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Great gift ideas for fabulous foodies

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Still got time for foodie gifts from around the world

December 17th, 2014 · Christmas foodie gifts, Foodie gifts, Kitchenwares, Places to shop online

Well, possibly  not directly from their country of origin, but one of the great things about the web has been the specialist websites that concentrate on a particular cuisine, or a couple of related ones. Here’s some choices from a couple of favourites of mine:

 

Taste of Brittany

 

It’s no secret that I love France, and have spent many happy hours there, with lots of great food. Cheaper than a trip, Bien Manger can deliver the best of France to your doorstep. You could choose a hamper, with choices such as classic, trendy or signature, but I’d be focused on the regional ones if the foodie you’re giving to, like me, has a favourite area. Given my most recent trip, then I’d go for the Taste of Brittany, giving you some great things like the cider, salted butter caramel sauce and sardines. Although probably there’s not a Breton dish that combines them all together!

 

Truffle Hunter hamper

 

Heading a little further south and I’d pick Delicatezza for Italian food. For something quite luxurious then the Truffle Hunters Hamper, which would give them whole black truffles (perfect to go with scrambled eggs over the holidays) or white truffle laced acacia honey. There’s plenty of sweet stuff as well on there, if you want to balance the savoury and sweet.

Scandi hamper

If we travelled a bit further north, then ScandiKitchen is a great source for all types of Scandinavian food. There’s a great hamper of all kinds of Scandiavian goodies, but sadly I’ve written this too late for you to get a guaranteed delivery pre Christmas. If you have an early January birthday to buy for then they could still get this for you.

 

Mexican cookware

 

Heading further west and south a bit, then I’d choose MexGrocer for all things Mexican, including authentic cookware. So if you have someone to buy for who has always wanted to make their own tortillas, then this is site for finding a great gift. You can add all kinds of sauces and spices, and even a sombrero and mariachi CDs if you want to go all out.

 

Christmas Pop Culture

 

Keep heading further and further west, and we would just about end up in Japan. The Japan Centre is still one of the best sources of all kinds of Japanese goods, and for a keen food and culture enthusiast, then I’d take the fun angle this Christmas and go for the Christmas Pop Culture set. This somes up the madness of Tokyo to me, which is usually just a few paces from tradition and serenity. But instant ramen, sweets and drinks could be just the thing to offset all the traditional Christmas turkey.

Really I think you can find any type of cuisine. MFL seems to have a thing for Estonia, and I can find quite a lot sites covering that, and I can find a site devoted specifically to the food of Trinidad. So whatever they are into on the food front, then a bit of research and you’re in with a good chance of finding it. Just need to get a shuffle on as guaranteed delivery is fast closing.

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The countdown is on…

December 15th, 2014 · Christmas foodie gifts, Foodie gifts

The countdown is on!

 

Ten days to go.

Are you ready?

It’s amazing how quickly Christmas Day suddenly looms into the very close horizon of our lives, almost like someone moves the date closer each year.

Normally I’d be saying how you probably had a few more days to order online, although this year there seem to be a number of issues with deliveries with various retailers so you may not want to leave it till the last minute this year. At least, generally, click and collect options take away some of the uncertainty of waiting for the courier, and hoping you’re home when they call.

So, it’s a good time to take stock, and make like Santa and check your list, twice and then make your final choices. Better now than a panic on the morning of Christmas Eve. But if you get to that stage, check back in here as I’ll be covering your last minute choices to keep you out of the gift giving doghouse!

Planning today means no panics tomorrow, and that’s got to be a good thing!

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The Friday Five – For my teenage MGG

December 12th, 2014 · Cookbooks, Foodie gifts, Friday Five, Just for fun

Hard to believe it, another year has passed, and now I’m waking up with a teenage daughter in the house. Every year has brought its own challenges and laughs, spills and thrills, and I’m sure the year ahead will be no different.

But as the teenage years are with us, and no doubt ever more independence, then I thought it was definitely time to think about the cookbook library I would start building for MGG for when she wants to get into the kitchen, or has a kitchen, however tiny, of her own. Not quite my inheritance tracks, but these would be the cookbooks I’d gift her:

 

Tamasin's Kitchen Bible

 

Tamasin’s Kitchen Bible – maybe by the time she’s ready for this it might be back in print, but I love this book. I turn to it for reminders on basic recipes, for inspirations on lazy days and high days, and just for when I’m wondering what to cook. I love Tamasin’s writing, and the recipes are easy to follow, and so couldn’t be a better set up for anyone who wants to cook good food.

 

How to Eat

 

How to Eat – we were always team Nigella here, and there are plenty of her cookbooks on my shelves. I had to think about which one, and it could have been Kitchen, it could have been Domestic Goddess, but for covering all kinds of cooking occasions, from cooking for one to cooking for a crowd, then I love How to Eat. I love the whole ethos behind it, one I’m fairly sure MGG has embraced.

 

Ottolenghi the Cookbook

 

Ottolenghi – this is in here because it’s a really well used book in our kitchen. Like the previous two, there are splattered pages and stuck together pages, and memories of happy mealtimes. I’d like MGG to have this one for days when she needs to put something together quickly for a group of people, and doesn’t want to spend all her time in the kitchen, but still wants amazing flavours. It would also teach her to maintain an interesting store cupboard of flavours!

 

Clinton St Book

 

Clinton St Baking Company – for sentimental reasons, and because she’ll need the secret of my awesome pancakes and incredible raspberry jam. Of course they’re not my recipes, but I’ve made them lots to rave reviews from her, and I’m sure she’d want to continue the tradition. Not to mention we have some great memories of a couple of fantastic breakfasts there too.

 

Friends at my table

 

Friends at My Table – what I hope MGG will have picked up from me is that even the simplest ingredients, cooked well and with love, shared with friends and loved ones make for the best kind of meals, that even the best Michelin starred meal with the wrong people can’t hold a candle to. This book is entirely about those kind of meals, one not necessarily for every day but for days when you want to break bread with those you love. I wish her many of those.

So, another year gone, many meals enjoyed, including no poor experiences with tofu. I’m looking forward in the year ahead to showing her some of my favourite places to eat in Hong Kong, and exploring great eating in Australia. And I’m sure there’ll be some great days of good meals here too, and adventures to relive.

As always, love you lots MGG!

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What’s on your cheeseboard for Christmas?

December 8th, 2014 · Christmas foodie gifts, Foodie gifts, Places to shop online

It’s that time when the planning for the Christmas meals are in full swing, and in this household thoughts always turn to what cheese we’ll have. Living in amongst so many Stilton producing villages, then that’s always going to be there, but there are a few others that MGG and I are considering:

 

Wodehill Blue

 

I like the look of Wodehill Blue, as something different as our blue cheese selection. It’s described as rich, buttery, creamy and complex, and so could be different to our Stilton (always Colston Basset here). Sounds like it could be a winner.

 

Rachel

 

I’ve not come across a cheese called Rachel before, but this is it. A semi hard goats cheese with a washed rind, this is a nutty rich flavour that would be perfect with crackers.

 

Cote Hill Reserve

 

I like lots of the cheese from Cote Hill, which is fairly close to us here. For Christmas then I would go with the Cote Hill Reserve, which is washed in beer giving it an elegant and complex flavour. That said, the Cote Hill Red would feel appropriate for the holiday season!

 

Quickes Cheddar with Herbs

 

I really like cheddar on the cheeseboard, but it’s going to need to be something a bit different for Christmas. I would choose Quicke’s Cheddar wtih Herbs, and there’s plenty of them going on with chives, parsley, oregano, marjoram and thyme. Like a herb garden meets the cheesemaker!

Of course, there’s no guesswork required on what we serve our cheese on, as I’ve written several times about how much I like Peter’s Yard crispbreads. There are some new flavours around, so I think there’s likely to be some original ones as well as the fig ones. Perfect to work with any of these, or even if you’ve only got some Philadelphia, will definitely be an improvement!

Roll on the cheeseboard!

 

 

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Get ready to support Small Business Saturday

December 6th, 2014 · Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do

It appears I didn’t miss Small Business Saturday, as it’s today, Saturday 6 December. So here’s hoping it’s a crisp, frosty festive feeling day that might be perfect for avoiding the big shops and finding a few small ones to find lovely gifts.

All you really need to top that off is the Salvation Army band playing Christmas carols, and somewhere with open fire to retreat to for a glass of mulled wine and you’ve got the makings of a perfect Saturday. If you want to find the perfect high street, then apparently Belper in Derbyshire won the Great British High Street of the Year for 2014.

 

Belper High Street

 

I don’t know Belper but might have to make a trip to see what makes it so special, but in the meantime, I’ll be in Bingham having coffee at the Picture Cafe.

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Go small and independent for Christmas

December 4th, 2014 · British favourites, Christmas foodie gifts, Foodie gifts, Places to shop online

Black Friday is nearly here!

The scenes from Black Friday were not my favourite, not really showing humanity at its best. I liked a quote I saw on Twitter best “it’s only a bargain if you actually want/need it”. Now isn’t that the truth?

I missed both Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday, but really want to support these initiatives. Like all things, balance is always a good thing, and whilst you might not want to avoid well known names, spreading your spending could be a great thing too.

So, seek out great local independent places to shop, for things that are unique and different. If you’re in the Nottingham area, then I’d really encourage you to try Delilah for fabulous food stuffs, and Debbie Bryan for all sorts of fabulous arts and crafts. But if you can’t face any form of real world shopping, then these are some great ways to support small businesses online:

 

Indian Food teatowel

 

Etsy – so many great small businesses to choose from here, for every possible kind of gift you might need. You’ll find BonfireCherry there, who designed these fabulous bags for The Foodie Gift Hunter, as well as great food gifts from all over this place. I love the shop local feature, meaning you’re going small, independent and local all at the same time. I put in Leicester, and got this great Indian Food Mains and Starters tea towel. Perfect. Worth an explore. And please stock up with beautiful cards from The Letterpress Lab.

 

Gin Lovers Hamper

 

Not On The High Street – I still find it a bit odd to see a fancy ad campaign on TV from NOTHS, as I remember interviewing Hollie when the business had just started. But I still love this site, and buy lots of gifts from it, foodie and otherwise. Some of the businesses are not so small, but there is always something new to discover. Perfect if you’ve got lots of different kinds of gifts to get. This year I have my eye on this rather quirky Gin Lovers Hamper (did I mention I like my gin), but failing that, then the Mojito Lip Balm would be a great stocking filler too.

Big Barn – for more actual food, then this is a great site, really putting you in touch with local suppliers to you, both to shop online with, or to head out to. I mean, a farm shop certainly has to be less stressful than the average high street, even on Christmas Eve. Put in your postcode and see what comes up. Unsurprisingly for me, there’s a lot of cheese and pork pies local to me, but also fantastic producers like Botterill and Son at Croxton Kerrial, perfect for goose or turkey for the big day.

So, there are plenty of options for getting your cash into more locally based businesses, to smaller businesses, and independent businesses, even without leaving the comfort of your own home. But if you can get out there, then there are many gems hidden in our smaller towns that would love your support this Christmas, and beyond.

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Perfect Christmas gift for a foodie beginner

November 30th, 2014 · British favourites, Christmas foodie gifts, Foodie gifts

Just spotted this on the Steenberg’s website, which I think is perfect for anyone setting up home for the first time and needing to get a spice cupboard up and running.

 

Steenbergs Minis

 

I mean, these are really attractive jars, but really useful too. I mean there’s black pepper, chilli and cloves, so lots of good savoury dishes. There’s cinnamon and ginger, two of my favourite spices that gets used all the time. Mace a bit more unusual, but great flavour. It really is a great set, from a great business.

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The Friday Five – American Food Writers I’m Thankful For

November 28th, 2014 · Cookbooks, Foodie gifts, Friday Five

I know Thanksgiving was yesterday, but still in a spirit of feeling thankful, then these are the five food writers from the US that I really appreciate. Some have place on my shelves, some have been and gone, and some are just such icons of  the US that they deserve a mention!

 

Martha Stewart Cupcakes

 

When I think of the US, and particularly US holidays and high days, then it’s always Martha Stewart I think of. I want a 4th July clam bake because of Martha, and I don’t even like clams. Followed by peach cobbler, and I’m not that fond of peaches! I know it’s easy to be rude about Martha, but I have a lot of admiration for her, and no list would be right without her to me!

 

My Paris Kitchen

 

I love David Lebovitz’s writing and recipes, or maybe it’s just the fabulous tales of eating, baking and bakeries in Paris. But his writing style really appeals to me, the photography is always beautiful and his recipes are for things I’d like to make. My Paris Kitchen is definitly on my wish list.

 

Moosewood cookbook

 

I received The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen many years ago from my American godmother. It was the most exotic cookbook I had at that time, not been particularly big on vegetarian cooking at that stage. It must date me that tofu was exotic at that time, but then this book is just celebrating its 40th anniversary. Now, I didn’t have a first edition for sure, but this has probably stood the test of time. Sadly, it left my shelves some years ago (sorry, Brigi) but probably should think about finding another copy!

 

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

 

Must include Julia Child in this list, because I love authentic, one off people and she was surely one of those. I think she did for French cooking in the US what Elizabeth David did for Mediterranean cooking here, crossed with the style and somewhat acerbic delivery of Fanny Craddock.

 

Chez Panisse Cafe

 

I have huge admiration for Alice Waters, not just for creating amazing restaurants that I’d love to eat at, and matching fabulous cookbooks, but for the work she does in the US on food issues. I know she does lots of work with kids and schools to promote better eating, particularly about growing your own food. For now, I’d have to settle for cooking from the books, but when the recipes are as good as hers then that’s no bad thing.

I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving, and have many things to be thankful for. Breaking bread, or cake, or anything else with those you’re thankful for has to be the best thing about the day, and any one of these would bring a US flavour to any of your meals.

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Will it be a good Black Friday?

November 26th, 2014 · Foodie gifts, Places to shop online

Black Friday is nearly here!

 

Who knows? I don’t think three years ago it was really a thing here, maybe even two years ago. But the growth of online, and then a drive by Asda, probably thanks to their US owners, means all of a sudden it’s a thing. And it looks like it’s going to be quite a big deal.

Now personally I feel a bit cheated that we don’t get the joy of Thursday off work and a huge Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family beforehand, but then that’s probably no surprise. But if you’re looking for big ticket items for the kitchen, or the time has come for that Kitchen Aid mixer, then Friday is probably your day. I’m sure the big guys like AO and Currys will be big on discounts, but then John Lewis will follow for sure, and I know where I like to shop!

But I’m sure wherever you look there will be offers. Cox and Cox already have 20% off everything with code BLACK, Denby Pottery will go to 50% off many ranges and who knows what else? It’s a great day to do what you can, but then maybe think about how you can add some independent shopping, online or off, into your Christmas purchasing too. Just remember that someone somewhere is paying for that big discount, and it’s possibly even us. Discount today maybe, who knows where it gets made back.

Maybe it’s a good time whilst you’re doing so much browsing to spend some time on something like Etsy and support some small producers too. They won’t be discounted, but they’ll be unique, like my bags from Bonfirecherry. Like many things in life, it’s all about balance!

 

 

 

Black Friday photo by Powhusku on Flickr.

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Great gifts for food loving teens

November 24th, 2014 · Christmas foodie gifts, Foodie gifts

MGG asked me to write this one, as she will very shortly be a teenager (no, still not sure how that happened). And of course her love of all things food is well documented, from making it to eating it. So these are gifts for teens like her, who want to get more involved in their food.

 

Halloumi Making Kit

 

How about getting them into cheese making? I love this Halloumi Making Kit from The Big Cheese Making Kit team, and once they’ve made the cheese then they can start cooking with it. Plus it’s not going to take too long, knowing what attention spans might be like!

 

Molecular Gastronomy Kit

 

If their cooking is at the next level, or they’d just like to have some fun playing with their food, then this molecular gastronomy kit might be for them. I mean, chocolate spaghetti anyone? Or tzatziki spheres? It’s not your traditional Christmas spread for sure, but it’ll be fun.

 

Boiled egg mould

Something a bit simpler maybe? How about some boiled egg moulds? These are big in Japan (of course) and certainly would help brighten up lunchtime.

 

Make Your Own Bubble Gum

 

Something definitely a bit more off beat, this kit is for making your own bubble gum. So, issue out all the warnings about not getting it stuck on the carpet/sofa/dog and then let them loose with this. It’s not serious but it could be a lot of fun.

 

Teens Cook

 

Maybe they need some inspiration, or just want to get  more involved in the kitchen, then this is a great book for them. It’s not too simple, but nothing outlandishly complicated either. You never know, they may even turn out a delicious dinner for you one night!

 

Retro Sweet Hamper

 

And whatever their love or not of food, then the best gift I’ve ever sent two teenagers was a huge box of retro sweets from A Quarter Of. I don’t remember whether the water bombs or whoopee cushion got used, but on that much sugar I’m sure it must have done!

Definitely a great time to build their interest in food, and show how much fun you can have with your food. Go on, give them permission to play with it!

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