This is the last in the series of blogposts dedicated to brands we explored during the lockdown of 2020-21.
First Choice Produce
For as long as I can remember, Kris and I have always ordered our groceries online from Ocado and Waitrose. But when ‘waiting for slots to open’ became a national pastime, we had to explore other options. After a lot of research and asking friends, we finally tried First Choice. They are a restaurant and hotel supplier who started delivering to private homes once restaurants started closing. Besides the obvious benefit that they source some of the best seasonal produce from local and national farmers, I liked them for many other practical reasons as well. I liked the fact that they cater to diverse family sizes (their small box is perfect for child-free couples like us); they offer mixed fruit and veg boxes so you don’t have to buy them separately; and I found them very reasonably priced too (starting from £20 for a small box), compared to other similar providers. You can also buy extras such as meat, fish, pasta, bread, eggs and artisanal cheeses. It was not a huge range but did the job. Generally, we are quite predictable with our meal planning and what we get each week, but a few seasonal substitutes that we normally don’t use in our everyday cooking got us thinking and experimenting in the kitchen with new ingredients.
Infarm is a vertical farming firm that offers sustainable, locally grown and delicious herbs that have much less environmental impact than traditional agriculture. Infarm removes the distance between you and its freshly-grown produce by distributing its farms throughout the city, rather than building large-scale farms outside the city, which means less carbon miles required to get their produce into your weekly shop. This also means fresher, more flavourful produce that is both healthier for you and the planet. You can also find them at Whole Foods. We made a delicious Thai Basil curry with our fresh herbs that made for a perfect midweek supper.
We were recently sent some lovely Irish Trout products (pate, smoked trout and caviar) by Goatsbridge, a trout farm run by the husband and wife team of Mag and Ger Kirwan. With three generations of trout farming experience, Goatsbridge specialises in producing high quality Irish trout. Originating from the crystal-clear waters of The Little Arrigle River and with plenty of space to swim around in ponds, their Irish trout is high quality, stress-free fish with a unique taste and texture. Rainbow trout happens to be one of the healthiest types of fish to eat, being high in Omega-3s and a good source of Vitamin B12, so it was good to swap them with recipes that we would normally use with smoked salmon. It also has a milder ‘fishy’ taste compared to salmon. We used them to create some lovely festive canapés and a kedgeree for brunch.
Local Meat Plus *
Recently we discovered Local Meat Plus, a business based in East London, selling fresh fish and meat in the London area. They also offer authentic ready-to-cook fish and meat dishes which are delivered to your door. These dishes are often packaged so you do not need to do any preparation or cleaning afterwards. We tried their Seafood Boil and some chicken skewers from their Ready-To-Cook range. As a lazy cook, these suited me perfectly. What I liked most about it was that everything was washed and seasoned; all I had to do to was to take it out of the box and pop the sealed bag into the oven. These Ready-To-Cook meals are flavoured with ingredients representing 65 different countries so it’s a great way to explore a new world cuisine or find something familiar from your hometown.
One of our favourite meat delivery brands is Donald Russell. Over the years, we have ordered from them frequently, whether it is for a monthly meat stock up or for special occasion meals. The meat arrives frozen which you can then defrost and use as you go. From everyday cooking to Christmas roasts, their meat is exceptional quality and definitely great value for money.
Lockdown was an opportunity to discover and try new brands, and one of them was HG Walter. Highly recommended by one of our closest friends, the sausages were literally melt in the mouth and elevated our BBQs and classic comfort dishes such as Sausages and Mash.
Whilst we are definite meat lovers in the K&G household, we quite enjoyed including some plant-based alternatives into our everyday meals. What I liked about Meatless Farms was that not everything was soy-based (a common occurrence in meatless products); some of it was pea protein which better suited me. It also kept us filled for longer. I will never be 100% vegetarian or vegan but a swap to a plant-based meal every now and then, especially for good health and a happy Earth, is something I can get on board with. Plus it helped that they were tasty.
Naked Glory *
We were really impressed by these meat-free offerings from Naked Glory. I tried four of their products. The sausages and burgers were a good shout: great texture, herby and peppery, very similar to the taste of stuffing. They made for a great addition to our cooked breakfast or Full English. The mince was better than other meat-free mince products I have tried, both in terms of cooking and taste but it was still a bit dry and lacking that oily meaty flavour so I will stick to my normal mince for now. However, I was absolutely blown away by the Tenderstrips, which you can use in any chicken based recipes and turn them vegan.
Follow Your Heart*
As a cheese lover, I don’t see myself turning vegan anytime soon. But if there is one vegan product that can convince me otherwise it is Follow Your Heart. From its humble beginnings as a soup and sandwich counter in California in 1970, FYH have since transitioned into an internationally available and recognised plant-based food brand. I was genuinely impressed with the Original Vegenaise, the Smoked Gouda Slices and the Cheddar Slices. The vegenaise is so delicious I have been having some of it straight from the jar. You can’t tell the difference that this is vegan which is truly mind-blowing!
And if you thought I can’t go vegan because I love chocolate, the vegan chocolate bars from Raw will blow your socks off! One of their signature products is the Cream Filled Wafer: a crispy wafer loaded with vegan hazelnut cream and topped off with a coating of their chocolate.
DIPS, SAUCES AND CONDIMENTS
Lockdown was a great opportunity to up the home cooking game with these great new products I discovered:
SCOBO by Ramen and Sazeracs*
If you really need to turn the spice things up in your everyday cooking, look no further than the Scotch Bonnet Chilli Oil. This stuff is definitely not for the faint hearted so use sparingly to flavour up your everyday cooking!
I recently discovered Odysea, a Greek fine food producer, specialising in sourcing products from Greece and the Mediterranean. To add to their ever-growing range of premium dips and meze, Odysea have recently launched their new Ambient Houmous and their Sweet Red Pepper Meze.
The Houmous is the first of its kind in the supermarkets as it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, making it a great pantry staple and handy go-to dip. These premium dips are packaged in glass jars without any plastic, so a big tick for the environment. Moreover, it is naturally vegan and made with extra virgin olive oil for a rich, Mediterranean flavour and silky texture.
We are big fans of houmous in the K&G household and we inhaled the Ambient Houmous jar. We absolutely loved the deeply savoury flavour and the texture, thanks to the blend of cumin, tahini, and chickpeas, balanced with citrus notes. It went perfectly on our meze board and we found ourselves licking the insides of the jar until the very end!
Some of the other products worth exploring on their range are Odysea’s Sweet Red Pepper Meze, Aubergine Meze, PDO Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Kalamata Pitted Olives in brine, Baked Gigantes beans in Tomato Sauce and Stuffed Vine Leaves.
Holy Moly Dips*
If you get angry or feel the universe is conspiring against you when your avocado is not perfectly ripe, not ripe enough or gone brown, the dips from Holy Moly Dips are the perfect solution. Made of 100% pure Hass Avocado, free of any nasties and artificial preservatives, this is what every breakfast table needs. I slathered some of that creamy and delicious smashed avocado onto bread, topped with some chopped tomatoes and a fried egg to create breakfast in minutes without all the drama!
Skinny Food Co.*
It was obvious that skinny is not what I will be when I come out of this lockdown, given the amount of eating and snacking I am doing. Thankfully, the zero calorie syrups from Skinny Food Co. were great in helping me slather over the guilt. We made some delicious vegan pancakes which went perfectly with their signature Salted Caramel Zero Calorie Sugar Free Syrup drizzled over.
Sublime Butters *
Butter makes everything better! But flavoured butter from Sublime Butter takes it even further. Elevate your cooking with these flavoured butters; use them on seafood, steaks or scrambled eggs. They’re a must have for your kitchen pantry. We used them to create some delicious garlic prawns for a tapas night at home.
N.B. Some of the above products were gifted to me (marked *) with no obligation to write a blog post about them.