The Foodie Gift Hunter

Great gift ideas for fabulous foodies

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The Friday Five – Making the most of sunny weather

May 22nd, 2015 · Cookbooks, Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do, Friday Five

As we approach the Bank Holiday weekend, we’re all living in hope for great weather. Which means we’re hoping for plenty of time outdoors, which means eating out of doors.

Whether that means a meal on the go, or at a table in the garden, then it’s time to enjoy summer eating. Here’s some great new books to inspire new recipes to try that are perfect for those occasions.


The Outdoor Table


The Outdoor Table – this is a bit American in theming, as we’re not big on tailgating in the UK, and not many front porch meals either! That said, I love the idea of an outdoor breakfast, for which there are recipes, if not guarantees of the weather! And I’m not sure when is the right time to serve the 7-layer bacon dip, but the book is almost worth it for that!


Swedish Summer Feasts


Swedish Summer Feasts – a blissful image of summer, this covers picnics, brunches and barbecues by the beach. Sounds perfect and when it has recipes like entrecôte with herb butter or potato fritters, then it’s going to be a summer to enjoy and remember.


picnic in provence


Picnic in Provence: A Tale of Love in France, With Recipes – even through bad times, my summers in France were filled, mainly, with great eating, particularly around tables filled with many friends, new and old. I’ve never been to Provence, but this tale, and the recipes, sum up my kind of summer, and ones I hope to create in time ahead.


The Picnic Cookbook


The Picnic Cookbook – how this one speaks to occasions I love: afternoon tea in the garden, a picnic lunch in the countryside, the smell of something good on the barbecue. Perfect recipes for each of these occasions, and then some occasions I’ve not thought of, like a punting picnic. But plenty of time ahead, and this has recipes to appeal to everyone.


The Picnic Book


The Picnic Book for Family or Romance – ah, now this really does sound like my life, and probably many others. A picnic for two would be a rare thing, but something to look forward to, and I’m looking forward to plenty of family style picnics this summer. Straightforward, interesting but not complicated, so not so much prepping time and plenty of time for making the most of the sunshine if we have it.

Here’s hoping this is a weekend to enjoy picnics and barbecues and even just a cup of tea and a biscuit in the sunshine. Fingers crossed!

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Planning a great picnic

May 20th, 2015 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do, Kitchenwares

With a bank holiday on the horizon, we’re planning a picnic at an event over the weekend. Which means digging to the back of the cupboard for all the picnic stuff. Or taking a look at some of the new stuff that’s around!


Two person picnic hamper


If it weren’t for a gaggle of kids to cater for too, then I’d love this two person hamper which appears to have plenty of room for a couple of bottles, although not much food. What the heck, sounds like a good picnic to me!


Fleece Picnic Basket


Knowing our weather conditions, a picnic rug is a must, especially with a waterproof backing. I like this one, particularly with the fleece side to keep your bum warm on the ground. It’s also washable, useful for recovering from the inevitable spills.


House Melamine Picnicwares


I can’t be doing with paper plates, and am certainly not risking the china, so it’s got to be good plastic plates. I love the design on these plates, which are from John Lewis. Bold and modern, there’s a whole range of things for every kind of picnic.


Cold Drinks Flask


Now of course there’s probably a flask of tea, but equally need some cold stuff. Probably Pimms in my case. So a cold drinks flask seems like a good idea. Yes, I know all flasks can work for cold drinks, but I like the dinky little cups with this one.

So, we just need to sort out the food and drink, and hopefully the weather will play ball too. If you need some picnic recipe ideas, then I last wrote about great books in 2013, but think might do another round up soon. Anything other than some soggy sandwiches got to be on the menu.

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Not that many princesses dry the dishes…

May 18th, 2015 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Kitchenwares

But I’m not massive on commemorative stuff, but I do like a good tea towel. When George was born, I had one from To Dry For, but they haven’t done one (yet) so of all the ones I’ve seen then I like this one from Milly Green best.


Princess charlotte tea towel


Of course, I don’t expect Princess Charlotte to get acquainted with drying up any time soon, but for the rest of us, a tea towel is a practical thing but it needn’t be dull or boring. And, unlike some awful china, it won’t take up much space!

Although if you do buy mugs and things, at least if you hang onto them for long enough they become sort of ironic chic. Wish I had hung onto my Silver Jubilee mugs!


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Spicing up the ketchup choices

May 16th, 2015 · British favourites

I used the last of my generic ketchup in a BBQ sauce a couple of weeks ago, and keep meaning to get a replacement bottle. But instead of just getting the usual Heinz, perhaps I should go for something different.

Like beetroot.


Foraging Fox Beetroot


I spotted this Beetroot Ketchup from The Foraging Fox up at the Good Grub Company near here, and think it sounds like a good addition to the cupboard. I love the earthy taste of roasted beetroot, and I bet this works well with loads of different things.

Next time I go in, I’m definitely getting some! Though I imagine that the kids might still lobby for a replacement bottle of Heinz too! And if it’s that good, then we may not want them to get their hands on it anyway!

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Getting kids into cooking French food

May 14th, 2015 · Cookbooks, Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do

I had a lovely afternoon recently with a youngster with a big interest in cooking, working our way through a couple of the recipes in this book, Kids Cook French.


kids cook french

Now, it’s an interesting book, as it’s a bi-lingual book. Now, I’m not entirely sure why, because we only read the English side (though I do now know, from a casual glance through, the French for Swiss chard), and I’m not sure if the aim of the book is to teach English or cooking. It at least does one part well from experience.

We worked through the apple frangipane tart, which I guess is a good basic skill, in understanding frangipane,and some good knife skills on cutting all those apples.


Uncooked tart


The results were pretty darn spectacular, not to mention tasty.


Cooked tart


The beef bourginon was okay, though my chef had got a bit bored by that point of all that prep work. I have to say, this might be an “authentic” French version, but I’ll stick to my fail safe version from Delia.

This is a very pretty book to look at, with some beautiful illustrations, and lovely stories about each of the dishes. It’s definitely one for older children (my chef is ten), and for ones who are well beyond just chicken nuggets. If they’re looking to learn French, well, there’s some interesting vocabulary but it’s definitely a secondary part of the appeal. Great gift though for kids who want to get more involved in the kitchen.

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Putting Cornwall into your kitchen

May 12th, 2015 · Foodie gifts, Kitchenwares

I miss living by the sea. In fact couldn’t be much further from the sea as living in the Midlands, but I have resisted decorating the house with a coastal theme.

Well, so far, but the homewares from Seasalt might well tempt me down that route. I mean, this apron is hardly nautical, is it?


Seasalt Apron


And canning veg is not a purely Cornish activity?


Canned veg tea towel

Although there aren’t many trawlers putting to sea round here!


Fresh from the Ocean


But if I wanted to have a very sturdy coffee mug, to warm my hands on whilst standing and looking out to sea, then this would be it.


Leach Coffee Mug


Now all I need is the sea view to go with it! Lovely designs though, even if your kitchen is a long way from Cornwall.

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Not just my food cupboards that are full!

May 10th, 2015 · Just for fun

You might remember I’m working through a back of cupboard challenge? Well, it wasn’t the only area that needed a good sort out!




My day job with No 7 working on cosmetics means an awful lot of product testing, but it was rather out of control. I mean, how many mascaras?




Or lipsticks?




But at least I’m well sorted for minis for hand luggage only flights!



To be honest, I should know better than anyone that cosmetics, like food, have a finite shelf date. That little symbol with the words PAO is the clue. To be honest for most things, I’d stretch that period after opening on the basis of does it look or smell right, and if not, ditch it. The one exception really is mascara, which really does need to go after 3 months.

So, the top now looks somewhat different:



And the cupboard below is now well organised, but I’m going to get tough on myself, and if I don’t touch stuff in the cupboard in the next 3 months, then I’m chucking it. I did the same with clothes last year, if I didn’t wear it by the end of August then I took it to the charity shop.

I think life is better when it’s simple. And I’m liking the simple bathroom!

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The Friday Five – Time for Coffee

May 1st, 2015 · British favourites, Cookbooks, Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do

Three quarters latte, Manly style


As it’s the London Coffee Festival this weekend, and not to mention my recent obsession with flat whites, then it seemed only right to focus on coffee this week, in many of its different aspects. So, get a brew on and have a look at these:


How to Make Coffee


How to Make Coffee: the Science Behind the Bean – I have someone in mind for this one, who might like all the geeky detail in this book. Or perfectionist tendencies, which means they will want to know what the perfect temperature is and why. If you’ve got a wannabe barista to buy for, this is probably a good place to start.


Coffee Obsession

Coffee Obsession – well, probably sums it up for many of us! But for those obsessed, again, with the real thing, then this is a guide to barista techniques from around the world. Plenty to go at to give your coffee offerings a little variety!


Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee

The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee – oh, I’d have this one, just because it brings back happy memories of a great coffee from these guys on the High Line. This book is designed to bring the artisan coffee world, with its gadgets and different brewing techniques, to life in a way that most of us will be able to relate to. Given how delicious their coffee was, I’d trust their guidance!


Coffee Life in Japan

Coffee Life In Japan – a bit more of a read than a guide, this is a fascinating insight into Japan’s cafe society over the last 130 years. Bit different, definitely not going to help you make better coffee but going to be an interesting view of something you may not have experienced.


Curious Baristas Guide

The Curious Barista’s Guide to Coffee – this one really does it all: where your coffee comes from, where coffee shops started, how to roast your own coffee at home…no, really! Then the science and flavour, and then onto making some fantastic cups of coffee. Perfect.

The festival looks like it could be a great day out, and there isn’t just coffee on offer, so worth a look if you’re in the area. If not, just grab some great beans, and get a good brew going on!

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When fitness becomes gourmet

April 29th, 2015 · British favourites, Cookbooks, Foodie gifts

I definitely don’t count as one of life’s athletes. Let’s face it, the furthest I’ve run in recent years is 100m. To be fair, it was in the Olympic stadium in 2012, but that’s a whole other story!

Fitness Gourmet


So I’m not necessarily a natural to review a book called Fitness Gourmet, but I’m at least half qualified based on that title. And given that this book covers healthy eating whether you are looking to get fitter/weigh less, maintain what you’ve got or build up to a big race, then there probably is something for everyone.

That said, MFL is the fitness one in my life, so between us we cover both halves of this, though with the added challenge of our respective kids to feed too. Sounded like a good challenge to put the book through!

We tried two dishes, with pesto and creme fraiche chicken being the first as a good first course. Now when you see a pile of veg this bright and varied as a result of the prep, you know it’s got to be good for you!


A rainbow of veg

Even the addition of some creme fraiche at the end didn’t stop me feeling that way, and generally this went down really well, although the kids weren’t keen on the sweet potato. But part of the premise of the book is that it gives you different options given your “fitness” target, and for those on the “burn” option these would have got swapped for carrots anyway. If you’re into a “build” phase, or feeding teenagers, then there was the option to add pasta.


Ready to go


I liked this book, and think I’d cook from this again, for all kinds of things. But possibly for our second recipe, which was bacon maple syrup popcorn. I don’t care what phase I have to be in, this was delicious. So delicious we hid it from the kids. And ate it!

Bacon Maple Syrup Popcorn


This book is currently £20 on Waterstones, or direct from the publisher, Jacqui Small, for the same price including P&P with code APG307, for UK residents only. Definitely keeping it on my shelves!

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Anzac Biscuits recipe always to hand

April 27th, 2015 · Foodie gifts, Foodie Travel, Kitchenwares

This weekend saw the very significant commemorations at Gallipoli, the start of the continuing legend of the Anzac troops.

Anzac 2


I don’t really know the story of Anzac biscuits, but I do know they’re delicious. So Anzacs Biscuits Tea Towel seemed to be a perfect combination of commemoration, recipe and memento!

From Red Tractor Designs, these are designed and printed in Australia and are available for international shipping. I may have to go back and order a Christmas in Australia one too!

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