Arcimboldo’s Summer

Arcimboldo’s Summer
Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593) was the master of these pre-surrealist paintings of figures formed of grouped objects (not always food).

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Heston's Chocolate Christmas Cake

Appealingly packaged, this cake looks like it’s going to deliver a mind blowing (and waistline bursting) blast of pure chocolate. In fact, it’s a fruit cake covered with a layer of chocolate icing. 

The chocolate icing is perfectly okay, though nothing to write home about, while the fruit cake is boring. It has some unusual spicy notes, which are neither pleasant nor unpleasant — and which don’t save the fruit cake from dullness. Altogether, this festive dessert is ho-hum rather than ho-ho-ho, especially given its enticing packaging. 

I bought this as a post-Christmas markdown, for a quarter of its original price, and I was very disappointed. If I’d paid the full price (£15) I would have been seething, and indeed would probably have demanded a refund. Given that this is the "Improved Recipe" gawd knows what the original was like.

Once again, Heston at Waitrose proves hit and miss.

(Image credits: The pack shot is from Ocado. The shot outside the pack is also from there.)

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Heston's Prawn Cocktail

Aha. Another offering from the mad scientist of the gourmet kitchen. An old fashioned prawn cocktail made using Canadian cold water Pandalus borealis prawns. 

Well, it tastes like a prawn cocktail all right. And it really is old fashioned — in the best sense — and honest. Very traditional. Notably sweet, but it’s a fresh creamy sweetness and not cloying. A nice residual tang of spice. I’m increasingly impressed. But then I did get it for 79p instead of £3.99...

I guess the main thing I'd say about it is that it doesn't have that nasty downturn in taste which you get from something made with artificial ingredients, like a synthetic sweetener.

It is like a good home made prawn cocktail. Which leads us to the inevitable question. It costs four quid, so why not make it yourself? (Assuming you have the time.) You can even use Heston's own recipe, which is available here

Incidentally, the prawns are caught using what is called a Demersal otter trawl. There are certain environmental problems with this kind of fishing, which you can read about here.

On the whole, from now on I don't think I'll be buying prawns caught in this way, if I can avoid it. Sorry, Heston.

(Image credit: the pack shot is, of course, from Waitrose's website.)

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Cotton Candy Grapes

These delicious little devils have an unusual, refreshing sweetness and — yes — they actually do taste like cotton candy. In the summer they were all over the supermarkets and you could buy them everywhere, always at a premium price compared to other grapes. But there were some competitive deals available, and they were worth searching out.

Apparently these grapes were developed in California from the Lambrusca variety. Thank you, California. The first supermarket to introduce them to the UK was Sainsbury's. Thank you, Sainsbury's. Keep up the great work.

But then these tasty little rascals vanished from the shelves and I began to fret that I'd seen the last of them. I kept searching, despondently, to no avail. Other high-end grape varieties, like Sable, had been exposed as the boring impostors they were. It was cotton candy grapes or nothing. Or, rather, it was cotton candy grapes or whatever grapes were available in Sainsbury's Basics range (often excellent, though constantly varying and unpredictable) for £1.25 per 500g.

Then yesterday our little cotton candy friends reappeared. I saw some at Waitrose. They were pricey — £2.50 for 300g — but I snatched them up. A few minutes later I found them in Marks & Spencer at a much better price: £2 for 400g, provided you bought two or more packs.

I bought three. Just as well because the Waitrose ones didn't survive long after I got home; my Sardinian neighbour, who'd also been mourning their absence, helped me demolish the punnet. In fact, he ate most of them, the scoundrel.

I'd highly recommend these if you haven't tried them. If you have, you're probably already addicted.

As I've indicated the current best deal is from Marks & Sparks. These ones are Brazilian, taste great, and are disappearing from my refrigerator even as I write these words...

(Picture credits: the Waitrose pack shot is from here. The rather more attractive Sainsbury's one from here, where you can read more about the variety. Thanks, chaps.)