For the last couple of years I’ve been writing the cookery book review slot for Good Things magazine (amongst other series and one off pieces as well). That means I’ve been reviewing lots of wonderful newly published titles, but not always sharing them here on Kavey Eats. So my picks for 2015 include my favourites from those commissioned pieces, plus others I’ve reviewed at home.

I’ve included an Amazon link for each book, but of course you can pop into your local bookshop to pick these up for Christmas presents.

homemade memories (sized)

Undoubtedly, this has been one of my top two books of the year.

I’ve long followed author Kate Doran in the guise of Little Loaf, her popular food blog full of recipes that often make me salivate. The title comes from an old family nickname given to toddler Kate ‘by a great aunt who noticed [her] appetite for bread was bigger than [she] was’. Over time, Kate noticed that the recipes which resonated most strongly with readers were the ones ‘which evoked powerful food memories’. Reading her reminisces about things she loved to eat as a child, readers were reminded of their own childhood memories as they followed the recipes she created. In Homemade Memories Kate distils that nostalgia factor into a truly captivating collection that includes a handful of favourites from The Little Loaf plus over 80 new recipes. Her inspiration comes from two key sources – classic comfort puddings her mum and granny used to make – cakes, crumbles, buns and jellies, and homemade versions of shop bought favourites – Angel Delight, Fruit Pastilles, Jaffa Cakes, Milky Way Bars and many more. Recipes are ordered into chapters covering Crumbs (biscuits), Sticky fingers (handheld treats that will surely leave your fingers covered in sugar, chocolate, icing or syrup), Cakes, Puddings, Ice Creams, Midnight Feasts (chocolates and sweets worth staying up late for) and Drinks. The last chapter is where Kate shares her favourite bread recipe and some handy extras including homemade peanut butter, lemon curd, fruity jam, hot chocolate fudge sauce and vanilla extract. Nearly every recipe has a gorgeous photograph and it’s hard not to bookmark virtually every page. Recipes are accurate and delicious; the Real Bourbon Biscuits – given a grown-up twist by the injection of bourbon whiskey into the filling – were even better than we expected and straightforward and fun to make. This book brings a bit of childhood magic back into your kitchen and is definitely one of my must buys.

Homemade Memories: Childhood Treats With A Twist by Kate Doran is currently available for £15.90 (RRP £18.99). Published by Orion.

 

G64 PLCJ 10.5 spine

Milkshakes just got drunk.’ So says Boozy Shakes author Victoria Glass as she tells us why we should give the milkshakes of our childhood an adult makeover. This books is all about harking back to childhood, getting your retro on and bringing it back to the future! Adding ‘a hearty measure of hard liquor’ to a milkshake offers the best of both worlds and Victoria shares 27 tempting recipes based on sweets, cocktails, desserts, even on music! At the beginning are a set of basic recipes – here you’ll learn how to make ice cream, sorbet, sauces such as chocolate fudge, whisky butterscotch and cherry, Swiss meringue, fruit compote and flavouring syrups. Then it’s on to the shakes themselves, divided into chapters The Candy Bar (based on sweet shop favourites), The Cake Shop, The Cocktail Shaker and Shake Rattle and Roll (where ideas are inspired by classic song titles).

Boozy Shakes by Victoria Glass is currently available for £9.99. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.

 

Anatolia book jacket (sized)

Turkish-Australian restaurateur Somer Sivrioğlu and food and travel writer David Dale combined forces to create a book that would help readers understand the food of Turkey and show them how to create classic dishes at home. The result, Anatolia, is a hefty tome bound in beautiful blue fabric and full of vibrant, eye-catching images of Turkey, its people and its food. The generous introduction includes the history of the region, dating back 5 millennia, as a key to understanding the culture and cuisine, familiarisation with core ingredients and equipment and a range of cooking techniques. Then come more thn 150 recipes, each one prefaced by an engaging tale – the origins of the dish and its place in folklore, an anecdote from the authors, a passage about a traditional producer. Incor uyatmasi (sleeping figs) is introduced with a delightful poem that provides the backstory to this simple pudding. Recipes are organised by time of day, from breakfast and lunch through afternoon tea and sweets to dinner. This book is particularly appealing as an insight into the culinary traditions, culture, ingredients and techniques of Turkish cuisine.

Anatolia by Somer Sivrioğlu and David Dale is currently available for £20.40 (RRP £30). Published by Murdoch Books.

 

Cooking for Geeks Jeff Potter

A revised edition of the 2010 original, Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Cooks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter is part cookbook, part science primer as the author investigates the science of food and why ingredients and recipes work the way they do. It’s not only informative to read but educational in a practical sense too though I’d say it’s geared most strongly to those who want to understand the how and why of a recipe or technique more than those who simply want to cook. Don’t expect to find lush colour photographs of delectable recipes – instead most illustrations are appealing hand-drawn sketches, a range of graphs and diagrams and small (and frankly amateurish) black and white photographs but don’t let that put you off; this book is enormously fun and genuinely a joy to read. I am only a couple of chapters in but have particularly enjoyed the passages on the history of recipe writing, medieval cooking and even an interview with Myth Busters’ Adam Savage. One amazon reviewer postulates that “Jeff Potter must be the love child of Julia Child and Albert Einstein” and that’s right on the nose. A great gift for the curious and geeky cook.

Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Cooks, and Good Food by Jeff Porter is currently available for £18.02. Published by  O’Reilly Media.

 

chinatownkitchen

Another book from a blogger I’ve been following for many years, Chinatown Kitchen is written by Lizzie Mabbott, also known as Hollowlegs. For her first cookbook, Lizzie draws upon her amazing heritage; she is Anglo-Chinese, born in Hong Kong where she spent her formative years growing up not only on Chinese food but also exposed to the many cuisines of South East Asia. At 13 she was transplanted to England, where she has been ever since – albeit with some judicious globetrotting to feed those hollow legs! To describe the book as simply another tome on South East Asian cooking is to put it into a box that it doesn’t neatly fit into. It’s much more than Chinese – or even South East Asian – food made easy; rather it’s a very personal collection of recipes that represent Lizzie’s personal food story. There are classic Chinese and South East Asian dishes, sure, but there are also a fair few of Lizzie’s own inventions including some excellent mashups such as this Chinese Spag Bol recipe and an Udon Carbonara. At the heart of the book is the idea of seeking out ingredients in the food shops of your nearest Chinatown – or indeed any oriental supermarkets or groceries you can find – and putting them to delicious use. To that end, the book is not just a set of recipes but also a shopping and ingredient guide. Add to that an introduction to key equipment and techniques and you are all set to get cooking. Both recipes we’ve made so far have ended up on the repeat list – her Chinese Spag Bol is a simple pork mince dish that is absolutely full of flavour. The Roast Rice-Stuffed Chicken is marinated and basted in an incredible paste which is utterly delicious and we now use this for a quick Sunday roast, without bothering with the more time-consuming rice-stuffing. Also on the wishlist to make are Grilled Aubergines with Nuoc Cham, Chinese Chive Breads, Banana Rotis, Spicy Peanut and Tofu Puff Salad, Mu Shu Pork, Steamed Egg Custard with Century and Salted Eggs, Xinjiang Lamb Skewers and Red Bean Ice Lollies!

Chinatown Kitchen: From Noodles to Nuoc Cham by Lizzie Mabbot is currently available on Amazon UK for £10 (RRP £20). Published by Mitchell Beazley.

 

Spice at Home jacket (sized)

One of Britain’s most celebrated Indian chefs, Vivek Singh has been executive chef at the Cinnamon Club since it opened and also oversees sister restaurants Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Soho. He’s also a regular face on the TV cookery show circuit and has published several popular cookbooks about his contemporary Indian restaurant cooking and exploring ‘curry’ from India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. In Spice At Home, he changes tack and shares the kind of cooking he enjoys at home. Weaving together ingredients, flavours and techniques from around the world, these recipes are a modern global approach to cooking, predominantly Indian but with many fusion influences. He is inspired by the global larder available in London, ‘a melting pot of different cultures’. At the core of this book is Vivek’s grouping of spices into three clusters, the basics, the aromatics and the rare and he shares good advice on storing and using spices effectively. Recipes are divided by when they are best enjoyed, breakfast, lunch, dinner or for entertaining and there are chapters on sides and sweets plus a final section on basics, additional spice blends and core ingredients and techniques. There are plenty of authentic Indian recipes here but the ones that catch my eye are the fusion ideas – chorizo and cumin potatoes, bangla scotch eggs, pasta moily or lamg rogan josh pithivier.

Spice At Home by Vivek Singh is currently available for £18.00 (RRP £25). Published by Absolute Press.

 

chinese unchopped cover

Coming from three generations of chefs, Jeremy Pang didn’t initially plan to work in the industry; first studying biochemical engineering and then working in marketing. But the pull of cooking was strong, and after studying at Le Cordon Blue Institute he worked and travelled across South East Asia to learn everything he could about the cooking of this vast region. I first met Jeremy Pang at School of Wok, the popular and successful cookery school he launched on his return, initially out of his home and then in a dedicated location in the heart of London. Years of developing classes for the school, working out just how to unravel recipes and present them to students in an easy-to-learn way whilst retaining the authenticity and essence of the dishes, provided the perfect material for his first cookbook, Chinese Unchopped. First are Chinese Kitchen Essentials, selecting and caring for equipment and techniques for preparing ingredients. Then comes an introduction to the Chinese Pantry; level 1 ingredients are those that are essential to Chinese cooking (most of which are readily available in British supermarkets); level 2 items are those suggested for cooks ready to delve further into the cuisine (and which may require a visit to specialist oriental grocery stores). The recipes themselves are presented by technique, with chapters on stir-frying, deep-drying, steaming, poaching and braising, roasting and double cooking. Last is a collection of salads, pickles and sides. The dishes come from across China, and there are a few that show influences from Thailand and Malaysia too. Chinese takeaway staples such as Cantonese duck and sweet and sour pork sit side by side with more adventurous (and less familiar) recipes such as lionhead meatballs, five spice lotus leaf chicken and yam with hoisin. There is a tendency for books on specific cuisines to end up as a somewhat daunting encyclopaedic tome, but Chinese Unchopped is a refreshing change, imparting the essentials by showcasing cooking methods, each with an edited selection of recipes. As you’d expect from a teacher, the recipes are really well written, clear and easy to follow. A nice feature is the ‘swapsies’ provided in many recipes, letting you know when an alternative for one or more ingredients would work well.

Chinese Unchopped by Jeremy Pang is currently available for £16.59 (RRP £20). Published by Quadrille.

 

Layout 4

Back in 2009 I was still an avid watcher of Masterchef, the cooking challenge for amateur chefs dreaming of a career in food. From early days, I cheered on cheerful kiwi Mat Follas also known as Ming and was thrilled to see him win the series. (Since then, I confess, I’ve grown steadily less of a fan of our two UK judges not to mention the formulaic format of studio kitchen, pro restaurant, mass catering and round and round again, so I’ve switched allegiance to Aussie Masterchef which is so much better – and the three judges are amazing too!) Anyway, back to Ming: Winning the competition gave Mat the confidence and publicity to launch his own restaurant, making the permanent switch from corporate IT to food and hospitality. Wild Garlic in Beaminster received rave reviews and it was a sad day when it closed its doors a few years later, but Mat is now feeding happy diners at The Casterbridge Hotel in Dorchester on Friday and Saturday nights. From the start, Mat has had a strong affinity with seafood, and is a strong proponent of making good use of the local catch. In his first cookbook, Fish, he shares recipes adapted from his time on Masterchef, plus customer favourites from The Wild Garlic and a summer seafood restaurant he ran on Chesil Beach for a few months before opening at The Casterbridge. Every recipe is modified for a domestic kitchena and uses only ingredients that are readily available to home cooks. Aware that ‘many people are scared of seafood because of bones or the complexity of filleting fish’ Mat has included guidance on both, but reminds us that, in the same way we expect our butchers to prepare and portion our meat, we can ask fishmongers to prepare fish too. Organising chapters by types of fish makes it simple to find a recipe to suit the catch (or purchase) of the day, and makes it easier too to work out which fish can successfully be substituted for each other. A few recipes need time and are best suited to a leisurely weekend of cooking but many are perfect for a quick midweek supper – 25 can be made in half an hour or less.

Fish: Delicious recipes for fish and shellfish by Mat Follas is currently available for £8.94 (RRP £19.99). Published by Ryland Peters & Small.

 

A-bird-in-the-hand

My other top cookbook this year is Diana Henry’s A Bird In The Hand, which I reviewed in June.

We eat a lot of chicken in the UK – it’s such a versatile meat; good roasted, grilled or barbequed, fried (pan or deep), poached, cooked in a stew or casserole… and so adaptable in terms of flavours and cuisines. Diana Henry shares over 100 chicken recipes that range from quick and casual to impressive and celebratory. And as is my wont when flicking through books that are destined to become favourites, the first time I read it I bookmarked so many recipes I may just have well have opened the book at random to find one! Some, like Baked Chicken with Tarragon and Dijon Mustard, Chicken Forestière, Thai Chicken Burgers, Soothing North Indian Curry and Japanese Negima Yakitori are similar to recipes we have made and enjoyed before; a good reminder to make them again soon. But others are ideas we’ve not tried before – Spanish Chicken with Morcilla and Sherry, Vietnamese Lemongrass and Chilli Chicken, Bourbon and Marmalade-glazed Drumsticks, Chicken with Shaoxing Wine, Crisp Radishes and Pickled Ginger, Tagine of Chicken, Caramelised Onion and Pears, Chicken Legs in Pinot Noir with Sour Cherries and Parsnip Purée, Roast chicken stuffed with black pudding and apple and mustard sauce, Ginger beer can chicken, Chicken Pot-Roasted in Milk, Bay and Nutmeg, Pot-Roast Chicken with Figs. I mean, that’s a long list and it was hard to narrow down to just that! The dish that’s quickly become our favourite is Chicken with Pumpkin, Cream and Gruyère and we make this at least once a month, usually with butternut squash. This is a great reference book to have on your shelf and a good prod to try something different instead of the usual rut.

A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry is currently available from Amazon for £6.99 (RRP £20). Published by Mitchell Beazley.

 

NIKKEI_JACKET Wild Drinks & Cocktails

You may also like to read my recent reviews of Nikkei Cuisine by Luiz Hara and Wild Drinks & Cocktails by Emily Han, both of which include recipes extracted from the books.

Nikkei Cuisine is currently available from Amazon UK for £19.99 (RRP £25). Published by Jacqui Small.

Wild Drinks and Cocktails is currently available from Amazon for  £14.99. Published by Fair Winds Press, a member of the Quarto Publishing Group

 

For more food book suggestions, check last year’s recommended books guide.

 

Prices correct at time of publication. The Amazon links above are affiliate links (please see sidebar for more information), which means that I will receive a small commission for any purchases made. Kavey Eats received review copies of most of these titles.

 

If you’ve not already checked out this year’s Christmas Gift Guide, do have a browse.

In the meantime, enjoy my 2015 picks of alcoholic treats.

inniskillin sparkling ice wine vidal

Earlier this year I enjoyed the most wonderful press trip to Canada which included a food and drink tour of Niagara-on-the-Lake. We visited several vineyards, one of which was Inniskillin, well known for their top quality ice wine. I loved most of the ice wines I tasted at a number of different vineyards but my absolute favourite (and one of two bottles I bought to bring home with me) was Inniskillin’s Sparkling Ice Wine, made with Vidal. Available from Drinks Direct (£48.95 + PP £5.99), The Drinks Shop (£44.84 + PP £4.99) and Wine Direct (£45 + PP £7) – note these may be different vintages.

 

liquor-2

Demijohn describe themselves as The Liquid Deli and that’s a very apt description. At their four shops (in Edinburgh, Glasgow, York and Oxford) or via their online store you can buy a variety of alcohol, oils and vinegars by the measure, starting from 40 ml and going up to a whopping 3 litres. A lovely touch on the website is the information provided on the individual producers, and there are drinking / serving suggestions too. The Chocolate Rum Liqueur is made by infusing cacao in Golden Caribbean Rum and the result is a beautifully grown up drink – both the rum and chocolate flavours come through clearly and it’s far more complex than the usual one-dimensional chocolate liqueurs I’ve tasted. Toffee Liqueur combines butterscotch and caramel with Scotch whisky for another complex and appealing liqueur with the taste of the underlying whisky still wonderfully clear. Prices are by 100 ml and are reasonable. UK regulations prohibit filling into customers’ own containers, so you are obliged to buy a bottle too. A nice touch is that they hand-label the bottles with a liquid paint pen and can add personal messages. The ink is semi-permanent, allowing for it to be cleaned and the bottle re-used. Being familiar with wholesale prices for glass jars and bottles, these seem on the pricy side to me – however Demijohn do offer refills into containers purchased from them previously, which is good news for repeat customers.

 

whiteways apricot whiteways cherry

I’ve not tried this pair of sweet fruit wines by Whiteways but at this very low price, I’d be willing to take a punt. I’d like to try them as they are over ice, served with vanilla ice cream (or perhaps even added to the mix before freezing) and mixed with soda water or lemonade. Whiteways Apricot Wine and Whiteways Cherry Wine, £4 each from Morrisons.

 

gekkeikan-horin-junmai-daiginjo-sake gekkeikan-sawayaka-fruity-nigori-sake gekkeikan-unfiltered-yuzu-sake-yuzu-nigorishu gekkeikan-umeshu-plum-wine
gekkeikan-utakata-apple-sparkling-sake gekkeikan-fruity-beauty-wine-assortment-umeshu-and-momoshu-furoshiki

The more sake I drink, the more I come to love it and the more I narrow down my personal tastes and favourites. If you would like to know more about sake – how it’s made, the different classifications and types, read my post on Learning About Sake.

Gekkeikan is a well-respected Kyoto sake producer that is readily available in the UK. Japan Centre stocks a wide range including Gekkeikan Horin Junmai Daiginjo Sake (300 ml for £10.75, 720 ml for £36.90), Gekkeikan Sawayaka Fruity Nigori Sake (500 ml for £18.90), Gekkeikan Unfiltered Yuzu Sake (yuzu in a nigori sake, 500 ml for £12),  Gekkeikan Umeshu Plum Wine (720 ml for £19), Gekkeikan Utakata Apple Sparkling Sake (305 ml for £7.25) and this sweet gift set, the Gekkeikan Fruity Beauty Wine Assortment (Umeshu And Momoshu) wrapped in a Furoshiki Cloth (2 x 300 ml plus furoshiki for £18).

 

korean-plum-wine

Since the end of March I’ve been working for a client in New Malden, and exploring the many local Korean restaurants during lunch. Usually, there’s only time to grab a takeaway and bring it back to the office but occasionally, it’s nice to sit down to a meal in a restaurant instead. Yesterday, my colleague and I celebrated the end of a crazily busy week in Kangnam, the newest kid on the block and decided to try Korean plum wine with our meal. I guessed it would be much like Japanese umeshu and that was exactly right; it is made from the same fruit, Prunus mume, known in Japan as ume and in Korea as maesil. The fruits are soaked in soju with either honey or sugar and left to steep until the alcohol is redolent with the flavour of the plums, with a lovely balance between sweet and sharp. Sous Chef sell the same brand we enjoyed, Sooljoongmae Korean Plum Wine (375 ml for £8.50 + PP £2.99).

 

Bruichladdich-the-botanist-gin

I’m a very late comer to gin, having always thought I disliked the taste only to realise in the last year that it’s actually the bitterness of tonic water I can’t abide. So I have over 3 decades of gin enjoyment to catch up on! On our latest trip to Islay, I fell for Bruichladdich’s The Botanist, described as “an exploration of the botanical heritage” of Islay. Available from Bruichladdich’s online shop (70cl for £33, 20cl for £13.99 + PP £7.19) or slightly cheaper via Amazon (70cl for £32.99, free delivery in UK).

 

pickerings gin

In Spring Pete and I spent a lovely few days in Edinburgh, exploring the food and drink of the city. During the trip we made a visit to Pickering’s, a relatively new distillery based in Summerhall and producing fantastic gin in a tiny space. We admired Gert, the beautiful copper still in which botanicals are distilled with spirit to an old and secret recipe and were given the low down on production methods. The finished gin is still bottled by hand next door. Their original Pickering’s 1947 is (£29.48 + PP £5.75). They also sell a Navy Strength version and small batch editions.

 

gin foundry botanical odyssey

Given my recent gin birth, I’m coveting this gin tasting pack from Gin Foundry. Although the core botanical for all gin is juniper (from which it takes its name) there are, of course, many other botanicals that are also used to create gin – it’s the selection of these that give gins their individual characteristics. This set has been created to explore four key flavour profiles – Citrus, Floral, Herbal and Spiced – and comes with a booklet that provides more information about the botanicals and also gives recommendations for other commercially available gins that you may enjoy if you like one or other of the four gins. Available from Amazon (£75, free delivery in UK). On a similar bent, check out Gin Foundry’s Anthology of Gin tasting pack which covers the four key gin styles – Genever, Old Tom, Navy Strength and London Dry, also available via Amazon (£79, free delivery in UK).

 

woodford-reserve-bourbon-whiskey woodford-reserve-double-oaked

Pete has been a fan of Woodford Reserve (Kentucky Bourbon) for several years – it’s readily available in the UK and a very reasonably priced easy drinking whiskey. Last year, during a short trip to Washington DC and Virginia, he came across Woodford Reserve Double Oaked which he also really liked; the second maturation period is in a barrel that is deeply toasted then lightly charred – this adds a deeper sweet oak character to the bourbon. Woodford Reserve available from Master Of Malt (£30.96 + PP £6.95) or Waitrose Cellar (£23.50, free delivery), also available in store at the same price. Woodford Reserve Double Oaked available from Master Of Malt (£46.09 + PP £6.95) or Waitrose Cellar (£50, free delivery).

 

Harveys VORS PX

I listed this one in my 2013 guide and I’m suggesting it again this year so I’ll just quote what I said previously: “I adore PX; an intensely rich,  gloriously sticky, syrupy-sweet sherry with its flavours of figs, prunes and raisins is utterly redolent of Christmas. Made in Jerez, in the heart of Cadiz province in Andalusia, this is a drink I enjoy all year round. I have tried many brands over the years and this is one I go back to again and again. Harveys’ VORS tag tells us this PX has been aged using the traditional solera process for at least 30 years. A shot over good quality vanilla ice cream makes a simple but decadent dessert.” Harveys Pedro Ximenez VORS Sherry £21.99 from Ocado or £21.84 + PP £4.99 from Amazon UK.

 

greekred

Another recommendation I’m carrying over from 2013 is this Kourtaki Mavrodaphne of Patras, a dark red dessert wine made in Greece. A friend introduced me to it years ago and I’m a big fan of the full-bodied black berries and dried fruits richness. As I explained last year, “the mavrodaphne is a black grape variety indigenous to the Achaea region of Greece (the capital of which is Patras). The wine is vinified in large vats exposed to the sun; once matured, distillate prepared from previous vintages is added, and then the wine is transferred to underground cellars for maturation; there, the solera method of adding older vintages to new ones is used to create a balanced blend.” Available from major supermarkets including Tesco for £5.

 

For more ideas, especially on the sweet side, check out my 2013 sweet-toothed drinkers’ guide and my 2014 Christmas gift guide.

Prices correct at time of publication. Where products are available from multiple online retailers, I’ve provided a link to one or more vendors, but others may also be available. Some of the links are affiliate links (please see sidebar for more information), which means that I will receive a small commission for any purchases made.

 

It’s that time of the year when I share a list of ideas for seasonal gifts – whatever you celebrate, or even if you just love giving and receiving presents, here are some lovely things that might appeal. These ideas are a mix of products I have tried myself and others that I covet!

Sushi socks 1 Sushi socks 2 Sushi socks 3 Sushi socks 4
Sushi socks 5 Sushi socks 6 Sushi socks 7 Sushi socks 8

I giggle every time I look at the pictures of these Sushi Socks; there are 7 designs available including Egg, Masuzushi, Octopus, Red Caviar, Salmon, Shrimp and Tuna. Buy all seven pairs for £39.99 or any individual design for £7.99, from Firebox.

 

Suck UK robot nutcracker blue Suck UK robot nutcracker red Suck UK robot nutcracker natural

I find screw type nut crackers far easier to use than the more common squeeze type, and I’m very attached to a simple polished wooden one I bought in India several years ago. These wooden robot nut crackers by Suck UK caught my eye, available in natural, red or blue from £12.95.

 

Niederegger selection Niederegger Advent Niederegger selection 2

It’s no secret that I adore marzipan, and when it comes to good quality marzipan, you really can’t beat Niederegger. I did a post about Niederegger last year – do have a read if you’d like to understand just why I think their marzipan is so damn good. As well as a variety of different selection boxes, some with Christmas themed packaging, they also have large advent calendars featuring an art work of their café in Lubeck and a tall slim Advent calendar in long, thin boxes. Amazon offer a really wide range, including this 400 gram selection box for £13.99 and this 200 gram selection featuring some of my favourite Niederegger liqueur marzipan flavours for £7.99.

 

bamboo drawer knife rack

Although we do have a knife block on our windowsill, in which we keep several of our larger knives, I really like this idea – a pretty Robert Welch signature bamboo drawer unit as a way to keep the rest of the collection safely stored, £29.95 from the Kitchen Cookshop.

 

Paddington apron

Also from the Kitchen Cookshop is this sweet Paddington Bear PVC Apron for little cooks, just £6.95.

 

MonCheri PocketCoffee

This entry, I admit, is a big fat hint to anyone trying to think of what to buy me for Christmas! I adore Mon Cheri chocolates and for some reason they are only ever on sale in the UK during the Christmas season. This 25 piece box of Mon Cheri is £14.49. Oh and while I’m at it, I absolutely love their Pocket Coffee chocolates too! This 18 piece box of Pocket Coffee is £12.99.

 

Fridgeezoo

I first spotted Fridgeezoo’s fridge pets back in 2011 and indeed they featured in my Christmas Gift Guide for that year – if you don’t remember back that far, these cute critters call out a greeting you when you open the fridge door! With new designs available, I still think they’re super cute! £16.99 from Firebox or go to Amazon for a wider Fridgeezoo range, from £13.60 (note that some talk in Japanese and some in an American English accent).

 

ginmug flowchart ginmug gin and cake ginmug gin coffee ginmug i_love_exercise_gin
mug latte valium vodka fox sake mug food thoughts mug hangry

Love this series of gin mugs from Super Mug. All mugs are £8.95 plus postage and there are 24 designs to choose from; my favourites are the Gin Flowchart, Gin and Cake, Coffee and Gin and Exercise and Gin. If you’re shopping for a beer lover, coffee addict or vodka drinker, you’re all set too. The whisky ones are all spelled “whiskey” so only suitable for Irish or American whiskey drinkers.

 

White-Chocolate-Vanilla-Ice-Cream-KaveyEats--(c)-KFavelle-7001 White-Chocolate-Vanilla-Ice-Cream-KaveyEats--(c)-KFavelle-6999
Courgette-BlueCheese-Soup-KaveyEats--(c)-KFavelle-7057 Courgette-BlueCheese-Soup-KaveyEats--(c)-KFavelle-7069 Optimum9400-KFavelle-KaveyEats-2014-6887

For just over a year I’ve been putting my Froothie Optimum power blender through its paces. It’s a real powerhouse of a blender that can blend ice cubes, frozen fruit and other solid items easily including grains, rice and nuts to make flours and nut butters. Making fresh soups is easy, as the friction from the super powerful blades generates enough heat to make the contents piping hot. I’ve also made custard, smoothies and sauces in mine and friends have made all kinds of amazing recipes.

The model I have, an Optimum 9400, is currently on sale for £299; and you can get an extra 2 years warranty for free by using my affiliate link to open the Froothie site, choosing your appliance and entering “Special Ambassador Offer” into the comments / code field at check out. The code applies to blenders, juicers and also to the brand new Froothie Thermocook, a multifunction cooking appliance that can cook, steam, blend and more; I’ve just received one to play with and can’t wait to get cooking. The Thermocook is currently discounted from £895 to £549.

 

Birds Custard Jug

Bird’s Custard is an iconic brand, and their well-known packaging design makes for a colourful 750 ml jug (£15.44). Perfect for gravy, sauces and custard, of course!

 

Premier Housewares Ella collection

A lot of people may suck their teeth at this but Pete and I often eat dinner on the sofa in front of the telly. We don’t have kids, and we certainly manage plenty of good conversation during our day, so catching up on recorded telly is our most common dinnertime activity. For ages I’ve been using a cushion with a tray balanced on top, but I was recently sent this Lap Tray from Premier Housewares Ella Collection (£12.60) instead – far more comfortable, not to mention much prettier! The matching Ella tea towel set (£10.17) has also caught my eye – such pretty patterns and colours.

 

SC measuring-jug SC mini-oval-dish_1 SC pasta_bowls-set_of_4 SC white-saucepan-large-and-small

I’m coveting much of the White Ceramics range available from Sophie Conran, especially the measuring jug, the mini oval roasting dish, the set of 4 pasta bowls and the white saucepans with their shiny handles.

 

Codlo with Slow Cooker adj

Another tool that I’ve absolutely loved using this year is clever Codlo, a superbly designed and nifty device that turns your slow cooker, rice cooker or other such cooking appliance into a bona fida sous vide water bath. We use our Codlo with our slow cooker and it performs extremely well, certainly a match for far more expensive and bulky options. The Codlo is priced at £119, available here and would make the perfect gift for an enthusiastic amateur cook keen to try with sous vide cooking.

 

NealsYardGeraniumOrange NealsYardRosePomegranate vitacocooil

Long hot soaky baths are one of my favourite things, and I’m a creature of habit when it comes to what gets added to my bath. Neal’s Yard Remedies Geranium & Orange Bath Oil and Rose & Pomegranate Bath Oil are both £15 for 100 ml and I adore both scents. I always add a teaspoon of Vita Coco Coconut Oil (£9.98 for 500ml) to my bath too, which makes it even more moisturising for my skin.

 

In Season bunny SP brain SP

I can’t resist the amusement value of these two Salt and Pepper Shaker sets from LazyBoneUK. The randy black and white bunny rabbit salt and pepper shaker set is £6.99 and the ghoulish brain halves salt and pepper shaker set is £19.99!

 

Barnaby and Co StudioPS green taped cup

A friend of mine recently set up a lovely new site called Barnaby & Co. specialising in modern homewares and quirky gifts from independent makers. My eye is on these darling green taped design ceramic cups by Dutch based duo Studio PS, £16 each but do browse the entire site as there are many lovely things.

 

prestat yuzu

One of the things I love about Prestat (quite apart from the deliciousness of their chocolates) is their gorgeous, vividly-coloured packaging – indeed it’s so pretty that it doesn’t really need wrapping – all you need to do is tie a ribbon and tag around it and it’s ready to go! My pick this year are these Yuzu Sake Truffles £12.50, which feature a yuzu and sake ganache filling inside a crisp dark chocolate shell dusted in icing sugar. Yuzu lovers will not be disappointed!

 

Bonieri 1 Bonieri 2

Similarly gorgeous packaging containing equally delicious treats within can be found at Bonieri, purveyors of fine Italian gianduja products featuring the Piedmont-grown ‘Tonda Gentile delle Langhe’ hazelnut. Here’s my review of a few of their products, earlier this year. My personal favourites are the Chocolate Covered Hazelnut Nougat (which I purchased more of as soon as I’d finished my samples!)

 

Wayfair Artland Peacock Wine Glass %28Set of 4%29 Wayfair Baci-Milano-Baroque-and-Rock-Acrylic-Water-Glass-BABRGWA.BAR Wayfair Sagaform-Atherstone-20-cL-Glass-SGF1850-SGF1851

I’ve recently been browsing the Wayfair site (and have written a post on Christmas edible gift ideas for them which should be up on their Inspirations blog soon). If you’re looking for some elegant, colourful glassware, they usually have some great designs available. The nature of their site means that stock and prices change regularly, so the exact products above may not be available – they are ones I’ve bookmarked in the last month.

 

Heston-Salter-Scales-(c)KavitaFavelle-8124

We’ve had a great year for discovering new appliances this year. One great kitchen tool that we use several times a week is the Salter Heston Blumenthal Dual Platform Precision Scale (£44.89)which we reviewed in March. It’s called Precision because that’s precisely what if offers, allowing you to weigh accurately in increments as small as 0.1 grams and up to a total weight of 10 kg, it’s a well-designed, attractive and very useful kitchen essential.

Other Heston for Sage appliances we’ve reviewed and been super impressed by are the Quick Touch Microwave £251.95 (my review here) and the Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker £299.95 (my reviews here and here).

 

sous chef fuchsia sous chef mimi sous chef maverick

One of the best resources for high quality ingredients and equipment for very keen cooks is the Sous Chef site, which I’ve recommended many times before. Perfect for Christmas are their Cooking Sets, each one contains one of the best recipe books on the cuisine plus a selection of core ingredients to get you started. On my wish list are MiMi Aye’s Noodle! cooking set (£22.50), the Fuchsia Dunlop Chinese cooking set (£39.50) and the Movida Spanish cooking set (£39.50). Any of the items in the Sous Chef Maverick Flavour range would also make a fantastic gift.

 

Carluccios choc coated digs Carluccios Gianduiotti Carluccios Pistachio Torrone

Anyone wanting to win my favour could do worse than treat me to one of these classic Italian delights from Carluccio’s! Chocolate coated figs £9.95, Gianduiotti Milk & Hazelnut Chocolates £8.95 and Pistachio Torrone £6.95.

 

Making Pourover Coffee in a Chemex Coffeemaker - Kavey Eats - © Kavita Favelle - 9093 withtext

In our house it’s Pete who is the more serious coffee drinker – I am happy enough with instant! But I did fall head over glassware for the beautiful Chemex coffee maker, which I was introduced to earlier this year. In this case, it’s the curvaceous waisted glass jug and the ritual of the process that appeals. Read my guide on How to Make Pour Over Coffee in a Chemex Coffee Maker and then buy your own 10-Cup Chemex (£48) or 6-Cup Chemex (£38.07).

 

alright duck hello chicken noths original_bejewelled-cotton-tea-towel noths original_magpie-tea-towel
noths original_poppies-tea-towel-purple noths original_poppies-tea-towel-red noths original_table-for-two-tea-towel noths original_tea-eye-test-linen-tea-towel
noths original_flamingos-and-pineapples-tea-towel noths original_kitchen-herbs-and-spices-gift-tea-towel noths original_english-tea-cake-tea-towel uw_robins_teatowel

I don’t know why I have such a fondness for tea towels since we’re firmly a dishwasher household and even when things are washed by hand, they’re usually left to drain rather than towel-dryed. And yet, I still covet tea towels with pretty patterns, pictures and sayings. Tesco Direct have lots of great designs from a variety of retail partners. My favourites include Hello Chicken £5.95 and Alright Duck £5.95. Not On The High Street have an amazing selection including my picks – Bejewelled design tea towel £7.50, Magpie tea towel £9, Poppies tea towel £4.50 (sale price), Table for Two tea towel £9.50, Tea Eye Test tea towel £7.50, Flamingos and pineapples tea towel £9.95, Herbs and Spices tea towel £6.95 and English Tea and Cake tea towel £9.95. Last but not least, I love this sweet robin tea towel by Ulster Weave £6.95.

 

anth fika stand 3 tier pink glass stand
artis cake stand anton cake stand

I want more cakes in my life! The coloured glass single level Fika cake stands from Anthropologie are £10 for the smaller size and available in orange, blue or green. Or check out these 2-tier and 3-tier pink glass stands from Premier Housewares, £9.99 and £15.97 respectively. Artis offer a modern square-plated, 3-tier stand for £19.99. Or lastly, I’m rather taken by this rectangular single stand from Anton in striking aqua blue, £15.60.

 

anth norse blue anth norse purple anth norse red

Anthropologie always have something to tempt me. Right now it’s these elegant Norse Glasses, available in blue, purple and red colour schemes for £12 each, oh and they’re dishwasher safe!

 

Flare Pan thermospatula

I told you last Christmas about these gorgeous Flare pans that were new in at Lakeland. Since then, we’ve put our 20 cm saucepan to frequent use and really love it. Although you’d be forgiven for assuming that these pans are all about their good looks, the unusual flared ridges adorning the sides of the pans are designed specifically to distribute heat from the flames of a gas hob evenly across the base and up the sides which heats up the contents of the pan more quickly. Designed by Oxford Professor Dr. Thomas Povey whose expertise is thermodynamics applied to advanced jet engine design, the pans are formed from cast aluminium with stainless steel handles. They can be used on electric, ceramic and halogen hobs too, but you won’t get the faster cooking that they provide on gas.

The other winner from Lakeland for us has been the Thermospatula £14.97 which is such a simple yet revolutionary idea – it combines a silicone spatula with a digital thermometer, making it so much easier to stir jam while still keeping an eye on the temperature. You can also slip the thermometer out from the spoon to use it on its own. We use this device a lot and wouldn’t go back to the clunky clip-on metal jam thermometers!

 

cezanne1 cezanne 3 cezanne 2
cezanne 4 cezanne 5 cezanne 6

Divertimenti currently have a sale on these Cezanne fruit mugs, £11.21 each.

 

That’s it for now, though I’ll be sharing some ideas for cookery books and favourite tipples in the next week or two. In the mean time, happy shopping! Need more ideas? Check out my previous years’ gift guides for more fun things!

 

Prices correct at time of publication. Where products are available from multiple online retailers, I’ve provided a link to one retailer, usually Amazon if available. Some of the links are affiliate links (please see sidebar for more information), which means that I will receive a small commission for any purchases made. Where I list a product I have tried, this means I genuinely love and recommend the product. There are also many items in the list that I do not own / have not tried personally but which appeal to me as a shopper and which I think would make great gifts.

 

One of the classic signs that Christmas has come to Kavey Eats is our annual Hotel Chocolat Giveaway! As always, Hotel Chocolat’s Christmas Collection is bursting with delicious treats, beautifully packaged and perfect to give away or keep for yourself.

This year’s design is a very elegant with lots of white accented by silver, gold and red.

As always, Hotel Chocolat have kindly let me choose my personal picks for this giveaway, and here are the three wonderful prizes on offer.

260739-wreath-box

For the first prize winner I’ve selected this gorgeous prize. I love the design of this Christmas Wreath Box with it’s striking snowflake decoration and big red ribbon. Inside is even better, containing 43 truffles, a chunky cookie wreath and two large chocolate snowflakes, one in salted caramel chocolate and the other in 85% dark chocolate.

310321-cookie-caramel-wreath-large

It’s all about wreaths for me this year – as I’ve chosen this Festive Wreath for second prize. Moulded from Hotel Chocolat’s 50% milk chocolate and studded with cocoa biscuits, shortbread biscuits and caramelised Florentine squares, it’s a perfect edible centre piece.

260773-marzipan-autumn-box

For the third prize, I’ve indulged my love for marzipan with this lovely Marzipan Box.

GIVEAWAY

It’s my pleasure to share this Hotel Chocolat giveaway with readers of Kavey Eats!

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 2 ways – entering in both ways gives you double the chance of winning!

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing your favourite story about decorating the Christmas tree.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win @HotelChocolat Christmas prizes from Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/KaveyEatsHC2015 #KaveyEatsHC2015
(Do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS
  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Wednesday 9th December 2014.
  • The 3 winners will be selected from all valid entries (across blog comments and twitter) using a random number generator. The first name selected will win the first prize. The second name selected will win the second prize. The third name selected will win the third prize.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • First prize is Hotel Chocolat’s Christmas Wreath Box. Second prize is a Hotel Chocolat’s Cookie Caramel Festive Wreath. Third prize is Hotel Chocolat’s Marzipan Box. Each prize includes delivery within the UK.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Hotel Chocolat.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter both ways but you do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. Blog comment entries must provide a valid name and email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email or Twitter so please make sure you check your accounts for the notification message. If no response is received from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.
Dec 242014
 

xmas2014

Christmas Market in Cathedral Square, Vilnius

 

I shared my pick of books already. Here’s the rest of my Christmas Gift Guide 2014.

Bordallo Pinheiro Melon Bowls

These gorgeously shaped and coloured Melon bowls, designed by Portuguese artist, Rafael Bordallo Pinheiro, are available in two sizes, 15 cm and 25 cm (£18.50 / £36.50). Bordallo’s pumpkin and orange designs are also lovely, but the melon ones are my favourite. Buy from Divertimenti.

 

Sous Chef Gift Sets

SC World Pepper SC Sakura Sake Set
SC Chinese Mooncake SC Fig Mostarda

It’s too hard to narrow down to just one; Sous Chef offer so many tempting gift sets which are just ideal for food and drink lovers this Christmas. My picks are the World Pepper Selection (£19.50), the Deluxe Sakura Sake Set (£39.50), the Chinese Mooncake Recipe Kit (£15) [why hasn’t anyone bought me this????] and a jar of fig mostarda (£8.50).

And don’t forget this Korean yuzu tea (£3.50), from which I made the most incredible (and easy) yuzu ice cream.

 

Lakeland Thermospatula

Thermospatula

I was ridiculously excited when I saw this at Lakeland’s preview show this summer. The Thermospatula is a silicone spatula and digital thermometer combined; no more awkwardness stirring the jam without dislodging the metal jam thermometer clipped insecurely to the side of the pan. The thermometer can be slipped out of the spatula and used on its own too – doubly handy. It’s really such a simple idea and one that’s utterly brilliant! I use mine to make jams and chutneys but it will also be very useful for those of you who temper chocolate at home. Buy Lakeland’s Thermospatula (£14.99), here.

 

Porto Sippers

sippers1 sippers2

At one of the feast dinners that are a highlight of the Oxford Food Symposium I sat next to a gentleman who delighted in showing us his nifty little sipper glass, designed to let you drink from the bottom of the glass where the fuller flavours are unchanged by the oxidisation on the surface. I don’t know how much of a difference this makes, but it was were certainly a talking point and I imagine the tulip shape collects the aromas affectively too. Drinkstuff sell a Decanter and Sippers set (currently £19.99) or a pair of sippers (currently £7.50).

 

Froothie Optimum 9400 Blender

Courgette-BlueCheese-Soup-KaveyEats--(c)-KFavelle-7057 Courgette-BlueCheese-Soup-KaveyEats--(c)-KFavelle-7069

I’ve fallen hard for my fabulous new power blender and it’s been getting a lot of use during the last few months. We’ve made delicious soups, the smoothest custard bases for ice cream and quick fresh-fruit sorbets and we’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do. The Vitamix brand is better known in the UK, but this Australian power blender has a more powerful motor (which gives it a higher top RPM), a super sharp 6 blade assembly, a single jug for wet and dry, runs more quietly and is just a little over half the price of the Vitamix Pro 500. I hope it goes without saying that I would never recommend a product I didn’t wholeheartedly believe in; freebies don’t change that. I genuinely love my Optimum 9400 and can’t imagine making soups, custards or smoothies without it! As part of the ambassador campaign, I am able to offer readers an additional 2 years warranty free of charge on any Optimum appliance purchased via this (affiliate) link, and using the coupon code “Special Ambassador Offer” on checkout.

 

Straw Salt and Pepper Shakers

straw SP straw3 SP

I like the elegant simplicity of these straw-shaped salt and pepper shakers, £24 from Hidden Art. They can be propped up in a glass, laid flat alongside the cutlery and easily stored away in a drawer.

 

Star Wars Lookalites

starwarslookalites

These officially licensed “Stumpy Stormtrooper” and “Dumpy Darth Vader” table lamps are £19.99 each from Firebox. I know quite a few adults who’d love these as much as the kids might!

 

Carluccio’s

carluccios1 carluccios2 carluccios3
carluccios4 carluccios5 carluccios6

Carluccio’s always tempt me with their sweet Christmas treats. This year, my favourites are the Meringhe di Gianduja (£9.95), Fichi al Rhum (£6.95), Ricciarelli almond cakes (£9.95), Lunettes d’Arancia (£6.95), Pistachio torrone (£6.95) and sponge cakes in Limoncello syrup (£6.95).

 

Tetris Cookie Cutters

tetriscookies

Also from Firebox are these Tetris cookie cutters. I first came across the idea on an American custom cookie maker website but they were too expensive, so I was happy to spot that this set is just £6.99.

 

Nutural World Nut Butters

Nut-Butter-Biscuits-KaveyEats-(c)KFavelle-6844

I met Mordechai Chachamu earlier this year and have been hugely impressed by his range of all-natural nut butters, which he sells under his brand Nutural World. The nuts and seeds are lightly toasted to bring out their flavours before being processed and bottled – no additives at all. Gorgeous flavours. Buy online at Nutural World.

 

Bananagrams

bananagrams

The perfect word game for any age group, Bananagrams (£10.59 from Amazon) comes in a handy pouch for travelling.

 

Nesting Babushkups

babushkups

These three matryoshka-decorated glass cups nest, like a Russian doll set. £12.50 from CubicUK.

 

Adagio Teas Samurai Sampler Set

Adagio-Teas-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9659

Check out my recent post on Adagio’s Sampler Sets, a lovely way to try a range of teas and the perfect gift for tea lovers. I recommend the Samurai Sampler Set at £9.

 

Let’s Cook Okonomiyaki

okonomiyakiset

Japan Centre has lots of food kits for anyone with an interest in Japanese food. This okonomiyaki kit is £16 and includes okonomiyaki flour, powdered seaweed, kewpie mayonnaise, pancake sauce, tempura flakes, pickled ginger and a recipe.

 

Fabulous Pong Cheese

PongCheeseXmas2014-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9608

I’ve been sharing Pong Cheese with readers for a while now. How can anyone resist the allure of top quality cheese available by online order? Their Pong Christmas Explorer Box is £29.95, and of course you can browse their other collections or choose cheeses individually. Enter PONGKAVEY10 into the Discount Code box during checkout for 10% off your order (excluding delivery); valid till December 31st 2014.

 

T-Rex Meat Cuts

Trex

I can’t find this fabulous art print by Victor Calahan for sale via a UK website, but here it is for US $19 from Society6 in California, and the website is currently offering (at time of writing) free international shipping!

 

Master of Malt

drinks-by-the-dram-christmas-crackers GinMonkey_AHistoryOfGin_TastingSet

I love Master Of Malt and have bought a fair few gifts for Pete over the years, as have family and friends. Their Drinks by the Dram Christmas Crackers are available from their own site or from Amazon. Despite the name, Master of Malt are not just about whisky either – check out this History of Gin Tasting Set (£18.95) and this Premium Rum Tasting Set (£22.95).

 

Hotel Chocolat Christmas Range

Christmas Collection-2 Mini Stocking Truffle Xmas Tree
HC Butterscotch puddles HC Mulled Sultanas HC-mini-hazelnut-buche

I’ve already shared some of my favourites from this year’s Hotel Chocolat Christmas range, in my annual competition (closed) in which I gave away The Christmas Collection (£35), The Christmas Truffle Tree (£26) and the Dinky Christmas Stocking (£10). I can also recommend the mulled wine sultanas in chocolate (£8), the butterscotch puddles (£5.50) and the mini hazelnut yule logs (£3).

 

Lakeland Flare Pans

Flare Pan Flare Pot

I was drawn to these as soon as I saw them – on an aesthetic level alone they are absolutely beautiful; however, this new range have been developed for much more than their sleek sci-fi looks. The unusual flared ridges adorning the sides of the pans are designed specifically for use on a gas hob; they distribute the heat evenly across the base and up the sides which heats up the contents of the pan more quickly. Designed by Oxford Professor Dr. Thomas Povey whose expertise is thermodynamics applied to advanced jet engine design, the pans are formed from cast aluminium with stainless steel handles. They can be used on electric, ceramic and halogen hobs too, but you won’t get the faster cooking that they provide on gas. I love my Flare 20 cm saucepan (£64.99) but I’ve yet to do side-by-side comparisons with a regular pan to put this “fin-x” technology to the test. Regardless, it’s a gorgeous thing.

 

Moby Picks

mobypicks

Yes, I admit, I picked these purely for the punny name! Moby Picks, £12.90 from CubicUK.

 

Niederegger Marzipan

Niederegger fruits niederegger lovers box

This is another gift I hope to see under my tree every single year. Niederegger is the king of marzipan and whether you pick up this box of pretty marzipan fruits (£6.99 from Lakeland, or from Amazon) or a collection of different flavoured marzipans (500 grams £19.99 from Lakeland, 400 grams £18.99 from Amazon)

 

Melamine Children’s Plates

Blue_Monster_Plate Green_Robot_Plate Princess_Blue_Plate
Yellow_Robot_Plate Princess_Green_Plate Green_Monster_Plate

How cute are these melamine plates by French Bull, available for £5 each from Designed in Colour?

 

Snow Globe Salt and Pepper Shakers

gamagosnowglobeSP cactus shakers

These white and black bear snow globe salt and pepper shakers look so much fun! £10.99 from Amazon or £9.99 from LazyboneUK. Or how about hot and cold climate pine tree and cactus shakers, £14.99 from CubicUK?

 

Doki Ramen Bowls

doki1 doki2
doki3 doki4

I love Doki’s range of Japanese tableware. Choose from their great selection of ramen bowls and other products.

 

Drinks List

leffe nectar kingsginger appleicewine harveys-pedro-ximenez-30-year-old-sherry
brownbrothersorangemuscat morrisonssigPX asdatasgall redemption-bigchief

Last but not least, here’s a selection of delicious drinks to warm you up this Christmas.

As if that weren’t enough, many of the gifts I suggested last year are still available, including the mammoth selection of tea towels!
Likewise, you may find inspiration in 2012’s gift guide too.
The same goes for my guide to tasty alcoholic tipples for the sweet-toothed.

My gift guide does not include any sponsored suggestions – I list only items that appeal to me personally. I came across some items at Christmas preview events and have also been provided review samples to test a few. The rest I found while browsing online stores. Links to Amazon, Froothie, Lakeland and Master of Malt are affiliate links. Please see affiliate box in sidebar.

 

I’ve been a little slow in assembling my Christmas Gift Guide this year, so I’ll share it in instalments. Here’s the first; for lovers of books.

Noodle! by MiMi Aye

Noodle!

I’ll preface this recommendation with the statement that the author, MiMi Aye, is a friend of mine so, of course, I wish her book to do well. Especially as it may result in a second book deal that allows her to share all her fabulous Burmese recipes, which would be a real treat for all of us. But I’m recommending her book because it’s a corker – it’s absolutely full of very delicious noodle recipes, all of them clearly written and easy to follow. Everyone who’s cooked from it agrees, including BigSpud who’s worked his way through 30 of them already!

I reviewed the book for my regular Worth Its Salt column in Good Things magazine and asked MiMi for a few recommendations. To impress guests she suggested Tonkotsu Ramen (“looks amazing and tastes wonderful”); she recommended Spicy Lemongrass Beef Noodles for those feeling poorly; for a quick supper Ham, Pea and Pea Shoot Noodles is ready in minutes; for comfort food she chose Coconut Chicken Noodles (“a hug in a bowl!”); and if you’re stuck in the house she noted that her Persian Noodle Soup can be made with store cupboard ingredients.

The book should appeal to both novice and advanced cooks alike. For the former, Teriyaki Salmon Noodles and Pork Patties with Noodles & Herbs are both simple and straightforward. For those ready to take on more, recipes like Cheung Fun and Vegetable Soup with Hand-pulled Noodles involve making noodles from scratch.

You can buy a personalised, signed copy of Noodle! directly from MiMi here or purchase from Amazon, here.

 

Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara

Worth-it-Salt-Everday-Harumi

This book was published back in 2009 but I didn’t get a copy until last year (though it was on my Christmas wishlist back in 2012!) Harumi Kurihara is one of Japan’s foremost culinary authors and has created a hugely successful business in Japan selling not only cookery books but also magazines, TV shows, a line of kitchenware and she even has a chain of shops, restaurants and cafés.

Everyday Harumi is the third of Kurihara’s books to be published in English but it’s the first book she has researched and written in England; she wanted to understand the British way of shopping, eating and cooking to ensure that her recipes were realistic and accessible for non-Japanese cooks.

Harumi starts by introducing the store cupboard essentials, the ingredients she feels are at the heart of Japanese home cooking. Most of them appears in multiple recipes; indeed one of the things I love about the book is realising how much variety can be achieved by combining the essential ingredients in different ways. Next are instructions to cook rice, make dashi stock and some recipes for sauces and pastes referenced later in the book. And then come the recipes… Steak in a Miso Marinade, Tsukune with Teriyaki Sauce, Scallops with Nori Seaweed, Udon Noodles with a Minced Meat Miso Sauce, Tofu Salad with a Sesame Dressing, Egg Drop Soup, Lightly Cooked Spinach with Soy Sauce, Japanese Coleslaw Salad and Aubergine in Spicy Sauce.

One of the big pluses of the book for me is that most of the dishes are really well suited to tasty mid-week evening meals, when speed and simplicity are a priority.

You can buy Everyday Harumi from Amazon, here

 

Plenty & Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

ottolenghi plenty ottolenghi plentymore

I’m late to the party when it comes to Ottolenghi. Of course, I’ve been aware of his cooking for some time, and Plenty has been on my wishlist since it was first published. Recently, I got my hands on both Plenty and follow-up title Plenty More and can’t wait to start cooking from both. I’ve been poring through both books in the last few weeks and bookmarking a frankly ridiculous number of recipes to try as soon as I’ve some free time in the kitchen.

I’ll be sharing a proper review in the months to come, but in the meantime, here are Amazon links to buy Plenty and Plenty More.

 

Do-Head Christmas by James Ramsden

doaheadchristmas

We’re having a lazy Christmas this year, just us and one of Pete’s sisters and we’ve agreed to enjoy a simple but tasty roast dinner, lots of shop-bought snacks, and sitting around under blankets on the sofa watching telly or reading. So I might save James’ Do-Ahead Christmas for next year, when I need clever ways to prepare some of the Christmas feasting in advance.

Having attended James’ popular supperclub, I know he’s had plenty of practice working out all the best tricks when catering to a large group in a domestic setting.

Buy Do-Ahead Christmas from Amazon, here.

 

Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji

japanesecooking

This book has been on my personal wishlist for a few years, since the publication of the 25th anniversary edition in 2012. I finally bought it this year and am so pleased I did; it’s a fabulous reference book – the definitive reference book, I’d say. If you have an interest in traditional Japanese cooking, this book should be on your bookshelf. Full review to come, next year.

Buy Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art from Amazon, here

 

Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties by Kevin Gascoyne

tea

One that’s currently on my own wishlist (hint, hint!) is the recently published second edition of this book about the history and varieties of tea.

It’s available on Amazon, here.

 

Slow Cooked by Miss South

slowcooked

Another book by a friend and another genuine recommendation. We love our slow cooker but I’m the first to acknowledge that we aren’t very adventurous when it comes to what we cook in it. Beyond curries, stews, jacket potatoes and overnight chicken stock, we need a bit of inspiration to make better use of it. In this book, Miss South, author of successful blog North South Food, shares over 200 slow cooker recipes for all kinds of dishes.

Read my review, here. Buy the book on Amazon, here.

 

You can also find some great gift ideas in my previous guides, though of course, some items may no longer be available:

The Amazon links above are affiliate links. This means that I receive a tiny commission for purchases via the links.

 

Every year, I’ve had great fun choosing prizes from Hotel Chocolat’s Christmas Gifts range to giveaway to readers. This year, the choice was just as hard, as there’s so many tempting products that it’s hard to narrow down to three fabulous prizes.

I’ve chosen a Collection box jam-packed with goodies, the impressive Christmas Truffle Tree, which I think would make a lovely dessert centrepiece, and the adorable red and white stocking filled with moulded chocolates.

Christmas Collection Christmas Collection-2

The Christmas Collection is a generous selection of Hotel Chocolat treats. It contains an H-Box of Christmas Chocolates, a bag of Butterscotch Puddles, the Dasher’s Dream slab, a Hazelnut Bûche and 6 Christmas Eton Mess truffles.

Truffle Xmas Tree Truffle Xmas Tree-2

The Christmas Truffle Tree is a rather impressive solid chocolate centre piece. The alternating layers are 50% milk praline feuilletine chocolate and sea salted caramel chocolate. On top are baubles of milk, vanilla white and dark chocolate.

Mini Stocking Mini Stocking-2

The rather sweet Dinky Christmas Stocking has a ribbon hook to hang it up on the tree, mantelpiece or a bedpost and is filled with caramel chocolate presents, milk chocolate santas and white chocolate bells.

COMPETITION

It’s my pleasure to give away these three prizes to readers of Kavey Eats!

  • First prize is Hotel Chocolat’s Christmas Collection (£35).
  • Second prize is a Hotel Chocolat Christmas Truffle Tree (£26).
  • Third prize is a Hotel Chocolat Dinky Christmas Stocking (£10)
  • Each prize includes delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways – the more ways you enter, the higher your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing your favourite story about wrapping or unwrapping presents.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win @HotelChocolat Christmas prizes from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/DzymeS #KaveyEatsHotelChocolat

(Do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

Entry 3 – Instagram
Share an image of your favourite Christmassy wrapping paper (opened out, not rolled up!) via your Instagram feed. In the caption include my username
@Kaveyf and the hashtag #KaveyEatsHotelChocolat.

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 5th December 2014.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The 3 winners will be selected from all valid entries (across blog, twitter and instagram) using a random number generator. The first name selected will win the first prize. The second name selected will win the second prize. The third name selected will win the third prize.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • First prize is Hotel Chocolat’s  Christmas Collection. Second prize is a Hotel Chocolat Christmas Truffle Tree. Third prize is a Hotel Chocolat Dinky Christmas Stocking. Each prize includes delivery within the UK.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Hotel Chocolat.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Instagram entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but you do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Instagram entries, winners must be following @Kaveyf at the time of notification. Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Instagram so please make sure you check your accounts for the notification message. If no response is received from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats attended the Hotel Chocolat Christmas preview event and received samples of items in the range.

Winners: 1st prize KellyJo Walters (blog entry), 2nd prize Anna Ibbotson (blog entry), 3rd prize @loeby (twitter entry).

 

Like many in the UK, I celebrate Christmas as a purely cultural tradition. Although I am interested in the origins of the ways we celebrate, it’s about history rather than religious significance for me.

On a religious level, Advent is a period of anticipation; indeed the word itself comes from adventus; Latin for “coming” and marks the weeks of preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus and looking ahead to his second coming. It is also the beginning of the liturgical year – that is the Christian calendar that determines the dates of various feast and fast days, celebrations of Saints and other observances.

For me, a nostalgia-loving Humanist, Advent is all about Advent calendars, and the ones I love best are chocolate ones! Who can resist the nearly-month-long ritual of finding the right number, carefully opening the door and revealing that day’s chocolate inside?

Twenty years ago, I was happy with a really cheap version; a couple of quid in Woollies (RIP) and I was sorted. But over the last couple of decades, my chocolate tastes have changed enormously and the really cheap stuff – more sugar and vegetable fat than actual cocoa content – just doesn’t cut it. The first time I bought a Hotel Chocolat advent some years ago, it felt outrageously expensive (and compared to my Woollies ones it was!). But nowadays, I’m happier to spend more on quality chocolate and I’ve also realised that £12.50 for a box of 24 tasty chocolates is actually perfectly reasonable.

300391_Christmas 2014_Advent to share 300391_Christmas 2014_Advent to share-2

Hotel Chocolat’s Advent Calendar to Share (£26) is a rather charming way of sharing the advent fun without having to share the chocolate treat. I think of it as a Couple’s Advent Calendar but of course, it would work for siblings or friends too, as long as they don’t mind taking turns to open the door! Behind each window are two baby truffles and there are a range of flavours to find including simple milk and dark truffles, salted caramel, gingerbread, almond and nutmeg, cinnamon, raspberry and hibiscus, and mulled wine.

300393_Christmas 2014_Advent_DARK 300393_Christmas 2014_Advent_DARK-1

For those who don’t want to share, Hotel Chocolat’s one-person Advent Calendars (£12.50) come in dark, milk or white chocolate versions. Behind each door is a cute moulded chocolate sculpture.

COMPETITION

I have two prizes to giveaway to Kavey Eats readers!

  • First prize is a Hotel Chocolat Advent Calendar to Share.
  • Second prize is a Hotel Chocolat Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar.
  • Each prize includes delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways – the more ways you enter, the higher your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing your favourite way of enjoying chocolate at Christmas.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win @HotelChocolat Advent Calendars from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/80jVag #KaveyEatsHCAdvent
(Do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

Entry 3 – Instagram
Share an image of your favourite Christmas Tree decoration via your Instagram feed. In the caption include my username @Kaveyf and the hashtag #KaveyEatsHCAdvent.

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 14th November, 2014.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The 2 winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator. The first name selected will win the first prize. The second name selected will win the second prize.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • First prize is a Hotel Chocolat Advent Calendar to Share and second prize is a Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar. Free delivery within the UK is included.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Hotel Chocolat.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Instagram entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but you do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Instagram entries, winners must be following @Kaveyf at the time of notification. Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Instagram so please make sure you check your accounts for the notification message. If no response is received from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats attended the Hotel Chocolat Christmas preview event and received samples of items in the range.
Winner of the first prize is Nikki Greene (blog comment). Winner of the second prize is @CaffeineCatty (twitter).

Dec 232013
 

MerryXmas2013-4470-TEXT

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