Heinz big chicken & veg soup review – @HeinzUK

heinzchickenvegDescription: From website: “A deliciously hearty Chicken & Vegetable soup made with tender pieces of chicken, chunky potatoes, carrots and garden peas. This great tasting soup is packed full of chunky ingredients creating the perfect meal or snack.” My take? It’s definitely chunky, with generous pieces of meat in and amongst the copious veg. But the meat has that slightly preserved taste you get from all tinned meat, including dog food (or so I imagine, it certainly smells a bit like it). And my wife was less than generous about what chunky-ness it resembled…

Health: 200 kCal for the tin, lots more protein and fibre than the other Heinz soups I’ve had, so good for it. Again, 2g of salt though.

Taste: I think I’m reaching my limits with tinned soup. The chicken is reminiscent of Fray Bentos pies and pet food, neither of which are things I tend to eat with any regularity. Like the other Heinz tinned soups, the vegetables are boiled/stewed to a point of generic, salty blandness. Needed pepping up with something; toast/croutons were necessary on the side.

Full-o-meter: As with all these 200kCal soups, you need some toast to make it a meal.

Make it yourself?: To be fair to Heinz, chicken soup is just *boring* unless you take a deliberately different take on it. I’m sure if I was feeling ill and needed something bland and comforting, this would fit the bill nicely. As it was… I may need to have a go at eating fresh soups for a while or I’ll struggle to maintain my soup diet mission.

Verdict: 3/5 on the tinned soup scale.

Eat Italian Meatball ‘big hero’ soup review – big bold @eat_news

Eat soups fuelled my wedding diet back in 2009, so this is a true return to form…

Description: “A rustic Soup of meatballs and cannellini beans in a chunky tomato sauce with chilli, basil and oregano. Garnished with melting mozzarella.” AKA a salt-megabomb, tomato-based soup laden with meatballs (must have had 14 of the little beggars in there), topped with generic melty dollop of mozzarella it didn’t need. Is ‘rustic’ a euphemism for ‘chunky’ in this context?10963823_942520259112978_465652430_n

Health: That dollop of mozzarella adds a ridiculous 103 kCal! Otherwise it’s a moderately healthy soup; 18.9g of protein, 8g of fibre (counterbalanced with 10.3g of fat) and 328 calories of what felt like a wholesome culinary experience. That said, the salt levels (2g) are high, though comparable to its tinned soup cousins I’ve been eating lately.

Taste: Whilst heavily salty (I could probably have done without the garnish, and will do next time), the meatballs are tasty (if a bit over-tender), and the veg well-flavoured in the thick tomato stew/soup surrounding them. The chilli adds a relatively gentle, but very welcome background heat. I’d have it again; no wonder it’s not just a ‘Bold’ soup but also this week’s ‘Hero’ (available all week!)

Full-o-meter: Pretty good with one of the much improved Eat seeded rolls.

Make it yourself?: I’m sure you could, if you could be bothered to make up a lot of meatballs; alongside an easy mix of soup veg, chopped tomatoes, stock, herbs / spices & meat. Also salt. It may be worth a home try spoon!

Verdict: 4/5.

Heinz Farmers’ market slow-cooked lamb and root vegetables soup review

11085064_1618177708394061_1264477083_nDescription: “Quality lamb is slow-cooked to perfection & partnered with wholesome chunks of root vegetables sourced from our favourite British farms. A touch of rosemary brings out the natural flavours for a delicious & wholesome soup. Packed full of vegetable goodness, this mouth-watering recipe has 2 of your 5 a day and contains absolutely no artificial colours flavours or preservatives.” My description? Tiny pieces of lamb in a salty, rosemary tomato-based soup are surrounded by generic, bland lumps of root vegetable. Don’t expect to be able to differentiate swede from carrot by taste alone.

Health: Like the other Heinz soup I reviewed, low on pretty much everything. 220 calories to a can, mostly in carbs, some limited fibre and protein. Bad on salt again – 2.2g for the can.

Taste: There’s certainly a fullness to the flavour of the lamb that adds a depth to the soup; however the aforementioned blandness of the root vegetables – anonymous lumps of mushy texture – do little but add mass to the soup. Salt predominates and I actually struggled to finish this one after the blandness overwhelmed me. I will need to wheel out the chiu chow chilli oil (my elixir for bland food – makes everything taste like chinese take-away) to deal with these soups in future.

Full-o-meter: Mediocre. More fibre or protein needed to make this one last. Toast/bread was essential; fortunately Amanda had picked up one of M&S’ finest french loaves to give much needed

Make it yourself?: Imagine this would be a relatively trivial soup to replicate and improve upon with the leftovers of a roast. I’d be inclined to add lentils for some better thickness and texture for the soup itself, and a hint of heat to add a bit more complexity to the soup.

Verdict: 2.5/5 on the tinned soup scale.

Heinz Beef Broth Big Soup review

InstagramCapture_b162a8c7-be01-4f69-9d37-5bca87a620f7Description: Not ones to overstate things, Heinz simply says this is “Beef, barley and vegetable broth”  on the can. I concur.

Health: 180 calories for the can. Nutritionally relatively insubstantial – low protein and fibre scores, low in fat (it’s only 7% beef, so…), but pretty high on the salt front – 2.2g for the can. So, y’know, points down.

Taste: Like beefy, barley, stocky, salty, utterly generic soup. But it’s not insubstantial thanks to the chunky veg (which gives Heinz ‘big’ soup its name), and the barley gives it a good depth and texture. You have to play ‘Where’s Wally’ to find the beef.

Full-o-meter: As you can see from the pic, requires supplemental toast. So, y’know, not great, but thanks to low calorie count of the soup itself, this is acceptable.

Make it yourself?: Clearly home-made soup would be better, but this stuff was quick and convenient and would outlive a nuclear winter, so hey, points for that. It’s a heck of a lot more substantial than your average “tin o tomato” soup, or even the Oxtail soup I used to love when I was a kid.

Verdict: 3/5 on the tinned soup scale. This is *not* comparable to the scale I use for my other soup reviews! Fresh soup clearly is in a totally different league, but I’d pick it out of a line up of tinned soups. Not for a crime, obviously, but… y’know what I mean.

Public commitment – soup reviews. Today’s edition: Pret Italian Meatballs, revisited

I was in a session led by a workplace psychologist this morning and did a self-assessment on how ‘stressed’ I am in different aspects of my life. Thanks to my compulsive running I scored pretty well on the exercise front, but I’ve been eating chips and biscuits lately so, y’know, not so well on the healthy eating front. So, in front of all my colleagues, when asked what I was doing to do about it, I said I’d start doing soup reviews again. It means (obvs) switching to soups for lunch which was a core part of my diet regimen way back when.

11081136_10155359190275224_1636800473120125993_nSo you have that to look forward to! Today’s soup, bought as a late lunch after a morning of meetings, was Pret’s Italian Metball soup. I gave it a fairly paltry 2/5 when I first reviewed it five years ago (!!), but whether it’s age, or the recipe has changed, I actually quite enjoyed today’s. Compared to the ‘watery ragu’ I experienced in 2010, today’s soup felt richer and more flavoursome, and certainly more filling. Though the primary flavouring is salt, there’s a hint of sage and thyme (I think) in there and the meatballs are a bit more sturdy than they were then. At least a 3.5/5 by my ranking system of old.

Anyway, as it’s a ‘repeat’ I won’t do a full review, but you have my commitment: more will follow.

Tomorrow: I will eat a can of Heinz soup for lunch. Watch this space.

Nick Harkaway’s Tigerman, & an Audible trial

So, like every other Amazon user I’ve been bombarded with ads for Audible for a little while. They’re tedious and overwhelming and I’ve generally ignored them. But since I’ve started listening to audiobooks whilst I run (or at least, using eBook apps like Kindle to read to me), I finally had cause to consider it more seriously. The free month trial sucked me in and I kicked off with Tigerman, the latest book from Nick Harkaway – an author I’ve respected and admired since the Gone Away World blew my mind a few years back.

It was a wonderful experience.

OK, listening to the audiobook whilst running wasn’t quite as relaxing as nodding off to it as I did as a child, but at least I didn’t have to rewind the tapes the next day to find where I’d dropped off so I could pick up the story again. But it’s amazing how you can lose yourself in a story in a way I’ve not been able to with music (not when exercising, anyway) for years. The voice acting by Matt Bates (this guy, I think) added a dimension to the reading I didn’t quite remember from the audiobooks of my youth… an additional pleasure, perhaps one I can appreciate more having grown accustomed to text-to-speech engines reading stuff to me in a robotic monotone (although Microsoft’s Cortana TTS engine is substantially better than Apple’s iPhone one).

It’s reawakened a love of the audiobook and – having planned to cancel the Audible trial, and gotten as far as hitting ‘cancel / due to the cost’ – I’ve found myself being sucked in by a three month at half price offer. We’ll see if I stick with it beyond that, but Mike Carey’s ‘Girl with all the gifts’ is next on my list and – as an added incentive, to make use of my one credit (audiobook) per month, I need to run through it over the weekends. With a run time of 13 hours, that means at least 120km clocked up on the roads in September…!

Also inspired to find the kids some good audiobooks to listen to…!

Windows Phone vs iPhone… continued

I’m continuing to love my Lumia 925, but two significant i-events have taken place since I started using it:

1. Apple admitted some of its batteries were flawed and are replacing them for free. I’m sorting that this Sunday.

2. Apple announced an event for 9 September.

So before I completely, 100% commit to this ecosystem switch, I’m going to see what happens on 9 September. But I think – right now – that I’m done with iOS for a year or two, and will probably (only probably) trade up from the 925 to the 930 unless Apple does something really unexpected and wonderful. The rumours – slightly bigger screen, Sapphire glass, the iOS8 features that are already widely reported… don’t do quite enough for me to merit the substantially larger price tag (expecting iPhone to cost around GBP630 vs. Lumia 930s GBP430 list price, and I can already get the Lumia 930 for around GBP 350 on eBay…

Windows Phone 8.1 vs. iOS 7: a personal dilemma

Update 11.08: thanks to Michael, Ivan, Simon and everyone else that’s offered workarounds for my various cons. The Pros list is expanding and I am increasingly sold!! My apologies to Amanda for boring you endlessly with phone chat…

I have been a (reluctantly) loyal iOS devotee since the 3GS came out, and have struggled to even look at rival OS – I was burned by the gradual deterioration of Windows Mobile in the mid 2000s, never convinced by the sluggish responsiveness of even the fastest Android phones (and the updates flowing to my Nexus 7 tablet – a gift – haven’t convinced me it will improve). However, of late, the flagging battery life of my ageing iPhone 5 (needs 2-3 charges a day depending on usage), and the phenomenal lack of joy you get from a new handset (oh… it looks and acts exactly like the old one), as well as the inevitable obsolescence caused by ageing handsets and upgraded operating systems, AND the crippling cost of an upgrade…. well, you get the picture.

TL, DR – I bought an older Lumia 925 handset and am trying it out. If I hate it and go back to the iOS fold, it can go back on eBay and I should make most of my money back (it’s already lost most of its year one resale depreciation value).

So, making a list of the things I like and dislike about it, with a view to weighing them up and thinking about a more permanent ecosystem shift. Let me know if I’ve missed anything to test, or you know a workaround to one of my cons, or you think I’ve missed a ‘pro’ on anything in particular. I’ll update this list ‘live’ over the next few weeks as I test it properly.

Updated list (11.08.14):


  • Beautiful screen
  • Slick UI, v natural interface, live tiles are helpful, searching through apps is cool
  • Very responsive typing, swype is remarkable
  • Less punishing autocorrect than iOS
  • Battery life is better – not ridiculously so but noticeably. Even running 10k using GPS (1h10 mins of GPS usage) the battery lasts through to the evening. And as you can imagine, with the new OS I am playing with it a LOT and unnecessarily so
  • Here maps is amazing! Local storage limits need to draw on data transfer for a variety of mapping services, e.g. Caledo (run keeper integrated running app)
  • Lock screen / photo rotation feature is lovely – love that it can draw on Facebook albums
  • 4G on O2 (Need iPhone 5S or 6 for that) – blisteringly fast
  • OneDrive >> iCloud as far as I can see, if I can get used to using it
  • IE actually seems pretty fast
  • App multitasking in most regards seems superior – apps genuinely ‘suspend’ unlike the iPhone which seems to have suffered greatly with the introduction of background app refresh. Lovely feature with the voice/music apps that they pause when voice notifications come in (e.g. running app telling you your splits pauses audible whilst playing, or music, or whatever) rather than speaking over it (as iPhone does)
  • I actually already prefer email handling in Windows phone – the left tap / multi-select option is actually quicker to use than repeatedly swipe/deleting emails in iPhone (and I know iPhone has an equivalent, but who uses it?)
  • I also like unlinked mailbox options – didn’t think I would but separating the personal from the professional is good for my work/life balance
  • DLNA projection via Nokia play-to doesn’t require an Apple TV or changing channels – just works. Not for all apps, but to be fair – we mainly use it to share pics and videos
  • 1 year old hardware feels new with new software (unlike Apple, most of the time) although see note re: camera responsiveness
  • Whilst I initially disliked Kindle’s nerfed capabilities (can’t open docs) I’ve discovered Tucan reader – a lovely independent ebook reader that uses the phone’s (amazing) text to speech capabilities to read stuff to you if you need it to. Much better for reading personal docs.
  • Dead heat
  • Cortana seems exactly as useful as Siri, i.e. a little but not ridiculously so. Absence of a ‘timer’ function is a fairly major omission but reminders/alarms work much to the same effect without a real-time countdown.
  • Camera picture quality seems superior but response time is worse than the iPhone so it comes out even – photos blur if you are expecting iPhone style responsiveness and don’t get it. May improve with newer hardware.

Still to be tested: 

  1. Skype video call quality
  2. High contrast mode in bright sunlight.
  3. What else? You tell me!


  • Few apps I want aren’t there in ‘proper’ versions (Feedly,  Todoist & some random lesser apps) – suspect I just need to ‘re-buy’ the premium versions of some of these. Lots of lesser apps don’t have a decent implementation at all… all in due course, no doubt. I heard that the Windows Phone app store doubled in scope in 12 months and Windows Phone’s market share is up to 10% – pretty remarkable given the trajectory it was on. I hear good things about Universal Apps too.
  • UI in some of the apps a little clunky (Facebook seems less natural)
  • Less punishing autocorrect than iOS (you have to go back through and correct red-underlined words that it doesn’t just guess and change for you, both a pro and a con)
  • Locks you into its ecosystem (as does Apple, to be fair)
  • Much vaunted wireless charing requires an additional case (OK, Apple doesn’t do this)
  • Screen smudging that much more obvious
  • No FaceTime or iMessage or O2 Tugo for offline / interoperating comms with, say, Amanda’s phone…
  • Limited Google ecosystem love – no Google Chrome, no native Gmail app, etc. – and I have in the past been a devotee (though obviously not of Android)
  • Camera lag – probably a consequence of the dated hardware the phone is running on, or the image stabilization which I haven’t turned off.

Original list: posted 6th August 2014


  • Beautiful screen
  • Slick UI, v natural interface, live tiles are helpful, searching through apps is cool
  • Very responsive typing
  • Less punishing autocorrect than iOS
  • Battery life seems better
  • Lock screen / photo rotation is lovely
  • 4G on O2 (Need iPhone 5S or 6 for that)
  • OneDrive >> iCloud as far as I can see, if I can get used to using it
  • IE actually seems blisteringly fast

As yet untested

  • Battery life – sim card adapter hasn’t arrived yet so can’t give it a proper run-in
  • Photos/camera
  • Cortana vs Siri


  • Few apps I want aren’t there in ‘proper’ versions (Feedly, Runkeeper doesn’t seem to work, Todoist & some random lesser apps)
  • UI in some of the apps a little clunky (Facebook seems less natural)
  • Less punishing autocorrect than iOS (you have to go back through and correct red-underlined words that it doesn’t just guess and change for you, both a pro and a con)
  • Kindle app doesn’t display documents
  • Haven’t figured out how to get Kindle to read to me yet / accessibility features
  • Email isn’t as intuitive (no ‘swipe to delete’, not clear if I’m archiving, deleting an email doesn’t take you to the next one in your inbox to review)
  • Locks you into its ecosystem (as does Apple, to be fair)
  • No DLNA projection / Apple TV equivalent in the 925 – and I have Apple TV and iPad
  • Much vaunted wireless charing requires an additional case (OK, Apple doesn’t do this)
  • Screen smudging that much more obvious
  • No FaceTime or iMessage or O2 Tugo for offline / interoperating comms with, say, Amanda’s phone…
  • Limited Google ecosystem love – no Google Chrome, no native Gmail app, etc. – and I am a devotee



Chapati making

I tried making Chapatis this weekend with the girls. For all my Indian heritage, I’m better at a roast or BBQ than I am at this sort of thing but we gave it a go. All of my output was a little too crunchy – I think down to rolling the chapatis out too thin and not kneading them for long enough to let gluten do whatever it is that gluten does.

Checked out this video guide belatedly and kind of wish I’d watched it in advance now. She makes it look so effortless! Need to give it another go!

Pixelpumper – a Windows Live Writer / Marsedit alternative offline WordPress editor for Mac

I’ve been loath to invest in Marsedit when my blogging is so intermittent and patch but have been enjoying my attempts with Pixelpumper – a super clean, super simple offline blog editor for OSX. It has a clean, modern UI and thus far seems fairly idiot proof.

It is pretty light on options in its free mode (it has a ‘nerd mode’ for the keen, for premium purchase), but thus far is doing a reasonable job at helping me get back into it. It is annoying that ‘CMD-K’ does strikethrough instead of hyperlink, though, will need to figure that one out.

Armand David's personal weblog: dadhood, technology, running, media, food, stuff and nonsense.