The original title for this somewhat pointless series was ‘eating weird stuff from weird shops’. Chosen by my wee nephew (the son of my big nephew) when poking around the weird and wonderful food at our local B&Ms. Saying “bet you wouldn’t eat that”. So it became a challenge of sorts. However I have renamed it, as it may become offensive to some when poking through local ethnic shops like Polish or Asian supermarkets pointing out “weird foods”. Anyway, for now we are starting with B&M Food.
So this is the first of what will likely be a short-lived series where I go to the lesser-known supermarkets of Bangor in Northern Ireland in search of weird and wonderful foods to snack on. Starting with B&M, one of the UK’s fastest-growing variety retailers, selling Big Brand names at Sensational Prices. Wow!
So on my most recent visit (following my week as a vegetarian), I was there to pick up cheap treats and Pepsi Max for my wee nephew’s fortnightly visit. And I was determined to find him some weird foods from the B&M food aisles. Also to make the occasion even more special, there was a “meet the family” thing with my big nephew inviting his new girlfriend along. Making it it the perfect opportunity to show off a slap-up meal using tinned foods from the shelves of my local B&M discount store.
The Shopping List
The food in B&M is like a mix of wonder and nostalgia with discontinued items from mainstream supermarkets, along with some weird and exciting foods that I’ve never even seen before. And while the range isn’t quite as impressive as what they show online (it’s like a smaller B&M here), it makes shopping a lot easier given it’s mostly just tinned and prepackaged foods. Other than a small fridge at the entrance.
In general the food at B&M is the food I don’t really pass often on the ‘Big Shop’ in Tescos and it’s mostly food made to stockpile and last. It’s a bit like post-apocalypse food, food that could probably last tens of years in a fallout shelter, it’s stuff they’re still eating in the Walking Dead. Potential Post-Brexit food.
I only planned on spending £10 on this challenge, but I also had a few of my own groceries to pick up including Pepsi Max 2l (£1.35), 3 Batchelors Pasta ‘n’ Sauce (£1.50) and 2 tins of coconut milk (£1). I was then tempted by a couple of odd fizzy pops with Old Jamaica Grape Soda (£0.39), and a big Barr Cherryade (£0.39). So, in total, I spent a massive £16 quid on food in B&M. And I was walking out of there like King Dingaling.
Wikinger Hot Dogs (£1.00)
We started with the Wikinger Hot Dogs which are apparently Bockwurst Style and they come in a glass jar filled with brine. Okay, they really don’t look or sound appetizing at all. But you get 6+1 free so they appear to be of decent value (350g for the price of 300g). And being pre-cooked they can be ‘enjoyed straight from the jar’. You just screw off the lid and fire away.
This is where we begin, as an appetizer of sorts, because eating doesn’t come much easier than munching sausages straight from a jar. But it was made a lot harder after seeing the jizz-like gelatine covering the sausages at the top of the jar. But I forced one down anyway, and the flavour reminded me of those sausages you’d get in Heinz Sausages and Beans, with a distinct porkish flavour I’ve not eaten since the 80s.
So I wouldn’t recommend eating them straight from the jar, unless you’ve no microwave to nuke them, or are just really desperate. Otherwise cooking instructions are solely by boiling in a saucepan for 5-minutes, which doesn’t seem like time well spent. When you can have them well heated in a microwave in a 5th of the time, popped into a hot dog bun, and flavoured with some ketchup and mustard. And the heated sausages are infinitely better, not far from the traditional hot dogs of New York stands, and I have bought more since.
Mayflower Curry Sauce Mix (£1.00)
There are a handful of regular items I call in for at B&M. Simply because they’re cheaper than Tesco’s. These include Nescafé Mochas for Fanfan, Pasta n Sauces, and Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Then cat food is often cheaper than the Pet Shop etc. and their Christmas Hampton Chutney Selection (6 pots) are great sampling with cheese.
Then there are those brands not available in Tescos, including Mayflower, with silly cheap Coconut Milk (£0.50) which I use for Thai curries. But they also have a range of different Asian favourites to replicate all those delightful Chinese takeaway delights. And the Mayflower Curry Sauce Mix is well known for making some cheap and tasty Chinese curry fakeaway. Following a few tweaks.
Obviously Mayflower curry sauce is not a great meal in itself, unless you’re big into eating straight gravy. As it’s otherwise more of an ingredient to either pour over food or to add to make decent fakeaway curry. But this time I decided to mix it up a bit with B&Ms Southern Style Gravy Mix, and, from what I can remember, it was the highlight of the night’s banquet. At least it gave a bit of flavour to the less exciting additions to the plate.
Fray Bentos Meaty Puds (£1.79)
I remember when Fray Bentos were like the ultimate indulgence in our household, alongside Vienetta Ice Cream, and maybe a pyramid of Ferrero Rocher. The perfect combo for the most elegant of feasts. But I’ve not really seen them in years given the rarity of my ventures into the jailbird aisles in Tescos. However these foods are what B&M are all about, and while Google says that pretty much all of this list can (or could) be found in aisles of Tesco and Sainsbury’s etc. They are otherwise very obvious in B&M.
The Saturday night B&M eating extravaganza would also take place on Burns Night meaning I cheated slightly with additions of haggis and some peat smoked Scotch Whisky. Otherwise the Fray Bentos Meatie Pud was set to be the pride of the plate, only to completely underwhelm from what little I can remember. Even the Heinz Baked Beans Barbecue (£0.79) were more memorable on the night.
Fray Bentos are otherwise one of the bigger brand names (at bargain prices) in B&M although the Classic oven pies (£1.00) are definitely better value for money. And having paid £1.79 for the meaty pud I realised later that I was being ripped off. As they’re often no more than a quid in the big supermarkets. You live you learn. But I also thought I was paying a premium (almost twice the price) for convenience given Fray Bentos Meaty Puds only take 3-minutes in the microwave instead of the not-worth-waiting 25-30 minutes of the originals in the oven.
Westlers Burgers in Tins (£1.09)
Again you can literally just open the tin and wire Westlers Burgers straight into your food-hole. Which I did. And again I was surprised to find that generic pork flavour similar to Winklers hot dogs. Which I guess would be great if you’re into ‘Frank n Beans’ although I’m really not. So I am wondering if people do actually eat these things ‘straight from the tin’? When just 1-minute in the microwave makes these foods infinitely better.
So I obviously expected these burgers to be more beefy, and a lot less hammy, as even hamburgers don’t have ham in them. But checking the label I found that the burgers are in fact 42% pork, 24% chicken and there is no beef at all. It’s all disappointing. Anyway, the onion gravy is far from great either, and overall the meal could only be salvaged by loads of HP or Reggae Reggae sauce.
But I was still determined to make a proper burger from them, even though it was the last suggested recipe on the list. And so I fired them into the microwave to heat for a minute or two before slopping them, covered in gravy, into burger buns. I then kept to my usual burger routine with gherkins, jalapeños, cheese, burger sauce, and a taste of salad for health. But there really is no real way of saving them. It was like eating a burger made of baby food.
Parsons Pickled Mussels (£0.89)
I remember a mate of mine would bring out jars of pickled mussels (or pickled cockles) to munch on while the rest of us snacked on crisps and normal things. Although I would probably be chomping on some Peperamis. But what made it even weirder is that he wouldn’t eat most fruit or veg because he was put off by the weird textures. Instead he preferred the weird rubbery chew, and vag-like appearance, of possibly one of the most off-putting foods found in the shelves of the U.K.
I’m actually quite fond of pickled foods, and I’m always eating pickled onions, or pickled gherkins, and I have regular cravings to drink pickle juice when drunk. And so the pickle juice is almost always beneath the onion line on any pickle jar. Anyway, I was also drunk when eating the pickled mussels, and, surprisingly, they really weren’t so bad. I was kind of getting into them. But then I spilt pickle juice all over the sofa, which stank out the house, and the next day I was almost throwing chunks at the thought of them.
Double Dares Jelly Beans (£1.00)
I have always had a thing for novelty sweets like super sour Eye Poppers and the silly hot Fireball Jawbreakers. As these are sweets that challenge us to extreme yet still traditional flavours. Double Dares Jelly Beans are different where they instead mix traditional jelly bean flavours with some of the most rancid tastes you can think of. Apart from toothpaste. I could happily eat toothpaste. So this was apparently the 3rd edition we tried which included:
- Blueberry or Toothpaste
- Watermelon or Snot
- Strawberry or Fresh Blood
- Cola or Catfood
- Tutti Fruity or Rotten Milk
- Caramel or Farts
But what concerned me more was that the packaging didn’t specifically say that these sweets didn’t actually contain literal blood, or cat food and I could be eating sweets made up of literal farts.
So started is a pointless challenge between the 3 of us as we each bit down on random jelly beans at the same time. And, for me, it was strawberry, it was watermelon for my wee nephew and thankfully it was my big nephew that got the rotten milk. And he quickly spat it out. So that was 1 rotten sweet in 3 before everyone lost interest and left me alone with a packet full of potentially stinking jelly beans.
But I kept the challenge going, and next up it was cat food which was easily one of the rankest tastes I’ve ever had in my mouth. So I spat it into the bin and fired another jelly bean into my mouth hoping to offset the funkiness of cat food. But I’m straight onto farts. And the combined taste was ranker than anything I could imagine. So that’s now 3 in 6 and potentially half the pack could be rotten. And I was left with near a full pack of these jellybeans to get rid of. So I put them into a nice decorative bowl and left them around the house for some scundered soul to start munching on them.
Betty Winters Unicorn Pancake Mix (£1.00)
“Who wants pancakes?” “….Not Me!” So I did need something dessert-like to wrap up my perfect jailbird feast. And this brought me to browse through the B&M website before calling in to the shop. It was then difficult to see further than ‘Betty Winters Unicorn Pancake Mix’ because who doesn’t want to eat unicorn pancakes? Anyway, this was the only item on the menu that anyone was excited for when the invitation and menu was sent out in advance.
This was more of a treat for my nephew’s girlfriend who is apparently big into unicorns and also studies baking as a career. So I was straight out to impress. But as far as baking goes my skills really don’t reach very far. And while I may be able to throw together random curries and flavours in a pot, when it comes to the technical stuff I’m really just crap. But it didn’t matter anyway. As his girlfriend didn’t arrive until after the meal ended which had nothing to do with the lavishness of my extravagant menu.
Anyway, the prep for the pancakes couldn’t be any simpler, where you just add milk to the bottle, shake it a bit, and then squeeze a blob of pancake mix onto the pan. But I was forced to cook with a wok, and I may have only wiped down the surface with kitchen roll before ‘baking’ with it, as the pancakes came out spicier and more curry-like than expected. Otherwise they ended up as a pile of mushy and scoured pink messes that tasted absolutely nothing like unicorns.
Pek Pork (£1.75)
I am new to the whole ‘meat in cans’ game but I think Pek Chopped Pork may be a bit like Spam, although I can’t say I’ve eaten Spam before either. And while I did consider Spam as an option at the time, it was also surprisingly expensive when compared to the cheapness of Pek Chopped Pork. And so Pek Chopped Pork it is.
Again the tin tells me in tiny letters ‘ready to eat‘ and I was ready to dive straight in. But my enthusiasm quickly died after cracking open the tin to find the pork surrounded by a weird liquid. So I was quick to pour down the liquid down the drain only it wouldn’t budge at all. It was completely jellified. And already I want to give up on this challenge.
Fortunately I am a whisky or 2 down by this time, so I grabbed a spoon and carved a big scoop from the porky centre away from the jellified edges. And i guess the pork does have an edible meat flavour and it was more the odd soft texture That put me off. And I guess it’s a bit like eating processed cat food, and if cat food was labelled as human food I would probably do the same. Anyway, it is meat, it is edible, and it is cheap enough to lob straight into the bin.
Because I was otherwise stumped at what to do next with it, as the only indication is written in tiny letters at the bottom of the tin. It reads ‘serving suggestion’ and it is set next to a picture of two fried pucks of Pek pork along with chips, beans and a fried egg. And so that’s what I did. And admittedly the pork is a fair bit tastier when fried with a light searing, and that odd cat food texture is tougher and less off-putting. But I’d still rather much have bacon.
Snacksters Doner Kebabs (£1.00)
Going by 90% of my Just Eat orders, along with the majority of meals I eat when traveling through Europe, Doner Kebabs would be by far my personal fast food staple. And it’s somewhat surprising at how little often you find Doner kebabs or doner meat on the shelves of supermarkets. In fact, I can’t say I have ever seen them at all. And if I did come across them I’d certainly buy a slab of it to-go.
Anyway, my original pick from the tiny entrance fridge at our Bangor B&M was the New Rustlers Chipotle (£1.29) which my wee nephew scoffed saying he was desperate for something ‘normal’ to eat. He didn’t even add the sauce. So I found myself taking a run back to the shop and I was ecstatic to find a Doner Kebab added to the fridge shelves.
Typically my standard kebab order would be a Doner Kebab in Pitta with Hot Sauce, Kebab (House) Sauce, sprinkles of chopped fresh green chillies, and no salad. This normally costs me around £4 from my local kebab shops. Instead, at B&M, I get 5 shaves slices of kebab meat in a pocket with hot sauce for £1. It then takes 1-minute to heat in the microwave.
I really quite like it, the doner meat is doner meat, and the sauce really is quite piquant and powerful (would be good on its own). However the meal-size is meagre and there would probably be more grams of fat in my usual kebab order than the entire weight of this meal/snack. And as they would say in our local Bangor Kebab shops the meal size “barely tickled my pubes”. At £1 as well it really cannot compete with a proper kebab from the local takeaway.