Dorotea Apricot Filled Pastries

Today let us look at some Italian confectionaries purchased for £3 from Marks and Spencers. And where do you find these confections in the store, in the Culverhouse Cross store just outside Cardiff to be exact, where, where you ask? …Oddly enough by the other biscuits and confectionaries but don’t think there is any ethnic confectionary integration here! They are displayed across the aisle and set aside on another shelf along with the others from continental Europe and America on a small set aside group of shelves with nothing to draw your eyes to them. There are however a few description tabs on the price displays should you look carefully but not for everything has an explanation so you would probably do you best just note down the name and do your research without purchase. A brilliant sales tactic!

… or like me you want to try different things and go buying something like these because hey, ho, DiMaggio, it’s not as if they will sell anything offensive and you want to try something different even if the purchase may, even at the first bite, be something that revolts you for one reason or another (rarely but it has happened once with a drink).

Though they have an interesting range of produce on offer M&S always gives off an austere air as everything is muted tones of white, brown and green, no music playing, the displays starkly lit, it’s offers so numerous and heavily labelled you feel you are a consumer and not a customer. They seem to insist you buy not what you want but an entire three course meal so earnestly; all three separate courses sold separately but should be bought together for savings, that by the end you don’t want to buy anything because your free will is called into question by being given a mandatory set course from which to select. Certain foods apparently should not be mixed. How dare you even contemplate such a thing? Potato for the British, pasta for the Italian, rice for the Indian, Chinese and Thai ranges and never the twain shall mix! Noodles? An abomination! Often I have gone here and wanted to try something but the offers, in their restrictive nature, have put me off completely. The food is good, I do not question, but the offers are so heavily displayed with tabs and stickers on everything that you feel it is some sort of faux pas to even dare considering buying something in an offer with anything outside it. This isn’t just any food; this is M&S telling you the proper cooking etiquette of eating their food… until they release a fusion range of pre-prepared foods and even then only certain things will be allowed to mix. Nothing culinarily xenophobic about it at all…

…Nonetheless let’s return to the review and put the Italian information of the box into [google translate] and see what quasi-inaccurate translations we get:

Naturalmente Dorotea
(Naturally Dorotea)

Dolcetto all’ Albicocca
(Trick to ‘ Apricot… whatever the programme things that means but it probably translates to something like ‘Apricot Treat’)

Delizioso scrigno di frolla con un cuore di morbida confettura all’albicocca
(Trove of delicious pastry with a heart of soft apricot jam)

…and of course the ingredients list but that has an English language version: Wheat flour type ‘O’, sugar, non-hydrogenated vegetable fat, butter, free-range eggs, glucose syrup, raising agent (ammonium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate), salt, emulsifier (soy lecithin), preservative (potassium sorbate), natural flavours, Apricot filling (30%): Apricots, glucose-fructose syrup, thickener (modified tapioca starch, pectin), stabilizer (glycerol), acidifier (citric acid).

… Got to love those ‘O’ type flour and the glucose-fructose ‘sugar + sugar = sugar’ ingredients. On the bright side they used free range eggs in case you are the sort to be so concerned about that you read ingredients in store.
So we are going to be eating a pastry filled with apricot jam? Exciting. Can’t wait. When will I get on with the review?

BUT WAIT! Before we get to that what does the back of the box say in English for the English speaking market?

  • 250g/8,882 oz
  • Product of Italy
  • Tiny pastries filled with apricot jam

Each Portion contains:

  • Calories: 65.5
  • Sugars: 2.8g
  • Fat: 3.1g
  • Saturates: 1.3g
  • Fibers [sic]: 0.2g

And in the Italian information:

  • Valore energetico in Kcal/100g: 504
  • Valore energetico in KJ/100g: 2108
  • Proteine: 4,5
  • Carboidrati: 67,8
  • di cui zuccheri: 21,8
  • Grassi: 24,2
  • di cui saturi: 9,8
  • Fibre: 1,2
  • Sodio: 0,3

Warnings:

  • Produced in a factory where it makes use of gluten, peanuts, milk and eggs
  • Baked product subject to natural weight loss
  • Store in a dry place away from direct sunlight

Fascinating… and in English so there was no need to use google translate after all. It was all a dream. All a dream of a supermarket that is constantly finding itself behind the times struggling against its competitors.

Oh Marks and Spencers stop trying to be ‘hip’, in such an award middle aged way, by referring to yourselves as M&S. If only you catered only to the tastes of the (in their own minds) socially elite like Waitrose do offering a free coffee with every visit for joining their loyalty club or if you whored it out like those village bikes by the names of Asda, who slap their jingling bottom in every advert with a cheeky smile, or Tesco who act like an abusive pimp to their produce suppliers. But of course not like Aldi or Lidl… they are the 2AM pubs are closed kind of markets. And B&M… they have a seat reserved down the STD clinic at the end of every week so don’t even bring them into the equation.

The Dorotea pastries? Oh right… well when you open the box there is a plastic bag with about 17 of them in it. They are extremely crumbly when bitten into, as you would expect of some forms of Italian biscotti, so there will be some crumbs already in the package caused by handling in transport but nothing that damages the appaearance of the contents and may have already been there as residue from the factory.

If you have never eaten any biscotti before it is hard to describe these… the best comparison I could give is they are like a jaffa cake if they didn’t have the chocolate on top but more of the soft pastry/biscuit (actually there was a serious question if jaffa cakes were classed as biscuit or pastry as one was taxed while the other wasn’t) and the jam was much softer. Not soft enough to leak out like the picture on the front of the box would suggest but far more pliable than the rubbery kind found in a jaffa cake. Biscotti have a particular texture with a crisp outer layer and a soft cake like interior.
The jam is indeed strongly flavoured of apricots and very nice. It holds the pastry shell together so although I mentioned there being crumbs you will never find any which are broken with the jam exposed.

They are enjoyable and you will more likely eat one with a warm drink than try to eat multiple of them in a single sitting. It is perhaps better to think of them as the sort of biscuit or pastry accompaniment you have provided at a café with a cup of tea or coffee. In truth continental Europe is apparently not as big on eating multiple biscuits or confectionaries in one sitting as the British are so this makes sense while we tend to prefer things like digestive biscuits which are blander in flavour (save for any chocolate or flavouring added to diversify the biscuit’s product range usually in orange, double choc, caramel or mint) and have developed a cultural habit of eating biscuits or confectionaries as a snack on their own rather than an compliment to something else.

These are perhaps best served alongside other confectionaries at a cream tea or similar event.
I would buy these again sometime down the road but there are other things to try. They are nice but not something I will be rushing to buy again though through no fault of their own. If you were served these they would be a pleasant surprise and you might be interested to know where to get them. But would you actually go and find them? Probably not. In a word they are pleasant.

Ripieno di confettura di albicocca
(Product and confezionoto by)
Prodotto e confezionoto da:
DOROTEA s.n.c.
Via Piero Della Francesca, 15
86070 Montaquila (IS) Italy


For something I felt I had nothing to talk about this is an impressive amount of rambling…

Comments and feedback are welcome.

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Brother Door-Keeper and Brother Gate-Opener

In my town strange things happen… Let me begin not by telling you where the grotesques featured at the top of my blog come from. They are from the oldest church of the town, with the midnight cross, that overlooks the town and are for another time to discuss.
Let me first tell you of the clergy who frequent one of the churches on the edge of the town centre so you may better understand the people whom frequent this place at the end of the bridge.

Once it was a small cattle market town prone to flooding, as all low lying land is, and nothing more than a pleasant wayside stop gap for those journeying between the whitewashed capital and the major Western port city where a poet once lived and is forever immortalised for his debauchery more so than his words. This town, my home town, is no longer such a place and many have doubted it ever was except in rose tinted memory. Now it is a sprawling cesspit of various architectural styles, built one on top of the other, with no unified design,: Georgian, modern, gothic, 1980s Avant-garde, red brick, black tar, sandstone and slate, concrete and cement like a mottled patchwork rag with equally disparate housing developments spreading like cancer into every crevice not yet rid of its greenery. No single parish council ever wished to concede to another, before or after, and so the town is a homunculus writhing in its own filth screaming to be put out of its misery. But it cannot anymore because too many have staked their claim and now find they are held within its grasp.

There is a church on the edge of town, the youngest of the three, with large iron gates and ivy covered trellis. A sandstone wall stops anyone looking in on the church’s grounds and slick black burglar-proof paint sits ever ready to stop people climbing over it. Behind this fortification two men, dressed in the dour cassocks of their faith, sit on three legged wooden stools in the courtyard under the dappled light of a tree. Neither is exceptionally young nor old but of an age that would suggest authority, knowledge and above all wisdom has been gained with the passage of time.
Brother Door-keeper, who speaks in husky tones, and Brother Gate-opener, whose voice is a lilting warble, while away their hours giggling between themselves furtively. One holds a heavy iron gate-padlock and the other the key with which to unlock it. Listening carefully at the wall you may hear this conversation repeated time and time again:

“Brother door-keeper has a lock…”
“…And Brother Gate-Opener, a key, a key which fits into this lock I have upon me.”
“It is an impressive key to look upon is it not Brother Door-Keeper?”
“Indeed as surely must this padlock be too to the uninitiated. But please be gentle, my dear Brother Gate-Opener, when you insert your key. I doubt my frail clasp may withstand such a forceful insertion as this key is capable of.”
“Fear not Brother Door-Keeper. I have been commended on the delicacy with which I handle this shaft I hold in my hand.”
“Then do as you must Brother Gate-Opener. Penetrate the hallowed darkness of this lock’s sanctity. I feel there is no choice for us now but to proceed apace…”
“I shall do so Brother Gate-Keeper with your blessing, but be reassured, you are in seasoned hands… the insertion may cause some discomfort but, be confident, it shall be only momentary…”
“Brother Door-Opener!”
“Brother Gate-Keeper!”
“Oh, Brother Door-Opener!”
“Ah, Brother Gate-Keeper! Do you feel the sweet release?”
“The unveiling Brother Door-Opener is indescribable!”
“Let me mop your brow Brother Gate-Keeper!”
“Oh that you would, Brother Door-Keeper, that you would…”

It is for this reason no one visits this church. They are silly people and perform this pantomime every single time the grounds must be opened be it Sabbath, a saint’s feast or any other Holy day. Celibacy truly is a heavy vow to have undertaken and they must find such little release in their duties through such innuendo…

But they are, I assure you, a friendly pair who would happily chat and help any who would seek it…unlike those missionary sisters whose church of the midnight cross overlooks the town. But that is a story for another day…


This was not the story I was going to write but in the end I decided to adapt an idea I had in an old notebook just to gauge if there is any validity in the idea. An unpolished piece by anyone’s estimations but the core humour of it is there and considering it consisted only of the concept of two celibate monks being sexually frustrated and acting out using a key and lock I think it went okay… Next time I may do a review of something just to keep mixing it up. Then I will hopefully write about those macabre missionaries mentoned above as they were in a short story, which got positive feedback, though I will have to adapt them for a blog vignette and may have to split it into about 3 seperate posts.

My intention with the ‘In My Homtown Strange Things Happen…’ series is to practise a bit of creative writing inspired by different bits of the town and surrounding area. With each fantastical story will be a short piece underneath about the real life locale.

There are actually three churchs in the vicinity of the towncentre, St Illtyd’s (which does overlook the town on top of a hill with a cross lit up, in the winter, on its bell tower), St Marys, and the recently constructed Catholic church.

http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/01/92/35/1923535_23526cc8.jpg

http://www.catholicchurchbridgend.org.uk/

The church in the story above is prehaps an overblown version of the Catholic one. The story in no way represents the actual church nor any of the people involved with it in any way. In truth the story came about independently of this place but I couldn’t think of a similar place to set the story and prehaps should have left it out of the series as an independant vignette as it came from a very brief story concept scribbled one day years ago and only typed up in one sitting just now. The two priests of the real place are quite young and I met them when attended a wedding once. Its a nice place but personally I have always preferred the older churchs and cathedral designs as they offer a sense of awe, as was the intent when built, and that you are in a special place. The modern design, in keeping with certain other very recently built locations around town, seems all too modern and I wonder how soon it will be that we will look back at it as modern generations do now the concrete tower blocks and awkward designs of the 1960s?

Feedback and comments are welcome.

Brap, Brap, Brap vignette

Brap, Brap, Brap

‘Brap, brap, brap’ said the youth to the old man gesturing with pointed index and middle finger.
‘Brap?’ asked the old man.
‘Yeh, you get me old timer?’ replied the youth.
‘Oh’, began the old man, ‘it’s just I think you are mispronouncing it. My friend could help you if you like. Shall I introduce her?’
‘Yeh, whatever’ spat the youth.

So it was the old man reached into his coat and gently pulled out his beloved from her folded linen sheathe. Her silver lips formed a circle in awe at the sight of the boy and spoke that word but once: ‘brap’.

Before the syllable had even echoed upon the walls the youth fell in supplication, grasping his bosom, so struck was he by her utterance. His heart spilt forth and he laid down his weary brow upon the floor in silence.

Looking down at the youth, smiling paternally, the old timer uttered quietly ‘I got you…’ And just to be sure the youth had learnt his lesson, before he departed, the old man’s dearest uttered the word three more times: ‘Brap, brap, brap’.


So today a very short and unpolished vignette I wrote 19 November 2014 just to have a different kind of post on here. To be honest I could have probably done a second one with the same set up but the ‘beloved’ having a ‘sharp tongue’ with ‘piercing words’ or something similar.

Hopefully soon I will do something a bit different yet again in a few days like a review of a book/television programme/film or write one of the ‘In My Hometown Strange Things Happen…’ quasi-fictional pieces I have been intending to do just to experiment and see what feels enjoyable and a potential focus for this blog if I decide to go down a particular route.

Feedback, comments or any advice about blogging are welcome.

Cofresh Chilli & Lemon Flavour Potato Grills

… And so inevitably rather than posting something unique I type a review of a snack food I have been eating recently.

Today I look at Cofresh’s ‘Chilli & Lemon’ flavoured Potatoe Grills. An interesting alternative to your common bag of crisps or high end kettle chips.

DSC_0357x

Bought from the ‘mystery isle’ of Tescos… that is if you go to ‘the big Tesco’ in Bridgend. They are hidden away in shame with other ‘non-standard’ snack foods like the non-glutenous cakes deemed not worthy of being placed with the ‘proper’ snack food down the far end of the supermarket next to the biscuits, cereal, snack bars, etc by the soft drinks and alcohol isles. Oh no, these are hidden next to the oils and cooking supplies under low lit cover near the bakery and pharmacy looking out upon the open spaces of the fruit and veg area… such a secretive burden it must be that Tesco bears in providing niche produce to their consumers some of which may want a taste of home abroad. Do not ask the staff where these things are. They will only shy away and, when no one is looking, suggest you meet them under cover of darkness when the moon is in its wane behind the trolleys where the staff skive off for a fag during the midnight shift. Only then will they tell you of this place of foreign cheaply sold chocolates and oddly flavoured juice drinks… most of which are produced in the UK anyway just by a foreign company.

But fortunately if you do find this oasis these particular snacks will not be even further hidden away, on a shelf tightly fitted behind a support pillar for the upper floor, like the Polish sweets are. I honestly suspect they are trying to hide those as you can barely stick your hand past the pillar to get them let alone see them if you were casually passing by… as if they don’t want you to have 4 chocolate bars for £1! And definitely not the slightly alcoholic ones (which they don’t realise are such) that you can buy 3 for £1! In fact if you find this isle at all, even with the ‘treasure map’ like guidance I have given you it will be by fluke or sheer process of elimination and not, like me, the wild abandon of curiousity of what is hidden in this no man’s land of an isle where you never see a living soul… It is truly a strange new world of confectionaries you have never heard of, in flavours ‘foreign’ to British tastes, being sold for cheaper than their mainstream counterparts… but that is a story for another day.

On the front of the packaging it states ‘serving suggestion’ with a few chillis and a cut lemon next to the actual ‘potatoe grills’ in the photo… Apparently these aren’t just any crisps these are we are potato grills which are nothing like crisps‘ crisps… but in fairness I think, due to the unusual shape, these would look far more appetising at a buffet than a bowl filled with standard crisps or bougeois ‘kettle chips’.

The packaging, which is distinct enough you would remember it once you found a taste for these, declares they are ‘Britain’s Favourite Indian Snack’ which is interesting as I had never heard of them before seeing them on the shelf, in my search for foreign confections, nor seen their quite unique shape before. To me Britain’s favourite Indian snacks are onion bhajis or other side dishes but then that is my experience and I have known quite a few, if you will, ‘fat b*****ds’ who would consider an entire Indian meal with 2 side dishes, a nan bread and multiples of popadoms in the double digits just for themselves as ‘an alright amount for a meal when your out having a couple’ so my perspective may be skewed somewhat…

In a circle is the word ‘tangy’ which is not quite how I would describe them. When you first put it in your mouth there may be a slight tang arising I assume from the very light amount of lemon but I found the main flavour experience came in the pleasant warm heat of the chilli aftertaste you experience from them. Therefore I wouldn’t say these are something you would eat for their own sake but as an accompliment to a dip of some kind.

A 90kg/3.2oz bag of these retails for the cost of 80 pence which I felt was actually good value as a small hand full of them, though light, are actually quite filling and you will not devour a full bag all in one go as you might with less fulfilling snacks.

In case you are still wondering these are produced and packaged in the UK. More specifically Leiceister where Cofresh Snack Foods are based although they export to America, Australia and New Zeland and no doubt other countries too.

There are seperate nutrition information boxes for the UK & ANZ markets compared to the American market and the stastics are somehow different interestingly. You might like to know that we in Britain apparently have, per 28g/1oz serving (which apparently is 46 pieces though how the company made this deduction with any accuracy is anyone’s guess)  5.9g of fat to the USA 6g, 1.1g to their 1g of saturated fat, 3g of salt to their 330mg, 2.2g of fibre to their 2g, 1.1g of sugar to their 1g, 18.8g of carbohydrates to their 19g and 1.4g of protein to their 1g. Quite interesting how different the nutrition is in America as if transporting it somehow alters the nutrition.

Allegry advice on the bag says because it is made in a factory which uses sesame seeds, lentils, wheat and nuts it may contain allergens. Also it tells you small children can choke on nuts which, while sagely advice, is a bit random on a bag of ‘potato grills’. It might as well also tell you if you have dairy allergies its probably not a good idea to go eating any milk chocolate.

Oh and its suitable for vegetarians.

Well I might as well just rattle off all the ingredients now I’ve come this far… they are provided in English, French, Spanish, German and Dutch…. and have you heard of these snacks before? International sales but apparently their marketing stategy is ‘lets just make it and eventually people will pick it up out of curiousity wandering around a shop’.

Ingredients: Native potato starch, potatoe solids (Potato granules), modified potato starch, vegetable oil (rapeseed), salt, chilli & lemon flavouring (salt, paprika, rice flour, lemon juice powder (maltodextrin  from ip maize, lemon juice), flavour enhancer (monosodium glutamate), spice & herbs, garlic powder, onion powder, yeast extract, yeast powder, acidity regulator (citric acid), flavourings, colour (paprika extract).

Well apart from one stray parenthesis bracket there certainly is a lot of repitition in there… and I wouldn’t be suprised if, like the American vs uk and ANL nutritional information, it wasn’t slightly different in the other languages.

http://www.cofresh.co.uk/snack-on/potato-snacks

These were enjoyable and a statisfying snack albeit like many lemon flavoured confectionaries its hit or miss if you can taste the lemon flavouring. They are by no means bland and the warm heat of the aftertaste is something i savoured when eating them. There are other varieties of these potatoe grills and I would suggest trying any just once to see what they are like. I would eat these again given the chance but will try one of their other flavourings as these are far more intersting than their mainstream rivals which are slowly becoming, like many other things, homoginised.

Emerging from the Sea of Anonymity

Inevitably the first attempt at anything will be done falteringly like the stumbling belly slaps of a fish on the riverside silt having just evolved lungs. It discovers it can breathe air but can only throw itself forward on the terrain with its frail fins, eyes adjusting to the clear light of day and mouthing vacantly at no one in particular. That is how blogging feels right now. I have nothing of value to contribute yet and may never do. No doubt at some point soon after this initial venture a preying bird, which has been waiting diligently at the riverside to cease the opportunity, will swooped down and devour me alive having itself existed in this enviroment long enough not only to have adapted but thrive within it. So it is with any process of learning how to do something effectively… ‘practise makes perfect’.

This post already is certifiably terrible with the opening paragraph but I take heart that it will not be as bad as when a teenager in 2008, whose father (or close relative) was a senior journalist a the Guardian newspaper, was given a blog with a readymade national, if not international, readership and then provided the following insights into the prospect of travelling abroad:

http://www.theguardian.com/travel/blog/2008/feb/14/skinsblog

It was apparently his first and last ever post which, even now, I remember reading the comments section of when he posted it back in 2008. Oh what a feeding frenzy day it was by those disdainful of nepotism and the clichéd, self-righteously, opinionated… However let me follow his lead and, now we are in 2014 where the on-line world has evolved for better or worse, do a Hollywood like ‘reboot’ of his original post taking its core grammar and structure and modifying it to more contemporary tastes. Let me address you then, the audience of late 2014, in the manner we now expect of today’s on-line public communications and tell you a little about myself.

Hello. I’m [REDACTED]. I’m [REDACTED] and live [REDACTED].
At the minute, I’m working in [REDACTED] with [REDACTED] people; writing [REDACTED]; writing [REDACTED]; spending any sort of money I earn on [REDACTED] and [REDACTED], and drinking [REDACTED] to [REDACTED] to [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]. Clichéd I know, but clichés are there for a reason.

I’m kinda [REDACTING] myself about [REDACTION]. Well not so much the [REDACTABLE] part. It’s [REDACTING] that scares me. The [REDACTABLE], the [REDACTING], the [REDACTIVE], [REDACTOR]. Don’t get me [REDACTED], I’m [REDACTABLE]. But [REDACTING] myself. And I just know [REDACTABLY] when I step off that [REDACTABLE] and into the [REDACTED] – well, actually, I don’t know [REDACTION].

(n.b. I copy/pasted the entry from Word without first seeing what options there were in the editing tool bar and discovered there was an option to strikethrough text making my efforts ironically redactable…)

The intentions for this blog are commenting on various current television or cinema, writing about things in my home town (though how much is truth and how much is fantasy I will leave for you to decide) and various miscellany. It is more of a post-by-post blog just to force myself to practise my writing and shouldn’t be taken seriously. I will try to update at least once a week but like anyone taking up a new pastime I will no doubt post a bit more often than I should initially and soon hit a rut if I do so. Once we are past the ‘3 month wall’, where apparently most people give up, it should all become a gradually evolving, maintainable, activity. Hopefully I have hit every possible cliché of starting a blog here and will rarely do so again without reason.
So let us end this first Quixotic endevour and quote the end of the first part of Mikhail Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’:

“… it has come time for us to go on to the second part of this truthful narrative. Follow me, reader!”