Treat yourself! Thursday, Feb 8 2018 

We’re all aware of the box craze that’s been sweeping the internet these past couple of years, tempting time-poor millennials in particular: the beauty box. The veg box. The snack box. And so on.

Now there’s the treat box. With Valentine’s Day coming, and January over, what other excuses do you need to send (or, OK, receive) a box of treats in the post? Treatbox is among the newest entrants to the subscription box market to fulfil the dreams of everyone with a sweet tooth. And I have a sweet tooth.

Don’t worry about getting locked into a monthly subscription either: while of course you can go down this route, you can also buy one-off gifts for loved ones who are far away, or just to try out for yourself. While sadly for the moment it’s only available within the UK – so hardly appropriate for those of us with a more international base of friends and family – it should still serve a useful purpose in terms of last-minute gifts for those we love (and impulsive gifts for ourselves!).e202a96bc9c14c1e8f3ff7cbee0811d6

I’m all about the vintage sweeties that hark back to my childhood, so the Candy Lovers or Retro Sweets box would do it for me. But if you’re more of a chocolate fan, there’s selections for you too. And if you love liquorice, Treatbox’s selection of Pontefract cakes, liquorice logs, Dolly Mixtures and more will have you salivating.

The code TREATME10 will snag you 10% off your first order. In the meantime, you can follow them on Instagram (@treatboxcom), Facebook or Twitter while you decide. Sweeeeeet.


Ferret Food Monthly: October 2016 Wednesday, Oct 12 2016 

Reviving Ferret Food Monthly after a loooooooooooong hiatus…

Connected cup brings drinks

A little alcohol-based news for you now! Malibu has invented a cup that will enable you to order more drinks without ever leaving the dancefloor. Say bye-bye to the bar queue and twist the base of the cup to have your drink brought straight to you. An industry first, the Malibu Coco-nect cup (shaped, predictably, like a coconut) uses wifi and RFID technology to send drinks orders to the bar and pinpoint your location. Once the order has been accepted, a light at the bottom of the vessel changes colour, and when your drink is ready, the base of the cup flashes to let the server know where you are once they are in the vicinity. Ten prototype cups were trialled this summer with the system set to be rolled out further in 2017 – meaning that you’ll never have to miss a moment of the fun. To watch a video of the cup in action, click here.

cacao-picSweet like chocolate

In other news, chocolate actually burns fat now. Yes, really. We’ve known for a while now that high-cacao chocolate is good for you (at least 70% cocoa solids) and this just adds one more benefit to the list. According to Callum Melly of, cacao is rich in flavanols and polyphenols, which can prevent cardiovascular disease, reduce the risk of stroke, improve circulation, reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol and prevent hardening of the arteries. Drinking hot cacao before a meal helps us to consume fewer calories during the day and leads to a natural calorie deficit and weight loss. Furthermore, cacao contains MAO inhibitors which can suppress your appetite. To get the maximum benefits, try cacao nibs or even 100% cacao chocolate. If nothing else, cacao is rich in anandamide (for a sense of euphoria), phenethylamine (endorphin trigger and aphrodisiac), and magnesium (to protect against osteoporosis and diabetes as well as lowering blood pressure), and can even boost serotonin levels (for stress relief). So by all accounts – come, fill the cup!

Hello, My Name Is Salted Caramel Friday, Mar 4 2016 

Safe to say I haven’t been here for a while. WHOOPS.

Just thought I’d pop in to extol the virtues of a latest favourite:


Shamelessly stolen from

These are brilliant. They are like Cadbury Caramels, only incrediblererer. A whole bar of delicate chocolate shells encasing a river of salted caramel goodness!

I only have two problems with them. One is that they are so delicate that they do not travel well AT ALL, meaning that if you try, you will most likely end up licking said salted caramel goodness off the inside of the wrapper. Not cool!

Secondly, there is their lack of availability. In UK supermarkets I have only ever found them in Tesco (so far) – where at least they tend to be on offer. Even overseas, where they tend to sell other products from Lindt’s Hello, My Name Is range, the salted caramel version is nowhere to be seen. Note: this is NOT to be confused with the Hello, My Name Is Caramel Brownie. They are entirely different beasts.

Upshot is, they are delish. I may have to result to buying in bulk and having massive cases of these shipped directly to my home.

So where do you buy yours? And if you haven’t tried them yet – why on earth not? GET THEE TO THE SUPERMARKET.

Bloomin’ delicious Tuesday, Aug 6 2013 

Got any summer birthdays coming up and don’t know what to get for your mum, sister, best friend or whoever?

NEVER FEAR. Because I just found out about some amazingly foodie gifts that dare to be different. As they’re all on the theme of flowers, they’re perfect for summer. And surely every girl likes chocolate…right?!

This first one shouldn’t even melt in the sun, and even the least green-fingered (like me) should be able to get them to grow. They’re CHOCOLATE FLOWERS. YES. GENUINELY.

Straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, these sprout flowers that smell of chocolate. The £9.95 kit (from Prezzybox) includes everything you need to get started, including pots, compost, chocolate-scented daisy seeds, and plant markers. An original gift that’s rewarding on so many levels – especially for those who are dieting!

If you want chocolate flowers you can actually eat, try these:

At £5 per posy, they’re not cheap but look divine. Created in Italy and made partly from sugared almonds, they’re then pulled together with crepe paper for a delicate gift. NotOnTheHighStreet also offers chocolate roses priced at £7 for nine small ones or £40 for 5 large ones (and by large I hope they mean ‘the size of your own face’).

I also like the look of these flower chocolates from Selfridges, which cost £28 for a 175g box and contain some of my favourite flavours – including rose and violet:

flower chocsIf you’re too tight, you can always make your own chocolate flowers, using this:

flower mouldA mere £3.95, also from Selfridges, this flower mould allows you to pour in your melted chocolate (and any flavourings or toppings you may desire) before refrigerating and (maybe) gifting your new shapes. It’s naturally reusable too – and in this weather, also works brilliantly for flower-shaped ice cubes. Now let a thousand foodie flowers bloom 🙂

O cioccolato Saturday, Mar 16 2013 

I’m studying Italian by distance (i.e. mainly with the help of my Auntie Sarah, who studied the language at university and has been an aficionado of it ever since), and I love tasting chocolate of all kinds, from Cadbury to Valrhona. So when these two hobbies came together in the form of some Italian chocolate bars for me to test, needless to say I was pretty happy.

baratti milanoThe first one up was from a brand called Baratti e Milano, which was founded in Turin in 1858. Perhaps strangely, they don’t emphasise their chocolate-making much on their website, which focuses more on their bar, restaurant and café business. Their chocolate is also not widely sold online, so you might have to wait until you’re in Italy to get your mitts on some. This was a 75g Gianduja (read: hazelnut chocolate) bar, with its cacao content barely tipping the scales at 31%, making for a creamy milk chocolate. Cost-wise it came in at around €5, which is probably about the highest-quality branded chocolate you can get for this price (Valrhona and Amedei both cost more), although contenders Lindt and Montezuma both cost less.

It’s easy to see why those two brands do cost less. Baratti e Milano’s chocolate’s main distinguishing feature was the different levels of flavour in its milk chocolate, with caramel being particularly prominent. However, on another level, we felt its value for money was limited, as it was almost too sickly sweet, with sugar overpowering cacao considerably. Texturally it was also too soft – and nope, nothing to do with how we were keeping it (we have a wine fridge which is permanently set to keep wine cool, and quite often our chocolate stash ends up in there too, to be kept at an optimal temperature).

Also costing around €5 a bar was the bar of Slitti chocolate, made by a Tuscan firm. This weighed in at 100g and the cacao content was higher as well, at 60%. It was flavoured this time not with hazelnuts but with coffee (hence the name of the bar we tried: Caffè Nero). The brand makes more of its chocolate on its own website (even though the firm did not begin making chocolate until 1988), although the page itself is not set up well for practical use. Thankfully, however, Slitti chocolate is slightly more widely available for purchase online – try Chocolatiers, Crediton Coffee, or Mediterranean Direct for your own supplies.

But what about the taste? When broken, the Slitti chocolate had that ‘snap’ sound that all good chocolate should make – so texture-wise it was already a good start. It also had a good strong flavour that wasn’t too sweet and was complemented well by the coffee, which is achieved through ground coffee – not through artificial flavourings. However, on the downside, the inclusion of the coffee did lead to a slightly gritty texture, and this bar did not melt as easily in the mouth as the Baratti e Milano bar.

This doesn’t mean, though, that our adventures in the realm of Italian chocolate are over. Far from it – we are still great lovers of the Amedei brand, and are still on a mission to test out other Italian classics, including Venchi, Domori, Perugina, and Agostoni. Luckily for me, my husband’s going to Rome for work before the end of March – I’ll be ensuring he leaves plenty of room in his case so that further testing can commence…

Have a break, have a…matcha Kit Kat? Sunday, Jan 13 2013 

I love Kit Kats. They’re one of my top go-tos if I’m feeling stressed, probably because I have a weird way of eating them. Using my teeth, I prise off the top layer of chocolate. Then I eat the small thick square pieces off the ends. Then the long sides. And finally the long layer of chocolate at the bottom, so that I’m left with just the wafer. Then I eat the wafer (you didn’t think I was going to do something weird like throw it away, did you?!). And so onto the next bar. If this is one of those 4-bar Kit Kats, this takes quite a while. (It’s quite an intricate operation, you know.) And by the time I’ve finished, I’ve forgotten whatever it is I was worrying about.

The entire delicate process of eating an ordinary Kit Kat means that the Kit Kat Chunky just doesn’t have the same appeal. I therefore wasn’t really aware of any other types of Kit Kat. UNTIL, for the pot luck lunch at my work, one of the parents brought in a whole box of these:

matcha kk

This is a matcha (green tea) flavoured Kit Kat from Japan. This is what happens when you work in a fairly international climate. You hear about four different languages as you walk down a corridor, you hear a range of accents and levels of language acquistion in the classroom and staffroom, and you get to try weird new foods.

So how was the matcha Kit Kat? The chocolate is a pale green, and so is the cream that fills the wafer. Disappointingly, though, it just tastes like white chocolate, with any green tea flavour not being distinct.

I was surprised to learn, though (thanks, Wikipedia!), that Japan has introduced over 200 Kit Kat flavours since the year 2000, including ginger ale, crème brûlée, and café au lait – all of which I’d love to try. The power of the internet also permitted me to recall the existence of the orange Kit Kat, which was briefly on sale in the UK (if I remember rightly, it didn’t actually taste that nice). I also discovered that a Cookies and Cream version of the Kit Kat has been available in Britain since 2012: now just how did I not know that before?!

So what flavours of Kit Kat would you like to see? Continuing along the tea theme, I reckon a version flavoured with one of my favourite teas, Lapsang Souchong, would have plenty of mileage…

When the weather outside is frightful… Sunday, Nov 4 2012 

Even before the snow sets in, the weather can be just shocking in autumn, thanks to miserable drizzle and high winds. Despite being armed with Ugg boots (do they look ridonkulous? Yes. Are my feet warm? Yes. CASE CLOSED.), there’s little I love more on a blustery autumn weekend than curling up in front of a log fire with a good book, some folk music, and a homemade autumnal snack. Here are a few of my suggestions for you.

PARKIN. Originating in Yorkshire, this is a wonderful treacly mess fused together with oatmeal, and spices, meaning it’s sweet, warm and filling. Any classic recipe will do – and there are many. But what I like to do is serve it with Lapsang Souchong – a smoky tea that’ll really complete that Bonfire Night feeling.

PUMPKIN PIE. This is an American dessert that hasn’t quite made it across the pond into France yet, so naturally my froggy husband was initially suspicious. However, with the right mix of spices and a puréed consistency of filling, it makes a satisfying dessert that contrasts nicely with the crunch of the pie crust. Serve with orange juice (slightly warmed in a pan first if you like).

ROAST CHESTNUTS. A savoury option this time! If you have them “au naturel”, roast in the oven until the skins are black, and then peel them off and eat straight away as soon as your fingers can take the heat. Another fun way to cook them is to wrap them in foil, and throw them into an open log fire if you have one, extracting them with tongs. Assam or oolong tea would be a good accompaniment here – the chestnuts already have a creamy, smoky flavour that you don’t want to be overridden by a strong tea like Lapsang.

CRUMPETS WITH MARMITE. OR CHEESE. This one’s a bit of a cheat as most people don’t make their own crumpets (although with a flat pan and some metal rings, you can), but it’s a bloomin’ marvellous autumn snack. Just pop a few crumpets in the toaster and, once done, garnish with a few wafer-thin slices of Cheddar, and/or a slick of Marmite. Say no more.

HOT CHOCOLATE, HUNGRY MOUSE STYLE. This takes a little more effort than your standard instant hot chocolate. You need to order the cocoa nibs and then have a means of breaking them down (the best way is to use a coffee grinder), before whisking this powder together with milk, cream, vanilla, and perhaps a few spices. Cardamom is nice. Top with extra cocoa nibs. The Hungry Mouse’s instructions are excellent, and I recommend that you follow them.

Curl up on the sofa, and enjoy! And remember that there’s only 50 more sleeps ‘til Christmas! *squee*

Gü puddings less than gustatory Sunday, Apr 1 2012 

Friday night. Pay day. Husband not coming home in time for dinner. What better way to indulge than to pay up for something that had always been recommended to me by dear friends, but that I had never tried – Gü puddings? I was sure I couldn’t go wrong. In the supermarket I remembered the main reason I’d never tried them before – the price. At nearly €4 for two they’re not coming cheap. However, that is still only €2 per pudding, and includes a glass ramekin that you can keep. I’ve also heard they go on offer from time to time (rumour has it that at times they can be found in Britain for £1.90 per pack of 2).

I went for the version which go by the name of “moelleux au chocolat” in French. Could not find the exact equivalent product in English, but essentially it’s a chocolate fondant. Looking forward to this, I duly popped them in the oven for the 13 minutes stated at 170°C.

Now, it’s possible that I overcooked them, as I have a fan oven and temperatures and cooking times can vary slightly. However, I shouldn’t have been wrong for more than about 10°C, or about 1 minute’s cooking time, which shouldn’t drastically affect the results. And just what were the results? Something distinctively “un-Güey” – it was little more than a chocolate sponge, and while it tasted nice, it was definitely drier in texture than I had expected.

“What can I say?”, I said to friends in a Facebook status later on, “…mine’s better. That’ll teach me.” And it really had been, for just five days before we had made chocolate fondants at home, following Rowley Leigh’s idiot-proof recipe. Moral of the story? Home baking is definitely best. Sorry Gü.

The world’s best chocolate? Sunday, Feb 19 2012 

I had been busy extolling the virtues of Valrhona chocolate to friends on Facebook when one of them, a bloke named Chris, asked if I had ever tried Amedei, an Italian brand of chocolate which is often heralded as among the world’s most expensive. I hadn’t, but made it my mission to do so.

This turned out to be surprisingly easy. With retailers all over the world, and the chocolate’s high reputation, I was astounded to have not come across it before. A selection from Harvey Nichols was therefore soon winging its way to my parents’ address in the UK for our delectation (French retailers of this brand are strangely lacking in spite of the country’s close proximity to Italy; we tried one Parisian establishment, da rosa, only to be met with a surly reception and to find they no longer stocked the brand anyhow).

We had ordered three 50g bars – two of the Toscano Black (63% and 70% cacao respectively), and one of the Gianduja (32% cacao). In addition, we’d also plumped for a 180g box of 16 Amedei pralines. This order came to a whopping £34.80 before we’d even thought about delivery.

The selection box struck us as being the worst value for money. While the chocolates within it were delicious, provided a good range of flavours, and gave us a better idea of what types of Amedei we would consider purchasing in future, the Valrhona equivalent box (180g of a selection of praline chocolates) comes in at more like £15 – which, for many, is significantly more affordable than £23 for the same amount of chocolate. Put another way, the Amedei chocolate is 53% more expensive in this regard.

To compare the bars was trickier. While the Amedei bars are possibly more refined, there is relatively little of them: each 50g bar costs £3.95, whereas Valrhona’s versions are around £3.55 for 70g. So it seems you get a little bit more bite from the Valrhona bars – at least financially (although by Keeper’s reckoning they have more bite taste and texture-wise too). Taste-wise, the Amedei bars are perhaps creamier, whereas the Valrhona bars are more tannic, but that doesn’t necessarily make one ‘better’ than the other – just different.

The expense of Amedei’s chocolate certainly makes us consider carefully whether or not we would purchase again, but as far as I can tell, it’s not enough to stop us completely – otherwise why would I be trawling the internet now, ahead of our trip to New York next week, looking for places where we can buy and drink the stuff?…

Where can I purchase Amedei?

As mentioned, Harvey Nichols is a good place to begin for UK buyers. Other retailers include The Chocolate Trading Company and Kings Fine Food. For American purchasers, Chocosphere gets rave reviews as an online retailer. As for us, we’ll be heading to Food Emporium, Worldwide Chocolate, and/or to MarieBelle’s for our fix in New York next week.

Confectionery Review: Lucky’s Wednesday, Oct 26 2011 

When Lucky’s offered to send me a free box of their chocolates, I jumped at the chance (come on, free chocolate? You wouldn’t be able to resist either). The main draw for me was that unlike most commercial chocolate (as opposed to ballotin-ridden, artisanal, sold-in-posh-boutiques chocolate), Lucky’s focuses on using Valrhona chocolate (which I believe I’ve already spoken about at great length). However, they are no ordinary chocolate company, firstly for their focus mainly on cake, and secondly for their Alice in Wonderland theme.

I was initially a little disappointed when the box arrived due to the Alice in Wonderland theme not being as obvious as I’d hoped. When I showed the box to my husband, and asked him what it reminded him of, he promptly came out with the name of some modern art guru that nobody’s ever heard of. A far cry from the white rabbit and Mad Hatter, then.

But let’s get to the important stuff: the cakes. They’re roughly Fondant-Fancy size, are square, and have the Lucky’s logo on top of them. On the website, you can create the box by choosing any combination of 12 cakes from the following flavours: Salty Insanity, Going Bananas, Looney Raspberry, Fruity Rhapsody, Chunky Nutter, and Mocha Madness. However, my box contained not only 2 Looney Raspberrys, 2 Coco Rush and 2 Chunky Nutters, but also one each of Salty Insanity, Fruity Rhapsody, Fancy Fudge, Hurry Bunny, Nutty Delay, and Sour Kick – of which half, as you will have noticed, are not available on the website for selection for this particular gift box. Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say.

Anyway, it was certainly beneficial to test a fuller sample of the range of flavours the company has to offer. Plus, since they were so large, we were able to cut each cake in two, thus making the box last longer and allowing us both to test all flavours. Despite my husband not being a fan of white chocolate, he enjoyed the Looney Raspberry more than I did, whereas I preferred the Fruity Rhapsody. As you will remember from my toffee-and-caramel-related tirade in my post on Quality Street vs Roses, it was great to see a genuinely diverse selection of flavours available. As well as the fruit versions, there were traditional nutty variants (Chunky Nutter, Nutty Delay, Coco Rush) and a fudge version (Fancy Fudge). Hurry Bunny – a white chocolate, cinnamon and blueberry confection – was risky yet strangely alluring.

However, to me the stars of the show were the more innovative creations: namely Salty Insanity and Sour Kick. The former is described on the website as “Valrhona 60% cacao dark chocolate…sea salt caramel notes”, while the latter combines honey cake with apricot compote and 40% milk chocolate. These I could happily eat a whole box of.

But what goes up must come down, and unfortunately there were a few downsides. It perhaps goes without saying that the Alice in Wonderland thing needs to be played up far more strongly if done at all. Secondly, and funnily enough, with all of the other flavours incorporated into each cake, the high quality chocolate sadly ended up taking a back seat: in a blind taste test you would not know it was Valrhona. Finally, perhaps the biggest drawback lies in the price; while the flavours are strong and the cakes are well-made, at £35 for 270g net weight, it’s really very expensive for what it is. Fine for a gift at a push, but I would have reservations about spending this amount on myself. Plus, even if I did have £35 to spend on chocolate (or indeed cake) I find myself thinking I would get a better deal elsewhere, whether at a mainstream chain (you can have 1kg of chocolate for this price at Jeff de Bruges, for instance), a posh supermarket (at Marks and Spencer, for your £35, you can have this, for example – which, you’ll note, serves 40 people), or even an independent chocolaterie.

So sorry, Lucky’s – it might be a nice idea as a one-off gift for friends or relatives this Christmas, but I don’t think I’ll be joining your roll of regular customers anytime soon.

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