Particularly since I've been living abroad, I love tasting things that are authentically British so I was really excited when I was given the opportunity of sampling the Cairnsmhor range of sweet and savoury biscuits, especially when I discovered that they had won seven awards at the Great Taste Awards this year.
As they explain on their website, "At Cairnsmhor we adore the good things in life ! We take classic treats and give them an imaginative twist to create truly mouth-watering delights that are the best of good taste. Our award winning range includes hand-baked premium biscuits, oatcakes with added oomph and savoury crackers, perfect for healthy snacking ! Based in the dramatic countryside of South West Scotland, we find inspiration all around us and we’re always coming up with new ideas. Trading as Thistle Products we have over 25 years experience in successfully supplying our customers with innovative gift products and our Cairnsmhor brand is a natural progression and one we take great pride in creating. " Sounds good so far, time to get taste-testing !
I decided to start off with the savoury range and ripped open a packet of oatcakes. To really appreciate the flavour, I decided to try these plain to begin with. They tasted fresh, homebaked, full of natural oaty goodness but I must admit slightly bland and dry so I decided to go looking for a topping. I wasn't sure what would go nicely with oatcakes so I checked the website for recipe ideas and serving suggestions and was amazed at the versatility of the product. You can eat them with pâté, salmon, cream cheese, melted cheese and bacon, or even hot black pudding. We also tried them topped with a slice of cheese straight from the fridge or dipped into vegetable dips when we ran out of carrot sticks and they both work well too ! After trying the plain Traditional Scottish Oatcakes, we moved on to the Parmesan and Pepper Oatcakes and the surprisingly quirky Haggis Flavour Oatcakes. These both packed more of a flavour punch in their own right but still taste great with added toppings or dips. We particularly enjoyed making mini "pizzas" by melting cheese and spicy chorizo sausage on top for a delicious indulgent snack in front of the TV !
Next up was the crackers and we had two different varieties to try - Wholegrain Mustard Crackers and Crushed Black Pepper Crackers. I'm not overly keen on mustard so I took a tiny wary nibble at first but the wholegrain mustard gives a nice added depth of flavour without the nose-tingling heat that I dislike ! Similarly, the crushed black pepper adds a nice background taste to the crackers but, even if you eat them with quite mild cheeses like cheddar, the pepperiness or mustard enhance the flavour without overpowering it.
By now, we knew that we were eating very high-quality, hand-baked goods and were keen to sample the delights that the sweet biscuits had in store for us. We couldn't decide between Raspberry Shortcake or Lemon Shorties so we ate one of each ! Although the biscuits look similar on the plate, as soon as you take a bite, there is no mistaking which is which as the strong zing of lemon zest or powerful sweet tartness of raspberries immediately tickle your tastebuds. The biscuits have the perfect crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth texture and, if you ever need to impress the vicar or your mother-in-law, you could easily pass these off as homebaked biscuits ! They are delicious on their own but are also divine broken in half and dipped in melted chocolate or as an accompaniment to ice cream, especially raspberry ripple or vanilla, Cornish ice cream being the ultimately decadent option, with a few fresh raspberries on the side.
Having sampled several of the products in the Cairnsmhor range, I can perfectly understand their "fine foods" label and the "great taste gold 2010" stickers that are proudly emblazoned across the boxes. The smart black boxes (and, more importantly, the goodies they contain) would make a fantastic gift for lovers of all things Scottish or foodie friends so if you're looking for products to pack into a Christmas hamper this year, these would be absolutely perfect.
star rating : 5/5
RRP : £2.25 for the biscuits, £1.99 for the oatcakes, £1.99 for the crackers
for more information : http://www.cairnsmhor.co.uk/index.php
to buy online : http://www.thistleproducts.co.uk/shop/dept/293/Scottish-Food-Scottish-Sweets