chester if your crisps are not perfect but interestingly his (cartoon) phone looks really old-fashioned. You'd think he'd have a smart-phone by now. And although the packaging claims to be recyclable Chester is encouraging me to throw it in a bin.

NB Chester and Cheetos are registered trademarks.

On the purple packaging Chester is dangling like a bat, appropriately I suppose, and wearing a sort of white shrug thing round his shoulders. I really can't make out what that is supposed to be, can you?

And on to the crisps... The aroma on opening the bag is rather more smokey bacon than cheesy and the flavour isn't my idea of cheesy. The colour is kind of generic reconstituted potato coloured with paprika orange - the usual sort of thing - a little pale perhaps. And the snacks themselves are not really shaped much like either ghosts or bats. The crunch is fine but the texture is rather dry but at the same time rather greasy. So I am not 100% convinced by this effort from Cheetos.

This particular packet came with an angry bird sticker and a tazo also with an angry bird on it. I have no idea what you do with a tazo. It seems they may be collectible but I can't think why. Do you stick them together to build a... something? Obviously whole swathes of popular culture have passed me by.

Anyhow. Generally not very impressed. And we didn't finish the bag.
There seem to be hundreds of different sorts of Cheetos so I hope the rest are a bit nicer.

I ought to tell you that there is a helpful nutritional pyramid on the back of the packet advising you that snacks should only make up the small pointy bit of the pyramid that is your diet. Below snacks come milk products and meat and fish, then fruit and veg, and right at the bottom carbohydrates (bread, wheat, toast, some small grainy things - rice maybe? - and pasta). You need to take regular exercise and drink lots of water. So, you know, rubbish crisps but good advice.
Update: January 2016
Noble Friend went to the Canary Islands and brought home another packet of these crispy crunchy ghosts. Which, as you see, has a different packet design.

And I think that the reluctant taste testers liked them better second time around. Apparently one of the taste testers thought these were sheep -shaped (!) but otherwise they all seemed pretty happy to tuck in and eat the entire packet. They are quite moreish even though they still don't taste of much.

Interesting how sometimes you like things better the second time. And sometimes you absolutely don't. I have yet to work out how this works. Perhaps it's just a thing and you can't do a scientific survey.

Monday 9 September 2013

M&S Ever So Posh Lobster Cocktail Crisps

So, let's be brave here. I've chosen to try these beautifully packaged lobster flavour crisps because I love the beautiful packaging. Wow. Dark brown silky smooth bag with a fabulous lobster-coloured lobster on. How fabulous is that? Top marks on the packaging front for this very posh packaging from Marks & Spencer.

Is it silly to try a crisp just because I like the design of the bag? Perhaps not as silly as trying a peanut or tomato flavour snack even though I think the packet design is dreadful. And obviously I've done that before.

However, as crisp fans may have noted, I don't eat fish. And that includes shellfish. I have eaten crab and lobster in the past, to be polite, but found them a bit rich. And, you know, just a bit fishy. So let's see how we go.

The aroma was quite fishy when I opened the bag but the taste was salty and savoury - nothing special but less appetising to me than a non-lobstery crisp might be -  with a hit of citrus aftertaste and a hint of shellfish going on in the background. The colour is pleasant, quite orange, and they have a good crunch as you would expect from this M&S hand cooked range but there was nothing to encourage me to nosh down half the bag in one sitting. Terry wasn't madly struck but he's not a shellfish fan either.

I asked some people at work what they thought because they all eat fish and even things with tentacles on a regular basis.

Ruth said she wouldn't exactly call them lobster cocktail. Just generic crisp flavour. " Nice though" she said, before admitting that she doesn't really eat crisps.
Nick found them a bit tart. He would put them in a bowl and eat them with drinks on holiday. "Yeah, I'd be happy to eat these".
Susan thought they don't really taste of anything apart from paprika, but detected a slight aftertaste of shellfish.

Nobody was madly impressed I am sorry to say.

So, top marks for packaging and crunch; less enthusiasm for the flavour.

Verdict? Could do better. And we didn't finish the bag.

Sunday 8 September 2013

Jacob's Cheeselets

Once upon a time Jacobs Cheeselets came in small cardboard boxes. And weren't they made by Peek Freans?

I must have tried them sometime, probably a long long time ago, because when I joined a family where eating Cheeselets was almost a religion I recognised the taste at once. But by this time, for some reason, Cheeselets had become a seasonal snack. Available in tubs and only at Christmas, they were something to look forward to.  Almost as eagerly anticipated as the skiing season (you have no idea!).

Available only as part of a range which included the fabulous Cheese Footballs (more about these later in the year no doubt) mini Cheddars and Twiglets (these have always been available year round), but not always then. Smaller supermarkets sometimes simply never  received supplies of these little square snacks. One of the staff at our local Waitrose (herself a Cheeselets fan) admitted to me that it was a mystery to her, but the same every year. But suddenly last year Cheeselets became available in rather square - presumably to match the shape of the snack - blue bags all year round. Why the change? Who knows. 

The odd thing about Cheeselets is that they aren't really very cheesy. Tasty, certainly, and very savoury. But cheesy? The ingredients list claims they are made with dried cheese and cheese flavouring. So why don't they taste of cheese? Another who knows it seems. Although maybe it's only me. Even the flavour dust that sticks to your fingers isn't particularly cheesy. So, not very cheesy, but you can't stop eating them.

However, having mourned the unavailabilty of Cheeselets for most of the year, and rushed at the first opportunity to buy vast supplies for Christmas, we find the allure of this small square biscuit has been quite spoilt by year round stocks at "all good retailers".

Yes. I know this is a childish reaction but what can you do?

The packaging trumpets the fact that Cheeselets are baked not fried. Very much healthier I imagine. But I am fairly sure they were nicer fried not baked. And wasn't there more flavour dust to be licked off your fingers?

On the other hand, they remain an awfully good and extremely tasty biscuity snack. Absolutely superb with chilled dry sherry - which we almost never have in the house and I don't know why not. If we are going to have Cheeselets all year round I ought to do something about the sherry supplies.

A day later: so now I can sit down at the weekend with a small glass of manzanilla and a little dish of Cheeselets (thus avoiding the awful trap of guzzling a whole bag all at once) and enjoy a kleine Pause like a grownup.
The little dish was a present from Christine when she lived in Morocco and has greengages in it.
The glass is supposed to be 18th century. (You can see this is turning into World of Interiors).

Oh, and Cheeselets aren't square at all but rectangular. Which is a bit of a surprise because I have always though of them as square. And, another surprise, each one has 5 little holes punched in it. Still not cheesy though.

Saturday 7 September 2013

Zweifel Paprika Original Chips

"Original Zweifel peppers are the clear leader among Zweifel chips! With her unmistakable Gewürtzmix they belong for 50 years the most popular in the range."

This is what Zweifel's rather orange website tells me, although to do them justice I should point out that the rather dodgy English translation is courtesy of google.

Zweifel is a family owned Swiss company based in Zurich and Aargau. They introduced crisps "les chips" to the Swiss in 1950 and have about 70% of the market share. Paprika is the most popular flavour. And that's enough facts.

It's really quite amazing how much paprika goes into making crisps. Foolishly perhaps I had always supposed that paprika farmers were dependent on people making lots of goulash, but not a bit of it. Practically everything I look at these days seems to be coloured with paprika, or flavoured with it too. These crisps are just covered in tasty paprika yumminess.

Paprika has possibly also inspired the colour of the Zweifel factory which is an exciting very bright orange. Oh, and the colour of the website too of course.

Zweifel paprika original crisps are extremely finely cut, far finer than the average British crisp. They are a rich orange in colour, have a really delicate crunch and have lots of high quality flavour dust to lick off your fingers. The fineness of the crisp does result in more broken crisps than you would expect from, say, a packet of Walkers, but we don't find this a problem: the taste is simply too good.

We try very hard not to eat too many of these when we are in Switzerland, and usually fail. And Terry always imports several large packets into the UK when he comes home so we fail not to eat them here too.

Delicious. Try them if you can. I gather Zweifel export some of their products to Germany and Italy so supplies may not be confined to Switzerland.

Thursday 5 September 2013

Bamba Peanut Snack

My lovely friend Giraffe Fan taste tester very kindly bought me a 25g packet of Osem Bamba peanut snacks to try.

Giraffe Fan taste tester tells me this is what Israeli children eat. Apparently she ate them too as she hung around with a load of Iraeli kids when she was growing up. I asked suspiciously if she would still eat them and she indicated that yes, she certainly would. She has a wide, sincere smile.

I asked because (very sorry) the packaging design is so ghastly I was not encouraged to try these at all, but rather put off. The dreadful cartoon baby is really rather... dreadful. Honestly I can't imagine why any company would choose such an image to advertise their product. Once again the product is not really aimed at me but I still don't see why the baby motif would appeal to children even if it is brandishing weights.

Anyway, to the snack. The smell is very strongly peanut (49% on the ingredients list) but not salted peanut. The finger feel is smooth and rather soft, and there's no flavour dust. Fairly crunchy, the snack seems to be a reconstituted mix of peanut and corn. Initially there is not much taste but the texture is smooth and velvety, quite unusual, and after you chew you get a soft velvety paste to eat.

The best bit is the sweet, salty, peanutty after-taste.

I can easily see that if you grew up eating these you could find them delicious but I'm pretty sure I would never buy them for myself. The Chef tried them too so it's not just me. Wikipedia tells me the flavour is peanut butter and not peanut at all, but I can't see any evidence of this on the packet - unless it's the small bit in Hebrew in the corner although I suspect not.

Useful info: they are pareve kosher and you never know when that will come in handy. The package tells me Rabbi Jacob Moshe Charlap monitors this for Osem Israel (owned by Swiss conglomerate Nestlé).

Two slightly weird extras: these snacks come with a U certificate as though they were a film, and also I need to protect them from the sun. I wonder why?

Also available in strawberry says Wikipedia. Hmmnn... I'm not sure about that.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Golden Wonder Tangy Toms

A packet of Tangy Toms tomato flavour corn snacks from Golden Wonder has been sitting on my desk for a week waiting for a crunch at lunch moment.

Perhaps this was not a good choice today. With several very stressy tasks to complete by the end of the day I needed something better.

Tomato Flavour Corn Snacks with Sugars and Sweetener says the packaging.
And "Let's hear it for Terrifically Tangy Toms, because every bag of these bad boys... contain no artificial colours or preservative... has just 0.9g of salt per pack... are baked not fried" [sic].

Somehow this terrific write up is rather off-putting. Actually, let's be honest, I find the use of "these bad boys" seriously off-putting. However, the target audience is probably boys aged 8 - 14. Which doesn't include me.

These little ball-shaped corn snacks are about the size of a man's thumb nail and a golden orange colour. Unfortunately the golden orange is only skin deep and this is a shame because the colour is also the flavour which is also only skin deep. I suppose the tangy tomato flavour is OK; fairly spicy, quite tasty, but nothing special. And the taste is more spicy - sorry - tangy tomato sauce rather than tangy tomato.

But as I said, the flavour is only skin deep and the inside, which is much bigger than the outside, is a dry corn snack with nothing to recommend it. We had curried eggs like this for supper at my boarding school sometimes; each table would have a dish of 14 hard boiled eggs sitting in plain boiled rice with a layer of curry on top. Sounds reasonable? Perhaps it would have been if the curry had been more than a couple of millimetres thick. You need more than a skin of flavour.

Verdict? Not very special and far too dry. Shame because Golden Wonder seem to have tried to make these, er, bad boys just a little bit healthier than the norm.

And what is going on with the dreadful faux tomato creature on the packet?

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Smith's Spicy Tomato Flavour Snaps

I honestly thought these would be truly disgusting. And they're not. Not disgusting at all despite the wacky crocodile wackily dressed as an American college student on the bag. 

I really must try not to buy them again because they are surprisingly tasty and go down very readily. Once again, lucky thing it's a small packet.

Mmm..... reconstituted potato foaminess! Delicious. With a good crunch. Like the basic and much loved Quaver in texture Snaps are a deep yellowy orange and taste not of spicy tomatoes but spicy tomato soup. I can't quite work out why I feel so strongly about the distinction.

They are of course a completely fake form of food and I am sure have a giant carbon footprint forcing the good old potato into all those bubbles. Really, you might as well use them as packaging for, I don't know, a set of six champagne flutes as eat them.

However. Let's not get overly picky just because the packaging is unspeakably naff. And what do crocodiles have to do with spicy tomato flavour anyway?

Verdict? Yum, surprisingly yum. Well done Mr Smith.

Monday 2 September 2013

M&S Hand Cooked Red Leicester & Spring Onion

Not a bad variation on one of the big three crisp flavours: big three in the UK at any rate. I gather that the second flavour after ready salted in North America was barbecue. Here of course we had ready salted, salt & vinegar, and cheese & onion.

If I was a proper researcher, which I'm not, I would have rushed out and got some Red Leicester cheese for comparison. But I didn't. Sorry about that. I didn't because the last time I remember being given Red Leicester I wasn't that impressed. And that's another story.

However, the crisps seemed to me to be properly cheesy. And the spring onion part of the flavour is very well realised. Quite different from any old ordinary onion this tastes just right. Except the taste does not linger as the taste of real spring onions can.

This is a nice crisp but it's hard to tell if it is hand cooked or not. I'm not really certain what hand cooked means these days. I mean, it's not as though some chef stands over a deep frying pan to create each batch. Is it? I suppose that some highly trained chef-like factory worker operates a giant machine but has some decision making on how long each batch cooks. What do you think?

Not so long ago hand cooked in the name was a sign of extra care and attention in manufacture and a better quality product. Now most crisps seem to be of a very high quality and I'm not really sure how much difference the mystery hand cooking makes. So there we are. But a good crunch and a good taste. What more can you ask?

This is another in Marks & Spencer's strange food on the move daily fare selection. I still ask how this makes them any different but I guess I'm not going to get an answer.

I'm not sure these are good enough to tempt me back for a second try when there are so many other flavours to try but these crisps are pretty good. As you would expect from the ever reliable Marks & Spencer.

Sunday 1 September 2013

Walkers Crinkles Salt & Malt Vinegar

I thought these posts were a little heavy on Marks & Spencer crisps so I went to Waitrose (the supermarket nearest to where I work) last week. Unfortunately the local branch isn't very good at crisps; they sell huge bags full of bags for families (and plenty of 3 for 2s) but not a great selection of small bags for the interested researcher.

I wanted to try these Walkers Crinkles "more flavour in every groove" in another flavour but despite kneeling down and grovelling at the back of the shelf all I could find was these. So here we are.

The package art shows a very thick crisp you might struggle to bite into so I was surprised to find these are relatively delicate. And the flavour is quite delicate too. Salt and vinegar crisps can be very harsh - I've often wondered why everyone has carried on eating them for so long - but not these. Even at the bottom of the package where the flavour is always stronger.

I hadn't eaten any salt and vinegar crisps for years but I was impressed.

The packaging isn't flashy and feels good and strong. Walkers' blurb tells me that CRINKLES, which is written in a sans serif typeface as though made from reconstituted potato, is a registered trademark. Shame I didn't notice the potato effect until I read the blurb.

And they have their own "throw this away" logo; instead of the usual rather angular unisex person dropping rubbish into a large mesh bin, Walkers have what looks like a portly middle-aged man with turned back cuffs and a bad back throwing his crisp packet away. I'd not noticed this before. It's rather smart, but does give the impression that logo man has eaten a few too many Walkers products. Oh dear. That'll be me in a year or two if I keep up this research. Although with any luck I won't be a middle-aged man.

For some reason the French and Swiss (other nationalities too - who knows?) think that salt and vinegar is an archetypally British flavour. "Very British!" they say enthusiastically, even in the middle of a sentence in french or german. So I am delighted to be able to report that Salt & Malt Vinegar is a very good flavour indeed.