Tag Archives: Food

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.

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!


This is probably the 10th ‘apologies, I’ve been too busy to post’ post in the 11 year history of this blog. I’ll try to be better; gradually finding an equilibrium between the various things I do.

Life is awesome: kids great, work exciting, gradually getting the running going again, and today I’m going to get a dirty burger for lunch. Where’s the bad?

In the meantime, go read my colleague Nikhol’s blog about food and get hungry in anticipation of Friday lunchtime and the bank holiday weekend.

Good to be back. More coherent posts to follow.

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.

The bounty continues

Summer bounty! This weekend, the first yellow courgette and tomatoes were plucked; we’ve been gradually denuding the plum tree as the fruit ripens with increasing pace and deliciousness (Emily loves home grown plums), and we’ve seen continued signs of life from the cucumber plant. I dug up a couple of sample lapland potatoes (looking good), the blueberries were sampled again (not quite ready) and Amanda brought up a small bushel of carrots – tricky to get up, those ones. 500g of Rhubarb was picked and turned (by mine own hand) into a reasonably delicious baby-led-weaning oat-topped rhubarb crumble, with portions for the freezer.

Rhubarb crumbliciousAbsolutely loving this stage of the season. Slightly concerned that the two apples on our tree will not survive but really hoping they do – they look enormous and delicious – as my judgement of on-tree ripeness is not great. I’m pretty much just wiggling the fruit around and seeing if it drops off the branch of its own accord, and using that as a measure of its desire to be eaten.

Malaysian food tour

Roti Canai (2) _Banana Leaf PhilA brief diversion; at our friends’ wedding a couple of weeks ago, there were a few Singaporeans there. Singaporeans and Malaysians are cultural and cuisinal [sic] siblings – we often have a similar outlook on life and – less controversially – a similar set of favourite foods.

As someone removed from Malaysia by nearly two decades, the Singaporeans were a little stunned at my rejection of two things – first, the convenience of house-staff, and second – coping without Malaysian food.

The latter was probably a greater shock to them and, indeed, it’s the bit I struggle with more. I don’t so much reject Malaysian food as have a lack of options for it from my Hampshire home.

For an excellent whistlestop tour of what makes Malaysian food so awesome, I point you at this excellent feature from Serious Eats, based on a trip sponsored by a Malaysian promotional agency.

It doesn’t go into any great deal on the Food of the Gods – Roti Canai – but I understand there will be follow ups. If they don’t pay sufficient attention to Roti, I will know that they have failed to properly investigate Malaysian food.

On hating food

Talladega-Nights-s25The diet has begun again in truth now, having suffered badly for the last 9-10 months with detrimental affects on my weight and sense of self. I’ve regained 30% of the weight I lost, and, no long feeling slim and healthy, am struggling with the running and unlikely to be ready for October’s half marathon. I and am otherwise feeling… diminished. Ironic, as I’m technically enlarged.

The calorie counting has restarted in more approximate terms than when I accomplished the first lot of weight loss; I’m not sticking everything in Dailyburn although I’m leaving the tab pinned in Chrome as a fearful reminder on snack time. It’s been more than two weeks since I touched the office biscuit tin and lunchtime soups and salads have resumed.

It has made me once again look at tasty food with a sort of jealous loathing. I hate you, KFC, for being so wrong and delicious, I thought as the waft passed me in Victoria station last night. Curse you, Papa Johns, for the delicious looking flyers you put through my door. And the food blogs I read…. Damn, double and triple damn all the deliciousness you send my way.

I remember, the first time around all of these stood as incentives; as I progressed on my weight loss campaign (on a diet that’s purely calorie counting, you can eat anything – just not very much of it!) – I’d decide I was going to have Papa Johns for dinner and so not eat much of anything else for the rest of the day. But I’d forgotten how difficult it is to be hungry, and faced with temptation.

That said, two weeks in it is getting easier. The habit of having a decaff coffee every time hunger strikes instead of a biscuit; drinking more water, eating more soups and high-fibre foods, the low-fat alternatives…. all are becoming as familiar to me as once they were.

Wish me luck. If I get back within my BMI I will force myself to run the half marathon – but that means losing 7kg in the next two months, so might be a stretch!

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.

McDonald’s English pub burger

I spotted this on one of the food blogs I read. Was wryly amused at US McDonald’s interpretation of Britishness:

The burger is described as a 1/3lb Angus Beef Burger with hickory-smoked bacon, white cheddar, American cheese, steak sauce, Dijon mustard, grilled onions.

The blogger adds:

I also got a kick out of the placemat advertisement for it, which gives a one-paragraph description of the burger including popular English buzz words like “fancy”, “smashing”, and “gobsmacked.” For the average McDonald’s customer, who may not be cultured enough to know these terms, McDonald’s provides a handy glossary at the bottom of the placemat

The whole thing reminds me of that episode of Friends where Ross puts on a fake British accent to cope with his nervousness with teaching a new class. It’s a slightly ludicrous interpretation of Britishness, both from a gustatory (I had to look this one up, does it make sense?) and linguistic perspective.

"Angus" burger suggests Scottish to me, "hickory-smoked" bacon sounds American ("thick-cut back bacon" might be more British), steak sauce is a straight out mystery – try relish or mayo, or if you’re going for a gastropub, hit up the aioli. White cheddar – ok, but American cheese? Seriously, the clue’s in the name on that one, guys. Also with the Dijon mustard – a little Francais in there, but English mustard might have more kick than you’d like, and grilled onions – maybe. I think the English would prefer a sweet, crisp slice of red onion.

There you go, McDs – I’ve just refined your "English pub burger". You want your 1/3rd lb British beef burger to be topped with thick-cut back bacon, white cheddar, relish and aioli, a dab of English mustard and a slice of crisp red onion. And a slightly limp lettuce leaf, probably, if we’re going for something resembling authenticity. I’m not sure I can be bothered to help you with the marketing because the laughably cheesey interpretations of "British English" will probably work on the ignorant and amuse the informed. So it might actually work.

I’ll take my payment in breakfast.

Armand David: Britishness consultant to American mega-corporates.