CoOp Watermelon Lollies

Ingredients

Water, Watermelon Juice from Concentrate (20%), Sugar, Apple Juice from Concentrate (10%), Glucose Syrup, Chocolate Flakes (1%) (Sugar, Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Powder, Emulsifer (Soya Lecithin), Flavouring), Gelling Agent (Pectin), Concentrates (Safflower, Carrot, Spirulina), Citric Acid, Thickener (Locust Bean Gum), Flavouring.

Allergy Advice: Soya.  May contain peanuts, nuts, milk.

Aren’t these cute?  The ice lollies, not the Allergy Brothers!  Allergy Little gets very cross if you call him cute.  The red part of the lolly is watermelon flavoured with chocolate pips, and the green “rind” is apple flavoured.

The Allergy Brothers weren’t very impressed, but they are not big fans of frozen desserts.  I thought they were really yummy.

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The Olive Branch, Wivenhoe, Essex, UK

A crucial part of the Christmas story is people making long journeys from the Middle East and finding themselves without accommodation.  It seems in keeping with the season to review a Syrian restaurant in the UK.

The Olive Branch (1a Station Road, Wivenhoe, CO7 9DH; 01206 615741; website) is in a fairly unprepossessing building.  Despite this, on a Friday lunch time on a cold, drizzly December day, there was nearly no room at the inn, or tables in the restaurant.  Luckily, the customers were feeling positive, and strangers ended up sharing tables so everyone could fit in.

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I (gluten and dairy intolerant) visited with my friend (severe nut allergy).  When we stated our food needs, there was absolutely no sign from the welcoming staff that this was in any way a problem, and it wasn’t.  The only physically uncomfortable feeling was eating slightly more than we should have because it was so delicious!

We ordered a platter for two, and were given the choice of vegan or vegetarian.  My friend had a hankering for halloumi so we went with the vegetarian option.  We were so eager to get stuck in that I forgot to take a photo so the platter is already looking a bit wrecked in the photo.  Our platter consisted of hummus, falafel, marinated halloumi, tabbouleh, warak inab (vine leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables), marinated olives, baba ghanouj, midammas (seasoned fava beans in a sauce), green salad, and pickles with flat breads or, in my case, toasted gluten free bread).

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To accompany the platter, we had freshly squeezed orange juice and minty lemonade.  The food was excellent.  This is the sort of vegan restaurant to take a confirmed carnivore to.  They will be so excited by all the different flavours, textures and spices that they will completely forget that there is no meat in the meal.  The only things I can think of to improve this meal are that, although it was great to have gluten free bread available, it would have been nice if it was more like the flatbread normally served; this would be perfect.  The only improvement to the restaurant would be moving to a slightly bigger building so more people can enjoy this fabulous food.

 

Mrs Crimble’s Big Bakewell Slices

The Mrs Crimble’s range have new packaging so I thought I would test out a product.

Ingredients – Sugar, rice flour, eggs, rapeseed oil, coconut, potato starch, palm oil, humectant:vegetable glycerol; glucose syrup, apricots, rice starch, dextrose, strawberries 2%, almonds 1%, stabilisers: locust bean gum, sodium alginate, modified corn starch, pectin; flavourings, salt, raising agents: sodiumbicarbonate, glucono-delta-lactone; invert sugar, lemon juice, preservative: potassium sorbate; acidity regulators: citric acid, calcium citrate; elderberry juice, concentrates (lemon, safflower), plant extracts (turmeric, paprika).

Hygge is so last year, apparently the new Scandinavian philosophy on the block is lagom, which is frankly much easier to say.  Lagom is a Swedish word meaning everything in moderation, not too much, not too little.  An associated part of Swedish culture is fika, which is not easily translatable, but roughly means “coffee with cake and chit chat” so not working too much, but stopping for a break.  This seems like a philosophy I can get behind as I too am partial to a mid-afternoon break with something sweet; obviously, as I am British, I have to drink tea, but the vibe is similar.  And this slowly brings me to Mrs Crimbles’ bakewell slices.  I appreciated that they were individually wrapped, which encouraged me to eat them in moderation.  Lots of gluten free products are very small portions and these are big Bakewell slices so actually the size of a gluteny version, just right.  They are also quite lagom in that the textures are nicely balanced with a crisp base, squidge of jam and topped with softer sponge.  I’ll be honest there is nothing moderate about the sweetness levels, but, as I ate these to prepare myself for the gauntlet that is the school run, I appreciated this.

Old El Paso Mexicana Street Market White Corn Tortillas

Ingredients – Water, white corn masa (43%), stabilisers:glycerol, xanthan gum; salt, emulsifier:mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids.

I found these, unexpectedly, in the world food aisle at the supermarket.  I nearly didn’t check the ingredients list because there was bound to be something Allergy Brothers-unfriendly in there.  So glad that I did.  No wheat, no egg, no rice.  Amazing.  I just about restrained myself from doing a happy dance right there.

We had previously tried some corn tortillas from The Cool Chile Company.  They were delicious, but needed cooking and had to be eaten straight away.  This new product from Old El Paso seemed more convenient.

Firstly, we tried them hot, which needed only 30 seconds in the microwave (you can also pan toast them or heat them in the oven).  We ate them filled with pan-fried turkey strips, sliced cucumber and avocado, and Zest vegan pesto.  Obviously not traditional Mexican food, but safe for the Allergy Brothers to eat.  I appreciated how quick this meal was to make, and that the Allergy Brothers’ plates were empty because they enjoyed the tortillas so much.

We were curious to see whether you could use them cold as wraps.  The tortillas are pre-cooked with instructions on how to heat them.  Allergy Little volunteered to be our test subject and ate a cucumber and vegan cheese wrap.  It was so good that he had a second.  This meant, that for the first time ever,  the Allergy Brothers could have something that looked like a regular sandwich in their packed lunch for school.  They were very pleased.

Abakus Hickory Nuts

20160516_100804Ingredients – Hickory nuts (91%), Sugar, Salt.

May contain sesame seeds and traces of other nuts.

OMG!  Dear God, these tasted good.  So rich, they were almost buttery.  Sweet and salty.  Simply the best tasting thing I have ever put in my mouth.  Really.

I was wondering why I had never heard of these nuts before.  It turns out that they are, according to the internet so it must be true, difficult to shell.  The packet states that these Hickory nuts are shelled by hand, which is presumably labour intensive and expensive, but oh so worth it.  Move over pecans; despite being from the same genus, you have been sent to second place by my new favourite nut, the hickory nut.

Amy’s Kitchen Manhattan Veggie Burger

Ingredients – Organic quinoa, Organic mushrooms, Organic onions, Organic celery, Organic carrots, Gluten free oats, Organic walnuts, Organic tapioca starch, Organic chickpea flour, Organic tomato puree, Sea salt, Sunflower oil, Organic garlic, Organic sugar, Filtered water, Organic potatoes, Cider vinegar, Organic molasses, Organic green sweet peppers, Hickory smoke flavour, Distilled white vinegar, Ground mustard seeds, black pepper, spices.

 

I quite like Amy’s Kitchen products (I reviewed their Breakfast Bun, and Burrito favourabl20160516_094206y) so I had high hopes for this product.  The packaging suggested four cooking methods: hob, barbecuing, oven or microwave oven.  The first time around I tried the oven method as it meant I could cook some oven chips simultaneously. I was rewarded with some salty, dried out, cork coasters.  Not good.  The second time, I fried them on the hob.  This was much more successful.  The moisture and flavour was sealed in.  The texture was better.  I could also actually taste the mushrooms and quinoa.  So, depending on the cooking methods available to you, this is either awful or quite nice!