I love Fenella Smith’s ceramics, particularly the dachsund range. It’s probably as close as I’m going to get to having a dog running round the kitchen for now.
But I also love things that are practical for the kitchen, as most of us aren’t blessed with acres of space. Just because things are practical doesn’t mean they can’t be beautiful or, as in this case, cute.
The three are useful sizes, whether you’re measuring or not, at 200ml, 500ml and 1.5 litres, and a good size spout. To be honest, they’re too pretty just to be measuring things, I would want to bring them to the table as well. These are dishwasher and microwave safe, but not suitable to go in the oven.
Gorgeous range, definitely great choices for gifts whether for someone you love, or a little treat for your own kitchen.
The Radical Tea Towel Company is new to me, but I love them! I mean part of me wishes these guys had been around when I was married. I’d have slipped a few of these into the ex FIL’s kitchen, just for the heck of it.
They might have started out just with tea towels, but they now have mugs, oven gloves, even fridge magnets so all sorts of options for all kinds of food lovers or just anyone you need an interesting gift for. I think I might need some new mugs, a bit of quiet subversion over the tea run perhaps.
It’s partly to do with the colours, but mainly to do with the fragrance notes, which are tea, fresh green fig and spicy white pepper. Sounds perfect for a food lover, and works as well in the lounge as in the kitchen.
Of course those who read my blog regularly might have expected me to pick another of their fragrances. Yes, they have a Gin Fizz version too, which I could also be very tempted by.
Definitely a brand worth keeping an eye on if modern, clean line design is your thing.
Well, we didn’t see this one coming! And it’s probably safe to say it looks like Love Productions didn’t either.
So, it was bad enough to find it moving to Channel 4. I think we’re all in the same place. It’s a BBC show through and through. I mean, we can’t have an advert interrupt the tension of a very tense dough rise. Imagine going to an ad break just as Louise’s gingerbread chapel collapsed?
But we could probably have coped with that. But no Mel and Sue?
Well, now it’s all crumbling quicker than that gingerbread chapel.
And the suggestion seems to be that Mary won’t move either. And without those three, then there is no show. Because whether he likes it or not, it was never really about Paul Hollywood. Before the show he was what? As far as I recall a patisserie chef at a very nice hotel in Cyprus.
But Mary has been a fixture in our homes for years, through books and television. She has more tried and tested recipes than Paul’s had floured baps.
Let’s face it, it didn’t exactly go well when he went to the US version, did it?
Maybe Paul will choose not to go either. In which case Channel 4 really have only bought an empty marquee, and possibly empty seats around television sets up and down the country. Why on earth all of this wasn’t worked through up front I’ve no idea. Or why the BBC hadn’t anticipated this day before now, perhaps when they made the big move to BBC1.
I don’t know why Love Productions thinks there’s a better home than the BBC, so that rather then leaves the question of money, which they claim it’s not about. But given the way the BBC has grown the show, allowing them to sell it overseas, not to mention lucrative spin-off licensing deals and a great many books, then you wonder how much more than want to make from it, how much more they think they can.
Not that it matters, but I think this is hugely misjudged, and only appears to be a question of commercial greed, which would appear to be backfiring quite spectacularly. The format change, the presenter change will all change what has been an incredibly successful, highly loved show.
I get that Channel 4 will recoup their investment even with less of us watching, because of what they can charge for advertising. But there must come a point where the people have dropped off so much that you can’t put up the advertising rates enough to compensate?
Who knows? Television is a weird old game, but I can’t help but feel that Love have killed their golden goose.
It’s that time of year, pretty much every school is now back, and you might even be considering night school. If you’re not up for evening classes, but want to learn a new school then here are five books for learning new cooking, brewing and possibly eating and drinking skills.
If free from is about to be a thing for you, through need or want, then a good cookbook is probably a great start, as there will be some some new things to know when you start cooking without things you might have been cooking with all your life to date. This gives you 100 recipes step by step, and includes my favourite thing in a cookbook: a photo of every finished dish.
Bake Off is back, so baking is high on the conversation agenda, and everyone wondering how to bake half the stuff on there. For a more down to earth starting point, then I like this book from Anneka Manning. I like that this gives you the building blocks of the ten most common mixing methods, as that gives you the knowledge and skill to take your baking in any direction. Even to the Bake Off tent.
Home brewing is definitely back, and I love that this book is about learning the rules, and how to break them for a huge variety of beer styles. A bit like Bakeclass, this would be a great leaping off point once you’ve got some good basic knowledge. You’ll probably have something ready in time for Christmas if you start now.
You might be thinking end of the summer, BBQ’s back in the garage and the smoky flavours are over. Well, this book might help you think differently. I think it would be a pretty impressive thing to serve up to friends a platter of smoked meats that you’ve made yourself. It would also give you something else to do with the turkey leftovers at Christmas!
This is not about spicy food, but certainly food with flavours, and lots of them. It’s one of those things I often think about when watching Bake Off, as there’s normally one person at least who really pushes the flavour combinations. With knowledge to share, and recipes to work through, then it’s a practical guide that you’ll want to get stuck into.
So, if you could learn a new cooking skill, what would it be? Or what have you learned recently? I’d love to know.
So, it’s bread week on Great British Bake Off, and home baking of bread has certainly been through a renaissance. It could be to do with the rise of great bread choices from artisanal bakeries, possibly to do with those choosing to avoid wheat and therefore experimenting with different flours.
Who knows? But there’s still nothing to beat the smell of freshly baked bread coming out the oven, and then slathering it with butter. Ok, I know you’re supposed to wait, but where’s the fun in that?
Now, you could go down the whole breadmaker route, and if you think that’s for them, then I’ve written about those here. But I think a lot of us have moved on from that, wanting to really get our hands on the good stuff.
My favourite baker doesn’t do Bake Off, but I love Richard Bertinet. Brilliant baker, great at demos, nothing to do with the French accent. You could buy your food lover the gift of a class at Richard’s school in Bath, but that’s not necessarily convenient for everyone. In which case I would say the Starter Baking Set would be a great gift. From a copy of Richard’s book, Dough, through to the practical stuff like a dough scraper, this gives them everything they need to get going except the ingredients.
If they’re experimenting with different flours, then Sharpham Park have got a great Home Baker Pack highlighting their spelt flours. Plenty to get working with, along with Lev Epeautre, a dried spelt leaven combining the rising power of yeast and the flavour of sourdough starter. The Spelt recipe book will give them plenty of ideas to get them going.
For something simple but tasty, and with something to keep you hydrated whilst you wait for the bread to cook, try the Beer Bread Kit from Toastie, which comes with a tin of craft beer as well. Although it turns out to that is to go in the bread. But you could always improvise. Great gift for a real beginner in the bread stakes, simple to do, tasty results.
Sous Chef is one of my favourite sources for proper gifts for food lovers, and I really like the Sourdough Bread Making Kit. With a dough scraper, banneton and scoring blade, along with Dan Lepard’s brilliant book, The Handmade Loaf, then they’ll be turning out great loaves in no time. Well, no time plus the proving time.
You could always pop out and find some local flour from your nearest mill, and put it together with practical stuff like mixing bowls, which you can probably never have too many of. You could also get things like different seeds for decorating the tops of the loaves…really, the possibilities are endless, the results alway likely to be delicious.
I do love my gin, and always have that battle between returning to an old favourite, and trying something new. And, despite writing and opinions to the contrary, I don’t get through that much so a bottle lasts quite some time.
So, how to get through a great variety of great gins without causing the bank manager to pass out? Well, here’s two gift ideas for you, that would give 36 different gins for about £170.
Of course, that’s still a lot of money, but when you figure that good gin is about £30 a bottle, so would only give you just over 5 bottles for the same amount. And when you figure on trying 36 different ones then that would be over £1,000. Possibly with a pickled liver on the side.
First off, you can count down December with the Ginvent Advent Calendar, which will be released for pre-order shortly from Gin Foundry, and shipping next month. They say there will be calendar exclusives and new gin launches making their debut behind certain doors, as well as a return of some older gins that are starting to make their way back into the limelight.
Now, that sounds like a good way to get through to Christmas Eve. But what to do after that?
Thankfully the team at Eden Mill are giving us the 12 Gins of Christmas, so keeping the theme going. With 12 flavoured gins, this will refresh your palate after the excesses of the Christmas table each day. Apple and Cinnamon sounds perfectly festive, along with Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. Apologies for the Nat King Cole ear worm you’ve now got going on.
Unlike the advent calendar, this is a perfect gift to be given on Christmas Day, as it also contains two glasses and a voucher for one tour of the Eden Mill gin experience. But I don’t see why you couldn’t gift it to yourself either.
So, it seems John Lewis and I have some similar thoughts. I mean, a kettle is a no brainer to me, although I do notice that there are more and more “young” people who don’t do hot drinks. At least not at home.
I reckon the sandwich toaster is a much sounder idea. I mean, 3am drunken toasted cheese sandwiches feel like they’re going to be a much more regular occurence than 9am healthy smoothies. Or perhaps that was just my life at that age.
And a corkscrew is on there, but not a bottle opener. Surely just as many wine bottles come with screw caps as beer type bottles come with twist off lids, so why plan for one oddity and not the other? Or does every single corkscrew come with a bottle opener these days?
Other than that, the nation’s favourite and I are pretty much aligned. What do you think? What’s a uni catering essential in your view?
So, the results are out, places have been accepted, courses have been changed and plans are really taking shape. Which means planning for life without the parental kitchen.
How do you make sure your kids are set up for success, and at least given the skills to consider some sort of cooking and healthier eating?
It depends where they’re starting from of course. If they’ve been your kitchen helper from being small, then probably your only worry is frisking them on the way out the door to discover what kitchen equipment they’re trying to take with them.
If they’ve never, ever cooked, not even toast, then you have two approaches: one, ignore it. If you haven’t taught them anything so far, unlikely to get much to take in the weeks left. Or two, crash course, work through Delia’s Complete How to Cook Book at some pace. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between. Maybe skip Christmas dinner if that’s in the book.
And if they’re somewhere in between, then send them off with some decent knives, some decent saucepans and possibly a casserole dish or slow cooker. A slow cooker is one of my favourite bits of kit for turning cheap cuts into delicious dinners, and with not a big impact on the electric bill.
It’s that stage in the holidays where the kids start moping around, complaining that they’re bored, and parents are running short of ideas.
Well, this book might help. Mason Jar Nation, whilst not purely food or drink idea based, could provide a few hours entertainment for the kids. It could end up producing something for dinner, or something to carry to a picnic, or some other craft projects, although these are probably more suitable for older kids.
And much older if it’s the Pineapple Vodka!
Of course it’s all been about the Mason jar, which you may or may not have hanging around the house. Personally I think the trend has probably reached a peak, and you could do many of these with any fairly robust glass jar you have hanging around the house.
I mean, if you’re going to try making homemade butter with them (which would be great fun) then then the butter isn’t going to know it’s being churned in a Mason jar or a leftover jam jar, just as long as the lid is tight fitting.