Tag Archives: review

Eat Summer/Winter bolognaise soup review – Very Big Bold @eat_news

Wow, it’s been a while since I did one of these. Sorry – the diet has lapsed. It’s back now!

Eat Summer Blogonaise soupDescription: From Eat website: “Minced beef in a chunky tomato, garlic, oregano, red chilli and fresh basil sauce with Gnocco Sardo pasta. Garnished with Gremolata (Fresh Parsley and Lemon Zest).” No arguments.

Health: 364 calories, for the super-sized edition. Awesome on most counts but ludicrous on salt (3.1g salt, 1.3g of sodium, just over half your daily allowance), not massively high on fibre. Fat and saturated fat levels satisfyingly low for the immense portion.

Taste: Not a vast world away from the old Eat Italian Ragu and Pasta soup, which I liked a lot, but slightly lower on calories and without the nice cheesey top, which is substituted with a satisfying spice from the red chilli and a fresh, zingy crunch from the gremolata – occasionally with a bit too much parsley stalk for my liking. Although I do now know what gremolata is, which is awesome. But it’s pretty much what you’d expect; a zingy, tasty, sweet-but-savoury combo. The pasta shells, as I experienced when I tried to make a variant on this soup at home, do get a bit soggy from the long simmering the soups must get. Not sure it’s as good as rice as a carb staple for soup.

Full-o-meter: Pretty good short term, although imagine the low fibre score will mean the full feeling will wear off sooner rather than later.

Make it yourself?: Totally doable. I’d fry up some onion and chilli in oil, throw in the mince beef to brown, add diced carrots, salt, pepper, oregano, basil and chopped tomatoes, stew for a while before adding veg stock and rice/pasta to taste, and the gremolata stuff. Easy-peasy.

Verdict: 4/5. Recommended, if not inspired like their pot-pie soups, and without the cheesey top its not as moreish IMHO as the old IT&P soup.

Pots of love–Rumblers granola and yogurt pots

potsofloveMy Rumblers ‘Pots of Love’ arrived this week, following a pitch by email from their marketing team. The review samples (which I didn’t pay for) arrived in a refrigerated box at work, which was a pleasant surprise and was appropriately dramatic.

The pots, which were targeted at me following my Moma review, are a slightly different portable breakfast proposition. They’re essentially a pot of granola with a separate live yoghurt pot which you shake up and pour over. Whilst it may be a bit wasteful on the packaging front, soggy granola is no granola worth eating, so I’m in favour of the innovation. They are “oatally delicious”, and as you all know, I love a good pun.

Tastewise, I was braced for the sourness of bio-live yoghurt, but the sweetness of the granola and the accompanying fillings (I’ve been sent Belgian chocolate and a variety of berry flavours) totally take the edge of this and leave you with a breakfast that has a satisfying crunch but a good amount of yoghurt goodness too. In short, very yummy. Of the two I’ve tasted so far, Belgian choc is my favourite – large chunks of believably Belgian chocolate – although the strawberry one is pretty delicious too.

Healthwise, there are all sorts of fantastic claims on the Rumblers website:

…are packed full of wholemeal fibre, cholesterol reducing oats and the natural goodness of low-fat probiotic yogurt. With no artificial colours or flavourings and no added salt or vegetable fat, these pots of nutritional goodness not only pack an energy boosting punch but they taste like a little bit of heaven.

By my principle measure – a caloric one – they are better than Moma but still on the high side for a not-that-substantial breakfast bowl – about 280KCal per pot. Given that we’re dealing with granola (oat flakes sugared or honeyed into crunchy clumps) and yoghurt instead of milk, I guess its unsurprising that its a bit more dense in calories than a bigger bowl of cereal. But I’m not entirely convinced that it works to keep you full for quite as long as a couple of Weetabix, for example (although it tastes a damn sight better).

I have struggled to find these pots in shops. You see them every now and then in a service station, but their official retail distribution partners in the UK – Asda and Morissons – don’t have them listed on their websites, so I guess you’d need to find them in store. I have no idea on the RRP – I’m guessing they’ll be around the £2 mark, although I’d be happier paying £1.50 for a pot. (Update: Wow, it’s £1.35 per pot. Awesome value)

In short, recommended if you’re not starving and fancy a sweet, crunchy breakfast on the move. Just make sure you have space to chuck all the spare packaging as you construct your meal.

HBO’s Game of Thrones–first impressions


We watched the opening episode of HBO’s new fantasy drama series last night – Game of Thrones. It’s been showing for some weeks on Sky Atlantic / in the US after months of filming in Ireland and lots of hype on both sides of the pond.

It’s based on George R R Martin’s epic Song of Ice and Fire epic fantasy series, the first four books of which I blitzed through last year. Rich, immersive, politically complex, multi-faceted plotlines with an enormous cast of players. I wondered how it could make the transition to the screen and, having seen the first episode, I’m totally sold.

Atmospherically lush (that is the right word) you’re immediately sucked into the world and the politics of the Seven Kingdoms. The casting seems fairly spot-on at the moment – especially Tyrion Lannister – and Sean Bean is appropriately gloomy as Lord Eddard of Winterfell.

As you’d expect given the format, it whips its way through epic fantasy at quite a pace. Given that Mr Martin has taken some years to pen the fifth novel in the series, I do wonder how the pressures of commercial television will come to play in driving the completion of the series. In fact, Mr Martin has taken such a long time to get the next novel out that there has been some furore from the fans – evoking this perspective from fellow fantasist Neil Gaiman (in short, George R R Martin is not your bitch). He is, however, in some sense, probably at the beck and call of the nice people at HBO, which has picked up the show for a second season…

Trailer here for the epically curious:

Fiskars weedpuller review

fiskarsweedpullerAfter having it demonstrated by Amanda’s cousin Tomas in Denmark, having my mother-in-law educate me on the perils of Dandelions and on reaching the end of my tether with regards to a few very specific weeds in the garden, I invested in the Finnish-designed Fiskars weedpuller.

The device operates by extruding four sharpened stainless steel teeth into the ground. You lower it over where you imagine the root of the problem to be (pun intended), apply pressure, and as you lean back on the handy foot press the teeth clamp over the root of the weed and pulls it out of the ground, alongside a small, manageable clump of turf and soil. There’s a satisfyingly clunky ‘reload’ mechanism which throws the weed off the end of the weedpuller.

Doing our entire garden – which is relatively clear of dandelions, but has a few other weed issues – took about an hour and a half and resulted in a wheelbarrow load of weeds. I’d estimate that in about two thirds of cases I got the whole root up, which I thought was a good result. Hopefully as an iterated process in the future it’ll be pretty quick and painless – and more eco-friendly than weed poison alternatives.

The small holes dotting the garden may or may not need filling with compost and replanting with fresh grass seed at some point, which I guess is the only negative – but then, this would be significantly worse if you were trowelling weeds out of the ground by hand! I need a backpack mounted metal-detector shaped compost deployer to save my lower back from the patching work…

Tesco Finest Chicken Mulligatawny Soup review

Trying out a new, improved soup review format. Hope you like!

Description: “Chunky and filling, made with lentils and rice, fragrant Indian spices and enriched with coconut.” Pretty bang on, Mr Tesco food copy-writer. Spicier than you’d expect, and chunky like a boss, as you might be able to tell from the picture.

About: Mulligatawny is a colonial soup, derived from a Tamil soup – the word literally translates to “Pepper water”, according to Wikipedia, based on some of the original constituents. Since then, it’s evolved to mean different things to different people – the Americans often make it with cooked apple, for example – but the essence of a curried soup with lentils seems to be at its core.

Health: Not great – 480 calories for the 600g tub, including 24g of fat (9.8g of saturated fat!), but good amounts of protein and fibre.

Taste: Spicy, chunky, chock full of well-cooked lentils, tender, fibrous chicken, and full of flavour. Absolutely delicious – as good as or better than Waitrose’s Keralan Chicken soup.

Full-o-meter: This fills you up. Combination of lots of fibre and protein with the coconut cream in this makes it a substantial soup indeed. But then, for the calories, you’d expect it.

Make it yourself?: Doesn’t look too bad, although I struggled to find a recipe that matched the Tesco pot. This guy’s looks OK, although cut the apples and nutmeg, and this one on the BBC looks OK.

Verdict: 4/5. A whole point knocked off due to healthiness concerns, otherwise it would score full points.

Eat Mexican chicken chilli soup review – Big Bold @eat_news

Description: “A spicy Mexican chicken soup with haricot, cannellini and butter beans. We add jalapeno chillies and lime to keep it authentic. Garnished with a freshly made tomato and coriander salsa. Dairy / Spicy.”

Health: 360 calories for big (16oz) portion . Highish on fibre, highish on fat, high on sodium. On balance it’s not bad, but not one of their best.

Taste: Wow. It’s got a creamy, spicy kick – which feels like a contradiction in terms. The chunks of chicken are meaty and a delight, the beans are well-cooked and add great depth and texture, and the coriander in the garnish explodes in your mouth. Wonderful.

Full-o-meter: I think it’ll be reasonable, but I missed breakfast this morning so had to have a 180 calorie roll as a supporting act. Pretty full with the bread.

Verdict: 4.5/5. A strong contender. I’d recommend this unhesitatingly.

Eat Steak and Ale pot pie soup review – Big Bold @eat_news

Sorry I’ve gone so long without a review. I’d pretty much tasted all the current line-up of Pret and Eat soups but – with Autumn here – there are some new ones on my radar! My office has also moved further away from Eat so it’ll take more willpower for me to make it over there… was today’s expedition worth it? Read on and you’ll see!

Spoon standing up in Eat's Steak & Ale Pot PieDescription: “A slant on a classic steak and ale pie, loads of beef in a rich hearty soup with a hint of Dorset Bitter Ale. Garnished with a puff pastry lid. non dairy / meat / pastry contains wheat.” Rich and hearty is right. The spoon stands up in this.

Health: 388 calories, high on protein, low on fat (but also low on fibre). Pretty good on the sodium stakes at 800mg for Eat – impressive. All in all, a good score!

Taste: Steaktastic. Seriously, this thing is chock-full of meat and stewed just enough to give it a lovely fibrous meaty texture but not so much that the meat dissolves. The veg is fresh, hearty and the overall impression is a bite of pie with every mouthful. The slight bitterness of the ale is evident, but not overpowering. All in all, awesome.

Full-o-meter: My diet’s flagged dramatically in recent weeks so suspect this will have me hungry mid-afternoon, but its certainly up from the chicken pot pie, and the ample quantity of meat and overall chunkiness of the soup earns it a high score here.

Verdict: 5/5. A new favourite, and a bonus that its more stew than soup. Worth the longer walk to Eat.

Eat Ham, Pea & Mint soup review – Very Big Bold @eat_news

Description: “A simple hearty soup with shredded Wiltshire cured ham, carrots and potatoes with a hint of mint. Less than 5% fat / non-dairy / pork.” Definitely not as green as other pea & ham soups, potato and stock are the dominant colours / flavours in this winter warmer.

Health: Not bad. 480 calories for the 32oz pot, 38g of protein, 12.4g of fat (pretty low!), and a not-awful 8g of fibre. More here.

Taste: Stocky, potatoey, and with enough chunks of ham and pea to be interesting texturally. The ‘hint of mint’ is pretty subtle (no bad thing), but I’m a bit disappointed at the sparseness of peas. It seems more of a garnish than a fundamental component of the soup.

Full-o-meter: OK. It’s a BIG pot. More peas might have contributed more fibre and helped it out a bit more here.

Verdict: 3/5. I’d probably have it again but Pret would have to be having one of its uninspired days. The ham is delicious but ham, carrot and potato soup doesn’t quite do it for me.

Eat Mexican Chicken Tortilla soup review – Big Bold @eat_news

Description: Chunky chicken and tomato soup with Mexican-style seasoning topped with tortillas and cheddar cheese.

Health: OK, ish – at 408 calories for the big bold it’s a modest lunchtime portion and has a good amount of fibre. However, it is a tad high on the fat front, ditto sodium.

Taste: A little taste of Mexico. It’s OK, tomato is the dominating flavour and texture and so its not massively exciting, but there is a good amount of chunky chicken in there and a tasty tortilla topping (which would be better when crisp – they sog up fast). Fundamentally under-spiced though…

Full-o-meter: Not bad. Fibre and protein/fat content should keep me going.

Verdict: 3.5/5. A good soup, I’d have again, but there’s room to refine this one, Eat.

Waitrose pea and ham soup review

Description: “A thick and comforting soup made with British peas, smoked ham, celery and a squeeze of lemon juice.” Yep, exactly what it says, although the microwave had this baby so hot the viscosity was probably a little off.

Health: Low cal – 222 calories for a 600g pot. Reasonable on all other scores, good on fibre, could have more protein…

Taste: Pretty good pea & ham soup. Standard. I must admit that I decided to spice it up with my new favourite condiment (Nando’s hot Peri-Peri sauce), not because it needed it – perfectly tasty as pea and ham soup – just that after the initial tasting I decided I wanted a little more kick to my lunch.

Full-o-meter: Not bad. Thanks to hot sauce have drunk two pints of water with lunch so feeling quite full right now. Eaten with two slices of medium sliced wholemeal toast.

Verdict: 4/5. Would have done better if it was a bit more interesting (it’s perfectly tasty, just standard) – but it is nonetheless a solid soup offering from those lovely Waitrose people.