Welcome to the Great British Diet website, a place where the food that has shaped many a Brit's life is celebrated. From traditional fare like Toad-in-the-Hole and Cottage Pie, to those foreign dishes that we have adopted as our own, to those iconic products we grew up with, to the memorable packaging and media of our best-loved brands...all will be discussed.
The Cornish Bakery Beef Pie
Last Saturday I was down at my local agricultural show and popped by the food tent to see who was about and, of course, what there was to tuck into. One stall that particularly caught my eye was The Cornish Bakery which, contrary to what its name may imply, hails from Lancaster. They had an array of pastry-based foodstuffs and, after a few kind samples, I was well and truly sold.
The Cornish Bakery's beef pie was an appetising prospect from the moment I saw it with a lovely golden sheen to the pastry and a reassuringly homemade look - it didn't have that perfect, machine-produced appearance characterising many shop bought offerings. Taking a peek inside, the cross section revealed the pastry to be of a moderate thickness and the beef filling to be of a solid amount. Indeed, as all proper pies should, this was looking like some hearty, wholesome fare and I couldn't wait to take a bite.
Tucking in the first thing that hit me was how tender and flaky the pastry was. The man behind the stall informed me that this came courtesy of lard - apparently they use Italian lard because it is particularly high quality. The pastry also had good flavour suggesting the presence of some butter. Beyond this, the filling complemented the pastry well with the beef mince lending a coarse texture and slightly salty undertones - indicating a well judged level of seasoning.
All in all, I was impressed by the brand's use of traditional ingredients like lard in their recipes as it really did make the pastry extra special. Indeed, this pie was filling, tasty and even looked good to me so I'm giving it a big GBD thumbs up.
Pizza Express Classic American
Pizza, or 'fancy cheese on toast' as my dad always said, is another foreign food that we Brits have firmly embraced. Personally, when I think of pizza various 80s cartoons, TV programmes and films are quickly conjured up where if you were a group of American teenagers and had hunger pangs then these round bread behemoths were pretty much the go-to solution.
Nowadays, the range of offerings seems vast with everything from your cheap no-frills pizza to the now-standard 'promised land' where an organic/handreared/hung for 21 days - or something like that ;) - pizza can be indulged in. The brand under review today, Pizza Express, kind of falls somewhere in the middle of this spectrum with branding that tries hard to position it more upmarket than the likes of Pizza Hut. Admittedly, my last experience of a Pizza Express restaurant wasn't overly positive - I felt a bit ripped off for what I got - but with their range being half price in my local supermarket I couldn't resist giving one a go.
Straight off the bat the packaging sells you that higher qulity feel with a smart black box decorated with horizontal bands of blue and white, a large brand logo and some window space to gawk at the pizza inside. Like the top panel, the underside also tries to impress upon the customer that crafted, high-quality feel with a black-and-white photo of a man flinging around his bread-based wares and various bits of smart handwritten-looking text.
The product itself - mine had been frozen - looked smallish to be honest and I thought the box's recommendation of half a pizza per person was a joke - a bit like cereals that suggest a 30g serving. Anyway, I instantly knew I would be dispensing my GBD depth charges and blowing that particular serving suggestion well and truly out the water. My other thought was, whilst the product presented nicely enough out the box, it didn't look particularly heavy on the pepperoni or cheese. Indeed, I was already getting the distinct feeling that I did well to pick this up when it was on offer.
When cooked the pizza did look appetising and a nice aroma was wafting my way. Tucking in, the crust had that crisp, crunchy texture to it and the spicy flavour of the pepperoni came through nicely with a pleasant enough undercurrent of cheese and tomato running through the flavour profile. My biggest gripe, as already alluded to, was that the pizza didn't really do much to fill me up and I felt like Pizza Express could have done with beefing this one up a bit.
All in all, if you haven't got a particularly big appetite and this pizza is half price then it's worth picking up - there are some nice flavours and textures at work here that I know people will enjoy. However, I certainly wouldn't bother at full price when there are plenty of other brands out there that offer much more bang for your buck. Indeed, as with my Pizza Express restaurant experience, I was a bit underwhelmed with the value being offered here and felt like I was paying more than usual for pure branding. I guess I now know why I see these pizzas on offer so much.
Nestlé Lion Bar Peanut
Growing up loving the macho overtones of this brand I developed a bit of a weakness for Lion Bars that persists to this day. Indeed, I've thought it a shame over the years that Nestle haven't given this brand more attention and become worried on more than one occasion that it might be dropped from their portfolio completely - I certainly can still find it hard to get a hold of. That said, it seems to continue plodding along and I was more than a tad excited the other day when I spied this peanut variant on the store shelf. Indeed, the notion of beasting up a Lion Bar with a hearty dose of peanuts seems a very tasty and logical one to me.
As I mentioned in my original Lion Bar article (see here), I think this bar lost quite a bit on the presentation front when it shifted from a distinctly mature and manly stylisation to a more child-friendly look. Indeed, it may continue to ride on a steady wave of nostalgia for me, but for many years now it has felt like a bar that needs to 'get some nuts' - as Mr.T put so well in the Snickers ads.
Of course, this peanut variant literally gives us nuts but, still, the anime-like rendering of the Lion head and cartoony appearance of the brand name misses the mark for me. That said, of note is the orange wrapper which I did find worked well in standing out on the shelf amidst an array of offerings.
Out of the wrapper my first impressions of this bar were very good. There was an instant and pleasant waft of peanut and the bar itself looked great with the nuts studded throughout the bar's chocolate layer. It did look a bit dinkier than expected and weighing in at only 202kcal for a nut-based bar suggested to me that Nestle were playing the size game to keep the calories down.
Taste-wise, I loved this. The chewy, crispy combo of wafer, cereal and caramel accented by an undercurrent of Nestle milk chocolate was all there, as per the normal Lion Bar, but the peanuts took the whole thing to another level. Not only did they temper the sweetness by punctuating the flavour profile with lovely savoury notes but their crunch contrasted brilliantly with the other textures in the bar. Indeed, this one gets a big GBD thumbs up from me and I'll certainly be stocking up on more.
PG Tips Tea Bags with Tags
These tea bags might not have the brand's lauded 'pyramid technology' but, guess what, they come with little paper tags! Ok, ok...I know, probably not the sort of thing that usually gets someone excited but I am kind of fond of these tagged bags - formerly known simply as 'PG Tags' (see below for some retro advertising). For one, the whole string and paper combo has a charming, almost DIY, feel about it that I find kind of cute. Also, there is something undeniably pleasant and weirdly hypnotic about taking the tag and gently pulling on it so the bag jostles about and dips in and out of the water - then again that might just be me. Oh, and I must mention, if you ever find yourself with the urge to floss after making a brew these bags double up nicely ;)
First thing to note about the packaging is its shape: it breaks from the now standard PG mould and comes in a far shallower and wider box - somewhat reminiscent of PG's older designs. Also, much like PG's other black tea products, the panels sport a pleasant enough theme of blue sky and clouds accented by tea leaves. In addition, generic copy concerning PG and their work with the Rainforest Alliance features. Monkey even appears on a couple of panels - most prominently on the underside - which helps inject a little bit of personality into the design.
Finally, unlike PG's other products, inside the bags are not found all mixed up but in neatly arranged rows. This allows for the tags' 'PG Tips' branding to be clearly visible and for the bags to be easily removed.
All in all, there are some nice points to this design and 'pleasant enough' is indeed a good way to describe the appearance. However, in terms of graphics, I do find the presentation a bit bare in areas and in definite need of more character to perk things up. Monkey does feature but more could be done to give the product a cosier, homely feel, as per the adverts for PG Tips. Also, the text is rather general and something a bit quirkier and specific to the product may help introduce points of interest. In fact, I was thinking that the tags themselves could sport different little illustrations of Monkey and Al to inject some fun into the product. Basically, I think there is plenty of possibilities and potential here.
Well, to me, these bags do produce a lovely cup of tea. I don't know if PG generally has more Assam in it than other popular black tea blends, but these bags, like the pyramid ones, benefit from a shorter brew. For me, this gives the tea plenty of body that is great for waking up to whilst avoiding too much tannin in the flavour profile.
If I was to give any of PG's black tea offerings an edge then I might say the pyramid bags but, to be honest, I probably am conning myself into that one because I know they are, supposedly, meant to give a better infusion.
(Above: Screenshot from third party Youtube video)
Launched in 1985, 'PG Tags' were a precursor to the current tagged variant. The accompanying advertising broke away from the popular Chimps format entirely by opting for a more youthful and upbeat presentation. This was echoed in the product packaging which featured the word 'Tags' scrawled, as if handwritten, across the box and an all-over background design, which played on a school/office lined paper feel.
PG Tags "Easy as One Two Tea"
PG Tags "Blah Blah Easy PG Tags"
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