Degustabox Review… A Savoury box

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My review of the October box is being typed on the day the November box is being delivered due to a problem with my laptop, now fixed. Phew!

September’s box had been a very sweet one, and the October one was by contrast rather savoury. But very yummy! There were a few items in this one that I had never heard of but will definitely be buying in future!

As I’m sure you know by now from my previous reviews, Degustabox is a fantastic monthly subscription box which delivers a surprise box full of delicious food and drink products, many of which you might not have tried before. It costs just £12.99 per month with DPD courier delivery included in the price, and the items generally add up to around double the cost of the box so you are getting an absolute bargain. They have very kindly given me a discount code for you to use to try them for yourself, but more about that later. First, let’s see what was in this box…

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  • 9 BAR …  I’m starting with my favourite. I had never seen these before and I had never tried carob either but I will definitely be getting these again. The packet contained 5 bars which were sooooooo tasty. They are high fibre seed bars covered in a carob topping. I actually really liked the carob, which is a chocolate alternative. These bars are brilliant for allergy sufferers as they are gluten, wheat, egg and yeast free. (They do contain soya and sesame though). They have an intriguing motto which is ‘Good Energy, Twice’. As well as providing the person who eats them with lots of energy, 9 Bar works closely with SolarAid who provide solar lights to families who would otherwise use dangerous kerosene lamps. Every 9 Bar that is sold gives a child in Africa a night of safe solar light. So as well as being good for you, you help someone less fortunate every time you buy one. Bonus! And did I mention how delicious they are? Amazing! The RRP is £ 2.49 for 5 bars.

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  • LORINA … Another new one for me. Lorina is a premium French lemonade which uses 100% natural ingredients, with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. I received a coconut and lime flavour which was so refreshing. I drank most of the bottle chilled and really really enjoyed it. I thought it would also make a good mixer with a shot of rum, so tried that too (purely in the name of research of course… hic). It did. It has a beautiful taste, not too sweet like some lemonades can be. this might sound daft but you can taste the quality. Gorgeous, and another product I will be looking out for. The RRP is £1.49. Definitely worth every penny!

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  • CIRIO … There were 2 products to try from this brand, chopped tomatoes and passata. I buy the tomatoes regularly so knew exactly what they would be like. I must confess to not using passata much though. I used both in this tomato soup recipe and thoroughly enjoyed it. What I notice with Cirio chopped tomatoes compared to other brands is you don’t get so many of the hard stalky ends in there, which is great! Obviously these 2 items have a million and one recipes you can use them in, making them great store cupboard essentials. The RRP for both items together is £2.25.

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  • GEETA’S … Again, there were 2 products from this brand. A Korma curry paste and a lime and chilli chutney. We’re not huge lovers of korma in our house. We tend to find it a bit bland, so we weren’t greatly looking forward to trying this one. I have to confess though it was really tasty. It was very mild so my other half added a bit of heat to his, but I ate mine as it was and did enjoy it. The chutney, on the other hand, packs quite a punch! It does warn you on the jar that it is hot though. We ate some with poppadoms, and mixed some with a bit of salad dressing to spice up some salad leaves. Very tasty. The RRP for both products is £3.10.

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  • THE SNACK ORGANISATION … Another new brand for me, The Snack Organisation present a range of snack products. This was part of their rice cracker range. I received the Sweet Chilli crackers, but you can also get Lightly Salted or Teriyaki varieties. They had a nice little kick to them. Not enough to make your mouth numb but enough to warm your insides as you eat them. They are baked rather than fried, are gluten free and are suitable for vegetarians. They are the perfect snack for dipping, and I was really impressed with how many you get in the packet. Brilliant for when you have guests round. Equally impressive is the RRP of just £1, available in Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

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  • THE SNACK ORGANISATION…  I also received a product from their Freeze Dried Fruit range. I received the Apricot variety, but you can also get Strawberry, Apple or Pineapple. As you can see from the picture, the pieces are quite big, which was a nice surprise. What I most love about freeze dried fruit is the texture. It almost melts in your mouth after an initial crunch. I find normal dried apricots far too chewy but really enjoyed these. Freeze drying preserves all the nutrients and flavour too, making these a tasty healthy snack. There are no oils or artificial ingredients. In fact the ingredients list just says 100% apricot. They are perfect crumbled into porridge or yoghurt. They are gluten free and suitable for vegetarians, and 1 packet counts as one of your 5 a day portions. The RRP per pack is £1.
  • LIBERATION FOODS… I received Oven Baked Salted Cashews and Peanuts. Also available though are Oven Baked Chilli and Lime Cashews with Peanuts and Roasted Corn, or Oven Baked Mixed Peppercorn Peanuts with Cashews and Habas Fritas. Liberation Foods is a Fairtrade nut company which is largely owned by smallholder farmers in Africa, India and Latin America. Back to the product I received. I really don’t like salted nuts. I just don’t like salt, so these didn’t excite me too much. However my other half Del ate them and said they were delicious. They must have been judging by the speed he ate them!! I do feed him, honest! The RRP is £2.

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  • NUDIE SNACKS… These produce premium toasted coconut chips which are made from 100% natural ingredients. I received the Original and the Salt and Vinegar varieties, but you can also get Thai Sweet Chilli. I don’t know what I was expecting when I opened these. As they are snacks I was expecting bigger pieces. A lot of the pieces were tiny as they break so easily, so I’d say they are best used as an ingredient rather than as a snack. One of the packs does suggest trying in home baking, blending in smoothies, or sprinkling over cereal, fruit or desserts. The original variety was really delicious. Lovely and crunchy, with a beautiful strong coconut flavour. I was sad when the pack was finished. I feel bad saying this but the salt and vinegar one was just not nice. I really don’t think that flavour goes well with coconut. The recommendations for desserts etc were on that pack but I can’t see why anyone would put salt and vinegar products on a cake or cereal. None of us liked that pack so unfortunately it went in the bin. Don’t let that put you off trying the other flavours though. The original was very very good and I will be looking out for that again. And that one would be amazing in baking or sprinkled over fruit! The RRP per pack is £1.29.

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  • CHIP STRIPS… These were delicious! They are a newly launched product which gives long strips of potato snacks in a range of 10 flavours. They are the perfect shape for dipping or just eating as they are. I received 2 packs, Sweet Paprika and Sour Cream and Onion. They were both packed with flavour and very tasty. The other flavours are Simply Sea Salt, Cheese and Onion, Bacon and Onion, Smokey BBQ, Tangy Ketchup, Sea Salt and Vinegar, Chilli and Paprika, and Wasabi. I will definitely be looking out for these in store. The RRP is £1 per pack, which is great value as you get loads!

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  • PRÉSIDENT… As Degustabox does not store or send chilled products, they sent a full price voucher for this butter, which I used immediately in my local Tesco. I have used Président butter before and find it to be very light and fresh tasting. I used this one in cakes and found it easy to work with and made a lovely textured and tasting cake. It is important for me when baking that I use only the best ingredients, and this butter is up on that list. The RRP is £2.

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  • KABUTO NOODLES… Last but by no means least was this absolutely delicious pot of Chicken Ramen noodles. I thought it would be like a Pot Noodle (which I’m not a fan of) but then I saw the ingredients and thought it would be like a posh Pot Noodle. It had chicken, ginger, chilli, coriander and spring onion and lovely fine noodles. Lots of them! I added hot water and waited as the instructions told me to do, and the smell was mouth watering. It was a gorgeous warming lunch one cold day, and I will definitely be buying this in future. I’m a sucker for quirky advertising and packaging so loved the fact that the instructions are written for Samurai warriors with a nice touch of humour. I also liked the way the barcode was made to look like noodles on chopsticks. Little things like this please me 🙂 There are lots of other flavours available… Beef Pho, Miso Ramen, Chilli Chicken Ramen, Prawn Tom Yum, Chicken Laksa, Chicken Pho, Vegetable Laksa, Thai Red Vegetable Curry, and Thai Green Chicken Curry. The RRP is £1.99.

What a lovely box that was! The recommended total price of that box was almost £23, but they only charge £12.99 including postage! But as an extra bonus, they have given me a huge £6 discount code for you to use so you can try a box for only £6.99 including delivery!

To take advantage of this amazing offer, enter the code BLDEG15 at the checkout by clicking HERE to go to their site. I hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think of them. I’m sure you’ll be delighted 🙂

 

I was kindly sent this box to review. All opinions are my own and are honest throughout. 

Cream of Tomato Soup Recipe using Passata

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As part of October’s Degustabox I received two tomato products from Cirio, a can of chopped tomatoes and a bottle of passata. As soon as I saw them I could hear a tomato soup begging to be made. It was a particularly miserable day weather-wise and so what better way to feel warm and cosy than to tuck into a bowl of freshly homemade soup.

Because this recipe uses passata and canned tomatoes rather than fresh, it is a quick and easy meal. Most of the ingredients are things you would have in your kitchen anyway so it is a really convenient recipe to use. You don’t need to do the swirl of cream on the top, that was just me trying to be fancy 😉 You know the type of plastic lidded containers that some takeaways come in? This recipe made enough to fill 3 of those to the brim, with a little bit left over. I hope you enjoy it!

CREAM OF TOMATO SOUP

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tbsp olive oil

400g can Cirio chopped tomatoes

540g bottle Cirio passata

200ml chicken or vegetable stock

1.5 tbsp sugar

Half teaspoon celery seeds

Half teaspoon dried basil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

100ml double cream

  • Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is softened but not brown.
  • Add all of the other ingredients except the cream, and stir well. Cover, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and using a hand blender, blend until smooth.
  • Care is needed for this step… if you add the cream straight into the soup, chances are it will split or curdle. The way I’m describing here will prevent that from happening. Put the cream in a jug and add 2 tbsp of the soup to the cream in the jug. Mix well. Add another 2 tbsp of soup and again mix well. This stabilises it and it now won’t split when you add it to the soup. Slowly add the cream mixture to the soup in the pan, mixing well as you add it.
  • Place the pan back over a low heat to warm through again but do not let it boil. Season to taste with black pepper, and enjoy.

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Cake Decorating – Piping Nozzles

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At some point in your baking days, you will need to pipe on to your creations. It might be whipped cream, buttercream, royal icing, or a whole host of other delights, but it is vital you have the right piping nozzle for the task in hand. With so many different nozzles on the market it can be confusing to work out which nozzle is right for you. Fortunately eReplacementParts and Ghergich have put together this handy guide to show you what each nozzle is for, and have kindly given me permission to share it with you.


Source: eReplacementParts.com 

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I have included above just a few examples of cakes I have made using different nozzles. It is great fun to experiment, and I hope the infographic guides help you to find the perfect nozzle for your needs. Happy piping! 🙂

Vandotsch Speculaas Spice Mix Review – A Log Fire on a Cold Day

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I was recently sent a sample of the vandotsch speculaas spice mix to review for the brilliant My Foodie Heaven, an online magazine featuring artisan and speciality food brands and products. My full review can be found HERE, where you will also find recipes for this nutty muesli cake and toffee apple pecan bundt.

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I mentioned in that review that I also used it to make Welsh cakes, and honey roasted carrots, but I didn’t give the recipes as I was worried the review would be too long. They were really delicious though so here are the recipes:

HONEY ROASTED CARROTS

500g carrots, peeled

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp speculaas spice mix

  • Preheat your oven to 200C. Cut the carrots in half down the length from top to bottom, then in half again so you have long quartered carrots. I like to then cut them into strips about 2.5 inches long but you can leave them as they are if you prefer.
  • Mix the honey, olive oil and speculaas spice mix together and then toss the carrots well in the mixture, ensuring the carrots have a nice coating.
  • Spread the carrots out on to a shallow baking tray and roast in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through.

These are absolutely beautiful and will be a definite part of our family Christmas dinner! This recipe serves 4, or if you’re like me and can’t resist pinching a few as you are serving them up, it serves 3. Ahem!

I grew up in South Wales in a lovely little village called Ystradgynlais. It was in the days when there were lots of family friends who you were brought up to think of as relatives, but they weren’t. One such person was a lovely little old lady who we called Granny Dub (no idea why). My fondest memory of Granny Dub was going round to her house and sitting in her kitchen as she made batch after batch of Welsh cakes, and eating them while they were still warm. (In those days, the kitchen was the heart of the house, and when you visited people you sat at the kitchen table). The smell of those Welsh cakes and the melt-in-your-mouth texture has stayed with me all these years later, and I now keep her tradition of making them for my family. I used to use mixed spice or cinnamon in them but after trying them with the speculaas mix, that’s the only way I’ll make them from now on. This recipe makes a lot, so you can just half the ingredients if you prefer.

WELSH CAKES

450g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

pinch of speculaas spice mix

110g unsalted butter

110g lard

110g seedless raisins

200g caster sugar

2 eggs, beaten

  • Milk, to mix into dough

Caster sugar, to sprinkle after cooking

  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and spice mix into a large bowl.
  • Use your fingertips to rub the butter and lard into the flour mix until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Stir in the raisins and sugar until evenly distributed, then add the egg and enough milk to form a quite stiff dough.
  • Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, to a thickness of around 1cm. and use a round cutter (about 5cm wide) to cut out the cakes.
  • Cook on a greased bakestone, griddle or heavy based frying pan over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
  • Remove from heat, sprinkle with caster sugar and enjoy. Delicious warm or cold but extra yummy when warm.

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Another way I enjoyed this spice mix was to make a tasty treat using the seeds from the pumpkins we carved for Halloween. I washed and dried the seeds, then mixed 2 tbsp of rapeseed oil with 2 tsp of speculaas spice mix, tossed the seeds in it, and toasted them on a baking tray in the oven at 160C for 10 minutes. To make them even yummier I mixed a tbsp brown sugar with a pinch of Speculaas mix and tossed them in there after toasting too.

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If you’re wondering what the title for this blog post is about, that is the best way I can think of to describe this amazing Spice mix. Picture the scene… it is cold, snowy and windy outside, your car broke down and you had to walk miles in this awful weather. You’re in the middle of nowhere, and have no idea how to get home. You finally come across a little country inn, open the door and get hit by the welcoming heat of an open log fire. As you sit in front of it warming up, all your worries seem to melt away and that blissful cosy feeling takes over and you could just stay there all night. Well THAT feeling is what the Speculaas spice mix gives you. Use some in a recipe, smell its beautiful aroma as it cooks, taste the explosion of warm spices as you eat, and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Heaven 🙂 You can use it in place of cinnamon in any recipe so the possibilities are endless!

If I have tempted you to try some yourself, you can buy some or read about it HERE

Let me know what recipes you use it in!