Sunday 25 May 2014

Walkers Baked Wotsits Really Cheesy

I've been eating so many exotic varieties of crisps recently I have ignored the old classics. And Cheesy Wotsits really are a classic which I always used to love.

But guess what? These cheesy flavour corn puffs aren't the same as they used to be. Yes, you've guessed; they're baked not fried these days.

Everyone knows that crisps and other crispy snack foods are not at all healthy and we shouldn't be eating too many of them. So changing from unhealthy frying to baking is surely just a marketing thing.  It makes your unhealthy crispy snack marginally less unhealthy; although still chock full of salt (and in many cases sugar too).

The only trouble is that baked snacks are never so tasty as fried. Well.... they are actually just fine if you never tried the old version. Sadly though they leave me lusting after the olden days when truly unhealthy crispy snacks tasted truly fabulous.

But ongoing ignoring the above, these aren't at all bad. Yes, and ignoring the fact that my newly upgraded Mac (which used to be Snow Leopard and is now Mavericks or something) randomly changes what I type for whatever it thinks fit; eg it changed ignoring to ongoing without asking me, they do taste pretty cheesy. The crunch is rather soft but the taste is good.

I must admit I miss the old excess flavour dust; there's nothing like so much flavour dust as there used to be, and your fingers don't turn orange any more. Perhaps the dust sticks better on each little baked Wotsit, or perhaps Walkers just use less dust these days? There wasn't even lots of dust left inside the bag or in the corners. Nothing left to lick off!

The flavour seems to be mostly created from milk: dried cheese, milk whey powder, buttermilk powder and milk proteins. So don't try these if you are allergic to milk. Also in the mix Disodium 5'-Ribonucleotide (sounds like a chemistry lesson) and Potassium Chloride which I could have sworn was mentioned in a murder mystery I was watching on TV this afternoon; yes, I read you can stop the heart with the correct amount of this chemical. Hmmn. They do put odd stuff into crisps sometimes don't they?

And here's the Walkers design team again playing with the little guy who throws his rubbish away responsibly. For some reason he has morphed into a mouse on the Wotsits packet. I guess it must be all the cheese.

The packet asked if I am a cruncher or a melter? Do I like to nibble each Wotsit? Or let it gently dissolve in my mouth? I think I'm a cruncher but unfortunately I finished the packet before reading the bag so failed to try out each eating technique. Stupid! I also should have weighed the bag before starting because weirdly it doesn't have a weight on. These convenient little portions have 99 calories or less (it says) but not how big the portion is.

Perfectly acceptable cheesy crispy corn puffs. But fings ain't wot they used to be. And my Mac hates the word fings.

Friday 23 May 2014

M&S Full on Flavour Lightly Salted Potato Squares

Oh why did I let myself be lured into buying these lightly salted squares?

Because I am sucker for reconstituted potato foamy  goodness. And the texture here is fine. Terrific crunch, lots of those lovely little bubbles I like so much. Just the right aroma of delicious fried potato deliciousness. And the squares are about 30mm square so you can put them into your mouth without biting into them or worrying you're going to cut your mouth (OK, that's probably just me isn't it?).

So why did I get myself this lightly salted crispy snack? Because we know I don't like lightly salted. It doesn't taste enough for me. What was I thinking?

Some of them are saltier than others. In which case they are delicious.... yum. And some are merely lightly salted. In which case I'm not mad keen. So the flavour is a bit variable.

Luckily I had some guacamole left over from last night's dinner and it turns out that potato squares work very well with a dip. If I'd been concentrating I might well have provided myself with a sour cream and chive dip, but guacamole works pretty well and is possibly slightly healthier.

Potato squares are suitable for vegetarians. But not suitable for people who suffer from allergies to egg, cow's milk, wheat, barley, gluten, soya or shellfish.

That's a lot of different allergies isn't it? It's really quite worrying that there are now apparently so many people suffering from so many allergies. When I was a child I had the most appalling hay fever and sometimes missed school because of it. We hardly knew anyone else with an allergy and it was considered a bit odd. I have mostly grown out of my allergies now and of course I was allergic (mostly) to pollen and this is (mostly) a seasonal affliction. But I do have a fake Christmas tree because the last time I touched a real one I came out in this awful rash.

These days it seems that everyone is allergic to something and sometimes it seems that even people who aren't really allergic to anything would like to think they are. For a while it almost became fashionable although I have never been able to fathom why. And neither, I imagine, can anybody with a truly life threatening allergy understand why anyone would aspire to such a thing. It must be really frightening to know that accidentally eating a tiny bit of peanut (for example) might kill you. And of course, the allergy is there all year round.

My hay fever was pretty grim at times but it never threatened to kill me. But it did prevent me taking part in the only school sports event I might have won. Much to my surprise I qualified for the final of the egg and spoon race when I was about 8. Our school sports were held on a part of Hampstead Heath surrounded by so much lush grass all flowering away so enthusiastically that my allergies leaped into action on Sports Day. My eyes became so inflamed I couldn't see my spoon or the egg. Or to run at all. And thus ended my sporting career. Which was quite lucky really because I never enjoyed running about.

Anyway, I'm guessing this list of ingredients is a catch all piece of information: the factory is probably gigantic and somewhere along the line they process milk or soya or shellfish.  Actual allergy information: contains sulphites.

No artificial colours or artificial flavourings. Made with a healthier oil (it says here) called Sun Kernel higher in monounsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats. Higher and lower than what I don't know. Bag not currently recyclable.

Well, I wish they were a bit saltier but with a dip these are great. I had better take a photograph before I accidentally eat the whole bag. I would have eaten more if they had been slightly saltier. So probably just as well these potato square are only slightly salted.
2016:This packet of crisps sounds as though it should be different. It has a different name and there are no Sulfites in the recipe. But it seems like exactly the same crispy snack. so far as I remember it from two years ago.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Kettle Tortilla Chips Nacho Cheese

Here we have a handsome cheese flavoured isosceles-triangle-shaped nacho crispy crunchy snack. Pretty good and very very cheesy. I really can't remember the last time I tried a crisp that claimed to taste of cheese and actually did taste of cheese. (You'd think they would because it sounds like an easy flavour but mostly they don't taste of cheese at all.)

This is a big triangle with loads of tasty flavour dust. Quite a dark orange so there's lots of paprika colouring; very corny because tortilla chips always do have a big corn taste; lots of crunch and a great taste of nacho cheese and cheddar and double gloucester cheese. Amazingly cheesy.

Quite a lot of ingredients including buttermilk, cream, butter (all dried obvs), red peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cayenne pepper, and "natural flavouring" (what?).

The whole triangles are fabulous but sadly my packet had all too many breakages which was disappointing. I'd be sorry if every packet is so full of broken chips but I don't remember treating my packet particularly roughly. What a shame. Because, as I say, the whole triangles are wonderful. And big.

The beautiful red packaging is wonderful too. A lovely plain design. Plain and uncluttered. I really approve. On the back we have exciting and important news about the Flavour Fiesta. And an apology because the packaging is not currently recyclable.

I tried these on the reluctant taste testers at work who seemed to approve. And at home? They went down well here too. Not bad.

Crispy texture where you can taste the corn (says the packaging), seasoned with great tasting ingredients. As ever there's no artificial colours, artificial flavours or added MSG. Perhaps that's something to do with the mystery "natural flavouring".

Suitable for vegetarians (but best avoided I imagine if you have an allergy to milk products), and here's another crispy snack you need to keep away from bright light. I still think this is weird. Perhaps I will get to the bottom of that one day. And made in Spain. Spain? I know.

I haven't tried them with dips but I am certain they would work just fine.

Monday 19 May 2014

Tesco Finest Feature Flavour Beef Bourguinon

British beef braised in red burgundy infused with fresh herbs says the label.  Oh yes?

I wonder what makes these crisps beef bourguinon as opposed to boeuf bourguinon, or indeed beef stew? Because honestly, if they taste of anything I think beef stew covers it perfectly well. Stew with rather a lot of red wine. But I'm not terrifically impressed.

I do have to admit that the tested packet is past its sell-by date - but not massively so. And the bag is in prefect condition so the crisps haven't gone all soft and nasty. But I don't feel this is a very good crisp. And the behatted Canadian ski instructor we have staying with us wanted to make his feelings known too; he's not that mad about them either.

As usual with Tesco's crisps these are quite a good size, with quite a hard crunch and plenty of flavour dust. But the aroma is not good, and the flavour? The flavour is actually a bit piano by Tesco's normal extravagant standards.

But guess what? According to the Tesco website these crisps are made with lamb shank! Lamb? That's a more expensive meat than beef isn't it? Somehow this feels worse than reading that a sausage or flame grilled steak flavour crisp is suitable for vegetarians.

The flavour, says the website, is made from lamb shank and red wine seasoning, which in turn is made with red wine powder and lamb powder. I dread to think how you produce powdered lamb. Also in the mix are sugar, salt, "flavouring" (MSG perhaps?), herbs (it doesn't say which), onion power and yeast extract. And the red wine is chianti.

So what you ask. Well, the thing is that my packet of crisps claims to be made with burgundy (not chianti) and Aberdeen Angus beef powder not lamb at all. Also on my packet but not on the website are tomato powder and mushroom powder. So when did they change the recipe, and why? Because it sounds like quite a different crisp.

The potato variety is Hermes, the field they were grown in was called Roundwood and it's in Devon. Tesco recommends you drink Cotes, Catalanes or Grenache wines with this crisp. I expect that's where I've been going wrong.

If I'm in Tesco any time soon I'll try and remember to take a look at a packet and read the ingredients. See if they really are so different. But I'm not sure that I want to try another bag.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Tyrrell's Hand Cooked Lightly Sea Salted

I thought perhaps these lightly salted crisps might be a good antidote to over-complicated flavours like Tesco's goat's cheese and sticky chilli jam or the weirdness of M&S kale crisps with cashew butter.

Perfectly ordinary-looking potato crisps, hand cooked with a nice crunch; the only thing wrong with these very pleasant crisps is that they don't have quite enough taste. In fact the Lightly Sea Salted flavour does not have quite enough salt for me.

I read somewhere that some people have more taste buds than others. I know. It is terribly tempting to fancy yourself to be suffering from whatever ghastly ailment you read about online, but honestly I think this might be me. I have always wanted to add extra salt or more parmesan or another squeeze of lemon to whatever I am about to eat. And being me, I've done just that.

I always loved the little blue baggie of salt you got with old fashioned crisps. You could add as much or as little salt as you wanted. But you can't really add salt to modern lightly salted crisps. It doesn't seem to work. Anyway, I'm supposed to be taste testing these as they are and not mucking about with the flavour to suit myself.

So, the verdict? Very nice crisps. Tyrrell's make great crisps. But not enough saltiness for my (probably over-worked) taste buds. And needless to say I failed to win the uncomfortably long handshake - or even the £25,000 prize in the online draw. Typical.

Saturday 17 May 2014

M&S Summer of Flavour Hand Cooked Lemon Harissa Potato Crisps

Mmmm. Not sure that these crisps don't qualify for a yum. Yes, I think they do: yum.

After trying beetroot and kale crisps in quite succession it's good to get back to the traditional yumminess of potato. And the flavour here is very nice. Although some of the crisps are a little more flavoured than others. Which means really rather hot.

These crisps are large at the top of the bag and get smaller the lower you go. But that's chaos theory for you - or have I got that back to front? Anyway, they're quite strong with a hearty crunch, as so often with hand cooked crisps, and there's not too much breakage which is good. And there's quite a lot of flavour dust which is the rich orange of paprika and cloves.

Harissa is a Tunisian or Moroccan spicy paste mostly made with chillis, garlic and olive oil, plus a selection of spices which usually include caraway and coriander. The various recipes I've read online are all different and usually feature instructions such as "you can add [another ingredient] if you like". And the M&S crisp development team appear to have added a whole swathe of [another ingredient]s to create this very tasty flavour. So we have onions, garlic, tomatoes, red peppers, black pepper, cumin, and lemon (but no caraway or coriander). And also yeast extract which I'm pretty sure is not an authentic North African ingredient and rice flour. I've seen rice flour as a crisp ingredient before and I have no clue what it's for.

These crisps taste great and smell good too. For some reason a good taste does not always come with a good aroma (or vice versa), but here you get them both. Lots of good heat and a great zing of lemon. Very nice. And suitable for vegetarians.

And I love the packaging too. The lemon yellow bag (all yellow on the reverse apart from the blocks of text) is bright and summery and the Summer of Flavour logo is very attractive.

But the packaging has a great big recycling symbol on it and a smaller logo with a note that says film - plastics not currently recycled. So which is it? Maybe if I had a smartphone I could scan the square scanny thing and that would give me more information. Maybe not. In the meantime into the bin it goes.

Oh, and I quite forgot. This is a new flavour for summer 2014. The summer of flavour. Which sounds great doesn't it? But bizarrely if you search summer of flavour on the M&S website you get 122 products across 36 categories of which 199 products are wine (or beer or cider) and 39 are clothes. Yes, I know that sum doesn't add up but even if my maths isn't too good I'm not far off. And obviously these crisps are not on the list at all (unless they come under men's hats gloves and scarves, or boys' formalwear). Sigh. Why is it so difficult to search online for M&S crisps?

Friday 16 May 2014

Olu Olu Gourmet Green Plantain Chips

A dear and kind friend gave me this 60g packet of plantain chips back in December. And like the completely chicken fraidy cat that I am I have been shoving the bag to the bottom of my pending crisps bag ever since. However, this week I have tried both kale and beetroot crisps so why not try the plantain while I'm feeling brave?

It seems that Olu Olu Snackeries (great name!) make these plantain chips in Nigeria and then they are marketed by United Tastes of Africa Inc, based in New Jersey, and Yem Yom Ventures (UK) Ltd based in London. Or they might be made by Uplands Flour Mills (Nigeria) Ltd and marketed by Olu Olu Snackeries. It's hard to say.

And the ingredients are green plantain, banane-plantaine (which sounds like the same thing but in french), vegetable oil and salt. So, 100% natural ingredients with no artificial flavours and no artificial preservatives. And made in Nigeria.

But wait! Right down at the bottom below the best before date, almost obscured by the crimped closey bit, the bag also says product of Colombia. So now I'm totally confused. Colombia? Why would a Nigerian firm get their products made in South America?

The chips certainly look like plantain. At least, I never knowingly ate plantain but they certainly look like deep fried slices of giant banana as you can see from the photograph. So I'm guessing that's what plantain looks like. There is a faint taste of ever so slightly salty banana. And a big taste of cooking oil. Quite a hard dull crunch, and it is a pity that so many of the chips are broken. Perhaps that is bound to happen if you import chips from Colombia via Nigeria.

These chips are a tropical gourmet treat. Hand cooked to perfection with a distinctive tantalising flavour. Hum.  I've got to admit I'm not mad keen on these plantain chips. For me they are an acquired taste. Which I have yet to acquire. So. Very sorry kind friend but these are not for me.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Pret a Manger Sea Salt & Cider Vinegar

Bags of obsession says the blurb on the bag.

Apparently Pret a Manger have a Crisp Cook called Mrs Julie and she is obsessed with getting her crisps extra special.

She selects only the finest potatoes, sharpens her blades to guarantee a super thin cut, cooks the crisps to an enviable tan, tumbles the potatoes in the seasoning and pops them in the bags. OK. But that's what lots of crisp manufacturers want me to think (apart from the Mrs Julie bit)

However, in my opinion these aren't bad. So maybe the blurb is correct and not just blurb.

There isn't a Pret near where I live or work so I picked these up at Luton Airport. Well, there isn't a lot to do at an airport apart from shop. Obviously some people will be after a new bikini or a different brand of aftershave. But me? I'm on the look out for exotic crisps.

Very nice crisps these. Good crunch; a little harder than some but not too much. Normal size crisps, normal colour. So normal I didn't take a photograph. And a lovely light salt and vinegar flavour. Very nice indeed.

40g of crisps in this bag and they went very quickly. I would certainly buy these again.

And a great small bag! I approve.

Monday 12 May 2014

M&S Salt & Pepper Kale Crisps

Hmmn... Salt & Pepper Kale Crisps coated in a cashew butter.

I'm honestly not convinced this is a good idea. For a start these crispy crunchy things look awfully like deep fried nettles covered in dried mud. The bag does tell me that kale can vary in appearance throughout the year with no effect on kale crisp crunchiness (I am very tempted to type kale krisp krunchiness), so perhaps this is the time of year for the deep fried nettle look. And then there's the cashew butter which is the bit that looks like mud.

The crunch is quite good (although a duller crunch than you get from a potato crisp) and the salt and pepper added to the cashew, with a hearty splash of zesty lemon, is also quite nice. There's a good lot of flavour going on. But I do sort of get the impression the whole thing could be achieved with seaweed or even nettles. Or maybe plain old cabbage.

Unfortunately a disappointingly high proportion of the crisps in this 25g bag seem to have fallen into crumbs. So what you get might be added to some breadcrumbs and used to coat chicken goujons. It might be quite nice. But it's not what you expect when you buy a bag of crisps.

Obviously we all know that kale is supposed to be madly good for you so I suppose these crisps are intended to be a healthy option for your crunch at lunch. They are part of M&S's eat well range and the bag tells us the contents are a source of vitamin E. Although according to Wikipedia kale is a source of vitamins C and K but not E so that's not at all confusing.

I think these strange crispy kale thingies are a bit too healthy for me so I'm probably not going to try them again. Maybe I'm just missing my usual crunchy potatoey goodness. But it is a pity that I'm left with lots of bits of stuff stuck in my teeth. And on top of that, well, honestly the look is not very prepossessing.

Very very extremely weird. I suspect there may be more fun ways to eat kale. But then I'd have no excuse to write about it.

Sunday 11 May 2014

M&S Beetroot Vinaigrette Crisps

M&S Beetroot Vinaigrette Crisps. Crunchy dried beetroot slices with a vinaigrette seasoning. One of your five a day.

My goodness. These crunchy slices of beetroot crisp are very very crunchy indeed. And purple? Probably the most purple thing you could possibly imagine in the crispy crunch department. And in fact pretty purple in general.

These beetroot crisps have a very beetrooty flavour, so not suitable for anyone searching for a healthy crisp but they don't actually enjoy beetroot. Some of the crisps taste purely of beetroot while others are flavoured with the lemony garlic vinaigrette.

I quite like the earthy taste of beetroot. This is possibly because it was never forced on me when I was a child; my mother had far too much of it in WWII and never ate it unless she absolutely had to. She said beetroot in fruit salad was a memory too ghastly to contemplate and to be honest I can't really blame her. So I understand it isn't to everyone's taste. And I do rather wonder how popular these are going to be. Still, M&S obviously think they're on to a good thing with their new healthy range of crispy things so I guess we'll see.

One of my work colleagues bought these and then decided they weren't really her thing. She put a bowl in the kitchen for the reluctant taste testers to sample and they don't seem to have been mad keen either.

I think I rather prefer my crispy snacks to be made of potato or maize but for a real change these are quite interesting. I don't think I could eat a whole 60g packet on their own but maybe they would work well as part of a salady supper with houmous or tzatziki.

Friday 9 May 2014

Burt's Thick Cut Guinness

Burt's Thick Cut Potato Chips Hand Cooked with Care in Guinness flavour (Guinness ESTD 1759). What a long name for a packet of crisps.

And these are quite large crisps with quite a large crunch. The photograph doesn't really show how much darker they are than your average crisp (Guinness is dark of course), and the photo on the package is so moodily lit you don't get the dark colour of the crisps from that either.

Quite large, quite crunchy, quite a lot of flavour dust... but the flavour? Guinness? Really?

I'm not a beer drinker. I learned to drink VB (Victoria Bitter) in a Sydney heatwave  - there was a building site and it was hot - but the VB website wants me to enter my DOB before I can see any more than the front page so I'm not going to bother with that.... And I've not tried Guinness at all because for all its fabulous advertising it looks as though it isn't for me.

However, why not try a Guinness flavour crisp?

Well, I took them to work and set out a bowlful in the kitchen for the reluctant taste testers to try.

No-one guessed what they were eating. Suggestions included brioche, dirty potatoes, meaty... kangaroo or antelope?, and (somewhat facetiously I thought) cauliflower and bamboo shoot with a hint of beef.

I thought these crisps tasted of rather yeasty bread. Having interrogated friends who do drink/have drunk Guinness I'm not convinced these crisps taste anything like Guinness.  But it was worth a try. And you may well think I'm wrong.

Grown in a field called Roundwood; cooked by Roddy; all natural flavours, gluten free, no artificial colours, no MSG, no hydrogenated fats; a Facebook page and (apparently) a Twitter account (I haven't looked), these crisps have much to recommend them. Plus we get the LEAF Marque -Burt's potatoes are grown by farmers committed to improving the environment, and there's www.lovetheflavour to visit too. Which is all good.

But as I said, I'm not a sure a taste of Guinness is included.

Thursday 8 May 2014

San Carlo Più Gusto Vivace

A third crisp flavour from the multipacco we found in Baveno in Northern Italy. And really rather good. I like these più gusto flavours. The flavour is certainly not strong by UK crisp standards but very pleasant nonetheless.

This flavour is called "vivace" which means lively, brisk, bright, vivid or vivacious (or vicious as my spell checker would prefer). I'm not sure any of those words would be  my choice, certainly not my first choice, of name for this tasty but quite gentle flavour.

The flavour seems to be mostly paprika and mustard. Which sounds a fairly nasty combination. But the taste is really good.

These crisps are quite small with a light crunch. Not a great deal of flavour dust. A very nice crisp though.

The reluctant taste testers at work again snacked these down pretty quickly. Everyone thought they were very nice. This sounds as though I am damning them with faint praise but I think very nice about sums them up.

Usually I complain that bags of crisps are far too large but we could have done with more than 25g of these. Lucky thing the multipacco had two bags in so I have a spare at home. But perhaps not for long.

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Llama's BBQ Whole Wheat Baked Bites

A second Llama flavour and just as much fun as the first I tried which you can read about here.

And the reluctant taste testers at work seemed quite keen too. Particularly Jo, who comes to us in the holidays and does all manner of things in the office from scanning and filing to building Ikea furniture. He's much more open to trying weird crisp flavours than some.

The flavour is supposed to be BBQ which you may remember I'm not always mad about, but it's a gentle BBQ here. Laid carefully over the essentially digestive biscuit taste of the whole wheat llamas.

I know. It does sound a bit strange but somehow it works. Not a crunchy crispy snack for everyday perhaps, but actually really tasty and fun too. I find people remember snacks that come in crazy shapes and llamas are certainly memorable.

And they're actually really tiny. Each little biscuity llama is only 15mm high and maybe 8mm wide. When I opened the first packet I don't really know quite what I was expecting - but something larger than 15mm high.

Great little snack. Highly recommended. (From Mr Tesco again so I had to trek to Finchley Central.)

Monday 5 May 2014

Bissli Onion Flavour Wheat Snacks

How interesting. I bought this bag of crunchy onion rings some months ago but I put off opening it because one of Osem's Bissli products I have tried tasted really horrible. To me. You might think I was a bit of a masochist buying the bag in the first place... but you  know me: I'll try anything once.

So here we go.  Well. Quite a good crunch and a nice soft onion taste. In fact not bad. Not bad at all.

Here we have 70g of quite large wheaty rings. It's a small packet (good) and the rings are quite big so you don't get very many. The rings are quite ridged on the outside; the packet photo is a pretty good representation of this oniony snack, and the rings are quite bubbly on the inside.

I'd usually take a photo myself but the reluctant taste testers at work liked these so much that I didn't get the chance. I put a bowlful in the kitchen and when I came back there was only one ring left. So I think we can judge these a success.

We felt these were a little bit like Shreddies. "Shreddies and garlic," said one taster who does not normally comment on the crispy snack selection, "Quite nice for a change of crisp". Another taster suggested they were more of a crouton than a crisp. Not a bad reaction.

I like Shreddies as a breakfast cereal although not for every day (simply because they are too tasty), so the wheaty, slightly malty taste overlaid with onion worked quite well for me. Although perhaps not for every day.

No preservatives, no food colouring, suitable for vegetarians. Koshe Parve from (if that's the word) both Rabbi Jacob Moshe Charlap and the Chief Rabbinate Shderot. Could this be two branches of the same thing? I'm very ignorant about the kosher system so I can't answer that. And you have to protect these onion rings from the sun. This seems really odd. How will the sun damage them I wonder?

As ever Osem have used the dynamic duo of slightly bearded red-haired guy with an earing, and nerdy guy with glasses on the Bissli packaging. I still think they are a weird pair to advertise a crispy snack.