The Foodie Gift Hunter

Great gift ideas for fabulous foodies

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The top 5 things I’ve learnt about cake decorating

May 28th, 2016 · Baking, Foodie gifts

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My Frozen castle cake for a gorgeous girl

 

I spent a couple of hours last weekend creating a Frozen castle extravaganza for my friend’s 4 year old. It’s over 10 years since I attempted the same cake for MGG, and I remember it taking many hours, and quite a lot of swearing.

Possibly some gin.

Put it this way, I really felt the book was mistitled. I had taken “No Time Cakes” to mean ready in no time, not no time to do anything else. This time it took me a couple of hours to do the decorating. Which I think is down to a few things that I’ve learnt doing a cake a year for MGG for the past 14 years. So for all those who think they can’t (and I was definitely there at the start, and probably even now) then these are the key things I’ve learnt:

1. Cheat

 

No, I don’t really mean a Helen Mirren in Calendar Girls mussing up an M&S sponge to enter a competition kind of cheat, but don’t think you have to make everything. The version of this cake in the book had lots of piped vines and things on it. I bought snowflakes from Amazon. Much better for the theme, much better than I could do, and the kids don’t care. Squires Kitchen are my absolute godsend for these cakes, if I’ve been organised and thought about ordering in time.

 

2. Beg, borrow or steal a turntable.

 

Not for your cat to play on, or motorised, or any music playing capacity, but just a bog standard cake turntable. Could be the best fiver you spend to help with cake decorating. Certainly takes out the risk of moving the cake on the board as you work your way round the cake.

 

3. Have patience

 

I’ll be honest, I’ve never done one of these cakes in less than 4 hours start to finish, from the cake making through to the finished thing. And the worst thing you can do is think you’re going to do one of these in an hour. And then stress when you’re nowhere near finished in that time.

 

4. Be realistic

 

Not a good place to start for a beginner in cake decorating

Let’s face it, a 5ft high version of Maleficent in cake is probably not the best place to start if you’ve never decorated a cake before. I’m all for having ambition, but you will just stress yourself out. If you need some inspiration I would say a) stay off Pinterest and b) buy a good book. Whilst I joke about No Time Party Cakes, it is actually pretty straightforward, or you could try something like the Australian Women’s Weekly Kids Birthday Cakes book, which relies a lot more on buttercream.

 

5. The kids don’t notice the small stuff

 

They’re still going to react like that, and will be so thrilled. In fact there are only two harsh judges in this: other parents (screw ’em, it’s jealousy) and yourself. Be kind to yourself. The kids will remember these cakes, not for the missing detail, but for the fact that you did it. And really that’s all that matters.

So, if you’re inclined, then try it. And if you’re not at all inclined, then don’t feel like you must. I’ve generally done one a year for MGG, and very, very occasionally made one for someone else. Which is quite enough in my view. But it was worth it, as it has been each year with MGG, for that moment when the kids first see the cake. Makes it all worthwhile, for me.

 

Gifs from GIPHY

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Putting tea temptation out there

May 26th, 2016 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Places to shop online

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T2 Tea - too many good things for tea lovers

 

I wrote about T2 when I got back from Australia last year, as this was one of the retailers out there that I really fell in love with. Of course, I felt a bit of a fool on discovering they already had stores in the UK, but given they were in Shoreditch and Shepherd’s Bush, then I could understand why I hadn’t stumbled across them.

But last week I did stumble across them, finding a store on Regent Street, which will mean a few detours on my trips into London. But then the website still has plenty of temptation too, to keep me going in the meantime. I mean, there’s the stunningly beautiful Moroccan Tealeidoscope Tea for one, which is just gorgeous:

 

Moroccan Tealeidoscope Tea for One for a tea lover

 

There’s a whole range of lovely things in this pattern, and a number of different colourways, which I could see definitely making beautiful gifts for a tea lover.

Fancy Flowers Black Geometric Teapot

 

If you’re looking for something a little more minimalist, then this black and white geometric floral design might do the trick. There’s a medium and mini size in this teapot so perfect depending on how big your tea drinking habit is.

 

Fitzroyaltea from T2

 

So whilst T2 might be new to many of us, back in Australia they’re celebrating 20 years in business, and this is the celebratory tea to do it with. Packed with native Aussie ingredients, Fitzroyaltea is a herbal tisane with a lot of zing to it, including hibiscus and aniseed myrtle. Worth a try, to make a change from your PG Tips habit.

 

T2 5 Rise and Shine Gift Set

 

If they need tea to get them going in the morning, then the 5 Rise and Shine Gift Pack might just be the thing for them. Five breakfast brews, from around the world, including New York Breakfast and Irish Breakfast, along with a more traditional English breakfast. Although sadly missing the Sydney Breakfast that I bought.

Definitely a lovely shop for browsing, whether you’re in London or the virtual world, perfect source for treats for tea lovers.

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When biscuits meet the Chelsea Flower Show

May 24th, 2016 · Foodie gifts, Places to shop online

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Fabulous Biscuiteers biscuits for the green fingered

I’ve already written about how much I love the Chelsea Flower Show, and when these popped into my inbox, I just thought they were the perfect thing for this week. I know Biscuiteers are not the cheapest thing to send, but they’ve always been such a popular gift whenever I’ve send them, which makes them great value in my book.

This is such a lovely tin of gorgeous biscuits for the keen gardener, everything from the worms to the final blooms are depicted here. And you could just keep refilling that tin with the gardener’s favourites, homemade or otherwise, once they’ve made short work of these.

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Getting the kitchen ready for the Chelsea Flower Show

May 22nd, 2016 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do, Kitchenwares

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Where else do you find a Tardis in a garden?

 

I love the Chelsea Flower Show, and not just because I’m over 40. I first went in my mid 20s, and worked there for the week. Best. Fun. Ever.

I mean, where else would the Tardis turn up in the gardens?

Well, until I got to go for the day, which was even more fun. Which is nothing to do with how much Pimms was consumed on the way round. But as I’m not lucky enough to be going this year, then I thought I’d celebrate what I hope will be a glorious and inspirational week with some wonderful, colourful blooms for the kitchen and beyond.

 

Flowers of Libery Betsy Print Jug

 

British and florals? Well, only right that Liberty appeared in this list. This is Betsy, one of the Flowers of Liberty prints, and every kitchen and table needs a great jug. What you put in it is up to you.

 

Morning Bouquet Tray - bright and beautiful gift for a food lover

 

If you are heading to the Flower Show, then you’ll need a good morning cuppa delivered to you, preferably on a beautiful tray. This Morning Bouquet tray from Anthropologie is abstract, but definitely says gorgeous, vibrant flowers to me.

 

Purple Bouquet Apron from White Stuff - great gift for a food lover

 

Whatever you’re cooking up in the kitchen, bring the flowers with you. This Purple Bouquet apron from White Stuff is bright and bold, proving practical things don’t have to be boring.

 

Hedgerow Mug and Jug from Hannah Turner

 

There has to be time to stop for a coffee, and I rather like this Hedgerow Mug from Hannah Turner Ceramics. Floral but modern, and perhaps for those who don’t like it quite so bright. Especially first thing in the morning.

 

Pink Floral Napkins from Lula and Nat

 

But if you do like it bright, then these pink floral napkins are definitely going to do that. From Lulu and Nat, there are six in the set, perfect for summer dining, inside or out.

 

Amrapali Peony Tea Cosy from Designers Guild

 

And once you’ve walked round the show, carried home your new plants and kicked off your shoes, then you’ll be needing a strong cup of tea. And best make a pot. And then keep it warm with this beautiful Amrapali Peony tea cosy from Designers Guild. Can also be used if you’re just going to be sitting at home and watching the coverage with Alan Titchmarsh.

Enjoy this year’s gardens, I’m sure there’ll be drama and disaster as well as just glorious blooms and incredible design. Hoping for all involved that the weather plays nicely, makes a huge difference.

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The Friday Five – from home ground flour to dough and beyond

May 20th, 2016 · Baking, British favourites, Cookbooks, Foodie gifts, Friday Five

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As Real Bread Week comes to a close for this year, it seemed appropriate to look at books to inspire great bread baking, and these take you from the very beginnings with great flour, all the way through to fancy endings.

 

The Essential Home Ground Flour Book - great cookbook gift for a food lover who likes to do it themselves

 

The Essential Home Ground Flour Book

Here’s something I’d never thought of doing at home. Probably because I still have visions of Windy Miller (apologies to those that didn’t have childhoods in the 70s) busy grinding my flour for me. But as an alternative to mass industrial milling, then this might be interesting to do, and be interesting to see how different any resulting bread was. Though I can’t see whether in the list of equipment need it starts with “first, build your windmill”. Hopefully not.

 

Toast - great cookbook gift for a food lover

 

Toast

And once you’ve done the grinding, the mixing and the baking, then toast is one of my favourite things to do with bread. This book covers things like bruschetta, open sandwiches and canapes, so not just instructions for making cheese on toast. I like both the writing style and the photography in this book, definitely makes me want to get in the kitchen.

 

War Time Breads and Cake - great cookbook gift for a nostalgia loving food lover

War-time Bread and Cakes

Bread has played such a staple role in our diets, and this is a great book for those food lovers and bakers with an interest in the history of food. There’s a whole section covering how to bake bread without white flour, and then further chapters on doughs with and without yeast. Whilst I don’t think the national loaf of rationing was ever going to win on the taste front, I’m quite intrigued to have a play with some of these recipes, knowing last year I had fun making boiled fruit cake from a Marguerite Patten recipe of the era.

 

The New Bread - great cookbook gift for an adventurous baking food lover

 

The New Bread

So, from the old to the new. If you didn’t think there was anything possibly new in bread, then this book claims to know otherwise. This is actually focused on gluten free baking, which on the bread front I’ve had some very mixed results. It mentions baking with rosehip flour, which I’ve not come across before at all, so fascinated by that. Overall a good book for either those looking for gluten free, or just curious and adventurous bakers looking for something a little different.

 

One Dough Ten Breads

One Dough. Ten Breads

This is a great book for someone who perhaps hasn’t done a lot of bread baking, as it takes you step by step through a basic dough and loaf, and then shows you how to step that basic recipe up to the next level. You might start out with a sandwich loaf but this book will have you making crackers, pizza and country-style breads by the end.

 

I think there is very little that beats the satisfaction of making bread at home. There’s the stress relief of all that kneading, the practising of patience waiting for it to prove, and the reward of the house smelling of baking bread. And then more patience of waiting for it to cool just a little when it comes out the oven so you can devour that first slice, covered in butter.

That’s why I’m never giving up bread.

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How to get cocktails into the kitchen every day

May 18th, 2016 · British favourites, Foodie gifts

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m quite partial to a cocktail. Or two. So this might just find a home here:

 

Know Your Cocktails Tea Towel from To Dry For

 

From To Dry For, one of my favourite websites. They make tea towels into a thing of joy, for one of the dullest jobs in the kitchen.

Always worth checking in on what’s new with them, they just keep finding new designs and designers to create a moment in the dull routine to just brighten the day up. Now if that isn’t worth a few moments of time I’m not sure what is.

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What’s the ultimate pong in cheese?

May 16th, 2016 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Places to shop online

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The Ultimate Pong Box - not a gift to leave somewhere warm

 

I’ve always liked Pong, their selections are always great quality, and they take cheese seriously but not themselves.  So I love the new Ultimate Pong Box, which is definitely an interesting and surprising one to send someone!

They describe them as their most revered and feared, as the strongest, smelliest and most oozy cheeses. You’ve got Epoisses, which is banned on the Paris Metro. Hummingbark, which I’ve never heard of, is made to the same recipe as Vacherin D’Or and tastes lovely but stinks something dreadful.

Finn with double cream sounds indulgent beyond belief, though strong in both taste and smell, and then finish off the box with Royal Bassett Blue. So, a box of deliciousness but my word, you’re going to want to know the recipient is going to be home when this is delivered. If it’s sat in the sorting office for a few days, especially in the summer, well, everyone is going to know about it!

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Real Bread Week Ahead

May 14th, 2016 · Baking, British favourites, Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do

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Real Bread Week

 

A little ironic coming almost straight after Coeliac Awareness Week, but we’re now in Real Bread Week. Though to be fair, good gluten free bread can definitely be both real and good.

In its 7th year now, this year’s focus is on how to help children discover the delights real bread, and particularly baking it themselves. They’re keen to get schools involved, and I really hope that they will, though I appreciate that not every school is now able to offer cooking. But at least dough could be taken home quite easily and then baked.

There’s some great resources on the site, including a good list of baking schools offering appropriate classes. If you become a supporter of the Real Bread Campaign (which is an interesting idea of a gift for a food lover) then you can get a discount on a lot of these classes too.

You can even wear your affiliation on your chest, with one of these limited edition tshirts:

 

On the Rise Real Bread Week T Shirts

 

This is the week to get out and support your local independent bakery, or perhaps an independent miller and make your own. Or both. Whichever, enjoy your bread any way you like, as long as it’s real! If you need some recipe inspiration, then I’ve written about great bread books here.

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New stuff from new people for food lovers at Not On the High Street

May 12th, 2016 · Foodie gifts

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Not On the High Street - one of my favourite sources of great gifts for all kinds of food lovers

I do love Not on the High Street, I don’t know what I’d do without them. I’m still amazed that it’s 10 years since they started, as I’ve been writing about them all that time. What keeps it fresh is that new people sign up with them all the time, showing what creativity is alive and well around the UK.

There’s a raft of new people just joined the NOTHS family, these are the things I love for great gifts for food and drink lovers:

 

Gin for the win decanter - perfect gift for a fellow gin lover

 

Gin probably gets mentioned as often as NOTHS on this blog, so here’s a perfect decanter for a fellow gin lover like me. Though there are options for rum and port lovers too. Although I guess you could love all three. I think decanters are due a return, so why not start with these?

 

Personalised monogrammed decanter - perfect gift for a food lover who doesn't want to share

 

So, continuing on the decanter theme, maybe a more personal touch is appropriate? In which case this monogrammed glass decanter might be just the thing. Though I guess you could monogram it GIN if you wanted.

 

Six Bar Raw Chocolate Gift Set - perfect gift for a food lover

 

I’ve not tried much raw chocolate (I’ve only just recovered from my experience of the Mast Brothers goats milk chocolate). But if you know someone who already loves it, or is always up for a chocolate adventure, then this gift box of 6 bars from Raw Halo might be just the thing. There’s a milk one, a minty one even a rice crispies one. Sounds good to me.

 

Karoart Tweet Bowl Porcelain Dishes

 

I love beautiful dishes, things that are a bit unusual but that don’t necessarily detract from the food. Enhance not disguise is definitely a good aim when choosing dishes. And I really love these beautiful bowls from Karoart, not just because I’m a keen Twitter user. You can buy these singly or as a set, larger ones are perfect for soup or small salads, the little ones perfect for nibbles. There’s a variety of colours, and each one is slightly different as these are handmade.

 

Rainy Day Coffee Mug - perfect gift for a food lover

 

Also from Karoart, I love this rainy day porcelain coffee mug. I can imagine sitting at the kitchen table looking out at the rainy garden, with my hands cupped around this with some good coffee warming me up. Gorgeous for a coffee drinker, though I imagine it would be just as happy with tea in it.

 

Handmade salt bowls - perfect gift for food lovers

 

If they’re a food lover, then they possibly have salt in different forms. This is perfect for adding at the table kind of salt, as it’s far too pretty to keep by the stove top. From Emily Doran Pottery, these come as a set of three, with three beautiful colourways. Of course you don’t have to keep them just for salt, when they’re this pretty you’ll want to have them out a lot.

 

Green tea exfoliating scrub from Buddy Scrubs

 

Do persuade the food lover not to try eating this one, but I just liked the body scrubs from Buddy Scrub. There are green tea and raw cacao variants, depending on their taste preference, and imagine the bathroom is going to smell good when these are in use. Something a bit fun, but a natural product, natural flavours and scents so not a naff choice at all.

 

Pimp my profiterole class with Jenius Social - great gift for a food lover

 

In spite of the name of this blog, I’m always in favour of giving experiences, not things. They’re still gifts in my book, and are the gifts that keep on giving, as you give a skill, and memories. Jenius Social are new to Not On the High Street, and have a wide range of cookery classes based in London. From artisan sausage making to Mexican street food and even a class entitled Pimp my Profiterole. Sign me up for that one!

 

Kimchi Making Kit - great gift for a food lover

 

I like kits as gifts as well, as you’re still helping someone to learn something new, or enhance an existing skill. I love this Kimchi Making Kit from Sandy Leaf Farm, giving you a skill and something on trend. Sandy Leaf also offer an aromatic bitters kit, so great for cocktail lovers, definitely gives them some bragging rights as they mix up their latest concoction.

 

Awesome French Bulldog Cup and Saucer

 

I absolutely love this cup and saucer, being a definite dog person, even though I’ve never owned a french bulldog. If it’s not a rainy day, then I’ll be drinking my tea and coffee out of this. From Fairy Made Paperart, even though this isn’t paper.

 

Bad Brownies Selection Box - great gift for a food lover with a sweet tooth

 

Finally, who wouldn’t want to receive a box of delicious brownies through the post? That’s got to beat the those days when all you get is the gas bill and a flyer for double glazing. From Bad Brownie, this selection gives you a whole box of gorgeousness, from fudgy to caramel, so something for everyone if they like chocolate.

Always a site I keep checking back in on, always something new, something you hadn’t worked out you were looking for, or sometimes that it is just the thing you’ve been looking for. It continues to amaze me how many fabulous creative people there are out there, with brilliant ideas, definitely worth supporting in my view.

 

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In case you missed news of the latest anti-ageing advance…

May 10th, 2016 · Foodie gifts

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Funnily enough, many friends sent this one to me straight away. Not sure what that says, they obviously think I need it.

What is it?

Gin.

Yes, you read it right, an anti-ageing gin.

 

Anti aGin - my kind of gin

 

I know, where do we sign up? Well, a good starting point is to be a guest at Bodelwyddan Castle, who have had this designed for them by the creative food duo at Bompass & Parr. Distilled with pure collagen, it also pulls on other botanticals renowned for their rejuvenating properties, such as witch-hazel and camomile.

What the heck, it can’t be any less effective than the anti-ageing juices I saw. Although I guess possibly combining the two could be good (I always said they would taste better with a slug of gin).

Currently Anti-AGin is available at all 13 Warner hotels, and Drinksupermarket.com. At £34.99 it’s cheaper than many potions and lotions. I’ve agreed that we should take a scientific approach to this and have a number of volunteers lined up already for a double blind test. Could be a good night!

 

 

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