I am often invited to press events featuring new food lines. The most recent was the M&S Delicious and Nutritious introduction.
Persian Duck with Basmati Rice, roasted butternut, spinach with pomegranate dressing. £4.49 (350g). One of a range of eleven to choose from, this is the one that hit my tastebuds. Stunning!
Then Mini Macaroons – six flavours: pistachio, lemon, raspberry, vanilla, strawberry and passion fruit. 12 in a packet £1.50 144g – really great flavours, very very moreish!
And this, the Summer Fruit Tart, that really ticked all the boxes. The most delicious tart I have ever come across. Crisp all butter pastry, filled with lemon and vanilla custard, topped with a summer fruit compote. A really piquant fruit mix, I detected cherry, raspberry … at £4.99, 530g. It deserves a drum roll! I will be looking for this every visit to my local M&S!
I was specially impressed with one of their ales, Citra IPA Ale. It was light, flavoursome and satisfyingly alcoholic without being heavy.
As you can imagine there was a lot more to try – you can see more on their website. Some are ideal as picnic food, or sitting out in the sun in the garden. Do give them a try … we can’t rate them highly enough!
Val Reynolds, Editor
I really like to add fresh ready made sauces to my cooking but making my own is sometimes difficult to make small enough quantities for a meal for two. As I look for as many organic ingredients for our meals as possible discovering some new additions to Tideford organic soups, sauces and a pudding were welcome finds especial for anyone wanting products that are gluten-free, low in salt, low fat, with mainly vegetarian & vegan products and no additives or preservatives.
Of this new summer range the Westcountry Cheddar Cheese Sauce went very well with ham steaks, and the Carbonara with Bacon and Nutmeg was excellent with chicken breasts, new potatoes and broccoli. Both sauces are made with organic, vegetarian Westcountry cheese.
Others to choose from include:
Jalapeno Salsa Mediterranean Vegetable Sauce Tomato & Basil Sauce
They all retail at £2.59 with the Ragu a la Bolognese £2.99 and Basil Pesto at £3.75.
Of the two new soups our favourite was the Pea & Mint Soup. There was some left over so next day we added a few frozen peas, grated cheese and more mint and hey, we had a light starter for lunch. The other soup, Minestroni with gluten-free Pasta went down well with the men, can’t imagine why! Must be the chilli!
The tasty soup range includes
Farmhouse Chicken with Lemon & Thyme Italian Tomato with Lentil & Red Pepper Beetroot with Crème Fraiche & Dill Spicy Butternut Squash with Sweet Potato All retailing at £2.79.
We absolutely loved the new Chocolate Rice Pudding, suffice it to say we have tracked it down and it seems to regularly appear on the shopping list! It’s delish hot or cold. We love the Classic and Butterscotch Rice Puddings which are also gluten and wheat-free and oh so creamy.
All these super products can all be found at Ocado, Waitrose, Sainsburys, Abel & Cole, Wholefoods, Booths and independent retailers.
It’s possible to follow Tideford on Facebook Tideford Organics Ltd and Twitter @TidefordOrganic.
Have a look at their very informative website. You will get a good look at their products and an insight into their ethos.
Charlotte Singer Guest Cookery Journalist
It’s so important to be warmly dressed when out in the bitter cold especially if out for more than half an hour. It’s essential to have the right clothing.
Sheepskin - gloves, hats, boots – all help to keep out the cold and keep us active. We have never really found man made material to be as warm as natural fibres. Expensive, but really easy to pick up a bargain on eBay. We will be writing about our experiences soon.
And a hat, woollen, silk, sheepskin, whatever, essential to keep the heat in and your scalp warm.
Finally a real silk scarf wound round the neck, even covering the ears, is a must – warm, colourful and snug.
Sniffles, especially when going into a warm building from a cold outside, seem to happen all the time and a sore throat sometimes follows. We carry around with us little honey and menthol sweeties. They are very comforting and certainly clear a blocked nose – the menthol has anti-bacterial properties, naturally killing of micro-organisms that might lead to a throat infection. Jakemans original Throat and Chest Sweets are delicious, reminiscent of those we sucked on our way to school on cold and frosty mornings. Recently launched in bags of ten sweets, handy for keeping in coat pockets, they are available in most supermarkets and pharmacies.
And, what about aches and pains? We found Deep Heat Patches, activated when you strip off the sleeve, placed in strategic spots worked really well – they are self adhesive and easy to apply. This worked especially well for Jane who had hip pain and found real relief within 20 minutes – the heat lasted for more than eight hours! These were so good we are keeping some in the medicine cupboard. Deep Heat is available as a Rub and a Spray.
Then for those days we were hanging around the football pitch waiting for the young ‘uns to finish their game we used little Hotties, put them in your footwear and warm feet are guaranteed. You can get similar pads for gloves. Look for them in pharmacies, sports shops, some supermarkets.
A strong cold wind can really dry out your skin – we swear by Lotil Cream for our face and hands, it’s so rich. It will give relief for the pain of cracked or fissured skin on feet as well.
We always have a little tube of lip balm in all our coat pockets, handbags, sports bags and this year we have been using Lotil Lip Care SPF30. It has kept our lips moist and free of chapping and splitting that often comes from exposure to bitter winds.
And socks … We have tried about six different types of sock in the past six weeks and can honestly say the only ones we found that really kept our feet warm in the bitter weather we have had lately have been natural fibre, more particularly goat wool. This is what our reviewer said: These impressed as soon as I saw them! Well, it WAS a cold day! Full calf length, but not too grippy. That is, no powerful elastic to give those horrible rings round your calves (ie good for those with circulation problems). They stay fresh for a long time too. They have a good cushioned sole, perhaps the only downside, might be if you wear tight shoes or boots, you may need to up your size a little! They make wonderful house socks, toasty, with a fully cushioned sole! There are four sizes available; they may seem dear, but boy, they are warm! Nice colours too! Available from the Wiggly Wigglers website.
And, of course, thermal underwear – we find silk or merino wool the best – having used and loved Icebreaker for the past five years. Their garments are warm, can be worn for ages and never pick up body odours – long distance sailors swear by them! This Icebreaker sleeveless top is five years old and shows no signs of wear and is just as warm as it was originally. Great value for money.
So keep as warm as you can and if you come home really chilled through have a bath. Why not try an Olbas Bath? Absolutely fab! The mix of clove, juniper and eucalyptus really made us feel we were in a hot tub with vapours all around to help with our breathing. Available in supermarkets, pharmacies and health food shops.
Keeping warm reaps benefits, it makes you more resistant to germs of all kinds.
Yours in health,
Val Reynolds, Editor
One of my most enduring memories of a year long stay in France, as an au pair, was a hot drink made from verveine, a plant we refer to as lemon verbena. It was wonderfully comforting, had a familiar lemony aroma and sugar really enhanced its flavour. So when I heard about a hand cream with that wonderful scent I just had to try it out.
Winter time is one when my cuticles have a tendency to crack, resulting in that really long period of pain. The lemon verbena hand cream has a 20% shea butter base. It’s creamy texture is easily absorbed, leaving hands soft and supple and I find especially effective when rubbed round the fingernail.
On my desk at the moment are the final contestants in my Strictly Skincare hand cream choice. I started with about 20 different products. The five are, in no particular order of preference – they are all used regularly:
Energizing Verbena Hand Cream – Panier des Sens, en Provence that comes with very pretty packaging
Morrisons Unscented Hand Cream, Concentrated – a glycerine based cream it is useful when you don’t want to wear a second scent that might conflict. It is very creamy, softening dry skin and useful to add before you start to work in the garden.
Q10 by Pharma Nord is another hand cream that conditions and protects at the same time. It contains ginkgo Biloba, Pycnogenol and Vitamin E. All ingredients considered highly beneficial by skincare aficionados.
Lotil Original is specifically designed for cold weather and I always check there is a small tube in my handbag at this time of year.
On a recent visit to The Dales I took my tube of English Weather Cream. I always use this in cold weather because my face dries out in cold windy weather and this cream works absolutely fantastically. However, it has been recently discontinued … Made by Lotil it is no longer available – such a shame. I’m looking for a replacement product and will let you know if I find one.
Wearing silk lined gloves helps to keep my hands warm and in conjunction with any one of these handcreams I’m able to keep them in good condition, safe from damaging cold weather.
All are available online but of course in store is always a good place to try them out!
Kate Campbell, Health Editor
Kate has worked with editor Val Reynolds since 1996 and they are constantly looking for top quality, effective skincare products. Do you have a favourite? Do let us know and we will pass on your recommendations.
Morrisons have created the NuMe (pronounced new me) range of prepared foods. Chilled, frozen and store cupboard products all offer lots of health benefits. With 300 lines to choose from and new ones being added all the time they are great for those following a low fat and calorie controlled diet and anyone wanting to know the ingredient content.
We tried the Beetroot yogurt and mint dip – very tasty – great to eat on crispbread or add to a plain salad £1.19/70g.
The Pea and Mint cuppa soup was surprisingly tasty – we added a few frozen peas to give us something to chew on! 69p – four portions.
Sea Bass with Spinach and Parmesan Risotto £4.99 – 2 portions, married with Italian Bean Stew £1.75/400 g was delicious.
The whole range is innovative – the ones we have tried very tasty and reasonably priced – highly recommended – look out for them when next you visit Morrisons. We’ll be writing about their Christmas range of foods soon – well worth waiting for!
BerryWhite – an innovative organic range of flavoured teas – we tried Pomegranate and Blueberry with White Tea – a still fruit drink with white tea – which we liked very much. Why white tea? It is the least processed form of tea, made from the youngest silver buds which are gently steam, then dried and thereby contains more nutrients than other teas. Launched this year by Andrew Jennings there are several more drinks to try, see their website for details and where to buy.
Owen Potts has been an inventor of inspired recipes for over 15 years. He has developed recipes for supermarkets, household brands, farm shops over the years and in 2010 alone he developed over 1,000 recipes!
We love the Owen Potts’ range and recently tried the Maple Chipotle Barbecue and Grilling Sauce … Yum, great for indoor and outdoor additions to food. Try it on sausages, meat, anything actually – the older kids loved its spicyness mixed in with familiar flavours!
Available in most supermarkets – see the website for specific stockists.
And finally, Weightwatchers. Such a range, but we were specially taken with their biscuits. We tried the pack of 5 Chocolate Biscuits – amazingly good! We will definitely be putting these in our trolley on our next visit to the supermarket. Coated with thick Belgian milk chocolate, 89 calories, 4.2g fat, wrapped separately – excellent we won’t be tempted to eat the whole packet.
We also tried the Fruit Crumble biscuits – apple, blueberry and raspberry – crumbly biscuit base, topped with crunchy flakes. A very definite thumbs up from our tasters who all said they would buy them. Again separately wrapped, 89 calories, 2.4g fat.
Dare we tell you about the new Milk Chocolate Digestives? Have a look on their website to see the other 12 varieties!
As you would expect with such a popular range of foods, they are available in all the major supermarkets.
Kate Campbell, Contributing author
Honey: We love Honey and we really love Manuka honey. It has quite a strong flavour but one it’s easy to become accustomed to. Used for a lot of skin problems there is always some in our bathroom cabinet.
Manuka honey mostly comes from New Zealand and has a guide as to its strength, you will see UMF 16+, 25+, 10+ included on the label. UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor, used to indicate how bioactive it is. So which to buy for what?
We keep a pot of Spirit’s Bay Manuka Honey UMF25+ in a kitchen cupboard for burns and cuts. It really works, I wish I had known about it when I badly burned the inside of my wrist some 15 years ago. I still have a scar, whereas now whenever I burn myself – and how easy it is in the kitchen – I quickly dab some on, cover it with a piece of lint and tape to keep it in place and within 12 hours you wouldn’t know anything had happened. It’s that good.
For general wellness we keep a pot of Goldenhills Manuka Honey UMF16+ to eating on bread and butter, or with a hot lemon drink for sore throats.
For particularly sore throats we have some Comvita propolis herbal elixir in the medicine cupboard. It includes Manuka Honey UMF10, multiflora honey, apple cider vinegar, Vit C, and peppermint.
All in all, honey is a unique food and Ogilvy’s are able to provide really unusual honeys – Balkan Linden honey, well known for its lightness and woody scent, is especially good in tea. Other unusual honeys include one from the Himalayan Highlands – light and delicious, remarkably floral. Another we tried comes from the Zambesi Plains. Different again in flavour due to the plants the bees gather the nectar from, this is gathered at the head of the Zambesi River by local beekeepers.
Ogilvy honeys are a special gift for any honey aficionados – yes there are lots of them! You might be surprised if you asked around. Widely available – their website most interesting.
Spirit’s Bay 25+ and Goldenhills 16+ are widely available in health food stores and their websites.
Joan Marshall, Contributing author
Can you imagine missing the chance to try some mouthwatering brandy butter ice cream? We did!
We were sent vouchers to redeem for ice cream and mislaid them. By the time they were found the brandy butter ice cream season had passed … So instead we went for the plain clotted cream variety. Oh dear! Big mistake! Why? Because we now are besotted with clotted!
We have always managed to squeeze in a small portion of something sweet after our dinner and now the clotted cream ice cream is central to our desire.
We swirl some fruit juice, or alcoholic concoction such as cointreux, or even tia maria, or sloe gin, over a small dollop, add a little unsweetened low fat greek yogurt for contrast, and on a special occasion add a chocolate or shortbread biscuit. The mixes are endless, we sometimes add fresh fruit, stewed fruit especially apricots, toasted sliced almonds, crunchy chopped hazelnuts that only heighten our anticipation.
OK, so we’re nuts! So what! We make the portions as small as possible, and we use a teaspoon to eat it!
So there you have it. Two very happy, clotted cream addicts, nearly every day.
We’re looking forward to next November when the brandy butter ice cream will be available once more. Think we’ll stock up with a tub or two, or more!
In the meantime the next visit to the supermarket will include buying another flavour – Clotted Cream and Strawberries. Oh God … there’s even another one – Clotted Cream and Honeycomb.
Not sure we should tell you this, the ice cream is made in Cornwall. The website has lots of recipes. Leave some for us!
By the way there is a competition to win some Devon made Raspberry Lemonade …
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
A quick survey of friends and colleagues showed that more men than women like chilli.
Some men were quite adventurous and consumed meat dishes containing large amounts of chilli. We wondered whether there would be any taste in the dish apart from chilli, so why such a volume?
We guessed it might be the endorphins that are stimulated, so chilli gives a kick, or perhaps it’s something else …
Another question is what positive benefits are there to be gained?
Searching Google with chilli+stomach we found:
- Chili stomach ache
- Chili stomach cancer
- Chili stomach ulcer
- Ghost chili stomach pain
- Chilli and stomach ulcerts
- Stomach pain from chilli
- Stomach pain after chilli
- Chilli burning stomach
- Chilli and stomach cancer
We didn’t go any further.
We then entered chilli+stomach+healthy and found many websites with advice for all kinds of ills, including cancer, from all kinds of self-appointed experts.
So, what should the discerning enquirer do?
Our advice is to follow the old adage of a little of everything does you good and, if you like chilli make sure you which find out which are the most reliable websites to refer to.
Websites providing reliable health information we recommend are:
- www.mayoclinic.org – very interesting
- General advice on using the web … www.gosh.nhs.uk/EasySiteWeb
www.justanswer.com/health is a website where you can pay to talk to a doctor direct
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
We love chocolate. Not the sweet, cloying stuff you can buy in big bars, made using all kinds of ingredients and added chemicals.
Oh no. We love dark, dark chocolate often referred to by is percentage cocoa solids. One such is the Divine 70% Dark Chocolate with Ginger and Orange. Suitable for vegetarians and carrying the Kosher mark, it is available in Sainsburys nationwide and online £1.69.
Divine chocolate is only made with the best Fairtrade cocoa beans from Kuapa Kokoo, a coopertive of smallholder farmers in Ghana. Many of you will know all about Divine chocolate, but have you noticed the brand new Christmas gift boxes – dark chocolate disks with mint, and dark chocolate with raspberry.
The raspberry taste is really fantastic, the aroma is enticing and the taste confirms your wise decision to eat it!
All the chocolate is free from artificial flavourings, preservatives and colourings.
Available from Waitrose, Booths, Liberty of London and Oxfam. RRP £4.50
The other Divine chocolate allowed in the house – not much is because we just eat it until it has gone and then we feel rather guilty – is the 70% Dark Chocolate Covered Salted Fudge. This is a serious grown-up fudge, you experience a mouthful of delightful textures and tastes. Like no other fudge we have ever come across, we will have a secret stock … Only offered to those who really appreciate unusual, top quality confectionary!
Ok, you’ve guessed! We’re total chocoholics and we want to share our love with you! Here are some more of our favourite recipes from Menier, the cooking chocolate we couldn’t be without.
Mexican Pinto Bean, Sweet Pepper & Garlic Soup with an Avocado Salsa - Serves 4-6 Ingredients:
Soup 5 tbsp olive oil 1 medium red onion, finely diced 6 garlic cloves, crushed 1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped 1 red pepper, de-seeded and roughly chopped 1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and roughly chopped 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper 1 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp ground coriander 1 tsp smoked paprika 2 tbsp tomato purée 1 tin pinto beans, drained 2 tins chopped tomatoes 400ml vegetable stock 35ml red wine vinegar 1 tbsp white sugar 30g Menier dark chocolate 1 tsp salt Large pinch ground black pepper Avocado Salsa 1 ripe avocado ½ red onion, finely diced ½ red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped 1 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped Juice of 1 lime 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil Large pinch salt To make the soup: Heat the olive oil in a medium/large saucepan. Once hot, add the onions, garlic and red and yellow peppers, stir and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the onion and peppers start to colour and soften. Add the fresh red chilli and all the ground spices – cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika – then gently cook for approximately 15 – 20 minutes. If it starts to catch on the bottom, add a little water. Add the red wine vinegar, sugar and tomato purée, stir and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the pinto beans, chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock. Bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover and gently simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, to make the avocado salsa, peel, stone and finely dice the avocado. Place in a bowl and combine with the red onion, chilli, coriander, extra virgin olive oil and lime juice. Season with the salt, and set to one side. To serve: Ladle the soup into 4 pre-heated bowls and top with a good spoonful of the avocado salsa, a dollop of sour cream, and a drizzle extra virgin olive oil. The soup should be served piping hot.
White Chocolate, Raspberry and Lime Drizzle Cake Serves 8 – 10 Ingredients:
Lime Syrup: Juice of 5 limes Zest of 1 lime 140g golden caster sugar Cake Mix: 220g golden caster sugar 225g unsalted butter, softened 4 medium-sized eggs Juice of 2 limes Zest of 1 lime 25g ground almonds 210g raspberries 100g Menier white chocolate, chopped 250g self-raising flour For the cake: Pre heat oven to 160°C. Line the base and sides of a 22cm square cake tin with greaseproof paper, then butter the paper and set aside. Cream the sugar and butter together until light in colour and texture, then gradually beat in the eggs. If they start curdling, add a little flour, folding in gently. Add the lime zest, followed by the rest of the flour and the ground almonds. Next, add the lime juice one spoonful at a time, as you don’t want the mixture to be too wet. (It needs to be dropping consistency.) Gently fold in ¾ of the white chocolate and the raspberries, then pour the mixture into the lined cake tin. Give the tin a little shake to ensure that the mixture spreads evenly to the corners. Place the rest of the chocolate and raspberries on top. Bake for 40 minutes or until the cake is firm to touch. To make the lime syrup: Put the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan and place on a moderate heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat and add the lime zest. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, prick the cake all over with a metal skewer, then pour the syrup all over the top of the cake. Leave for 1 hour so that the cake absorbs all of the syrup. To serve: Remove the cake from the tin, then gently pull away the greaseproof paper. Cut into wedges and dust with icing sugar.
Hot Chocolate Mocha - Makes 2 generous cups Ingredients:
100g Menier dark chocolate 400ml whole milk 20ml double cream 1 tsp vanilla essence 1 cinnamon stick 50ml strong coffee 2 tbsp orange blossom honey For garnish; 2 cinnamon sticks (optional) Put the chocolate in to a heatproof bowl and set to one side. Place the milk, cream, vanilla, cinnamon stick, honey and the coffee in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, set aside to steep for 30 minutes. When the milk mixture has steeped, place the saucepan back on the heat and bring back to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and let the milk subside. Pour a small amount of the hot milk and cream over the chocolate and stir to a smooth consistency, then gradually pour in the remaining milk, stirring gently until the chocolate is completely melted. Return the chocolate mixture to the saucepan and reheat gently. Don’t let it boil at this stage or it might split. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk to a foam using a balloon whisk or a cappuccino frother. Pour into pre-warmed cups or heat proof glasses and garnish each with a cinnamon stick.
More Cooking with Chocolate features:
Cooking with Chocolate – Gifts for all occasions
Cooking with Chocolate – Sweet and Savoury
Chocolate Cake for Coeliacs
Menier Swiss premium cooking chocolate is available in major supermarkets nationwide with a RRP of £1.19.
Val Reynolds, Editor