Thumbs up for…

Here in the Bangers & Mash household, we do rather enjoy discovering new food and drink products, and every now and again I like to bring you a round-up of some of our latest favourites. So here’s what we’ve been giving a thumbs up to in the last few months…

graze

GrazeFor more than seven years those creative people at graze have been making good snacks taste great, and now their delicious munchies are available to buy on the high street for the first time. Available in stores nationwide this week, there are 12 different snacks in their new ‘good to go’ range bringing together a fantastic array of flavour combinations.

My personal favourite is the deconstructed Dark Chocolate Cherry Tart. Containing just 175 calories and one of your five-a-day in the form of whole dried cherries and cranberries, it’s a perfect choccie hit for those days when you so crave chocolate but so want to be good. And during a challenging 5:2 fast day at work, I must say the Thai Sweet Chilli Dippers at a mere 83 calories came to my rescue with their sweet-savoury-spiciness.

Rather predictably my youngest went straight for the Chocolate Pretzel Dippers and the Salted Fudge & Peanut Cookie. Both have that delicious sweet and salty twist which she loves and I literally had to fight her to get a look in on either of them. My oldest daughter devoured the contents of the Herby Bread Basket in seconds, telling me how good they were in between greedy mouthfuls, while both were also very keen on the Lemon Drizzle Flapjack and the Original Fruity Flapjack.

Graze Collage
The ‘good to go’ range is now available nationwide in Sainsbury’s, Boots, WH Smith Travel and many independent retailers. Other snacks in the range are Mini Strawberry & Banana, Juicy Peach & Raspberry, Punchy Protein Nuts, and Veggie Protein Power and we can highly recommend them all. (From 99p to £1.49.)

Clearspring Snack Organic

Clearspring snack organicWhile we’re on the subject of healthy snacks, I must say I’m also rather addicted to the Snack Organic range from Clearspring, which combines beans, seeds, fruit and nuts and is free from dairy, wheat, gluten, and added sugars.

I’m particularly into Roasted Seeds and Soya with Cranberry at the moment. Organic pumpkin seeds and soya beans are combined with dried chunks of apple and cranberries, sweetened only with apple juice, for a wonderfully fruity, nutty flavour that is surprisingly satisfying.

RRP 99p for a 30g bag.

Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauces

Jack Daniels Collage

We’ve been making good use of the barbecue this summer and these tasty limited edition sauces from Jack Daniel’s have been just the ticket for pepping up our chops and burgers. We like our food hot and spicy here at Chez Bangers but, all too often, when products are labelled hot we find them anything but. However these sauces do just what they say on the tin. Or rather bottle.

The Extra Hot Habanero offers the mellow taste of Jack Daniel‘s whisky, blended with habanero chillies to create a smokey flavour with a serious chilli kick, and works an absolute treat as a marinade for lamb chops. The Hot Pepper Sauce, blended with jalapeño peppers, creates a sweet and spicy sauce ideal for dipping, as a glaze for steaks or simply poured liberally on your bacon sarnie.

Widely available in most major supermarkets across the UK, RRP £2.19.

Our House of Spice

Our House of Spice Collage

It’s no secret that my family is a tad hooked on all things spicy, and we couldn’t wait to try out the new spice blends from Our House of Spice. Sisters Nadia and Julia Latif promise to take the hassle out of making great Indian dishes with their authentic Indian spice kits, all based on family recipes and traditional cooking methods.

The promise held true and we absolutely loved their Baked Chicken, the Latif’s take on tandoori chicken – simply smother over chicken pieces and bung in the oven. Job done. But it was their Tarka Dhal spice blend that absolutely blew me away; I think this might well be the best tarka dhal I’ve ever tasted – creamy lentils with intense flavourful spices.

For the full range, visit their online shop. Prices for the spice kits range from £2.50 to £2.75 and all are completely free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. I’ve got my eye on the Onion Bhaji kit next…

Spice Kitchen

Spice Kitchen Collage

I’ve also been having lots of fun experimenting with the international range of spice blends from the Birmingham-based Spice Kitchen. The mother and son team, Shashi & Sanjay Aggarwal, source the freshest spices from around the world, hand blend, roast and grind them and send them out from their online shop. And boy do they smell irresistible when they land on your door mat – you can smell that heady aroma before you even open the package!

Their international selection consists of eight different blends and barbecue rubs: garam masala, Sri Lankan curry powder, panch phoron, Mexican spice blend, Jerk spice blend, Chinese spice blend, ras-el-hanout and baharat. I am thoroughly enjoying working my way through this little lot.

The North African ras-el-hanout was perfect for my slow-roast shoulder of lamb, while the chicken curry I created with the Bengali panch phoron was out of this world, so full of flavour and very, very moreish. The Middle Eastern baharat works a treat as a rub for beef steaks and lamb chops and the Jamaican jerk seasoning spices up chicken drumsticks for a quick and easy weekday supper.

At just £9.95 for the eight different spice mixes and free postage to UK addresses, I’d say this is an incredibly tasty bargain and definitely encourage you to give them a go. Shop online at spicekitchenuk.com/collections/spice.

Pomora

pomoraThrough Pomora you can adopt your very own olive tree and enjoy the most wonderful olive oil throughout the year while supporting farmers in Southern Italy and Sicily.

As well as receiving quarterly deliveries of the finest olive oil from your tree, you also get an adoption certificate and updates from the farmer throughout the year. Pomora’s farmers all use sustainable methods, pressing their own olives in the traditional way under strictly controlled conditions. The olive oil is then shipped directly to customers with no middle men involved at all.

I was seriously impressed with the olio nuovo I received from Pomora to try out. This is their youngest, freshest oil, bottle directly after harvest. It’s unfiltered, giving it a gloriously vibrant green colour, and a delicious fresh flavour with a hint of pepperiness. It’s perfect for drizzling over pasta dishes as a seasoning or simply dipping your bread into.

The Pomora adoption scheme costs £29 a quarter. For details of exactly what you receive in each quarterly shipment, visit pomora.com/what-you-get.

Actifry

Actifry Collage

For the last few months we’ve been putting the Tefal Actifry ‘Family through its paces. With its unique patented technology, the Actifry claims to be a ‘revolutionary healthy fryer’, using just a tablespoonful of oil to cook a kilogram of perfect crispy chips. Not only that, it’s also supposed to be the healthier way to cook up curries, casseroles, stir-frys, risottos, desserts and much more besides.

So what was our verdict? Well, for healthy chips without deep-frying alone I’d say the Actifry is a brilliant invention, although at a RRP of £249.99 (although I have seen it on Amazon for £169.99) it certainly isn’t a cheap piece of kit. It is rather cumbersome too and takes up a fair proportion of your kitchen counter-top. But Actifry chips are so much tastier and crispier than the oven-baked variety and we’ve been using it on almost a weekly basis. It works a treat for mini roasties and patatas bravas too.

I’ve also used the Actifry for my own homemade tortilla chips, using wholemeal tortillas and flavoured with a generous sprinkling of paprika. I thought they were delicious served with guacamole and salsa, although my husband felt there were just a little too worthy for his liking.

However the other dishes I’ve experimented with haven’t been quite so successful. My Scotch eggs were pretty much a disaster; the ones pictured above were pretty much the only ones that didn’t fall apart completely during cooking. The chicken and vegetable stir fry was perfectly edible but actually took longer and used just as much oil as if I’d made it as I usually do in a wok.

There’s certainly more experimenting to be done with the Actifry though, and I’ve just spotted this recipe for Speedy Granola that the Botanical Baker has come up with for her Actifry, which I must have a go at. But if nothing else, the Actifry has definitely revolutionised the way I make chips forever. So a big thumbs up on that score.

Marks and Spencer

m and s Collage

Yes, I know as a family food blogger, ready meals are two words I should never use in conjunction. But there are times when the kids are at friends, I’m knackered and the chilled aisle at M&S is just calling my name. The redeeming factor here though is the fact that M&S do some rather good healthy (or at least healthier) ready meals

If you too like a sneaky ready meal, do check out their Balanced For You (high protein meals with balanced carbs) and Count on Us (calorie-controlled and low-fat) ranges. Particular favourites of mine are the Spinach & Ricotta Pizza (less than 400 calories!), King Prawn Masala, Salt & Vinegar Crusted Cod (just don’t bother with the peas; peas in  ready meals are always dried and shrivelled…) and, while it’s not as hot as I’d like, their Peri Peri Chicken always hits the spot at the end of a busy day.

Prices start from £3 for the Spinach & Ricotta Pizza to £4.25 for the Peri Peri Chicken.

Henny & Joe’s Chai Syrup

henny and joesJust in case I haven’t featured enough spice in this round-up, my last thumbs up has to go to Henny & Joe’s marvellous Chai Syrup. It’s simply heavenly and equally wonderful both as a morning cuppa to ease you gently into your day or as bedtime brew to help you drift off to sleep.

Using 100% natural ingredients, this delicious chai infusion is created from a blend of aromatic whole spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, vanilla, star anise, nutmeg, fennel seed, and mixed spice. There’s some sugar and water in there too, and nothing else.

I love my chai syrup stirred into hot water and milk and it’s also gorgeous with hot apple juice too. I bet it would work brilliantly in cocktails too – must give that a go soon…

RRP £7.95 for 200ml or £14.95 for 500ml. Visit hennyandjoes.co.uk to buy online or to find your local stockist.

Disclosure: I was sent complimentary product samples from M&S, Actifry, Spice Kitchen, graze, Clearspring, Our House of Spice, Pomora and Jack Daniels for review purposes. I receive plenty more products that don’t get a thumbs up, and therefore don’t make it anywhere near the blog. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own.

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