Scandinavian For Value

"…but Scandinavian isn't even a language."

Breakfast

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“I don’t bother with breakfast” some people confess, “I’ll usually grab a snack later on”.

Why skip breakfast?  You’ve not had anything to eat since maybe your evening meal, and that was 12 hours ago.  Would you go 12 hours during the day without anything to eat?  No, you’d be clawing at the cupboards or kicking the fridge door in to find something, anything to fill your belly.  12 hours is a long time to go without food, and this is why I am a big advocate of breakfast, most important meal of the day, yada yada.  It bloody is too.  Forego it, and you’ll be pigging out on a packet of crisps or a Lion bar by your mid-morning break.

Personally, I will always go for cereal as it’s easy.  If for some reason we don’t have any, or insufficient milk, I’ll do a round of toast, most likely spread with Hollybush Butter.  Given my early childhood, it’s a wonder I like cereal.  I remember as a 5 year old, being given Weetabix, which was made up with hot water.  Thinking about it, it sounds revolting.  Weetabix with hot water, and a splash of sterilised milk.  For those who haven’t experienced sterilised milk, ask your grandparents.  At the time, I didn’t know any better, but it’s not nice.  Providing it isn’t opened, it lasts forever even without a fridge, it doesn’t so much have a shelf-life as a half-life.  The problem with Weetabix is that you have to wash the bowl as soon as possible.  If you leave it to dry, then you might as well bin it as it sets like grout, and nobody wants to have to use a Dremel when doing the washing up.

Anyway, that aside, I needed to stock up on cereal and as I was near Lidl, I thought it only right to see what they had on offer.  I chose Master Crumble Strawberry Crisp.  I can’t help but say Master Crumble in a Sam-From-Lord-of-the-Rings accent.

So what is strawberry crisp?  It explains that it is “Crisp Multigrain Cereal Clusters with Freeze Dried Strawberry Pieces.”.  It is 49% oat flakes (so essentially porridge oats) and 2% strawberry pieces.  One 50g serving with 125ml semi-skimmed milk gives you 247 calories.  No artificial colours, preservatives or flavourings and is high in fibre.  All the usual stuff.  Oh, and is suitable for vegetarians.  I’d be surprise if it wasn’t.

The most striking thing is the picture on the box.

Master Crumble and his Odd-ball Serving Suggeston.

That container containing the cereal is a glass vessel of sorts, most likely a large tumbler.  Who eats cereal out of a glass?  “What are you having for breakfast?” “I’m having a glass of cereal”.  Maybe it’s a German thing.  To the side of the picture is the all-encompassing phrase “Serving suggestion”.  However, I eschewed the tumbler of cereal idea and opted for the more tradition bowl.  In case you are wondering what the recommended serving looks like, this is it.

The recommended serving.

Pitiful isn’t it?  I bet you all pour out a lot more than that, I know I do.  So I got a spoon, sat down and tried it.  It was yummy, just as good as any other strawberry clusters cereal I’ve tried before.  The main difference, and what makes this particularly good, is that the strawberry pieces rehydrate themselves quickly.  In, say, the Asda version of this, or even the Jordan’s brand, the strawberry pieces stay dry and crispy to the end.  I shouldn’t need to leave my cereal to soak for 10 minutes before it becomes palatable.  Another good point is the size of the clusters.  I was expecting, not being a known brand, for the clusters to be tiny and fragmented with the lower half of the box being comprised of tiny gritty pieces and dust.  No, they were a good and consistent size.  I also bought a box of the Asda version for comparison.  The Asda clusters were 2 – 3 times larger, however as I dug deeper into the packet, they became very small, I’d go so far as to say pulverised by less than half way down into the box. I imagine the last quarter to resemble porridge oats.  The machine that makes them is either very inconsistent or the warehouse staff put each box into a paint shaker before packing them off.  The Asda clusters were quite bland too, whereas Master Crumble’s clusters were slightly sweet, but not so much as to ruin the taste.

They are certainly a good price.  £1.09 for 500g.  Compare this to the Tesco label which retails for £1.25 for 500g, Asda at £1.29 and Jordans at a whopping £2.19.

Scores:
Taste – 7/10
Texture – 7/10
Creativity of serving suggestion – 8/10
Value For Money – 7/10
Rehydration quality – 8/10

Total:  37/50

Written by just1bloke

11 May 2011 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Cereal

Soup for Lunch

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It’s not very often I have soup, but when I saw a can of Farmers Fayre Chunky Beef & Vegetable Soup in Netto, I thought “Why not?”.  My favourite bread to dip in soup is a cheese topped roll, so when I saw they had some, I snapped them up too.  That was today’s lunch sorted.

Beef & Vegetable Chunky Soup

I’ve had Tesco brand chunky soup recently, and it wasn’t chunky at all, it was more like lumpy gravy.  The soup in the picture on this particular can did certainly look chunky, but I wasn’t going to count any chickens just yet.   The picture, like so many food labels, had the caption “Serving Suggestion”.  So, in the interests of science or whatever, I followed it.  This involved heating it up and then putting it in a bowl with a spoon.

I opened the can and tipped the contents into the pan.  I would say that the soup was even chunkier than the label portrayed it to be.  Bonus!  While the soup was warming, I read the rest of the can.  As I suspected, and indeed hoped, it was made exclusively for Netto stores.  On the back of the can, under the description “Chunky Beef and Vegetable Soup” were the ingredients.  Apparently it comprises of 26% vegetables (potatoes, carrots, onions and peas).  I disagree; I’d say it’s more like 35%.  It’s also 7% beef, which I reckon is about right.  A full can will deliver 208 calories.  That’s about it, apart from the cooking instructions.

I then turned my attention to the cheese-topped rolls.  Aldreds The Bakers, 2 Cheddar Cheese Topped Rolls.  These are 14% cheese.

Cheese Topped Rolls

I occasionally get cheese topped rolls from Asda.  They aren’t 14% cheese, or anywhere near.  I get the impression that the cheese on the Asda rolls was an accidental spillage as they were going into the oven and they said “sod it, just leave them” and just left it on.

I served the soup up, sliced my roll and buttered, though sadly not with Hollybush butter.

My Lunch

The soup was delicious, not only was it chocka with chunks of potatoes and carrots and lots of peas and onion, every spoonful contained a good bit of beef too.  Examining the beef, it appeared to be decent quality stewing-steak, with barely a trace of fat on it.  The rolls were magnificent; I had both of them in the end.  The cheese seemed to be good quality mature cheddar that actually tasted of cheese as if I had grated it myself from a block.

Now, here’s the important bit.  The soup was 69p for a 400g can.  Compare that to Asda brand at 72p for a 400g can, as is the Tesco brand.  Heinz Big Soup is £1.04 for the same size can.  I suppose if you’re in Asda or Tesco, then you could just grab their own brand as the price difference isn’t worth wandering about between various shops, but if you’re passing a Netto, then go in and get some, I’d put it up there with Heinz in the quality stakes.

The cheese rolls were 69p for 2.  A pack of cheese topped rolls from Asda are 64p for 4, although they are smaller and contain a scant amount of cheese, truly pitiful in fact.  I will most definitely be buying this for lunch again as it really is souper.  Tee-hee.

Scores – :
Taste – 7/10
Chunkiness – 8/10
Beefyness – 6/10
Cheesyness – 8/10
Value For Money (soup) – 7/10
Value For Money (rolls) – 7/10
Accuracy of Packaging – 7/10

Total:  50/70

Written by just1bloke

9 May 2011 at 1:34 pm

Sweeties

with 2 comments

Supermarkets, well all genres of stores really, but primarily supermarkets have “Point of Sale” stuff near the tills.  Lidl and Netto are no exception, and when I was last in Lidl, I grabbed a packet of sweets and added it to my purchases.  “Fritt” supplemented by the ambiguous tagline “+Vitamin (e) C”.  Well which is it, e or C?  I’m assuming C as there are pictures of strawberries on the packet.

Fritt + Vitamin e or possibly C

Excuse the picture quality, I really ought to invest in a better camera.  Around the main logo, it tells me that it is ‘chewy candy‘.  It also informs the Romanians “bomboana de mestecat” (translates as gum candy), to the Spanish it’s “caramelo blando” (fudge) and to the Polish, and my favourite, it’s “cukierek rozpuszczalny” (candy soluble).  I think us Brits and the Romanians are best informed, telling the Spanish that it is fudge is a downright lie.  It seems the main selling point to the Polish is that it will dissolve.  Not like that insoluble candy that you can’t taste or indeed digest, a candy that will pass through your digestive tract like a plastic bead.

Manufactured by Ludwig Schokolade, based in the German town of Saarlouis not far from the French border, they are more accurately described as “6 fruit chewy candy strips”, I cannot begin to imagine how that is marketed to the Polish.

Even though the rest of the capitalist world is desperately tying their brand to the 2012 London Olympics, even McDonalds which is irony most blatant, Ludwig Schokolade is an official partner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 in Dusseldorf.  Given that this affiliation is advertised by means of an adhesive after-thought, rather than a redesign of their packaging, it just shows how committed a partner they are.  No expense spared here.  In fact, this partnership between soluble confectionary and the most watched music event in the world is clearly far more important than the fact that it is made with natural flavours and colours which is what the sticker obscures.

Opening the packet, I was greeted with this.

Fritt 6 chewy candy strips

This I was not expecting.  It’s a peculiar format, 5 small pieces partially connected in strips.  They certainly weren’t fudge, but were chewy and also soluble, which was handy.  They were pretty much strawberry flavoured Fruitella or maybe Maoams.  The texture was less chewy than they claimed, Opal Fruits/Starburst are chewier, but the flavour was good, and tasted of strawberries rather than just some chemical based strawberry suggestion that leaves a nasty aftertaste.

How do they compare to the competition?  I’m not sure what the competition is, but I think Maoam chews are the nearest even though they are a different shape.  Fritt chews are 45p for 70g. Maoam chews are 24p for 66g.

If fruit chews are what you want, then Maoam are the ones to go for, primarily on price, as there is little difference between the two brands in every other aspect.

Scores:
Taste – 7/10
Texture – 6/10
Chewiness – 6/10
Value For Money – 4/10
Solubility – 8/10

Total:  31/50

Written by just1bloke

8 May 2011 at 9:19 pm

Posted in Sweets

This Sausage Looks Veerry Suspicious…

with 4 comments

It’s not all sweets, cakes and drinks at SFV.  In fact a couple of days ago from Lidl, I bought what appeared on the receipt as “Gourmet Sausage”.  The label says “Twinner Speciality German Cooked Pork Sausages” followed by ‘Ready to Eat’.  They are made by “Sickendiek Fleischwarenfabrik”, (or meat factory) based in Northern Germany.  I can assure you that unlike Hollybush Butter, I didn’t buy this product simply because it said Sickendiek on the label.  I bought it because it looked like this.

Sickendiek's Finest Cooked Pork Sausage.

That’s quite a lot of German sausage.  £1.99 for 650g and they are larger than you think; the scale can’t really be appreciated from the picture.  Again, the label reveals that this product is made for Lidl Stores.  The label also informs that 100g of this product carries 287 calories and the ingredients say that they are 75% pork.  I’m not sure as to which parts of the animal can constitute as pork, but I have a feeling it’s best I don’t know.  But then, the next ingredient is pork fat which narrows the options down.  The ingredients also advise that it contains celery and mustard as allergens. I know mustard can make your eyes water, but can celery?  And if so, how?  Also, it may contain traces of nuts.  How?  It’s processed pork so where do nuts come into it?  Unless it refers to one of the parts of a pig that can be called pork.

I grabbed the scissors and viciously hacked at the packet to release the vacuum packed sausages.  They are remarkably hefty even separately and would probably be a good choice for personal defence.  If someone tried to mug you, and you pulled one of these out of your pocket and belted them with it, it would be really annoying and they may just leave you alone.

I examined it, trying to be as un-homoerotic as possible, and found that the ends were sealed with a small metal crimp.  I took a small knife and circumcised the end and peeled the skin back.

Inside the skin

The first thing that struck me was the colour, it was a light pink, like cheap sausages are, but not like cooked pork, which is usually almost a whitish colour, this was more the colour of almost cooked pork.  The label mentions no artificial colours so where does the pinkness come from?  I suspect it was the traces of nuts.  It also has a mottled appearance which is usually found on very cheap processed meats and is often traces of fat and connective tissue.  Connective tissue really is as unpleasant as it sounds, and it is what hotdogs are made from.

I cut a few slices to sample it.  Taste wise, it was quite nice.  It tasted a lot like pork-pie meat.  A bit of jelly and some of that pastry and it could well be sold as “Mock Pork Pie”.  The difference was the texture.  It was smooth, smoother than any other such cooked pork sausages, even things like Mattessons which has some chunkiness to it.   This was smooth like a potted meat paste.  This usually means that it is heavily processed.  They have taken a pig, cut off all the meat that can be sold as joints, steaks, chops and bacon, removed the offal and then the remains have been slung in a machine that jet-washes the rest of the flesh and tissues off the bones and then it is compressed through a mesh.  This mush is then drained and then moulded into frankfurters and sausages like this, along with sliced cooked ham and pork including that stuff shaped like a bear’s face.  In fact, anything with the word “reformed” on the label.  Yummy.

Even with these ghoulish origins, it is still rather tasty.  I couldn’t eat more than a few thin slices in a sandwich with salad cream, but that pork-pie porkiness swings the balance the other way.  Well partly anyway.  Compared to other such reformed pork products, such as packets of processed ‘reformed’ sliced meats, this sausage is superior.  Though in context, that is like saying liver disease is superior to lung disease.

On the whole, I was quite disappointed with this.  I was hoping it would be of better quality rather than clearly being an extruded lump of  mashed pig carcass and this is the first purchase that I haven’t been happy with.  It lacks something, maybe a hint of smokiness might have made the difference, or even better would be if the texture wasn’t so fine.  It needs to be just ever so slightly chunkier.  I might try a few slices in a bowl of salad just to see if it can be made desirable.  I doubt I’ll be buying any more of this though, for a start you just get far too much for your £1.99.  With Mattessons, you get 227g of Mattessons Reduced Fat pork sausage for £1.45 and although Sickendieck is far cheaper by weight,  why would anybody need 650g of cooked pork sausage?  It’s all very Teutonic.

Scores:
Taste – 7/10
Texture – 4/10
Capacity for Innuendo – 9/10
Value For Money – 6/10
Potential – 6/10

Total:  32/50

Written by just1bloke

2 May 2011 at 1:30 am

Posted in Meat Products

Yellow stuff

with 4 comments

For some reason I have started to eat more toast than I used to.  It’s become my new snack of choice as a replacement for no snack at all.  So really I shouldn’t. But toast isn’t toast unless you can smear it in proper butter, not just some long-chain hydrocarbon such as “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better” or the alternatives with similar plays on words based on the confusion with butter substitute.  None of which taste like butter at all.

So, I bought some Country Life, which was excellent.  After that had gone, I replaced it with some Tesco butter.  This wasn’t excellent. In fact, it should really have been called “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Margarine“.  It wasn’t much cop frankly.  It was rock hard and I had to soften it on the radiator first.  It would’ve been easier to spread a piece of solid candle wax.   I soldiered on through it though as I’m not the sort of person who’ll ditch something if there’s (technically) nothing wrong with it.  Eventually, it ran out and whilst in Netto purchasing the biscuits reviewed previously, I picked up a packet of “Hollybush Butter (fnaar)”.

Hollybush Butter

I will admit, the double entendre name was the deciding factor in buying this.  I’ll let you all decide what Hollybush Butter might be a euphemism for.

So, what does Hollybush Butter (fnaar fnaar) have to say for itself?  Well, the tagline is “A taste of luxury… at a price you can afford“.  A bold claim.  So, I loaded the toaster with bread and examined the packet some more.  It is also “Blended butter from more than one country”.  What the hell?  Are we not able to make enough butter in this country?  Are they importing the scrapings from the butter churns in other countries and mixing it together here?  I suspect this is the spreadable equivalent of a bar of soap you’ve made yourself by squeezing together all the little left-over slivers of soap in the bottom of the soap-dish.  Evans Rees (Butter) Ltd are the company behind Hollybush Butter (fnaar) and are based in Swansea.  Not in a lovely Welsh dairy, but in a brown unit on an industrial estate just off the M4.

However, on the side of the packet is this “Quality Guarantee”:

“If, despite all the care we have taken, this butter disappoints you in any way at the time of purchase, please return it to me in Swansea, giving the date purchased, and the name and address of the supplying Retailer.  I’ll refund your replacement value, including your postage.  Applies to UK Mainland only.”

Followed by a signature by ‘Russel Carman” (or thereabouts).  That is quite a personal guarantee.

So, the toaster pops, and I open the packet in order to sample it.  It is a very light yellow colour, the same shade as tooltips in the Windows OS.  I assume that’s what colour butter is supposed to be rather than some of the bright yellow examples I’ve had before.  The other thing that struck me was how soft it was.  It wasn’t particularly warm in the kitchen either, so it doesn’t seem softened by the heat.  It spread effortlessly, easier even than the Country Life.

The butter in action.

It was delicious.  Very buttery, salted but not oversalty, not greasy and very tasty indeed.  I was so impressed I loaded the toaster once more.  I heartily recommend giving this butter a go.  At 99p for 250g, it’s definitely worth it.  In comparison, Asda butter is £1.24 for 250g and Tesco is £1.14 for the same weight.  Country Life goes for £1.30 and Lurpak is £1.60.

Scores:
Taste – 8/10
Spreadability– 9/10
Colour – 7/10
Value For Money – 7/10
Impression Given by Packet– 6/10

Total:  38/50

Written by just1bloke

22 April 2011 at 8:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Netto For A Change

with 2 comments

“Netto, It’s Scandinavian For Value” proclaimed the blonde girl in a non-descript Nordic accent whilst wearing a comedy viking helmet in the adverts, even though that Scandinavian isn’t even a language.  Netto translates as ‘net’ in Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Danish.  Also, she was about as Scandinavian as I am.

Netto does carry quite a reputation as being a cheap-ass store for people who ‘are too pikey even for Iceland’.  But, I wasn’t going in there to observe the regular clientele (though whilst walking round, I smelt alcohol on at least three different people, and I mean a lot of alcohol too).  No, I was there to try their wares.  Well, I actually went in for some finger rolls for the sausages I was cooking for tea.

They didn’t have any.  But they did have a good few brands I’d never heard of, so I thought I would give them a try.  I bought some biscuits.

First off, Chestertons (sic) Choc Chip Cookies. 

Chestertons Choc Chip Cookies

On the back of the packet, these are described as “A golden brown cookie with a crunchy texture made using real chocolate chips“.  The ingredients list them as being 17% chocolate chips.  There is no mention of the percentage of cocoa solids.   So, on to the product itself.  I ripped open the packet and tipped some out.

Chestertons Choc Chip Cookies

These were rather tasty.  They contained a good amount of chocolate chips and were indeed crunchy.  The chocolate didn’t taste cheap either and the biscuits themselves are not a bad size.  There isn’t much more I can add except that they were 45p for 200g.  Although this is quite cheap, Asda Smart Price cookies are only 32p for 200g, but they do taste a bit odd.  The Asda brand are 49p for 250g which is better value but unless you did a double-blind taste comparison between the two, I doubt you’d notice the difference.  The lesson to be learned here is don’t bother with branded cookies, they’re over priced.

Scores:
Taste – 7/10
Crunchiness– 8/10
Choc-Chip Density – 8/10
Value For Money – 5/10
Size idealness– 6/10

Total:  34/50

Next off, it’s Chestertons (sic) Milk Chocolate Digestives.

Chesterons Milk Chocolate Digestives

Described as “Wheatmeal biscuit, half coated in milk chocolate“.  Is there any biscuit more familiar than the chocolate digestive?  There is no mention of the amount of cocoa solids in the ingredients but it does say that they are 24% Milk Chocolate.  They are also “produced in the UK for Netto Foodstores Ltd.”.  A quick check of other packaging shows that seems to be the norm for these lesser known brands.  Whereas Asda/Tesco/Sansbury etc all have their own brand, it seems with Netto, Aldi and Lidl the manufacturer make the product exclusively for the store but keep their own branding.

Anyway, so I tore the packet open and tipped them out.

Chestertons Milk Chocolate Digestives

Nothing particularly remarkable, they looked like every other milk chocolate digestive biscuit on the market.  They tasted like every other milk chocolate digestive biscuit on the market too, although the chocolate did taste a lot like Galaxy chocolate which does earn them extra marks.  They are an ideal biscuit to go with a cup of tea, but has its flaws.  They require a certain dunking technique.  It has to be quick otherwise the chocolate melts.  They were 45p for 300g which, unlike the choc chip cookies above, it a far better deal than similar biscuits from other stores; Asda’s brand are 88p for 300g and Tesco’s are 87p for the same weight.  Asda Smart Price and Tesco Value Range biscuits are both 37p for 300g, but to be honest do seem to have a curious after taste to them.  To put it into perspective,  McVities are £1.30 for 400g.  By weight, that works out twice as much, but I seriously doubt they are twice as tasty.  I’d go for Chestertons, especially as the chocolate, which is a reasonably thick layer, tastes a lot like a famous brand.

Scores:
Taste – 8/10
Dunkability– 6/10
Chocolate generosity – 8/10
Value For Money – 8/10
Familiarity– 9/10

Total:  39/50

Written by just1bloke

18 April 2011 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Many Fruits

with one comment

Along with the Vitafit Juice, I also bought a carton of Linessa Light Multivitamin Nectar. 1.5L of the stuff.  This was in the more regular Tetra-Pak style carton with a screwtop lid.  I’d never heard of Linessa, and if you would’ve mentioned it to me before today, I would have assumed it was a port on the Black Sea.  But no, they make Multivitamin Nectar.  A ‘nectar’ is a fruit based drink which isn’t 100% juice and could be diluted or have additives.

Linessa Light Multivitamin Nectar

On the carton is depicted 9 different fruits.  The ingredients list 12, so for some reason they have chosen to not include grapefruit, mango and guava in the picture. It’s not all juices (from concentrates) as the apricot, banana, mango and guava are purees. It states it’s 55% fruit, and enriched with 10 vitamins, so it seems it’s ideal for the breakfast table.   A 200ml serving is but 46 calories.

You know how with juice cartons, there’s often a lid which then conceals a foil seal that must be punctured or ripped open?  With this product, the lid has teeth which cut the foil in one swift movement.  Very clever.  Except no, it doesn’t cut it right off otherwise it would fall in, but it leaves a flap of foil that acts like a heart valve.  When it came to pouring it out, it got in the way and the juice spurted into the glass like blood from a severed artery pulsing at a healthy 65bpm.

Once I poured a serving, the first thing that shocked me was the colour.  It was a very bright orange.   I suspect that’s the Provitamin A (beta carotene) giving it that colour.  It’s like ‘red diesel’.  Customs & Excise will know you’ve been drinking this because it’ll stain your bladder and kidneys bright orange and then you’ll get done for not paying fruit-juice tax.

So, tasting.  It’s quite thick.  Not thick like a smoothie, but closer to smoothie than juice.    Also, even though apple, orange and pineapple are the three main elements of the drink, I couldn’t really taste them.  The main flavours I got was the mango and guava followed by the banana and the passion fruit.  There was a citrus twang in the background  but it wasn’t very pronounced.

Because of its viscosity, it’s not a great thirst quencher, but as a carton of something to have on the breakfast table, it’s perfect.  And the carton, 1.5L for 79p is an absolute steal.  Compare this to a litre of Five Alive for £1.20.

Scores:
Taste – 7/10
Swiggability– 6/10
Value for Money – 8/10
Accuracy of packaging – 5/10
Cardiovascular mimicry – 7/10

Total:  33/50

Written by just1bloke

15 April 2011 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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