Friday 31 January 2014

M&S Hand Cooked Cumberland Sausage

Hmmnn... sausage flavour crisps with no vestige of sausage in. And suitable for vegetarians. Does this sound right? Well, no. Of course it doesn't.

Traditional Cumberland sausages are long and coiled into a spiral. I read they have been made in Cumbria for 500 years. Unlike most British sausages which are flavoured with herbs, Cumberland sausages are flavoured with pepper and nutmeg (possibly due to the historic import of spices at Whitehaven in Cumbria says Wikipedia). They have Protected Geographical Indication status under European Commission rules. Like Parma ham for example. Perhaps that's why M&S have called these crisps Cumberland Sausage flavour and omitted the 'traditional'.  And, er, omitted the pig.

So here we have another very good hand cooked crisp. Quite large, good crunch, usual golden colour with a sprinkling of parsley. And flavoured with onions, garlic, white pepper, cardamom, mace, nutmeg, cloves, paprika, cinnamon and ginger.

Sounds really spicy doesn't it? Not really. In fact, in some mysterious way they really do taste of sausage. Cumberland sausage I suppose. They smell good too. I think they'd work well at a party with a selection of other crisps.

Not too sure about the packaging. It shows pepper corns, parsley and something that looks like sage. Why I wonder? There's no sage here. Strange. But I still like the hand stencilled look of the hand cooked range.

Thursday 30 January 2014

M&S Guilt Free Snacking Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar Lentil Curls

Ah yes, another in M&S's guilt free snacking range.

I tried the sour cream and chilli flavour of these lentil curls by chance and really liked them. You can read about them here.

These aren't so much to my taste. Not nasty at all. No, no, no. Just not so good as the sour cream and chilli flavour. Which is a really excellent crispy snack. But if sour cream and chilli isn't your thing you could do worse than try this crispy snack.

I've got to say though; M&S do a very good range of guilt free snacks. Usually I'm completely against low fat/low calorie/guilt free food because so often it is extremely nasty. This range on the other hand is pretty tasty.

The ingredients include balsamic vinegar and malt vinegar, and also red wine extract. And sea salt of course.

The packaging is more of a bluebell blue than this scan shows on the screen.

Suitable for vegetarians but they don't recommend it for wheat allergy sufferers or coeliacs because of the manufacturing methods. And the allergy information? Contains barley. What is this with barley? I never heard of anyone who was allergic to barley. Although having typed that I will probably meet a barley allergic someone next week.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Smiths Chipsticks Salt'n'Vinegar Flavour

Hmn... Chipsticks eh? Well, the local newsagent run by the amazingly cheerful man has been refurbished recently but the builders didn't install the new step for several months. But there it was, on Thursday, and suitable for wheelchair users too, so I went in to celebrate and came out with these.

What a lot of salt and vinegar flavour crispy snacks you can buy. And "did you know that Chipsticks have been around since 1971 and these crispy crunchy sticks, full of your favourite Salt & Vinegar flavour, are as delicious now as they have always been!" or so the packaging tells me.

These are reconstituted potato and maize sticks. I suppose they are extruded out of a stonking big machine and then fried to create pretend chips. And they're not bad.

Quite a soft crunch. A sort of vaguely fluffy texture although that's the wrong word. Similar texture to Monster Much but not quite so crunchy. A little bit dry in the mouth but not too bad. And, hurrah!, they come in a 37g packet; I get so fed up with all these crisps that only seem to come in gigantic "sharing" bags.

The salt and vinegar flavour is subtler than I was expecting. Opening the packet and having a good hard stare at the Chipsticks I thought maybe they'd taste rather harsh as some salt and vinegar snacks can do. But no. A lovely soft flavour. I enjoyed these and would have finished the packet only I had another crisp to taste test - yes I know, the trials of being a food writer! Isn't it sad?

Packaging quite traditional; nothing fancy. Suitable for vegetarians.

If I see Chipsticks in another flavour I will certainly give them a try.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Kolak Hot & Spicy Crisps Chilli & Lemon Flavour

So I went to the inefficient local post office to send a package of discarded Marcus Didius Falco books by Lindsey Davis (I had two of each) to my brother who reads them too, and suddenly noticed they have a limited supply of crisps on sale.

Maybe I'm really unobservant and it's only recently that I've noticed this - or maybe it's a new departure - but I find that quite a lot of local shops sell crisps on a shelf about knee high. It's not normally where I look but silly me. Evidently I've been missing out because look here; the post office sells crisps I've not seen before. And in small 28g bags too.

I don't know Kolak Snack Foods but they appear to be based in North West London, which as luck would have it, is where I live. Pretty much. Not terrifically impressed with their website which seems to be full of broken links, and at the same time under construction, but the crisps are OK.

The crisps are quite small, finer than average for these days and with a light crunch. And I was sorry to see that there was quite a lot of breakage but that doesn't affect the taste. The colour is a much darker orange than the photograph shows. That'll be the chilli powder and paprika. And the chilli and lemon flavour? Amazing.

I didn't finish the packet because these crisps really are very hot and spicy and I found them a little bit too spicy for my taste. But I tried them out on the reluctant taste testers at work and apart from the senior taste tester (founder member of the crisp club) everyone seemed to approve. Even the extremely picky tall taste tester gave them 10/10.

Lovely chilli flavour and lots of lemon too. Well done. Yes, we approve.

Monday 20 January 2014

Tesco Finest Hand Cooked Mature Devonshire Cheddar & Festive Beetroot Chutney

Here's another exotic crisp from the Tesco finest Christmas range. Another crisp which sounds as though it comes from a Michelin starred restaurant rather than from a supermarket.

The packaging tells me I have a bag of Mature Devonshire Cheddar & Festive Beetroot Chutney Crisps, and then the subtitle (as it were) says tangy cheese and earthy chutney with a hint of chilli and Brazilian orange.

Well! And as you can see from the photograph the crisps are an interesting mottled red. Most of the red seems to be flavour dust. You can lick it off. But there are orange bits as well which seem to be actually part of the crisp. I think there's more of a hint of orange. And I wonder why it is Brazilian orange rather than any other?

I'm not sure I can detect any beetroot in the flavour but the orange is very definite. Of course beetroot and orange go well together. I used to have a very good recipe for baked beetroot with orange juice and cheese. Delicious.

I notice that sugar is first on the list of seasoning ingredients which is no surprise; these are rather sweet crisps. In fact, the flavour reminds me of - well I'm not quite sure  - maybe a cheesecake mix or perhaps the beginnings of a cake with the sugar creamed into the butter and orange zest folded in.

And here's an odd ingredient: mushroom powder. What do you suppose that contributes to the mix? Oh and the chillis are grown at the South Devon Chilli Farm.

Once again we know that the potato variety is Lady Rosetta and the field they were grown in is River Peace. In Devon. I think another of the Tesco crisps were grown in that field. These crisps are suitable for vegetarians and contain no artificial flavours, colours or MSG. And many of the ingredients come from... Devon.

A very unusual crisp in flavour and colour. The crunch is perhaps a little more crunchy than the other Tesco Finest I have tried but still very good. The cheesiness is far more in the background than I was expecting but none the worse for that. They're really different.

And once again, although I find I quite like these crisps I don't want to eat an entire packet. I think perhaps it's because the flavour is too busy. Returning to the Michelin star restaurant analogy, I've never really wanted to eat in one because when I've looked at the menus the food all looks much too complicated. These crisps are too complicated for me!

Very handsome packaging though. A lovely soft beetroot red fading into brown at top and bottom.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Tesco Finest Hand Cooked Cornish Sea Salt & West Country Cider Vinegar

So. Not only do crisp flavours get weirder and weirder but the names get longer and longer. It's like something from a Michelin starred restaurant. Salt & Vinegar just doesn't cut it any more so we have Cornish Sea Salt™ (which I'm pretty sure I've not tried in real life) and West Country Cider Vinegar.

Gosh. Who knew that Cornish Sea Salt™ was a trademark? Certainly not me. You know, when I set out in an accidental sort of a way to write about crisps (original intention to write about trees* but there you are) I wasn't expecting to learn so much.

Let's not forget that as with all Tesco Finest crisps the packet tells us that the potato variety is Lady Rosetta (mysteriously a variety not known to the Love Potatoes website but there you are), and the field they were grown in was Exfield. I love this field information. It's no help at all really as we only know the farm is in Devon but it's somehow reassuring to know the field name. Maybe it makes the potatoes seem more erm... local?

Anyhow. I like these. Essentially they are salt & vinegar which is one of the classic flavours but can be awfully sharp and hard on the mouth. These crisps are a very grown up take on salt & vinegar; a gentler version of the classic taste, maybe a post-modern 5 star restaurant version. I think Tesco have done a good job. They smell good too.

These crisps are quite large for the most part. Great crunch, just right. Not too much flavour dust but just enough. And a very gentle, perhaps rather sweet salt and vinegar flavour. Don't get put off - I think this is a good thing.

Weird ingredient: apple powder. I suppose it's to accentuate the cider flavour.

* some tree thoughts available here. But I'm slower at tree stuff than crisps.

Saturday 18 January 2014

M&S Guilt Free Snacking Salted Popped Potato Chips

I wasn't very taken with the Popchips Barbeque flavour so I thought I'd try this M&S salted flavour from their guilt free snacking range.

Here's one held up to the light. It looks rather as though a handful of rice crispsies have been glued together to make a flat crispy snack. A bit weird. But tasty. I think this is rather a good crisp.

The crunch is a little bit soft but not too soft. The crisps are all very round as though they are extruded from a machine or something - who knows? I have no clue how they manufacture these things. Especially with the popping which is suddenly so fashionable. And the taste is pretty good. I'm impressed.

Just about the right amount of saltiness. Impressive.

And now the science bit:

  • no artificial colours, flavourings or preservatives
  • Suitable for vegetarians
  • Portion controlled. What? Is that like a bag of crisps from one of these companies that send you your entire diet for a whole week to make controlling your diet easier? 
  • Designed to fit with my Count on Us menu planner. Again: what? I didn't know there was a Count on Us menu planner. I guess I haven't been paying attention.
Some of the crisps have a really weird look. Like brains.... don't let that put you off. I really like them. Top marks.

Monday 13 January 2014

Popchips Barbeque Potato Chips

I had hoped I was going to like these crisps because I don't like posting a series of negative reviews all in a row. But to be perfectly honest I really don't care for them much.

Perhaps they don't really qualify as crisps because they're made of potato flakes and potato starch. And then they are neither fried nor baked but, somewhat mysteriously, pressure cooked in some way to produce these strangely circular crispy snacks.

The packet tells me they contain "no artificial anything". So, no fake colours, no fake flavours, no fluorescent orange fingertips, and no wiping your greasy hand on your jeans. Hmmm. I actually rather enjoy the crispy snacks that leave you with fluorescent orange fingertips!

They sound promisingly healthy for a crispy snack don't they? 50% less fat per 23g serving (the size of this packet), and suitable for vegetarians; always a plus. Available in 6 different flavours so it's unfortunate that I'm trying the barbeque flavour because I really don't like barbeque/BBQ flavour that much. Indeed, in some cases I have found it absolutely disgusting!

I don't really get why anyone wants to eat food that tastes of nothing but smoke.

Actually, I don't really get real barbeques either. You usually get stuck with something that's not properly cooked or completely overcooked, often with bones in, and then the alleged chef expects you to eat it outside. Which often involves beating off a swarm of wasps. Why do people do this? It's a mystery to me.

And yes, I am aware that it's probably just me. But are you allergic to wasp stings?

Anyway, Popchips have quite a light crunch. There's quite a lot of flavour dust (a lot of paprika in the colour by the looks of things). I think I can taste the yeast extract and the garlic powder, maybe even the tomato powder listed in the ingredients. These chips wouldn't be bad at all if it wasn't for the extra smoke flavour which I assume comes from oak smoked sea salt (which sounds rather posh don't you think?).

I'd be interested to try a different flavour. I have seen Popchips vans driving around locally so perhaps I can source one of the other flavours sometime soon.

This was the final choice from my birthday present from the Family Vegetarian and the Graffiti Artist.

Sunday 12 January 2014

KP Wheat Crunchies Crispy Bacon

In the spirit of trying more bacony flavour crispy snacks I'm now trying these rather strange "wheaty tubes with a serious crunch". Or that's what it says on the packet. 

It's true. They do have a serious crunch. And supposing they really are made of wheat (and I don't see why not because it's on the ingredients list) they are wheaty tubes: 50mm or 2" long. So quite big. And you can see right through the tube.

The smell is... not so much crispy bacon as a fake crispy bacon crisp flavour. Perhaps that's not surprising as there doesn't appear to be any actual bacon involved. And the colour of course comes, as so often, from paprika.

It says here that Wheat Crunchies contain no artificial colours or flavours, and no MSG. I wonder how they've managed to make the taste so fake then?

It's a shame that this crispy snack is so greasy tasting. Not very nice and leaving a greasy feel in my mouth. The flavour dust tastes better on its own than on the snack. But it stays on your fingers for a long time. Even after a very thorough hand wash.

What a pity. This was part three of my crispy birthday present. Still, the first two packets I tried were very good so I won't feel too bad about saying: very sorry KP but I'm not going to finish the packet.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Tesco Finest Baked British Gammon with Winter Berries

Well! Crisp flavours just get weirder and weirder don't they?

These interestingly flavoured crisps come in a fine purple packet with golden writing and a golden piggy. Handsome indeed.

But I was rather dubious about trying them. I've tried ham flavoured crisps in the past that were frankly horrible so I have rather avoided trying any ham flavours since then. It was some years ago but some things are so nasty that they really put you off. And then, I really didn't like these.

Obviously I have made it my mission to try as many different types of crisp as possible (and that without eating too many and getting grossly fat!) so maybe I need to be braver in the ham/gammon department because this hand cooked crisp flavour isn't bad.

These are rather rich coloured crisps with a great deal of flavour dust, and they have a wonderful crunch I really liked. The smell is a bit fruity; perhaps that's because the ingredients include dried cranberry and blueberries. That'll be the winter berries then. And obviously there's quite a lot of paprika to enhance the colour.

The gammon flavour is very well realised. Apparently it is slow baked free range pork (which sounds awfully good) that goes into the "British Gammon extract" on the list of ingredients.

As with other Tesco Finest crisps we are told the potato variety; Lady Rosetta. The British Potato Variety Database tells me that this is a red skinned early maincrop variety with light yellow flesh. We know the field name; Riverpeace. And the crisps are made somewhere in Devon.

Once again this is a really interesting flavour, which I surprised myself by quite liking, but I didn't want to eat too many. I took them to the office to see what everyone thought and one or two were not impressed, but even though the others liked the taste, like me they didn't want to try more than a couple.

I think the mark of a great crisp is one where you accidentally eat an entire packet without noticing. Think of the fabulous Provençal flavour crisp by Swiss company Zweifel which you can read about here. Sadly this Tesco Finest flavour does not (ghastly expression) tick the boxes for me.

This was a special flavour for Christmas 2013 so I don't know if it is still available.

Thursday 9 January 2014

Golden Wonder Transform-a-Snack Cheese & Onion

I recently reviewed the fabulous Transform-a-Snacks in Spicy flavour. You can read about them and see photos of the excitingly transformed snacks here.

I enjoyed the Spicy Transform-a-Snacks so much I went into the local newsagent run by the amazingly cheerful man (which has recently been smartly refurbished) and bought these. Continuing my quest to transform my tastebuds. And in case you didn't realise, this crispy snack is a kit for creating a crispy vehicle.

The amazingly cheerful man said it was interesting that these crispy snacks appeal to all ages. Which he then amended to 18 year olds as well as children. How diplomatic of him!

This is an interesting take on cheese and onion. It's quite subtle and not too oniony.  And in fact, I felt that the onion tasted wonderfully caramelised so you get a hint of toffee. So it's actually quite a grown up taste on a snack aimed at (probably) small boys. Not very cheesy either, but then there doesn't seem to be any cheese in the list of ingredients. What there is, is turmeric. Unusual.

Not bad at all though. I enjoyed these.

Monday 6 January 2014

Yorkshire Crisps Nowt On

I won these crisps in the work Christmas raffle - well... actually I swopped a bottle of red wine with Susan who actually won these.

Yorkshire Crisps are great. They really are brilliant traditional crisps and I've met them before but only at Chatsworth, Haddon Hall and Castle Howard. But that was before I started this blog so I can't write about that. I daresay I could find them in London if I looked in the right place, but so far I've not been successful.

So here I have a drum of "Convivial" Yorkshire Crisps. And the flavour is "Nowt On". For all you lot out there who don't speak Yorkshire (which includes me really as I've only been there twice but I've seen it on TV) this means that there's nothing added. And indeed there is nothing added. This drum of crisps has potatoes fried in sunflower oil. And that's it. Nothing else at all. So Nowt On.

And while they are great crisps with a great crunch and just the right amount of ..... well just the right amount of crispiness.... I cannot admire a crisp that tastes of nothing but crisp. In fact, I had to add salt.

I hope to find a flavoured Yorkshire Crisp so I can give it a tip top review. But this weird no flavour at all crisp is not to my taste.

There are no added anythings - no MSG, no artificial flavourings, no nothing. And these crisps contain no gluten, no nuts, no soya, eggs, nuts etc etc. And they are OK for coeliacs.

The potatoes are dug and turned into crisps within 10 minutes. Sounds pretty good. And it all happens at a place called Wales Bar between Sheffield and Rotherham.

And the drum tells me all about the white rose of Yorkshire, and how after the battle of Minden (I wonder is that where RAF Minden was based? Because if so... I've been there! although not for a very long time) on the 1st August 1759, Yorkshire soldiers picked white roses as a tribute to their fallen comrades. Since that time 1 August has been commemorated as Yorkshire Day. Well, that's exciting. To me 1st August is, of course, the Swiss National Holiday.

Lovely crisps. I just wish they tasted of something.

Sunday 5 January 2014

Phileas Fogg Cheese & New York Deli Relish American Style Bubble Chips

I'm not attracted by the bright mustardy yellow packaging but the crisps themselves are very tasty. When I opened the packet I really wasn't sure so I sealed it up and came back to it a week later. And? You know what? These are really rather good.

I've not tried American style bubble chips before although increasingly I see them around, so I was interested to see what makes them different.

And what you get is an oblong crisp with bubbles in. The crunch is pretty good, the colour a bit more orange than your average crisp with a good bit of flavour dust some of it quite dark. I was disappointed that there was quite a lot of breakage; these crisps look robust but seem to be quite delicate and not as many as I would have liked survived the bus journey home from the supermarket.

Not at all sure what effect the twice cooking has. Make them more expensive?

And I'm not certain what sort of flavour Cheese and New York Deli Relish is. Is it a dip? Is it a thing you put on a burger to create a cheeseburger? Or a hot dog? Is it a... well I don't know. Well, anyway, it really has a good taste.

These crisps contain no artificial colours or flavours, and no MSG. Made with 100% sunflower oil. Suitable for vegetarians. And Phileas Fogg crispy snacks (obviously named for the hero of Around the World in 80 Days) are made by United Biscuits (UK) Limited.

It is a bit annoying that the ingredients list includes dried bell pepper. Why can't it say dried red pepper? As shown on the packaging. No-one in this country talks about bell peppers. I can only suppose that the brand is trying to make this UK crisp sound as if it is a US potato chip.

Saturday 4 January 2014

Pepperidge Farm Finz! ® Cheddar

Finz! ® are tiny baked crackers made in Connecticut, USA. The snack that smiles back ® and also the snack that blasts other snacks out of the water.

Wow! Or not.

These are quite tiny fish-shaped cheesy biscuits. The cheesiness is nice and it is unusual to find a cheesy snack which actually tastes of cheese. Well, they ought to taste of both cheddar and blue cheese as they are both on the list of ingredients. And there's onion and garlic and stuff in the flavouring too.

However, the biscuit part lets the side down I think. It's very dry. Almost like pastry and it seems that the flavour is all on the outside. So you can lick it off. And then throw the taste free biscuit away. No! I shouldn't recommend any such thing. It's a disappointment. I thought these would be rather fun and it turns out they're a little bit dull.

It's true though; most most of the little fish do have a great big smile. And a little eye. The fish on the packaging (he's called Finn ®) wears dark glasses and smiles cheerfully out at us, his adoring public. And the name Finz! ® uses a little fish as the dot on the i. So a lot of thought has gone into this product.

The blurb on the side says "We're bakers but we're parents too. That's why we bake these crackers the way we do... never fried and with plenty of smiles." I'm not fully convinced that smiling while you cook makes a better product but I had thought (before reading the blurb) that perhaps these might be the sort of thing parents buy for their children - as opposed to the sort of crispy snack that children choose for themselves.

I think these would work very well if you had 5 or 6 different sorts of crispy snack on offer at a party. But I wouldn't be able to wolf down a whole packet. Haven't managed to finish the packet a week after I opened it.

Having taken a look at the Pepperidge Farm website my worry about Goldfish Crackers has been solved. I knew about Goldfish because of a joke on The West Wing when Danny wants to give CJ a present and someone says that CJ loves goldfish so he buys her a glass bowl with a goldfish swimming in it. And of course what CJ loves is the crispy snack. Ha ha ha. The goldfish bowl subsequently became a subtle plot device with all sorts of little models for the fish to swim around but that's another story and anyway you can read all about the adventures of Gail the fish here but I am sure there are many other sites with similar information.

But I've never seen the Goldfish crispy snack on sale in this country. I'm pretty sure not. Although I did spot them in Verbier once. Anyway, I was puzzled that Finz! ® seemed to be just like I thought Goldfish would be. And lo! having looked at the website I find they are Goldfish, but in disguise. I wonder why they've changed the name to sell them in the UK?