Valentine’s Day with taste


Those who know me will know I’m not going to be big on Valentine’s Day and, unless I have a very deep cover secret admirer, then it’s a two way thing with neither giving or receiving going on. But if I was going to be on either end of this equation, then these are things that would make it seem tasteful, tasty and not tacky for me!


Pale Sea Salt Collection from Amelia Rope


* Forget heart shaped, red foil covered, if it’s about chocolate, then I’d choose Amelia Rope every time. Restrained design, but bursting with colour and taste on the inside, it’s like a beautiful hidden surprise. Which is quite romantic even in my slightly cynical book. And it’s unexpected and shows thought, so more ticks in the right boxes. I really like the Pale Sea Salt Collection, unusual colours and unusual flavour.

Heart Shaped Box of fabulous cheese from Pong

* Ok, it’s about as twee as I’m going to get, but the only reason for including the Heart-Shaped Cheese Box from Pong is that they are actually good cheeses, in spite of the shape. If your Valentine is a savoury lover, then this may be just the thing.


Nyetimber - for a patriotic fizz for the British food lover


* If there’s going to be fizz, and I rather feel there should be, then break with the monopoly of the French stuff and support the homegrown version. To me, Nyetimber is up there with the best champagne I’ve drunk, and is far ahead of many of them. I’d be happy with the Classic Cuvee or the Rosé. One of each would be really pushing the boat out.


Smoked Scallops from the Hebridean Smokehouse


* Smoked salmon might be lovely, but also a bit, well, normal. I would love to have something like the Smoked Scallops from the Hebridean Smokehouse. Different but gorgeous, and something that is just ready for a simple but special meal. Would go really well with a glass of the Nyetimber too.

So, these are not wildly unusual, more like interesting twists on a theme. It’s about indulgence, and quality. No bad things in my book, at any time of year. What will you spoil your loved one with?


Smoked Christmas food, as opposed to Christmas up in smoke


There are some fantastic smokehouses around the UK, some have been there since fire was invented, and some Johnny come latelys as well, but many turning out some great produce. I love smokey flavours and have been trying to work my way through a few places, and I think Christmas is a perfect time for these flavours.


The Weald Smokery - turning out perfect smokey gifts for food lovers


First up is The Weald Smokery, based in East Sussex. Smoking over oak in brick kilns, their hot roast smoked salmon won gold at this year’s Great Taste Awards. You could go the whole hog, or fish, and treat someone to a whole side, or treat them to a gift box that includes it and a good selection of their other delicacies.


The Artisan Smokehouse - great gifts of smoked deliciousness for food lovers


Moving round the coast to Suffolk and to The Artisan Smokehouse. Combining great smoking with the produce of other great British producers, their hamper offers some brilliant treats for Christmas including smoked beef fillet, smoked Cropwell Bishop Stilton and smoked rapeseed oil. Lots of things to work with to infuse smokey flavours into all kinds of dishes.


The Black Mountains Smokery - great smoked gifts for food lovers

Heading a long way west, and to the Black Mountains Smokery. Working with both hot and cold smoking techniques, Black Mountains harnesses the best of tradition with modern technology across a wide range of products. If you’ve got someone to buy for who isn’t a fish lover, then have a look at the Meat Platter Hamper. Some great meals in there, with things like smoked chicken, duck and goose to start with, along with some sausages and even a boned quail.


Brown & Forrest - great source of smoked gifts for a food lover


For something a little different, heading south to Brown & Forrest in Somerset, and try their smoked eel, which they’ve been smoking for over 29 years. This is hot smoked over beech and apple, and comes as small packs, or whole sides, or even converted for you into a pate.


The Hebridean Smokehouse - great gifts for smoked food lovers

Got to feature smoked salmon, and so heading about as far north in the UK as is possible to go, and to the Hebridean Smokehouse on Uist. You can choose peat smoked or beechwood smoked, from a small pack to a whole side, sliced or left ready for you to tackle. Perfect for Christmas morning with a glass of fizz.

Want to learn how to do it yourself? Check out the appropriately named Smoky Jo’s, who do one day or weekend courses, and they can even sell you the smoking kit to get on with your own produce. If you need additional incentive to book, they’re based up near Penrith, so some beautiful countryside and good eating around you, and you get to pick up a new skill. Perfect.


Time for something a bit smoky


Beautiful North Uist, producing fabulous smoked salmon as a perfect gift for a food lover

Smoked salmon always seems to make it onto our Christmas menu, and sure it does in many households. Fancy something different? Try the Hebridean Smokehouse, for great quality fish, beautifully smoked over peat, giving it very memorable aromatic qualities.

I’d be very tempted by the smoked scallops, which would give you some amazing options for Christmas lighter meals, or a starter with a difference. If you’re pushing the boat out, then try the peat smoked lobster tail. Not cheap, but a little will go a long way.

If it’s not just something additional for your Christmas table, then check the gift selections. I think these would make you very popular with those who loved their smoked fish. The Complete Hebridean is not cheap at just under £50, but an exceptionally generous and tasty gift for a special occasion. There are also some good combinations with an appropriate wine or whisky, great choice for those who like a drop of the hard stuff!

There’s not really long left to order to be sure of Christmas deliveries, so best get a shuffle on! And enjoy.

Stunningly beautiful shot of North Uist by Bob the Courier over on Flickr. This gives you an idea of why the fish tastes so good!