The Christmas countdown is now well and truly on!

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Magical Christmas days ahead

 

That’s it, Halloween is over and done which means it is most definitely going to be Christmas all over the place from here on in.

It’s been a busy time here at FGH Towers so I’ve not really got underway with Christmas round ups yet, but it’s definitely time to get writing about the best that’s out there.

As always, I’m on the lookout for small producers, making great tasting products presented in interesting ways that will have the recipients beaming on Christmas Day and beyond. I try to bring something a bit different, but equally something you can get hold of easily.

And if you leave it too late then I’ll show you how to stay out the dog house on Christmas Day with great last minute gift ideas. One of the things that has changed since I started the Foodie Gift Hunter is how last minute gifts can be so much more interesting now, rather than a ransacking of just the village shop.

So, hold on tight, the festive season is upon us and fun times and celebrations lie ahead.

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For the pomegranate lover: the easy way to grow your own

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food-salad-healthy-lunch

 

I love pomegranate, both the look of them and the taste, not to mentio the burst of crunch they add to a dish. I also loved seeing them growing wild when we were in Cyprus, like trees with Christmas decorations on them.

If you know a food lover who loves them too, then I think this new box from the Gluttonous Gardener would be a great gift.

 

Pomegranate Box from Gluttonous Gardenere

 

In this gift you get a young pomegranate plant in a terracotta plant. I imagine it needs somewhere relatively warm and sheltered once it’s big enough to come out of the pot. You’ll also get a bottle of pomegranate ketchup, to give you that burst of sweet sourness until it bears fruit.

Delivered in a lovely looking wooden crate, at £35 this is not a bad gift for something that will hopefully keep on giving for a number of years. That’s what I call a good gift, for a food lover or anyone else.

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How to try 36 different gins without breaking the bank

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Distill your own gin at 45 Gin School, the best lesson I've been to in years. Perfect gift for a gin lover

 

I do love my gin, and always have that battle between returning to an old favourite, and trying something new. And, despite writing and opinions to the contrary, I don’t get through that much so a bottle lasts quite some time.

So, how to get through a great variety of great gins without causing the bank manager to pass out? Well, here’s two gift ideas for you, that would give 36 different gins for about £170.

Of course, that’s still a lot of money, but when you figure that good gin is about £30 a bottle, so would only give you just over 5 bottles for the same amount. And when you figure on trying 36 different ones then that would be over £1,000. Possibly with a pickled liver on the side.

 

Ginvent 2016 Advent Calendar

 

First off, you can count down December with the Ginvent Advent Calendar, which will be released for pre-order shortly from Gin Foundry, and shipping next month. They say there will be calendar exclusives and new gin launches making their debut behind certain doors, as well as a return of some older gins that are starting to make their way back into the limelight.

Now, that sounds like a good way to get through to Christmas Eve. But what to do after that?

 

Eden Mill 12 gins of Christmas

 

Thankfully the team at Eden Mill are giving us the 12 Gins of Christmas, so keeping the theme going. With 12 flavoured gins, this will refresh your palate after the excesses of the Christmas table each day. Apple and Cinnamon sounds perfectly festive, along with Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. Apologies for the Nat King Cole ear worm you’ve now got going on.

Unlike the advent calendar, this is a perfect gift to be given on Christmas Day, as it also contains two glasses and a voucher for one tour of the Eden Mill gin experience. But I don’t see why you couldn’t gift it to yourself either.

I can’t see a price yet on the Ginvent Advent Calendar, but will update when it goes live. The Eden Mill 12 Gins of Christmas is available now for pre-order, priced at £69.

Limited numbers of both will be available, so best to get pre-orders in sharpish.

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5 signs it’s nearly Christmas

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What? You think it’s ages till Christmas? Well, the early warning signals are going here, the signs are all there:

a) Odd leaves are changing colours on the trees

 

Leaves are on the turn

 

b) Bake Off is back on the 24th. End of summer signal blinking very brightly.

 

Bake Off is back! I repeat, Bake Off is back.

 

c) They’re announcing the Strictly contestants. Which means it’s downhill to the final, by which point you’d better have your Christmas cake made!

 

d) I’ve seen the first mention of the Gin Advent Calendar. And it wasn’t by me.

 

Ginvent - my perfect Advent Calendar. Twenty four days of fabulous gin

 

e) Selfridges Christmas shop is open.

Santa Claus is getting ready

So, probably best get a wriggle on. Get your lists written now, last minute shopping is never the best way of doing things!

 

Mary Berry photo from the BBC, wiggling hips gif from Giphly.

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Kitchen kit and beyond for dads on Father’s Day

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Whether your dad’s a keen cook, a keen eater or a keen drinker, even just of tea, then Father’s Day is a great time to add something extra to his kit. Here’s a few things to consider:

 

Pro Q Frontier BBQ Smoker - great gift for a food lover who likes it smoky

 

Upgrade dad’s BBQ gear a bit, with both a BBQ and smoker, which is definitely taking the average BBQ up a level. This is the ProQ Frontier BBQ Smoker, and is perfect for creating US style BBQ dishes like pulled pork, brisket and ribs. We just need some weather to  make it worth getting out! Or check out my review of the Aquaforno, which would definitely be on my wishlist (not that I’m a father).

 

The Master Pan - great gift for a food lover who hates the washing up

 

If he’s a breakfast lover, and a gadget lover, then the MasterPan just might be the perfect pan for him. I mean, one of the great complaints about making a cooked breakfast is the number of pans involved, but this gets round it perfectly. Although doesn’t exactly speak of great family breakfasts to me, but maybe this is the day Dad gets to eat everything.

 

Cook, I am your father chopping board - great gift for a food lover with a Star Wars obsession

 

It’s quite a Star Wars household and family here, so this definitely caught my eye. If Dad is a fan, or just enjoys a good pun, then I thought this chopping board was both fun and useful. Or if you need more Star Wars ideas, then check the ones I found for May the Fourth.

 

Dad Hunter Gatherer - great gift for a food lover

 

I’m sure there are many parents who will relate to this mug, as turning the wifi off is definitely one way of getting the kids attention for many of us. But it might produce a wry smile for Dad, even better if you’re delivering an early morning cup of tea in it.

Mia Craft Beer Glasses - great gift for a food lover who loves their beer

 

If you’ve ordered Dad the craft beer gift set from Flavourly that I featured, then you might want to get him some good craft beer glasses too. These Mia glasses from LSA International are made from 100% recycled glass with a subtle fluted pattern to them. Each one takes 750ml, so plenty of room for good beer.

Just a few ideas, hopefully more exciting for a dad to receive than socks and hankies!

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The Friday Five – eggs-actly what your bookshelf needs

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So Easter is hurtling towards us, many of us will be off today so hopefully a day for relaxing and catching up with friends, family and maybe a bit of reading. Keeping the Easter theme going, but not the chocolate, then this week is all about the eggs.

 

Eggs by Michel Roux

 

Michel Roux Eggs

 

Start with a classic approach from Michel, taking you through lots of versions of frying, boiling, scrambling, poaching, baking…basically, he’s got all the bases covered, and then some.

 

A Good Egg: a year of recipes from an urban hen-keeper by Genevieve Taylor

 

A Good Egg

 

Whether you keep your own chickens or not, or just fancy doing so, then this will show you what you could be doing with the eggs throughout the seasons. The recipes also include lots of seasonal veg and fruit, so very much getting in touch with what’s going on around you.

 

Egg: The Very Best Recipes Inspired by the Simple Egg

 

Egg: The Very Best Recipes

 

I love the cover of this, great looking design. Inside, it’s no let down, as the recipes are good too. From the basics, through breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then sauces, puddings and drinks, truly giving you something for everyone, on every occasion

 

Take a Box of Eggs

 

Take a Box of Eggs

 

This one is a bit more involved cooking, so leaving out the basics, and moving onto recipes with eggs in. So, you’ll find recipes for Salad Niçoise and frittatas, and things like a Spanish almond cake. I would say this wasn’t a bad alternative student cookbook, as eggs have to be such a great simple food to have on standby.

 

How to Boil an Egg

 

How to Boil an Egg

 

Or maybe this is a great student cookbook, certainly a great starting out cookbook. In fact the full title is How to Boil an Egg; Poach one, Scramble one, Fry one, Bake one, Steam one. That pretty much covers it. Or at least gives you 6 days worth of variety before you start again.

So, bring all kinds of eggs to the table this Easter Sunday from morning to night, and not necessarily all about the chocolate. And you might even find enough recipes to last you through until next Easter!

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So, what kind of food year was 2015?

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Seems an age since I wrote about my hopes for 2015 on the food front, when I was hoping that grip of the big four supermarkets on our shopping might continue to loosen. Well, according to reports, that seems to be happening.

 

#Backofchallenge - what food is lurking in your cupboard?

 

January saw me starting the Back of Challenge for unloved food. I have to say, I still have some of the things I took out of the cupboard then, although I haven’t replaced them and the cupboards are still somewhat emptier.

 

Chocolate Macarons from Drop Dead Chocolate - the most beautiful chocolates to gift to a food lover

 

February of course is about love and Valentine’s Day for many. I loved the chocolates from Drop Dead Chocolates, and would also have been very partial to a hamper from The Modern Pantry. To be honest, anything from the Modern Pantry would be great, any time of the year.

 

Beauty in the Juice? Or not.

 

In March I was being cynical about claims made for a fruit juice. I’m probably not finishing the year looking any younger, as I haven’t been drinking it, but then I’m also not siginificantly poorer either.

 

Favourite end to a fabulous trip of great eating in Australia

 

March and April saw MGG and I on our Australian adventures, and there were flat whites on many days. Although there was a reasonable amount of the local wine taken too. And a breakfast to remember at Bill Granger’s.

 

Cooked apple tart

 

By May we were focusing on heading to France, so helping the kids get into French food. I was also discovering that not every recipe book is well tested, and so recipes do fail.

 

Time for iced tea for Tea Jay

 

Praying for warm weather in June, then I was hoping for iced tea as well as hoping to get organised for next year’s World Gin Day. I was also being tempted by the Lakeland sale. Again. Somethings never change.

 

The best birthday cakes ever from my tribe

 

I had my unbirthday in July with some great cakes from the tribe. There was also a great debate about what kit was essential or not in a kitchen. Still think I’m missing some bits.

 

Distill your own gin at 45 Gin School, the best lesson I've been to in years. Perfect gift for a gin lover

 

August of course heralds the start of Bake Off, and I was musing on the 10 things I had learnt from Bake Off. It was also the month I went back to school, and made my own gin for the first time. Amazingly, there’s still some left.

 

My fabulous bread basket at Cafe Einstein

 

There was a gin theme in September too (ok, I know, when isn’t there?) as my favourite Advent calendar launched. And it probably turned up in my round up of 53 hours eating and drinking in Berlin.Though less so in my roundup from Rugby, although that does feature eggs Benedict.

 

Make Your Own Bacon - perfect gift for bacon loving food lover

 

October saw Christmas looming, and I reflected on the six gifts that food lovers hate to get. I also did a roundup of kits to make your own foodstuffs, of which bacon was the most popular. I also showed how to get a cocktail through a letterbox, one of my favourite tricks of the year.

 

That's no moon: Death Star cookie jar, great gift for a food lover with a Star Wars obsession

 

By November, the countdown was really on to the new Star Wars movie coming out, and I summoned up the foodie force for a guide to the best gifts around for Star Wars lovers. There’s also my top ten gifts for food lovers who love to entertain, just in time for the major entertaining season ahead, not to mention gifts for those just starting out on their own cooking journey.

 

The Best Gin Cocktails You've Ever Made. Apparently.

 

December was about getting ready for Christmas, whether the fun, with festive cocktails, or the practical, with funky tea towels for the drying up ahead. Not to mention my usual roundup of options if you had forgotten that Christmas was just around the corner.

Definitely a year of contrasts, and new adventures on several continents, but some great eating with good company, at our own tables and away from home too. Here’s hoping for more of the same in 2016. What are your food memories of 2015? Would love to know.

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Did you leave it till the last minute again?

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Christmas is happening on December 25th. Again.

 

Honestly, every Christmas Eve it’s the same. Someone wakes up and realises it’s Christmas Day tomorrow.

I know, it’s such a surprise. It’s on the 25th December, shocking.

So, if you want to not be left out in the cold this Christmas Day, then here’s my last minute guides:

In 2014, I flagged some of the downloadable gift cards that you could get to offset your forgetfullness.

In 2013, it was really all about an old Argos ad that showed what the cold blast of Christmas Day with rubbish gifts might feel like!

In 2012, this guide showed lots of ideas for things that could be done from the comfort of your own home, or the pub if they have wifi.

In 2011, I wanted to show that there was all sorts you could do and still have a proper gift ready to be opened on Christmas Day, even by using your local corner store. It really doesn’t have to be naff when done right (generally by stepping away from any left over Christmas gifts).

And hard to believe, given how mild it is currently for most of the UK, in 2010 many of us had a lot of snow by now making it difficult to get out and about. My guide that year definitely covered things that didn’t need you to go much further than you could slide or sledge!

So, these guides should give plenty of options to help you avoid being out in the cold this Christmas. Just remember, as I say most years, Christmas will still be December 25th next year so best get organised.

Photo by Magic Madzik on Flickr.

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Time for festive cocktails

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I love at cocktail at any time of year, and Christmas definitely is a great time for making a few, whether old classics or modern twists on them. Here’s a few things to inspire, to make the mixing fun and the serving beautiful.

 

Wild Drinks and Cocktails to really shake things up on the drinks front

 

I love this book, Wild Drinks and Cocktails, as an inspiration for cocktails that are a bit unusual, and not necessarily all about the alcohol. Something different might be very welcome for the drivers and others not partaking of the hard stuff. Great ideas like switchels, shrubs and tonics, most of which I’d never come across. Some great stories to tell as well as some great tastes.

 

Malika Grand Cocktail Glasses from LSA

 

A great cocktail deserves a beautiful glass to be served in. I love these Malika Grand glasses from LSA, stunningly beautiful to look at. How elegant are you going to feel sipping something from these?

 

Viski Cocktail Shaker

 

 

You need to start off well, and what could be better than a fabulous cocktail shaker? The Viski cocktail shaker will definitely be a talking point, and make you really feel the business. If you like your martini the same way as James Bond, then this is the shaker you need.

 

Make like a star with Cocktails of the Movies

 

Make like the stars and blend their favourites from their films with Cocktails of the Movies. I mean, everyone knows what Bond drinks (god, we even know what brands now given the over-commercialisation of the films) but these give you the champagne cup of the Grand Budapest Hotel (one of my favourite films of recent times, some fabulous cakes in it too), Marilyn’s Manhattan in Some Like it Hot or even Sweet Vermouth on the Rocks with a Twist from Groundhog Day. I guess if one of their favourite films is in there, you could get the film and everything for the cocktails for a really personal and memorable gift.

 

The Best Gin Cocktails You've Ever Made. Apparently.

 

There may have been one or two mentions this year of how much I like my gin. So gin cocktails feature highly in my request list. If you have a fellow gin lover to buy for then I love this cocktail box, entitled The Best Gin Cocktails You’ve Ever Made. Best to give this one a try, I know I’ve set the bar pretty high, but with Brokers London Gin and some interesting additions like Creme de Violette and Absinthe, then they could be in for a very good night!

 

Carry on Pocket Cocktail Kit

 

Perhaps they like cocktails so much they can’t bear to be parted from them? In which case the pocket cocktail set may be just up their street. It’s called a carry on kit, though I imagine these still have to go in your plastic bag through security, but the sizing is ok. And would still cost you less to mix a Moscow Mule or a Gin and Tonic than the average airline wants to charge!

Professional Bartenders Bag

If they’re really serious about their mixology, then how about a professional bartenders bag? All the tools of the trade for them to really look the business, and to be able to mix up just about anything, spirits permitting. They’ll be able to muddle, shake, stir and jig to their heart’s content.

 

All you really need after that is a good selection of spirits, mixers and some citrus fruit and garnishes, and a good night should be had by all.

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Calorie free gifts for food lovers

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And also no books and no kit, as that would be cheating! But sometimes it’s nice to get something a little different. Here’s some suggestions which they won’t be burning off in January.

 

100 Cookery Postcards from Penguin

 

Cookery postcards from Penguin – I love some of the jacket designs that are included in this set, and they’ll either make wonderful things to send through the post to cheer someone else up, or you could frame some for your own kitchen.

 

If you can't stand the heat...get your own notebook!

 

A notebook just for them – whether scrawling recipe ideas, dinner plans or shopping lists, who doesn’t want their own special notebook?

 

Great British Bake Off inspired charm bracelet

 

A sweet way to wear their baking – I love this Great British Bake Off charm bracelet. Beautiful detail, and lots of things you’ll recognise from the show, from stand mixers to oven gloves.

 

Stamp your mark on it - great gift for possessive food lovers

 

Stamp your mark on it – I love this. Not that I’m possessive, but think it would be fun if you’re sharing recipes.

 

Grow Your Own Sweets with the Gluttonous Gardener

 

Get sweet in the garden – I love this Grow Your Own Sweets gift from The Gluttonous Gardener. With marshmallow, peppermint and strawberry plants, there’ll be some sweet treats ahead come next summer, and lots of outdoor fun in the meantime.

 

Mirror Mirror Bakers Compact Mirror

For checking there’s no flour on your nose – I always end up with stray ingredients over me when baking, so something like this would be useful for a fellow messy baker to keep any eye on themselves, just before they step out the house.

 

Paddywax Provisions Violet Macaroon Candle

 

Scents without the calories – I do love a scented candle, and these are beautiful looking as well as coming in some gorgeous fragrances. I’ve chosen the Violet Macaroon from Paddywax Provisions, for having style and substance, although it was a close run thing with the Salted Caramel one.

 

 

Victoria Sponge Recipe Cross Stitch Design from Stitchrovia

 

In case their hands get idle – should there be any spare time that’s not devoted to cooking, baking or eating, then how about a bit of relaxing cross stitch? But these designs from Stitchrovia are far from what your granny might have made, no cute kittens in sight. Great last minute gift as this is a PDF download. Though that will leave them twiddling their thumbs till Boxing Day when they can get some supplies in.

So, just because we love our food, eating it and making it, then we can enjoy other things about it too. These are all a bit of fun, which is part of what Christmas is all about to me, whether you’re a food lover or not.

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