Sunday 27 October 2013

Space Raiders Spicy

Time to try another flavour from Space Raiders.  And another bag of crisps aimed at 8 year olds from the newsagent run by the amazingly cheerful man. Not much stock in just now: they're about to redecorate.

This time it's Spicy. Much to my surprise I really enjoyed the Pickled Onion flavour but the Spicy isn't quite so good. Very tasty, with a faint aroma of curry, good crunch, nice texture; nothing the matter with it at all and I was pushed not to eat them all at once. OK, I admit it, extremely tasty. Just not quite so good as the Pickled Onion.

I only noticed these "cosmic" corn snacks were faintly orangey brown when I read on the packet they are coloured with paprika extract and spice. What spice I don't know, and why paprika does not in this case qualify as a spice I don't know either. The flavour comes from soy sauce, curry powder, dried tomato, barley malt extract and barley malt vinegar.

Not much else to say really.
Good taste.
Not expensive (only 20p in case you missed the giant red strap across the top of the packet). Suitable for vegetarians.
Baked not fried.
Comes with advice on keeping fit; although the advice prints out at 10mm x 40mm (so very very small) it is a link to real website. Erm... but the health advice comes direct to you from United Biscuits who, guess what? make biscuits and snacks.
Oh well. You can't have everything.

18 January 2022 Update 
I just discovered there is a link to this page on Wikipedia! How surprising is that? Perhaps I am an internationally renowned food writer after all. Perhaps not.

Friday 25 October 2013

ROKA Cheese Crispies

A very long time ago in the 1960s we had a yellow and blue tin with a picture of a cow on it. And the Roka biscuits lived in that tin. They were expensive - possibly because they came in a tin - so we didn't have them very often, and we called them Cow Biscuits. Because of the picture on the tin.

This is a very old memory but a real one; not prompted by photographs of very small me and my smaller brother eating crisps.

I don't know what happened to our original tin or tins but I found this on eBay. Amazing! Just how I remember it. I still need to attack it with wire wool  to get rid of the rust but I've got to say I'm pretty thrilled with my purchase.

But look at this: Roka Cheese Crispies are still made, and they haven't changed a bit. Oh, they make all sorts of fancy new versions but the basic Crispie is just the same as ever. Or is it a Crispy? Well, anyway, it's a small cheese biscuity thing. And they still make them!

 These are very delicate little biscuits, like cheese straws in a way, with a delicate cheesy taste. It's gouda cheese from Holland - which does have a delicate taste. Nothing shouty like mature cheddar. I guess they're made in the same way as puff pastry with lots and lots of very fine layers, and they break along the fault lines between the layers. You really need to take care when you bite because otherwise a chunk will drop off and then it's gone forever.

I have a very strict rule about not eating stuff that falls on the floor. I gather some people have a 5 second rule but for me if it falls on the floor I'm not eating it. And that would be a waste.

Cheese Crispies are so good but for some reason they are even better if you warm them slightly. I wouldn't put them in the oven, but maybe if you have an open fire put a little bowlful by the hearth and they'll taste even better after a couple of minutes. Yum.

So these Crispies come very very highly recommended although please don't expect a modern exciting taste. It's not about excitement. It's not about a big spicy taste. It's about a gentle grown-up cheesy biscuit that tastes very good with a glass of sherry or champagne.

They probably taste pretty good with anything although maybe not a cup of coffee.

You can still get Roka Cheese Crispies in a tin if you look hard enough. They usually come in a cardboard box, with the crispies in an airtight silver baggie. But as I write Lakeland are selling tins at £6.99 which is quite a lot for two packets of cheesy biscuits. But I guess if I got one of these tins now I wouldn't have to buy one off eBay in my old age. Something to consider perhaps. Maybe I could even sell it on eBay in my old age?


Wednesday 16 October 2013

Red Sky West Country Bacon & Cream Cheese

These crisps advertise themselves as entirely natural with all natural ingredients and bunnies and moles helping to pick the potatoes.

The packaging is very pretty, showing a homeward bound tractor silhouetted against a red summer sunset (red sky at night shepherd's delight); there are swallows and swifts in the sky and the barn or farmhouse has a weather vane on the roof. All very rural.

"Nature's promise of a glorious day" it says, and "Supporting the Prince's Countryside Fund"; I assume that is Prince Charles's fund, and "Let's make sure our countryside stays pleasant and green".

And very nice too.
Oh yes, and don't forget to throw your rubbish away carefully because that protects the countryside too. The throwing rubbish away man doesn't usually get to wear a hat so this is rather a fine example.

The smell is rather plain (pretty good in fact) but there's no sense of the bacon & cream cheese flavour. And the bite and crunch is fine. And what do they look like? Pretty normal for a crisp. Not very large but a good golden colour.

But oh dear. The 100% Great Taste, with 100% Natural Seasonings really isn't very nice at all. I do get the bacon taste on first bite but it's a bacon that's been sitting in the fridge for far too long and gone off. Yuk. The after-taste is better by far but after one crunch into that off-tasting crisp you don't want to attempt another. I did try several more because I was searching for the cream cheese. Couldn't find it.

Lucky thing these crisps were on special offer. Or could that be, no wonder these crisps were on special offer?  What a disappointment.

Red Sky crisps are made by Walkers, who of course are owned by PepsiCo. The packet encourages me to look at the website where I can let Red Sky know what I think. No I can't. It's one page with a picture of the same red sunset and a postal address (as already spotted on the packet) and that's it. You even get this link on the PepsiCo site. PepsiCo also advise me I could have looked on Twitter or YouTube but I slightly lost the will to live. And no use looking on the Walkers website because that's all about Gary's Great Ingredient Hunt just now.

The Prince's Countryside Fund has quite an interesting website though.

There are two other Red Sky flavours that I've not tried yet but to be honest I'm not sure I really want to. Although I must admit I have always had my doubts about ham - and bacon is essentially a species of ham - as a flavouring for crisps. Perhaps I started in the wrong place? With the wrong flavour I mean. I don't know. Perhaps pioneering food writers (that's me!) must suffer for their art.

I do like the plane pulling the slogan along.

Verdict: surprisingly nasty. I wanted to like them but I couldn't.

Monday 14 October 2013

M&S Poisonous Scorpions Pickled Onion

Here we have a delightful Halloween offering from the crisp development team at Marks & Spencer.

And what a top job they've done on this reconstituted maize snack aimed squarely at the pre-teen market. Scorpion shapes! Of course you'd associate scorpions with Halloween. Or would you? I'm pretty sure I don't but I suppose I would find it very scary if a scorpion suddenly appeared in my kitchen.

They have the scorpions just right. Lovely big claws, good strong tail shape, generally extremely scorpiony. I was very impressed how few in the packet were broken. And a ghostly shade of pale green (chlorophyll) to set them off - you get more green by artificial light for some reason but sadly they don't glow in the dark (think of the potential E numbers though). Lovely!

Unfortunately the pickled onion flavour is not so good. The initial smell is pickled onion but it's more of a vinegar flavour than anything else and a little harsh. If you want a proper pickled onion snack try Space Raiders Pickled Onion. Now they were good. Or of course you could try actual pickled onions.

The texture too is not  the best. I found these quite dry, and almost papery. And chewy rather than crunchy.

So not the best pickled onion flavoured corn snack in the world but having said that I ate quite a lot of these. I'd have finished the packet all on my own but I thought perhaps I'd better not.

Top marks for the shape.

Suitable for vegetarians and (weirdly) made in Denmark.
Impressively lurid packaging eh?

Sunday 13 October 2013

Kettle Chips Mozzarella & Pesto

It says here on the package that Mozzarella & Pesto is a seasonal flavour. I checked on the website and it is; a special flavour for summer. So it's a bit odd that I never noticed these crisps until October. However, the bright green packet is very cheerful and summery, and extremely welcome on a dreich day like today.

These are pretty good for a (presumably) limited edition season crisp. Good crunch and texture, really large crisps, lots of flavour dust, good colour with little herby bits of basil and parsley. In fact I think they rate a "yum".
I bought these to try because I love mozzarella (if I get grossly fat one of the reasons will probably be overindulging in this superb cheese) and I wanted to see how the guys at Kettle managed to get a crisp to taste of mozzarella. I think they've done a pretty good job. I can't really find a way of describing it but there really does seem to be a mozzarella taste. The pesto part of the taste doesn't strike me as being particularly pesto-y although Lauren at work disagrees with me here. She was very impressed at the size: "is this all one crisp?" she wondered, carrying off what looked like an A4 slice of kettle fried potato. I wasn't fussed that the crisps don't seem to taste of pesto because in fact I don't care for it much.

You know, I always thought I liked pesto. But every time I ate it I ended off a little dissatisfied and not very happy with my dinner. It seems to work fairly OK in a sandwich with a load of other flavours but after yet another unsatisfactory pesto & pasta dinner I decided I don't like pesto much. So I'm not going to buy it again.

So not a very pesto-y taste, but at the same time an extremely tasty, in fact yummy, taste and I would be happy to recommend these to anyone who fancies the idea.

These crisps are hand cooked using traditional methods, are suitable for vegetarians, and contain no artificial ingredients. They do contain dried whey (from milk), dried buttermilk (from milk), dried mozzarella cheese (from milk), dried cheese (from milk), dried butter (from milk), and dried cream (from milk). And then the ingredients list says: contains milk. So if you have a problem with milk probably these are best avoided.

The Kettle Chips company was sold to a private equity group called Lion Capital LLP in 2006. According to Wikipedia there was a scandal involving water pollution in California (2008), and union busting issues in the UK (2007). Since 2010 the company has been owned by Diamond Foods which suffered an accounting scandal in 2012. This is a shame because the original Kettle Chips company used green energy and won awards for environmental design. I'd rather buy crisps from an environmentally friendly company than one that... well, they don't have a very good reputation.

Sunday 6 October 2013

Calbee Pizza Chips

So the Ski Instructor very kindly agreed to bring me home a packet of crisps from Canada. Which he left on the kitchen table so bought two new packets on his way home. The first I've opened is this offering from Calbee who seem to be a Japanese company but mysteriously manufacture their crisps in Hong Kong. And sell them at Vancouver airport.

You can see from the packet that these are pizza flavour. Or meant to be. Quite apart from the big white word "Pizza", there's a photograph of a slice of pizza. Pretty horrid looking pizza absolutely smothered in melted cheese with an odd selection of mushrooms, ham, beef (maybe?), mince (again, maybe?) and green things. Not a pizza I would order myself.

There are great big closeups of crinkle crisps, quite fine crinkles like the Simba crisps from South Africa rather than European wide crinkles. And another crisp in a red oval showing the crinkliness; "v chips" it says with an arrow, and another arrow showing how each crisp has little bits of cheese on it. Really? I can see a few bits of herb but am not convinced by the bits of cheese. I have found two reviews online which praise the cheesey bits but honestly I can't find any evidence. I even held them up to the light to try and spot the cheese.

I'm not sure exactly what the Japanese writing (I think it's Kanji) above the red oval means but I'm pretty certain that part of it says cheese chips. Well done Google translate! The more complicated writing by the word "pizza" I have no idea about, but I expect the red writing in the white oval probably says Calbee.

Oh yes. And check out the crazy use of the Italian flag here to emphasise how genuine the pizza flavour must be. Not to mention the crazy use of a cartoon potato wearing a hat and gloves and, wow!, a sash saying potato.

I never tried a Japanese crisp before but I have flown Japanese airlines, and stayed the night in a hotel at Narita airport. Which was interesting. Tinned spaghetti bolognaise and chips for breakfast? Why not. What about a handful of miniature fried fish or a bowl of stewed lotuses? Not for me thanks. I can't remember what I ate in the end but I'm not a fan of Japanese food. I won't eat fish and I hate the smell of rice cakes. Many of my friends seem to delight in Japanese food but when they describe what they've eaten it all sounds horrible to me. So I didn't really know what to expect.

And I wasn't expecting to find that when I opened the packet there was a strong smell of stables.

Stables? You know; with horses in. Or maybe lion cages. I don't know what to think. Have I got a really weird sense of smell do you suppose? It was a very big, very busy smell with too much going on.

However, the taste isn't all bad. Not at all pizza-y and still very busy but quite tasty in a sort of a way. And I suppose the plum powder in the ingredients lists contributes to the unusual sweetness. I was not aware that plum powder featured in pizza recipes.
It's quite an anxious looking potato isn't it?

The list of ingredients is very long. In fact, there are several lists. And a great big long list printed on a sticky label, possibly added for the Canadian market, which has a seemingly endless list of chemicals. And having read it you begin to wonder why anyone would want to eat any of this stuff. And if that were not enough there are even more E numbers than in the Simba crisps - but no label warning of possible health risks!

However, they are quite tasty and if there happened to be a bowl of them lying around I might find myself tucking in. Just not too many at a time.

Friday 4 October 2013

Zweifel Original Provençal Crisps

Another superb crisp from Swiss company Zweifel.

Usually crisps have a golden roast potatey look or are more strongly coloured with paprika. I always imagine these are green which you might suppose would be an off-putting thought, but not a bit of it because that's how they taste. Only, they aren't green at all. Just ordinary potato crisp colour with lots of herby bits. It's all the herby green yumminess that gives the yummy herby Provençal taste.

In addition to the parsley, rosemary and thyme (sadly no sage so not quite song lyric ingredients), we have coriander and turmeric and a hearty wack of garlic so the taste packs quite a punch. It may sound a little strange but the taste is very real. Some crisps are, you know, yummy but fake tasting.

So, you know how some things somehow seem just right and you cannot hope to better them?

  • My lovely Russell & Bromley boots in black kid and black suede that fitted perfectly and I wore them until they fell apart.
  • My favourite purple cashmere cardi with the frills that's just the right thickness and I really really need to mend it before that falls apart too.
  • The Victoria's Secret bras I bought in the 1990s - red, purple and dark green. A great design: fabulous fit with lovely wide satin straps and no scratchy lace.
  • Or maybe the best ever Wiener schnitzel with frites followed by the most fabulous apricot ice cream with whipped cream: step forward Les Premiers Pas winner of my personal award for reliability and deliciousness in a restaurant. Except when they try to convince us to eat fennel; désolé, mais je déteste le fenouil.
  • Or what about going to see Star Wars (as we called it in those days) on 27 December 1977, the day after it opened in London, and again the very next day because it was simply the most amazing thing I had ever seen. It's called Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope these days of course (what kind of name is that?) and has been digitally "improved", but you can't take away that perfect moment when the Imperial spaceship cruised over the top of our heads for the very first time.
  • Even finding the perfect loo roll holder that doesn't fall of the wall all the time, doesn't tip downwards so the loo roll falls off, and doesn't require some sort of engineering qualification to change the roll.
All brilliant things that I'd buy again or do again if I could.

The loo roll holder sounds a bit mad I know, but when I was younger it was one of my special talents to pull them off the wall. Not on purpose! it was something that just happened to me. It was usually in a school friend's house so I had to own up to the parents I scarcely knew. And I pulled ours at home off the wall so often my mother refused to fit another. So anyway, when we were doing up the bathrooms here I made a big fuss about buying the right loo roll holders which would cope robustly with my cack-handedness.
Best ever loo roll holder from John Lewis
And hurrah! just for the moment you can still buy Zweifel Original Provençal flavour crisps. So take advantage of the opportunity to try some of the best crisps ever.

Just don't eat the whole packet all at once. You will be tempted.

Very very good and highly recommended. Available all over Switzerland, possibly in Germany and Italy too.

You can still eat at Les Premier Pas if you happen to be in the neighbourhood. Don't let them force you to eat the vegetable from outer space if you don't fancy it.
Best crisps I've ever tasted (so far)

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Walkers Roasted Chicken v Roast Chicken

I bought a huge packet of Walkers Sensations Roasted Chicken & Thyme crisps because it looked so good and because it was on special - about £1 less than normal - so I thought it would be a good opportunity to try them out. I do love a roast chicken crisp. Or I thought I did.

Walkers Sensations Roasted Chicken & Thyme
These crisps are quite finely cut, although not as fine as Zweifel, with a nice crunch and plenty of tasty flavour dust. You can even see the herby goodness scattered over the crisps. So there's lots of roast chicken flavour, thyme and parsley too, and quite a bit of lemon. If this was a real roast chicken instead of a bag of crisps it would be very good indeed.

However, the crisps are a bit oily and I'm not sure I like that very much. I certainly wouldn't want a real chicken to be oily: Waitrose spit roasted garlic chicken isn't oily and that's good enough for me.
So then I thought maybe I should compare Sensations with Walkers Simply Roast Chicken with free range chicken from Devon (why Devon particularly I wonder?). Luckily the local newsagent run by the amazingly cheerful man obliged with a small packet.

Walkers Rubbish Man from the Simply Packet

Walkers Simply Roast Chicken
Mnn..well....erm.. I'm not sure about these either. Good crunch, correct thickness, good golden colour. But the taste is a bit mushroomy. Mushroomy? I know. How weird is that? You can just taste roast chicken but it's not ideal. And what is causing the strange mushroominess? I'm sure I don't know. The packet is in prefect condition so the crisps cannot have gone off. It's a bit odd.
Also, and this is me being a bit dim, the packet shows a potato with a union jack stamped into the cut face. I had fondly imagined that every Simply crisp would feature a union jack lovingly stamped on to it by some fancy new crisp-stamping device. Sadly this is not the case. Surprise! If I had looked hard enough I would have seen that the crisps featured on the packet don't have a union jack on them; only the potato. Of course they don't. What a silly idea. But it is disappointing and I feel stupidly cheated.

Of course the faux union jack stamped potato is just to show how all round British Walkers crisps and all the ingredients are. And don't you forget it.

So, let's see. The Sensations crisps have a great flavour but feel really quite oily. And the Simply crisps feel right but taste a little bit odd.

Neither of these crisps is nasty. I'm just looking at them pickily for the purpose of this blog. This morning I was reading a review of a restaurant that serves (amongst other dishes) salad of finely chopped octopus with beans, and a burger made with squid and tuna. To a non fish eater both sound utterly disgusting and definitely worthy of the word "nasty". The crisps don't qualify for the Nasty List but I feel they are a little disappointing. Really, Walkers - who do make good crisps - ought to be able to produce a better roast chicken flavour.

I'm sure there used to be a tremendously tasty roast chicken crisp. I wonder if I can ever find it again?