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Ever since I moved out of my parent's house, which was a few years ago now, I have always kept a box or two of Birds Eye Fish Fingers in my freezer. Of the few options available, I almost always opt for the boxes of eight fish fingers in crispy batter as I like the crispy crunch that comes with these.
The fish fingers come in a blue cardboard box with a picture of the current Captain Birds Eye standing near to piece of succulent looking fish finger on the end of a fork. I like the fact that the box also has peas pictured on the front as this is a good and healthy serving suggestion for this type of food.
The front of the box highlights that the product is made with 100% fish fillet which comes from Alaskan Pollock. This is a much more sustainable alternative to cod and is a personal favourite of mine following me having caught a pair on my one and only sea fishing venture (I also caught three sea bass for all those interested!). The front also details the nutritional information which states, per three fish fingers, there are 220 calories, 0.7g sugars, 13g fat of which 2.2g saturates and 0.9g salt. What I particularly like here is the fact that below these statistics, you are informed of how much of an average 5-10 year olds guideline daily amount these figures constitute. Whilst this is not relevant to me, I would imagine it is of use to a parent who, I'm sure, are the target market for such products.
For those with dietary requirements, the rear of the box indicates the product contains fish, wheat, milk and mustard. It also states that whilst care has been taken to remove all bones, some may remain. Personally I've never noticed any bones whenever I've eaten them.
One thing I dislike about the packaging is the way it suggests you open the box. On the right side of the rear of the box there is a perforated tab which suggests you "press here". I personally find doing this does not make it any easier to open the box than if it was not there. A bit pointless I think!
Once you have opened the box these fish fingers can be prepared by either baking or grilling. The packaging suggests they are "tastiest when oven baked straight from the freezer" and this is the method I prefer. To cook in this way takes approximately 15 minutes at gas mark 8, turning halfway through.
Once cooked and having taken them out of the oven, I find they give off quite a fishy and oily smell, the latter coming from the batter. Personally I don't think this is a particularly pleasant smell but it is also not off-putting. I would prefer a stronger fish smell as, strange as it may be, I do like the aroma of cooked fish, particularly because I love the taste!
On cutting into the fish finger you hear a nice crunch as the crispy batter breaks. Inside the fish looks flaky and light. On tasting the fish finger it reminds me of a piece of battered cod that you might buy from the "chippie", just with a much lighter batter. The fish itself is very flavoursome but not so fishy that it might be considered overpowering.
These fish fingers are nearly always on offer at Asda costing £1 for a box . There is currently an offer of four of their £1 frozen items for £3 - excellent value in my opinion.
Whilst wandering around a local corner shop I noticed some smaller tins of Heinz soup. Every now and then I fancy some soup , but don't always feel like a whole 400g tin and as this is all I usually stock in the cupboards, I often go without. So spotting these smaller tins seemed the answer to my problems. I selected two different flavours at 60p each, one of them being Cream of Chicken, a flavour I could not remember the last time I'd had it.
The tin contains 290g of soup. It comes wrapped in the standard red Heinz labelling with a picture of a bowl of steaming chicken soup on the front. This looks like a nice thick soup, garnished with a sprig of parsley and sat next to some fresh looking crusty bread. The front of the label advertises that the soup is low in fat and contains 144 calories per serving. Whereas a 400g tin considers half of the tin to be one serving, with this being a smaller tin the entire contents constitute one serving here.
The rest of the nutritional information is found on the rear of the label with the vital statistics being, per tin, 4.9g protein, 13g carbohydrates of which 3.2g sugars, 8g fat of which 1.3g saturates, 0.2g fibre and 0.7g sodium with the salt equivalent being 1.9g. This soup does have a higher fat content in comparison to many of the other Heinz soups but I think that is to be expected with cream being one of the more prominent ingredients.
The rear of the label also highlights that the soup contains no artificial colours or preservatives but does contain gluten, wheat and milk.
On opening the tin, which has a ring pull lid, and pouring the contents into a bowl, I think you would be quite forgiven for losing what appetite you might have had! The soup, in my opinion, looked like gloopy slop and there was also no aroma which might have offset the poor appearance.
With there being less soup, it stands to reason that it can be heated in a shorter amount of time! In an 850w microwave the label states the soup should be heated for one minute, stirred and then heated for a further minute. My microwave at home is an 800w and I found the two minutes in total was enough time for the soup to be nice and hot. After being heated things did not improve visually but there was now a pleasant chicken smell being given off.
On tasting the soup, I wasn't massively impressed. In my opinion it did taste like chicken but it was very weak. I think it is quite possible that if I was eating the soup blindfolded without being told what it is, it wouldn't be immediately obvious what the flavour was! Amongst the gelatinous soup there were some small pieces of chicken but these were almost non existent and when you did eat a piece they didn't really seem to contribute anything to the flavour. Looking at the ingredients, chicken accounts for only 4% of the soup and whilst there are flavourings they don't seem strong enough to make the soup taste as it should. I found the best flavour came after I had finished the soup with the aftertaste reminding me of chicken flavoured crisps, which I quite like!
Whilst I wasn't a big fan of the flavour of this soup, I did find the portion size to be exactly what I was looking for. At 290g this provided enough soup for a decent snack and would also be good for those with smaller appetites but I certainly will not be buying this flavour again.
A colleague of mine who recently moved from my office gifted me a tin of this as he left and so as a tribute to him I wolfed it down for lunch that day.
I never normally give consideration to the Farmers' Market selection, tending to stick with Heinz standard range and so I am not too familiar with the different varieties on offer. I have tried and reviewed Heinz's standard Tomato and Basil Soup and gave it four stars (not giving it five as I had awarded Baxter's version that amount and it was slightly better) so I was hopeful I would be equally as positive about this one.
The soup comes in 515g tin which is quite a bit larger than the standard 400g you get with the "normal" Heinz soups. The tin has a ring pull lid which did not require much effort to open and the tin itself is recyclable steel.
The label itself is very different to the normal distinctive label you get with Heinz soups which are typically red in colour. This label is a lot brighter with images of fruit and vegetables covering it with the product information pasted over them. The front of this particular label shows, as always, a bowl of the deep red soup sitting in a bright white bowl. The soup looks particularly thick with basil and herbs peppered sparingly around the top. Surrounding the bowl there a large number of juicy plum tomatoes with sprigs of lush green basil poking out amongst them. In the background and on the rear of the label there is what looks like cauliflower and broccoli. The front of the label states that the product is "Inspired by Farmer's Markets" and with the variety of the fruit and vegetables pictured, you really can imagine yourself walking around a market picking the finest ingredients for your cooking. Unlike other Heinz soups this one does not contain any nutritional information on the front.
The rear of the label gives you the usual information you find including:
1) The ingredients, the ones being of note - plum tomatoes (21%), tomatoes (20%), onions, concentrated tomato puree, crème freche (2% and contains milk), sugar, basil, herbs and concentrated lemon juice. This soup contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives and is suitable for vegetarians.
2)The nutritional information which states per half can there are 126 calories, 17.g protein, 14.2g carbohydrates of which 11.3g sugars, 6.9g fat of which 0.5g saturates, 1.7g fibre and 0.5g sodium with the salt equivalent being 1.3g. I normally give this information for the whole soup but as this one is slightly larger, I do think half of the tin could easily constitute one serving. With there not being too much crème freche in the probuct, this helps to keep the calories and the fat, particularly the saturated fat, content down to a reasonable level. The rear of the label does advertise that the product is low fat and it surprises me somewhat that they do not highlight this fact on the front.
3) Heating instructions - given that there is more to this product than the standard range, heating takes slightly longer. In a microwave (850W) I found this soup to be nice and hot after a little over four minutes having stirred it halfway through. If using a hob remember to heat gently and not to boil and although I haven't used this method, I would imagine it would be good to go in around 6-7 minutes.
First impressions of the soup
On opening the tin I was consciously looking for the aroma of basil that you get with other tomato and basil soups but I found it to be lacking. For me this is not necessarily a negative as I sometimes find that particular flavour to be a little overpowering and prefer to just have a hint of it so I was not put off at this stage. After pouring the contents into a bowl my first thought was that it was a little like pouring out a tin of chopped tomatoes and I wondered if this was something I would have to chew my way through rather than just swallow like other tomato soups. I did however like the nice large chunks of tomato that could be seen that still looked juicy and tempting. There was also, despite the lack of any aroma, some larger pieces of basil sitting in the soup which gave added to the appearance.
After having heated the soup which, as is often the case, greatly improved the smell of the soup with there now being a nice rich tomatoey smell (the basil still not quite there), the first thought I had on tasting was how sweet it was. This is obviously to be expected with having such a high content of tomatoes and I do wonder if it was necessary to add sugar but there are obviously people paid good money to make those decisions.
Despite the large pieces of basil I did not feel that I really got much from them only the slightest hint. For me this was not a negative but if you were looking for that from this soup I think you would be disappointed. I also don't feel as though I got anything from the crème freche that is added to it, if I did I could not distinguish it compared to the sweetness of the tomatoes.
The consistency of the soup was like I expected and was like eating finely mashed tomatoes. I think that having had so many tins of the incredibly smooth Heinz Tomato soup it just felt a little strange to be having to chew some pieces rather than literally drink it! The consistency for me is again not a negative it just was a little different.
As I got towards the end of the bowl, I was a little glad I was doing so. The flavour remains constant throughout so in not getting anything from the basil, the other herbs and the crème freche, you are left with a rather large bowl of rather sweet tomato soup. After a while I just found that I'd had enough of eating it and not because there was too much there.
If I'm honest I won't be buying this product again but I also wouldn't turn it down if someone else gave it me as they left the office! In my opinion it wouldn't win awards for appearance, consistency or taste but on the same note it wasn't too bad. In comparison to the other tomato and basil soups, this one can only really get three stars.
Whilst I didn't buy this, having had a quick look online the price in the main supermarkets is around £1.04.
I wrote this review a few weeks ago, just after Mother's Day, and I've just noticed I didn't submit it so here it is!
I've been to Frankie and Benny's in Coventry many times before and have always had a mixed opinion of it. It is however one of my mum's favourite places to eat so with it being Mother's Day this was the place for us to go.
The restaurant is ideally located being just off junction 2 of the M6 and being in close proximity to a Showcase Cinema, Megabowl and Tesco as well as a pub and other eateries.
The restaurant itself is an American / Italian fifties style diner with numerous retro photos adorning the walls and music from that era playing in the background (I'm pretty sure the CD that they play is the same as they've always played but it is quite enjoyable). The seating layout consists of a number of booths as well as standard tables and I'm glad to say this is something they seem to have improved on since my last visit. When I've been before I've noticed them try and squash too many table for two next to each other so that there is absolutely no privacy but it now seems they have moved away from this policy. Thankfully we were a table of eight so that was never going to be an issue!
On arrival, having booked a table for 3PM, we were told that a table was not yet ready so we would have to wait. The member of staff dealing with us was very polite and given that half of our party had still to arrive this delay actually suited us. We ended up waiting half an hour for our table but given my brother and his family were half an hour late we didn't mind. I do personally think if you make the effort to phone up and book a table for a particular time you should not have wait half an hour for it but the restaurant was very busy and I accept it's very difficult to kick people out of seats if they've just finished eating so I'm not going to call this a criticism, more a potential inconvenience.
The menu has a wide variety of choice with different pasta, pizza and steak options amongst other things. For those wishing to plan ahead, you can visit www.frankieandbennys.com where you can download the various menus available to choose from, including a breakfast and a lunch menu.
On this visit we made the decision not to have starters (I would have had one but nobody else seemed keen and I didn't want to eat one alone!) and so for a main course I ordered a meatball calzone priced at £9.25. Unfortunately with many of the main courses there are no side orders included so in order to make this more of a meal I ordered a house fries at £2.95 and shared a garlic bread with goat's cheese and onion priced at £3.95. This aspect is my biggest criticism of the restaurant. Whilst I think the food is good quality and tasty I do think what you end up paying for your meal is slightly than it should be. For dessert I enjoyed a "Mammas Cholcolate Marble" priced at £4.35. This is a cheesecake / brownie type dessert accompanied with vanilla ice cream and it is a very tasty pudding however again it's not particularly substantial and probably lasted no more than a minute on my plate.
One aspect of the restaurant that I've always thought good was the attitude and politeness of the staff. The telephone manner of the member of staff I spoke to when booking the table was very good, we were greeted when we arrived and the single member of staff behind the bar, who was absolutely rushed off his feet, was jovial whilst serving several people at the same time. The only person who did not seem particularly cheery was the member of staff that served us the most. This person has been there for a number of years and I'm pretty sure I've commented on how pleasant she is before. However today I was surprised at how impatient she seemed at times. The rest of the staff that bought food to our table were all very pleasant.
Overall I do like the atmosphere in this restaurant. It is very family friendly and you will find a number of children there. It is quite a lively place and you will hear a lot of chatter and music so if you're looking for a quiet place to eat I would probably look elsewhere. I tend to go here two or three times a year, largely as I think it is a bit expensive for what it is but I do enjoy myself when I'm there.
Winter Vegetable broth is another Heinz flavour that was new to me. The standard Heinz Vegetable soup is a flavour I always have tucked away in a cupboard somewhere, but having tried a number of other soups in the past few months, many of which I have reviewed on here, it has fallen some way down the pecking order in terms of popularity. So when I spied the Winter Vegetable broth on the shelf I hoped this would add a new dimension to the old family favourite and instil this one as a favourite with me.
The soup comes in a 400g tin topped with an easy to open ring pull lid. The tin is adorned in the standard and distinctive red Heinz labelling that makes it instantly recognisable as belonging to that brand. The main image to the front depicts a steaming bowl of a dark coloured soup that looks packed full of chunky vegetable sat next to a chunk of crusty rustic bread. My first thoughts at looking at the image was that it appeared to be like a hearty bowl of stew and as I'm a fan of this I looked forward to trying the soup. Next to the main front image the label highlights that the soup contains only 68 calories per serving (deemed to be half of the tin), is low fat and is suitable for vegetarians.
The rear of the label gives the usual information including:
Heating guidelines - Approximately 3 minutes in a microwave or 5-6 minutes if being heated gently on a hob taking care not to boil. My personal preference is to heat on the hob as I think microwaving does impair the flavour slightly.
Ingredients - the main vegetable ingredients are carrots, potatoes, onions, Swedes and peas with these accounting for 35% of the total ingredients. For those with dietary requirements, the label points out that the soup contains celery and celeriac, is suitable for a gluten free diet and contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
Nutritional information - the label gives this information per serving (half a tin) but as a serving for me is the whole tin, I find it more useful to have the figures for that. These are 136 calories, 3.2g protein, 29.4g carbohydrates of which 6.4g sugars, 0.6g fat of which a trace saturates, 3.4g fibre, 1.2g sodium with the salt equivalent being 2.8g. Off the top of my head I am pretty sure this soup contains the lowest amount of fat of all the Heinz soups that I've eaten.
On opening the tin I was initially a little disappointed. I was immediately met with the aroma of the standard Heinz Vegetable soup and as I was looking for a little more than this I was started to get concerned I wouldn't get it. I was also a little disappointed with the appearance of the soup when I poured it into a bowl. Whilst there was a lot of the various types of vegetables, it did not look like the hearty stew I had been anticipating. On a positive note, the soup did not have the gelatinous appearance that I think Heinz Vegetable soup has. The soup was also peppered with herbs which again I hoped would give a different dimension to the flavour.
This really was a disappointment! The taste, in my opinion, was exactly like the standard Heinz Vegetable soup. Whilst the soup was flavoursome in the way a vegetable soup is, I felt there was nothing extra from the different vegetables or the masses of herbs that were added. I do like vegetable soup and I enjoyed this one, it's just that I had hoped for so much more!
With all the other flavours of soups that are available I do not think I would purchase this one again but if you like vegetable soup it is worth trying.
I'm a member of a few survey sites with this being the most recent one that I have signed up to and I have to say it is my current favourite!
Having signed up to the site on the 29th March this year I have already received one £5 Amazon voucher and am halfway towards having enough points to get another one.
I signed up to this site through fatcheese.co.uk (cash back site subject to numerous reviews on here and worth looking into in my opinion) as there was a free 90p cash back simply for signing up. This process was relatively painless with you having to provide a few personal details and then clicking on a link in the confirmation email that is instantly sent to you.
The website itself is also relatively straightforward. After you have logged in, the main page will list any surveys available to you (you will receive an email when there is one available to complete) ass well as other short surveys and polls that will earn you entries into a quarterly prize draw with a prize fund of £2000 with the top prize being £1000.
As mentioned you will receive an email when there is a survey available to complete. Unlike numerous other survey sites, there is no link in the email for you to click on to access the survey but instead you need to go to the website and log into your account where the survey reference will be there for you to click on. It's obviously easier if there's a link in the email but it's no big deal to have to go to the website and to log in before you access the survey.
I have found the surveys themselves to be particularly user friendly and more often than not interesting and cover a wide range of subjects. I have already completed two surveys on both alcohol and broadband services. Most of the surveys I have taken are supposed to last 20 minutes on average and I have found this to be quite an accurate estimate. For a survey lasting this length of time you can expect to earn around 80 points referred to as Lightspeed Points. Looking at my account, which records your completed surveys for the past 6 months, I have also earned 70 and 110 points for some of the surveys which took similar lengths of time to complete.
Now what do points make!? Within your account section on the site you will have a link to enter the "shop" where you can redeem your points selecting your reward from a quite extensive catalogue that includes a £5 Amazon voucher (550 points), £3 in your Paypal account (345 points) up to a Sony Flash Memory Walkman (4949 points). When I cashed in my points, which was late one evening, I received an email confirming my order and then approximately ten minutes later I received an email with the Amazon voucher code within it. This was certainly a lot quicker than I was expecting.
In the first week, which is what it took me to earn enough points for the voucher, I completed 7 surveys. One of the things that I particularly like about this site is that during this time I was only vetted from one survey. This has continued with me having completed another 3 surveys whilst being vetted from another one. With the other survey sites I am a member of the figures are nearer half and half in respect of the amount of surveys I actually get to complete compared to the amount I am vetted from. On average, it would appear that you can expect to receive 6 or 7 surveys per week.
I have also registered an interest to receive an automated phone call following the political party leaders debates that are to be televised. For answering five questions I will receive 250 points which I think is excellent for a couple of minutes of my time.
I think this is a very good site and I look forward to continuing to receive and complete further surveys.
Whilst wondering what to write my next review on to take me nearer to my second Amazon voucher I sat down to watch The Weakest Link, the first of two daily BBC weekday quiz shows that I like watch if I'm back from work early enough (the second is Eggheads for those wondering).
This show was first broadcast on BBC2 on 14th August 2000 and has been running ever since. It now airs every weekday on BBC1 usually at 5:15PM and the programme usually lasts for 45 minutes. Since its creation it has been hosted by the "Queen of Mean" Anne Robinson and she is a massive contributory factor to the success the show has had resulting in it still running strong.
In each episode there are nine contestants playing against each other with the aim of not being voted off after each round as the weakest link. In each round the contestants take it in turn to answer questions with the aim of trying to get as much money banked as possible before the time runs out. When it is a person's turn to field a question, they can either bank what has been accumulated by the players immediately before them having answered their questions correctly or they can risk losing the lot by taking their question - if they get it right the chain continues, if they get it wrong the money accumulated is lost. To explain, the money chain goes in the order £20, £50, £100, £200, £300, £450, £600, £800, £1000. If the round has just begun and you are the fourth person to answer a question and the proceeding players have all answered correctly, with nobody having banked, you would have the option to either a) bank, with £100 being added to the rounds pot and the chain then beginning over with the next person answering a question for £20 or b) answer your question without banking with a correct answer being worth £200 and an incorrect answer seeing the chain be reset with no money banked.
The maximum that can be won in the first seven rounds is £1000, most simply achieved my a chain of nine correct answers. The first round is three minutes long with each subsequent round having ten seconds taken off the clock. At the end of each round the players, independently and without consulting, write down who they want to vote off and then reveal their choice one by one. Whoever gets the most votes will have the immortal words "You are the weakest link, goodbye!" barked at them before they have to take "the walk of shame" before giving a quick twenty second interview about their experience. Should there be a tie in the votes, the person deemed to be the strongest link, based on the most correct answers and money banked, is able to make the final decision on who leaves.
The questions will get progressively harder as the rounds progress. In my opinion the first round is particularly easy and I think the aim is to possibly to settle the contestants into the game and allow them to build up some prize money. A good proportion of the time the contestants will manage to accrue the £1000 maximum in the first round.
The contestants themselves are usually a good variety of characters from various walks of life. They are not all quiz geniuses and it is clear many of them are chosen to appear on the show based on their personalities. Whilst this programme is a quiz show it is also as much about Anne Robinson and her interaction with the contestants. At the start of the programme the contestants give a brief introduction of themselves but we usually learn a lot more about them once Anne gets going! After each round has finished and the players have revealed their votes Anne will usually talk to a few of them about their vote but then about themselves personally. This aspect of the show is usually as long if not longer than the actual question rounds themselves and shows the show is as much about Anne and the contestants as it is about the quiz itself.
These parts of the show I often find either quite funny or quite cringe worthy depending on whether what Anne says manages to stay the right side of banter or whether it crosses into the realms of a personal attack! Sometimes I think Anne does clearly cross the line in attempting to be funny. In the episode I watched today she delivered such put downs as describing a female prison officer contestant as being "big and beefy" and she also asked if you had to be gay to be a female prison officer. Anne also referred to one contestant as "fat Andy" and then hit the nail on the head when she told one contestant that it was her job to make the players feel as bad as possible! Harsh!
I think as the programme has gone on over the years Anne has started to struggle for banter that is actually funny so just resorts to the rude and potentially hurtful as though she is seeking to do nothing more than embarrass them.
Another aspect of the presenting that has got weaker over the years are Anne's quips at the end of each round before the players vote. Today we were treated to such genius as, "Who thinks a cross dresser is someone who can't find their socks?" and "Who is thicker than a deep fried Mars bar?" and my favourite, "Who thinks chicken kiev is a place in Russia?" (I think Ukraine would have worked slightly better here!). However, whilst I find these putdowns and quips sometimes poor and in bad taste, I know this is very popular with many viewers and is the reason many people tune in to watch. It's also clear it doesn't put me off!
One part of the show that always makes me chuckle is when there is clearly tactical voting taking place. Every now and then , when you are down to the last three of four contestants, you will see someone voted off who usually doesn't deserve it and who has usually been a strong player throughout the game. What is usually funny here is the way the contestants try to justify their decision with claims they genuinely thought the person they've voted for was the weakest link when really you can't help but think they just didn't fancy playing that person in the head to head final.
After the first seven rounds, round eight sees the last two contestants play in the same format with the exception that whatever amount of money they manage to bank being trebled before being added to the final prize pot. These two contestants will then go head to head answering five questions each with the person answering the most correctly winning. If it's a tie the game moves into "sudden death" with them each continuing to answer a question until one of them answers incorrectly with their opponent getting theirs right. The winner then takes the total amount of money banked. I think, on average, this amount is usually between £1500 and £2500. In the show today the victor took slightly more with £2710.
As a result of the popularity of the show, there have been numerous celebrity specials over the years which usually get an airing during evening prime time hours.
I do like The Weakest Link and watch it as regularly as possible. Unlike many quiz shows, the programme spends a lot of time interacting with the contestants and this gives a different entertaining dimension. As already stated, I do find Anne's behaviour to be a little harsh at times but she definitely adds to the appeal of the programme.
I've started to stretch my culinary skills to pasta bakes and it has become almost tradition for me to make one on a Sunday. On a recent trip to Asda I noticed that they were offering many of the different sauces from Loyd Grossman's range for only £1 so I stocked up on a few and recently tried this one for the first time.
The sauce comes in a 400g see through jar so you can immediately see the thick and creamy coloured sauce inside. The jar has a quite distinctive label across it with an image of Loyd Grossman smelling what looks like an incredibly juicy tomato on the front. The rear of the label gives the nutritional information detailing that per 100g the sauce contains 104 calories, 1.8g protein, 8.6g carbohydrates of which 3.9 sugars, 7g fat of which 2g saturates, 0.5g fibre and 0.4g sodium with the salt equivalent being 1.1g. For those interested in the allergy advice on the label, this product contains celery and milk and was produced in a factory that handles nuts and sesame. I don't think the calorie and fat content is too high with this product given that it obviously contains cheese and also contains double cream.
This sauce has 25% less content than the 500g Homepride sauces that I use predominantly. I have found however that I did not need to reduce the amount of pasta that I would normally use by 25%. The label instructs you to use 150g of penne pasta or any short dry pasta and to use 300ml of water. I used approximately 200g as I didn't think 150g would be enough for what I wanted and added approximately 400ml of water. I found that this worked fine and there was more than enough sauce, which was in no way weak, to cover a good amount of pasta.
On opening the sauce you are immediately met by a strong and mouth-watering cheesy and garlicky aroma. The label also instructs you to spoon the sauce out of the jar onto the pasta. This is different to other brands I have used where you can simply pour the sauce out and just goes to show how thick this sauce is.
The pasta bake is prepared by heating at gas mark 6 for an initial 25 minutes. When I had put the bake into the oven I had left the kitchen and did not return until the 25 minutes was up. When I walked in I was hit with an immense smell again with the cheese and garlic but this time it was so much stronger and even more appealing. On giving the bake a stir before returning to the oven for a final 10 minutes I was a little disappointed that I couldn't start tucking in right there and then! Before putting back into the oven I topped with a modest amount of cheese. The label offers a recommendation of using a mixture of parmesan and mozzarella cheese for the topping but I didn't have either of these so instead opted for a strong cheddar (usually my cheese of choice).
On tasting the food I was very pleased that the sauce tasted as good as it smelled. There were good amounts of tasty chopped tomato that combined well with the creamy, cheesy sauce and the pancetta. There was also a strong but not overpowering taste from the garlic.
I enjoyed this pasta bake with my partner with us having half each with a small side salad and some crusty bread. This was a good sized meal that left us feeling full afterwards. I also noticed there was also a very pleasant aftertaste.
At £1 (whilst on offer) I think this was very good value for money and I would say the sauce was slightly better quality than other well known brands that I've used. The usual price in Asda for this sauce is currently £1.74 in Asda. This is slightly more expensive than I might like to pay but I still think it resembles good value for money given the taste and the quality of the sauce.
I cannot find fault with this product and therefore will be giving it 5 stars. I will certainly be buying it again and hopefully it will still be on offer when I do my shopping again soon!
I have been giving blood for about three years now and thought I would just write a few words on the process and my experiences having recently given my seventh donation.
If I'm honest I cannot remember why I decided to start giving blood. I think one day I just asked myself if I could come up with a good reason why I shouldn't and then when I had nothing I decided to book myself an appointment and see how I got on. I say good reason as I really do not like needles and the whole concept of one being placed in my arm but I don't have a fear of them or anything like that so I wasn't accepting this as a good enough excuse!
To book my first appointment I visited www.blood.co.uk (you will find a lot of information on here and hopefully answers to most questions potential donors may have. There is also a lot of interesting information including the current stock levels of the various blood types). The website is very straightforward and easy to use and navigate and you will be able to find the dates, times and locations near to your home or work or wherever suits.
My first appointment was at a nearby church. On arrival I was greeted and when it became apparent it was my first time, one of the nurses went through the procedure with me which involves reading one of two folders dependant on whether you are a first timer or a returning donor, filling out a questionnaire which asks you a number of questions including about your health, sexual experience and where you have travelled in the past year. Whilst some of these questions might seem invasive, it is obviously necessary to determine whether there might be any implications and problems with the blood that you donate. I have been sent back once before without being able to donate as I had recently been to the Dominican Republic which is a country deemed a malaria risk so as a precaution you are required to wait six months before being eligible to donate again. In order to avoid this in the future, when I am due to give blood, if I have been somewhere on holiday that I think may carry a risk I telephone and check to save myself a wasted journey.
When you have registered and given your first donation, every 16 weeks (approximately 4 months) you will receive a letter inviting you to donate again. This will have the same questionnaire that you filled out on your first visit so you can do this at home to save time at the place where you donate. You can then phone or go online to make an appointment or just simply turn up on the date. Obviously if you make an appointment you can manage your time better as there can sometimes be a wait for those with no appointment. On my last visit the whole process lasted about an hour and a half (it normally takes 30-40 minutes) and this was due to staffing shortages. If for whatever reason you are not able to make the donation session (in my experience you will be invited to attend the location where you donated on your last visit) on the date you were invited, you will receive another letter approximately every two weeks inviting you to attend. Contained within this letter is a leaflet that advises you of the times and dates of other local sessions that may be more convenient.
Now onto the donation itself. The specifics of what happens may be slightly different depending on the location but I would expect the processes to be identical. Having read your folder and filled in your questionnaire, the next step is to have a brief private chat with one of the nurses where they ask you any questions that are relevant to the answers on your questionnaire, such as where you may have travelled, you then sign a declaration and have a blood iron test. Your middle finger on either hand (cannot have a ring on it) is then pricked and a small sample of blood is taken and dropped into a solution to check the iron levels. If they are too low for whatever reason you will not be able to donate. This process is completely painless and you will hardly notice your finger has been pricked. If you are slightly squeamish you can always look away as the nurse will squeeze your finger to ensure there is a drop of blood that can be used. This is sucked up in a very small pipette and dropped into the solution. Again, this is not something I enjoy (I suppose not many necessarily would) but it is the idea of what happens rather than what actually happens (if that makes sense!) that I don't particularly like!
Once everything is ok here you then go into another room where there will be numerous beds hopefully all being used by people donating. You may be asked or invited to take a good drink of water to ensure you remain hydrated given that they will be removing a quantity of fluid from you. You will then wait until called to a vacant bed. The nurse will then ask you what are you wish to donate from and you will lie down ready to go. As a security, throughout the different stages you will be asked your date of birth and possibly your home address. Once they are happy you are who you say you are you will have a strap placed on your arm which is inflated to put pressure on your veins to make it easier for the nurse to find with the needle. The nurse will then rub an anaesthetic solution onto the area and leave this for a few moments. The next stage is then for the needle to be inserted. Again my experience is that this is a pain free experience and, as you will be warned, all you really feel is a little pinch. At worst the experience is uncomfortable rather than painful. To be honest I tend to look away whilst this is being done! In total just under a pint of blood is taken. At the start of the donation the nurse will attach some small vials to the tubes to collect a small amount of blood (I believe this is what is screened to check everything is healthy). After this you will be left whilst the donation continues with a nurse visiting you periodically just to check on you. When I am donating I have been told my blood comes out quite quickly so I usually take about 5-6 minutes. I think the process generally takes 5-10 minutes. When nearing the end of the donation I sometimes experience a dull ache in my arm but again this is in no way painful. Once the required amount of blood has been taken a small alarm will alert a nurse that you are done and they will then remove the needle and place a plaster on your arm. You will be asked to sit on the bed for a minute or two before being told you are done and invited to go and take some complimentary refreshments which consists of a drink, hot or cold, and a selection of biscuits, crisps and chocolate.
As a small thank you for your donations there is also a reward scheme for regular donors when you reach milestones such as your 5th, 10th, and 25th donations. My opinion is that this is unnecessary but if it leads to more people getting involved then it would be worth it.
As I stated at the start, I began donating as I had no reason not to. On average it is probably only going to take up 3 or 4 hours of your life each year so I do not think that is a lot of time to do something so charitable. There is currently a campaign running regarding organ donors and asks something along the lines that if you would be happy to receive an organ from someone, does it not seem right to therefore list yourself as a potential donor? I think this is a valid question when it comes to blood donation as well. This small thing that I do does give me a little sense of satisfaction thinking that I might be helping someone at a time when they really need it and for me that's enough!
There will be many more questions that potential donors may have and I would strongly advise looking at the blood.co.uk website for the answers.
I did not think the idea of a carrot and lentil soup was particularly appealing but having never had it I thought I should give it a go before making judgement.
The soup can be bought in a standard size 400g tin topped with an easy to open ring pull lid. The image on the front of the tin shows a dark coloured soup packed with chunky ingredients with a large piece of rustic granary bread sat next to it. On closer inspection of the label I think the chunks are supposed to be carrot although it looks more like torn pieces of the bread. The front of the labelling also indicates that the soup contains only 89 calories per serving (half of the tin so it has 178 if, like me, a serving is the whole tin) and is low fat.
The rear of the tin gives the standard product information including the ingredients which details as well as the carrots (19%) and lentils (14%), the soup also contains onions, celery, celeriac, tomato puree and garlic puree, amongst other minor ingredients. The nutritional information per tin is - 7.8g protein, 35g carbohydrates of which 8.6g sugars, 0.8g fat of which 0.2g saturates, 3.8g fibre and 1g sodium with the salt equivalent being 2.4g. Whilst a lot of Heinz soups detail that they are low fat, and to be fair they generally are, this soup has the lowest fat content that I can remember (and I've reviewed a few of them!). This soup also contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives and is suitable for vegetarians.
On opening the tin my first thoughts were how much it looked like I was about to eat baby food! The soup looked like an almost solid mush and this was even more evident when I attempted to pour the soup into a bowl as I had to spoon three quarters of it out of the tin. I also had to give the soup a good stir before I put it in the microwave just to level it out in the bowl. It is not uncommon for the image displayed on food packaging to be slightly different to the food that comes out of it and this soup falls into that category. Whilst the label presented a dark soup with chunky carrots, the product itself was like a lentil paste with a bit if carrot here and there.
Thankfully things did improve slightly when heated (approximately 3 minutes in a microwave giving a good stir halfway through or 4-5 minutes on a hob heating gently and stirring now and then). The soup had a less thick consistency and the aroma coming from it smelt quite spicy and pleasant.
On tasting the soup I was actually quite surprised and pleased at the fact that I didn't dislike it, in fact it wasn't that bad! I found that there wasn't a range of flavours but one continual one which I would describe as being like a slightly spicy Heinz vegetable soup. I was also pleased that despite looking like mush the texture of the soup was not too mushy and the carrots within remained relatively solid!
I would rate this soup as average. I ate it all (not uncommon for me) and it was ok but I cannot see me selecting it from a shelf again however if someone put a bowl of it in front of me, I wouldn't let it go to waste!
It was only a couple of years ago that I actually bothered to find out what mulligatawny soup actually was. For some reason I'd always thought it sounded Scottish and would be a broth of some sort. I suppose I could not have been much further from what it actually is with it basically being a curry soup of East Indian origin.
Packaging / labelling
The Heinz version of this soup comes in the standard 400g tin adorned with the classic Heinz labelling and a ring pull lid which opens with fairly limited effort. The front of the label shows a bowl of the steaming soup which, according to the image, looks light brown in colour and contains what looks like quite a lot of rice. The front of the label also highlights that the soup is low fat and contains 105 calories per serving (deemed to be half of the tin). As well as the usual nutritional information, ingredients, cooking instructions and dietary information, the rear of the label gives a description of the soup calling it a "spicy soup made from an exciting combination of beef, rice and curry spices, with a hint of mango chutney" it also suggests adding an authentic touch by eating with a warm naan bread.
Ingredients / Nutritional information
As well as those listed in the above description, this soup is comprised mainly of water and concentrated tomato puree with other ingredients of note being tomatoes and apples (if I had not just read this I would never have guessed!).
Most soups generally are quite healthy and this follows that pattern with the vital statistics being, per whole tin as to me that is a portion, 210 calories, 8g protein, 28.2g carbohydrates of which 13.4g sugars, 7.2g fat of which 1g saturates, 2.4g fibre and 1g sodium with the salt equivalent being 2.6g salt. The salt level here is accounting for almost half of the 6g which is the guideline daily amount for an average adult but, as with most food, as long as you have a balanced diet this soup can form a healthy part of it.
The soup itself
On opening the tin you are greeted with a strong and exotic smell that is fitting of the soup. It smells spicy and if you are a fan of curries then I think you would be quite enticed! The appearance is less appealing! Whilst sat in the tin and after being poured into a bowl the soup reminded me of a very weak and runny chip shop curry sauce. There certainly was no fluffy rice floating in the top as the image on the label had suggested. I knew the rice was in there as I had seen it when I poured the soup but it would seem it had now all sunk to the bottom!
After being heated (as is standard with most soups this can be done in approximately three minutes in a microwave and slightly longer on a hob if heated gently) the aroma from the soup was even better and stronger and there was now also a sweetness to it. A colleague who entered the kitchen just as I removed it from the microwave said how nice it smelled and came over to examine. To be honest I don't think he was too impresses as just like it was when it was cold, the soup did not have much visual appeal. What I also noticed now was that there was what looked like an oily sheen on the surface of the soup. What points were being gained by the smell were quickly being dropped by the appearance! So it came down to the taste to sway the verdict one way or the other.
Thankfully I like the taste of this soup! There is a spicy heat to it that makes my cheeks glow and this is offset by the sweetness of the mango chutney and I suppose the apple (although I don't know which parts of the soup were the apple). The soup does contain solids with the rice and other ingredients however this aspect is quite disappointing. I would not expect the rice to have any notable flavour to it having been sat in the soup but it also has almost no texture and is very mushy when eaten. This also applies to the other solid ingredients however with these you experience an element of sweetness that compensates to some extent. Despite the texture and the appearance, the taste and the aroma make this an enjoyable soup and one I recommend.
The big stores often have offers around Heinz soup and so prices will often vary. I purchased this one from Asda in a five for £2 deal and so at 40p think this is excellent value for money. The standard price will generally be around 70p-80p which even at this price I think is excellent value for money.
I have previously reviewed Baxter's Tomato and Basil soup and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it and so was trying Heinz's version with some hope. I'm pleased to say that overall I wasn't disappointed!
The soup comes in a 400g tin adorned with the distinctive Heinz labelling and topped with an easy open ring pull lid. The main image to the front shows a normal looking bowl of tomato soup with a couple of basil leaves garnishing it and is surrounded by a number of juicy looking vine tomatoes. The front of the label also advertises that the soup contains 114 calories per serving (half a tin), is low fat and is low in sugar.
As is usual, the rear of the packaging gives the nutritional information with the vital statistics being (per serving): 1.8g protein, 13.3g carbohydrates of which 9.8g sugars, 6g fat of which 0.4g saturates, 0.8g fibre and 0.6g sodium with the salt equivalent being 1.4g. For those with dietary requirements it is also highlighted that the soup contains milk (dried skimmed milk and milk proteins), is suitable for a gluten free diet, suitable for vegetarians and contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
On opening the tin I was slightly disappointed that I was not met with the strong aroma that I'd experienced with Baxter's version. With this soup there was a subtle smell at best suggesting there really was only a "hint" of basil. On looking at the soup you have a greener looking tomato soup peppered with many small pieces of basil suggesting slightly more than a "hint"!
Once heated (approximately 3 minutes in a microwave stirring halfway through or approximately 5 minutes on a hob heating it gently) the aroma does improve and I found the soup became more appealing.
On finally tasting the soup I was pleased that there was still a strong tomatoey flavour that was not diminished by the basil, which I sometimes find overpowering. The soup was notably sweet, largely because of the high tomato content (84%) and also because of the sugar added in the ingredients but I did not find this off putting. Whilst the soup was perfectly tasty on its own, I personally like to have a cheese sandwich to dip in my tomato soup and always find this makes the whole experience that little bit more pleasurable!
In comparison to the Baxter version I think the Heinz Tomato and Basil is slightly inferior. I think some of the added ingredients (most notably the onion) in the Baxter's soup gave it a more distinguished taste. The Heinz version was, however, enjoyable to eat and I shall look forward to using up the other tin that I've got sat in my cupboard at home.
I purchased this soup when I absolutely hammered Asda's 5 tins for £2 offer a few weeks ago (I believe they are currently doing 4 for £2) but a tin generally retails for around 70p-80p.
This review is written in relation to the fixed price boiler repair service offered by British Gas.
Whilst I was glad that my heating bills would be reduced for a few days, the fact that my boiler had decided to stop working meant that I knew I was going to be paying out a bit of money to get it back up and running.
Having read that British Gas can sometimes be a bit hit and miss with their level of service, I decided to call out the company that installed my 12 year old boiler (put in by previous occupants) to have a look and hopefully sort the problem. Now as this review does not concern this company I do not want to say too much other than there was a lot of huffing, talk of throwing good money after bad and worst of all, I now know, finding fault with parts that were working fine (I think / hope this was incompetence rather than an attempt to rip me off). After an hour or so I'd lost patience and any trust in this engineer so I asked him to put by boiler back how it was and leave (the company have since had the cheek to try and bill me for the call out!).
After this debacle I decided to just go with British Gas using there fixed price boiler repair service. The fee is based on your post code and for my address, the price was £192. This price includes the call out, labour and parts for the first fault that is found and any connected faults. This aspect gave me some concern as when I hear things like this the cynic in me always thinks "don't worry, they'll find other faults!" It is also important and comforting to know that there is no fee if they cannot fix the problem and there is a 12 month guarantee on all work. There are other terms and conditions which can be clearly found on the British Gas website.
To book the service you call a free phone number. After taking a few details, including a card which payment will be charged to after the work is completed but excluding the make and model of the boiler as I was told they cover most boilers out there, the customer service representative said that as we had no hot water or heating we would have an engineer with us the following day between 8am and 1pm and that I would get a phone call 15 minutes before he arrived. As the morning went on all those stories of engineers not turning up when they should and thoughts of days off work wasted went through my head. Then at 1130am I received a call saying an engineer was on his way and would be there in 15 minutes. About 15 minutes later, give or take a couple, the engineer arrived.
My boiler was stripped down and the problem was instantly identified. The engineer said that he didn't have the part (a transistor board) with him but got straight onto a laptop and said he would order one and would be back the following day to replace it. Given the nature of the identified fault, he said that if there are any other problems, they might not be identified until this part was working again. The alarm bells sounded in the distance but I was happy so far! The only issue would be the fact somebody would have to wait at home the following morning for the engineer to arrive but this was a minor inconvenience.
The following day was similar to the previous one. We received a phone call well within the allotted time and the engineer was there within the 15 minutes. Thankfully, the part was replaced and the boiler fired up as it should with no other faults.
I accept that with such a big company that visits a lot of people on a daily basis there are going to be complaints and it is these that you often hear about. I cannot really have any. We knew what we would be paying (provided there were no serious problems), the engineer, who was polite and chatty, turned up when we were told he would and seemed more than competent at what he was doing and ultimately my boiler is now working again! Given that there are companies that will create work for themselves and find non existent problems, I think £192 is good value for a good service and peace of mind. They have also now probably found themselves a new customer for their homecare product (I already have my gas and electricity with them).
I cannot remember how I came into possession of this soup. I can vaguely remember somebody looking to give it away at work and being one not to pass up on the opportunity of a free lunch, I kindly took it off their hands!
Being a regular consumer of Heinz and Baxters soups, this was the first time I'd sampled one from Tesco's own range. The appearance of the packaging is not particularly appealing. The label (possibly different to the one pictured with this review) is largely and understandably a pea green colour with an image of a spoonful of the soup on the front. I suppose pea and ham soup is not going to be the most visually striking product but I do not think this image does the product any favours in terms of advertising! Most of what is shown on the spoon thankfully looks out of focus but what can be seen is still difficult to identify.
The rear of the label gives the nutritional information per 200g serving. I'm not sure if I've ever shared a tin of soup so per 400g tin there is 190 calories, 11.2g protein, 32g carbohydrate of which 4.4g sugars, 2g fat of which 0.6g saturates, 7.6g fibre and 0.8g sodium with the salt equivalent being 2g.
Also at the rear of the label is the allergy advice, which makes interesting reading! As well as stating that the product contains milk and celery, the section advises "Recipe: No nuts - Ingredients: Cannot guarantee nut free - Factory: No nuts". I think a "may contain traces of nuts" would have sufficed!
The actual ingredients section also warrants a read. The soup, as you expect, contains ham (2.5%) and also bacon. What I did not necessarily expect was for these two to contain almost as many of their own ingredients (in the form of for example - water, salt, preservatives and stabilisers) as the actual soup itself.
To open this soup you will have to get out your trusty tin opener as this one does not come with a ring pull lid. Once opened you are likely to wonder how to get the lid back on! The sight you are met with is almost stomach churning with as you look at a green, gloopy and congealed slop. I've chosen not to write what it actually reminded me of! When poured into a bowl there was no improvement as half of the contents remained set to the cylindrical tin shape until it was stirred. There was also no smell from the soup, something that I was quite please about!
The soup took approximately three minutes to heat up and thankfully the heat had improved things massively! The product now looked like a pleasant thick pea and ham broth. There were clearly a lot of peas (25%) visible but it was also good to see a large amount of ham/bacon. There was also now a nice aroma coming and for the first time I was actually thinking I might enjoy eating it.
On tasting the soup I was almost thrilled that it was acceptable. The pea flavour was very strong but unfortunately I did not really get anything from the ham, despite it being plentiful and despite all its ingredients! There was also good texture to the soup but I did however find myself getting a bit bored of eating it after a while as although the pea flavour was strong, it was a bit monotonous on its own!
As I mentioned, this soup did not cost me anything nut looking on mysupermarket.co.uk, it is priced at 52p which I think is average value for money.
As a treat for having to work this weekend, I thought I would wander away from my usual soups and try one of the Heinz "Big Soups". Browsing the selection in my local Tescos my eyes quickly settled on the "Exciting New Flavour" of Mexican Chilli Beef and Bean. I think my hopes were that this would actually be a chilli in a tin rather than a soup!
The soup comes in a 515g tin and is therefore just over 25% larger than a standard Heinz soup. The labelling is very different to the iconic red Heinz labels found on the vast majority of Heinz soups and is, instead, predominantly a dark green colour. The front of the label depicts an appealing picture of a deep red (tomatoes account for 25% of the ingredients) bowl soup packed full of vegetables and dark red kidney beans (8%) and advertises that the product is low fat and contains 181 calories per serving (a serving being deemed to be half of the tin). Looking at the nutritional information on the rear, I was particularly surprised to find that the soup was indeed low fat containing, per whole tin (that is a serving as far as I am concerned!), 8.2g of fat of which only 1.8g saturates. I was expecting these figures to be higher. The remainder of the nutritional information is as follows (per whole tin) - 21.4g protein, 50.8g carbohydrates of which 18g sugars, 5.6g fibre, 12.6 sodium with the salt equivalent being 3g. The salt levels are notably high with this equating to half of the 6g that is the guideline daily amount for adults. However, whilst I ate this as a lunch, it could quite easily form a larger meal if accompanied by some nice crusty bread.
On opening the tin, which as with most soups has an easy open ring pull lid, I was met with both a pleasant sight and mouth-watering aroma. Even in the tin, the soup resembled what was depicted on the label - which is not always the case - and there was a meaty and garlicky aroma coming from it. When poured into a bowl it was notable that whilst there was a lot of vegetables with the kidney beans, pinto beans (8%), onions and red peppers all standing out, this could not be the same for the chilli beef. With the soup being called Mexican Chilli Beef and Bean I presumed that there would be plenty of chilli beef within. Unfortunately this is not the case and I had to look hard to spot the small pieces dotted around sporadically. Looking back at the label, I was surprised that I hadn't noticed it in the image where this is also not a lot of beef pictured - at least there was no false advertising! The beef accounts for only 5% of the ingredients.
Heating the soup takes a little longer than regulation size soups. Using an 850W microwave it takes approximately 4 minutes in total and I would imagine 5-6 minutes if being heated gently on a hob.
After being heated the soup smelt even better than it did when cold and without trying to sound over the top, I was very much looking forward to trying it. Unfortunately, I think the combination of the attractive appearance and appealing aroma had built my expectations up a little too much! My first thoughts on eating it were that it tasted like I was eating something chargrilled and that the taste no way matched the smell. It was not unpleasant but not as I hoped. After the first few mouthfuls I think I just got used to it and overall I enjoyed it. The different beans improved the taste and thankfully these were plentiful!
This was my first venture into the "Big Soup" range and it will not be my last but I don't think I will be rushing to try this one again. This product would be available in most shops and costs around £1.18.