Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Famous Russian Scent from England

The scent of Cussons Imperial Leather was created in 1768 by a London-based company for a Russian count. And it is that same scent that lures millions around the world to buy Cussons Imperial Leather soap today.

Posh Bang Wallop
Our stock of posh-smelling soap dried up a few weeks back and we were completely sold out. The reason was that the marketing geniuses back in the Land of Hope and Glory had decided to re-package their flagship product.

So Clever?
Now, instead of the old pack in which the three bars were vertically stacked in their package, the same three bars are now horizontally packaged. Wow, the difference is amazing! Once you open the two completely different package shapes, the three soap bars inside are absolutely identical. Isn't that clever? No, I didn't think so either, but you try tell that to the suits in Manchester, England who thought of this rather silly idea.

Buy Cheap Soap, Save Money, Very Good
Somebody commented on Blighty's online shopping site, where we sell Cussons Imperial Leather soap, that they bought some cheap "Imperial Leather" soap somewhere and were very disappointed in it. Yes, that is correct; I have seen cheap knock-offs for sale in bargain shops too. You save a little money but you don't get to smell like a Russian prince.

Blighty's stock of Cussons Imperial Leather soap is made in Manchester, England. How to detect a fake? Use your nose!

Special Price Only £1?
By the way, why does a pack that is price-marked £1 end up costing $3.99 here? Good question; easy answer. The soap has to be paid for in pounds sterling that currently trades around CDN$1.65. But by the time bank transfer and currency exchange charges are added, a pound costs just about a toonie. Then add bloomin' expensive transAtlantic shipping charges, import duty and customs brokerage fees and the cost is already up around three bucks. Then the importer and your friendly retailer would like to make just a small return on their labour and that's where your $3.99 comes along.

Cheap Chocolate HobNobs Are Back

Do you remember our story from a few weeks ago about the inexplicably cheap chocolate HobNobs?

We told of how we can sell these chocolate-covered oat biscuits for 26% less than plain HobNobs.

And then, rather understandably, customers rushed in to buy them and we sold out.

Well, now they're back! And they are still priced at the same incredible $2.95 per pack.

Are They Real?
These are bona-fide British McVities HobNobs milk chocolate covered oat biscuits made in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, England.

Are They Past Their Best-Before Date?
No, these are new stock that won't reach their government-bureaucrat-mandated-but-usually-quite-unrealistic best before date for weeks and weeks yet.

What Does "Hobnob" Mean Anyway?
According to use of the word "hobnob" was first recorded in 1763 meaning to drink together. Since then it has been used to mean "to associate with in a familiar manner". So eat lots of HobNobs and you will get lots of friends. Buy them at Blighty's and at least I will be your friend.

British Isles Show - One Week To Go

The British Isles Show is now just one week away. Mark your calendar; The show will be held over the weekend of 8-10 March at a new venue - the International Centre in Mississauga.

The show took a hiatus for a couple of years while organizers sought a new location and revamped its organization. But now it's back and it promises to be better than ever.

Free parking
The International Centre is located at Derry and Airport roads near Toronto's Pearson Airport and is easily accessible from anywhere in southern Ontario due to its proximity to major highways. But, best of all, parking is free - that's a big bonus for the majority of visitors who arrive by car and were used to paying high parking charges at the show's previous location downtown.

Who is the Star Guest?
A major draw for crowds attending the show has always been the visit of a guest star from ITV's Coronation Street. This year is no exception. The visitor in 2013 will be actor Charlie Condou who plays Marcus Dent on the show.

Biggest Ever
Blighty's will be having our largest ever booth at the show; please stop by and say hello.

Quality Street, Roses & Lots of Other Easter Treats

Ok, so not everybody goes gaga over chocolate eggs. But, hey, that's no reason not to indulge in some fine Great British chocolate over Easter. Why not treat yourself and the special people in your life to a selection of candy cartons.

Roses, Quality Street, or ...
Which do you like best: Cadbury Roses or Nestle's Quality Street? We know Cadbury's Chocolate Eclairs are a firm favourite - we have been giving away free samples at the front counter for a few weeks. Now that we have created a legion of Chocolate Eclair fans out there we are looking forward to helping fans feed their new addiction in grand style this Easter.

Fudge Factor
There are also choices for fudge fanatics too. Thorntons Fabulous Assorted Fudge or Whisky and Vanilla fudges from Scotland.

Want more choices? How about tins of toffee, boxes of fruit or mint creams, chocolate Brazil nuts and lots more.

Easter Eggs Are Arriving

The customs men pulled our Easter Egg container aside for inspection at the Port of Montreal last week. Just imagine, all those eager customs men gazing into the container, lovingly admiring all the delicious Great British Easter Eggs!

Another container, with even more Easter Eggs inside, managed to slip past the customs men and was secretly unloaded on a moonlit beach at the western end of Lake Ontario in the middle of the night.

Easter is still nearly a month away but many people have been eagerly snapping up the eggs we already have on the shelves. So far we have Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel eggs, Cadbury Crunchie eggs and Thorntons "love toffee" eggs in stock. Each egg is made with delicious Great British chocolate and comes with a selection of treats inside the box. Go on, you know you can't resist them. And remember, when it comes to chocolate, everyone's a kid at heart!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to Make a Scot Black

My Scottish customers love their traditional loaves of bread. A Scottish loaf is made from strong white flour and baked in a pan to make it rise nice and tall. And then the baker makes it black on top - the Scots like it that way.

Burn Baby, Burn
But how does the baker manage to burn just the top of the loaf without incinerating the whole thing? Well, the answer is - he doesn't. He burns the whole thing.

Separating the Blonds From the Blacks
All the loaves are baked together in a huge oven. The blond-top loaves are then set aside to cool before they can be sliced. The loaves destined to be "well-fired" go on to receive a special and very cruel treatment.

These Scots are Well-Fired
While the blond-tops are cooling, the baker cranks up the temperature of his oven until it is searing hot. The loaves destined to be "well-fired" are then popped back into the very hot oven where they quickly char all over. When they are pulled from the oven, the loaves are completely black from top to bottom. But the blackness is only skin deep. The baker then takes a sharp knife and cuts the sides off the loaf leaving a beautiful white loaf of bread with a black top. Now you know.

Bah Humbugs

Eh, I am Vexed
There is one vexing question I receive over and over from traditional British sweet lovers here at the store. "Do you carry humbugs?" Well, yes, we do. "No not those mint humbugs, I mean the regular kind!"

As Shakespeare Said ...
So here is the explanation of why our "mint humbugs" are exactly what you are looking for. A humbug is a cylindrical boiled candy with rounded ends and coloured stripes, flavoured with peppermint. Whether one calls it a "humbug" or a "mint humbug" it is one and the same thing. To paraphrase Shakespeare: "what's in a name ... a humbug by any other name would taste as minty".

Blame it on Brussels
It's probably the fault of those Eurocrats in Brussels - the blighters want to change everything.

Turkish Delight by the Tub

Lokum Motive
It originated in Turkey hundreds of years ago. The Turks call it "Lokum"; we call it Turkish Delight. It has proved so popular here at Blighty's that we have decided to carry it year round. In the past we only stocked it at Christmas, but customers have made their preferences clear, so expect it be available all year now.

It's the Real Thing
This is the real thing - from Istanbul, Turkey via the UK. And we have flavour choices too. The Turks regard rose-flavoured lokum in the same way we regard vanilla ice cream - you know, kind of basic, no frills. So they make a range of flavours, but they regard the nutty ones as the best.

Magic Carpet Ride
At Blighty's you can choose from five flavours: Rose | Lemon | Strawberry | Ginger | Pistachio. Which will be your favourite? Pick up a tub on your next visit and take it for a magic carpet ride.

How to Make Perfect Oatmeal Every Time

Irish Oats Really Taste Better
You can't beat the taste of good Irish oatmeal. I know; I have tried domestic oats. The difference in flavour is very noticeable. Perhaps the warm, wet fields of Ireland make the crops grow better and help the flavour develop.

Two choices - Quick Cook or Steel Cut
Quick cook oatmeal is made with rolled oats that swell into soft, plump, moist porridge when cooked with milk. Use three parts milk (or mix milk with water) to one part oatmeal and cook over a gentle heat. Add sugar and, if you wish, a little spice (cinnamon, mace or allspice all work well). Top with a spoonful of Lyles Golden Syrup, condensed milk, cream or yogurt when serving.

Steel Cut oatmeal is quite different but it is made from the same kind of real Irish oats. Instead of crushing the grain between rollers, steel blades are used to break open the husks and cut the grain kernels into smaller pieces. Steel cut oatmeal does not absorb liquids so easily so mix one part steel cut oatmeal with four parts water and boil until the grain softens, then turn down the heat and simmer for half an hour. Serve with buttermilk, milk or cream and Demerara sugar or Lyles Golden Syrup (both available at Blighty's). Steel cut oatmeal has a distinctly nutty flavour and is preferred by many traditional porridge lovers.

How to Make Easy Mouth-Watering Gravy

What are the essential elements of a perfect gravy?
A perfect gravy should have four essential elements; it should be loaded with flavour, it should have an alluring aroma, bold colour and a perfect consistency - not too thick, nor too thin.

The right gravy can make the difference between a good meal and a spectacular meal. Unfortunately, too many gravies are simply a thick, flavourless, starchy mess made with flour. No wonder gravy has such a bad reputation. But it doesn't have to be so. I like to make gravies that are both healthy and a treat for the taste buds. Here is how I do it.

First Step, Make a Simple Vegetable Stock
Do not not use stock cubes! You need the natural starches in fresh vegetables to thicken your gravy. I like to use fresh onions. Peel and dice a couple of medium sized onions, then cook them in 2 cups of water, with a bay leaf, until the onions are very soft.

Add Gravy Salt
Stir in half a teaspoonful of Comptons Gravy Salt and continue to cook over a gentle heat until most of the onion has melted away into the gravy, thickening it in the process. Gravy Salt is a mixture of salt, corn starch and caramel (for that lovely brown colour). You can serve the gravy as is if you are seeking a vegetarian recipe, or add meat flavour from your roast.

Blend in the Beef
For a truly amazing beef gravy, pour a little boiling water into the roasting pan after the meat has been removed. Stir with a wooden spoon to soak up all the dripping in the pan. Add the dripping mix to your gravy. For a smooth texture, run the beef dripping mix through a blender first. This works equally well for any roast meat; chicken, pork etc.

Gourmet Touch?
Stir a splash of red wine into the gravy at the very end of your cooking, and a little dry, powdered garlic.

Comptons Gravy Salt is a traditional British product going back to the 1920s. It is available at Blighty's for just $2.99 for a 128g pack that will make lots of gravies.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Really Easy Shepherd's Pie Recipe

Feel Good
A delicious shepherd's pie on a cold February evening makes a really comforting welcome home. It's a put-your-feet-up-and-relax type of meal that makes you feel really good inside and out.

Easy Does It
Shepherd's Pie is also incredibly easy to make. You can get most of the ingredients at Blighty's and in 30 minutes you can be serving a steaming plate of traditional British food to your family.

From Blighty's you will need:
1 tin of marrowfat peas
1 pack of Smash mashed potatoes
1 pack of Colman's Shepherd's Pie mix

Then grab some ground beef, onions and carrots from wherever you usually go for those items.

Hubble, Bubble
Brown the beef in a dry frying pan. If you add the onions (chopped) to the same pan you can get away without using any additional fat or oil. When the ground beef is brown and the onions are soft, transfer everything to an oven-proof dish. Now stir in the Colman's Shepherd's Pie mix, the peas and chopped carrots and 300ml water. Mix up some Smash mashed potato (you can't beat the taste of British potatoes) and spread over the top. Bake at 400F for 30 minutes and serve.

Ribena - Lower Price Than the UK!

Ribena has been a popular healthy drink for generations. Rich in vitamin C, a proven antioxidant and a very tasty and refreshing beverage at the same time.

Blighty's has obtained a limited quantity of Ribena in "ready to drink" 500ml bottles. But the best part is we are offering it for just $1.49 a bottle - and that's less than it sells for in the UK!

*** Ribena is made with real fruit juice and contains no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners ***

NB: This is a special shipment only, not a regular item and it will not be available at this low price after the present stock is sold.

Save a Bundle on Buttons

Let's Be Honest
Cadbury Buttons are just about the most expensive way to buy good british Cadbury chocolate. So here's a tip. Buy a big bar of Cadbury chocolate, melt it down and make your own buttons - you'll get twice as many for your money.

Too Much Trouble?
Alright then, here is a another way to get a better button deal. Come and grab some 3-packs while they are on special at Blighty's. A 3-pack will cost you just $2.99, that's a 33% saving over the regular individual pack price.

Want Free Buttons?
Use them for poker chips; if you're good you'll get to eat everybody else's buttons too. Good luck.

Save Enough to Get Free Chocolate

They Fell Off the Back of a Lorry
Look, don't spread this around, but a few cases of McVities Rich Tea biscuits fell off the back of a lorry on the motorway in England last week. Before you could say "blind ol' Reilly, what a spot of luck" they were scooped up and on their way to Canada.

Mum's the Word
Now they are on sale at Blighty's for a very tempting price. In fact you will save enough on each pack of Rich Tea to buy yourself a small chocolate bar. Blow me down; you get a big pack of very dunkable biccies and a luvverly bar of chocolate for the same price you would normally pay for Britain's most dunkable biscuit. That will help you deal with the February blahs. And if you want to keep the chocolate bar a secret - just for yourself - I won't tell a soul. Mum's the word.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Come to Our St George's Day Party

We Are Planning a St George's Day Party

April 23rd, St George's Day, falls on a Tuesday this year. St George is the patron saint of England. Apart from the legend of him slaying the dragon, very little is commonly known about him. So little, in fact, that, in 1969, the Roman Catholic Church reduced his status to the lowest possible ranking.

Most English people will be surprised, as was I, to learn that St George was actually a Roman soldier who served in England during the early fourth century. He was reportedly executed for objecting to the mistreatment of Christians. Yet despite this tenuous link to England he was adopted as the country's patron saint.

References to St George occur throughout English history. The Cross of St George (a red cross – representing Christ's blood at his crucifixion – on a white background - for purity) was adopted as the regalia of the English Army at or around the time of the Crusades and is now the national flag of England

In the 16th Century, Shakespeare (who was born and died on St George's Day) mentions St George in Henry V's speech at the gates of Agincourt:

'I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge
Cry God for Harry, England and St George!'.

So What About the Party?
A friend and customer was in the store this week and suggested that if we could get enough people interested, we could organize a bit of a shindig to celebrate St George's Day. How about a (non-profit) knees-up with a menu of good British food, wine and beer, in Orangeville, on Tuesday 23rd April?

Other British communities in Canada regularly hold events with a British theme so why not Orangeville? Leave a comment below this post if you have ideas or would like to join us.

Why Are These Chocolate HobNobs so Cheap?

Honestly, we are selling these biccies for 26% below their regular price. No, they are NOT past their "best before" date - they are good for months yet.

These are bona-fide British McVities HobNobs milk chocolate covered oat biscuits made in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, England.

We have sold quite a lot of them in the last 2 weeks. Why? Because they taste really good ... and because they are cheap. So why are they so cheap? Well, if you really care, the explanation is below.

This Tall Story Explains It - Trust Me
As you probably read in the past, our importer is called Pugwash (yes the short, plump little pirate character of cartoon fame). He was in England recently, on a buying trip, and was driving up the M1 towards the Midlands. The journey around the M25 after leaving Heathrow was very arduous. The weather was a bit off - grey skies and light, but continuous, spitting rain. And all the way he had been stuck behind a great big lorry. Pugwash wasn't having a good day. But, just after passing Watford Gap services he noticed the tailgate of that darn lorry was shaking loose. His exit ramp for Leicester was coming up but curiosity kept him on the motorway for a few more miles. His eye flashed on a sign warning of the upcoming exit for Burton-on-Trent when, all of a sudden, the lorry hit a large pothole in the road. The tailgate of the lorry burst open and out spilled ... continued on page 94.

A Really Cheap Way to Get Sun Kissed

Mea culpa. I bought too much. Sunkist soft drinks, that is. We had such a large inventory of these very tasty drinks that some of them slipped past their "best before" dates before we could sell them.

If you read the article on "best before" dates in last week's issue of "This Week At Blighty's" you will understand why these dates often aren't worth a grain of salt. The article is still available on this website if you didn't catch it.

Anyway, no use crying over spilt milk; we are clearing off the remainder of our Sunkist stock at absolutely silly prices. I sacrificed myself by taste-testing one to make sure it still tastes good before offering them for sale. No worries there, it tastes just spectacular; very refreshing. Grab an armful.

Britain to Leave Europe?

"Conservatives Promise IN/OUT Vote on Europe" trumpets the headline of the February issue of the FREE British Canadian newspaper.

The British Conservatives are locked into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats led by Deputy PM Nick Clegg. The Lib Dems are sinking in the polls while the Conservatives are losing ground to the UK Independence Party. The question of whether to remain a part of the European Union is one of the key issues facing Britain in the next election.

And on a lighter note:
The free newspaper is also full of interesting articles about Britain, Britons in Canada and, of course, Blighty's own satirical column under the byline "Bulldogge". Pick up your free copy on your next visit to the store.

5 Days Each 25 Hours Long - Where?

I flicked through the pages of the marvellous new "Totally British" magazine this afternoon. The February edition was delivered to Blighty's a few days ago. Totally British magazine is into its third issue this month and what a fabulous publication it is.

Totally British magazine defines itself as "Canada's own British TV and Entertainment magazine". Its 68 glossy, full-colour pages are packed with news from the world of British entertainment. Best of all it is written specifically for British people in Canada.

The February issue is on sale now at Blighty's for a very reasonable $4.99. What a great read to get you through winter's cold, dark evenings.

Oh, and the 5 days each 25 hours long? Read the article by Jonathan Grun of the Press Association about his winter Atlantic crossing on the QM2 - a fascinating experience!