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Great gift ideas for fabulous foodies

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Are there black badger beans in your cupboard?

April 17th, 2014 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Places to shop online

I was intrigued by a twitter post over the weekend that was about black badger beans. I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard of them, ever.

Hodmedods Big British Box

 

But if you take a look at the Hodmedod’s website, then it’s not the only pulse I’ve not cooked with, or heard of. But what a great website it is, and what a surprise to discover that there are so many pulses grown in the UK, even quinoa. Although I’m no fan of quinoa, but imagine I should give it a another go as a local product.

But back to the black badger beans. I’d not even heard of them by their Yorkshire name of carling beans, but they have been grown in the UK for at least 500 years. They have a nutty flavour and you could use them instead of chick peas or puy lentils. I’m thinking they’d make a fairly funky looking hummus.

I’m really tempted to order their Big British Box, which would act as a great sampler of everything Hodmedod are doing, including not only the dried pulses but also tinned and snacks like the roast fava beans. The box is £25, instead of £32 if you order everything separately. Great to stock your store cupboard up with, and great to know you’re supporting a number of British enterprises.

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St George’s Day at Spicers of Hythe

April 15th, 2014 · British favourites, Foodie gifts

I was really intrigued when the team at Spicers offered to send me a St George’s Day hamper. I think it’s the first time I’ve come across one, although that could just be lazy research on my behalf. And with so many great English producers I thought it could be something fantastic.

 

St George's Day Hamper

And to be fair, it does contain some very English flavours. I always think of lemon curd as traditionally English, even if we are short on native lemons. And we might have imported chutney from the travels of our ancestors, but we do it so well (come on, who else has a jar of Branston hidden away?)

But I have to be honest, this wouldn’t be a hamper I would choose for myself, or to send one of my friends. I would possibly send it to someone of my mum’s generation, as it feels pretty old school. I don’t own any lacy jam jar covers, and don’t really feel the need to start a collection. I’m also not fond of private label goods like this, as I do like to know the provenance.

For the right person, it could make a good gift, as all the products taste nice enough, and the wooden trug will come in useful when it’s time to cut flowers from the garden. Just as soon as I have the weeds under control!

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Doing away with the cooking smells

April 13th, 2014 · Foodie gifts

I’ve written before about my love of fragrance, and how it’s possible to combine my love of food and fragrance. Well, it definitely comes together when I’m cooking fish, as there is definitely the chance of lingering odours.

 

Moroccan Mint Tea

 

This week’s kedgeree cooking coincided with the arrival of a scented candle from Love Aroma, a new site for all things home fragrance. And I love the one they sent, which is a Max Benjamin Moroccan Mint Tea candle. It’s fabulous, not overpowering, not toothpaste mint, just proper mint tea wafting away the smoked haddock scent.

I like the minimalist styling of it, and that it’s an all natural candle. There’s also a reed diffuser version too, which would give you the same lovely fragrance all the time, it depends how much control you like over your fragrance.

The candle arrived really well packed, and it’s a lovely surprise to open the box and find that they’ve fragranced the inside of the box too. I love the Melt candles too, both for the look and the fact they are made in rural Lancashire, although I’d have liked information on each fragrance.

Love Aroma is a new business that I know lots of work has gone into, please take a look and support the team there if you can.

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Easter deliciousness without the chocolate

April 10th, 2014 · Foodie gifts

Of course it pains me to write a title like that, as I’m “quite” fond of chocolate, Easter or otherwise. But the other great thing about Easter is there are also great baked goods to be had, with many of my other favourite flavours included. Here’s some I’d be making space on the tea table for:

 

Bettys Fondant Fancies

 

Ok, Betty’s get me every time, and I love a treat from them. They sent me fondant fancies at Christmas, which were delicious, and now they have pretty Spring flower ones. What tea time wouldn’t be improved for having these served up?

 

Colomba Cake

 

Italy also has some great baking traditions for Easter, and the Colomba cake is one of those. The dough contains candied orange peel, and I love the crunchy almond icing. The pretty packaging is a bonus too!

 

Easter Sponge Pudding

 

You might need a pudding after an Easter Sunday lunch, so how about an Easter Sponge Pudding? An amaretti sponge, covered in flaked almonds and drizzled honey, what’s not to love?

 

Easter Biscuits Gifts Box

 

I’ll admit, I’m not very good with the whole decorated biscuit thing, although always admire just how beautiful they are, and how much patience it must take to make something this lovely. They’d make a lovely gift if you were heading to someone else’s for Easter lunch.

Of course the thing I’d be leaving the most room for would be some version of Simnel cake, mainly because I love marzipan. I will be making my own, though it may be more of a Simnel loaf thanks to Jules’ recipe on the Butcher Baker blog. So even if you are one of those rare creatures who doesn’t like chocolate there are still delicious treats to be had this Easter time.

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What chocolate are you hoping for this Easter?

April 8th, 2014 · Chocolate, Foodie gifts, Places to shop online

I love Easter. I mean, what’s not to love, especially when it’s this late in the Spring? I’m hoping for lovely weather and my cherry tree to be in full bloom.

And for there to be chocolate. Good chocolate. Any of these really…

 

The Ultimate Egg

 

If you’re going to go big, then this has to be the one, the Ultimate Egg from Fortnum & Mason. It’s a bit of a cheat, as it’s actually five eggs. Five chocolate eggs. If you’re not sure what kind of chocolate you like best (or like them all) then this could be for you as each egg is a different type, from white through to dark. Sounds like bliss to me!

 

Stroppy Teenager Egg

 

I love Rococo anyway, they can do no wrong in my eyes. But I really love this Stroppy Teenager Egg. There’s no pink, no cute bunnies, no bows, just great chocolate plus praline and also salted caramel ganache eggs. It’s almost too good to be wasted on stroppy teenagers!

 

Rococo Almost Like the Real Thing

 

And I’m sorry for featuring two things from Rococo (told you I loved them), but who could resist something that’s like the real thing but better? I just want to fill my fridge with boxs of these real eggs filled with praline. Though imagine bit hard to whip up a Victoria sponge with!

 

Montezuma Half & Half

 

Can’t decide what sort of chocolate you like best? I’d go for the Super Thick Half Dark and Half Milk Truffle Egg. With truffles. Wow, Montezuma’s still know how to spoil us!

 

Moo Free

 

Need a chocolate egg but need it to be tasty but free from? Well, it looks like Moo Free might be for you. I love the Bunnycomb Egg, ticks the boxes for taste and is gluten free, dairy free and vegan, so everyone can be happy.

 

Humpty Dumpty from the Fairy Tale Gourmet

 

For something lovely and a little different then I love the Humpty Dumpty from  Fairy Tale Gourmet. How gorgeous are these? And that’s just the good looks, wait till you see the flavour choices! I want the Earl of Peanuttle, but any of them would be welcome. I think these are a bit different, as the shells are filled which you don’t see very often. I fancy a whole wall of these!

Go on, get the choccies in! With so much choice there is no excuse for dull Easter egg selection.

 

 

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Normal service hopefully to be resumed soon

April 3rd, 2014 · Foodie gifts

Doh!

 

Just to say sorry for the lack of posts, am struggling with technology issues at the moment. Hoping to have normal service back soon, particularly as there is so much scrummy chocolate to write about ready for Easter.

By the time I resolve the technology then I’ll need chocolate!

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One of my favourite weeks of the year: stationery week!

March 30th, 2014 · Foodie gifts

There are some great “weeks” in the year, like Chocolate week and Farmhouse Breakfast week, which are all fabulous but quite high on the calorie count. But stationery week, well, that’s one you can indulge in with no guilt whatsoever! And I am pretty fond of my stationery at any time of the year, but these are four lovely food orientated options that I’m quite keen on right now!

 

Cake for Breakfast

 

I love this journal, as I love keeping a journal. And who doesn’t love the statement “eat cake for breakfast”? Like Christmas Day every day. Surely that is a good motto for life? Joy and excitement every day.

 

La Duree Stationery

 

Love a good macaron, and a trip to La Duree, here or in Paris, is always a treat. This little stationery set might be enough to keep you going between trips. I mean, who doesn’t need a macaron shaped eraser? School pencil cases would have been a whole lot cooler with these inside.

 

Taking tea recipe book

 

Even in this age of Pinterest and millions of recipes online at the click of a mouse, it’s still lovely to write down a recipe, pass it on, share it. I have a book from Paperchase that I like, and is a slightly more solid way to keep those recipes that arrive in the house just on scrappy bits of paper. They don’t have the same design any more but I thought this one was lovely too.

 

From the kitchen of

 

Always up for a bit of DIY stationery, then a personalised stamp for homemade goodies has to be a good thing. Stamp labels and tags, recipes and missives to the milkman, whatever takes your fancy really.

So, enjoy this particular week, maybe write out some recipes and pass them on, or keep them somewhere safe. Just do it beautifully on lovely pages.

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The Friday Five – the books of my mum

March 28th, 2014 · Baking, Cookbooks, Foodie gifts, Friday Five

Mother’s Day is just around the corner (well, it is here in the UK at least), and time to reflect on the mums in our lives. I didn’t want to think about books to give mums, but thinking about the books my mum has given me, or that I really associate with her.

 

Delias Summer Collection

 

Delia Smith’s Summer Collection – gosh, summer of 1993. My mum queued at George’s in Bristol (now a Jamie’s Italian) to get two copies of this, and we both have a signed edition. Both our copies are well thumbed and food stained, and dishes turn up in both homes. The halloumi with the garlicky, lime dressing is a standby dish, and I still love it today.

 

Cooking for your Freezer

 

Cooking for your Freezer – there were any number of St. Michael cookbooks I could have chosen, as I think Mum had quite a few of these. We certainly had this one, and one for special occasions, and I think a few more besides. Whenever I see these, usually in charity shops now, then they bring on a real sense of nostalgia for me.

 

Cake Decorating & Sugarcraft

 

Cake Decorating and Sugarcraft – oh, my brother and I spent hours looking at this and some of the other cake decorating books. My mum was incredibly inventive in her birthday cake decorating, and hopefully I’ve carried that tradition on for MGG. This book is quite technical and not something that I’ve ever got into, but does bring back happy memories.

 

Be Ro Home Recipes

 

Be-Ro Home Recipes – I cannot think how many times we baked from this, how many pages were stained with cake batter, or coming loose from the staples. I don’t know what year our version was, but I keep meaning to buy one. If only to make some Australian Crunch, not had that in years!

 

Dairy Book of Home Management

 

Dairy Book of Home Management – this is exactly the edition we had, and whilst not purely a cookery book, I remember spending lots of hours looking through it. The wallpaper designs in the home decor sections are particularly memorable. But it’s got a great basic cooking section, and something perfect to start with.

I’d love to know about the cookbooks that you remember from your childhood. Not quite your inheritance tracks, but your inheritance cookbooks, the impact your mum has had on what you do, and don’t, cook today.

 

 

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On a roll of bad cooking and baking

March 26th, 2014 · Foodie gifts, Just for fun

Baking disaster

 

This is really for my team, who know how much I love to cook and bake, which makes them a little concerned about sharing any of their own baking. So just to show that I’m not invincible in the kitchen, and am having a bad run of things, these are the things that have just gone a bit awry…

1. New Thai green curry paste cooks an awful lot hotter than the one from Sainsburys. It might have helped if I’d read that it was 30% green chillies, which might have been a bit of a giveaway. I saved it a day later by taking all the chicken out the sauce, then dousing it in another tin of coconut milk.

2. I baked a gammon and chicken pie. I rolled the pastry too thick. Nicely cooked top, rather raw in the middle. Oh, and the filling burnt. Saved by eating the top and middle only.

3. I made rice pudding in the slow cooker. It was gorgeous at one stage, beautiful and creamy, vanilla studded. The recipe said turn off the slow cooker and leave it in there. Returned half an hour later to find a pretty solid lump. Not so nice. We ate some of it, sloshed with more cream. Not so bad.

4. Joint challenge of a birthday and a need for a gluten free cake, thought sorted with a recipe. I turned out what appear to be two coffee and walnut pancakes.

5. I decided I’d made a fundamental mistake and not beaten the eggs and sugar for long enough, or fast enough, so I’ve made said cake again. I now have 2 slightly fluffier pancakes. This cake will now be a 4 pancake layer birthday cake, hopefully disguised with lots of buttercream, gold shimmer spray and an ice fountain.

What can you do? It’s only cooking and baking and you can always try and make something out of it. Although sometimes you just have to admit defeat. And hope you’ll get your baking mojo back soon. Really soon.

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Liven up coffee time!

March 23rd, 2014 · Foodie gifts, Places to shop online

I saw these on a newsletter from Not on the High Street, and they just made me laugh. Imagine breaking the news like this:

 

Give them a surprise with their coffee!

 

From my perspective, I thought about inviting people round for coffee and seeing how quickly the gossip the spread! It is only a small village after all.

These are by Sophia Victoria Jay, and I love a number of the products, many of which can be personalised. There are cake stencils, so no one can be in doubt which is your slice, or if you’re thinking of Mother’s Day, then I love the mum star baker version too.

Worth taking a look.

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