New book temptation time

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Holiday reading - what's on the reading wish list for a food lover?

 

It’s probably obvious from many entries on the blog that I quite like books about food. No Kindle happening here yet, I love a good leaf through a proper book. So I think it’s unfair of Waterstones to try and tempt me further.

But they are doing so, with a further 5% off any spend over £20, even if books have already been discounted by them. It’s not a huge amount, but in these times of austerity measures, every little helps. The code for checkout is BZ4687, and is valid until 18 July 2010. And delivery is free on any order.

I could use it to buy another cookbook, as there are so many still to be amazed by. But I’d also be tempted to stock up on some food-related reading for my holiday. I already have Serge Bastarde Ate My Baguette, which is vaguely food related, but I also want to Salt: A World History, to follow up on Cod that I read last year. And I guess having a copy of Go Slow France by Alastair Sawday may reveal a few new places to try.

What’s on your holiday reading list? Great holiday reading photo from dottorpeni on Flickr.

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The Friday Five – Cookbooks for the New Age of Austerity

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Time to tighten our belts! The new age of austerity beckons

 

So, George Osborne is with us, and we have to remember he promised us an age of austerity as he starts with the cuts. Given that everyone has been talking about whether or not that might include putting VAT on food and books, I’m in for a double whammy. So before that happens, here’s 5 books that could help herald the way I’ll be needing to cook within the near future! And in true austerity measures style, I’ll be ordering them secondhand!

1. Good Eating: Suggestions for Wartime Dishes – a great reprint of a book from when austerity was your life, not a lifestyle choice. Whilst these might be old recipes, they seem perfect for the times we’re living in. I bought a copy of this at a National Trust shop, and I would say it was a bit of a national treasure. It’ll cost you a little more than the original 2’/, but you can get a used copy from£1.45.

2. Feeding the Nation by Marguerite Patten – talking about national treasures, if anyone knows how to cook well in times of austerity then it has to be Marguerite Patten. Fabulous for producing comforting, nostalgic food that will take you back in time, and not break the bank. And the recipes produce surprisingly tasty results. Except Stuffed Marrow. I don’t care how austere it gets, I am not eating stuffed marrow!

3. Ministry of Food: Thrifty Wartime Ways to Feed Your Family Today by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall – I’ve written about this book before, and think it’s great that the Imperial War Museum has really caught the food mood of the nation. I guess this is the modern day version of Marguerite’s book, and the illustrations are lovely in this, so it’s a beautiful looking book as well as interesting with good recipes. Whether George would approve of pretty things in austere time, but what the heck! If you look at the posters of the time they have a beauty of their own, so go for it!

4. Frugal Food by Delia Smith – oh yes, another national treasure to help us through austere times. Now, this classic has been updated recently, but the original version is available from only 1p, so it would feel much more appropriate to buy that version! You know what you’re getting with a Delia recipe, so I would think they would all turn out tasty recipes that are not overly complicated, and hopefully not too expensive!

5. The Workhouse Cookbook by Peter Higginbotham – well, I don’t think George has suggested bringing back the workhouse, but who knows? If you want to get a view on what might be in store from a food perspective, then this is the book for you. Plenty of photos to show you it was no holiday camp, but apparently the food was more varied than you might think. If you want a slightly depressing, but interesting, day out, then I can recommend a day at The Workhouse at Southwell. It’ll make you want to boost your savings!

I don’t think we need our ration books yet, but a bit of belt tightening may be in order. Which probably means more people will discover the benefits of local and seasonal cooking! Ration book photo by WolfieWolf over on Flickr.

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Sunshine and chitting

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Green shoots are coming!

 

Finally, it feels like the longest winter in history may be over, and the big yellow thing has returned to the sky. I misheard Best Foodie Friend last week when she said she had started chitting potatoes. Thought it sounded unusual.

Which means it’s time to start looking at the raised beds again, plotting to grow so many things, and then at least ending up with a glut of parsley and mint. Plus the glut from BFF’s allotment and new garden. But if you’re worried about food miles and provenance, not to mention taste, then no matter how amateur you are, you can always grow a few things yourself, and they’ll taste so much better. In fact, smug virtuousness ought to named taste number 6!

Need some inspiration? Here’s some of my favourites:

* I think this is probably the laziest way I know to get a veg garden going. A Rocket Garden voucher makes a great gift, for someone else, or even for yourself if you’re either a new gardener or a very lazy one. I have very little success with seeds, so someone delivering little plants already underway would be a huge bonus.

* If you’re going down the organic route, then check out The Organic Gardening Catalogue. If you’re good, you can choose from all kinds of seeds, or there are plenty of choices in plug plants too. Also try more unusual things, like growing your own horseradish, ready to accompany a great rib of beef later in the year.

* Want bragging rights and something unusual to show at the local horticultural show? Then try growing heritage varieties, things that haven’t been seen down the garden centre in a long time. The Heritage Seed Library is preserving species at risk, and if you become a member you get to grow up to 6 varieties a year. This would be a great gift for a foodie with serious green fingers, as they get to delve into the delights of Glory of Devon peas, Rent Payer broad beans and Bunyard’s Matchless Lettuce. If you just want unusual potatoes, then try Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes, dispatching now but act quickly, stocks are limited.

* Sarah Raven feels like the Daylesford Farm Shop of seed and plant catalogues, in that it almost suggests to me no mucky hands are involved, and she clearly understands her target market. Conforming to type, I will therefore be ordering the Foodies Tomato Collection, seedlings of 3 tasty species along with some basil. It’s like a tomato and basil salad waiting to happen. In a similar vein, just not quite so pretty, try Crocus and their plug plant collections, like Luscious Legumes and Credit Crunchy Veg.

So go pull on your wellies, get your trug out and at least have a look at where you might plant stuff. It could be on small step on the road to self-sufficiency. Or at least a tasty tomato crop.

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Spring bargains on the foodie front

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Just a quick post on online retailers of good foodie stuff with good offers, in case you need a gift but with some cash left for day to day eating! Here goes:

Kissing Birds Free Gift from Thorntons

1. Thorntons have a free gift on offer for orders over £15  between now and the 14th, so a great one for the one for them, one for you principle. The free gift is the Kissing Birds, which is cute looking, and possibly tasty. I really like the chocolate blocks they have done, colourful and tasty. Enter code THKS at checkout to qualify.

2. I love how Majestic announce their offers: 25% off South Africa. Apparently it does just mean the wines! Great saving though when you buy two bottles. Possibly champagne discounts will follow next week if Valentine’s Day sales aren’t as good as they were hoping!

3. I do like my coffee, but good coffee. If you’ve got a caffeine freak, then how about joining them up to the Coffee Tasting Club from Coffee Cavern. It’s now available for £22.50 for 3 months, rather than £30, for which they will send 4 different coffees every month from single estates and co-operatives, along with tasting notes. A perfect pick you up gift.

4. Natoora is a great source for continental goodies from Italy and France amongst others. If you need to plan a big shop, then right now they are offering £20 off when you spend £80. The offer runs until 28 February, and you just need code HT785KE at checkout. Not sure I know where to start, but I would certainly be looking at their interesting wine and beer selection, and some San Daniele ham for sure.

5. There can never be enough fabulous chocolate in a home, and Chocolate Trading Co is a great source for finding great stuff. Just to ease some of the guilt, there is 10% off everything at the moment with code love, and it’s valid through till the end of this month. Deep joy!

6. If it’s too cold, or there’s still snow, then stay warm and safe and shop at the Virtual Farmers Market. Great selection of all kinds of producers from around the UK, and for all of February delivery is completely free, so got to be worth a go. And worth staying in for! Check out goodies from Gower Cottage Brownies, South Devon Chilli Farm and Upton Smokery amongst many other tasty choices!

Six great choices of places to shop, six great discounts. Happy shopping/cooking/eating!

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Quite possibly my favourite sale has started!

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Glass cake stand to show off your creations - from probably my favourite sale

 

I’ve written many times about how much shopping I do at Not On the High Street, as it really does have unusual and unique gifts for pretty much everyone on my list. Not to mention a few things for myself finding their way into the basket! And now its sale has started, so the temptation is even higher. Here’s a roundup of the best bargains on offer for foodies:

1. There are some great cocktail kits in a box in the sale, from margaritas to cosmopolitans. Not a massive reduction at 10% but these are a good looking gift, a bit of fun, and will feel incredibly decadent to receive!

2. I’ve written many times about how useful tea towels are, for all kinds of purposes other than the original intended one. There are some very highbrow literary ones in the sale at half price, spanning D H Lawrence to Oscar Wilde.

3. For the mini gourmets, the personalised kids aprons will help to make them feel really special in the kitchen, which might be another reason for them to want to get involved. There are four different designs available, so something suitable for everyone.

4. I know a lot of people are still surrounded by lots of snow and ice, so it’s hard to think of warm, sunny days and heading out on picnics. But if you want to be prepared, not to mention green, then the eco picnic set could be a good advance purchase. There are also some funky Thermos flasks in the sale, to help keep something cool and delicious completely cool.

5. I got a glass cake stand last year, and I love it. If you’ve got a keen baker, then the stand in the sale is really nice. It’s also reduced by 40% and is now just £15.

Just a few things for the foodies! Try not to get yourself too distracted by everything else!

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More temptations in the sales for foodie gifts

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A few more sales have popped up, with some good choices for foodie gifts at better prices. Just remember nothing is a bargain if you don’t want or need it, or won’t absolutely love it, or it won’t invoke the same feelings in the recipient. Here’s a few choices from me:

 

Cupcake mug from Emma Bridgewater

 

1. Emma Bridgewater – there is a good selection of seconds and discontinued lines gone into the sale, with some great choices like Cupcakes (perfect for the baker in the house), a Dancing Mice tin (perfect for the cakes) and some almighty mugs in Black Toast for the tea and coffee addict!

2. Pedlars – definitely one of my favourites! I’ll be seriously considering stocking up on tea towels, which are always useful, for either practical uses, or they make a great hostess gift or an alternative to wrapping paper. There are some witty wooden chopping boards now with 30% off, and I’d also look at the Ladybird flasks and the collapsible shopping bucket.

 

Tavolo cheese grater from the Handpicked Collection - great gift for a food lover with grating on their mind

 

3. The Handpicked Collection – another good one to get to know (lets face it, Thomasina Miers is on the panel of experts, so can’t be all bad for foodie needs). The Tavolo cheese grater would make a great gift, and you can never have enough graters. Skip the natural slate cheeseboard though, even reduced you can still pick up a roofing tile cheaper at your local builders merchant. About £13 cheaper!

4. Cath Kidston– plenty of homewares in the sale, things like aprons, mugs, oven gloves and napkins. Pretty good reductions too. If this is the style of the foodie in your life, then worth stocking up on these things, put them away somewhere safe until you need something.

So, shop at discount, but shop sensibly. Buy stuff that will be loved, not just stuff that’s got a big discount off it. And prepare for happy smiles for happy foodies when you finally let them have this stuff!

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Making the most of the Boxing Day sales

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Not how I want to do my bargain hunting!

 

It’s Boxing Day evening, the turkey is pretty much stripped, the relatives are beginning to grate, and there’s no Doctor Who to distract you.

What do you do before you go completely Boxing Day bonkers?

How about getting prepared for your next foodie gift need for less with the best of the Boxing Day sales that are available from the comfort of the fireside? Or, if you’re the foodie, then either treat yourself for less or give your less foodie friends the gift of good taste. Here’s a few suggestions from my sales roundup:

1. John Lewis – middle England’s favourite has a pretty good sale going on. Plenty on offer in all kinds of kitchenware, stuff for eating off and stuff for clearing up with afterwards. Tea towels not only make great gifts, but they are great for wrapping up collections of other things that you buy, or make, like a collection of jams for example. And if you’ve always wanted a fuchsia pink juice extractor, now may be the moment to buy one! Truly though, I’d go for the hampers which are now half price. You can recombine them to make other gifts, or just indulge yourself!

2. Cook in Style – big sale going on here, and I use this for all kinds of equipment that you can’t necessarily find on every high street. Need an electric meat slicer for your home-cured meats? They’ll do you one and give you up to £25 off. KitchenAid Mixer? All sorts of colours available with £30 off. They’ve also got a small but concise selection of cookbooks with 50% off, so worth a look.

3. Buy A Gift – great bargain hunting here as they have at least 25% off everything, with code JANSALE, and they have a great selection of cooking courses available including sushi making and home food smoking. These don’t go out of date for a year, so worth stocking up at the discount price.

4. Pedlars – another of my favourite shops, especially at sale time. There are discounts on a lot of the Joseph Joseph stuff, and I love the melamine Sea Life dinner plates. Lots of stylish mugs and tea towels on offer too, which always make good standby gifts, or parts of gifts. And not necessarily foodie, but I love the Cityscape Tea Light holders, which would give beautiful lighting and interest to any dinner table or gathering!

5. Amazon – you know me, can’t resist a good cookbook, and there are over 200 in the January deals on Amazon, from Jamie’s America through to the new Larousse Gastronomique. Good place to spend your Christmas money, as it will stretch further with 60% off.

6. Thorntons – a British institution, going for less. The chocolates. Not the company. That’s someone else.

So go on, run away from the family chaos and stock up, or else plan a long trip. Up to you whether or not you take them with you!

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Healthy foodie gifts

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Gadgets are go this Christmas! Great gifts for food lovers who like it gadgety

 

I am not sure why, but there aren’t so many foodie gift lists come out of the UK, most seem to come out of the US. It’s possibly down to the fact they use the word more, but then I’m not sure what the English (UK) alternative is, as gourmet, epicure and gourmand always feel a little bit more elitist, a bit more out of reach. Anyway, whatever the linguistic differences, the list on Health.com was great, and here are my UK alternatives to their Ultimate Foodie Gift Guide.

1. I loved the idea of the Apple Tree to Be, a great gift for a keen gardener or allotment keeper, a healthy eater, or just for that person you never have a clue what to buy them. For a British alternative, try the Miniature Apple by Trees Direct or a Bramley Apple Tree from Trees2MyDoor, which would be a great gift for a cook or home baker.

2.Whilst I can see that this scrapes into a healthy foodie gifts on the basis of the health benefits of garlic, really the Chef’n Garlic Zoom is just a great gizmo for the kitchen. Given that it’s just under £8 on Amazon, it would make a great stocking filler for anyone really, even for a serious cook, just for a laugh. I would probably make this my top foodie gadget for under £10 this Christmas.

3. Not sure if the health benefits of gingerbread are well documented, but missing parts Gingerbread Men may make you laugh, which is good for your health. Your gingerbread man could end up headless before you get to him, but at least you’ll know he’s “armless”. Sorry, bit early for panto, but cute gift for kids and homebakers. I love that these are called ABC Cookie Cutters, as in already been chewed!

4. Sadly, I can’t find a UK source for the Ebelskiver Filled-Pancake Pan, which is a real shame. These are apparently a real delicacy in their native Denmark, and they look delightful. Should you be passing a branch of Williams Sonoma anytime soon, they have a great one. The rest of us, well, we’ll have to campaign for Williams Sonoma to open up over here! We’ve got Anthropologie now, surely this should be the next import?

5. Perfect for coffee lovers with an eco-conscience, I Am Not a Paper Cup looks just like a proper take out cup, but can be used time and time again. Save the planet, still get good coffee. Perfect.

6. The Cook or Be Cooked Wii game is not available here in the UK. Buy a decent cookbook instead.

7. Growing your own herbs is brilliant and so worthwhile. There are all kinds of options for this, from pretty windowsill growing versions, through to the high tec approach of the Aero Garden. What seeds you add in is up to you.

8. The lunchskins are not available in the UK, but the principle of using less plastic at lunchtime is good. I love the bright coloured tiffin tin that John Lewis have, which would allow you to have several lovely courses at lunchtime without them getting mixed up.

9. The Breville Smart Oven looks like a perfect bachelor pad gadget, and lots of pre-settings mean it’s perfect for non-cooks and gadget geeks alike. Again, not available here yet, so maybe one to add to Santa’s list for next year.

10. I like the sound of The Pioneer Woman Cooks, a cookbook from self-proclaimed accidental country girl, Ree Drummond. Cook up Cowboy Calzones and Cheese Grits for a very, very different take on Christmas lunch.

11. This is something I could do with, as I always get the amount wrong so I would be grateful for a spaghetti measure. The Joseph Joseph one is funky looking and neat, and a good gift for under £10.

12. For seriously accurate cutting, dicing, slicing and julienning fruit and veg, then they need a good mandoline, and the De Buyer is the one recommended by Health.com. Four interchangeable blades give them the ability to even do waffle and crinkle cuts. Fancy!

13. I wish there was something like the EcoVine organic wine club membership but sadly not. The best bet in the UK is Vintage Roots, who specialise only in organic wine. Order them a bottle once a month.

14. Glow Gluten Free Cookies are not available here, but there are plenty of good gluten free goodies now on offer throughout the UK. M&S have a whole gluten-free hamper this Christmas, which would be great for those who don’t normally get such tasty treats. Or try Gower Cottage for gluten free brownies, chocolate loveliness without the gluten!

So, the term healthy has perhaps been applied a bit loosely, but I really like a lot of these ideas. Worth adding to your own Christmas wishlist, or help solve your gift buying problems for difficult foodies! Happy shopping!

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Let the foodie bargain hunting begin!

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Not how I want to do my bargain hunting!

 

I think it’s possibly a little later than last year, but there seem to be a lot of last minute offers flying in from my favourite online sources for great foodie gifts. Rather than a raft of short posts I thought I would pull them all together in one post, so that you could get everything out of the way at once. Look, it’s that or face the crowds, and I know which I would rather do!

1. For foodie stocking fillers, I would check out Getting Personal for things like personalised Food Lovers calendar, a personalised Great Taste Award winning chocolate pudding or a personalised apron. This is a great place for fun, but not tacky, stuff for all members of the family, and friends, and price range means you can get something interesting for under £10. If you spend over £100, then you get 15% off, enter FIFTEEN at checkout.

2. For a huge range of unique, unusual and tasty foodie gifts, then check out the Deal of the Day page over on Big Barn. From beef boxes to vegan chocolate cakes, Loch Leven tablet to meaty sausages, there really is something for everybody. The other plus point would be that your gift would be supporting artisanal producers around the country, which is a great gift for everyone. Check in daily for new offers.

3. I really love the collection put together by the team at Jamie Oliver, and right now if you spend over £35 delivery is free. These are a bit different to things available under Jamie’s name elsewhere on the High Street, and there’s some great choices. For under £10, there are some very stylish tea towels and notebooks, and for under £20 I love the worm food compost bucket, and the I Love Olives gift set. Even though I don’t!

4. It wouldn’t be Christmas without chocolate, and Chocolate Trading Co is one of my favourite sources for unusual, good quality chocolate. They are offering 10% off between now and December 8th, enter code santa in the shopping basket.

5. Not so much a gift for someone else, but a gift to whoever is responsible for the lunch on Christmas Day, the Christmas meal boxes at Natoora are fabulous. All the thinking is done, the recipe is there and right now there is 10% off the boxes and everything else that you order when you put one of these in the basket. Valid until 20 December, so it would ensure you don’t go hungry on Christmas Day, and you can stock up on great gifts, such as Rococo Chocolates, some Prosecco on standby and a huge piece of Parmesan.

 

So 5 sources of bargains that would hopefully keep you in the warmth at home, rather than heading out into the cold to battle with the crowds. Possibly more to come though I would guess before the festive season is upon us.

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Putting it together – the DIY approach to hampers

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Be careful what you try to wrap up!
Be careful what you try to wrap up!

A few people have been looking for ideas on how to put their own hampers together, which I think is a great idea. You get to really personalise to the gift recipient’s own tastes, and you can spend what you want to. Here’s some thoughts on ideas for different themes:

For the tea lovers

You could pack into a teapot, or generous mug, all kinds of tea paraphernalia. I’ve already written about the lovely teas from Bellevue Tea, and these would look attractive in a hamper. Whittard have good tea paraphernalia, like a tea infuser or even a tea bag squeezer, not to mention unusual loose teas. Another option for containing all your gifts, or as an add on, is a tea caddy. I like the bright Union Jack one from Emma Bridgewater, or try John Lewis if you want more traditional looking caddies. And you should probably add some lovely biscuits or cake, just to set up the perfect tea drinking treat.

For the BBQ Lover

Assuming that you are not going to pack this inside a Weber BBQ, we’ll think smaller but still useful. If you want an unusual book, I highly recommend Extreme BBQ, definitely one for the enthusiast. I would consider some good sauces and spices, like the chilli sauces from Gringley Gringo, and I really like the spices and seasonings from Steenburgs. I would think of adding in some of the unusual things like the Indian Fish Rub, just for a change.  They are bound to need good tongs, and perhaps an oven glove. And then you could add something like bottles of ketchup, a squeezy tomato dispenser, and maybe the madness that is the condiment gun!

For the cake baker

You could wrap all this up in a cake tin, although I don’t suggest the popular caterpillar cake tin for this, too many bumps! I do love silicone cases, both for ease of use and for lovely colours, like the heart shaped ones from Lakeland. All bakers will need more wooden spoons, and you could also add in things like cookie cutters, sprinkles and sugars. I really like Splat  who have more of everything than I could ever need! You could also add cake liners, doilies and paper cake cases. This will be a really pretty looking gift.

For the first time foodie

This could be for a foodie in the making, or someone about to leave home for the first time. This isn’t about all the big bits of equipment, more the things you need to help make cooking easier. I would put things in like wooden spoons and measuring spoons, a kitchen timer and an appropriate apron (I still really like the many unique choices at Not On the High Street). You could even go for bales of tea towels and dish cloths, but I would also add some fun stuff like a good beginners cookbook. For students, I would recommend From Pasta to Pancakes, written by a student who loved to cook.

Just four ideas to get you going, a few more to follow pre Christmas. I would say let your imagination run wild, and think of using part of the gift as the container for everything else. Do just remember that you have got to wrap the thing, so don’t make it too awkward a shape!

Photo of one awkward shape to wrap up by harryalverson over on Flickr.

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