Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Twelfth day of Christmas - champagne!

So, we've made it to 12! The 12 days of Lidl middle class Christmas, with many thanks to Sara Dorman.

Price: £11.99

Score (out of five): 3

Review: So, every year either Aldi or Lidl come out top on a pre-Christmas blind champagne tasting. I can't remember who voted Lidl top this year, but someone did, someone alerted me and a bottle was bought. Adoring blog fans, the things I do for you...

We were invited to a very middle class pre-Christmas dinner by the rector of our church, so I figured that'd be the perfect place to road-test it. Look at those glasses! I was impressed.

Not that impressed by the champagne, though. I like my champagne dry and crisp. If you like your champagne sweeter, then you'll really like this Lidl champagne. Alas it didn't float my boat, however I can imagine you could easily swig back loads of it at a party without really noticing.

Oh, and over dinner I got a top-tip on Lidl cava. It seems what to buy from Lidl is the middle class dinner party conversation this season.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Eleventh day of Christmas - Candy Canes

So far, Lidl have been doing a brilliant Christmas for us. And because Sara reviewed the mini-stollen, I've not got room in the 12 days of Lidl Christmas to do a review of the full-size stollen. But suffice to say, it's much better than Tesco's Finest stollen.

But, as we know to our cost, not everything is brilliant in Lidl, so our 11th day of Lidl Christmas, courtesy of guest-blogger Sara Dorman, is a bum note.

Price: 99p

Score (out of 5): 1 

Review: If you're just looking for canes to decorate your tree then by all means choose these, but if you are actually thinking of consuming them, stay well away.

These candy canes lack all but the tiniest hint of minty-ness.  Candy canes are meant to be sweet, but intensely flavoured. These are sweet and bland. It's not even that they have - heretically - been flavoured cherry or strawberry. There is a hint of mint, but only a hint.

And look out tomorrow for the twelth day of Lidl Christmas!

Tenth day of Christmas - Favorina Marzipan Log

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, ten lords a leaping. Well, if my partner were a lord he'd be leaping with joy that the Favorina Marzipan Logs have turned up in our local Lidl.

Price: 99p

Score (out of five): 4

Review: my partner likes Lidl Christmas because it's when they start selling their Favorina Marzipan Log. 

Now, I've tried to get him to write a post, but he's having none of it. I'm not a fan of marzipan, so I'm not best-placed to review this product. I have tried a little bit of one in the past, and it's not as sweet as most marzipan, so if I had to eat it I'd like it.

I've managed to get the above score out of my partner. Questioning him some more (no one expects the Lidl inquisition) I managed to get "they're ok", "nice marzipan, nice chocolate". Inspirational prose, I'm sure you'll all agree. Anyway, on the basis of his words, if you like marzipan, I can recommend the Favorina Marzipan Log. And if you don't like marzipan, and want to put a smile on the face of that marzipan-lover in your life, then this is the one for you.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Ninth day of Christmas - A Lidl Christmas Party

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing. Well, no, he didn't. I had a bunch of choristers singing Nine Lessons and Carols. As I've talked about in my other blog, I attending evensong almost every Sunday at the Church of St John's, Princes Street, Edinburgh. On the last Sunday before Christmas they do a service of Nine Lessons and Carols, followed by mulled wine to go with the choir Secret Santa present opening. As top hanger-on of the choir, this year I agreed to do the mulled wine and nibbles, and I thought what better way to cater than a Lidl party.

Price: c £45

Score (out of 5): 3 1/2

Review: so, my shopping list consisted of:

  • Favorina gingerbread assortment (lebkuchen)
  • Favorina mini spekulatius
  • Favorina cherry and marzipan chocolates
  • Deluxe sea salt and crushed black peppercorn crisps
  • Deluxe mature cheddar and red onion crisps
  • Deluxe gravadlax salmon with dried tomatoes
  • Multiseed bloomer bread
  • Oatlands oranges
  • Oatlands lemons
  • Favorina mini spekulatius
  • Favorina gingerbread assortment
  • 8 mini Christmas crackers
  • Bourdeaux SupĂ©rieur
  • Crabbies Ginger Wine (doesn't really count as I can buy it anywhere)
  • Snowy lodge sugared almonds
The wines, lemons and oranges went into mulled wine using the Guardian’s perfect mulled wine recipe and the food was served as was. It was just an experiment really to see if I could cater for a wee Christmas party from Lidl. First off, I should’ve heeded Sara Dorman’s advice on the seventh day of Christmas to make sure you get to Lidl as soon as the Christmas stuff starts appearing; because once it’s gone it’s gone. So, if you’re looking at my shopping list above and thinking “that’s a bit random”, well it is. That’s what was left on the shelves, pretty much. No mince pies; no more stollen; and I’m glad I had bought the lebkuchen a month ago to bulk it out.

But, what I had was very nice indeed. Particular highlights were the marzipan, cherry, chocolate bites. As I will describe in one of tomorrow’s two posts, I’m not a marzipan fan, but these were really very nice indeed. The gravadlax was very nice as well, with half-decent farmed salmon. The cheese and onion crisps were good too – I like odd flavour combinations, so I thought these went well with the lebkuchen. The sea salt and pepper crisps were a bit too peppery for my tastes. Overall though, I would strongly recommend Lidl for catering for your Christmas party.

And as a Christmas treat, you can enjoy this phone recording of the choir singing The Holly and the Ivy (or the last two verses anyway):

Friday, 19 December 2014

Eighth day of Christmas - Favorina Mini Panettone

Price: 99p

Score (out of five): 3

Review: I've come to think that panettone is a bit like limoncello and other odd liqueurs - its a gift you're given and thank the giver profusely and then think "what do I do with this?". Now, I know you're supposed to slice it and serve it with apricot jam, but if you're not Italian do you really have time, or the stomach space to eat one over Christmas?

For this reason in our house they sit around in their box until the summer when I get sick of the sight of it and put it in the food waste bin. One year I made a very nice bread and butter pudding with one, adding brandy to the custard, but my partner didn't like it so that's never been made again.

So, I was quite excited that Lidl sold mini pannetone. I went for the chocolate one. It was alright. Nice flavour, but not as light and fluffy, like a fine butter brioche, as the pricey ones from Edinburgh's finest deli Valvona & Crolla. They'll do for an elevenses snack over the festive season, but I wouldn't give them as a gift.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Seventh day of Christmas - Mini Marzipan Butter Stollen

Another guest post kindly created by Sara Dorman.

Price: £1.99

Score (out of 5): 4

Review: These bite-size stollen morsels are perfect with a cup of coffee half-way though the morning. 

Studded with sultanas, filled with marzipan, and lightly covered with icing sugar, everyone in our family loves them. We devoured them last Christmas and took a package to the Highlands over half-term to celebrate their return in October. 

They're okay straight out of the package, but reach truly great heights when heated for about 5 minutes in a warm oven. Normally I wouldn't put anything sugar-covered in the oven, but this works. Just make sure they don't get too hot, as marzipan burns can be painful. 

Distinctly more-ish, if a bit pricier than the rest of the range. 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Sixth day of Christmas - frozen goose

UPDATE - they're back in stock!
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, six geese-a-laying. Alas, the subject of this post's laying days are long gone. This is another post that's based on past-experience, I'm afraid. And I don't even have a photo to go with this one. I was going to try and take a sneaky snap in the freezer aisle, but my local Lidl has already sold out.

Price: £17.99

Score (out of five): 3.5

Review: two years' ago we hosted Christmas with my mum and a friend at ours. I thought I'd go with a Lidl goose as they were selling slowly so I managed to get one, and I don't like turkey. Due to our small fridge, it was impossible to do what Lidl suggest and defrost it in the fridge, so it ended up being sat on the kitchen window sill overnight on a day when the temperature hit 16 degrees. It survived though.

We had goose for Christmas a couple of times when I was growing up - I particularly recall the year of walking into the kitchen to find a guilty-looking cat, a gnawed cold goose joint and little piles of cat sick around the place. It was a bit too rich for the wee thing. 

One thing to note about Goose, generally, is that like most waterfowl, it's all fat, wing and chest cavity. This very much applies to the Lidl goose. If you're feeding four it'll just about stretch. If you're feeding your extended family of twenty, then you'll be starving or eating a lot of sprouts. If you want that sort of goose then you are going to have to go to a butcher and get a much bigger, and more expensive one.

But for £17.99 it was fine. Just enough fat came off it for the roasties. The meat was moist and succulent and it went very well with an apricot stuffing from Sainsbury's. 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Fifth day of Christmas - Wooden Marble Run

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me FIIIIIIVE gold marbles...

Another fantastic guest post by Sara Dorman, this time including video! I need to up my blogging game.

Price: £9.99

Score (out of 5): 5

Review: The marble run has been one of our most successful Christmas presents. Don't be misled by the brightly coloured wooden blocks, or the 3-10 labelling. It's not a toy for toddlers. It is best suited to the 5-7 range - and may need some parental or grandparental assistance to make it fully successful.

If, like us, you've not encountered a marble run in childhood, it's a very basic wooden toy, but requires calm hands and focus. There's a short video below if you want to see them in action. On the whole it is a co-operative rather than a competitive game - a nice contrast to endless games of Monopoly, especially for us #middleclassparents.

There are plastic versions around and other places to get them, but the Lidl version's solid wood has a lovely, classic feel, and, as you would expect, the price is more then competitive. You can easily pay £20 on for a similar new set, and used ones are for sale on ebay for £10, while really elaborate sets range from £60 to £150.

I grabbed the last two in stock a couple of years ago, one as a present for our children and one for a friend's child. At the time, I felt a bit sheepish about giving a present from Lidl, but this one is a real keeper. It's not a toy to leave out, as it will get lost, but an ideal one to bring out on rainy days, or when grandparents are visiting over the holidays.

In fact, we liked it so much, that we got another set secondhand - the video below shows my recent creation using a combination of the two sets:

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Fourth day of Christmas - candle-style fairy lights

I've realised I'm on a hiding to nothing with this 12 days of Christmas theme. I can't quite manage actually matching the things in the songs and if it wasn't for guest posts, I would be struggling. Someone suggested a turducken for today's post, but I'm not eating that much meat for my blog. So, not four calling birds, but some Christmas tree lights. 

Price: about £4.99 I think (I had a mental budget I wouldn't go over)

Score (out of 5): 5

Review: this isn't the best review, I'll confess. I bought these a couple of years ago and was hoping they'd turn up in the Thursday special aisle this year, but so far, nothing. 

I was just after a string of cheap, white Christmas fairy lights. My local "niche retailers" (Poundland and Poundstretcher) either had nothing, or multi-coloured things that played tinny music. I thought I'd go with these as it was better than nothing and they were cheap.

If you look closely at the tree, you'll see what they're like - 20 fake white plastic candles, with LED bulbs on top and green plastic clips that the green wire goes through and that clip onto the branches. I feared the worst - that the transformer would look like it would burn my house down the moment I looked away; or that the LEDs would flicker like the fake candles you get in Catholic churches.

But they're actually really good. I think they look quite smart. I think my partner thinks they look naff. With a very well decorated tree, with the room lights off, then they actually work really well. What I particularly like is the clips make it very easy to direct the light in the right direction. It's quite easy with the traditional fairy lights to end up with them all pointing inwards or downwards, whereas these are bright and illuminate the decorations wonderfully.

I'd always thought the German tradition of putting real candles on your Christmas tree was a tad dangerous - essentially as the tree dries out you're creating a fire hazard - Christmas tree en flambe. Last Christmas at a German friend's housewarming I got to see what all the fuss is about. And I realised our little cheap Lidl lights are quite a good ersatz version of the real thing.

Oh, and I got to try German fire punch for the first time:

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Free range chicken

Obviously, this is what it looks like cooked
On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me three (well one) French (well, British) hen(s)

Price: £3.29 per kilo

Score (out of five): 4

Review: it was with trepidation that I bought my first chicken from Lidl. The Sunday roast is a bit of an event in our household so this could have ruined a week's meals. But I figured at that price I couldn't go too far wrong.

And I have to say, I've always been very impressed indeed. I roast mine with lemon, garlic rosemary and butter for about 1 hour 20 minutes for a four pound bird and it makes a fantastic Sunday roast and leftovers for chicken pie during the week, The flesh is always very moist - I eat a leg with my Sunday lunch and it really is divine. And the skin is always crisp and tasty.

I used to buy my chickens from Tesco and would either go for corn-fed free range, or Finest organic free range, if I was feeling particularly flush. I always find with all Tesco chicken there's an odd rubbery texture to it, it's a bit flavourless and bland. The Lidl chicken could not be more different.

It would get a five-star review, but at the price they sell it at, I do worry slightly about quite how free range the chickens are. Once the bird I bought had one leg decidedly smaller than the other, which did show it had probably been running around a lot, albeit in circles, but did leave me thinking. Please, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, don't do a expose on the atrocious conditions in a Lidl chicken farm. I really like them.

Shame Lidl don't stock fresh rosemary. Whenever I do this for Sunday lunch I always have to go home via Tesco to get it.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Gingerbread Hearts with Apricot (coated in dark Chocolate)

My second 12 Days of Christmas post, is a guest post!

Price:  99p  for 300g

Score (out of 5):  4.5

For years we only ever went to Lidl at Christmas time.  That was because we had discovered these Lebkuchen.  Unfortunately, most years we only remembered to look for them in December. BIG MISTAKE.  October-November is the prime time.  Now that we’re more regular Lidl shoppers, the big challenge is to not eat them until December…

We’ve tried lebkuchen from some other places, but the Lidl ones remain our favourite, and by far the best value.  My only complaint would be that they can be a bit bashed up at times when you open the packet.   They also do milk chocolate ones for the same price.   But the sweetness of the apricot jam filling is nicely offset by the darker chocolate.

Lebkuchen are not their only gingerbread product, of course., but I find their Gingerbread rounds (79p or £1.49 for the posh ones)  a little too dry.  On the other hand, the Honey and Hazelnut gingerbreads (£1.79) , which look like little stars, are our new best find of the year, but rather pricier.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Deluxe Red-legged Patridge

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree. This is the first of my 12 days of Christmas posts where me and guest bloggers will try and review 12 things that appear in Lidl before Christmas.

Price: £5.99

Score (out of five): 4

Review: well this was one of those random freezer section purchases from Lidl. We'd never eaten partridge before, so it is a bit difficult to do an honest review as I can't compare it to a Scottish partridge that'd been hung in a game butcher for a while.

I also didn't really know how to cook it - I browned off the skin in a casserole dish with some oil and then chucked in some carrot, onion and garlic, and popped the lid on and put it in the oven for 15 minutes then took the lid off to brown it off for the last ten minutes of cooking. Alas this didn't leave it the golden colour on the serving suggestion photo.

But it was very tasty. Very gamey, obviously and remarkably fleshy as well. My general thought was I'd now like to find some good partridge recipes and try again. 

Oh, and I know that the 12 days of Christmas start on Christmas Day and count down the days that it took the Magi to arrive, hence the carol. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

W5 All In 1 Dishwasher Tablets

Price: £3.99 for 40 tablets

Score (out of five): 4 1/2

Review: I'm comparing these to Finish Powerball Tabs which we used to use. I bought those from Lidl regularly as well, as they were often on a special offer that was just cheap, not a special offer. 

My Lidl has a permanent few billboard spaces in the car park behind it, and I bought my first pack of W5 dishwasher tablets after these got a Good Housekeeping award and this was on a billboard. Being a sucker I thought I'd give them a whirl.

On their first outing I was a little bit disappointed. I'd put a greasy roasting tray in that I'd used for roast potatoes and everything came out with a slight sheen of grease on it. I was a bit worried that this would be one of the accidental Lidl buys - something that's actually a bit crap and you've got loads to get through. I think if I'd used Finish the grease would've been washed off, but that's probably because Finish contains chemicals I'd rather not use. I've now learnt to wash off any excess grease before I use these and they're now my standard dishwasher tablet and are excellent value for money. What's more, because they're gentler they're not running our cheap crystal glasses from TK-Maxx like Finish was.

In this Guardian article where a woman "downsizes" from Ocado to Lidl she is very disappointed with the dishwasher tablets. I can only think she went for the absolute cheapest, not these. I would definitely recommend these. 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Green Grocer's Frozen Petit Pois

Yes, that is a Lidl frozen lobster peeking out underneath...
Price: 99p

Score (out of five): 5

Review: frozen things are something Lidl do really well. I think this is because in continental Europe frozen food isn't seen as naff as it is in the UK. It's recognised that freezing is a great way to preserve and then serve great food. I remember listening to a Food Programme on Radio 4 a while back about the poshest supermarket chain in France that is essentially what we'd call Iceland.

Lidl's frozen petit pois really are excellent. They're such a bright shade of green it's vaguely worrying. They're frozen quickly so don't come as a solid block. I'd say they're better than Bird's Eye, and way better than the Tesco's own brand petit pois. What's more, you don't pay over the odds for wanting your peas a bit smaller and with a posh French name. 

Last Christmas I made a pea and ham soup and had forgotten to soak split peas, so I made it with most of the bag of these and it was delicious - such a sweet and vivid flavour. Like a cool summer evening in a bowl

They even have the greengrocer's apostrophe in the right place on Green Grocer's. A definite must-buy for the middle class freezer.

Friday, 21 November 2014


Price: 82p

Score (out of five): 2

Review: my partner likes his hummus. He is the world's supermarket hummus aficionado. Our supermarket hummus hierachy is: Waitrose, Sainbury's, Tesco, M&S, ASDA, and the coop. Back in 2008 there was a UK-wide shortage because the one factory that supplies hummus to all supermarkets had a salmonella scare. It was a grim couple of weeks in our household. We were also gobsmacked by the variation in hummus from one factory.

He'd tried Lidl hummus a few years back and was not impressed, so I'd always stuck with Tesco own-brand which is on permanent special offer (buy two for £1.80, and one always goes off before it's eaten). I noticed a big label recently in Lidl that they had a new hummus so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

And it was good Lidl - not amazing, definitely not the best, but not revolting. It would get a higher score, but the most recent time we bought it it was pretty poor - grainy, with a bit of a funny taste to it. Most of it ended up going into the food waste bin. Another attempt at trying it and the same again - bland and with a funny texture. Has anyone else had similar hummus quality consistency problems? Should we try again? Hummus is possibly the greatest middle class culinary signifier there is. I do hope Lidl can get this right.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Milton Gate Selection - British 6 Smoked Dry Cure Back Bacon Rashers

Price: £1.99

Score (out of five): 1

Review: we're actually not snobs when it comes to bacon. We make a easy pasta dish with smoked bacon and in our experience bog-standard supermarket smoked bacon is the best as it has a strong flavour.

Alas with this bacon Lidl didn't meet expectations. Even if it were in a bacon roll rather than a pasta dish, it still would!d have been disappointing. It was basically like pinkish pork chops. It really didn't taste like it had been cured at all. It was neither salty nor smokey. Just ridiculously bland. We'll be going back to Tesco in future.

To be fair on Lidl, they did have other smoked back bacon, which could have met our taste requirements, but the smallest pack I could buy was 28 rashers (two packs of 14) which was just far too much, even though we do have a freezer.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Montedos wholefoods fruit, nut and pine nut topper

Price: £1.29

Score (out of five): 4

Review: well, linked to my previous yoghurt review, I put this fruit, nut and pine nut topper on my whey-protein yoghurt to add a bit of texture.

It might not be much, but it is an excellent product. The golden raisins are coloured and preserved with sulphur dioxide but they are very plump and sweet. The dried blueberries add a really nice, firmer, sharp sweetness. Peanuts and pecan nuts are finely chopped to make a really nice crunchy and the pine nuts, are, well nutty. A very unpretentious product, but the sort of thing Lidl does excellently. And it also represents their fantastic "healthy checkouts" (M&S take note). I bought them initially as an impulse buy as I was waiting to be served, and now they're a permanent fixture on my shopping list. Bit pricey, so they've lost a star.

First post - Milbona Turkish style yoghurt

So, this is my first review!

Price: £1.49

Score (out of five): 4

Review: alas, I have to start my first review with a slight qualifier here. I do sports training quite a bit, so I mainly eat my yoghurt with a spoon of banana-flavoured whey protein mixed into it, which is obviously not going to be to everyone's taste.

Allowing for that, the Milbona Turkish Style yoghurt is very good indeed. It's about the same price as a half of the amount in Tescos. It's lovely and thick (10% fat) and and has an excellent flavour and texture. 

I'm sure if I were Turkish or Greek then I would have tried better - it is Turkish "style" after all. But the nearest I have tried to it is Tesco Finest Greek yoghurt which is £1.60 for 500g and that comes from Macedonia. I'd happily serve this as a light dessert at a middle class lunch party with some yoghurt and toasted almonds stirred through it. 

I also regularly buy the Milbona low fat Greek yoghurt and normal Greek yoghurt. Reviews of them will be forthcoming.