Sultanas, currants or rasins. What’s the deal?

I was asked a question by one of the catering students I was working with in Bruges about Cadbury’s decision to change the recipe of their Fruit and Nut bars, after the student had read an article in The Sun.

‘Sultanas, currants or raisins. What’s the deal?’ inquired the student.

‘Fair point’, I thought, but there has to be something in it if a business like Cadbury’s has made this change; and if disgruntled chocoholics have brought it to the attention of the press.

This was actually something that I covered in January for The BBC documentary, Rip Off Britain saying that the bulk industry will add more fruit, nuts and other inclusions to keep their price down as the cocoa commodity price continues to rise.

This is still my answer to such a question but this led me to investigate further and I discovered that sultanas contain less sugar. Could this be a deliberate ploy to reduce the sugar content in their bars following government pressure and the so-called ‘sugar tax’?

So what is the difference between the three fruits? I went shopping to Waitrose to find out exactly…

Raisins = £3.40 kg

Dried white Moscatel grapes resulting in a dark, dried fruit and like a currant, dense in texture and bursting with sweet flavour. A raisin can (unlike currants) soak up other flavours, which is why its popular to soak raisins in flavoured alcohols such as Amaretto or brandy, before using in cooking. The main producers of the Muscatel are the USA, Turkey, Greece and Australia
• per 30g serving
Per Portion
Energy 373kj
88kcal
Fat 0.4 g
Saturates 0.2 g
Sugars 69.3 g
Salt 0.02

Sultanas = £3.40 kg

A sultana is a dried white grape but this time, coming from seedless varieties of grape.Usually Thompson Seedless variety. Sultanas are golden in colour and tend to be much plumper, sweeter and juicier than other raisins. Sultanas will absorb other flavours so are good for soaking (Sultanas may have been bleached to make them lighter in colour than raisins.) sultanas are sometimes dried with vegetable oil and acid. Turkey is the main producer of sultanas
per 30g serving
Per Portion
Energy 377kj
89kcal
Fat 0.1 g
Saturates 0.0 g
Sugars 20.8 g
Salt trace

Currants = £3.40 kg

Dried Black Corinth (also known as Zante) grapes the name currant comes from the ancient city of ‘Corinth’ Other names for currants are Zante currants, Corinth raisins, or Corinthian raisins,
per 30g serving
Per Portion
Energy 1220kj
287kcal
Fat 0.4 g
Saturates 0.1 g
Sugars 67.7.8 g
Salt 0.04

Prices Based on 5th November 2015 Waitrose

So to fully answer that student’s query:

Cadbury’s may be killing two birds with one, small, sultana-shaped stone. The inclusion of sultanas in their bars decreases their cost of goods because the cocoa price is outweighing the soft fruit price. This move also curries favour with government bodies demonstrating a tangible reduction in salt and sugars, which, in today’s climate, is a big deal. In my opinion Cadbury’s have made a very shrewd move here which decreases their costs, improves health credentials and makes little or no difference to the taste. Well played sirs.

Northern Munkee

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Product Review: Punjaban Sauces

Review – Tamarind Curry Base [Punjaban]

Punjaban Curry Base - Label Front

Rating: 8/10

Appeals to: time-pressured foodies who want to serve a restaurant quality meal in less than half an hour and for less than £10

Packaging

Packaging is so important for small producers and it really can be the difference between a great product working and a great product withering. Most small producers have a great story behind their food but most of them struggle to get that story, and their food, off the shelves.

Punjaban, meaning Punjabi lady, has opted for classically premium packaging with a mostly black label. I like the fact that they have featured Charlie, the creator, so heavily on the packaging as this is a great way to get people to buy into your mission. The label design is very simple but I do find it effective. The curry base is nut-free, dairy-free and gluten-free but this isn’t over communicated on the packaging – which, for me, is a big plus. I have a real issue with food products whose main selling point is what isn’t in it; have some pride and tell me why your food tastes so amazing!

The fact that this product is a curry base, not a sauce or paste, may be lost on some users but the instructions are idiot-proof so this won’t be too much of an issue.

One potential miss from Punjaban is that they have opted to put their products in glass jars. I appreciate the fact that glass is much cheaper to buy in small runs than bespoke and innovative packaging but the Cooking Sauce category has left the glass jar behind and moved into (slightly) more exciting things like pouches, tubs and bags.

Price

£2.50 is a reasonable price point for a handmade sauce and it does signal to the shopper that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill curry sauce. It certainly won’t break the bank when you add your recommended 650g of protein, a pilau rice and some appropriate breads.

Preparation

Punjaban Curry Base - Cooking

This was very simple and took me less than 15 minutes to do, even with a couple of additions. I chose to fry my turkey in butter first, which is one of the options the directions gives. The aromas that hit me as soon as the base hit the hot pan were incredible. I could almost taste each individual spice used which you don’t expect from a jarred sauce. Once I’d followed the directions I chose to add a small handful of fresh coriander, not because the flavours were lacking but you can’t beat fresh herbs, and a spoonful of crème fraiche to soften the heat a little. I served the dish with a side of pilau rice and a small glass of Chenin-Blanc Voignier.

Delivery

Punjaban Curry Base - Served

The flavours that came through from this curry were spot on. The first to swallow your taste buds was a deep tomato that sat beneath a crisp layer of spices that set in after your first chew. The heat wasn’t offensive but it lingered at the end of each mouthful to let you know it’s there. My only potential criticism is that it was a bit too ‘saucy’ and may be the extra water recommended in the instructions wasn’t required, however, as a regular curry eater, it should be a compliment that this was one meal that I didn’t want to end.

Verdict: In a word – brilliant. As a dish this worked fantastically well and I’d be proud to serve this at a dinner party and pretend that I’d spent all day searching for the right ingredients to produce an authentic Punjabi meal. This certainly represents a step up in terms of quality from the plethora of £1 curry sauces that adorn supermarket shelves. The only reason for docked points is that I question whether I’d pick this product up in the first place based on appearance alone. It’s not clear from the packaging that it houses a fantastic quality product. I have no doubt that once people try it they will clear their cupboards of any remnants of Uncle Ben’s curry sauces but what will encourage them to find this hidden gem?

Details: www.punjaban.co.uk

£2.50

Other variants: Bombay Potato, Hot Authentic, Medium Authentic, Mild Authentic, Naga Chilli, Butter Chicken and Keema.

Northern Munkee.