The Kavey Eats Pete Drinks Christmas Gin Guide

I came late to gin. Very late. In my early forties in fact.

For years and years (and years and years) I thought I didn’t like gin but it turns out I just don’t like tonic – or at least, not the big brand stuff that’s most prevalent. It wasn’t until I tried a Gin & Tonic made with one of the new generation of mixers that I had my revelation. I bloody love gin! And I like it even better neat – preferably chilled or served over ice.

I have a whopping twenty five ginless years to catch up on!

And catching up is exactly what I’ve been doing by going on a gin crusade to try as many brands of gin as I can. I’ve quickly come to favour many smaller brands – less focused on producing an appeal-to-the-masses product, they are more adventurous with the botanicals they use, their methods of production and even with their base spirit! In fact some of the bigger brands are now realising the appeal of more unusual flavours and producing some of their own small batch offerings.

Here, Pete and I share some of the great gins we’ve been tasting (and where you can find them). Please note that this post includes Amazon affiliate links.

Sacred Original, Christmas Pudding, Cardamom & Pink Grapefruit Gins

Sacred_Gin Sacred_Christmas_Pudding Sacred_Cardamom_Gin Sacred_Pink_Grapefruit_Gin

Sacred Gin are the very definition of a small batch craft gin brand. Made in their family home in Highgate (North London) by husband and wife team Ian and Hilary Whitney, Sacred is also our most local gin distillery! And I love the story behind the brand.

A keen gin enthusiast, Ian had long thought about creating his own London gin right in the heart of London and in 2008 he started experimenting. An interest in science lead him to turn traditional gin production on its head by using vacuum distillation rather than a traditional pot still. As vacuum distillation occurs at a much lower temperature (35-45°C) than pot distillation (85-95°C), the flavours from the distilled botanicals are much fresher and richer in flavour. Experimenting with different botanicals – some well known and others more obscure – Ian created recipe after recipe, which he shared with friends at a local pub. The enthusiasm for his 23rd experiment persuaded him that he’d found a winning recipe. Containing 12 botanicals including juniper, cardamom, nutmeg, it was the more unusual Boswellia Sacra (aka frankincense), that resulted in the distillery’s name. And it’s supplied by the Sultan of Oman, no less!

Ian continues to collect and experiment with unusual botanicals – such as buddleia, oak bark and lemon verbena – and has created a range of spirits including Spiced English Vermouth (made from English wine from Chapel Down in Kent plus 24 botanicals), Rosehip Cup (a fruity alternative to Campari) and Bottle-Aged Negroni.

However it’s the Sacred range of gins that interest us. As well as the original Sacred Gin (and an organic version), there are 7 additional gins focusing on a particular key botanical. So far we’ve tried the original Sacred Gin plus their, Cardamom Gin, Pink Grapefruit Gin and Orris Root Gin.

They also have a fantastic seasonal gin in the range that is absolutely perfect for Christmas – their Christmas Pudding Gin. This is not just a case of throwing in a few pudding ingredients, oh no! Ian makes a whopping 14 kilos of Christmas pudding (to his Great Aunt Nellie’s recipe) before macerated them with grain spirit and distilling them into a Christmas Pudding Gin. This is definitely the one to buy as an unusual Christmas gift for the gin lovers in your life.

Tasting Notes: Although we enjoyed all of the Sacred Gins we tasted, our favourite was definitely the Christmas Pudding Gin. From the moment you smell the enormously evocative Christmas pudding aroma, you know you are in for a treat. On the palate, Pete picked up sweet dried fruits and a touch of maltiness. For me it was a revelation to taste the pure flavours of Christmas pudding without any of the sweetness – I loved the brandy notes, dried fruits and nuts and a wonderful warm spiciness.

For cardamom lovers, the Cardamom gin offers a clean and very punchy hit of that most aromatic of spices. Pink Grapefruit provides a sweet and gentle citrus aroma and flavour, a mild juniper note and some peppery alcohol heat in the finish. Orris root is the choice for those who love their bitters – there’s an almost violet-like bitterness on the finish that works very well. The Original is also well worth trying – it has light citrus and lime on the nose and delicious fruitiness and juniper on the tongue. If you want to buy someone a gift set of gins from a single producer, this is a great choice though we wouldn’t say no to a bottle of their Christmas gin on its own!

Stockists: Buy from Sacred’s online shop. Also stocked by North Hill Food and Wine, Prohibition Wines in Fortis Green, and Gerry’s Wine and Spirits on Old Compton St in Soho.

 

Harrogate Tipple’s Harrogate Gin

Harrogate Gin and Bag

Harrogate Tipple founder Steven Green launched his Harrogate Gin just last month, naming it for its use of Harrogate spring water, botanicals from RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate and a wildflower honey also produced locally.  The gin itself was developed by Tom Nichol (formerly the master distiller for Tanqueray, and the recipient of a lifetime award by The Gin Guild) and once all the permits come through, it will be made in an old smokehouse in the centre of Harrogate, lovingly restored by Steven and wife Sally, to create a home for their new distillery.

Donnie the otter, who declares the bottle to be ‘otterly delicious’ was chosen as the mascot for Harrogate Tipple because the Greens wanted to highlight the plight of this increasingly rare animal; they also donate 5 pence from the sale of every bottle to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which encourages the growth of a healthy otter population by creating suitable habitats for them.

Tasting Notes: The inclusion of lavender and pink grapefruit in the botanicals gives Harrogate gin a lovely aroma which reminds Pete of breakfast grapefruit. It has a spiciness to the nose, and clear juniper aroma. On the palate I find it rich, sweet and herby and very smooth. We both note a lack of bitterness in the finish, making it an ideal gin for those who aren’t fond of bitter tipples.

Stockists: You can buy Harrogate Gin online here. For those living in or near Harrogate, you can also find the gin in Weetons.

 

Rocklands Colombo Seven

Colombo Gin Bottle

Like others below, Rockland’s Colombo Seven is a historical gin recipe revived, and I love the story behind it as much as the gin itself.

Back in the days of the British Raj, British Excise offers did not believe that a good quality London Gin could be produced outside of the UK. In Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), a young Asian distiller called Carl de Silva Wijeyeratne decided to prove them wrong. Having founded Rockland to produce arrak in 1924, he went ahead and developed a gin which was very well received. Indeed, new regulations were drafted to allow gin to be made in Ceylon for the first time, under the label of Ceylon Made Foreign Liquor.

During the second world war, it became difficult to obtain foreign-grown spices, so Carl created a new recipe focusing on ingredients that could be grown in Colombo’s Cinnamon Gardens with only juniper and angelica root brought in from overseas. However, once the war was over and trade routes reopened, this original recipe was abandoned for a return to a more traditional London dry gin.

Two years ago, Carl’s grandson Amal de Silva Wijeyeratne – the present day MD of Rockland – decided to revive that war time recipe as a new brand. Colombo Seven is that modern-day recreation of Carl’s uniquely Sri Lankan gin. The economy has made business in Sri Lanka very challenging in the last few decades, so this seems a lovely way to focus on past achievements and to celebrate his grandfather, mentor and greatest friend.

As the name suggests, Colombo Seven uses just seven botanicals; the primary four are juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica and liquorice root, with additional flavours from Sri Lankan cinnamon bark, curry leaves and ginger root. These last ingredients are what make the recipe uniquely Sri Lankan.

The label is decorated with a beautifully drawn gaja-singha – an ancient mythical beast with the head of an elephant to symbolise wisdom and the body of a lion to represent courage and strength. In the case of Colombo Seven, this echoes the wisdom of that original Ceylonese pioneer and his courage in using ingredients that were not the norm.

Tasting Notes: Both of us liked the wonderfully mellow and balanced aroma, nothing harsh, everything nicely melded together. On the palate Pete enjoyed lots of citrus and a pleasant fruitiness. For me I really liked the hint of cinnamon spice followed by a sweet and floral aftertaste. We both found this gin fabulously smooth making it a great choice for those who like their gin neat or on the rocks.

Stockists: You can buy Colombo Seven gin online from Amazon, Gin Box Shop, The Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt and others.

 

Masons Dry Yorkshire Gin

Masons_gin_range

The first gin made in Yorkshire, Masons Dry Yorkshire Gin is a London Gin (distilled together with its botanicals). Like several in this gift guide, it has a lovely back story about how it came to be made.

A few years ago, Karl Mason sent his wife a message via Facebook asking her to have a G&T ready for him when he got home from work. In response to the post, other friends started sharing photos of themselves enjoying a G&T and thus a Facebook group was born – one which resonated with the wider public and had 10,000 followers within a year.

Before long, gin companies started to send Karl samples to promote to that audience. And he started to realise that many of the gins he was trying tasted the same. He wondered if he could create a new gin that tasted distinctly different from the rest. That question resulted in the development of Yorkshire’s first gin, launched on World Gin Day in 2013.

The Lavender Edition and the Tea Edition followed two years later, launched to coincide with Masons second birthday last June. For the first, Yorkshire-grown lavender is added to the classic Masons botanicals. For the second it’s Taylors of Harrogate’s finest loose leaf tea – I know at least one gin and tea lover for whom this would make the perfect gift!

Tasting Notes: All three Masons gins are bottled at 42% and a fiery kick of alcohol is evident in each one. The regular gin has a really wonderful complex aroma with citrus and juniper registering first, followed by warm sweet notes. On the palate we both pick up lots and lots of cardamom, sweet citrus, juniper and a peppery heat. In the tea gin, Pete finds it easier to pick out the aroma of a milky ‘builders tea’ than I do, and likewise on the palate, he detects the tannin of black tea. For both of us, the cardamom that’s front and forward in the regular gin comes through clearly in the tea version. The Lavender gin also has that cardamom aroma and flavour, joined by a lightly medicinal lavender that also brings some perfume aroma.

Stockists: Online you can buy 70cl bottles of all three Masons gins from Amazon, or both 70cl and 20cl from their website. They are also stocked by a range of stores, check their site for the full list.

 

55 Above Orange Gin

55 above orange_gin_70

Alan Gilchrist launched 55 Above in 2014 with a range of small batch vodkas distilled in a copper pot but it wasn’t long before he branched out to make gin. The brand name is a reflection of Alan’s Scottish heritage and refers to Scotland’s latitude above 55° North.

When I tasted the Orange Gin, I was blown away by the zingy hit of citrus. Alan combines juniper and other classic botanicals with tangerine, Seville orange and lemon zests plus coriander, bay leaf, and macadamia nuts, to create this punchy gin. I like it on it’s own but it’s also a winner in a classic G&T and would work superbly in a range of cocktails.

Tasting Notes: Pete and I really pick out different smells for this one – for me it’s sugar and citrus whereas for him it’s pith and peel. On the palate, it’s a huge and enjoyable citrus hit – neither sweet nor bitter, it’s a clean smooth orange flavour. It’s lovely on its own but we think it’d be an absolute cracker for gin cocktails too.

Stockists: Buy 55 Above Orange Gin from Amazon or directly from the 55 Above shop.

 

Zymurgorium Manchester Gin

zym-manchester-gin

This one scores on taste, brand name and the story behind it – all three make me smile.

Several years ago, when founder Aaron Darke went to uni in Aberystwyth he decided to undertake that classic student hobby – homebrewing. Unlike most students, the first drink he made wasn’t a boring beer but a Gorse flower mead. The hobby quickly became an obsession and Arron experimented with cider, beer, wine, sake as well as more mead. Next came the art of distillation. At this point, his brother Callum and their father came onboard, helping to create a still made from a pressure cooker and some copper piping.

After graduating from university, Aaron continued to make spirits and established his brand name as Zymurgorium – a portmanteau of zymurgy (the scientific study of brewing and distilling) and emporium. In 2014, Aaron won a competition for new entrepeneurs run by the Carnegie UK trust, resulting in a grant of  £10,000. This allowed the Darke brothers to take their business full time, since when they’ve created an ever-increasing portfolio of inventive and tasty drinks.

Their Original Manchester Gin is distilled from mead and takes additional flavour from over 20 botanicals including cardamom, ginger and bayleaf – earning it the nickname of the pilau rice gin! Indeed, it’s name reflects the concept of representing via the botanicals the wide culinary range of Manchester’s population. The bottle shape is based on a traditional genever bottle, glazed in black and adorned with a ‘retro-modern’ label.

Also worth trying are the range of gin liqueurs which are perfect for cocktails. The violet one is a must for lovers of Parma Violet sweets! For each one, a unique gin is distilled with its own blend of botanicals to balance with the headline flavour.

Tasting Notes: When we tasted this gin, neither of us had yet seen the reference to pilau rice, so it was quite a shock to given that my notes on the aroma of Manchester gin read ‘very punchy aromas, lots of spices, a hint of medicinal, kind of like pilau rice’! On the palate, that still holds true – the cardamom comes through clearly but the other spices are clearly present too – it’s a wonderfully rounded spice-heavy gin. For Pete, that cardamom makes it a less appealing choice, though he likes the almost menthol-like cooling effect on the tongue. Although the obvious suggestion is to pair this gin with Indian food, I suspect that would hide the amazing flavours. Try it neat over ice to appreciate the unusual flavour profile.

Stockists: Buy online at Amazon or the Zymurgorium shop. See here for additional stockists.

 

Gin Lane 1751 London Dry Gin

Gin Lane 1751 Royal Stength Dry Martini Gin Lane 1751 full range

Another relative newcomer to the market, Gin Lane 1751 launched last summer – a collaboration between Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers, and The Bloomsbury Club – a group of gin lovers and industry professionals. The brand is named to mark the Gin Act of 1751, which was somewhat motivated by reaction to artist William Hogarth’s depiction of Gin Lane, which painted gin as an addictive liquor drunk to excess by the working class. The act banned the sale of gin in prisons, workhouses and any shops selling everyday staples and thus gin became much harder to distribute and purchase. Ironically, this resulted in an increase in both price and quality, and by the Victorian era, gin was considered a respectable and desirable spirit.

Gin Lane 1751 offers four products, their classic London Dry (40% ABV), a London Dry Royal Strength (47% ABV), a rather pretty Victoria Pink Gin (40% ABV) and an Old Tom Gin (40% ABV).

The eight core botanicals are juniper, orris root, Seville orange, angelica, Sicilian lemon, star anise, cassia bark and coriander. The pink gin is infused with spiced bitters and the Old Tom with star anise and natural sugars.

Tasting Notes: The London Dry has far more aroma than many classic gins of the type. On the nose we both pick up a green leaf freshness, plus citrus (orange for me, lemon for Pete). The pine resin-like juniper comes through clearly too. The flavours are sweet and peppery to start with a lingering bitterness at the end. Pete picks up fleeting hints of satsuma and brown sugar sweetness at the start, replaced by a bitterness that comes through to the aftertaste. If you’re looking for a gin that has plenty of flavour, this is a good choice.

Stockists: Buy Gin Lane 1751 online from Amazon or thedrinkshop. Also stocked by Selfridges.

 

Brockmans Premium Gin

Brockmans 1 Brockmans 2

I love the Brockmans black glass bottle – yes I’m a sucker for packaging design. But of course, this gin delivers on taste too.

Brockmans combines many of the most commonly used botanicals with citrus and wild berries to give a fruitier flavour. They pride themselves on the quality of their ingredients, sourcing angelica from Belgium and Germany, bitter almonds from Spain, blueberries and blackberries from Northern Europe, cassia bark from Indo-China, citrus peels from Murcia and Valencia, coriander seed from Bulgaria, juniper from Italy, liquorice from China and orris root from Italy.

Tasting Notes: This is an unusual gin in both aroma and flavour. The nose talks to me of sunshine – sweet citrus fruits and the intense aroma of dried mango. For Pete, it’s all about blackcurrant Chewits (does everyone else remember those too?) and lots of sweet fruitiness. Both of us think immediately of blackcurrants when we taste it, almost cassis like but without any of the sugar or thickness of the blackcurrant liqueur. I particularly appreciate the lack of bitterness in this one. Pete admires how well balanced the flavour is. This one is a great all rounder – neat, with tonic or in cocktails.

Stockists: Online, you can find Brockmans on Amazon amongst other online retailers. They are also stocked by M&S, Harvey Nichols, Oddbins, Wine Rack and others.

 

Gin Nautilus via Portuguese Story

Portuguese Story gin-nautilus

I was introduced to Gin Nautilus by Portuguese Story, a business that represents and distributes Portuguese drinks in the UK. Their mission is to change peoples’ perceptions about Portuguese produce by showcasing locally made, unique and high quality products. Gin Nautilus is produced in Evora, a historical town in the southern region of Alentejo, in an artisan distillery called Officina de Espiritos. Joao Malhero and his team make their gin using a sugar cane alcohol, mixing in thirteen botanicals before the third distillation – these include coriander seed, citrus peel, root of angelica, and juniper. But the one that stands out is sea lettuce, an edible algae that is high in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

The algae gives this gin a uniquely marine aroma and flavour, one that is an absolutely perfect match to enjoy with fresh oysters.

Tasting Notes: This gin is divisive! Pete hates the ‘slimy pond weed’ aroma and taste. But I adore the refreshing sea brine smell, it makes me think of rock pools and sea breezes and fresh oysters eaten right by the docks. Interestingly, I find that salty seaweed aroma much more subtle on the palate, where the key flavours that come through are citrus and juniper. I would absolutely serve this with an iced seafood platter, and I can imagine it working well in cocktails too.

Stockists: You can buy Gin Nautilus online here. It is also stocked by The Grocery, Fortnum & Mason and Taberna do Mercado in Spitalfields.

 

Gin Nao via Portuguese Story

Portuguese Story _Gin_Nao_Portugus_Bom_Gourmet_Portugal

Also distributed in the UK by Portuguese Story (see Gin Nautilus) is the unusual Nao Gin. A London Dry Gin distilled in a London distillery, the gin then spends 4 months ageing in old Porto wine barrels in Porto during which time it takes on a distinctive flavour and tinge of colour. The name comes from 15th century multi-masted sailing ships known in Portuguese as nau; these ships travelled around the globe in that grand era of trade and discovery.

Tasting Notes: This is the gin that is not like a gin! For me it smells like brandy. Pete picks out citrus peel and a faint woodiness. When it comes to the taste, I’m put in mind of yet another spirit – whisky this time – and richly oaked too. Pete – a big whisky fan – agrees. He likes the combination of an underlying fruitiness with the unusual woody finish. If you want to buy a surprising and unusual gift for a whisky or brandy lover, this would be a perfect choice.

Stockists: You can buy Gin Nao online here or via Amazon. It is also stocked by The Grocery, Fortnum & Mason and Taberna do Mercado in Spitalfields.

 

G’Vine

GVine bottle-floraison GVine bottle-nouaison

It’s no secret how much the French love their wine, and by extension, the vines themselves. Made in the Cognac-producing region of South West France, Maison Villevert’s wonderfully unconventional G’Vine gins are made from grape spirit (rather than grain). The spirit is distilled from the Ugni Blanc grape – known best as the base for Cognac. To this ten botanicals are added including juniper berries, green cardamom, nutmeg, cassia, root ginger and the exclusive vine flower. This is quite a feat as the flower blossoms just once a year in mid-June, for just a few days before it begins to form into a grape berry. G’Vine pick the flowers as soon as they bloom to capture the evocative fragrance and flavour.

G’Vine Gin comes in two expressions – Floraison (flowering) and Nouaison (setting). The first captures the splendour of spring, the second is an altogether more intense and spicy spirit capturing the metamorphosis from flower to berry.

Tasting Notes: The smell of Floraison put us both in mind of a sweet shop. For Pete it was lemon sherbert, for me bubblegum! On the palate, that candy aspect came through, balanced by just a hint of bitterness and some alcohol heat. The Nouaison was completely different, a much more classic gin aroma of lemon and juniper and much the same in taste, with a gentle fruitiness also present. These two gins are a fascinating experiment, the first I’ve tried based on grape spirit and the Floraison in particular is a really unusual result. For those who want to move on from the classic and try something a little different.

Stockists: G’Vine Floraison and G’Vine Nouaison are available online from Amazon. They are also available at Oddbins.

 

Boxer Gin

boxer gin2

Boxer Gin, created in 2013 by Mark Hill, is a classic London Dry Gin with a really punchy flavour. Wheat grain spirit is distilled in a 108 year old copper pot still with ten botanicals to create the core of the gin. This is then blended with distilled extract of Himalayan juniper berries (at source, to retain freshness of flavour), and cold-pressed citrus oil extracted from bergamot peel, to dial up the flavour.

The branding pays homage to 19th century boxer, Thomas King, also known as ‘The Fighting Sailor’. Thomas King was a sporting celebrity in gin’s golden era in the late 18th century, following the repeal of the Gin Act.

Tasting Notes: Although it’s only 40% this gin tastes stronger. The nose is classic lemon citrus, rather a lovely perfumey citrus. In the mouth, the citrus really explodes and the bergamot comes through clearly – and that hint of earl grey is just wonderful! It works beautifully against the other botanicals creating a very refreshing and punchy gin. We like this one neat but its also superb in a G&T.

Stockists: Available online from Amazon, the Whisky Exchange, Drinkshop and Master of Malt, and in stores including Selfridges.

 

The gins above are relatively recent launches, made by smaller producers, or producers that are not yet widely known.

Below are a few choices from some of the big guys, but which we think are worth seeking out. They are also more widely available in shops across the UK.

Whitley Neill, JJ Whitley London Dry Gin & Liverpool Gin

Whitley Neill Whitley London Dry Liverpool Gin

All three of the following gins are part of Halewood International’s portfolio, one of the UK’s leading drinks manufacturers and distributors.

Whitley Neill Gin is a unique recipe created by Johnny Neill, an eight generation descendant of Thomas Greenall, founder of Greenall’s Distillery back in 1762. Gin has always been part of his life, even before he was old enough to drink it! Keen to create his own gin, Johnny turned to his South African wife’s homeland for inspiration. There he experimented with over 25 uniquely African botanicals including the Protea flower, the hoodia cactus and various fynbos plants, but none of them gave the flavour profile he was looking for. He eventually found the perfect flavours in the cape gooseberry (also known as physalis) and the fruit of the baobob tree. Both, when distilled, create unique citrusy flavours that work beautifully in gin. The recipe was quickly perfected, and is now distilled in one of the UK’s oldest copper still pots, over a century in age.

J.J.Whitley London Dry Gin, on the other hand, is inspired by the British countryside and features eight classic botanicals including juniper, liquorice, coriander and sweet citrus peel.

Liverpool Gin is an organic gin blended with hand picked organic botanicals, a classic selection including juniper berries, corianders, angelica root and citrus fruit.

Tasting Notes: Whitley Neill first. This one has lots of citrus aroma and the juniper comes through too. The flavour is wonderfully rich, lots of fruit, a very nicely balanced sweetness and bitterness. I find it quite spicy too, though very smooth. For those who like gins with lots of flavour.

J.J.Whitley is a light and refreshing fin, a rather simple grapefruit and lemon aroma which comes through lightly on the palate but is overtaken by a strong juniper hit and bitterness in the finish.

Liverpool Gin is another gin that reminds us both of a sweet shop – sherbert, parma violets and lemon drops. I pick up cardamom too. That sweetness comes through in the mouth along with cardamom and other woody spices, citrus fruit zing and some unexpected floweriness. Definitely not your run of the mill gin, this has a lot of flavour and is a great all rounder.

Stockists: Online, find Whitley Neill, JJ Whitley London Dry and Liverpool Gin on Amazon. Also available at Sainsbury’s, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols amongst others.

 

Thomas Dakin Gin & Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin

thomas-dakin Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin Bottle on white

Thomas Dakin is an absolutely classic London Dry named for ‘the forefather of English gin’, who created his first gin in 1761. It is distilled in small batches in a traditional copper pot still, a revival of a recipe handed down through generations of Dakins. The selection of botanicals and creation of the gin are overseen by Joanne Moore, the master distiller at G&J Greenall Distillers. The recipe’s eleven botanicals include English coriander, horse radish (known as red cole in Thomas Dakin’s time), orange peel, and a properly punchy hit of juniper.

G&J Greenall’s Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin is a London Dry Gin inspired by the ancient Spice Route along which merchants travelled long and slow, trading exotic spices and herbs from East to West. Botanicals include spicy cubeb berries from Indonesia, black pepper from India and coriander from Morocco. The name comes from a legendary region famed for its wealth and riches during the reign of King Solomon – its location is unknown but believed to be along the Spice Route.

Tasting Notes: The Thomas Dakin has a fabulous aroma! Lemon peel, a whack of punchy pine-resin juniper and some pleasing fruitiness, the smell positively races up out of the glass and floods your senses. It’s equally strong on the palate, with a medicinal savouriness that no doubt comes from the horse radish.

As its name implies, Opihr is one for the spice lovers amongst you. I really like the cardamom-heavy blend of spices that come through on both nose and palate but for Pete the cardamom is overwhelming. Like some of the other cardamom-heavy choices in our guide, this one would work beautifully in cocktails as the cardamom should still come through, along with black pepper and citrus.

Stockists: Thomas Dakin on Amazon | Opirh Gin on Amazon Both brands are widely available in supermarkets and off licenses across the UK.

 

Kavey Eats received product samples of some of the gins included in the guide, after initially discovering most of them at specialist food and drinks events. Not all gins sent for tasting made it into the guide, as they did not meet our criteria or taste preferences. Amazon links are affiliate links; please see my sidebar for more information.

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Kavey’s 2015 Cookbook Collection

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.

Kavey’s Pick of Tasty Tipples 2016

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.

The Kavey Eats Christmas Gift Guide 2015

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.

Kavey Eats Hotel Chocolat Christmas 2015 Giveaway!

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.

Kavey’s Christmas Gift Guide 2014

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.

Kavey’s Christmas Gift Guide: Books

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.

The Kavey Eats Hotel Chocolat Christmas 2014 Competition (Closed)

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).

Hotel Chocolat Advent Calendars Competition (Closed)

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).