• 7 best salt and pepper mills and shakers to season your food with ease
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    The Independent

    7 best salt and pepper mills and shakers to season your food with ease

    A hard-working, everyday piece of kitchen kit – the humble salt and pepper mill needs to stand the test of time. Essential for seasoning your food to perfection, whether that’s while rustling up a meal, or sitting at the dining table.However, there’s really no need to spend a fortune and you can expect a good quality set to last many years, with some in our round-up even coming with a lifetime guarantee.We hadn’t considered this before, but as well as grinding tough black peppercorns and rough sea salt, many of the sturdy mills with good quality mechanisms are also capable of crushing whole spices too – a handy kitchen hack we’re happy to have discovered. Personally, we prefer a grinder that dispenses the fruits of its labour from the top, that way kitchen mess is kept to a minimum, however, some of these clever contraptions even come with their own pretty plate, so whatever your preference, there’s an option for that.And if grinding by hand sounds like too much effort, we’ve even included a battery-powered option, which will dispense freshly ground seasoning at the touch of a button.At the other end of the gadget spectrum is a simple salt and pepper shaker, if you don’t require freshly ground condiments.Another thing to consider before selecting your mills is where your set will be kept when not in use. Do you want a stylish pair, worthy of keeping out on display? Or would you rather something small and compact that will stay tucked away in a cupboard until you need it.When testing we were looking for user-friendly sizes, easy to fill contraptions that looked chic at the same time.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers , but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Menu norm bottle grinder salt and pepper set: £60, Harvey NicholsIn stylish, muted shades of grey and off-white, this Scandinavian salt and pepper mill set is as good-looking as it is functional. Each mill is comprised of two parts which simply pull apart for you to fill the bottom half. As well as grinding coarse sea salt and black peppercorns, these would also work well on whole spices and seeds, with a choice of three settings which determine how fine you’d like the result. The outer shell is made of silicon, which is easy to wipe down and each mill is finished with a light wooden top. As the opening is at the top of each grinder, you won’t leave a trail of salt and pepper in your wake when out of use.Buy now Zara Home berghoff salt and pepper grinder: £19.99, Zara HomeReminding us of something we might see in a rustic Italian trattoria, these sleek black salt and pepper mills will look just as great in the home. Measuring 27.5cm in height, these tall mills are made from wood and have a sturdy ceramic and stainless steel grinder mechanism. To fill, unscrew the knob at the top, remove the lid and fill to the top – which should keep you going for some time.Buy now Tower electric salt and pepper mill set: £22,99, WayfairSave the elbow grease and invest in a battery-operated pair of mills instead. Making light work of grinding salt, pepper and other spices, just hold down the button on top and an LED light will appear, making it even easier to see what you’re doing. They’re stylish too, sporting a very on-trend marble and rose gold design, paired with an acrylic section allowing you to see what each grinder is holding. A good option for those with arthritis in the hands or other mobility issues.Buy now Cole & Mason gourmet precision+ Lyndhurst ash inverta salt and pepper mill set: £99.99, Cole & MasonNew for 2019, the Precision+ grinding mechanism is billed as Cole & Mason’s “best pepper grinder ever”. The new technology has been created to release more pepper per turn and will come from the top of each mill, to keep your kitchen sides free from residue. With a pleasing weight and smooth carbon steel mechanism, these mills are available in either Nordic white with steel or chestnut and rose gold designs which should fit into most kitchen colour schemes. These offered the widest grind choices, with six options for pepper and three for salt and we found filling each mill from the base very easy. Although one of the most expensive brands we tried, these mills are covered with Cole & Mason’s lifetime mechanism guarantee.Buy now Anthropologie bistro salt and pepper shakers: £16, AnthropologieReminding us that not all salt and pepper mills need to be purely functional is the fabulously eclectic homeware brand, Anthropologie. Designed in an elegant, black, white and gold tile effect pattern, the set contains a pair of shakers for your salt and pepper, labelled with a large S and P respectively, as well as a very handy dish to collect any rogue crumbs. There is also a butter dish, various sized canisters (ideal for sugar cubes, tea bags and the like) and coasters in the same design.Buy now John Lewis & Partners hammered copper salt and pepper mills: £45, John Lewis & PartnersThe trend for hammered copper in homeware pieces shows no signs of dying down. Unlike clinical silver or showy gold, this more muted metal has the ability to soften décor, with a warm glow which works back with a number of kitchen colour palettes. This simple and pretty set is very straight forward to use, with just the one grind setting. To fill, just you just twist the silver tip, remove the top half of the mill and simply pour in your salt or pepper before reassembling – leaving the pair to shine on the kitchen counter whilst not in use.Buy now STAUB salt and pepper shaker Set: £9.95, STAUBCheap, cheerful and unapologetically low tech, you won’t find any mechanical grinders in this set. Instead, a simple shake and you’re away. Measuring a diminutive 7cm in height, they take up very little space in compact kitchens and add a cheerful pop of colour in this rich dark blue hue. Obviously, you’ll need to buy pre-ground salt and pepper but despite the simplicity, French brand STAUB is one you can trust, hailing as they do from the food-lovin region of Alsace. Crafted from the brands signature ceramic, we’re confident these are built to last, despite the reasonable price tag.Buy now The verdict: Salt and pepper mills and shakersWe’ve been the happy owners of this set for years and they show no signs of giving up on us yet. Well priced, stylish and simple to use, the Menu norm bottle grinder set is a design classic.

  • 9 cocktail shakers to inspire your inner mixologist
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    The Independent

    9 cocktail shakers to inspire your inner mixologist

    Whether your vice is a classic martini (shaken, not stirred a la James Bond) or a perfectly frothed pisco sour, the humble cocktail shaker is an essential piece of kit for making your favourite cocktail recipes like the pros. It’s particularly important for creating the light foam found in some egg white-based cocktails and is also the quickest way of cooling a drink down, while adding just the right amount of dilution from the added ice. Ingredients are thoroughly combined – whether it’s a boozy affair or a mocktail – and you’ll look pretty cool in the process. When selecting your cocktail shaker, there are two main types to consider. The Boston is comprised of two parts, normally a larger tin and a smaller glass which should be added at a jaunty angle to create a tight seal. This style tends to offer a larger capacity to work with, which is why it’s referred to as the busy bartenders cocktail shaker of choice. However, beginners might find a three-piece cobbler style easier to use. This is made up of three parts – the main jug, an inbuilt strainer and the lid, so there’s no need for additional equipment.Although you can spend significantly more, a functional cocktail shaker needn’t set you back more than £20. We’ve rounded up a selection – from the total basic to the more design-led – that will add a little je ne sais quoi to your bar cart when not in use.When testing our shakers we made sure they were easy to grip, maintained a tight seal when shaken, yet were easy to dismantle as well.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent. KitchenCraft Boston shaker: £12.50, Harvey NicholsKitchen Craft has such a great selection of cocktail shakers, from the ultra-practical to the downright stylish, we’ve always found them to be top quality. We think this one strikes a good balance between the two, made from brushed stainless steel and sturdy glass, it’s been printed with classic cocktail recipes for you to easily follow. Simply fill the ingredients to the line and you’ll have the perfect serve for a dry martini, manhattan and more. Inside the box, you’ll also find a cocktail booklet with further recipe suggestions.Buy now S’well blue granite cocktail shaker kit: £95, Harvey NicholsYou’ll no doubt be familiar with S’well for its trendy stainless steel water bottles which come in an array of gorgeous designs. With the emphasis on eliminating single-use plastics, the brand have gained a huge fan base. S’well has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to keeping cold drinks cool and hot drinks hot and has applied this to their very stylish cocktail shaker. Like its water bottles, this shaker is triple-walled and vacuum-insulated – which put simply means your drink will stay super cold, but your hands won’t get frost-bite. Also included in the kit is a pair of stylish tumblers with the same technology, perfect for a variety of cocktails, as well as a handy jigger.Buy now House Doctor alir brass cocktail shaker: £45, TrouvaOh-so-stylish, you’d be forgiven for thinking this shaker was purely decorative. Fear not though, we put it to the test and actually found it to be very practical – particularly the clever knob on the top, which makes it easy to pull apart the two pieces when you’re finished shaking. The only downfall is that due to the beautiful brass finish it will need to be washed by hand. There’s also a matching wine bucket in the range.Buy now Oliver Bonas iko scalloped cocktail shaker: £24, Oliver BonasArt deco lovers will adore this pretty cocktail shaker from Oliver Bonas, which we think looks way more expensive than it is. The rich teal-blue tinted glass features a pretty scallop detail, which, aside from being a lovely design feature, actually makes it really easy to hold on to while shaking. It’s a three-piece style, which is great for beginners as it does away with the need for a separate strainer.Buy now M&S hammered metal cocktail shaker: £15, M&SCheap, cheerful and perfectly functional, this hammered stainless steel cocktail shaker from M&S still manages to look chic at the same time. It comprises three parts – the main jug which holds up to 650ml, an inbuilt strainer and the lid which closes tightly but is still easy to remove after a good shake. There are also other barware pieces in the same style if you’d like a matching set.Buy now KitchenCraft barcraft studded cocktail shaker with gold finish: £19.99, VeryWe couldn’t resist including another shaker from KitchenCraft because we really were so impressed with the quality. This one’s a little flashier, with a gold exterior and diamond stud detail which means it can’t go in the dishwasher. However the rough surface makes it really easy to grip and we loved the rubber rim which makes taking the cap off a doddle. It also comes with a little booklet featuring cocktail recipes to get you started.Buy now John Lewis & Partners pineapple cocktail shaker: £25, John Lewis & PartnersIf there’s one piece of homeware we reckon you can definitely have a little fun with, it’s got to be the cocktail shaker. With full-on tiki-vibes, this shiny silver pineapple-shaped cocktail shaker from John Lewis & Partners is utterly fabulous. We got straight to work rustling up a pina colada (what else?) and are pleased to report that it was certainly not a case of style over substance. Although thanks to the slightly bulbous shape, it wasn’t the easiest to handle – although certainly still manageable. It can hold up to 600ml (enough for a couple of drinks) and looks the part when not in use.Buy now Leopold set of two weighted shaking tins: £21.50, Cocktail KingdomLeopold’s stainless steel shaking tins are inexpensive, durable and can be chucked into the dishwasher after use. These professional shakers are also pleasingly weighted, which makes handling them even easier. They take a little getting used to as you need to insert the smaller tin at just the right angle, but once you’ve got the knack, they really are the perfect shaker for rustling up multiple serves.Buy now Georg Jensen sky cocktail shaker: £110, AmaraLet’s be clear, no one needs to spend this sort of money to get a decent cocktail shaker, with many in this list available for under £20. But this sculptural piece from Georg Jensen is so much more than your bog-standard shaker. Designed by industrial and interior designer Aurélien Barbry, this beautiful piece could just as easily be left on your bar cart and admired from afar, however that would be a crying shame because it’s actually very practical too. Made from sturdy stainless steel, with a curved design which is pleasing to grip, it comes with an inbuilt strainer and can hold up to 500ml. Like this look? The nordic-inspired range also includes a bottle stopper, ice bucket and jigger among other barware essentials.Buy now The verdict: Cocktail shakersGet ready to shake, rattle and roll like the pros with KitchenCraft’s Boston-style shaker, complete with printed serves to follow as you pour. If you have a little more to spend, we’d also recommend the cocktail kit from S’well – the clever technology means your hands will thank you for it.

  • 13 best plastic free tea bags to make your brew better for the planet
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    The Independent

    13 best plastic free tea bags to make your brew better for the planet

    You might think tea bags are just simply paper and tea, and that of course they decompose, and that you’re doing your bit by putting them in your home food waste to compost. But, you’re wrong – unless you use plastic free tea bags, that is.In actual fact, an estimated 96 per cent of the tea bags we buy contain polypropylene, which is what the tea bags are sealed with, so when you put in the used bags in your food waste, you’re actually putting toxic chemicals into your beautiful compost that will eventually seep into the ground.Some plastic free tea brands differ between being biodegradable and compostable, which is important to know about, so you can deal with your used tea bag correctly. The former means it will be broken down by a biological process, but it needs the right conditions which are most often at an industrial level that uses a higher heat than you can obtain in your garden. And the latter is able to break down in home garden composting conditions and will work as a fertilizer afterwards.There are lots of brands who champion making tea bags without these tiny plastic pieces, and there’s more that are changing to rid themselves of it too. But if you’re favourite brand doesn’t offer a plastic free bag of your favourite brew, you can also use loose leaf tea. We looked for brands that not only used alternative materials to plastic in the actual tea bag, but ones that also removed plastic from the packaging, reduced excess materials and tags, paid producers a fair wage, and of course, tasted excellent. Here’s our roundup of tea bags that are free of plastic.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent. Abel & Cole indubitably excellent organic earl grey: £4 for 15, Abel & Cole Coming in a brown paper bag style pouch this tea – sourced from Sri Lanka – is made by Alex Probyn, whom Abel & Cole call the tea whisperer. He began making tea as just a side project, and is now responsible for the brand’s signature blends. The pyramid bags – made from soilon, a bi-product of cornstarch that's best going in food waste – are large and give a well rounded, delicate but full-flavoured brew that’s organic, too. The entirety of the packaging is biodegradable, including the inner plastic-looking lining and reusable seal, made with Nature-flex – which is woodpulp – that’s also home compostable, and takes between three to six months to decompose at home.Buy now Brew Tea Co proper tea earl grey: £4.95 for 15, Brew Tea CoThis brand is all about as transparent and sustainable as it comes, and the brand makes it all fun too. Brew Tea – based in Manchester, uses whole leaves (not dust, it insists) and is a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership which supports small estate grower. This is a refreshing brew full of flavour mixing bergamot oil with ceylon black tea, orange peel and calendula petals. All the tea bags from the brand are made from cornstarch, the inner lining is made from Nature-flex and inside the box is a really useful card telling you what all the packing is made from and how it should be recycled: from the council food recycling (tea bags and inner lining) which decomposes at 45 days to the outer box which goes into the paper recycling. Buy now Clipper organic everyday tea: £3.49 for 80, ClipperIt might look most like an ordinary teabag, but this is far, far from it. Each teabag is unbleached (hence it’s more earthy colour), organic, fairtrade, plastic free and non GM. It was the world’s first pillow-shaped bag to meet this criteria and was launched in 2018. And if that’s not enough, it was even the world’s first fairtrade tea. The bag is made from abaca plants – a type of banana – and the plastic that sealed the bag is replaced with a material made from non-GM plants and it's become our new go-to every day tea. Just like it says. And it's by far the most affordable on the list.Buy now Hampstead Tea whole leaf home compostable pyramids: £4.49 for 15, Hampstead TeaWe love this brand's ethos of "cup to compost", where all the pyramids are made from GM-free sugar startch, which is home compostable, along with the inner plastic-look pouch that holds the tea bags. Hampstead Tea was the first company to produce a fully home compostable bag – which takes 91 days. The tea is whole leaf and all the ingredients are organic or biodynamic, where no chemicals are used. We love that there's no string or labels on the bags and it comes with a little handy bamboo tong to grab your bag out – perfect when there's no spoons in the office.The earl grey makes an excellent, well-rounded brew. There's also four others flavours in the range. ​We Are Tea English breakfast tea: £2.49 for 15, OcadoThis whole-leaf tea company started in 2007, and was the first brand to remove the paper tags from teabags. In 2012, We Are Tea joined the Ethical Tea Partnership and moved from nylon bags to ones made from soilon. Each teabag is sealed by ultrasound instead of glue, which makes them biodegradable at an industrial level between three and six months, so make sure you put them in your council food waste bin. It can go in your home compost, but it will take much longer (at least 18 months). When the tea first launched, the plastic inner part of the packaging was not recyclable, but it's now made from Nature-flex, too.Buy now Eteaket royal earl grey tea bags: From £4.95 for 15, EteaketBased in Edinburgh, this ethically sourced tea specialist café, which opened in 2008, sells its own brews in tea bags and loose leaf and is part of the Ethical Tea Partnership. The tea bags are made from soilon, which isn’t bleached and is biodegradable. The tag is made from paper which is not laminated and is attached to the string via ultrasound, while the inner packaging, made from Nature-flex, is recyclable and can be composted at home. The brand is also working on making all its wholesale orders plastic free too. We love this as a weekend morning brew. And definitely go to the cafe when you're in town. Buy now Nemi Tea green tea : £4.50 for 15, NemiteasThe teabags at Nemi have always been plastic free, since launching in October 2017. The pyramid bags are made from soilon, are guaranteed GM free and are totally biodegradable at industrial level. There’s no glue used to attach the string and labels, instead it's joined by ultrasound and all the packaging is made with Natur-flex. What we love most about this that the brand also helps refugees integrate into the UK by employing them to run their tea stalls. Buy now T2 French earl grey teabag gift cube: £8 for 25, T2This Australian brand, born in 1996 in Melbourne, reached the UK in 2014 in London’s Shoreditch (and grew to 14 stores in the capital) and takes its sustainability seriously. The bags are made from cornstarch, but have a more opaque appearance than any of the others we tested. The bags will breakdown in home composting but it can take a long as 18-24 months so it’s best to put it into your local council food composting where it will be quicker. The inner plastic is not recyclable, but the brand is working on switching this to a plant based material by 2020. This is our favourite new tea for it's floral flavour that we love devouring from a pot at the weekends.Buy now Roqberry: £7 for 18, The Food MarketAfter launching in 2017, Roqberry prides itself on championing “blending the rules” by using classic flavours to create modern fusions such as “aromatic sushi and spice” and “black smoke”. These pyramid teabags, made from soilon, encase the single-source tea that comes in black, green, herbal, rooibos and oolong, and all are biodegradable. As it won’t breakdown in under a year, this tea bag should be thrown out with your council food waste as soilon composes at industrial standards (in six to eight weeks). The cube boxes are made from FSC paper that’s easily recyclable, too.Buy now Pukka Herbs: £2.45 for 20, Holland and BarrettLaunched in 2001 in Bristol, Pukka Tea’s bags differ from all others as each bag is wrapped in an individual envelope to ensure freshness – and it’s more environmentally friendly than you might think. It took four years of research to develop this new packaging, and it has removed more than 100 tonnes of plastic from the brand’s supply chain. The envelope contains only a very thin layer of BPA and PVC free plastic, but is still able to be recycled with paper. Since 2014 the brand stopped using a staple to connect the organic string and plastic-free label, and instead uses a little stitch to attach it.Buy now Good & Proper Tea: £5 for 15 teabags, Good & Proper TeaWhat began life as a mobile tea bar, has now found a permanent cafe in east London. The plastic free range was added in 2017 and is made from the non toxic material soilon (which needs to go in a collected food waste bin). These are the largest bags we tested and aside from Clipper’s pillow shaped bags, are the only one that comes in a flat large square shape, instead of the pyramid. Bags are packaged in a plastic alternative, the plant based material called Vegware which is also compostable, but at industrial levels..Buy now Twinings loose leaf pyramid bag: £6.50 for 15, TwiningsThe Twinings pyramid tea bags have always been plastic free since it was launched in October 2014. They are made from maize starch which is treated by an enzyme that allows it to be spun into filaments. The tea bags include loose leaf tea which makes an excellent brew, but each bag has a label attached that’s covered in a thin layer of plastic – so it won’t dissolve if it ends up in your brew, apparently – and will need to be removed before composting. The inner foil wrapper isn’t recyclable, but Twinings is the process of reviewing it’s range to finpukkd alternatives. Buy now Teapigs everyday brew tea bags: £3.99 for 15, Ocado Teapigs was the first brand to receive the world’s first plastic-free trust mark, created by the campaign group A Plastic Planet in May 2018. These biodegradable bags are made from cornstarch, while the paper tags use vegetable inks and are, you'll be glad to read, non-toxic. Don’t be dismayed when you open your box, as even the clear “plastic” inner bag (made from natureflex) is compostable. The bags can go in your home food recycling bin for compost, which may feel strange, but they will compost.Buy now The verdict: Plastic free tea bagsWe love the flavour and eco-packaging of Abel & Cole's indubitably excellent organic earl grey tea, which is our winner. While Clipper's every day tea ticks many boxes, as does Brew Tea with its approach to making recycling and saving the planet fun. We also like We Are Tea for removing the label and string.

  • 10 best balsamic vinegars to always have on hand in your cupboard
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    10 best balsamic vinegars to always have on hand in your cupboard

    A great balsamic vinegar is a true store-cupboard staple – best kept on standby, ready to spruce up sauces and swirl over starters. But with so many on offer, at such staggeringly different price points – how do you know the best one to buy? Before even tasting balsamic vinegar you’ll be able to glean a lot of information, just from looking at the ingredients and the label.For example, if you read Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar) di Reggio Emilia and D.O.P. (“Protected Denomination of Origin“) you are guaranteed the ingredient's quality, you’ll know it’s been through a very rigorous process, and you’ll have a place of origin. The only ingredient is grape must (freshly crushed fruit juice), mostly from trebbiano grapes, which is then left in a variety of different wood casks – oak, chestnut, cherry, mulberry, ash, and juniper – all of which will impart their distinctive flavours whilst the liquid slowly matures for at least 12 years. Expert tasters then decide on its ranking with classification following a very strict quality criteria for both production and end product appearance, aroma and taste. It only comes in 100ml bottles, and it is an incredibly precious product. In short, you can expect this to be pretty expensive.Another label to look out for is Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP Invecchiato (IGP – Protected Geographical Indication meaning the product must come from a specific area surrounding Modena). This is made using age-old craft techniques, blending regional grape-musts mixed with a small percentage of wine vinegar. The mixture then slowly ages in oak casks and in the finished product acidity must be below 6 per cent. Italian regulations actually forbid to state the years of ageing on the label, just look for the word “invecchiato” (aged). This is certainly a more affordable option for most shoppers.As for personal choice, it really depends what you’ll be using it for – balsamic vinegar is an ultra-versatile ingredient. Delicious used in salad dressings, it can also be drizzled over soft and hard cheeses, meat, pasta and risottos. Equally delicious but something you might not have considered is pairing it with ice-cream, panna cotta and fresh strawberries.And just when you thought this miracle product couldn’t get any better, apparently a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar at the end of a meal aids digestion! Try a spoon of the thicker styles at night, just before bed.When taste-testing our vinegars, we were looking for a smooth balanced flavour, combining acidity and sweetness with plenty of depth. We tried them all neat as well as in a variety of dishes. When considering which to buy, we’d suggest thinking about how you’re most likely to use this product. Thinner styles are better suited to everyday use, whilst thicker versions are best saved for the finishing touch to very special dishes.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers , but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Il Borgo del Balsamico Italian balsamic vinegar Modena IGP yellow label 250ml: £16, The Red BeetleThe Red Beetle travels around Italy, sourcing authentic ingredients from local suppliers and then pop them on itslovely website for us to buy here in the UK. As you might expect, it has a truly delicious array of goodies, including a top selection of balsamic vinegars. The Il Borgo del Balsamico brand has a nifty colour code which makes selecting the perfect one for you very easy. The yellow one we’ve awarded our Best Buy to is the perfect option for everyday use. It’s great for fresh salads, can be used to marinate fish or they suggest adding to tempura and eggs benedict as a slightly more unusual (but no less delicious!) way to use this lovely ingredient. The orange one from the same range is slightly thicker, so better suited to adding at the end of a sauce or on top of ravioli, while the red is the top of the range – velvety, thick and silky in consistency, it’s aged in oak for years, and should be saved for the most special dishes.Buy now Belazu organic balsamic vinegar of Modena IGP 250ml: £16.45, BelazuBelazu have a great reputation when it comes to sourcing the best ingredients from across the Mediterranean and this organic balsamic vinegar from Modena is no exception. Matured in a mix of oak, chestnut and juniper barrels for up to 30 months, the resulting dense liquid has taken on a deep colour and a well-rounded, balanced yet highly complex flavour. Elegantly smooth with an obvious sweetness, we’ll be teaming ours with strawberries and ricotta or mopping it up with crusty bread.Buy now Guiseppe Guisti 5 gold medals Cubica balsamic vinegar 250ml: £42.99, SelfridgesThis may be a little more than we’d normally spend on balsamic vinegar but this is a very special product with a price tag to match. Highly concentrated with notes of black cherries, baked plums, cinnamon and nutmeg, the liquid is aged in small antique barrels which date back to the 1700’s. As such only a very limited quantity is available each year. Add a drop or two at the end of your dish to really savour the complex flavours. The elegant bottle is finished with a red wax seal and the label depicts the 5 gold medals in its name. It’s the champagne equivalent in our round-up – best saved for special occasions.Buy now Odysea balsamic vinegar of Modena 250ml: £9.95, SainsburysAged for a minimum of 10 years, this is a velvety smooth vinegar, made with a blend of grape varieties. It’s a thicker style and works a treat in tomato-based sauces, with a dark brown chestnut colour which would also create a satisfying swirl on top of risotto. Well balanced acidity, a slightly earthy complexity and a light sweetness – its’ all we could ask for from a balsamic at this price.Buy now Riserva bio balsamic vinegar of Modena IPG, Organic 250ml: £13.50, Abel & ColeLike everything in the Abel & Cole range, this balsamic vinegar is organic and has the IGP stamp of approval. Thick and rich, this is crying out for a loaf of crusty bread for you to get dipping. Aside from that it would work well in chicken salads and drizzled over roasted Mediterranean veg. The beautiful bottle comes complete with a white ribbon and bottle stop, so would make a great (affordable!) gift for the foodie in your life.Buy now Massimo Bottura organic balsamic vinegar 250ml: £18.95, Harvey NicholsIf we’re going to trust anyone to create a fantastic balsamic vinegar, Massimo Bottura – the chef behind three Michelin starred restaurant, Osteria Francescana in Modena – is undoubtedly the man for the job. A celebration of one of his hometown’s most loved ingredients, his own-label vinegar is sweet and savoury with a good whack of acidity. It had a medium viscosity, but is extremely smooth so could be added to sauces at the last minute to create a rich depth of flavour, as glazes for meat and fruit or simply eaten with one of the regions other famous ingredients, parmigiano reggiano.Buy now Sainsbury's Taste the Difference balsamic vinegar of Modena 4 Leaf 250ml: £10, Sainsbury’sWith a pleasing viscosity and slightly sweet finish, Sainsbury’s “four leaf” balsamic is at the top of its range. When trying other supermarket own-brand balsamic vinegar’s around the same price, this tasted significantly more premium than the rest. A very good sweet to tart ratio that will work well in sauces and for dipping.Buy now Fortnum & Mason 20 year-old balsamic vinegar 100ml: £40, Fortnum & MasonRich, thick and luxurious, but then what else would you expect from royal warrant holders, Fortnum & Mason. This vinegar has been aged for an impressive 20 years, and in that time has taken on the complex earthy notes from the wood it’s been aged in – in this case oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry and juniper. Thankfully a little goes a very long way, so just add a drop our two over freshly steamed asparagus and serve as a sumptuous starter, which is guaranteed to impress guests.Buy now The verdict: Balsamic vinegarsThe Red Beetle’s Yellow Label balsamic vinegar comes out top for us, as we think it’s a great quality product at a sensible price, making it perfect for everyday use. However, if you’re looking for something slightly thicker and better for dipping, Belazu’s balsamic is perfect for the job. It’s more pronounced flavours made this a very memorable product that we can’t wait to cook with again.

  • Sainsbury’s teams up with Deliveroo to offer hot takeaways, sweets and dips
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    The Independent

    Sainsbury’s teams up with Deliveroo to offer hot takeaways, sweets and dips

    Getting home from work and realising you need to sprint to the local supermarket to buy a last-minute dinner before Love Island starts is up there with one of life’s most mundane tasks.At least, it was until Sainsbury’s announced that it is now offering customers hot takeaways via Deliveroo.From Monday 22 July, Deliveroo users will be able to order freshly-baked sourdough pizzas, a range of sweet and savoury snacks, dips and soft drinks from selected Sainsbury’s shops in the UK straight to their door.Better yet, the prices of the products will be exactly the same as those customers would find if they bought them in the supermarket or online.The move, which marks the first time a supermarket has joined forces with the delivery app, is part of a two-month trial which is available in Cambridge, Selly Oak, West Hove, Pimlico and Hornsey.According to Deliveroo, customers will be able to choose from around 50 Sainsbury’s products on the app and more will be added during the trial.“With more and more shoppers looking for convenient and affordable meals delivered to their doors, our trial with Deliveroo brings our great value hot food direct to customers’ homes,” says Clodagh Moriarty, Sainsbury’s group chief digital officer.The news comes days after Sainsbury’s launched the UK’s first signing supermarket in an effort to support the hard-of-hearing community.The Bath branch – which was renamed “Signsbury’s” for the three-day project – took the step as part of the supermarket’s 150 Days of Community scheme to mark the company’s 150th anniversary.Staff communicated with customers both verbally and with sign language, signing common words and phrases such as the locations of food items.Children took part in a challenge that earned them a free snack if they learnt to sign basic words.To prepare for the project, more than 100 store staff took British sign language lessons, run by a local signing centre, I Can Sign.The lessons were supported by Sam Brook, a Sainsbury’s employee who is deaf, and Rachel Shenton, the actor who starred as Lily Summers in the film Switched at Birth.Earlier this month, Deliveroo announced the launch of a letterbox delivery service so that customers don't need to answer the door when indulging in a "duvet day".The new letterbox delivery service – named "Royal Meal" – is currently being trialled in Manchester with deliveries from cafe Katsouris.Breakfast sandwiches from the restaurant can now be delivered to customers in recyclable packaging slim enough to fit through a letterbox.

  • 11 best chocolate subscription boxes to satisfy all your chocoholic needs
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    The Independent

    11 best chocolate subscription boxes to satisfy all your chocoholic needs

    Looking for a gift for the person who has everything? Then they need a chocolate subscription – we really can’t think of a single person that wouldn’t appreciate a monthly sweet treat delivered to their door. Whether they prefer milk, white or dark, chocolate truffles, bars or ganaches, there’s a box for it.Channel your inner chocolate nerd and invest in a subscription that will teach you a thing or two, taking you on a cocoa tour around the world complete with tasting notes, or take things easier with sprinkles of jelly hearts and marshmallows.We were on the hunt for hand-crafted, artisan producers, exciting flavours and subscription perks. Most of these will fit through your letterbox but we’ve highlighted the ones that don’t, with all delivering nationwide. Choose from a monthly rolling subscription, or pay up front for a pre-determined amount of time, with easy cancellation policies should you change your mind (highly unlikely!).Of course, we wouldn’t judge if you signed up for your very own chocolate subscription, it’s a great way to ensure you’ve always got your favourite chocolate on standby, should the moment strike.So get ready to seriously upgrade your post, with our round up of the best chocolate subscription boxes. The Chocolate Society box of the month: £22.50, The Chocolate SocietyEach month, the team of chocolatiers at The Chocolate Society works hard to bring you a completely new set of flavours to enjoy. For July we were treated to six gelato and ice-cream inspired flavours including mint choc chip, pistachio and stracciatella – a dark chocolate with white chocolate ganache and chocolate chips. The stylish letter-box friendly grey box contains 18 chocolates in total which were a mixture of colourful speckled dome shapes and large squares and comes complete with a white fabric ribbon, which would make this an ideal gift. Choose from a one-off month, three, six or 12 month subscriptions. Absolutely delicious.Buy now Cocoa Runners monthly subscription: £19.95, Cocoa RunnersWith more than 120 chocolate makers and an online library of more than 1000 bars, Cocoa Runners promise to never repeat a bar in your subscription. You’ll receive four full-size single-estate bars each month, which you’re encouraged to try side by side to compare flavour profiles. In much the same way as we would describe wine, the reverse of the welcome letter provides helpful flavour prompts such as smoked, stone fruit, mineral or tobacco to help you describe what you’re experiencing. There’s even a resealable storage pouch to keep the chocolate fresh, should you not finish a bar. Choose to receive only dark or milk chocolate, a mixture of the two or exclusively 100 per ceny cocoa chocolate. We enjoyed a mellow Jamaican dark chocolate from Pump Street, a 75 per cent and 80 per cent Madagascan and an Original Beans smooth milk chocolate from Ecuador. A really great way to discover exciting, high-quality, artisan chocolate from around the world.Buy now Paul A Young: From £200 for a six-month subscription, Paul A YoungWe were absolutely delighted with the bonkers flavours in our box but if you’re looking for something a little more classic this might not be for you. Feeling adventurous? How does peach, pear and pink peppercorn, fizzy ginger beer, sourdough, buttermilk and sea salt, or salt and vinegar “chip shop” caramel sound? Flavours change every six-nine weeks so even if you’re not sold on some of the more experimental flavours, you’ll always have something new to try. Each of the purple and gold boxes contains 16 unique chocolates, which is delivered at the beginning of each month. Aside from the seasonal flavours, the box will always include a couple of Paul’s award-winning sea salted caramels. Be warned, you only have a seven-day window to enjoy as these chocs are super fresh.Buy now The Chocolatier monthly club: £24.95, The ChocolatierThe Lion King may not be the most obvious theme for a box of chocolates, but that’s exactly what inspired The Chocolatier’s July box. From Simba (a chocolate ganache with sesame tahini) to Hakuna Matata’ (a smooth praline with sumac) flavours were tasty but more subtle than we tried elsewhere. Available in just one size, the box contains 18 chocolates across six flavours (so expect repeats) and can be ordered as a classic or vegan version. We’re told next month’s theme is Matilda – we can’t wait to see what Bruce’s Cake and Miss Trunchbull tastes like. Buy now Chococo chocolate club subscription: From £44.75 for three months, ChococoThis picture-perfect chocolate box contains either nine, 16 or 25 individual chocolates and truffles made with fresh Dorset cream. Stunningly presented, with various coloured blobs, dustings and garnishes, many flavours are seasonal – including the summery rhubarb and vanilla – and they vary from month to month but may not be completely new each time, with many flavours winning awards over the years. Particular highlights included the melting milk chocolates, rolled in chocolate flakes; Bob’s Bees made with honey from a local farm and the Dorset Conker gin-infused milk chocolate ganache topped with a locally produced lime marmalade. Choose from three, six or 12 months subscriptions.Buy now Hotel Chocolat monthly subscription boxes: £22.95, Hotel ChocolatWhether you go for the classic tasting box which offers a little bit of everything, the boozy fortified collection, the high cocoa box full of dark chocolate lovelies, the mellow tasting box with the best of milk or the rare and vintage subscription, you’ll pay exactly the same price. Delivered once a month, members are encouraged to score their chocolate, thereby shaping future boxes. Expect a mix of new flavours and old classics, delivered for either three, six or 12 months.Buy now Love Cocoa British icons original gift collection: £22.50, Love CocoaCreated by the great-great-great grandson of Mr Cadbury, Love Cocoa chocolate bars are all made in the UK, are palm oil free and organic. The subscription is slightly weighted towards dark bars (you’ll receive four of those and two milk chocolate bars), with the box fitting through the letterbox. Flavours include their popular gin and tonic dark chocolate bar, the dark Maldon sea salt and earl grey milk chocolate. Available as a three, six or 12-month subscription, with 10 per cent of profits going to the Rainforest Foundation.Buy now Cocoba Chocolate Collection Box: £19.95, Cocoba ChocolateHot chocolate, made from slowly melting real Belgian chocolate was the original concept for Cocoba, which has since moved into offering chocolate bars, truffles and fudge among other sweet treats. The monthly chocolate collection box offers a nice mix of all these products: we received three types of truffles – dark chocolate, praline and caramel – as well as a large bar of milk chocolate, studded with jelly hearts. Aside from that we tucked into a bag of caramel sea salt fudge (which has been awarded a great taste 2018 award) and a marshmallow salted caramel hot chocolate spoon. Fitting through the letterbox, you’ll receive one box each month on a rolling subscription.Buy now Choc on Choc 3 month chocolate box subscription: £52.75, Virgin Experience DaysFather and daughter duo Kerr and Flo set up Choc on Choc back in 2003, hand-making everything in Somerset from Belgian chocolate. Although this chocolate wasn’t the best we tried taste-wise, it was certainly the most inventive when it came to presentation. Our selection included a white chocolate fruit selection – with everything from a banana, a bunch of grapes, apple, strawberry and an orange. A mini box of chocolates made to resemble well-known biscuits and a rather impressive box of “cheese and crackers” which had the most convincing oozing wedge of brie – all made out of chocolate. There was also a more conventional mini box of marc de champagne truffles with all subscriptions lasting three months – the ideal gift.Buy now Green & Black’s velvet edition chocolate club subscription: £36, Green & Black’sEverything in the Green & Black’s velvet edition collection is made with 70 per cent super smooth dark chocolate. It includes two 90g bars from the range, delivered once a month for six months. Flavours include mint dark chocolate, raspberry and hazelnut, orange and almond and our favourite – sea salt dark chocolate. With seven flavours in total, you will get some repeats but it’s a great way for dark chocolate lovers to ensure they never run out of their favourite bar.Buy now Wicked & Wonderful truffle club: From £32.95 for three months, Benjamin ChocolatierSmall and perfectly formed, each month you’ll receive one petite little box of nine chocolate truffles from Benjamin Chocolatier. Intensely rich, you’ll only need one or two to sate your chocolate craving though. Flavours vary from month to month but could include chilli milk chocolate, champagne white or sea salt dark. You’ll also get to play guinea pig, trying new exclusive flavours before they make it into the main range. Choose from either three, six, nine or 12 months subscriptions.Buy now The verdict: Chocolate subscriptions This was a particularly hard one to call, but if you’re in the market for a pretty box of chocolates we think The Chocolate Society box of the month was utterly delicious, good value and had plenty of flexibility. However, if bars of chocolate are more your thing. Cocoa Runners is truly unbeatable for its vast and premium selection.

  • Free iced coffee: Pret is giving away drinks today for people who know the secret password
    Style
    The Independent

    Free iced coffee: Pret is giving away drinks today for people who know the secret password

    If you love a freebie and regularly find yourself in need of an iced caffeinated beverage to quench your thirst, you’ll want to head down to Pret A Manger this week.On Friday, selected shops around the UK will be giving away free, yes free, iced coffees to its customers.The choices on offer include iced Americanos and iced lattes, made with organic coffee. Alternative milk options are available. Better yet, customers will also have the chance to try the stores’ new Cold Brew, which has been brewed for over 14 hours with coffee beans from Peru, for free.But, like the majority of things in life, there’s a catch for those wanting to nab this offer.To claim a free iced coffee, customers are instructed to head to their nearest participating Pret store and quote a not-so-secret password to a member of staff behind the counter.On Thursday, the eatery revealed the password is “ice to meet you”.However, you'll want to be quick as the promotion lasts just one hour, between 10 and 11am, and use of the password allows for only one free iced coffee per person.“Given we are set to see some sunshine this week, we wanted to ease our customers into the weekend with an iced coffee on us,” Briony Raven, head of coffee and packaging at Pret, said of the deal.Find out where your nearest participating Pret shop is here.

  • 10 best gifts for teachers that are gold star worthy
    Style
    The Independent

    10 best gifts for teachers that are gold star worthy

    The task of buying thank you gifts for teachers is an annual piece of parental admin that enters your life when your first child is four or five and doesn’t go away for over a decade (or at least for the seven years of primary school if you decide to neglect those poor secondary teachers).It can be a chore, but good teachers are well worth thanking, and if you’re going to spend money on the person who has been educating your offspring for an academic year, you at least want to get them something they will appreciate.Teachers are of course a diverse bunch, and the same gift isn’t going to work for everyone, but here we have tried to gather a range of options that will appeal to different sorts.We’ve looked for a mixture of personalised, teacher-specific things and stuff that will work for those who would rather just have a little civilian luxury.We have included things that would be affordable for many parents to buy solo, and a couple of ideas for bigger things that could be bought as joint gifts between classmates.We have canvassed teachers and used our own experience as parents in a bid to avoid any duds, so hopefully there is something to appeal to even the pickiest person here.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Moleskine 18 month planner: £17.62, AmazonOk, so there are probably some bog standard planners in the school stationery cupboard, but most people whose lives are governed by timetables and the academic year will recognise the nerdy delight that comes from having something a bit nicer with which to do their planning. This Moleskine journal is practical – a ruled A5 page per day gives plenty of room for lists without making it too big to carry around – but it also provides a touch of gift-worthy luxury. The paper is high quality, there are pockets at the back for stashing notes or receipts, and there are both a ribbon for marking the right page and elastic to keep it shut. A teacher-friendly gift that will surely get heaps of use, and should hopefully be a little daily pleasure for them to use and carry around.Buy now Hotel Chocolat simply thanks box: £8, Hotel ChocolatWhile the 1980s Cadbury’s advert might no longer be with us – “Thank you very much, thank you very, very much” – chocolates remain a sure fire and cost-effective way to demonstrate gratitude. Luckily for teachers, there are choices beyond the standard box of Roses these days, not least from the champions of quality high street chocolate, Hotel Chocolat. This little box, with a thank you message written in gold on its lid, contains eight delicious treats and zero duds. There are two each of four of Hotel Chocolat’s biggest hitters; our favourite was the rich dark truffle.Buy now ‘A Little, Aloud for Children’, edited by Angela MacMillan, published by Random House Children's Publishers: £11.34, The Book DepositoryThe luckiest of primary school children, including some of our mini-testers, still get story time at the end of each day. For teachers delivering these short sessions of shared reading pleasure, this book would be a welcome gift full of inspiration and time-saving, pre-packaged ideas. It is a lovely anthology of extracts from stories and poetry, complete with approximate reading times for each one. Not all are from children’s books – there’s the brief ‘Ariel’s Song’ from The Tempest, as well as bits of The Secret Garden, Wind in the Willows and others both familiar and not so. All the extracts have been chosen because they will appeal to and hopefully inspire young imaginations. If your teacher has their own children, in fact, you might find that they take it home to enjoy there too. All proceeds go to The Reader, a charity that promotes shared reading to improve well-being.Buy now The Literary Gift Company origami bird earrings: £12.99, The Literary Gift CompanyIf you’re looking for something a little more personal than wine or chocolates, but don’t want to break the bank, these little bird earrings could well be the answer. Made from upcycled pages of old books, they offer a nod to teacher’s day job, but are also a gift that will hopefully bring pleasure and get use outside the classroom too.Buy now Rock Design personalised rainbow print: £18.95, Not on the High StreetPrimary school teachers spend almost their entire working week in one classroom, so a gift that brightens up that space and offers a reminder that their work is appreciated is likely to be welcome. This fun rainbow print from a small new company, which comes installed in a white frame, can be personalised with the recipient’s name and also a brief message, for example: “Mrs Elm’s classroom. Play, learn, grow.” A lasting and thoughtful way of saying thank you.Buy now John Lewis & Partners vouchers: From £10, John Lewis & PartnersA teensy bit mercenary perhaps, but many teachers will tell you that they would far rather choose their own gift than receive 30 that they’re not so keen on. If your class is one of those that likes to club together for one big present, John Lewis & Partners gift cards are a good option as they can be spent on such a wide variety of things. Pupils could always add a human touch by hand-making a card or small gift at little cost to go alongside the vouchers.Buy now Rex London periodic table bamboo travel mug: £9.95, Rex LondonWe found at least one teachers’ forum on which debates about good thank you presents featured the sentiment: “Please God, no more mugs”. But a good travel mug is an altogether more useful thing now that we are all quite rightly trying to eschew single use cups. Better still, this one is made from bamboo and is both recyclable and biodegradable, so if a teacher really does have too many, they can turn it into something else. Which science teacher wouldn’t love the periodic table printed on their coffee receptacle?Buy now ‘The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands’, edited by Huw Lewis-Jones, published by Thames & Hudson Ltd: £18.05, WorderyThis is an absolutely gorgeous tome that would be a lovely gift for an English or drama teacher, or really anyone who loves literature or beautiful coffee table books. It features images of original maps drawn by authors to illustrate their works – such as CS Lewis’s drawings of Narnia – as well as lyrical essays on maps, landscapes and the creation of new worlds, by the likes of Robert Macfarlane and Chris Riddell. A lasting gift for a thoughtful teacher. Buy now Jackeraca personalised card: From £3.50, EtsySo this is a card rather than a gift, but it is a card that is nice enough to be framed as a keepsake of a particular year’s class, and is certainly among the most thoughtful of the endless personalised products we’ve scrolled through. One nice version of this card used the names of all the pupils in a given class, and one word that each child had chosen to describe their teacher, to make up the image of an apple.Buy now Jo Malone grapefruit home candle: £47, Jo MaloneThis is a level of gift that few families would purchase by themselves, unless a teacher needed some serious buttering up, but it also isn’t the sort of thing that many teachers would splash out on for themselves, which makes it a pleasingly indulgent way for a few parents to club together and say thank you. This refreshing grapefruit scent is perfect for summer and – while scented candles are admittedly a more common present for women – is unisex enough to work for anyone. The base can be engraved (£15) for those who like a personalised touch.Buy now The verdict: Gifts for teachersIf your budget can stretch to it, or you have someone to chip in with, the Moleskine planner is a lasting and useful gift. Failing that, you’re unlikely to go wrong with a thank you message atop some scrumptious Hotel Chocolat, and A Little, Aloud is a charming option for a teacher that does story-telling or has young kids of their own.

  • 8 best juice cleanses
    Style
    The Independent

    8 best juice cleanses

    Trying to avoid the excesses of winter? We feel you. While the majority of new year’s resolutions are hard to stick to, a short, sharp juice cleanse might provide just the kick-start to a new health regime that your body is crying out for. So what exactly can you expect from a juice cleanse?The severe all-green juice cleanses you may remember celebs raving about in the early noughties have morphed into something a lot more manageable. Nowadays you can expect most plans to include more satisfying nut milks and even warming soups, which we found really helpful in terms of feeling satisfied and full. While we wouldn’t advocate juice cleansing for any prolonged amount of time, we can see the benefits of a one-off cleanse, especially if you have a big event coming up for which you’d like to lose the bloat and feel your best. Taking away any decision making, you’ll be sent a selection of drinks and an order in which to consume them to reap the biggest rewards. Very helpful, especially if like us, you tend to succumb to the first sign of a cheese toastie when in the queue at Pret.It’s important to note this is not about deprivation; the aim is to get more of the good stuff into your body, so you can function at your optimum levels. Clearer skin, better sleep and boosted immunity were all side effects promised from these cleanses. Our liver and kidneys are already effective at eliminating toxins, however, having a day or two without any junk food or alcohol can only be a good thing.We recommend preparing for the days pre- and post-cleanse. A last supper mentality is only going to make the first day that much harder, so scale back on the caffeine and have a light dinner the day before. There’s also little point in sticking to the juice only to binge on huge portions of fatty food washed down with glasses of wine the very next day. Instead, ease yourself back onto solid foods and be mindful of how they make you feel.While juicing, we’d recommend taking it easy on the exercise front. There’s often no need to skip it altogether (you might actually find you have more energy as your body isn’t busy digesting your food), but you probably won’t be able to bench-press your personal best either. Instead give your body a bit of TLC – energising walks, body brushing, face masks and meditation are all great cleanse activities.Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to cleanse. If you feel you need to supplement your chosen cleanse with light meals, go for it. Do what feels right for your body and enjoy.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Purearth Medicinal Cleanse: From £58.33 (3 x 250ml, 5 x 500ml, plus Purearth’s superfood greens powder, herbal teas and Epsom salts baths), PurearthThis was the only cleanse that gave us two big bottles of deliciously creamy nut milk right in the middle of the day, which definitely helped to keep us full. As well as tasty green juices, there was also a berry and apple cider vinegar shot which put hairs on our chest and a bottle of medicinal tea which needed to be heated up before bed. To help support the digestive system, you’ll end your cleanse with a water-based kefir which contains 10 billion live cultures per ml (the good kind of bacteria). Nice added extras included Epsom bath salts for luxuriating in when we got home. Ingredients felt well considered, with a focus on using the roots, seeds and berries of various plants to support digestion.Buy now Presscription Signature Cleanse: From £65 for a one-day cleanse (5 x 500ml cold-pressed juices, 1 x 500ml nut milk, 2 x 30ml booster shots), PresscriptionPresscription don’t use HPP (high pressure pasteurisation) to extend the shelf-life of its juices, so if you order a five-day cleanse you’ll get two separate deliveries, meaning everything stays super-fresh. Glass bottles are numbered so you know which order to drink them in and they can be picked up and reused once you’re done. We really liked the medicinal style labels which detailed each juice’s health benefits.Supporting colon, liver and stomach health we woke up with the tangy Green Revive, a combination of cucumber, celery, apple, romaine, lemon, ginger and cayenne. Our niggly little cold was promptly nipped in the bud with the Amber Boost – a truly spicy hit of red chilli, softened out with sweet coconut blossom nectar. You’ll also receive a booklet with pre- and post-cleanse guidance, as well as a schedule for which to consume your juice. A great all-rounder with exciting ingredients that tasted delicious.Buy now Plenish Level 4 Cleanse: From £59 for a one-day cleanse (5 x 500ml juices, 1 x 500ml nut milk), PlenishOne of the first ever cold-pressed juice and juice cleanse companies to launch in the UK, Plenish has recently added a hardcore “Level 4” cleanse aimed at those wishing to lose weight. We say hardcore because this cleanse contains the least sugar – however we actually preferred this, as after a whole day of juicing we were craving something savoury. Being mindful of the environment, each cleanse comes with a glass straw so you’re not contributing to unnecessary single-use plastics (bottles are plastic but widely recyclable), as well as a handy booklet offering guidance.Each day you’ll have six large juices to consume, all weighing in at 500ml, which kept us full between meals. Plenish suggests starting your day with hot water and lemon at 6am, with juices spread out every couple of hours before an early dinner. One of our favourites was Elevate which contained turmeric, almonds, coconut nectar, ginger and pepper. Deliciously creamy and sweet tasting, it felt like a substantial meal. The full day’s cleanse clocks in at 790 calories, so it’s very much aimed at those wanting to kick-start weight loss.Buy now Botanic Lab The Clean Up: From £45 for a one-day cleanse (5 x 250ml juices, 1 x 250ml nut milk, 3 x 100ml shots), Botanic LabThe name of this says it all – it’s a one-day cleanse aimed to clean up your act and allow your body a break from all the heavy digestion it’s been doing – we’re looking at you, second helping of Christmas pudding. Whether as a one-off or more regularly as part of the 5:2 diet, the juices add up to 611 calories and can be drunk alone or alongside light food. There’s an order in which to drink your juices but no times are suggested, so it can fit around your routine. We found that the combination of juices, boosters and plant milks (who can resist chocolate milk) left us feeling satisfied.Buy now Daily Dose Colour Cleanse: From £45 for a one day cleanse (7 x 500ml juices, 1 x 330ml nut milk), Daily DoseThis cleanse is a rainbow of large juices varying from the bright green to the sweetest pink, ending with a smaller bottle of nut milk as a “treat” in the evening. All are vegan, raw and cold-pressed, some with a longer shelf life in case you can’t start immediately. Flavours were really delicious, the Zenzero being one of our favourites with apple, ginger, lemon and fragrant thyme, but overall we did find them on the sweeter side – ideal if you’re new to juicing. Bottles are plastic which makes transporting them easier, but they will need to be recycled accordingly.Buy now Juicy Tox 2 Day Platinum Cleanse: From £64.99 (12 x 250ml juices, 6 teabags, 2 x shots, 2 x lemons), Juicy ToxThis is another brand that only provides the freshest juice (no HPP here). As well as the selection of drinks we also received individually wrapped tea bags to drink in between juices, as well as fiery lemon and ginger shots to wake us up in the morning. Like many of the programmes, you’re encouraged to start the day with warm water and lemon, yet Juicy Tox was one of the only brands to actually provide the fresh lemons which was a nice touch. Packages do currently come with plastic straws, but you can request for these to be left out.Buy now Nosh Detox Juice Fast Diet: From £55 for a one-day cleanse (4 x 500ml juices, 1 x tonic), Nosh DetoxYou’ll start the cleanse with a lemon and ginger water before moving on to the larger juices. With names like the Rehydrator which contains orange, carrots, mango and flaxseeds for omega 3 and 6, and the protein-packed Eliminator with raspberry, grapes and acai, these juices mean business. Containing more pulp than other cleanses we tried, the Nosh Detox juices tasted more like a smoothie, increasing our fibre intake as a result. Despite containing plenty of fruit, we didn’t find any of them overly sweet. Each plastic bottle is printed with a time and a philosophy, providing helpful snippets and motivation to remind you what to expect from the cleanse.Buy now Juice Master Delivered 5:2 Juice Diet: From £94.99 for a two-week box (16 x 420ml drinks), Juice Master DeliveredJason Vale (or The Juice Master to those in the know) has helped many a celeb look and feel their best. He’s the (sometimes controversial) guy behind the Super Juice Me documentary and claims that his juices will not only help you lose weight, but will cure pretty much any other complaint you can think of. Juices are balanced, containing fresh ingredients (think fennel, ginger and lime) before being blitzed and frozen – they’ll last up to a month in the freezer.This particular plan contains enough juices for two weeks, based on you taking part two days of each week (with four juices a day). Juice flavours differ across the two days and can be split up to give you a rest, or drunk consecutively. Either way it’s a great option for those that would rather not count calories on their fasting days.Buy now The Verdict: Juice cleansesWith its innovative ingredients and bounty of added extras, we felt the Purearth Medicinal cleanse represents great value and left us feeling wonderfully refreshed.Stacey Smith is the founder of food and drink website Crummbs

  • Consume these food items to fight your back pain
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    Gayatri Vinayak

    Consume these food items to fight your back pain

    Lower back pain is one of the most common problems afflicting people - often troublesome and painful, but not always life-threatening. Most cases of back pain can also be managed by making lifestyle changes, and improvements to your diet by adding or omitting certain types of food. By avoiding food that can trigger inflammation such as sugary food, refined flour, red meat and food cooked in vegetable oil, cutting down on alcohol and tobacco and by eating a healthy, balanced diet, you can manage your pain better. Here are some nutrient rich foods you can incorporate to your daily diet which will help ease your pain. It is, however, recommended that you consult a doctor in case your back pain gets worse or does not go away.

  • Top 10 foods to beat the heat, according to Ayurveda
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    Indian Express

    Top 10 foods to beat the heat, according to Ayurveda

    According to Ayurveda choosing a Pitta pacifying diet helps you stay cool in summers.

  • Plants and flowers you didn’t know you could eat
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    The Daily Meal

    Plants and flowers you didn’t know you could eat

    Plants are pretty nice to look at, and most can make any too-bland environment smell fresh and floral. They also make up most of what we eat — but the fruits and veggies you see in the grocery aisle aren’t the only plants humans can use as food.

  • 7 Healthy breakfast recipes to help kick-start your morning
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    Keepers of Cool

    7 Healthy breakfast recipes to help kick-start your morning

    Spice up your morning with these easy and hearty dishes to start your day off right.

  • 10 best vodkas: Smooth spirits to sip neat or mix in a cocktail
    Style
    The Independent

    10 best vodkas: Smooth spirits to sip neat or mix in a cocktail

    The mixologists favourite, a good vodka is the backbone of any home bar, so it’s important to make it one to remember for all the right reasons. Super versatile, vodka is delicious served chilled and drunk neat as the Russians do, over ice with a slice of lemon or in a wide variety of cocktails. As such, we think it’s about time vodka shakes off its reputation as a bland, flavourless spirit.You can expect a good vodka to have a creamy mouthfeel, a balance of citrus notes and pepper or spice, and a clean, smooth finish (it shouldn’t burn the throat). And that’s just for starters. Many factors, from location to infusions will add something special and unique to each given vodka.Potato, rye, and even old grape skins have been utilised to impart their specific flavours but arguably a good vodka needs an exceptional water source and only the purest and freshest will do.We’ve included brands with long, rich histories, to new emerging small batch producers creating amazing spirits in tiny distilleries and found vodka from across the world, including the most obvious Russia and Poland, as well as ones from much closer to home – even right here in the UK.From breakfast bloody marys through to late night espresso martinis, vodka is at the heart of a wide range of cocktails. So when testing our vodka selection, we tried all of them neat, before mixing up a few classic cocktails to see how they blended with other ingredients. Reyka vodka, 70cl, 40%: £26.95, Master of MaltMade from a blend of wheat and barley, Reyka claims to be the world’s first green vodka. It utilises Icelandic’s pure glacial water and is distilled in a coastal village with air so clean C02 levels are actually falling. It’s made in small batches and the distillery is powered by geothermal energy from underground volcanoes. So far, so trendy. But it turns out all of that stuff makes for really tasty vodka. Clean, peppery and with the faintest touch of aniseed, it’s particularly impressive given the price. Buy now Chapel Down chardonnay vodka, 70cl, 40%: £32, Chapel DownNot content with being one of the leading names in English winemaking, Chapel Down have turned their attention to spirits, adding both gin and this vodka to the range. Utilising the previous year’s harvest, the vodka is made with leftover grape skins and has the same fresh, zingy profile as we’ve come to expect from the brand’s wine. Light and smooth with subtle vanilla and citrus notes along with an aniseed finish, this would work in all the classic cocktails. They recommend it in a winemaker’s martini: one-part Chapel Down vodka, one-part vermouth, shaken and strained, garnished with a chilled olive and a frozen grape. If it all goes wrong you could just pour yourself a glass of their wine. Buy now Absolut vodka limited edition ‘drop’ bottle, 1L, 40%: £26.95, AmazonTravelling to anti-LGBT+ and racist protests around the world, Absolut collected ink from the hateful signs they encountered and used it in the artwork for this limited edition bottle. Each vessel contains a drop of ink within the mint and pink bottle design, turning something awful into a positive message of love in celebration of LGBT+ History Month. Inside you’ll find the same Absolut vodka we’ve come to expect from the Swedish brand. Rich, with a full mouthfeel and notes of grain and vanilla. Buy now Kavka vodka, 70cl, 40%: £37.51, The Drink ShopThis Polish rye and wheat based vodka draws inspiration from the production methods used in the 18th and 19th century, a period in which vodka tasted truly flavoursome – according to Kavka. The antithesis of a neutral spirit which was designed to blend into the background of drinks, this has had a small amount of aged apple and plum spirits added to the mix, which delivers welcome complexity. The bottle depicts a jackdaw or “kawka” which is also the phrase people used during the prohibition when popping out for an illicit drink. Buy now Zubrowka bison grass vodka, 70cl, 40%: £16, Waitrose & PartnersWith each bottle containing a single blade of handpicked bison grass, this Polish grain-based vodka has a smooth, clean flavour profile, with distinctive herbaceous and vanilla notes. Emitting a green-tinged hue, the most popular way of serving in Poland is with cloudy apple juice, a suggestion we’d heartily second if you’re in the mood for a long, sweet drink.Buy now Belvedere vodka, 70cl, 40%: £32.95, The Whiskey ExchangeYou’ll probably be familiar with this bar cart staple, a smooth, crisp and precise vodka which works well in a multitude of cocktails. Quadruple-distilled and made from one particular strain of rye, the hard-working spirit has a creamy mouthfeel and notes of vanilla and white pepper. Consistently good, it’s the perfect base for a martini, straight up or with espresso. Buy now Beluga noble summer vodka, 70cl, 40%: £42, Harvey NicholsThis Russian vodka has been given a makeover for summer, with a new art deco-inspired bottling. It’s still a relative newbie in the world of vodka, first being released back in 2002, but in that time it’s garnered a legion of fans. Using Siberian water, it’s triple filtered through quartz and silver before being left to rest for 30 days which allows the spirit to mellow and develop a smooth, honeyed finish. You want to drink this ice cold, preferably straight from the freezer with a twist of lemon peel or shaken up in summery cocktails. Buy now Mamont vodka, 70cl, 40%: £34, OcadoWith a bottle shaped to resemble a mammoth’s tusk, this really is one for pride of place in your drinks cabinet. Created with both Siberian water and wheat, it’s triple filtered through birch charcoal for a crystal clear, extra smooth finish. The thick, creamy mouthfeel gives way to hints of liquorice and a lovely sweetness, particularly when served super cold. Buy now Pur vodka, 70cl, 46%: £46.99, SelfridgesThis exciting new Canadian vodka is picking up awards left, right and centre – it’s won World's Best Vodka an impressive five times. It’s said the quality of the Canadian water is what’s to thank for the fresh notes of mint and warming spice of cinnamon and ginger. We enjoyed it in a canada mule, a twist on the classic cocktail, made with fresh ginger and maple syrup. Buy now Konik’s Tail vodka, 70cl, 40%: £33.45, The Whiskey ExchangeMade in small batches from a combination of spelt, rye and wheat, this Polish vodka gets its name from the Polish horse depicted on the bottle. Again, silver birch charcoal is used for filtration which results in a fresh and balanced spirit. Creamy butterscotch notes make this particularly good in dessert cocktails but a dose of warm spice and black pepper add complexity. Buy now Chase original potato vodka, 70cl, 40%: £37, Chase DistilleryWhen they’re not turning their spuds into Tyrell's crisps, the Chase team are creating award-winning vodka, all from their Herefordshire, family owned farm. Each bottle contains a whopping 250 potatoes, and there is an unmistakable hint of the humble veg on the nose but overall this is a very clean, fresh spirit, albeit one with a creamy mouthfeel. Try in a ginger & honey collins by mixing vodka, lemon juice and honey with cubed ice before topping with ginger ale.Buy now Ketel One vodka, 70cl, 40%: £20, AmazonIf the only way you’re interested in drinking vodka is shaken up in a cocktail then there’s no point spending a fortune. Ketel One is a dependable base for a plethora of cocktails, thanks to its clean, mineral nose and citrusy, black pepper notes on the palate. With over 300 years under their belt, the Dutch brand consistently delivers when it comes to affordable vodka. Buy now Grey Goose vodka, 70cl, 40%: £30, SainsburysDistilled and bottled in France, Grey Goose vodka is made with just two simple ingredients, wheat from Picardie in northern France and spring water from a limestone well in Cognac. There’s a reason this premium vodka is so popular. Oh-so-creamy, it’s a delight drunk neat when well chilled but equally blends seamlessly with ingredients – we’d recommend trying it in a classic gimlet. Buy now The verdict: VodkasGiven the price, we feel that the Reyka vodka really over delivers. Not only is it making use of Iceland’s natural resources in a unique way, but it’s also super smooth, versatile and delicious. Kavka are also one to watch if you’re interested in trading in your neutral spirit for a flavoursome, traditional vodka.

  • International Yoga Day 2019: Understanding the pranic value of food
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    The Indian Express

    International Yoga Day 2019: Understanding the pranic value of food

    Prana, the life-giving force, manifests not only in our bodies, but also in our food.