First up is a selection of products from Why Nut. They are very local to me as they are based here in Reading and Cigdem (the owner) was kind enough to send me some samples from her range of pistachio and hazelnut products. I received trial size pots of pistachio and hazelnut pastes along with two packets of Antep pistachios. I saved the whole pistachios for snacking on as they are one of my favourite nuts and a rare treat. The flavour is completely different to any pistachios I've tried before, very intense and fresh tasting. I've tried each of the pastes in buttercream and the hazelnut was my favourite. I made a hazelnut buttercream to top some chocolate and raspberry cupcakes, then a few weeks later I made a pistachio buttercream to use as a filling for shortbread biscuits. For each of the buttercreams (made with 100g butter and 200g sugar) I used approximately 2 tsp of nut paste to give a subtle hint of colour and well defined yet mellow nutty flavour. I also enjoyed the hazelnut paste drizzled over my porridge with a little dark chocolate and a few raspberries, this was actually the inspiration for my cupcake recipe which I will try and post soon.
Something a bit different next with a selection of herbal sweets from Ricola. This week (7th May) is national herb and honey week in the UK and each flavour from Ricola contains the famous 13 herb blend (marshmallow, horehound, burnet, cowslip, elder, speedwell, lady's mantle, peppermint, mallow, sage, plantain, yarrow and thyme) which adds a distinctive minty herbal taste to each sweet. The original and liquourice sweets are both sweetened with stevia whilst the lemon mint, orange mint and elderflower flavour sweets are all sugar free and sweetened with aspartame. I was a bit surprised to see this and I hope that stevia can be used to sweeten the other flavours as even though I liked the taste of the lemon mint and elderflower in particular, I'm not a big fan of artificial sweeteners. The click top boxes are available to buy in many supermarkets at £1.35 RRP and are a convenient size to keep in your bag.
As a lover of French patisserie I am rather partial to brioche. I was sent a selection of three different Brioche Pasquier products to try: pitch chocolate (a chocolate filled brioche), pain au chocolat and pain au lait. The pitch range features a individually wrapped brioche which are handy for lunch boxes and the chocolate flavoured one which I tried contained hazelnut which reminded me very much of that famous French chocolate hazelnut spread beloved by kids and adults nearly everywhere. The brioche and pain au chocolat are both soft with a lovely buttery flavour. Nothing beats pain au chocolat from a bakery but these make a good substitute for a snack on the go.
Finally, I was sent a selection of loose leaf green and white teas all the way from China. TeaVivre are based in China and they sell teas produced using traditional Chinese methods. Many of the teas are also organic. I drink quite a lot of green tea though usually just from a teabag so it was a real treat to be able to enjoy these loose leaf teas. I was very impressed with the quality of the tea, each sample pack contained whole leaves and the delivery time from China was fairly quick, it took about 10 days for my tea to arrive. I think the prices are very reasonable and once I've finished my samples I would be more than happy to buy more tea. The prices for the teas I tried ranged from $12.90 to $18.90 for 100g packets with 14g samples available to buy at $2-3. I was sent samples of 5 teas and I've made a comment of what I thought about each one. I also found it interesting to see the evidence of the different processing methods reflected in the shape of the leaves. The Dragon Well leaves look like they had just been pressed whilst the Mao Feng leaves undergo further drying and look more like the loose leaf teas I have seen before.
Bi Luo Chun Green Tea (Pi Lo Chun) - this tea has quite a fruity flavour which I found reminiscent of peaches.
Organic Tian Mu Mao Feng Green Tea - this has the most classic green tea taste and was my favourite to drink for breakfast instead of my usual green teabags.
Organic White Peony (Bai MuDan) Tea - a stronger tea flavour than the silver needle jasmine tea with a more subtle floral fragrance yet still very light.
Jasmine Silver Needle White Tea (Mo Li Yin Zhen) - a very light delicate tea with the unmistakable jasmine aroma.
Thank you to all of the brands that sent me products to try. As always, all opinions are my own. If you would like to see your products featured in a round up post similar to this one then please feel free to get in touch via email.