The Foodie Gift Hunter

Great gift ideas for fabulous foodies

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Celebrating with beautiful roses

June 29th, 2015 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do, Just for fun

This weekend saw the first anniversary of some great friends, whose wedding took place in their beautiful garden in New Jersey. To celebrate their love, and love of all things English, then I sent them three beautiful roses from David Austin, after a wonderful afternoon at their nursery wandering round, looking and smelling.

I didn’t choose by theme that time, but for this post, I am choosing by food and drink connections, as I’ve never chosen a bad rose yet from their collections.


Champagne Moment


Champagne Moment – for any kind of celebration, this is described as starting as apricot and paling with age to creamy white. Like a good champagne, it develops and changes.




Chianti – this apparently was David Austin’s first red rose, it’s really rich and deep in colour, like the wine. It also has a strong old rose fragrance, so a delicious choice for a fragranced garden.


Grouse 2000


Grouse 2000 – laughing slightly that this is a ground cover rose, I’m sure the grouse would like that. Pale pink flowers that turn almost white eventually, it also says it’s very disease resistant, which has to be a good thing.


Ice Cream


Ice Cream – I wish I had this one, as it is a pure white, and I’m a Yorkshire girl at heart. I love the description of the fragrance, which is spicy with a hint of a cinnamon. Not what you’d expect from a rose.


Lady of Shalott


Lady of Shalott – oh, ok, tenuous and a dreadful pun. But it’s a beautiful looking rose, a most unusual colour, very vibrant.


Tea Clipper


Tea Clipper – now, this one really has a good sounding fragrance, apparently of tea mixed with myrhh and fruit, although sometimes it’s apparently entirely citrus scented. Love a bit of a surprise!

What I love about David Austin roses is that you cannot go wrong, they are all beautiful, and you can find something appropriate for every kind of occasion. And it’s a gift that just keeps on going. I’ve always found them incredibly hardy and easy to grow. I’ve got A Shropshire Lad (keep up, it’s a rose) that blooms amazingly well each year, even though I don’t treat it particularly well. If I can grow them, anyone can!

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Three more favourite sales underway

June 27th, 2015 · Christmas foodie gifts, Foodie gifts, Places to shop online

Seems Lakeland was the first of my high temptation sales to start, but now three more absolute favourites are up and running.

House by John Lewis BakerJohn Lewis – good for good quality bakeware and pans, I also really like their House range. This dish looks like a good size for a lasagne or cannelloni, both popular dishes here. Could get organised for Christmas and buy a reduced price turkey basting set too.




I am very tempted by the croquembouche set, now only £7. It’s one of those things I’ve never made, and always fancied trying. I daren’t look at the glass sale, although I did spot a beer tasting set at £12, possibly worth putting away for a last minute beer lover gift.


chocolate biscuits


Not on the High Street – I know, it’s dull how many times I’ve written about how much I love this site, but it’s the site that keeps on giving with so many great ideas. And even better at sale time for great ideas at less. The biscuit shaped chocolates I wrote about before are now only £9.60, along with lots of other sweet stuff like marshmallows also in the sale.


Begins with gin


For non calorific options, then it’s a great time to stock up on tea towels and shopping bags, always useful standby gifts (don’t forget that plastic bag ban coming in soon, everyone will need more shopping bags), not to mention there are lots of great mugs. Foodie or not, all three make great gifts for all kinds of occasions.


Emma Bridgewater – whilst not mad keen on the very floral stuff, I love Emma Bridgewater’s stuff, and there’s a lot of lovely stuff in the sale.


skyline mug


I really like the Skyline mug, would keep this for next time I was going to the US. As a great gift to keep to hand, then I like the gift set of two mini mugs that are candles to start with at least.


toast & marmalade mini filled mugs

Emma also has great tea towels, and some lovely glass too.


Storm Lantern


Whilst not completely food related, I love the large storm lantern, perfect for lighting al fresco dinners if we ever get some warm evenings!

So, some lovely things around at discounted prices to think about treating yourself with or keeping for the next time you need a great gift.


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At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen

June 25th, 2015 · Cookbooks, Foodie gifts

at home in the


Not a statement of how my cooking has changed here, but the title of a new book from Amy Chaplin, an apparently well known Australian chef specialising in vegetarian and vegan food. Well, given MGG has gone pescetarian again, this was good timing for a test.

There are good chapters on store cupboard items, although there are still some items that I needed to look up, that get either a bit lost in translation, or are maybe more familiar if you have been cooking in this way for some time.


veg 2


We were doing okay with our first recipe, wholewheat udon noodle salad with sautéed Peppers, sweetcorn and sesame marinade. Well, we were until I got to tamari in the ingredient list, which actually turned out to be a kind of soy sauce, so very substitutable. I loved the colours in this dish, given the variety of peppers in it.


veg 3


I lacked black sesame seeds, but had the white ones, which toasted up nicely. Generally it felt a very healthy dinner, perfect for warmer nights as it can be served at room temperature. We were too hungry, and it still worked pretty much straight out the pan. It suggested it could be served with braised tempeh, but given my previous disasters with tofu, we went for pan fried halloumi with it.


veg 4


Overall, got a big thumbs up from us, and I would happily make this again. I can’t say that every dish grabbed me in the same way, but then it’s not entirely my way of cooking.

Again, I wanted to test how good the baking recipes were, not just the cooking, and tried the blackberry cornmeal muffins. I substituted blueberries for the blackberries, but these came out really well. They are not like a coffee shop muffin, in that they are not that sweet, but great for a healthier snack. They’ve got chia seeds in them for a bit of crunch, and are made using spelt flour so a bit more substantial.




I would say this is a great book for someone who has a real interest in this style of cooking, with lots of variety and some beautiful fresh flavours. I doubt it will earn shelf space here for very long, but definitely got ten out of ten for the two recipes we tried. Published by Jacqui Small, this is currently £25 at Waterstones with free delivery. Definitely one to get delivered, it’s a substantial book.

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The temptation of the Lakeland sale

June 23rd, 2015 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Places to shop online

I’m a big fan of Lakeland, it’s got me out of more than one cooking equipment hole, and I admit it, I love a good mooch around their stores. Which is why it’s always very tempting when their sale comes around.

And it’s on now, and this is what I’m trying to restrain my credit card from purchasing:


Cordless blender


Cordless Blender – I think I’ve written about this before given how rubbish my current one is. I love the idea of it being cordless, and as it’s now down to £39.99 from £74.99 got to be worth a serious look.

Cherry stonerCherry & Olive Stoner – I always think these are a waste of space…until I need to stone a whole batch of cherries or olives. Given this is now only £2.99, I think I could be persuaded to find it space.


Store & Serve Cake tin


Store & Serve Cake Tin – on the basis that I always end up using my normal cake tins upside down to achieve this effect, and that you can never have too many cake tins, then I can see this being very useful. Not to mention well used.


Chiffon Cake Pan


Chiffon Cake Pan – ok, never baked one of these before in my life, but saw them being done on the Great British Bake Off last year and wanted to, but lacked the right pan. Could now put that right for half the original price. And have something to put in that cake tin.


Where there's tea


A new mug – because I love and agree with the sentiment, and have just dropped an old favourite mug so there’s space in the cupboard.

I must admit to generally staying away from the Home sale, as too easy to end up with things you never knew you needed, let alone know when you’re going to use them. Or maybe that’s just me! I’m also staying away from the Gift sale, as there is some beautiful glass in there, for which I have a real weakness, but no need.

Have fun, just remember if you don’t need it or won’t use it, then it’s not a bargain.

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What will the Masterchef ingredient be?

June 21st, 2015 · British favourites, Foodie gifts

Pea puree and scallops


I love Masterchef, in all of its versions, even if I’m not entirely sure most of the time about who the celebrities are. But what I love is the trends in ingredients, and always wonder what it’ll be next.

Of course the chocolate fondant is legendary, and it’s not just John and Gregg who moan (and not in a good way) when one is presented. Surely there are other desserts out there?

For a long time it seemed to be all about the pea puree, generally with scallops. Or black pudding. Or both. And that’s okay with me, I’d order a dish of that combination even today. But then I’m a northern girl at heart, and rather fond of black pudding.

Who knows this time? Kimchi with every dish? Salted caramel? Maybe the celebrities will be a little behind the curve compared to the professionals, so maybe not something so up to date, but maybe we’ll be surprised. What’s your bet on?


Photo by Carwyn Lloyd Jones on Flickr. Beautiful shot.

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The Friday Five – planning it and making the most of it

June 19th, 2015 · Cookbooks, Foodie gifts, Friday Five

We’ve been having ongoing conversations around meal planning, in order to a) buy some time back each night and b) make the most of the food there is. If you’ve read this blog for long, you’ll know that food waste drives me absolutely nuts, so this is definitely one thing I’m really passionate about finding tools to improve on. Here’s a few:


The family meal planner


The Family Meal Planner – this is perfect, in that recipes are thrifty rather than spendthrift, and includes seven day meal planners. Also covers another of my favourites, batch cooking which is definitely a godsend after work in a week!


Three Months of Meals


Three Months of Meals: Where to Begin – I love the subtitle of this “for the overwhelmed beginner planner”. I’d give this a go on that basis alone. It’s a Kindle book, so low investment, but possibly worth a look. Though if I discover it’s three months worth of shepherd’s pie then I may rethink that!


7 Day Menu Planner for dummies


7-Day Menu Planner for Dummies – I guess this one does what it says on the tin! I’ve not read a Dummies book in years but always remember that they’re good at doing what they set out to do. There’s a whole year’s worth of plans, so by the time you’ve worked through those, you could start at the beginning again as no one will remember!


Weeknight dinners


Weeknight Dinners – this one made me smile with its themes: meatless Monday, Tex Mex Tuesday and more, so planning will be quite straightforward. Not to mention tasty, I reckon there’s loads in here that loads of kids will love.


Cook Now Eat Later


Cook Now, Eat Later – I love Mary Berry, and love her for this book, or any book with the secondary title “recipes that make your life easier”. Heaven knows we all need that, and surely Mary Berry is well placed to help us with that.

So, here’s to being well organised and getting some time back for other things.

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Bitter: not as dangerous as billed

June 17th, 2015 · Cookbooks, Foodie gifts

I’ve been cooking from a new book called Bitter by Jennifer McLagan over the last few days, which definitely is a fascinating exploration of some different ingredients. But with a sub title of “a taste of the world’s most dangerous flavour” I was probably expecting a little more danger.




There again, I decided not to try the coffee and cardamom sweetbreads, so maybe it’s just what I chose to try, but then I do have a teenager to cook for too.

Firstly, this books has some beautiful photography, particularly the still lives of different ingredients. However, if you want a photo of every dish, then you’re going to be disappointed. Though to be fair, there are recipes for a Gin and Tonic, and Toast and Jam, so really not sure you need photos there. To be honest, I don’t know many people who need a recipe for toast and jam, and this certainly wouldn’t be a good book for those who do.

I made two things from this book, a rocket pizza and an orange and olive oil pound cake. The pizza was perfect given MGG is vegetarian again, although she was very reluctant at first given she thought she didn’t like rocket.




I’m so used to making Dan Lepard’s pizza base recipe from Short & Sweet, so it was different to get the mixer out for making this one. All very simple, and it rose well, and rolled out and stretched brilliantly too. There’s a good roasted tomato and onion sauce to go with this, though interesting when putting the pizza together that it goes on after thinly sliced onion and the first lot of rocket.




The original recipe had prosciutto on the top, but we had half meat and half with sun dried tomatoes for some flavour contrast. It all disappeared, and the rocket didn’t get commented on at all, and there was a lot on there.




After recent experiences I decided I’d better test a baking recipe as well, so the orange and olive oil cake seemed a good bet. Only one slight challenge: in order to meet the bitter requirement this calls for Seville oranges. Which makes it a bit tricky in June, so just had to settle for ordinary ones.

But after about 20 minutes, and trying to work out whether or not to use the line “this is really taking the pith”, I came to the conclusion that Sevilles must have very even segments, as the recipe requires you to remove the pith and segment the oranges. Note to self, a skill to practice, but preferably not with such wonky oranges.

I lost the plot a bit with the recipe and the oranges at that point, so they all ended up in the mixer later, which is not in the recipe. Didn’t seem to matter, cake baked well, and is really delicious, and very moist. I think my olive oil was a bit overwhelmed by the orange, so maybe a stronger flavoured olive oil would give more flavour, as it was hard to pick out in the final cake.


Time for tea & cake


That said, it goes beautifully with a cup of tea. It may keep well, but it may not get much of a chance!

So, I think this is an interesting book, particularly with some fascinating asides on some of the ingredients, and would suit someone who is already quite comfortable in the kitchen. Published by Jacqui Small, this is currently £25 at Waterstones.

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Best get organised now for next year’s World Gin Day

June 15th, 2015 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do

Gin lovers companion


It wasn’t that I missed World Gin Day, in that I managed to drink gin on Saturday, but it sort of snuck up on me and then was a big surprise. Which meant I wrote very little about gin in the run up to the big day, even though it’s been something I have written about quite a lot before.

So whilst I was having a quiet sulk at not getting more involved, then I spotted the perfect, celebratory tumblers for next years’s G and T’s.

Waterford Mixology TumblersI love these, they’re from Waterford and they go with the coupes I saw at Christmas time. Of course they’re slightly on the dear side (and it wasn’t my Euromillions ticket this weekend) so would definitely be for special occasions like World Gin Day. But glasses this gorgeous deserve great gin, so I might spend the next year researching the perfect one to go with them.

Tough job, but someone has to do it.

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Time for iced tea?

June 13th, 2015 · British favourites, Foodie gadgets, Foodie gifts

In the middle of the week, I definitely thought the time for iced tea was here, but at the moment I’m writing this bundled up in a jumper, socks on and heating too. But in the hope that the forecasts are wrong, and the clouds soon part, I hope the time for mid afternoon iced tea drinking will be back.


Strawberry Lemonade tea


I’ve been a fan of Bluebird Tea for a long time, and I would definitely think you’re spoilt for choice with their selections to make a delicious iced tea. Strawberry Lemonade Tea is one of their best sellers, this is sunny and fruity, and perfect for long, iced sipping. Check out the cold brew cup, taking tea to a whole new level as well.


Tea Jay


Whittard’s have been doing this kind of thing for a long time, and there’s a whole range of flavours to choose from. I do like the look of the Tea-Jay though, which is apparently how you become a master of iced tea mixology. Keep it neat and innocent, or add a drop of the hard stuff, but this is a great bit of kit for brewing and pouring.


Queen of Berries


If I was going to give some tea as a gift, then the Queen of Berries from Tea Palace would certainly be a beautiful looking gift. I can remember getting a parcel from Tea Palace some years ago, and it was such a treat to look at. No style over substance though, delicious tea and I’m sure this blend of black tea, strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants would be perfect for an afternoon brew in the garden.

Of course, you can make any tea into iced tea. My mum always made what she called Russian tea, which was regular black tea, lemon slices and ice. Although I seem to remember making it with just a proper cup of tea, milk and all, as well. But happy memories of summers gone by. Summers when the sun used to shine. Ah well, fingers crossed.

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Secret, not silly, sausages

June 11th, 2015 · British favourites, Foodie gifts

MGG has gone vegetarian again, although with some fish eating still going on, and it’s definitely lasted longer this time. I don’t mind, as long as I don’t have to cook tofu again, and eating less meat isn’t going to do me any harm either.


Secret lincolnshire sausage


I do love sausages though, and wasn’t sure what I would make of the vegetarian sausages from Secret Sausages. I like their secondary name, Vegetables in Disguise, and MGG loves the imagery (I think it’s a teenage girl thing, being obsessed still with moustaches).

We’ve had the Lincolnshire versions, which it says is packed full of carrots, green beans, garden peas and onions. Now, it was too darned cold to even think about getting out the BBQ, and being late back from work then I did these in the oven. They went nicely brown, and it certainly looked like a plate of sausage and mash.

I can’t lie, these are nothing like proper sausages. But it meant we got to eat together, these met MGG’s veggie requirements, and my gluten free ones. Three of them is equal to one of your five portions of veg a day, so that’s a positive. And they weren’t untasty, they just weren’t like a proper Lincolnshire sausage. I would say they could do with quite a lot more seasoning.

But they weren’t bad, and we’ll try the Cheese & Spring Onion ones we’ve got in a different way, possibly toad in the hole next week. So, if you need gluten free, meat free, lower fat or lower salt, then these might be a good addition, or occasional swap in. Available from Ocado, many Holland & Barrett stores and independent stores around the UK.

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