Flapjack anyone? Help me taste these Trek snack bars

photo (1)So who wants to try out a Trek bar? The makers of these flapjacks with a difference have given me a few to give away to readers of this blog.

I’ve already munched a few on my travels as they seemed like a good breakfast on the go option.

The snack bars are wheat, dairy and gluten free and have 10g of protein in each bar.

They’re made by British company Natural Balance Foods who started making healthy wholefood alternatives to processed foods in 2006 and who launched this Nakd range as healthy snacking option.

More about them in this video.

So if you’ve like to try one, send me an email with your address on it to foodiesarahATme.com and I’ll post it out on a first come, first served basis.

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Product trial: John Lewis Christmas trug hamper

johnlewishamperJohn Lewis seems to have entered the British psyche when it comes to Christmas – whether the television advertising delights or annoys you, there’s no getting away from the fact that the retailer’s become synonymous with seasonal provisions.

The arrival of a hamper from the store has become a mini-tradition in our household too so when John Lewis asked if I’d like to try out their latest offering I was intrigued to see what would be different about it.

And so here we are, in November having a bit of an early festive treat to share with you.

Packaging
The most obvious thing to notice first is there’s no traditional wicker basket. Instead this ‘trug’ hamper comes in smart, contemporary leather bag.

Of course the creak of leather and the flicker of candlelight in front of the fire can be just as Christmass-ey as the more usual wicker picnic-basket style of annual treat and, depending on your decor, this upmarket packaging might just be a better fit with your modern festivities.

(I think it might well end up as our kindling basket – unless the cat takes up residence in there first!)

Contents

johnlewishamperThis a selection of store cupboard luxuries rather than dinner table essentials for the big day so there’s plenty of those treats which everyone loves. Turkey and sprouts will have to be catered for elsewhere because this hamper is all about those little extras which can help the fetivities go with a little more spice and sparkle.

On the booze front, there’s a rich, deep bottle of Sangiovese Poggio della Quercia IGT Rubicone. Great with the cheese board or just as a tipple in front of the fire.

And the cheeseboard gets some further attention with some of the savoury items including the smooth Cairnsmhor Crushed Black Pepper Crackers and Claire’s Handmade Red Onion Marmalade from Cumbria which is now a firm favourite for sandwiches, goats cheese and anything else that needs an intense flavour.

For the sweet-toothed, it’s all quite chocolate focussed. There’s light and buttery Edinburgh Preserves Chocolate Chip Cookies and Fudges Belgian Milk Chocolate Florentines but the stand-out treat are the moreish Ferdia Milk Chocolate Salted Caramels with their intense soft centres.

Verdict
It’s certainly got the wow factor with the different appearance from the packaging and the treats inside will suit most tastes. At £65 it’s at the lower end of what hampers can cost when you order them online like this (the most expensive hamper offered costs an eye-watering £800!) but the value of the goods wouldn’t really stack up if you bought them individually. It’s really the novelty of the packaging and excitement of exploring it that you’re sending as a gift – a special treat for a style conscious person who likes to entertain in the run up to Christmas.

* The goods from the John Lewis Christmas hamper were provided free of charge for review purposes. Please note, if you wish to provide goods for review, they are accepted on the understanding that good, bad or indifferent, this blog’s product trials section strives to say it as we find it.

Zomato’s Manchester ambitions continue apace

zomatoI recently caught up with the team behind the food discovery website and app Zomato to see how their Manchester launch was going.

Regular readers of this blog might remember we revealed how the Indian operation had started work in the city back in July.

Since then, there’s been a lot happening behind the scenes which I’ve reported on for the Prolific North website here.

Here’s hoping Newcastle Eats gets its mojo back

newcastleeatsIt looks like I’m welcoming the Newcastle Eats blog to the northern food bloggers map precisely at a time when its authors might be suffering that regular affliction among us bloggers – loss of mojo.

The latest blog post which starts ‘I’ve been a bad blogger’ includes criticism of those journalists with no passion for food who get paid to write reviews and wonders where what they call the whole ‘armchair journalism’ practice is going.

“It’s a bit of disillusion all round really. Maybe it’s working in digital marketing and using it every day, but I’ve grown tired of Twitter, and lost the inspiration to do much blogging recently. Twitter has lost it’s charm for me, with, oh so much arse-kissing, @reply-please-RTing and general marketing spiel, though yes, this is governed by the people you follow. And see recent posts/rants here and here, that summarise my feelings on recent local blogging pretty well. ”Please invite me to your press launch so I can get some free bait”…”I need 7 more followers to hit 1200!”…”My blog had 42 hits today.”

Yes, yes, yes! I seriously hope the bloggers, Jeff and Kate, can find their way back to the dinner table. The reviews are thoughtful and put the experience into context well, the pictures are clear and informative and I particularly liked their use of map links to venues and the inclusion of food hygiene ratings in the reviews.

Please, can we have some more?

* If you belong on the map – drop me a line in the comments or by email to foodiesarahATme.com and tell me a little about your blog. A link back to the map would be appreciated as well.

Recipe: Paprika and pesto chicken and squash lasagne

chickenlasagneFor my latest recipe over at Farmer’s Choice, I’ve been experimenting with aromatics, this time of year seems to lend itself to them some how as we speed towards Christmas.

The lasagne turned out to be a full-on flavour from using both paprika and pesto and helps use up some of those seasonal squash that’s so abundant just now.

Get the recipe here – I hope you enjoy it and I’d love to hear how you get on.

Product trial: Wharfe Valley rapeseed oil

photo-148I’ll admit I didn’t know anything about rapeseed outside of realising it’s that vivid yellow plant which patchworks much of Yorkshire’s fields each summer.

But as we shlurp our way through the diminishing supplies of imported olive oil it turns out there’s something a bit closer to home we could be enjoying and that’s the oil those sunshine yellow fields produce.

The samples I’ve been trying out are from Wharfe Valley farm which is a family- based business in Collingham which raises the crops and then uses traditional harvesting methods and cold presses to create these oils.

So far I’ve used the original rapeseed oil for a stir fry which was great as it doesn’t have a strong taste, more a light and slightly nutty one, and it does have a high smoking point (220 C), making it ideal for wok cooking.

Then to the Sicillian Lemon Rapeseed Oil. I wasn’t sure whether to eat it or bathe in it at first with it’s pretty floral motif and pale liquid.

A small spoonful revealed an astonishing depth of lemon punch. Using it to make a simple dressing with white wine vinegar turned out to be a perfect dressing for leaves to accompany fish. Only a small amount of oil was needed too.

I see that in the recipe section of the website, they also suggest using it to make lemon hummus which I can well imagine would be a perfect zesty dip – that will probably be this week’s treat.

Being a confirmed olive oil user it was surprising to learn the rapeseed oil has ten times more health boosting omega 3 oils than it’s continental cousin and that it’s a good source of Vitamin E. Now the winter’s keeping us indoors now, that’s certainly a benefit alongside the taste.

I shall try out some more recipes using it over the coming weeks.

* The rapeseed oil was provided free of charge for review purposes. Please note, if you wish to provide goods for review, they are happily accepted on the understanding that good, bad or indifferent, this blog’s product trials section says it as it finds it.