Category Archives: Food and Drink

Love or Hate Marmite? It’s genetic…

In a landmark scientific study, Marmite has discovered the reason why we love it or hate it – proving that the answer is in our genes. Over the past 12 months, Marmite has worked with one of the UK’s leading genetic testing centres – DNAFit – to conduct a clinical trial to determine whether there is a biological link to people’s taste preference for loving or hating Marmite.

Coined ‘The Marmite Gene Project’, the ground-breaking study has scientifically shown that people are born genetically more likely to be lovers or more likely to be haters of Marmite and conclusively shows that there is a genetic foundation to Marmite taste preference.

Cementing its reputation as the most loved and hated product of our generation, the genetic study recruited more than 260 healthy adults, with an equal split of men and women taking part across the UK.

Study participants were first asked to taste a 2g serving of Marmite on their tongue for 10 seconds, filling out a questionnaire to identify their assumed ‘love or hate’ Marmite taste preference and their reaction to Marmite once tasted.

Saliva cheek swabs were then taken from each participant to obtain DNA samples that were sent for genetic analysis to identify SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) associated with Marmite taste preference. More commonly known as ‘snips’, SNPs are single DNA building blocks that have an impact on specific traits.

A whopping 8,760 hours were spent swabbing, analysing and interpreting results. The Marmite Gene Project has identified 15 candidate SNPs that are linked to Marmite taste preference.

Thomas Roos (MSc Biology & MSc Clinical Research, Stanford University), Principal Investigator of The Marmite Gene Project at DNAFit, said: “Our research indicates that Marmite taste preference can in large parts be attributed to our genetic blueprint, which shows that each of us is born with a tendency to be either a ‘lover’ or a ‘hater’. Our data reveals that there are multiple genes that contribute towards this, and it is a really exciting discovery.”

However, Roos also offers hope for all Marmite lovers hoping to convert friends and families to the ‘love’ side of the spectrum.

 “Like anything in genetics, taste preference is dictated by both nature and nurture. Our environment can impact our taste preference as much as the genes we are born with.”

A scientific White Paper is available from today detailing the full findings. Gene Test Kits will be available to buy from so people can discover for themselves whether they were born Marmite lovers or haters.

Philippa Atkinson, Marmite Brand Manager, said: “For over a century we too have been questioning why the nation is so clearly divided between love or hate for Marmite. Finally, we have the answers. The DNA data provides a glimpse into our taste preferences. While it’s fascinating looking at the data on this scale, the fun really starts when you test your own DNA and begin to delve into your own genetic make-up and see if you were born a lover or hater of Marmite.”

Avi Lasarow, CEO of DNAFit, said: “Advancing technology means we live in a world of increased appetite for highly personalised food and fitness information. These fascinating findings show again how each day we are understanding more and more about the role that genetics play in our daily lives. The mystery around Marmite is one of the great British food debates, and we are proud to have led this exciting research project.”

Join the conversation using #MarmiteGene.

SM reviews… I Sea Pasta from Seamore food

I Sea Pasta looks like tagliatelle but is 100% wild, handpicked and organic seaweed from Connomara, Ireland. It is a fresh sea vegetable ready to be used as pasta, veggies or anything in between.

SM tester writes: “If pasta made from seaweed sounds super-duper healthy to you also, then like me, you’ll probably leave it at the back of the cupboard for a while whilst pondering how to cook it. But it is actually super versatile; you can do more or less anything you’d do with regular pasta (although maybe not carbonara!) I played it safe with cherry tomatoes and a bit of seafood… 

I’ll warn you, whilst this stuff is cooking your kitchen will smell like a fishing boat coming in to harbour – but this fades by the time it has drained and you’ve served. 

The taste is (predictably) quite salty; but nice (assuming you like samphire, oysters or other sea-fare. It looks great on a plate so is definitely a talking point – and packed with iron, iodine, potassium and protein.

And btw, if you think seaweed pasta is weird, Seamore food also make seaweed bacon!”

Dark Horse Sauvignon Blanc surveys BBQ trends

Bring a bottle or you won’t be invited back…

Dark Horse suggests avoiding BBQ’s in Nottingham unless you want sausages and -unsurprisingly- that we Brits wouldn’t invite a guest back if they showed up empty handed to an alfresco blaze-up. 

According to the survey Brits have revealed that:
  • We will spend an average 11 hours at BBQs this year- and 400 million hours as a nation
  • We’ll consume 570 million bottles of beer, 410 million glasses of white wine and 55 million tablespoons of ketchup at BBQs this year
  • On average, the UK’s favourite meat option to serve is burgers– with only Nottingham choosing sausages at their meat of choice
  • White wine, beer and cider came top as the alcoholic beverages Brits would most like to consume at a BBQ
  • On average, we would prefer to see at least 3 different types of drinks and 3 different types of meat at a BBQ
  • 9 per cent of Brits would not invite you again if you turn up to a BBQ empty handed, hosts would most like to receive bottles of beer, a bottle of wine or snacks such as crisps from their guests
image: getty

Dark Horse Sauvignon Blanc is available from Ocado.

(guest post)

Get Free Prosecco from the Freixenet Van tonight

The happiest two words in the English language? ‘Free Prosecco’ might surely be a contender.

The difficult to pronounce Freixenet brand is generously offering Londoners the chance to sample a glass of their new fizz tonight – details below.

Where: Freixenet van, London Wine Week (Devonshire Square, EC2M)

When: 9th June, 5-10pm

With the weather getting warmer and the days becoming longer, global renowned sparkling wine brand Freixenet is giving Londoners a reason to raise a glass to ‘al-freixco’ drinking and more time spent outdoors with friends, by offering a complimentary glass of its new Prosecco at London Wine Week.

Presented in a striking cut-glass bottle and set to be the most ‘Instagrammable’ bubbly of the season, Freixenet is offering Londoners a first sip of its new Prosecco – simply by posting a selfie by the Freixenet van at Devonshire Square on Instagram or Twitter, using the handle @FreixenetUK and the hashtag #SummerAlFreixco, and showing the photo to the Freixenet stand to claim a complimentary glass of fizz.

With celebration at the heart of Freixenet’s brand mission, the offer is designed to help Londoners enjoy all of life’s special moments – whether big or small – with a glass of the new Freixenet Prosecco in hand.

Terms & Conditions

18+ only. Maximum – one reward per person. 

To claim: on Friday 9th June 2017 show your Instagram or Twitter post to staff at the Freixenet van that includes @FreixenetUK and #SummerAlFreixco.

Reward: 1 x 125ml glass of Freixenet wine of your choice.  Subject to availability.

The Freixenet van will also be showcasing its premium and award-winning range of Cavas: Cordon NegroCordon Rosado,ICE Cava and ICE Rose.

Our pick of… Picnic Baskets

Nothing quite says ‘English Summer’ than loading up a picnic hamper with a spread and scoffing it al fresco. Obviously the right kit is crucial (unless you like scooping up waterlogged cheese and crackers from the bottom of your bag) – here are a few options we love:

Hadleigh’s Wicker 4-person basket (£49.95) has a curved lid so is much easier to close when you’ve over catered (or want to put a bottle of wine in there) and the neutral inlay makes it look much classier and more expensive than it really is.

Willow & Avon’s 4-person Tweed basket (£99.99) comes with a blanket and napkins as well as plates, cutlery, wine glasses, salt and pepper pots and a corkscrew. In fact, everything but the kitchen sink.

Going hiking (or need your hands free to push a buggy)? Try the chic grey VonShef Ash 4-person picnic backpack (£49.95) for size. The outer pocket has a chiller feature to keep your prosecco ‘party ready’.


 Feeling too lazy to cut the crusts off your cucumber sarnies? Check out The Little Picnic Company, who – as the name suggests – will do it all for you and deliver…

Your food comes either in their signature blue cardboard carrier box or pay a bit more and they’ll pack it into a wicker basket.

Snack Time: Nairn’s Astro Bites

Nairn’s (the makers of those lovely oatcakes you keep in the cupboard telling yourself you’ll eat for pre-gym energy but end up loading up with cheese for a late night snack when you’ve forgotten to eat all day…) have a range of fun mini bites for kids in the shape of space stuff.

We tested the Berry flavour (they also come in choc chip and cheese) on some hungry after-schoolers.

Foodista’s caramel cream cheese

“Nairn’s Astrobites are gluten free and have barely any sugar when compared to other kids’ snacks, but none of that will be in any way on your child’s radar because – essentially – they look like space ships. The Berry variety isn’t too sweet – one tip is to put them out with a round bowl of hummus or a cream cheese dip and let the kids pretend they are ‘landing on the moon’…”

Available from most supermarkets incl Ocado. For more info and stockists click here. 

Snack Time…Googly Fruit

This month we’ve been loving the quirky (slightly geeky) googly eyed pouches from Googly Fruit.

With at least one of your five-a-day squished into on-the-go snack pouches, the fruit and veg are all organic and the taste combinations are a bit more unusual than many of their similar looking competitors (using veg like purple carrot, pumpkin and sweet potato, for example) – but totally delicious (even to the most faddy toddler).

Either suck ’em, serve on spoons (we love the Doddle Spoons, for out and about convenience), squirt into yoghurt or spread the fruity compote onto toast…

Word of warning: the blueberry flavour is especially purple! Best consumed naked to avoid staining 😉

Available from Ocado.

Irayne Paikin from Todenham Manor Farm’s tips for a Stellar Bank Holiday Roast

With the May bank holidays just around the corner, it’s the perfect opportunity to get together with your loved ones and enjoy a traditional roast dinner. Irayne Paikin, Founder of Todenham Manor Farm, a high-welfare producer of award-winning, rare-breed pork and beef, gives her top tips on which meat cuts to choose to serve the perfect roast dinner:

  • Taste you can trust: The rearing of the animal will have a huge impact on flavour. Animals that have been well looked after and cared for will result in a much higher quality meat – for example, cattle that have enjoyed pasture, once its dry enough for them to go out again. Food labels, such as Great Taste, offer a trusted stamp of approval. Great Taste is the acknowledged benchmark for fine food and drink and a sign you can trust when buying in your local, quality retailer. Or you can buy directly from a farm – don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions about how the animals are reared and cared for, to give you total traceability.
  • Don’t break the bank: Buying a joint of meat doesn’t need to be expensive. For example, topside beef, a large lean cut of beef, offers good value. Check for how long the meat has been hung (or aged) – the longer the better, in terms of tenderness and flavour. All our beef is dry-aged for 28 days in our humidity controlled ageing chiller.
  • Go for gammon: It’s easy to cook and tastes delicious with a simple glaze – my favourite is marmalade! Pork that has been hung before butchering will be much more flavoursome – all our pork is hung for seven days, is rare-breed and outdoor reared. Simmer the joint with bay leaves and peppercorns, and then stud with cloves, glaze and roast for a short time. If you have any left over after the roast, it’s amazing in a cheese toastie!
  • Pull out the stops: If you want to impress, ribeye or sirloin beef is delicious. Don’t be put off by the fat, it’s natural and we’d recommend you keep it on when cooking as it really adds to the flavour and helps to keep the meat moist. For those who prefer a leaner meal, trimming the fat off is easy once cooked.
  • Don’t forget the old favourites: Although not the star of the roast dinner, sausages and bacon are one of the little delights which perfectly complement the plate. Why not try pork sausages for a traditional taste or, for something a little different, try a chorizo sausage for a little extra kick.

Situated in 800 acres of lush farm land in Moreton-in-Marsh, Todenham Manor Farm is home to Middle White, Saddleback and Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, South Devon and Aberdeen Angus cattle. The Farm boasts an onsite butchery, complete with its very own team of master butchers.

Weekend meat box (roast dinner meat plus breakfast as well):

  • 1.5Kg Traditional Rare Breed Sausages
  • 250g Home Cured Rare Breed Streaky Bacon
  • 2Kg Rare Breed Gammon Joint (Boned & Rolled)
  • 2Kg 28 Day Aged Topside Joint of Beef
  • 12 Sage and Onion Stuffing Balls
  • 12 Pigs in Blankets

Todenham Manor Farm ‘Weekend’ meat box – prices start from £84.99 for a box which feeds 6 people. Delivery is direct to your door. Click here to order.

(guest post)

Dr Sally Norton’s guide to Nut Butters…

Comment by Dr Sally Norton, NHS weight loss consultant surgeon.  UK health expert.  Founder of 

Not that long ago, the only choice when it came to nut butters was smooth or crunchy peanut butter. Now the preserves shelves in health food shops are offering a choice of almond, cashew and brazil alternatives – but what are the health benefits?

While nuts may contain a seemingly high amount of calories and fat – they can play a role (in the right portions!)  in a well-balanced, healthy diet. Most of the fat in nuts is the healthy unsaturated type, plus they are a fabulously well-rounded source of protein, vitamins  E and B group, minerals including copper, zinc and magnesium and fibre. They are a great on-the-go snack with a low glycaemic index to help you feel fuller for longer and help suppress appetite. You can easily make your own, just by blitzing nuts (pre-roast for a few minutes if you like) in a food processor until the natural oils are released to form a buttery texture. But if you go for shop-bought, check the label to find one that has no hidden nasties like sugar or palm oil.

Here’s our breakdown of the pros and cons of the nut butter aisle:

Peanut (not a true nut, but a legume, we have included it here as it is conventionally grouped with other tree nuts to consumers):

Pros: A good source of protein; highest folic acid content (useful during pregnancy) as well as being high in healthy monounsaturated fats and vitamin E.

Cons: Some brands have a little added sugar but these days many have none added.


Pros: Highest in zinc, copper and iron – naturally sweeter than many other nut butters.

Cons: Less protein than other nuts.

Pros: One of the lowest in calories and the highest in protein, fibre and calcium.

Cons: Relatively few, although some brands can have a bitter aftertaste.


Pros: Good for men, as 1-2 nuts nut delivers your recommended daily intake of the mineral selenium, which may help protect against prostate cancer and heart disease.

Cons: The most expensive option when it comes to nut butters.


Pros: One of the few vegetarian sources of the omega-3 fatty acid, ALA  some of which can be converted to long chain omega 3 known to be involved in heart health.

Cons: Bitter aftertaste, slightly lower protein and slightly higher in fat than some other nut butters.


Pros: One of the lowest percentages of saturated fat (along with pine nuts and almonds); highest proanthocyanidins (PACs) content of all nut butters. The antioxidant capabilities of PACs are likely to be 20 times more potent than vitamin C and 50 times more potent than Vitamin E.

Cons: Often found to be coupled with chocolate spreads so read the label carefully!

TIP: Most nut butters characteristically separate when stored, this doesn’t affect their nutritional value, simply stir to combine before eating.

Super Yummies add to their breadstick range…

Super Yummies, the toddler range from Cow & Gate have added a new flavour to their mini-bite-sized breadsticks. Pumpkin and Rosemary now joins the existing Spinach and Tomato and Herb varieties.

Our office little ones couldn’t keep their mitts of them – they scoffed a whole packet in one go – but as they are high in fibre and were created by nutritionists, we could hardly tell them off…

Available now from Asda, Superdrug, Boots, Tescos and Sainsbury’s. More info online.