Scandinavian For Value

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African Special Part 3

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Yes, I know it’s been a while, but finally I’ve mustered up enough motivation to bring you a review of Simba Sauce African Style.  No, I don’t know what African style is either.  Africa is an entire continent, and therefore I don’t think it has a style that encompasses everything.  As an aside, out of the three African products I’ve tried, this one’s label is the most rational.  Three elephants on a plain is quite African.

Simba Sauce

Branded Kania, the trademark is owned by Lidl and is used for several barbecue dips and sauces.  As the label is printed in no less than 7 languages, the details are kept to a minimum.

Simba Sauce – African style.  Tomato based sauce for grilling with vegetables and herbs.  Instant, no preparation needed.  Then at the end of the ingredients, the fabulous Made in Germany.

It comprises of 33% tomato puree, 8% white cabbage, 5% carrots and 2% onions.  So essentially, it’s tomato ketchup that’s mixed with pureed coleslaw.  In the past, I’ve bought a packet of chilli con carne mix (a packet of chilli powder and various other spices)  and you mix it with water and add chopped tomatoes.  The sauce smells exactly like that and I was looking forward to it.

I didn’t know what to do with it though,  so I  used a left over pork chop from yesterday’s tea and grilled that.  Once it was cooked, I smeared a couple of spoonfuls of Simba Sauce on it and returned it to the grill for another five minutes.

Pork Chop with Simba Sauce

I was disappointed.  The sauce smelt a lot nicer than it tasted.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t unpleasant, it just didn’t taste of much.  I was expecting a spicy tomato sauce, but got nothing even close.  Maybe I’m meant to completely blather it in sauce, but then what’s the point of that?  I shouldn’t have to add loads of the stuff to get any satisfaction from it.

Frankly, I’ll not be buying this again, even if it was 99p for 500ml.

Smell  – 8/10
Taste  – 3/10
Value for Money – 5/10
Deceptiveness – 7/10
Clues as what to do with the stuff  – 3/10

Total:  26/50


Written by just1bloke

29 November 2011 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Pickles & Sauces

Coffee Time

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Contrary to all the available evidence I do actually drink hot beverages too.  Mainly tea, but I will have a cup of coffee now and then.  Although we still had almost a full jar of Carte Noire instant in the cupboard at home, I saw in Lidl a jar of instant coffee and thought I may as well give it a whirl.  GranArom Highland Gold 100% Arabica.  £1.68 for 100g.

GranAroma and Amaretti

I’ve yet to figure out what they mean by gold coffee, because it seems the only difference is the colour of the granules and the price.  And why Highland?  There aren’t any coffee plantations north of Stirling, surely?  If so, the Scots are keeping that quiet.

The back of the label gives no clues either, it just says beans taken from the world famous plantations are blended and so on.  It doesn’t say which famous plantations.  I mean it could either be the ones on the banks of the Clyde at Lanark, or that well known plantation in Fife.

I can’t help but read the name of this coffee as Granarama, which is pretty much what Tower Nightclub was on a Friday night.

I took the lid off to partake of the aroma.  Although it’s not as good as opening a new pack of coffee grounds and getting a noseful of that, but some satisfaction can be gained from instant.  However, it isn’t in this case.  Seeing the look of disapproval clambering all over my face put my wife off having a smell too.  Hearing me utter “ugh, Christ!” convinced her that she didn’t want to drink it either.  I opened the Carte Noire just to check if my nose was working properly.  It was, the CN smells gorgeous.  Granarama just smells, well, it just smells burnt, with a definite undertone of a cigar tube.

But, soldiering on in the cause of informing the consumers, I boiled the kettle.  I then had an idea.  I would create two identical cups of coffee.  One Granarama, and one Carte Noire.  I got identical mugs, added a pre-measured amount of milk, same amount of coffee and sugar and filled the cups to the same level.

Comparing coffee

Pretty much identical in appearance

They are visually identical, but that idea of equality is deceiving.  I tried the Granarama one first, I didn’t want to be spoilt by the Carte Noire.  It wasn’t particularly pleasant.  It wasn’t unpleasant, but I found it tedious to drink.  It was the caffeine equivalent of watching a TV test card.  So much so, that I found myself idly playing noughts and crosses on a blackboard with a rag doll.

Now to make it more interesting, I had also picked up some amaretti biscuits to go with it, as seen in the top picture.  Amaretti biscuits by Ital d’Oro. (99p for 200g)  Ital d’Oro is pidgin Italian for Gold of Italy.  Being made for Lidl though makes it about as Italian as Oktoberfest.

You remember when you was inoculated against polio and was given a sugar cube with the vaccine in it?  Imagine that instead of polio vaccine, they used almond essence instead.  That’s what these amaretti biscuits were like.  Not even decent almond essence either, it tasted a bit synthetic.  They were mostly sugar and were cripplingly sweet.  I didn’t dare eat more than two in case my dentist came round and gave me a good hiding.

Oddly, the biscuits did make the coffee more palatable.  How does that work?  Maybe it brought out the bitterness which improved its chances in this test. It now tasted like the piss-poor coffee you get from piss-poor vending machines in piss-poor public facilities.  The sort of coffee that you wouldn’t want to pay more than 15p for.

Incidentally, the coffee jar informs me that I can get 58 cups out of that 100g jar.  I don’t think I’ll bother to be honest.  I think I’ll save it for visitors.  Visitors that aren’t family or friends, maybe the British Gas bloke who comes to service the boiler once a year.  And Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Invite them in, make them a coffee and then put some earplugs in whilst they do their spiel.  “That’s right, drink your coffee.  What was you saying about God?  Would you like a top up?  Have one of these biscuits.  Yeah, they are a bit aren’t they?”

As for the amaretti biscuits, I would only recommend you getting a packet if you live with someone who is prone to hypoglycaemia and needs a quick sugar boost.  Hang on, I can hear the gate.  My dentist is walking up the garden path, stall him, I’m off out the back door…

Taste (Coffee) – 3/10
Taste (Amaretti biscuits) – 2/10
Value for Money (coffee) – 3/10
Value of money (biscuits) – 3/10
Sweetness (biscuits) – 13/10

Total:  24/50

Written by just1bloke

21 October 2011 at 11:43 pm

Posted in Beverages, Biscuits

African Special Part 2

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Yes I know, I hear you.  “What?  Another fruit juice drink?  Is this all he buys?”.  No it isn’t, but I did buy this because it was in the African promotion along with the springbok steaks, so I might as well tell you all about it.  So, what we have is “African Spirit“.

African Spirit Juice Drink

African Spirit Juice Drink is produced by “Plein Sud”.  According to the internet, Plein Sud doesn’t even exist.  It’s merely a trademark owned by Lidl themselves.  It is actually French for “full south” whatever that means.  African spirit is an “Orange & mangosteen juice drink – fruit content 30%”.

I’ve heard of mango, but not mangosteen.  Between reading it on the carton and looking it up on Wikipedia, I had already conjured up the image of an African farmer grafting mango shoots on to another fruit tree in a thunderstorm and then crying out “Give my creation life!!!”.  However, the truth is slightly less ‘Mary Shelley’.  It is a fruit that is found in parts of Indonesia.  You can certainly say one thing for Lidl, you get an overdose of internationality in their products.

There is also a graphic of an manga-style lion accompanying the tagline ‘Refreshing & Cooling’.  Well I’ll be the judge of that.  In my head, Manga-Lion speaks with one of those weird dubbed voices you get in Japanese cartoons.   I don’t understand why, in the backdrop, there is a bushman of sorts with a spear observing a giraffe through some binoculars.  What graphic artist designed this carton?  Salvador Dali?

So I opened the carton, which as you can see from the picture above, looks like it’s been stood on, and poured myself a glass.  I’ll not bother with a picture of that, because it looked a lot like the Linessa Multivitamin Nectar I wrote about in April.

Manga-Lion was right, it is refreshing.  It was also cooling, but that was due to the laws of thermodynamics as opposed to any endothermic chemistry of the drink itself.  In layman’s terms, it had just come out of the fridge.

The first thing I got was the citrus kick of the orange.  Not too strong, but enough to notice.  It was then quickly joined with the taste of what I assume is the mangosteen.  Mangosteen (as grown by Dr. Mangosteen on the roof of a castle in a thunderstorm) tastes pretty much like passion fruit, complete with the subtle flowery flavours.

About 800ml of refreshment later, 800ml which went down my gullet with alarming rapidity, I concluded that it is a fine quality beverage.  99p for 1 litre does seem quite a lot, but then I’ve been spoilt by Lidl’s prices.  In any other regular supermarket, it’s a typical price for a similar product, or maybe even more given the unusual ingredients.

Shame it was a promotion or I would buy it again.  It may well still be stocked in some stores, but I’ve not seen it since in my local Lidl.  But, like the springbok steaks, it’s worth seeking out.

Taste – 8/10
Swiggability– 8/10
Value for Money – 7/10
International Jumbleness Factor – 8/10
Eccentricity of packaging artwork – 8/10

Total:  39/50

Written by just1bloke

20 October 2011 at 11:04 am

Posted in Beverages

African Special

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This is a long overdue review, and I apologise for sitting on this product for as long as I have. Brace yourself for this, it is, to date, the most unusual product I have ever seen in a shop.  Are you ready for this?

Springbok Steaks.  Yes, springbok, that is not a typo.  For those of you unfamiliar with your even-toed ungulates of the Kalahari, here’s a picture.

What my tea came from.

I was in Lidl and they were having an African food promotion, so I had a look what they had.  I got an unusual fruit juice, which I’ll write about later (yes, another fruit-juice review), a type of tomato based sauce and then I saw these steaks.  My reaction was “I’m having those!”.  I used my mate Adam’s imminent birthday as justification for paying the rather costly £4.99 for them.

So, what does the box tell us? Frozen Springbok Steaks (an African speciality from Krause Meat) are brought to us by Krause Meat, a meat suppliers 30 miles south of Hamburg who supply beef, pork, lamb, venison, springbok and suckling pig.  Oh, and ostrich too.

Although not very clear under the logo in my piss-poor photography below is the statement “… gut gegessen  …bewusst ernahrt”.   This translates as “…well nourished …eaten consciously”.  That reassures me.  I like my meat products to come from animals that have had a good diet as opposed to malnourished emaciated ones, and also that I’m not expected to be in a coma when I eat them; not least because of the logistics involved.

The serving suggestion (or serveringsforslag for the Swedish) on the box depicts a plate with £20 worth of steak scattered with chilli seeds, some slices of what looks like mango, some balls of what I assume is a sort of stuffing and some cous-cous with pomegranate seeds.  All depicted with a backdrop of an African plain with a couple of giraffes and a 30ft tall ostrich, though no antelopes at all.

On the back, it suggests I either fry or barbecue the steaks.  So, being at my friend’s house, I let him do the handiwork and he elected to fry them once they had defrosted.

Shrink-wrapped? I wasn't expecting that, seeing they were frozen.

The box contains two good sized (about 6oz) shrink-wrapped steaks.  They looked like pale beef medallions, maybe venison coloured.  We cut the packet open and our primary observation was that they appeared to contain little, if any trace of fat whatsoever.  He heated the frying pan, added a tiny bit of oil and stuck them in.

They took about 10 minutes to fry all the way through.  Unlike beef which shrinks a bit with cooking, these actually seemed to get bigger.  Not having any mango, cous-cous or unidentifiable stuffing, we decided to eat them on their own.

Cooked and served up.

With yet more evidence of the lack of ability of my camera phone to focus, I present the cooked steaks.   Not being beef, we made sure they were cooked all the way through as advised on the box, rather than leaving a bit of pinkness in the middle.  They were remarkably tender for fried steak and indeed did not contain the slightest trace of fat at all.  I expected them to be a bit gamey like venison, but they tasted more like beef, but the best beef steak I have ever tasted, and I do not make that claim lightly.  They were truly divine.

Adam added a bit of ketchup on the side of his plate but in the end didn’t bother with it because the natural jus that came out of the meat was more than enough of a sauce.  Adam was as equally impressed as I was  and resolved to visit Lidl and get some more.

Being a promotion, they might no longer be available in stores though you may find them somewhere.  If you see them, then don’t hesitate to buy some.  In fact go now.  Now, go on, go cruise around the local Lidl/Aldi stores to see if you can find them.  Go on, well read the rest of this entry first at any rate.  I cannot recommend them enough.  The only thing that lets them down is the price, but then what price good steak?   Especially one that you can eat whilst conscious.

Taste – 10/10
Succulence – 9/10
Value for Money – 8/10
Accuracy of packaging illustration  – 6/10
Novelty value of animal used – 8/10

Total:  41/50

Written by just1bloke

18 October 2011 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Meat Products

Another Fruity Drink

with 3 comments

When it comes to naming products, using the vernacular of schoolkids in the early 80s isn’t an idea that I would have come close to dreaming up.  But, the good people at Pataya have done just that.  I imagine they discarded Mega, Skill and Brill in favour of ACE Drink.  I tried searching for Pataya, but all I got was references to a beach in Thailand which seems is popular with the gay community.

ACE Drink

That is a 1.5 litre carton, though in the picture it appears to be about the size of a wardrobe.  So, what jumps out at you when you look at the picture above?  The anonymous nuclear family looking positively ecstatic with their empty cups?  The state of my table?  Or the picture of carrots on the label?

Yes, ACE drink comprises of 20% orange juice, 5% lemon juice and 5% carrot juice.  I’m jumping to conclusions here, maybe carrot and citrus juices are drunk by the Olympic-sized swimming pool (stock unit of measurement) every morning.  I’ve not heard of such a combination and was now eyeing up the contents suspiciously.  I had a look at the ingredients, not expecting much more than juices and water, but then I had my idiotic eureka moment.  The name ACE derives from the fact that the drink is fortified with vitamins C and E and provitamin A.  Now it all makes sense.

After recovering from how docile I felt, I looked at the smallprint.  Incidentally, this seems to be a common theme.  Being sold in yellow-fronted Eurostores means that the carton, for economical reasons, contains its information in many European languages.  The downsize of this is that you need a microfiche reader to discern any text.  This is what it claims:

“Quenches thirst and provides the body with important vitamins.”. Sounds good to me.  Then comes the odd grammar.

“The positive benefits of Pataya A+C+E vitamin drink combined with the fresh and fruity taste of carrots, lemons and sunripened oranges”

But what are the positive benefits, and why are they positive?  I had to read it three times before I realised it wasn’t just my eyes struggling to resolve text that appears to have been printed using photolithography and that it was in fact just a fragment of a sentence that somebody had decided to stick a full stop on the end.  Oh and they don’t make it any easier by using black text on that green background.  It then goes on about how much of your GDA of the vitamins it offers before concluding with this peculiar bit of marketing lingo.

“An ideal drink for active and health conscious people, for breakfast and in between meals”.  Clearly I am not their target demographic.  I am not particularly active or health conscious.  Still, I won’t tell them if you won’t.

I would show you what the juice looked like served up, but I didn’t see the point as it’s identical in appearance to the Linessa Light Multivitamin Nectar I wrote about two months ago, maybe a bit more orange, though that will clearly be a side-effect of the carrots.

I can tell you that this drink is really really tasty.  I heartily recommend it.   The citrus bite from the orange and lemon juice is softened by the carrot juice which means  that it’s possible to pour a large amount of this down your gullet before you realise how much you’ve drunk.  At only 99p for 1.5l, you certainly get your money’s worth.  This is definitely going on my regular purchases list.

Taste – 8/10
Swiggability– 8/10
Value for Money – 8/10
Text density on packaging – 9/10
Colour – 6/10

Total:  39/50

Written by just1bloke

22 June 2011 at 12:55 am

Posted in Beverages

Posh Grub

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It’s all very well reviewing different products, but what good is that if you can’t put together a meal?  Last year, my wife and I went to a swanky restaurant.  For the starter, I had prosciutto ham and sun-dried tomatoes on toasted muffins with red pesto, on a bed of wilted spinach and drizzled in olive oil.  It cost about £7.50.  So off I went to Lidl to purchase the requisite components.  Here’s what I bought:

The ingredients for my posh starter

I did add the Sickendiek sausage, mainly just to use the damn stuff, I’m sure it’s reproducing like some sort of elongated processed meaty single-cell organism.  Every time I open the fridge, it doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller even though I know it’s being eaten.  So, apart from the sausage, this was my shopping list:

Rowan Hill Bakery 6 White Muffins – 71p for 6

According to the packet, they are “Delicious toasted and served with butter for breakfast”.  There is also some heating instructions, storage instructions and additional information which comprised of a danger of suffocation warning.  I assume it refers to the packet rather than the product.  Otherwise they would have to put a similar warning on every foodstuff.  They are also suitable for vegetarians, though I can’t see how they couldn’t be.

Each muffin contains 167 calories, 4% of your daily sugar intake, 2% of your fat and saturates and a whopping Dead Sea inspired 14% of your salt intake.  That is a lot for just one muffin.  People will most likely have a couple at breakfast, there’s over a quarter of your salt before you even drink your coffee and go out the door.

To look at them, I thought these white muffins seemed a little too pallid for my liking, like the flour was overly bleached.  Maybe they used titanium dioxide as a food colouring.  I wasn’t going to actually taste one though, it was to be part of the meal.  Still, I wasn’t going to eat them as they suggested – toasted and smeared with butter, well actually going by the picture, the butter was more heaped on than smeared.

Similar muffins from Asda are only 68p for 6 and to be honest, they are tastier.  The Lidl muffins tasted a bit bland in comparison, almost like eating cotton wool.  You could also pay 85p for 4 Warburtons muffins, but I don’t see the point.

Windau Prosciutto (air-dried) – £1.00 for 100g

Prosciutto is one of those products that is more expensive than it needs to be, with shops charging a premium for it, because it is perceived as some sort of premium food.  This air-dried prosciutto breaks that stance.  It is made by Windau as part of their continental meats range.  I thought windau was what someone from Birmingham looked through to see if it was raining or not.  But no, it is a large German packet meat company based just outside of the Western German town of Harsewinkel (yes the funny language laughs just keep coming), which is midway between Dortmund and Hannover.

The packet tells me that it is “dry cured for several weeks and infused with a rich blend of spices”.  The best bit is the serving suggestion which depicts slices of the ham on something unrecognisable with a wedge of an unidentifiable fruit and garnished with a sprig of parsley.  I’m not sure where they got their meat from, but it looked nothing like what was in the packet.  Prosciutto ham looks like very thinly sliced bacon which you eat raw, and is therefore rather streaky with fat.  Looking at the ingredients, I learn that it is made from pork, spices and a selection of typical food additives.  The bit I like is that it made with 120g of pork per 100g of product.

Given the amount of fat on each slice, it is only 58 calories for quarter of the pack, which is a lot more than I used.  When I opened it, I tried a slice.  I’ve had this stuff before and I quite enjoyed it although the fat does make it stringy and quite chewy.  This was no exception, but it was rather nice all the same, as good as any other I’ve tried.  Asda brand was an incredible £1.94 for just 75g which works out at £2.54 per 100g.  Who are they trying to kid?  But then, Waitrose do 75g for £1.99 or if you want the good stuff, the organic riserva prosciutto crudo is £4.95 for 55g, nine times what I paid for it.  Incidentally, prosciutto crudo translates as “uncooked ham”.

Baresa Pesto Rosso – 99p for 190g

“Red pesto made with tomato and basil” it proclaims in the smallprint on the label.  Really, it’s a small label to start with, but they’ve crammed in the information in Italian, English, Greek and German.  As far as I know, red pesto also contains pine nuts.  This doesn’t.  The ingredients (fetches magnifying glass) list 33% tomato pulp, 12% dried tomatoes and 5% cashew nuts of all things.  They do go a bit overboard with the percentages as they also list 3% cheese, 3% basil, 2% salt and 1% garlic.  Is that information really necessary?  There is no mention of the Lidl brand on the label which means that this isn’t just a rebranded item from German shelves.  I tried searching for the brand on the internet, but found nothing.  But then I found the address on Google Earth.  It turns out the comapny is called “Polli” which doesn’t appear anywhere on the label.

By the way, the serving suggestion shows it mixed with something lumpy and served on a plate with mozzarella, a tomato, some garlic and basil.  Actually I think the serving suggestion implies that I break the second law of thermodynamics and revert the pesto back to its seperate ingredients.  I sampled a bit and it had good strong odours.  The tomato really stands out along with the basil.  The flavour matched the smell.  This was good stuff.  Better than the Tesco brand I had before, although that and the Asda brand are all about the same price give or take a few pence.  The Jamie Oliver brand is £2.20.  Outrageous.

Baresa Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Oil – £1.19 for 285g

On the label, it actually says Pomodori Secchi in olio di semi di girasole.  They comprise 45% tomatoes and 45% sunflower oil.  This is a big let down, the olive oil content is only 5%.  Sunflower oil is a bit yucky.  It’s good to fry stuff with, but not to keep tomatoes in.  That has really made the difference.  If it was 45% olive oil, then they would be fabulous.  It detracts from the taste of the tomato  I’m tempted to empty out the oil and replace it with the extra virgin olive oil I have in the cupboard.  The ingredients also mention the capers that are clearly floating about in the jar, but not referenced on the label, which is odd.

By comparison, Asda’s are £1 for 280g and are 53% tomatoes and only 41% sunflower oil.  Waitrose’s brand are £2.49 for 280g and are 47% oil and only 42% tomatoes which is a bit poor.  They also do loose tomatoes without oil at an incredible £2.29 for just 80g.

These Baresa tomatoes would be excellent, yes they may look like Niki Lauder’s ears but they have a strong taste and texture and on a plate with a bit of salad and some feta cheese, they are the dog’s.  Just a shame about the oil.

The End Product

I wilted a bag of spinach in a pan and grilled the muffins.  I then added a small amount of the red pesto and then the ham.  I topped this with another small blob of pesto, a few tomatoes and served the lot on the spinach with a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  I also threw on a few slices of the German sausage and thus, this was my dinner;

Recreating the swanky starter I had

£7.50 or so in the restaurant.  I reckon I did it for less than a quid, and I reckon the ingredients I used were better quality.  It certainly didn’t taste cheap, it was rather good and I’ve made it again since and probably will again.

So there you go.  Posh meal with stuff from Lidl.

Written by just1bloke

9 June 2011 at 7:16 pm

A quick update.

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Sorry I’ve not posted for a while, but I have a physics exam in a couple of weeks and I have been studying for that.  I might be able to squeeze in a short review between now and then though.

In other news, my local Netto has closed and has been replaced with Morrisons.  This is a pain as the nearest Netto now is awkward to get to.  Also, you may have noticed that I have yet to visit an Aldi store.  This is because it is just as awkward to get to, so I will have to stick with Lidl for now.  The other alternative is to start reviewing stuff from “Heron Frozen Foods”, though it isn’t a yellow-fronted Eurostore.  It is actually based in Hull with many stores across the North of England, and they do sell a lot of “what on Earth is this?” type brands.  That goes in it’s favour, but it isn’t one of the Eurostores I set out to write about.

Incidentally. the products that are available in these stores are not technically cheap nasty produce, in my opinion anyway.  I am fairly certain it is all the typical branded stuff that you’d buy in Germany, Sweden or wherever except it has been rebranded in English and shipped over here.

Also, I’ve just realised that I’m not mentioning the nutritional information of the stuff I’m reviewing.  This is important, after all, the product could be like manna from heaven itself and be dirt cheap, but it’s no good if it’s packed with sulphites and MSG.

Written by just1bloke

8 June 2011 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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