Sunday 22 June 2014

Kettle Chips Sea Salt with a Hint of Citrus Lemon

Interesting isn't it how citrus flavours are making their way into so many crisps?

Over the last year or so I've tried Lemon Harissa from M&S, Lime & Pink Peppercorn from San Carlo, Chilli & Lemon from Cofresh, another Chilli & Lemon this time from Kolak, and Sea Salt & Lemon Vinaigrette from M&S. And I've rather enjoyed all of them especially the last which was the first citrus flavoured crisp I bought.

I don't know how the trend started. In fact, I have no idea how food trends start; all I know is that they do. So suddenly every restaurant has ox cheek and pork belly on the menu; everyone you know is mad about cupcakes (although they are a  little bit 2013) and looks rather sneery at you when you admit the last time you baked cupcakes was in the 1980s; or you accidentally buy olive bread when you wanted plain because the shelf was crammed with olive or walnut or chilli breads.

I would need a flavour forecaster to explain to me how trends work (and just how do you become a flavour forecaster I wonder?) but sadly I don't know one. I have read a little online but although it appears the cupcake trend began because Sex and the City was so popular, mostly it seems that with a little bit of this and a little bit of that all thrown up in the air at once the flavour forecaster looks at what comes down again and makes a prediction about what will be popular in the coming year.

So what was forecast for 2014? Here are a few things I found in an article on the Guardian website:

  • kale ice lollies - here's the website 
  • savoury yoghurt: carrot, tomato, parsnip and beetroot - apparently they're a "thing" in New York
  • insect bars: made with cricket flour - bound to be gluten free - and flavoured with chocolate, peanut butter, coconut, ginger and lime. Oh dear, I'm not sure about the packaging
  • beef, turkey and bison protein bars
  • and er edible wood. 
Coming soon to a supermarket near you? I'm not sure. It's June now so only 6 months to go to see if any of these predictions is correct. And no mention of citrus crisps. Well, I expect they're a bit too normal and everyday for this list.

Anyhow, back to my packet of crisps from the local branch of Waitrose. Nice crunch, good golden colour which doesn't show up in my photograph, very crispy (you can smell that they're fried not baked) and slightly citrusy aroma, and a good salty lemony taste. Quite a lot of flavour dust. But, and it is a bit but, these hand cooked crisps are rather greasy. It's a shame because otherwise they qualify for a very good.

Friday 20 June 2014

Cofresh Cheese & Onion Flavour Potato Grills

It appears that a potato grill is one of these weird crispy things that looks like an armadillo. How they came to be called potato grills is anyone's guess. Or I could look online and see if anyone out there knows...

That wasn't very helpful! Number 9 on the list of 1,660,000 results was my entry on Cofresh's wonderful chilli lemon flavour potato grills. While gratifying (and quite surprising) this doesn't get me any further in my research.

I was discussing the chilli lemon flavour with the lovely newsagent down the road when I bought these. We agreed it is a great flavour crispy snack but sadly he was out of stock and so I bought these instead.

Not bad. But not madly exciting either. You can see they aren't a very interesting colour. There seems to be no evidence of frying or even baking which is a bit of a shame. The crunch is a bit dull too, perhaps not really crunchy enough. But the flavour, described on the packet as "mild", is very pleasant. A gentle cheese & onion, with quite a lot of flavour dust on the concave side (inside the curve). And very nice too.

Cofresh describe themselves as Britain's favourite Indian snacks. I wonder how Indian this flavour is?

Thursday 19 June 2014

M&S Guilt Free Snacking Barbecue Wholegrain Snacks

To be honest I bought these to try because they came in a small packet. Because I didn't fancy them that much and wouldn't have wanted a large packet. So here's this 25g packet of wavy crunchy slightly faux-bacon-style crispy crunchy snacks.

The packet says (on the back) corn, wheat, rice and barley based snacks with honey barbecue seasoning. Another very complicated sounding recipe. I really prefer something simply made of slices of potato.

Still. Not too barbecue-y which in my book has got to be a good thing. A gentle sweet barbecue flavour (that'll be the honey then) and a gently sweet barbecue aroma when you open the packet. A good crunch - not too hard, not too soft - and plenty of tasty flavour dust. The wholegrain flavour is perhaps a little bit too strong but otherwise no complaints.

So not bad at all although it's not the kind of flavour I go mad for.

Allergy information: contains wheat, barley, oats, gluten. And Important: this product contains honey. Not suitable for children under 12 months. What? Oh my goodness! Yet another something that someone shouldn't eat because they are young, elderly, pregnant or suffering from some syndrome/disease or other.... I can't keep up. Of course this information is important but these days it seems that everyone has a something they cannot eat. Has this always been so? I mean, have we all been feeling rotten or, much worse, been dying from eating wheat or honey (or in my case fish and celery) for hundreds of years and no-one has done anything about it? I don't know the answer to this but I would be interested to learn.

Anyhow. Supposedly healthier for you than most barbecue snacks. Not bad.

Saturday 14 June 2014

Tyrrell's Proper Popcorn Mature Cheddar Cheese

And here we have an amazingly yellow packet of cheese flavour popcorn. Which is sadly not cheesy yellow in colour but just ordinary white like ordinary popcorn.

But very cheesy tasting. In fact, a good deal more cheesy tasting than the average allegedly cheese flavoured crisp. Which, in my surveys, I have noticed don't really taste terrifically cheesy.

Nice popcorn. Well popped and fluffy with no unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bag, and only a few really small chunks of popcorn. So, top popcorn.

I really wasn't sure how mature cheddar cheese and popcorn would combine but the answer is (drum roll please) extremely well. Huzzah!

Unfortunately of course this means that when carrying out my scientific taste taste I failed to stop at "that's enough" and carried on regardless. Let's hope popcorn counts as one of my five-a-day.

Tyrrell's have helpful (and fun to read) info on alternative five-a-day choices. And the best thing is they suggest there is nothing terribly wrong with steamed broccoli, herbal tea or sit-ups (in moderation). But there is such a thing as taking it too far....

Less than 100 calories per serving (but I'm not sure what a serving of popcorn is... oh wait... 21g which is 0.74 oz which sounds like noting at all except of course popcorn is very light); nothing artificial (no funny stuff whatsoever); gluten free (in case you were wondering), vegetarian friendly (free from animals). Avoid embarrassment, serve Tyrrell's.

And another frankly bonkers packaging design from Tyrrell's who just can't stop printing weird and wonderful black and white photographs on their packets. On the bag it says : Head cheesemaker Doris was known for being highly mature.  Yes. That's under the photograph of a nurse leapfrogging over a milk churn!

Friday 13 June 2014

M&S Full on Flavour Onion Rings

I think we can count these as a major success. Not wanting to eat an entire 30g packet myself I put most of these onion tasting (not made of onions) crunchy rings on a bowl in the kitchen. And the reluctant taste testers at work fell upon them as though a flock of gannets had descended upon the office. Gone in no time at all. Woosh! And several staff members looking suspiciously well-fed.

So after eating only a few myself, there were none to take home. Disaster! I was commissioned to rush (or rather potter through the hot June sunshine we've been having this week) back to M&S and purchase a further packet. Which I did because they are extremely good.

You don't actually get too many in each packet because the rings are quite big with a great big empty hole in the middle. I have to open my mouth quite wide to fit a whole ring in. Not all of them are circular; some are oval and others almost oblong but they're still quite big. I could of course take a bite. But where's the fun in that?

Lovely fried onion aroma when you open the packet, and a mild fried onion taste; a little bit sweet but onions contain more sugar than you think. Of course these aren't potato crisps at all but extruded potato yumminess made from potato starch, wheat flour, rye flour and potato flour. So quite a complicated process I should think. But they have a great bubbly crunch and, as you can see from the photograph, a nice golden colour.

I like the bright metallic green packaging too. Metallic green is sadly under-used. Although it does work well on some small cars. And beetles. I found this fabulous (but unknown species of) beetle on The photo was taken by a contributor called Burt but I don't know how to contact him to request this use. Sorry Burt. And it is a great photo so thank you Burt.

Monday 9 June 2014

M&S Summer of Flavour Lime Salsa Chickpea & Cumin Tortilla Scoops

"Scoop shaped tortillas, perfect for dipping" says the packet. Really? If this is a scoop shape perfect for dipping then I guess I've been getting the dipping-action (is that a word?) wrong all these years. And, er, maybe I don't know what scoop shaped means?

This isn't a good start is it?

This crispy crunchy snack is (oh no!) not made from potatoes (again!) but chickpea and maize flour. Well, OK, I can cope with that. And I'm guessing that the black bits are the cumin seeds. Which seem to come in lines so that each crisp comes with lines of black dashes (the seeds I suppose) and they look like one of those fabulous tie dye fabrics from West Africa. Interesting look for a crisp.

And then there's the wonderful flavour dust which covers each large oval crisp. Here we have an exotic and very tasty mix of fenugreek, coriander, turmeric, ginger, chilli, cumin, oregano, and lime. Along with onion and garlic of course, and the ubiquitous yeast extract. What do you get? An amazingly limey spicy crunchy crisp. And serious yum. It's a huge flavour.

Which is great except that these crisps are marketed as specially scooped so you can scoop up your tasty dip more easily. Well, there are two things here. One: they taste so good you don't really need a dip. And two: the scoop is all wrong. The scoop (if you can call it that, and doesn't that word look weird when you type it too often?) is totally in the wrong place for actual scooping. So completely not scoop shaped; more of a sort of curve.

And I've tried with my favourite M&S Sour Cream & Chive dip. It's wonderfully tasty because it's a terrific dip but the dip obscures the taste of the crisps and the crisps get in the way of the taste of the dip. Of course, it could be that another dip works better. But I'm not sure you want a dip  with such an amazing amount of flavour on your crisp.

Feel free to disagree with me.

Saturday 7 June 2014

M&S Summer of Flavour Purple & Orange Sweet Potato Crisps

I think I need to rein back on the trying weird crisps. There just seem to be so many new not-potato (un-potato?) crisps around at the moment. Many of them part of M&S's Summer of Flavour which also seems to be a great big campaign to encourage more colourful eating which is supposed to be so good for you.

Well, I suppose that's all very fine but I don't think I'm convinced. I really think I prefer real potatoes. I like the taste, the texture, the crunch...

So anyway, here we have a small bag (55g) of sweet potato crisps.

Obviously I know about sweet potatoes being orange. But purple? Really? calls them a flavourful lavender cousin of the familiar orange variety and directed me to this exciting sweet potato ice cream recipe from Sea Salt with Food. Apart from the fact that the recipe uses cups which I can never get my head around, it does sound rather good and simple to make. I had been thinking about investigating ice cream makers because we go to this amazing restaurant in Italy which has the most fabulous lavender ice cream. It would be fun to try making lavender ice cream, so why not sweet potato while we are about it? Which brings me around in a lavender-coloured circle.

Back to the crisps. I wasn't that impressed. The crunch is very hard, the crisps themselves are very very orange and extremely purple, and the "seasoned with sea salt to bring out the flavour" isn't really salty enough for my taste.

On the other hand other people liked them a lot more than I did and the family vegetarian finished the packet in double quick time.

I am a bit bothered that the packet contains only 71% sweet potatoes. And then sunflower oil and salt. That's it. So 29% is made up of what? There cannot be all that much salt on these not very salty crisps: the bag says 0.34g. The NHS recommends no more than 6g per day for adults so the salt content seems not too bad. But the fat? 15.5g in each packet which is 22% of the recommended daily intake. It seems like a lot more than I was expecting. Maybe I need to read this sort of information more carefully in future.

What bothers me about this is not that I can read the "these crisps really aren't very good for you" information. But that they look a lot better for you than the average packet of salt & vinegar potato crisps. And they don't seem to be after all.

Not really for me. But eaten enthusiastically by others.

Update: fresh new packaging for summer 2015. Doesn't it make last year's design look old fashioned?
These crisps still look pretty but they still have rather a hard crunch. The reluctant taste testers snapped them up but I am still not convinced.

Friday 6 June 2014

Bamba Peanut Snack with Hazelnut Cream Filling

Yes I know. These crispy snacks sound a lot more like miniature biscuits than a savoury snack. But I found them on the same shelf as the savoury crisps. Honest.

I put some in a bowl at work without an explanation or description and it seems that everyone thought they were getting something sweet. Well, they are sort of sweet. You get a soft crunchy corn outside which is salty, and a creamy hazelnut filling - a bit like Nutella - which is sweet.

I rather liked these. And it seems most of the taste testers did too. Even though they felt cheated at not getting a mini sweet biscuitty thing.

But I wish I had read the ingredients list more carefully before this 60g packet was finished (it didn't take long). I failed to notice the rosemary. I didn't notice any rosemary in the taste. Either I must remain forever baffled or I have to buy another packet. As if the house wasn't full enough of crisps as it is.

Another ingredient, and one which sounds a bit dodgy to me, is cellulose. Which  is used to produce paper. And glue. And mainly produced from wood pulp and cotton! OK, let's not suppose that these peanut snacks are made of wood pulp. Of course not. But it does sound odd doesn't it?

Suitable for vegetarians, no cholesterol, no food colouring. Kosher. Contains 0% Vitamin A and C, 0% calcium and 0% iron. Isn't that a strange thing to have in your Nutrition Facts? Contains genetically modified cornstarch and soybean.

I wonder about the long and obviously complicated process used to make these crispy peanut snacks. Not to mention the food miles. I think perhaps I won't get a second packet.

Made in Israel by Osem which is owned by the Swiss multinational food and beverage company Nestle. They get everywhere don't they?

Thursday 5 June 2014

M&S Apple Crisps

This is another of Marks & Spencers' eat well range; 1 of your 5 a day. Sweet and delicious dried apple slices. As I have recently tried beetroot and kale and plantain crisps (with sweet potato pending) I thought I would try apple as well. Why not?

These crisps are described as "deliciously healthy food best enjoyed as part of a healthy lifestyle and a balanced healthy diet. Reducing intake of saturated fats helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels" (it says here). And: "for optimum health, we should all aim to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. Try balancing 3 veg with 2 fruit and choose different colours for a good variety of different nutrients." So get going chaps! Eat red, eat purple, eat orange, eat yellow, and then if you're feeling really strong eat green as well.

How different that is from the meat and two veg diet of my childhood. Which probably worked out as a brown and green diet. Mostly. Unless you really liked carrots. Can you imagine what the residents of the 1960s would have said if you insisted on eating foods according to colour?

Well, actually I guess it depends if we're talking about the early 1960s which were pretty much still in the black and white world we know from very early film/TV footage of The Beatles, or the rather later technicolour Beatles of the post Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band era. My parents and certainly my grandparents were firmly based in black and white land. Goodness me! My lovely Grandpa never ate pasta or rice except as a pudding and as for garlic....

Anyhow. Anyhow these apple crisps are being marketed as a healthy option to go with your lunchtime sandwich or what have you. The ingredients are just dried apple and concentrated lemon juice. Which I guess must be good. They are awfully sweet though so I confess I was a bit suspicious and thought there must be some added sugar. But apparently not.

The texture is a bit like foamy cardboard (I'm not really sure how to describe it) with rather a soft crunch and the taste isn't quite as appley as I was expecting but I accidentally ate the whole packet without noticing. A pleasant snack.

A nice little 30g packet. Suitable for vegetarians. Made in Poland.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Bissli Pizza Flavoured Wheat Snacks

I never thought I'd write this of a Bissli snack, but these are extremely good. Previous attempts at trying Bissli snacks started with me refusing to eat more than one out of a packet and throwing the rest away. Now I'm saying these are yummy. Well, I guess they're doing something right.  Or I'm getting used to them. Or something!

And indeed the reluctant taste testers at work noshed down most of a packet with great enthusiasm and speed. Even Ruth who won't eat Bissli snacks ate several. She likes Bamba crunchy crispy snacks so she's allowed not to like Bissli. Even David who is the harshest of critics when it comes to taste testing asked me where he could buy them. For some reason he had got hold of the idea these pizza flavour wheat snacks are Polish in origin. Not a bit of it. These square crispy snacks are made in Israel by Osem, and of course, are kosher.

A very neat shape. A little bit like a small piece of lego maybe. Nice feel in the mouth. We like the squarey cubey thing going on here. They don't really smell of pizza and they don't really taste of pizza (perhaps a little) but we all liked the taste anyway. Not too wheaty which I felt was a bit of a problem in Bissli's other snacks. Yes, (nods head approvingly) these are OK.

But I see that Bissli are still using the weird cartoon guys to front this crispy snack brand. Is it just me? I'm not sure about the cartoon guys.

Suitable for vegetarians. Kosher - of course. Contains wheat gluten and soy. No preservative, no food colouring. And don't forget to protect from the sun (still strange!). And perhaps a little oddly, I haven't seen this flavour in any of the local kosher shops. These came from the Turkish shop. I'm going back there to check out the rest of their crisp selection.