2013

Adam Marks, the owner and creative mind behind Mr Vikki’s consistently seems to hit the mark with his products, having been the recipient of the Fiery Foods UK Festival ‘ Best Chilli Jam or Sweet Chilli Sauce’ award and numerous ‘Great Taste’ awards over the past 6 years. Needless to say I was looking forward to trying Mr Vikki’s variant on a Harissa sauce when I received it through the post to review.

Harissa is a chilli sauce closley associated with North Africa and commonly found in countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, being used as an ingredient in many meat stews or as flavouring for couscous. Recipes from these regions usually favour the Africa Birds Eye chillies (also called Piri Piri) as a base for the sauce, with garlic and other spices such as coriander & cumin combined with some oil to make the final product. In their recipe, Mr Vikki’s have used Cayenne peppers supplemented with Red Savina to help give it an extra kick.

Ingredients:

Chillies (50%), Garlic (20%), Sunflower Oil, preserved Lemon 10%, Spices, Mustard, Celery Salt

Jar kindly supplied by Mr Vikki’s

Opening the jar I can smell a rich aroma of chillies, mustard & garlic with citrus lemon high tones. The scent is somewhat akin to a Indian lime pickle but much less sharp. The sauce is a rich dark red colour and you can clearly see the high percantage off chilli pulp, seeds and all, therein. Indeed it’s more like a paste rather than a sauce.

As I add a few teaspoons of the Harissa to some fish and rice, the warmth from the food accentuates the citrus tones of the Harissa and it’s the lemon flavour that hits me first as I taste it. The peppery taste from the Cayenne chillies then come though supplemented with flavour of garlic. I think the use of preserved lemon has work really well here. It gives the Harissa rich, citrus tones and a lemon flavour that is mildly sweet yet without the bitter, sharp taste that you would get from fresh lemon. The strength and balance of aromas in the Harissa are such that they enhance the natural flavours of the food rather than overpowering them. The heat from the chillies isn’t over powering, so I find it gives a pleasant warmth to the dish, rather than any fiery burn.

Overall this is a great tasting sauce that could be used in a wide variety of dishes: stews, risotto’s, couscous, burgers, lamb  – I’m even inclined to baste it on the chicken next time I’m cooking my Sunday Roast. Well recommended.

Available from Mr Vikki’s for £3.50 for a 110g jar.

Flavour
(8/10)
Heat
(4/10)
Packaging
(6/10)
Value (7.5/10)
Overall
(8.5/10)

 

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So I may have been living under a rock when it comes to large international manufacturers of sauce, but blow me down, Heinz make hot sauce now?! If you’re like me, and you would much rather pick up something local at the farm shop, or at the latest chilli event than consider the possibility that a multi-million pound company that is know for creating beans and ketchup has created something different, you’ll understand my shock! I know they have branched out with some other types of ketchup, and adding chilli to beans, but this is something quite unusual for me to comprehend, Heinz Hot Sauce – Green Jalapeno.

In a 150ml bottle, topped with a dropper lid with that recognizable label shape adorned in green and white text. Apparently ‘two chillies’ hot!  This new range comes in three flavours, this one being medium heat.

Ingredients:

Spirit Vinegar, Jalapeno Chilli (13%), Chilli, Sugar, Peppers, Onion, Garlic, Salt, Herb and Spice Extracts, Spinach Extract, Thickener – Xanthan Gum.

This beautiful mid green sauce has a thin consistency with plenty of pulp and seed bits in it. Sadly I opened the bottle to the acrid plastic ‘new lid’ smell, so I had to pour it out onto a plate to get an accurate sniff.

First impression is pickled onions. Not surprising really as the first ingredient is spirit vinegar. The taste sadly also reflects this. It is very tart, almost too sour (made my eyes water, and reminded me of when I drank a cup of vinegar just to prove I could). I get the occasional hint of garlic, and there is a little heat that is carried with the vinegar all over the mouth to get a little tingle, but unfortunately as far as taste goes, I can’t taste any peppers, any of the fresh Jalapeno tang, or make out any particular herb or spice. Just strong vinegar with a hint of garlic.

I would use this in place of vinegar on chips, in a sweet and sour recipe, maybe on a pizza or pasta dish. If you’re looking for a green, slightly garlic-y vinegar with a slight tickle then this is for you!

I have located it in some Tesco supermarkets priced at £1.49 per 150ml bottle. Perhaps the other larger supermarkets may also stock it.

Flavour
(1/10)
Heat
(2/10)
Packaging
(6/10)
Value (5/10)
Overall
(3/10)

 

 

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Here is a cracking story for you all. From generations of restauranteurs in their family, Sweet Mandarin were the winners of Gordon Ramsay’s F Word Best Local Chinese Restaurant in the UK. These incredible women from such an inspirational family have really made a splash with their restaurant and sauces. Appearing on Dragon’s Den and receiving an incredible deal with Duncan Bannatyne and even publishing a book, these ladies have the drive to do anything they set their minds to!

In a whopping 300ml bottle, the label is mainly black with a bamboo style border. Beautiful images of the Sweet Mandarin family and information surround the nutritional value.

Opaque, almost strawberry jelly colour and with quite a thin consistency, it smells like a very vinegary tomato ketchup. I can’t really add anything else to that statement. It is smooth in the mouth and has a very pleasant medium tang to it. A lot of the time when you buy a sweet and sour sauce you will be overwhelmed by both flavours. This has an obvious sourness but it doesn’t hold the same bitterness as you would expect with such a mix of acids. The sweetness has a rather subtle approach in appearing after the sour has gone.  As far as sweet and sour sauces go, this one has an equal sweet to sour ratio.

Ingredients:

Water, Tomato Ketchup (Water, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Tomato Paste 12%, Spirit Vinegar, Sugar, Modified Maize Starch, Salt, Citric Acid, Preservative (Potassium Sorbate)), Sugar, White Vinegar (Water, Acetic Acid 4.5%), Potato Starch, Fresh Lemon Juice, Fresh Ginger, Natural Red colouring.
Suitable for Vegetarians, Gluten Free, No MSG, No Artificial Colours

Bottle kindly supplied by Sweet Mandarin

I think it would be a perfect addition to a stir fry, on any sorts of meats or quorn (as quorn just absorbs the flavours it would be fantastic).  As a dipping sauce for the obligatory prawn crackers, chips, spring rolls, prawns. anything you fancy really.

Sweet Mandarin’s range of sauces can be bought from their website and are also stocked in Sainsbury’s in the ‘Free From’ aisle priced at £2.59, and at Selfridges, but I couldn’t tell you the price there. It’s definitely a sauce for anyone; from the sweet & sour connoisseur to the taste enthusiasts alike!

Flavour
(5/10)
Heat
(0/10)
Packaging
(9/10)
Value (7/10)
Overall
(6/10)

 

 

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It is not very often we get a product for review which comes direct from the hills of Mexico but here I have just that, Gran Luchito Salsita de chiles ahumados or Smoked Chilli Paste comes from those Mexican hills and is handmade by the Mexican farmers. It’s about as authentic as it could be. Apparently in between a paste and an oil, made so the locals can just pour off and use the oil when they don’t want the texture of the paste.

So to look at the shallow jar, it certainly looks authentic with some great artwork around the circumference of the jar and a nice big label on the white lid.

This label shows a Mexican Wrestlers or ‘Luchadors mask which is a link to the favourite pastime of the farmers that make the paste. Looking through the glass I can see the very thick oily paste within.

Once open, the paste is a deep brown colour and is very thick. It reminds me of a very slow cooked onion relish but the main ingredient on the label is Chillies, and these are a combination of 5 very rare Oaxacan (Pronounced Wa-Ha-Can) Chillies, the most important of these is the Pasilla Oaxaca. The Chillies are harvested when very ripe and smoked in Handmade Clay ovens fired with Oak to help preserve them before being roughly ground by hand for the paste.

The smell of the paste does not jump out at me, I offer the jar to my nostrils and can immediately smell the smokiness, the oak comes through along with a sweetness which is not from refined sugar but from Dark Agave Nectar which is apparently sweeter than Honey.

I take a spoonful from the jar, there is plenty of sunflower oil in the paste which has turned a lovely dark brown. The first taste is a very deep smokey note, and this is where the review gets difficult, as usually I have something to compare the taste to, but I honestly haven’t tasted anything like this, it is unique because it is made in Mexico by Mexicans who really know their chillies. I’m sure they don’t have an exact time for smoking the Chillies or a specific texture to achieve. This is rustic artisan produce at it’s best, no horrible preservatives or additives here, just flavour and more flavour which comes in waves.

Ingredients:

Mexican Chillies (20%), Onions, Corn oil, Dark Agave Nectar, Balsamic Vinegar, Sunflower Oil, Garlic, Vinegar, Salt, Spices

Jar kindly supplied by Gran Luchito

I can detect onions but only a hint which is good as they are not allowed to over power the flavour of the Chillies. The heat comes soon after the full on smokey flavour and sweet hints, its a pleasant burn that never overpowers the complex flavours here but stays around and I can feel the burn on all parts of my mouth and throat, which I would imagine would be due to the mix of different Chillies and their differing burning effects.

The Gran Luchito website states “If you think you know chilli, think again, from the land that invented it. It’s a different kind of heat” I think that statement is spot on, there is such a complexity to the flavour of this paste, it isn’t something I have ever tasted, especially knowing where it has come from and the love that has gone into it.

You can buy direct from Gran Luchito website where a 110g jar costs £4.99

Flavour
(9/10)
Heat
(6/10)
Packaging
(8/10)
Value (8/10)
Overall
(9/10)

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