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There is always something happening in supermarkets - new products, product demonstrations, shelves reorganised so you can't find anything. Not always interesting, quite often boring and sometimes a chore but just occasionally something catches your eye, something is interesting . . .

Heinz Squeeze & StirHeinz Squeeze & Stir

How popular is cup-a-soup? I would think there are few kitchen cupboards that do not have a packet or two, especially with teenagers who are too lazy to do much food preparation. In case you are unfamiliar with it cup-a-soup is an instant soup product sold in a powdered/dehydrated form contained in a sachet. The soup is made by putting the contents of the sachet into a mug or cup, filling the mug with boiling water and stirring the mixture.

Cup-a-Soup is actually a brand name for Batchelors Cup-a-Soup (in the UK) but has entered the language as the term for any similar soup, much like words such as Google and Hoover have done.

As far as I am aware Heinz have never been involved in marketing such instant soups but the company's soup sales must have declined over the years as a result of instant soups. It would appear that Heinz is looking to fight back through this new product, Heinz Squeeze & Stir.

This is how Heinz describes the new soups:

A range of rich instant cup soups, perfect as a snack or with a sandwich. Available in four tasty flavours, including the nation's favourite Cream of Tomato. Each recipe is made from a concentrated puree to give you a thick and delicious cup soup, simply add boiling water, stir and enjoy. Guess what? Each recipe also counts as 1 of your 5 a day, is low in fat and has no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or MSG. 'Real soup goodness, in an instant'.

I tried two flavours, "the nation's favourite Cream of Tomato" and Cream of Tomato with Basil (I don't like Minestrone nor vegetable soups) and I have to say they tasted good. I am not a great fan of instant packet soups as there seems something unnatural about dehydrated foods and what might be in them.

Heinz Squeeze & StirThey are simple to make. You just rip off the top and, as the title suggests, squeeze the contents into a mug. The first time I made it I measured the water quantities but decided this was a bad idea as no-one eating soup like this has got the time to be fiddling around with water measuring. It is simpler (using a standard size mug) just to squeeze the soup into the mug, add enough boiling water to enable you to mix the water and paste until it is smooth, then top up with more boiling water. The mug does not want to be full to the top as this will it watery and lose some of the flavour but if you get it right you will have a tasty soup and, if the description is right, one that "is low in fat and has no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or MSG".

[MSG is Monosodium glutamate, also known as sodium glutamate, is a salt used as a flavour enhancer. There are health concerns about the use of monosodium glutamate in food but little proof that they are justified. MSG is a sodium salt of glutamic acid which is a natural constituent of many fermented or aged foods, including soy sauce, fermented bean paste, and cheese, and is also a component of hydrolysed protein such as yeast extract. If something can naturally occur in food should it be regarded as harmful?]

My conclusion was that the Squeeze & Stir products were good, especially for those needing something in a hurry and not having a saucepan available to heat up a tin of soup. The two I tried tasted as you would expect them to (like the Heinz tinned soups). The question is will the catch on? I doubt it because the instant dehyrdated/powder soups are so firmly fixed in people's minds when it comes to this sort of thing and it does seem a bit more fiddly than just ripping open a packet, adding the water and a quick stir. On top of that will enough supermarkets stock it in a prominent position long enough for it to gain a customer following.

Conclusion is it will not be around in twelve months time but nice product.

Editorial note: This site is not paid to promote any of the products or places featured in this newsletter.

Spanish fire roasted peppers

Char Grilled Vegetables

Char grilled vegetables are a firm favourite in Andalucia during the summer months, translated as ‘escalivada’ this side dish is served cold usually with meat such as barbequed chicken or pork. We first learned about this recipe whilst enjoying a barbeque with our Spanish neighbours, the vegetables were prepared the day before and left in the kitchen to cool overnight ready for peeling the next day.

Spanish char drilled vegetables are very easy to make although you have to allow a couple of hours for the vegetables to cool, if you are planning a relaxing summers weekend cooking outdoors then this delicious recipe is perfect and packs a real Mediterranean flavour punch.

The ingredients for escalivada are simple – onions, tomatoes and red bell peppers, this recipe is also a great way of using up those peppers and tomatoes that are looking a bit tired in the back of the fridge. The golden rule is a layer of hot coals on the barbeque (wood fired barbeques are best for the smokey flavour), once the barbeque is generating some serious heat add the onions to the grill, the onions always go on first as they take the longest to cook, peppers and tomatoes follow when the onions become soft. Barbequing the vegetables is simple, they just need to be turned every five minutes or so, peppers should turn jet black and the tomatoes soften until the skins begin to fall away. Cooking medium sized onions will take around half and hour with the peppers and tomatoes being ready in less than 10 minutes.

When the vegetables are done remove them from the barbeque and wrap them in good old fashioned newspaper – an Andalucian trick that makes them easier to peel. Leave wrapped up for a couple of hours or until cool enough to handle. Now for the messy part… peel the vegetables by hand, they do not have to be completely clean, in fact some burnt pepper skin adds to the whole flavour. Once peeled it is then a simple process of chopping the veg into strips and pieces, scissors work well for this. Once fully cooled mix together in a bowl and place in the fridge.

Spanish Char Grilled Vegetables

For serving your Spanish escalivada the vegetables need a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some fresh bread kept handy for mopping up the juices. Escalivada is a great side dish and very aromatic whilst cooking over the hot coals, it may take a few hours to make but the recipe is simple and most definitely worth the wait! You can of course make this recipe using only red peppers, fire roasted peppers have a sweetness that will compliment a whole range of barbequed meats as well as being a tasty ingredient for salads. Roasted peppers also go well with sliced Spanish ham or other cured meats such as lomo pork tenderloin balancing the light salty flavour with a sweet hint of barbequed pepper, add a spicy olive oil for delicious Spanish tapas. Escalivada will keep refrigerated for up to three days but by far the best way to enjoy is to eat within 24 hours and serve with your chosen meats. Happy barbequing!

Spanish Ingredients Direct from Spain >>>


Most curry recipes call for a lot of spices which can be a bit daunting when first trying to cook a curry. This recipe is a lot simpler but will still taste delicious.



5 tbsps oil for frying
1.5kg braising steak, cubed (not too small because of the long cooking time needed to thicken the sauce)
800g red pepper, chopped
450g onions, chopped
12 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 in (7.5mm) ginger, peeled and grated
900g skinned tomatoes (or 3 cans)
1 tbsp Madras curry powder
2 level tsp salt
3 heaped tbsp sage
5 heaped tbsp parsley

How to make:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions and peppers until browned.

  • Using a slotted spoon remove the onion and pepper to a blender and liquidize until very smooth.

  • Fry the garlic and ginger for 1 minute in the remaining oil in the pan, (low to medium heat - don't burn!) add curry powder and fry for another minute.

  • Add the onion and pepper paste and stir well.

  • Add the meat and bring to the boil.

  • Liquidize the tomatoes and add to the pan together with the salt and herbs.

  • Cook on a moderately low gas, without a lid, until really tender (probably 2 - 3 hours depending on how tender the meat is, although the longer cooking time does produce a more intense sauce).

    Do keep your eye on the curry during cooking. You want a nice thick sauce at the end, but if you find the sauce is reducing too fast you can put a lid on to prevent further evaporation.

  • Serve with plain boiled rice or pilau rice and perhaps a vegetable side dish if you really want to impress.

This recipe freezes well so you can make a batch and freeze it in individual portions until needed

Serves 12


Portobello Mushrooms are pretty much available all year round in the supermarkets, but if you can find some that have been locally picked at this time of year then they have an extra autumnal character, making a humble soup into a special seasonal treat. This recipe comes from



50g butter
½ a medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
40g plain flour
900ml hot chicken stock
450g Portobello Mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
100ml single cream
salt and pepper

How to make:

  • Melt a large knob of butter in a frying pan and gently cook the onion and garlic until softened, covering the pan so they don’t brown.
  • Add the flour and cook gently for a minute or so, stirring all the time.
  • Add the stock gradually, continuing to stir.
  • Add all but a large handful of the mushrooms, and parsley and cover.
  • Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes until the mushrooms and onions are tender.
  • Leave to cool a bit and then liquidise.
  • Fry the remaining mushrooms in another knob of butter until they start to brown and add them to the soup.
  • Cook gently for another 5 minutes.
  • Add the cream and season to taste.

Serves 6


17th / 18th September La Hogue Producer Fayre

  • La Hogue farm is holding its 6th annual Producer Fayre on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th of September 2011, which has now grown into one of the largest food festivals in East Anglia.
  • Over 60 producers, including many from Suffolk, will be offering free tastings of their products together with information on how they are produced. The producers include local meat and game farms, bee-keepers, fishermen, quail producers, cheese producers and their cows!
  • The fayre takes place between 10.00am and 4.00pm both days and entry is FREE.
  • This year’s special guest is BBC Masterchef finalist, Dr Tim Kinnaird.

For directions:



Ingredients for Lemon Meringue Pie 

Pastry for flan case:
6 ozs plain flour
4 ozs margarine
1 1/2 desert spoons water
Pinch of salt

Filling and topping:
4 level tablespoons cornflour
Grated rind and juice of one lemon
Half pint water
8 ozs caster sugar
1 oz margarine
2 eggs

How to make Lemon Meringue Pie

Making the pastry:

  • Preheat the oven to 190°C / Gas Mark 5
  • Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and rub in the margarine until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the water to form a firm dough.
  • Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Roll out the pastry into a large circle big enough to fit a 7 inch flan ring. Ease the pastry into the flan ring and press smoothly round the side and bottom. Cut off the surplus pastry with a sharp knife.
  • Line the inside of the pastry case with some greaseproof paper and then fill with baking beans.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes and then remove the baking beans and the paper and return to the oven to bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Making the filling:

  • Mix the cornflour with a little water to make a smooth paste.
  • Put the remaining water and margarine into a medium-sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour over the blended cornflour and stir well. Return to the saucepan and cook for 3 minutes stirring continuously.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the rind and juice of the lemon together with 4 ozs of the caster sugar.
  • Separate the egg yolks from the whites and stir the yolks into the cold lemon mixture. Pour the mixture into the flan case.

Making the topping:

  • Whisk the egg whites until they stand up in stiff points when the when the risk is lifted out quickly.
  • Add 2 ozs caster sugar gradually and whisk again until it is as stiff as before.
  • Fold in the remaining 2 ounces caster sugar with a metal spoon.
  • Pile the meringue mixture roughly over the lemon filling so that it is completely covered.
  • Bake in the middle of a preheated oven for 25 minutes at 150 °C / Gas Mark 2 and then leave to cool before serving.

Serves 6



Buying and Preparing MusselsMussels should only be eaten when there is an 'R' in the month (even though these days you can buy them all the year round) so September is the start of the new mussel season. There is nothing quite like a bowl of freshly cooked mussels and they are easy to prepare and cook yet a lot of people are afraid to do their own because of tales of food poisoning they have heard.

Follow a few simple rules and you can enjoy the freshest of mussels at home and they are still great value . . . which means bigger portions!

These are a few very simple rules for you to follow which were provided by Chef Jim Fisher of CookInFrance cooking holidays.

  • Choose your mussels with care, buying them only from reputable supermarkets and fishmongers.
  • Raw mussels are always sold live: they should be shiny, mostly unbroken and closed, and generally smell of nothing other than the sea.
  • Get them home straight away and cover them with plenty of cold fresh water (mussels don't like tap water, so they shut up and wait for the real tide to come in!).
  • Scrub them well and remove any barnacles and the tough fibrous 'beard'. Throw away any with broken shells.
  • Raw mussels that refuse to close when rapped on the side of the sink are dead: throw them away.
  • Mussels that remain closed having just been through the cooking process were dead before you bought them and should also be chucked out.


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