Taste Test

The FoodChain team sample a selection of new and innovative foods and drinks

Sweet sensation
Two new limited-edition, flavoured hot chocolates are being added to the line up from fine tea, coffee and hot chocolate specialists Whittard of Chelsea. Inspired by the likes of classic desserts and childhood confectionery, Whittard continues to push the boundaries with its new options, which layer unexpected flavours with chocolate bases.

Rhubarb & Custard was the first to makes its debut in January. A British retro sweet shop favourite reimagined, sherbet-sweet flavours of rhubarb and creamy custard meet white chocolate for a lip-lickingly luscious pink treat.

Banoffee Pie is due to launch at the end of February as part of Whittard’s Easter campaign in March. This white hot chocolate is sumptuously sweet, with flavours of creamy banana and molten toffee.

“This was a weekend treat for me, on a wet, dark and cold January evening. I made it with half water half milk, as I’m still getting over the Christmas excesses, and it mixed easily with no lumps. The result was a vibrant pink hot drink, and I really could taste each individual flavour, rhubarb first as that is probably the most distinctive, but the sweetness of the creamy custard and the delicious white chocolate came through next. A delectable treat!”

High quality H2O
Established since 1989, Hildon Natural Mineral Water is bottled by Hildon Limited at the source on the Hildon Estate, in the heart of Hampshire. Known for its exceptional quality and well-balanced taste, Hildon Water has been singled out as the preferred bottled water by the world class sommeliers at the Institute of Masters of Wine, and is accredited with a Royal Warrant.

Alongside its award-winning taste profile, Hildon also aspires to continually challenge its environmental performance and enhance it through various projects and research.

“I usually drink the filtered tap water from the office water cooler, and I was thinking ‘water is water’ before I tried the Hildon. But the differences between the two was actually very noticeable – the Hildon was fresher tasting, and definitely less metallic and had no trace of a chemical smell or aftertaste. Is it possible for water to taste softer? I now think so! I can see why the Royal household stocks Hildon water – I was very impressed.”

Ultimate comfort food
Top chef Nigel Haworth, who is known as a champion of regional and sustainable produce, has unveiled his first range of ready meals. The result of two years of development, Food With Roots includes one of Nigel’s signature dishes, Lancashire Hot Pot, which features tender English lamb braised slowly with onions, while the Beef and Ale Hot Pot has succulent braised beef with carrots and red onion. Finally, a Curried Chicken Hot Pot gives a Far Eastern twist to the British staple, while non-meat eaters can enjoy the Vegetable Hot Pot, which combines aubergines, courgettes, peppers, red onions, tomatoes and a hint of chilli.

The Hot Pot portions were generous and stated that they would serve two people – however, one hungry tester easily demolished the Beef and Ale version on his own! Impressed by the richness of the sauce and the plentiful amounts of meat and veg included, he said he would definitely purchase again. The Lancashire Hot Pot had a more subtle and delicate flavour, but again wasn’t stingy on the filling.

The sliced potatoes gave a lovely crispy addition too.

Snacks with benefits
Why shouldn’t a sweet snack be good for you? That’s the question that Indie Bay asked, before it created its new Cheeky Pretzel Bites with Benefits, a fun and tasty reinvention of the chocolate pretzel – crunchy, light, delicious, and under 150 calories per portion.

Beautifully baked and coated in chocolate, thanks to ancient grains, alternative flours and wholesome seeds, the bites are naturally packed with protein and filled with fibre, so they deliver on goodness and taste delicious too.

Available in handy 31g bags, the pocket-sized snacks are perfect for lunch boxes, handbags, meetings, parties, or whenever you fancy something chocolatey.

Dafna Bonas, founder of Indie Bay describes the product as ‘taking chocolate pretzels to the next level.’ “Our new Cheeky Chocolate Bites are truly delicious and moreish, a fun twist on a classic that bags all the benefits, without the guilt,” she added.

Our tester loved these little bites! “They start out with great packaging, which is the perfect snack size. The bites have a smooth chocolate coating, then a really crisp bite inside, with a hint of salt from the pretzel. A source of fibre is always a big tick from me – I will definitely be looking out for these in shops.”

Hand held curry
Brothers Jake and Nayns have built a reputation in the food service industry, supplying high quality restaurant food for major high street restaurant chains for the last 16 years. Taking inspiration from their significant food production experience, the brothers have launched a range of on-the-go street style food, including the award-winning Naanster.

A recent addition has been made to the range, which upholds all the qualities of the original, award-winning Naansters. It is designed to be eaten with just one hand and doesn’t fall apart when being eaten. It also boasts a no ‘red traffic light’ nutritional policy. The new vegan Chickpea Naanster is a hand-held, light and fluffy naan bread filled with delicious chickpeas and cauliflower in a tikka sauce, pilau rice and mango chutney.

The resident vegan was first in line to try the Chickpea Naanster, and the review went into the ‘rave’ category. “The naan was nice and soft, and the curry was warm but not too hot. I could pick out all the different elements that were in there, with the sweet chutney making a lovely addition. The ingredients were clearly of good quality, it doesn’t feel like processed food, and was easy to eat on the go – I thought the packaging was great too. There’s not many brilliant vegan snacks that I would go back to but I sought this out in Sainsbury’s and repurchased, which shows how highly I rated it!”

Naturally potent
The power of Manuka honey should not be underestimated; it’s a great staple to have around the home in your kitchen or first aid cupboard. However not all Manuka Honeys are created equal – with an excellent pedigree, Manuka Lab Manuka honey is harvested, extracted, processed and tested to the highest quality, working in partnership with the landowners in New Zealand and with the utmost respect for the environment and for the land, plants, animals and people from which the Manuka is sourced. All Manuka Lab Manuka honey is sustainably harvested and is fully traceable from plant to pot with proven Plant Origin and Manuka Honey Potency measured by the amount of MGO (methylglyoxal) in the pot. The higher the MGO, the better the antimicrobial properties are.

Our tester was delighted to assess the benefits of the Manuka Lab Manuka honey, as he is very much an enthusiast for natural remedies. He tried the Manuka Honey 300+MGO (£54.99 for 250g), and while he included it in drinks and cooking, he mostly enjoyed it straight from a teaspoon (up to four times a day). “I felt under the weather and so decided it was the perfect time to see if I could tell the honey was helping,” he said. “I found it brilliant for relieving nausea and calming on the digestive system, and the sweet honey taste was great for a low appetite. I haven’t tried it on a sore throat but I don’t doubt it would help! I see this as investment in my own wellbeing – the quality of this product shone through.”