Thursday, 28 July 2016

Southern & Thorpe - Ruskington - Lincolnshire Sausage

“A perfect sausage”. Does such a thing exist?  According to the huge banner proudly displayed behind the counter at Southern & Thorpe in beautiful downtown Ruskington it does....

The banner is based on Southern & Thorpe’s (from now on referred to as S&T) success at the Poacher food competition which is held biennially in Lincolnshire. For the sausage contest the judges approach each sample with a starting score of 100 and deduct points as they go through the tasting process. At one competition a judge sampled S&T’s Lincolnshire sausage and couldn’t find any way to take points away, thus declaring that they were “A perfect sausage”. Quite a strapline. I was fascinated to be eating a product with such a successful heritage.

While I was in the shop a yummy mummy known as Sharron came in and was effusive in praise. “When I was pregnant my craving was for these Lincolnshire sausages. And ever since my daughter was born, she will only eat their Lincolnshire sausages.” Which is surely a sign that these bangers reach places that your Tesco and Lidl atrocities will never reach. An unhealthy diet for the daughter I think, but if you’re going unhealthy, go quality unhealthy!


Where To Find Them:
In Ruskington, Lincolnshire. This  is a large village through which a picturesque beck babbles, and the duck population is a major feature. Traffic often comes to a standstill as a mother duck leads a line of ducklings across the road, so be alert. Ruskington was recorded in The Domesday Book as Rischintone, meaning “farmstead where rushes grow”. This is of Scandinavian origin, suggesting that Ruskington was once home to hordes of horny-helmeted Viking invaders. Nobody is likely to slice off your head with an axe these days, so please feel safe to pop into 3 High Street and ask for Neil 9more of him later). If you’re using SausNav type in NG34 9DY.

No Stans on view at Southern & Thorpe....the staff are mostly ladies! So we’ll make up a new Rate My Sausage word and call them Stanettes. And the Stanettes are super-helpful and friendly. Nice work S&T.

There is no grater compliment than that these sausages remind me of my childhood, in a very good way. We all have some rosey tinted glasses when we think back, but these bangers just take you back to family tea after PE on Thursday afternoon. So warm and cosy.  These sausages are absolutely delicious.  The seasoning is right, the saltiness backs up the main flavour of the pork. The meat is delectable, juicy with a hint of heat that doesn’t dominate.
Biggest praise though must be - my awesome girlfriend Ruth said “I might and go and have another one.” Which she did. And it disappeared at a rate of knots. Poor Ruth was not to know of this obsession of mine before we got together, so it’s to her great credit that she actually puts up with it and actually embraces it.

First cut into this sausage....”Snap”.  Natural casings is already a plus point. Super crumbly as you can see from the pictures, cut very coarse which is fabulous. When you slice them they almost fall apart, but not quite. Herby, sagey, and oh so more-ish. There are small knobbles of sausage on the plate when you eat them which is great, a lovely way to end the meal. Just as an extra plus point, these sausages are different shapes and sizes both before and after cooking, we like!

Vital Statistics:

Average Weight Uncooked = 59 grams

Average Weight Cooked = 50 grams

Meat Content = not known %. Dammit, as always I have ballsed up! Sorry....

Value For Money:
£3.35 for 8 sausages weighing 471 grams. This works out as £7.11 per kg and 42p per banger.

We rate this as absolutely bloody briliant value for money.

Junior Sidekick's Three Word Verdict:
Sam was not around for this test but he will be eating a lot of them in the future. He’ll taste them, he’ll squish them, he’ll approve and he will scoff! And we’re taking on a new recruit to Rate My Sausage who is keen to tell you about his personal fave butcher products....

Opening Hours:
See for yourself.

The "Aah, Bisto" Factor:
Very little aroma out of the bag, but wow, after cooking these sausages smell completely of great meat, good herbs and spices and utterly like the sausages you ate when you were seven years old. And that is a rather wonderful thing.

The Imaginatively Titled Next Day Cold Sausage Test:
We sliced these suckers up and sprinkled them onto scrambled eggs on toast. The sausages were fantastic yesterday, and did not disappoint the day after. The fridge as always encouraged the sausage to close up and firm up. Whereas yesterday was a loose cavalry charge of flavour, the cold version has “formed square” and stands solid, firm and wonderful. I can’t decide whether I like them better hot or cold, both are adorable.


And Finally, Esther:

This is the first of our Lincolnshire Sausage Season reviews. And blimey, the bar has been set extremely high. We adored these sausages and went back to buy more. Do yourself a favour and visit Ruskington. We started this review with the question “perfect sausage?” Well......maybe.....

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Jolly Hog - Pork & Caramelised Red Onion Sausage

We’ve reviewed pork and caramelised red onion bangers before. You don’t remember? Check out our opinion: Sainsburys Taste The Difference British Pork & Caramelised Red Onion Sausages
How would the second ever sausage of this type get on? Well, read on, dear sausage-lover....

Three brothers, all completely different physically, come together, and magic happens.  Millions of people become fans of the quirky trio and their success knows no bounds. There’s one VERY dodgy moustache. And one of them is deaf?

Sorry, wrong three brothers. The Jolly Hog brothers are Max, Olly and Josh, and what a fascinating story they have created.  Read all about it by popping along to their attractive website: Jolly Hog

Where To Find Them:
My lovely partner found these sausages in Sainsburys. I’m not really sure where else you can find them, maybe a click or two on their store finder page will help: Store Finder

In cowboy films there’s always one grizzled old sergeant in the cavalry who says “It’s quiet....too quiet....” Well my initial impression of this sausage was “It’s sweet....too sweet....” But then I don’t have a sweet tooth at all. A peek at the ingredients shows that sugar and dextrose are added, which surely bump up the sweet factor to a point that I personally don’t enjoy. But my fellow taster, who does like sugary foods a lot more than me, loved the flavour. It’s obviously a personal choice. The onion dominates these so much that the pork is swamped, and you can’t really enjoy its taste. The domination is total, akin to the All Blacks scrum taking on the St Winifred’s C of E Primary School Second XV. The onion flavour is derived from the Red Onion Relish that makes up 11% of the total ingredients. There’s nowt wrong with that, per se, but if I want so much relish with my sausages I’d prefer to spoon it out of the jar myself. And as well as the relish, extra dried onion is also added. For me, 11% relish AND dried onion is too heavy-handed, like six white cops arresting a black shoplifter.

A finely ground filling that holds together nicely when cut. The skins offer some resistance to the knife, which is good, but lacks the snap that we all crave. Try to push your fork into the filling and there’s meaty resistance, which again sets these apart from other supermarket offerings. But we LOVE a chunky, massive filling. This filling has been chopped and chopped again, like Gabriel Batistuta trying to get past some Cameroon defenders. Ask your grandad. I’d expected to see pieces of the red onion, but sadly you can’t. Not the best texture we’ve ever found but, equally, so so far from the worst.

No stans on show, obvs. But score one for Harpo, Chico and Groucho.
Junior Sidekick's Three Word Verdict:
Young Sam wasn’t around for this review so here is the opinion of my long-suffering other half Ruth: “Firm, sweet, very tasty – would be ideal in a casserole with lots of other strong flavours”. She’s had a sausage or two so she knows her onions. Even the caramelised ones.
The "Aah, Bisto" Factor:
We broke with years of tradition when preparing these bangers – we grilled them instead of frying in oil. It’s Ruth’s influence, blame her. There was no noticeable aroma forthcoming here, but onion-y wafts aplenty when you cut them open.

Vital Statistics:
Average Weight Uncooked = 70 grams
Average Weight Cooked = 55 grams

Meat Content = 75 %

Value For Money:
£3.00 for 6 sausages weighing 418 grams. This works out as £7.18 per kg and 50p per banger.

We rate this as not bad value for money.

And Finally, Esther:

These were bought in a supermarket, and as such were treated with healthy caution before eating. But they turned out to be better than 99% of other supermarket bought bangers, which is a good result. Pop down to your local Freshco and buy some. And say hello to Reg Holdsworth while you’re there.

Monday, 4 July 2016

King's Lynn's Best Cafe Sausage - Part 5 of 10 - Dobbies Garden Centre Cafe

The Dobbies Garden Centre in beautiful downtown King's Lynn is incorporated into the same humungous timber-framed building as the Tesco mega-market. When this was built Dobbies was part of the Tesco portfolio of businesses - but as you know they have now been sold off to Midlothian Capital as the grocer concentrates on its core business of selling loo rolls and baked beans.

Why do garden centres have a cafe attached? Well it's to add value to their sites. "Most" garden centre customers fit into demographics with some expendable income - obviously carved sandstone ornaments in the shape of half an apple, with gold coloured pips and stalk, are not the kind of everyday essential that less well-off families would visit the next-door Tesco for. Why not tempt the Meldrews and the Leadbetters in for a pot of tea and a crumpet after their exertions in the herbaceous aisle?

Sausage: score 2.25. 
The sausages on offer at Dobbies are sort of like Lincolnshire sausages, but a poor quality version. We sliced and squished of course, and it wasn't the worst we've ever seen - but far from the best too. The flavour was mild, slightly peppery, but overall quite bland. They've made a little effort here, but not enough. How often are cafes ruining ther breakfasts with low grade sausages?

Service & Cleanliness: score 2.5. 
One lovely chap behind the food counter was warm, friendly, bubbly, fantastic! Sadly the rest of the staff were surly, prickly and stomped around with faces like slapped arses. Thank god for Mister Nice, or the overall score would have been humiliating.

The cafe was lovely and clean, and the high-celinged dining area was relaxing and airy. We ate our meals in armchairs in a bright corner of the dining room, which was also a super vantage point for some people watching.

Rest Of Meal: score 2.5. 
As per the rules we opted for the second-cheapest meal that includes sausages. In this case it was the "10 Item Breakfast", which is quite a lot of food. Choosing the assortment of "goodies" didn't take too long though. Sam the Junior Sidekick went for 3 x bacon (which he would later regret), 3 x sausages, scrambled egg, beans and 2 x hash brown, whilst I plumped for 2 x bacon, 2 x sausages, fried egg, beans, mushroom, grilled tomato, hash brown and black pudding. Both meals included a slice of toast. For drinks Sam went for water and I paid an extra £1.95 for a two-cup pot of tea (ignoring the odd-sounding Sucky Tea).

The food was completely underwhelming in quality. All the hash browns were well over-done and should have been thrown away. The black pudding wasn't far behind in terms of over-warmed hardness. Scrambled eggs were insipid, flavourless and watery, but the fried egg was OK. The toast was stone cold. The rashers of bacon were large and there was some clumping together in the hotplate. Sam found it stringy and of low quality. The mushroom was small and utterly waterlogged. Must try harder!

Our meals averaged £5.66, which means that the score for Price is 2.33. This meal was not at all good and we would have sent it back had we not been taking part in this taste-testing odyssey. Dobbies cafe, amazingly, has stolen last place from the Silver Spoon cafe - and I didn't think that was possible....

Scores On The Doors (after 5 rounds):
P1 Carousel Cafe 14.04
P2 Pedlars Hall Cafe 13.19
P3 Archers Cafe 12.25
P4 Silver Spoon Cafe 9.99
P5 Dobbies Cafe 9.58

Scoring & Rules:
Points will be awarded in four categories; Sausage, Service & Cleanliness, Rest Of Meal and Price. The first three will be scored secretly out of 5 by the two of us and the scores averaged. For Price we are again using the Little Chef Olympic Breakfast (£7.99) as the benchmark, subtracting each cafe's price from this, and the resultant figure is their score (minimum score is zero). Simples!

Next target: 
That would be telling! But if you run a King's Lynn cafe, and find a tip of £1.23, we've already come and gone....

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Tesco - Woodside Farm - Land Of Make Believe - Pork Sausage

We have reviewed Tesco sausages before. We even liked some of them. But, more often than not the quality of their bangers is woeful (and that's being polite). This time however we are NOT reviewing Tesco sausages. Oh no! No way. These are from Woodside Farms, which sounds to me like an idyllic leafy smallholding, possibly in the Cotswolds? Or maybe the Scottish borders?

Where To Find Them:
I hope the best place to find Woodside Farms sausages would be Woodside Farm or their stall at a farmers' market? But, obviously, it doesn't exist. The true location of Woodside Farm is in the collective, deceptive imagination of the team of marketing charlatans employed by Tesco to fool the British public into thinking their terrible products are more authentic and of better provenance than they truly are.

Now, we were recently invited by boss Jane Tomlinson, in charge of Redhill Farm Free Range Pork to visit their farm and have a lovely guided tour. And we fully intend to take her up on such a kind offer. To give Woodside Farm a bit of a chance to impress I asked Tesco if we could visit Woodside Farm - what a shock, absolutely no response. And that's because it is completely fabricated.

Woodside Farm is one of the mainstays of the Tesco "Fake Farms" marketing campaign. It has pretty much replaced their Everyday Value branding for many product lines. Now I believe there is a place for budget products, but not when they've been disguised as something better than they are.  Bring back Everyday Value and consign the Fake Farms to advertising purgatory.

The flavour is that of mushed-up paper sprinkled with salt. It's not good, and disappointing even at this price point. Think of the worst cafe sausage you have ever eaten and you're in the right area. The ingredients list claims 52% pork - but in my opinion there's very little decent meat included in that figure. Almost tasteless, unless you enjoy chewing salty newspaper. Potentially less meat here than in a vegan's bogies.

The notes just say "Mushy. Squishy. Spongey. Unpleasant. Nothing to bite into." And that is an accurate description of the, basically, plop that is inside these artificial tubes of abhorrence. No resistance to the fork, no discernible niblets of meat, gristle, fat, anything at all. You could probably "eat" these with a straw. There was a ridiculous amount of liquid in the pan after cooking, and some of them split their sides.

Vital Statistics:
Average Weight Uncooked = 57 grams
Average Weight Cooked = 47 grams
Meat Content = 52 %

Value For Money:
£0.66 for 8 sausages weighing 459 grams. This works out as £1.44 per kg and 8p per banger. EIGHT PENCE. Even at this ridiculously low price we rate this as no kind of value for money. If you buy these you have wasted 66p. Avoid at all costs.

Junior Sidekick's Three Word Verdict:
Sam was sensibly at school when these were reviewed. Even though it was a Sunday. Hmmmm. Who's a clever boy then?

The "Aah, Bisto" Factor:
Desperately trying to find positives for these items. What was the aroma like during cooking? Well, there wasn't any. A nice sausage-y, spicy whiff would have been a counterbalance to the awful lack of flavour and texture but there was.....nothing. Less smelly than an Obsessive Compulsive Cleaner's toilet bowl.

The Imaginatively Titled Next Day Cold Sausage Test:
Didn't want to re-visit these vile things again. Leftovers went straight in the bin.

And Finally, Esther:
Woodside Farms is a fictitious producer, invented by a multinational uber-shop to fool people into thinking the product is better than it is. On no account should anybody buy this product, ever. Please put your 66p into a charity collection box instead.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Oslinc - Horncastle - Ostrich & Tomato Sausage

We have written many, many reviews of pork sausages. Sausages made of pig. This one is something entirely new and challenging for us. The bangers are full of bird. And the bird in question is ostrich.

According to the World Ostrich Association (WOA) "Ostrich meat is a "red meat" similar in colour and taste to beef. The meat from an Ostrich comes from the leg, thigh, and back. An Ostrich has NO breast meat like the chicken and turkey.

Even though Ostrich meat tastes like beef, the Ostrich does not have fat marbling in the meat like beef. Ostriches have fat, but it collects outside the muscles and is easily removed during processing. Therefore, the cuts of meat are very lean with very low fat content."

So there you have it, straight from the horse's mouth. Or ostrich's beak.

Where To Find Them:
Oslinc live at White House Farm on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds, just outside the pretty market town of Horncastle. I've never been there but it looks like an idyllic place to work. If you want to visit and buy food from them there is a small but bijou farm shop on site which is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. If you're using Sausnav use the postcode PE22 7PL. Their website is charming - Oslinc website

Alternatively look out for the Oslinc stall at many farmers' markets around the local area - for a full list click on this Farmers Markets We found them at the Sleaford market, just in front of the war memorial near St Denys church.

Finally, you can order for delivery by courier for a reasonable £4.95.

Very chatty and helpful Stans behind the stall. We were briefly tempted to buy an ostrich egg for the next morning's breakfast, but were put off by the cooking time and need to buy a pan roughly seven metres in diameter!

There's a much darker and deeper flavour than your average pork sausage. It's closer to venison but with beefy influences. The flavour is very powerful but tasty, and would possibly dominate other flavours in many meals. The meat itself is an enjoyable taste and there's a decent kick of pepper at the back of your mouth. These are labelled as "ostrich and tomato sausages" but I couldn't really get the tomato, which is a slight pity.

Very firm. Quite resistant when you cut in to them but lovely and juicy inside. The filling is medium chopped which suits the meat, and gives a firmly bound together texture that is difficult to push apart with the fork. Not the greatest ever texture we've found, but definitely hovering around the play-off places. The sausages were very solid in the pan. All started off exactly the same size and shape but took on their own differing dimensions during cooking - nice to see.

The Imaginatively Titled Next Day Cold Sausage Test:
We lined these sausages up with three very different dips - Norfolk Knobbly chutney by Candi's Chutney, horseradish by Calon Lan and French's yellow mustard.
Norfolk Knobbly - Decent mix. The chutney is sweet and tangy and goes well with the cold ostrich meat.
Horseradish - This was the best combination, as the sausages have more than a hint of beef about them. A nice combination, and good quality horseradish.
Mustard - Not terrible but third place in this company.

Vital Statistics:
Average Weight Uncooked = 67 grams
Average Weight Cooked = 53 grams
Meat Content = Ummm. Yet again I have failed to note the meat content. Sorry. Again.

Value For Money:
£5.99 for 6 sausages weighing 402grams. This works out as £14.90 per kg and £1.00p per banger. Note that the tray that these sausages are provided in weighs 28 grams, which is included in the unit cost.

We rate this as good value for money - on the steep side but a very good, unusual product.

And Finally, Esther:
An interesting departure from our usual territory. Give them a try for yourself. Healthy and tasty!