Which blueberries taste the best?

blueberries taste tested for flavour and sweetness

Fanny has had a distant relationship where blueberries are concerned.They disappoint her with their bland flavour and sometimes floury texture. But people go on about them don’t they? Not a week goes by without some blueberry muffin appearing in the food section of a colour magazine somewhere, with some reference to free radicals which have usually been cooked out, but never mind that small fact!

Just for the record, although I eat a lot more fruit than Fanny, I didn’t really take to blueberries that quickly either. I did however have that Damascus moment when I was visiting friends in Boston (USA) a few years ago. On this occasion I was handed a piece of blueberry pie that changed my feelings about blueberries forever. The pie was amazing – and I have yet to beat it.

Fanny mooted a point a couple of weeks back.

“Could they be better frozen, because they would be picked and processed very quickly? Much like peas…”

The question seemed perfectly reasonable, and so I trotted up to the local Tesco which sells a variety of different blueberries. For this test I have sampled their cheapest fresh Atlantic Blue-225g, their fresh “Hand Picked”-200g, and their “freshly frozen”- 350g variants.

The Atantic Blue were the entry level blueberries and accusations about lack of flavour can be levelled here. The hand picked ones were bigger and cost nearly twice as much, though they had 25g less than the entry level Atlantic Blue packet. However there was marginally more pronounced flavour and more evident sweetness but it was hard to be truly impressed with them.

There is a saying that says ‘you get what you pay for’ but it doesn’t apply so smugly here. On this occasion I can tell you that we found the best (by a mile) to be the frozen, for the reasons questioned above. Without a shadow of doubt the frozen bluberries licked their fresh counterparts with much better flavour and sweetness, and I can only assume that the processing so early after picking locks in the flavour and sweetness that the others lose in transit. Blueberry for blueberry they were much better value with 350g for the same price as the Atlantic Blue at 225g. We’ll be buying frozen from now on, knowing it’s a much more satisfying product.

Products purchased May 2015 from Tesco

Atlantic Blue Blueberries 225g £2.00
Hand Picked by Experts Blueberries 200g £3.50
Freshly Frozen Blueberries 350g £2.00

Why make your own mayonnaise?

making your own real mayonnaise

Ingredients

2 egg yolks
level tsp salt (preferably sea salt)
pinch of finely ground black pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard
juice of a lemon
tbsp red wine vinegar
250ml rapeseed (vegetable) oil

Method

I approached this somewhat cockily last week, having achieved the desired result on my first attempt last year – a sauce basically comprising eggs yolks and oil doesn’t seem that hard to create and yet somehow, with Brenda as my assistant this time, it did not come together easily. It doesn’t surprise me, she’s a quite useless assistant.

Whether it was our blend of female hormones and barely concealed aggression I can only guess, but I did take the opportunity to do a bit of background – and to keep things as brief as possible, I will provide the following pointers

1) the whole process seems to work best at room temperature. You don’t need to keep eggs in the fridge, but if you do store yours there, then take them out at least half an hour before.

2) much advice is given about the right oil to use but generally olive oil will be too strong (especially extra virgin). Frankly, we’ve had some pretty rancid “up-market” oils (probably because at the price charged, people had wisely avoided it and so it was hanging around on the shelves for ages) and I got an excellent result using the cheapest (and possibly therefore the freshest) rapeseed oil I could find – you know, that come in those 5 litre drums from the supermarket! Obviously you don’t have to use it all making mayonnaise, you can also deep fry with it (Brenda, did I really have to explain that?!)

3) whisk the egg first for 2-3 minutes until going pale. Although I can be a bit of a stickler for using a hand beater for certain things, this is not one of them – so do use an electric whisk. Then add the salt to your egg yolks, whisk in for half a minute or so and then add the oil pretty much a tsp at a time for the first half minute, whisking all the time and then gradually allowing the dribble to develop to more of a trickle as your patience wears thin, albeit that your mayonnaise is thickening in the meantime.

making your own real mayonnaise

4) once your mayo is thick and nearly white, you can just go right ahead and add the mustard, vinegar and lemon juice at the same time – perhaps a little less of the vinegar/lemon juice if you want to keep the original nice thick consistency (or one or the other only, rather than both depending on how you like it and what you’re going to use it for)

5) taste and season with pepper at this stage, assuming everything has gone to plan. I prefer black pepper and mostly avoid the speckles by grinding it finely although in any case, I think the speckles make it look at the very least, home made (in a good way!), bordering on artisanal. You can use white pepper for the mass-produced look….. although I admit to using shop bought mayo as my guide to saltiness as that happens to be a level I like – about 1.5% salt in the finished thing, if you’re interested.

6) whatever any recipe tells you, is not absolutely guaranteed because, like so many things, practise and “getting the feel for it” is as important as the ingredients and basic process. I actually had three goes and, by the way, instead of using oil for my final batch, I used the horrible oily curdles instead. Whether it was down to the oil therefore being enriched with extra egg yolk, whether it was because I used better (for which read more expensive) eggs, or whether I’d just got the knack of it by then – who can tell? But evidently what starts out looking unpromising, can be salvaged – so dont throw your attempts away – recycle them! I think the key point in this was the whisking of the yolks first for a few minutes before starting to add the oil.

7) mayo forms the base of many delicious sauces such as Marie Rose and tartare sauce – as well as, of course, being delicious added unchanged to many otherwise somewhat ordinary foods – like lettuce. So do keep the fruits of your labours in a nice clean jar for future use, although, given it contains raw egg yolk, you might not want to keep it too much longer than a week but just do the sniff text like Brenda and I do all the time – if it smells alright, it’s probably good to eat!!!

making your own real mayonnaise

Fanny and Brenda return to youtube

fanny and brenda's cocktail special starts with a marge simpson!

Fanny and Brenda are back and making videos, showing how to get the best out of food and drink. This week it’s the Marge Simpson cocktail – so-called because it alludes to Brenda’s currently blue hair, taken by advice from a stylist who was evidently having a joke. The cocktail is a wonderful violet and vodka based surprise, which Brenda wastes no time getting down her throat!

fanny and brenda's cocktail special starts with a marge simpson!

Fanny and Brenda’s Cocktail Hour

Beetroot Dip

fanny and brenda's cocktail party beetroot dip

Beetroot Dip

Tired of the same old guacamole? Bored of ready chilled tzatziki? Me too! And don’t get me started on supermarket humus . If I have to hand around another plateful of taramasalata I think I will scream. So it’s time for a refreshing alternative, and a ready mixed one from the supermarket chillers won’t cut the mustard. The dip here is a tasty, creamy, and quite rich beetroot dip, informed with flavours from the chives, orange and garlic and it’s quick to make. It’s rather lovely and a good excuse for a cocktail party actually.

Ingredients

2 beetroots cooked, peeled and diced ready for the blender
Juice of 2 large oranges
1 garlic bulb squished
Handful of chives cut fine ready for the blender
400g soft cream cheese
A splash of single cream
Seasoning to taste

Method:

Put the beets into the blender and add the soft cream cheese

Add the chives,garlic,orange juice, and a splash of cream

Blend for two minutes

Pour out into small serving dishes

Serve with biscuits/toast/pitta. The dip works well with a crunchy accompaniment so if you use pitta, toast it first. Celery (remove the skin as it’s stringy) and carrot batons are also equally good.