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

Bordallo Pinheiro Melon Bowls

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

 

Sous Chef Gift Sets

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

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

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

 

Lakeland Thermospatula

Thermospatula

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

 

Porto Sippers

sippers1 sippers2

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

 

Froothie Optimum 9400 Blender

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

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

 

Straw Salt and Pepper Shakers

straw SP straw3 SP

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

 

Star Wars Lookalites

starwarslookalites

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

 

Carluccio’s

carluccios1 carluccios2 carluccios3
carluccios4 carluccios5 carluccios6

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

 

Tetris Cookie Cutters

tetriscookies

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

 

Nutural World Nut Butters

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

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

 

Bananagrams

bananagrams

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

 

Nesting Babushkups

babushkups

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

 

Adagio Teas Samurai Sampler Set

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

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

 

Let’s Cook Okonomiyaki

okonomiyakiset

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

 

Fabulous Pong Cheese

PongCheeseXmas2014-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9608

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

 

T-Rex Meat Cuts

Trex

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

 

Master of Malt

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

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

 

Hotel Chocolat Christmas Range

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

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

 

Lakeland Flare Pans

Flare Pan Flare Pot

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

 

Moby Picks

mobypicks

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

 

Niederegger Marzipan

Niederegger fruits niederegger lovers box

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

 

Melamine Children’s Plates

Blue_Monster_Plate Green_Robot_Plate Princess_Blue_Plate
Yellow_Robot_Plate Princess_Green_Plate Green_Monster_Plate

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

 

Snow Globe Salt and Pepper Shakers

gamagosnowglobeSP cactus shakers

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

 

Doki Ramen Bowls

doki1 doki2
doki3 doki4

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

 

Drinks List

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

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

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

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

 

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

Noodle! by MiMi Aye

Noodle!

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

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

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

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

 

Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara

Worth-it-Salt-Everday-Harumi

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

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

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

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

You can buy Everyday Harumi from Amazon, here

 

Plenty & Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

ottolenghi plenty ottolenghi plentymore

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

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

 

Do-Head Christmas by James Ramsden

doaheadchristmas

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

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

Buy Do-Ahead Christmas from Amazon, here.

 

Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji

japanesecooking

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

Buy Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art from Amazon, here

 

Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties by Kevin Gascoyne

tea

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

It’s available on Amazon, here.

 

Slow Cooked by Miss South

slowcooked

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Christmas Collection Christmas Collection-2

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

Truffle Xmas Tree Truffle Xmas Tree-2

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

Mini Stocking Mini Stocking-2

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

COMPETITION

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

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

HOW TO ENTER

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

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

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

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

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

RULES & DETAILS

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

300393_Christmas 2014_Advent_DARK 300393_Christmas 2014_Advent_DARK-1

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

COMPETITION

I have two prizes to giveaway to Kavey Eats readers!

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

HOW TO ENTER

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

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

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

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

RULES & DETAILS

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

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

Dec 232013
 

MerryXmas2013-4470-TEXT

Husky sledding at Sweden’s Ice Hotel – © Kavita Favelle 2012

 

How to bring a little Kyoto spirituality home from your travels…

With a staggering two thousand Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, City of Temples is an apt epithet for Japan’s former imperial capital. One of the delights of a trip to Kyoto is not only visiting the famous ones in all the tourist guides but stumbling unexpectedly across so many others as you explore the city and surrounding prefecture.

But don’t worry about becoming “templed out” – not only are these places of worship and prayer compellingly beautiful, they are also hugely varied, endlessly fascinating and an excellent way to gain an insight into Japanese culture. For many Japanese, religious practices are as much about tradition and custom as they are about worship. It’s not uncommon for Japanese people to practice both Buddhism and Shintoism, for which they visit both temples and shrines on special occasions, to remember their ancestors, and to ask for help in specific matters. For a first-time visitor, it takes a little knowledge to distinguish the temples from the shrines.

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Shinto shrines are sacred places in which to pray to one or more of thousands of different kami (spirits). Created as sanctuaries for the kami, the shrines are designed to blend in with their natural surroundings. Many are associated with specific spirits; worshippers often seek out kami that can help with particular issues they are experiencing. There are shrines for pregnant women wanting a safe delivery, shrines where one can pray for a good harvest, shrines for requesting success and wealth in business, shrines to ward off evil spirits and even shrines dedicated to relationships and sexual gratification. A particular highlight of our first visit to Kyoto was a visit to Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine, where we watched a long line of young girls pass through a hole in an enormous paper-covered boulder known as The Stone of Breaking and Bonding. Wriggling through in one direction breaks bad relationships and crawling back in the other direction creates new, positive ones.

Simple thatched wooden buildings echo the design of storehouses and prehistoric dwellings and are usually surrounded by a sacred grove of trees. Thick ropes hung with shimenawa (tassles) and gohei (white paper) cordon off sacred corners – they are often tied around a sacred sakaki tree known as the heart post. Entrances to Shinto shrines is usually through a torii (gate) which marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. They are often guarded by statues of lions or dogs, though at Fushimi Inari-taisha, you will find messenger foxes. This shrine is also famous for its senbon torii, paths of hundreds of torii gates snaking up the hillside, one after another. Painted bright red, they are individually paid for and donated by worshippers praying to Inari, the kami of fertility, rice and industry. Visit at sunset for the most spectacular play of light and shadow between the gates’ red pillars. The first stop for worshippers is the chozuya (water basin) to purify hands and mouths, using the long-handled ladles provided, before proceeding to the haiden (main shrine). There, a front porch features a rope, a bell and a collection box; visitors usually clap, ring the bell and make their prayers.

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It is also common to write prayers or messages for the kami. Originally, horses were given as votives, to represent the divine steed, but over time, boxes painted with their image were given instead. Nowadays, these have been replaced with wooden plaques called ema, on which personal messages are written before they are hung onto hooks provided. Ema come in different shapes – though rectangular ones are most common, we also spotted octagon, heart, rice-paddle, torii and ruler shaped plaques – the designs are varied; often colourful, intriguing and occasionally even startling! Sales of ema help support the shrines financially, so staff are very happy for visitors to buy ema as souvenirs to take home with them. They cost from 300-1000 Yen each (£2-7) and each shrine has its own designs to choose from. Shrine visitors also make small payments in exchange for o-mikuji – paper slips revealing their fortune. These can either be tied to walls of strings provided, for the resident kami to influence, or taken home.

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Buddhist temples are devoted to worshipping Buddha and the many gods within the Buddhist pantheon. As well as a main hall, where one or more statues of Buddha are located, some temples feature impressive multi-storied pagodas, a few of which – such as Yasaka Pagoda – permit public entry to the upper levels. Temples may also have kodo halls, where monks study and chant, and kyozo depositories, where sacred texts are stored. In the grounds, the many groupings of Jizo statues are impossible to ignore. Jizo is the patron of travellers and children and is most strongly associated with helping the souls of babies ­who were aborted, died during birth or as young children. Depicting a short, round, bald man the simplistically styled statues are often decorated with bibs and woolly hats in red and white. Some temples have a dedicated graveyard with family gravestones, many in the traditional gorinto (five ringed tower) form. You may also spot an enormous bell, rung to mark the New Year and other occasions. Outer and inner gates to the temple are usually guarded by an array of fierce animals, warriors or gods who ward off evil spirits. Some Buddhist temples also have torii, but these are usually smaller and less prevalent than in Shinto shrines. Visitors pray by making monetary offerings (thrown into a saisen-bako box), lighting incense and candles and leaving food and drink offerings. Like Shinto shrines, ema and o-mikuji are often on sale for leaving messages and discerning one’s fortune.

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During my two trips to Kyoto, I have amassed a beautiful collection of ema from many different temples and shrines. The pale wood, red and white cords and colourful images (also featuring lots of red) make unusual and memory-laden tree ornaments, and look lovely shown off against the green branches of a traditional tree or hung onto a more modern metal spiral one.  I’m delighted at how well they have helped me bring a little Kyoto magic into my home this winter.

 

This piece was written for Good Things Magazine, a new food, travel and lifestyle magazine launching to consumers in Spring 2014. Content will be available via the website soon, or follow @GoodThingsUK for the latest news.

Dec 182013
 

My sister and I were definitely Blue Peter girls.

We loved making the many craft projects shown on the programme. I remember spending weeks making a cardboard dolls house with lots of furniture inside: instructions for additional items taught across a series of episodes; one week a chest of drawers made from matchboxes with split pins for handles; another week a table lamb using the fancy lid from a common brand of shampoo or bubble bath bottle. We made 3D greeting cards, witches’ hats and face masks from empty cereal boxes. There was a large castle made from a cardboard box, with toilet-roll holder turrets.  And I can no longer recall whether it was an empty jam jar or washing up liquid bottle inside the cotton wool-covered snowman. Oh and I thought my home-made personal organiser was the epitome of sophistication! There were hundreds more I’ve forgotten, of course, as we were pretty prolific. We improvised, of course – to this day I don’t think I’ve ever even seen sticky backed plastic and how many times was there an empty box or bottle just when you needed one?

We also loved to make a mess in the kitchen. We did enjoy proper cooking but it was also fun to make simple things we could do on our own like peppermint creams, coconut ice and marzipan fruits. Making marzipan fruits kept us occupied for hours, so I suspect it was a favourite with our parents too!

As well as a block or two of shop-bought marzipan we assembled our tools – various items of cutlery to make indents and marks of different shapes, such as teaspoons, toothpicks, tiny crab forks and a large grater to help pattern citrus peel; food colouring and some water to dilute it as needed and water colour paintbrushes with which we carefully blushed red over green for apples and orange over yellow for apricots. We usually kneaded the base food colouring into the actual marzipan and then painted the secondary colours over the top. We used cloves as stalks, stuck in one way for citrus fruits and the other for apples and pears. Leaves were too complicated so we either skipped them or used real ones from the garden.

Oddly, I have no memories of eating our finished creations – just of sitting in the kitchen sculpting away!

 

When I spotted some large marzipan fruits in Carluccio’s Christmas range, they bought those childhood memories straight back. For comparison purposes, I also picked up boxes from Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. I had hoped to include Niederegger marzipan fruits, as I love the quality of their marzipan, but discovered that these are no longer available. I was not able to pick up products from other supermarkets.

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Carluccio’s hand painted Sicilian Frutta di Marzapane (£16.95 for 400 grams) were certainly visually impressive and would be the prettiest of the three sets if you want to make a table display, although I wasn’t convinced by the plastic stalks and greenery. The fruits were very large – especially the tomato, lemon, fig and orange – which would also make them harder to share and hard to eat a whole one at once. Sadly, I was disappointed by the taste and dry mealy texture of the marzipan itself.

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Waitrose marzipan fruits (£4.99 for 170 grams) were a much better match for the ones my sister and I used to make and less heavily coloured too. All the fruits were about the same size, just right for enjoying in one or two bites. But I was disappointed by the flat bottoms – the fruits were shaped only on the top, rather than all the way around. On the plus side, the taste and texture of the marzipan was, surprisingly, far better than Carluccio’s.

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At just £3 (for 150 grams), Sainsbury’s marzipan fruits were the most keenly priced. Like the Waitrose box, each fruit was evenly sized and this time they were shaped all the way around. That said, the moulding was poorly aligned and the colouring and detail far less attractive than the others. The texture was pleasantly soft and smooth, but the flavour wasn’t as good as the Waitrose ones.

 

My pick of the three are the Waitrose marzipan fruits which provide the best combination of good looks, great taste and a reasonable price.

 

Kavey Eats received a sample box from Carluccio’s and purchased the other two samples directly from local supermarkets.

 

I have always had a sweet-tooth. I’m overly sensitive to sour and bitter flavour profiles, so much so that I find regular wines make my jaw muscles clench in reaction to the taste – to me even those usually described as medium taste far too much like vinegar. It’s also the reason I struggle with beers, especially given the current trend for bitter hop monsters.

So I usually opt for sweeter choices such as dessert wines, sweet sherries and ports. I have a soft spot for liqueurs too, though I’ve not included any in this list. Next time!

Here are my sweet choices for Christmas 2013.

 

Peller Estate Cabernet Franc Icewine (375 ml)

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When I tried this beautiful dusky pink icewine at a Morrisons’ press event, I was amazed to be told that no, it didn’t have any strawberries in it, so clearly did that fruit flavour sing out to me. Raspberries, rhubarb and pomegranate come through too. In fact, this dessert wine is made wholly from Canadian Cabernet Franc grapes, picked when naturally frozen by winter temperatures of around minus 10 C and immediately pressed.

ABV 11.5% – £45 from Morrisons

 

Harveys Pedro Ximenez VORS (50 cl)

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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.

ABV 16% – £21.00 from Waitrose Direct

 

Neige Core de Glace Premiere Ice Cider (375 ml)

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Listed as ice wine on the Harvey Nichols website, this is more accurately an iced cider – apples are picked and pressed in a frozen condition, using the same techniques applied to grapes to make ice wine. Produced by François Pouliot in his Québec cidery La Face Cachée de la Pomme (The Hidden Face of the Apple), it is described as crisp and sweet and, of course, full of apple fruit flavours. I think it would be a delicious alternative to the usual grape offerings.

ABV 11% – £28.50 from Harvey Nichols

 

Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat (375 ml)

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The muscat grape is not only fabulous to eat, it also produces a wonderfully perfumed wine. This golden Australian muscat is made from partially raisined grapes, and fortified with neutral grape spirit, to preserve the floral and citrus notes inherent in the grape. Beautifully sweet, it’s a classic dessert wine.

ABV 18% – £11.99 from Morrisons

 

Kourtaki Mavrodaphne of Patras (75 cl)

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I was first given a bottle several years ago by a friend who was intrigued by the idea of a properly dark red dessert wine, and one made in Greece at that. I’ve bought it again a number of times since, appreciative of its full-bodied black berries and dried fruits richness. 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.

ABV 15% – Priced from £5 to £6.50 a bottle, available from major supermarkets including Tesco and Morrisons.

 

Quady Winery Elysium Black Muscat (375 ml)

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Another muscat, produced by Quady Winery in the United States, Elysium Black is, as the name suggests, made from black grapes. I first came across it on a restaurant wine list a few years ago and have enjoyed it a few times since then. Rich and sweet, with a very floral flavour.

ABV 15% – £12.50 from Fortnum & Mason or £12.49 from Majestic Wine (available vintages may vary)

 

Royal Tokaji Aszu Gold Label 2006 (50 cl)

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Tokaji is wine made in the Tokaj wine region of Hungary; Tokaji Aszu is the region’s well known dessert wine. It is produced by harvesting grapes after they’ve been shrivelled by botrytis (noble rot), which concentrates their natural sugar content. Categorised according to sweetness (on a scale of 3 to 6 puttonyos), I’ve particularly enjoyed the sweeter Tokaji Aszu wines I have tried. I’d dearly love to try a Tokaji Aszu Essencia, an even sweeter variant with an unusually high residual sugar count, but am yet to come across this at an affordable price. I’ve not tried this specific 6 puttonyos Aszu from Majestic, but I have loved others by the same brand, The Royal Tokaji Wine Company.

ABV 9% – £28 from Majestic Wine

 

Rubis Chocolate Wine (50 cl)

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I came across this chocolate-flavoured fortified wine at a food festival or show. A nice balance between chocolate and the fruity tempranillo grape, it’s best served chilled. My only criticism of this product is the lack of information about which chocolate is used and how it’s sourced.

ABV 15% – £14.38 (incl. delivery) from Amazon UK

 

Maynard’s 30 Year Old Tawny Port (75 cl)

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Tawny Ports are aged in wooden casks rather than in large tanks or bottles, like their Ruby counterparts. The wood gives them a lighter body and colour, and a wonderful smoothness on the palate. I love the nutty sweetness, with far less tannin than other styles of port. Most commonly served at room temperature, I think tawny ports are also lovely chilled. Although I’ve not tried this 30 year old, the Maynard’s 10 year old that Aldi sold last winter was well reviewed.

ABV 20% – £29.99 from Aldi

 

Castelnau de Suduiraut 2009 Sauternes (375 ml)

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I adore Sauternes, with it’s intense floral and citrus honeyed notes and straw honey colour. I’ve tried Château Suduiraut a few times; it’s a much more affordable premier cru classé than it’s neighbour Château d’Yquem. Another to look out for is Château Rieussec, usually a touch more expensive.

ABV 14% – £11.99 from Majestic Wine

 

Please note that this post includes an Amazon affiliate link. The price you pay doesn’t change but I receive a tiny referral commission for items you buy after following such links.

 

Having put so much time and effort into creating my previous Christmas gift guides, it’s lovely to be asked by regular readers when my 2013 one will be ready. Of course, that’s hugely gratifying – it makes me very happy that people find my gift guides helpful – but does put the pressure on when I’m running a bit late! So, to those who have been eagerly awaiting this post, thanks for your patience and I hope you find some items you like!

You may notice I got a little caught up in tea towels but, stay with me, I move on eventually!

Note, some items are from international stores, with prices shown in Euros or dollars, appropriately.

 

3D Space Cookie Cutters

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Do you remember my delight at the 3D safari cookie cutters I found last year? Well, how about these 3D Space Cookie Cutters, also from Suck UK? There are 4 different designs and each one costs £7.50. with free delivery.

 

Super Badger Coffee Set

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How cute are these Super Badger Coffee Cups by Jimbobart? Available for £45 (plus £4.95 delivery) via Culture Label. Check out his other products on the same site – there are several other funky stacked coffee cup sets and a range of plates, all featuring foxes and bears and badgers.

 

Muji Wooden Nutcracker

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I much prefer the bowl and screw type of nutcrackers to the hinged ones, and this pretty Wooden Nutcracker from Muji is an attractive option. £9.95 (plus £2.95 delivery).

 

Muji Stainless Steel Colanders

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Also from Muji are these stainless steel colanders. I really like the simple shape and style. Available in three sizes (Small 15cm, Medium 18cm and Large 21cm) they cost £6.95, £7.95 and £8.95 respectively (plus £2.95 delivery per order).

 

Harvey Nichols Honey

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This French Rosemary Honey, English Wildflower Honey and Scottish Heather Honey from Harvey Nichols are just £3.95 a jar. Delivery is £6 but if you live near a store, you can buy online for collection instead.

 

Food Themed Heritage Playing Cards

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There are ten different sets of heritage playing cards available from Steenbergs Organic, of which my favourites are these five food-themed ones featuring mushrooms, fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs. Each set is £3.88 (plus £4.50 flat rate delivery).

 

Death Star Tea Infuser

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Made from stainless steel, with a cute Tie Fighter counter balance, I like this clever take on a regular globe infuser. Death Star Tea Infuser, $19.99 (plus $9.64 economy shipping to UK), from Think Geek.

 

T Bird Swing Tea Infuser

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Another adorable tea infuser, this time in the form of a swinging bird. Designed by Kozihaus, the T Bird is available in green or purple from Travelling Souk for £9.50 plus £2.95 delivery.

 

Sagaform Retro Stoneware

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Isn’t this retro Acacia Stoneware design by Sagaform wonderful? Very much the kind of thing I love (and am sometimes lucky enough to find in charity shops). If you prefer retro style but new products, you can buy the Small Sagaform Retro Storage Jar for £12.60 (plus £2 delivery), the Large Sagaform Retro Storage Jar for £22.99 (with free delivery), a two pack of Sagaform Retro Mugs for £15.70 (with free delivery) and the Sagaform Retro Teapot for £29.99 (plus £2 delivery), from Amazon UK.

 

Citrus Trees

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I have been meaning to buy a citrus tree for ages, and there’s a nice selection available from Plants 4 Presents. The large Buddhas Hand (90 cm tall in a 5 litre pot) pictured is £40 (plus £6.50 delivery). I‘m tempted by the calamondin too.

 

Japanese Tetsubin

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Gifts of the Orient have a superb range of tetsubin – Japanese cast iron tea pots or kettles, including the ones I’ve picked out above. Prices range from £34.99 to £299 (though most are less than £60). Some come with trivets, some with cups and some with tea included.

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Exotic Teapot have a smaller range, but very well priced and some great modern designs. Kettles are £28.00 – £46.00, with trivets and cups sold separately.

 

Japanese Cast Iron Windchimes

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And talking of Japanese cast iron, I also love these cast iron windchimes available from Zen Minded on Amazon UK. Priced £7.95 to £14.95 each (plus £3.75 delivery). Here are the links: Green Owl, Yellow Fir Cone (check colour, image shows yellow but description reads green), Green Firefly, Violet & Gold Temple Bell, Green Temple Bell, Brown Round Owl, Brown Owl and Green Pine Cone.

 

Eat For Great Britain Tea Towel

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The price tag of £8.50 (plus £1.20 delivery) makes this Eat For Great Britain Tea towel from Hidden Art an affordable and fun gift for lovers of a great British breakfast!

 

Edward Monkton Pasta Tea Towel

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I’ve been a fan of Edward Monkton for many years and even though the range is now ubiquitous, it still makes me smile; this Edward Monkton Your Inner Pasta Tea Towel is no different. £6.00 (with free delivery) from Amazon UK.

 

Scrabble Tea Towel

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This Scrabble Tea Towel works as both tea towel and travelling game board. £8.95 (plus £1.99 delivery) from Amazon UK.

 

Guess Who? Tea Towel

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Another on the theme of childhood games: A game that’s caused many moments of hilarity in my lifetime is Guess Who? This Guess Who Tea Towel is £7.99 (plus £3.95) from Not The Usual.

 

Operation Tea Towel

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Yes, and another one! This Operation Tea Towel is £7.99 (plus £1.50 delivery) from Amazon UK.

 

Butcher Print Tea Towel

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Available in two colour ways – black on white or white on charcoal grey – this Butcher Print Tea Towel is £9 (plus £1.75 delivery) from Not On The High Street. I don’t know whether I’d frame it or dry the dishes with it!

 

Tunnocks Teacake Tea Towel

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Warming to the tea towel theme, how about this Tunnocks Teacake Tea Towel by Gillian Kyle? £9.50 (plus £2.75 delivery) from Not On The High Street.

 

Fox Tea Towels with DIY Cut & Sew Instructions

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I don’t know whether Mibo’s Fox or Sarah Young’s Felix the Fox came first, but I really like both of them, available from Not On The High Street. Either use as tea towels or cut and sew into cushion toys. Priced at £12.95 (+ £1.95) and £11 (free delivery) respectively. Mibo has a lion version too. Sarah Young offers lion, hare, owl, cat and doll versions.

 

Cockney Rhyming Slang Tea Towel

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There are a few Cockney Rhyming Slang Tea Towels on the market, but my favourite is this one by Victoria Eggs, available from Not On The High Street £9.95 including delivery.

 

Victoria Eggs London Tea Towel

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Another Victoria Eggs design, this London Tea Towel is £8.00 (with free delivery) from Amazon UK. Her Scottish dinner design (same price) is also cool.

 

Ecologie Fish and Mushroom Tea Towels

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These marvellous Ecologie Fish and Ecologie Mushroom tea towels are available from Gift Republic via Amazon UK. Fish is £8.49, mushroom is £9.99, delivery is free on both.

 

London Underground Tea Towel

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I love the iconic London Underground Map! Here it is on a tea towel, available from Amazon UK for £3.99 (plus £1.50 delivery).

 

Legumes en bocaux – Canning Vegetables Tea Towel

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The Williams Sonoma store is full of goodies. As a fan of home preserving, I like this set of vegetable canning tea towels, $19.95. International shipping requires a US billing address.

 

Periodic Tablecloth of Swearing

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Although this one is self-labelled as a tablecloth, it seems to be most commonly sold as a tea towel. I think it’s probably best used as a wall hanging myself. Periodic Tablecloth of Swearing, £8.50 (plus £3 delivery) from Pick Me Up London.

 

Nina Jarema Folkore Tea Towel

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I love Nina Jarema’s Folkore range and her Folklore Tea Towel is no exception. Available from Amazon UK for £7.99 (plus £1.99 delivery).

 

Nina Jarema Folkore Tins

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The retro design of Nina Jarema’s Folklore range reminds me of my childhood doodles, though it’s far prettier. If your tea towelled out, how about these Folklore 3-in-1 Tins, £11.95 (plus £6.99 delivery) from Amazon UK.

 

Map Coasters

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I love maps! These Aerial Map Coasters from Map Marketing are £21.99 (plus £5.95 delivery) and personalised to your chosen address and postcode.

 

Fleur De Lys Tumblers

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At £6 each (plus a flat rate delivery charge per order of £5 standard, £8 express), I really like these Fleur de Lys tumblers from Anthroplogie. I’m not sure whether I’d buy 2 of each colour or 6 of one; what do you think?

 

Tetris Cookie Cutter Set

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I first saw these Tetris cookie cutters in Athey Moravetz’s Etsy store.  After being laid off from her job at a video game studio, she turned her hobby of selling funky items created using her 3D printer into a full-time business and has now set up her own dedicated website, Warpzone Prints. Specialising in “geek” cookie cutter designs, her store has items for fans of Doctor Who, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Totoro, Monty Python, Harry Potter and many other much-loved fictional worlds. The Tetris Cookie Cutters cost $15 plus $12 shipping to the UK, approximately £17 GPB in total. Shipping for additional items is less.

 

Kovrikus Parallelepipedus Door Mat

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How funky is this parallelogram doormat by Art Lebedev Studio? It’s £23.99 with free delivery from Amazon UK.

 

Circle Mugs

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I used to collect mugs when I was a child, and I still find it hard to resist unusual ones like these Circle Mugs by the National Theatre. Available for £25.99 a pair (plus delivery at £2.65 first class, £4.95 recorded) via Culture Label.

 

Grammar Grumble Mugs

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Speaking of mugs, I think this set of six Grammar Grumble Mugs from The Literary Gift Company is just brilliant! The set is £39.95 (delivery is free on orders over £30) or you can buy individual mugs for £7.95 each (plus £4.95 delivery).

 

Colourblind Tea Mug

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Now I’m on a mug roll, do you remember taking the Ishihara colour blindness tests at school? This fun Colourblind Tea Mug costs £7.99 from Hidden Art.

 

Master of Malt Tasting Sets

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I’ve bought Pete a few drams from Master of Malts and am a big fan of their Drinks by the Dram offering, whereby you can try whiskies you might otherwise balk at buying a full bottle of in a handy 30 ml pot. Of course, you can choose your drams individually – keep in mind that they’re usually sent out in boxes that hold 5 pots so multiples of 5 presents well. Alternatively, go for one of their ready-made tasting sets of 5 or 10 drams, such as Sherry Monsters (£25.95), Bourbon (£70.95), Islay Whisky (£25.45), Texan Distillery Balcones (£26.44), Ian Buxton 101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die (£77.45) or MoM’s own Christmas 2013 Festive Selection (£70.95). Standard delivery to UK mainland addresses is £4.89.

 

Dino Corn-on-the-cob Holders

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I love corn-on-the-cob, preferably cooked un-covered on a BBQ until some of the kernels char to black. I usually use my hands, impatiently waiting for the cob to cool down enough that I can pick it up without burning my fingers. Wouldn’t these dinosaur holders be fun instead? T-Rex is $31.99 and Triceratops is $27.99 but international shipping from US store Digs to the UK is a whopping $42 so this is probably one for North American readers only!

 

Seed Bombs

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The origin of seed bombing was to forcefully turn derelict land into attractive and wildlife-supporting habitats by throwing in compressed bundles of soil and seeds, which would break open on the ground and create new growth. While you could certainly buy Darren Wilson’s SeedBoms for your own urban guerilla gardening movement, I think they also make a nice gift for anyone with space to create a meadow of flowers. Great for bees and other insects, too! Choose from poppies, cornflowers, wildlfower mix, great British bloomers, sunflowers, thyme, a pollinator mix and forget-me-nots. Single SeedBoms are £2.95 or buy a 4-pack for £10.95 from the SeedBom Shop on Etsy. Delivery is £3.00 and just 25 pence for additional items.

 

Panther Satchel

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Not even a tenuous link to food but I love this Panther Satchel by designer La Lissette. Hand made from leather with appliquéd details and a snap button nose, it’s £89 (plus £4.95 delivery) from The Shop Floor Project.

 

Map Ornaments

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Back to maps, with these lovely globe Christmas tree ornaments from the V&A Museum. They are £4.50 each.

 

Hannah Turner Owl Egg Cup Set

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As a lapsed egg cup collector, I’m coveting these quirky owl egg cups by designer Hannah Turner. The Owl Egg Cup Set includes four egg cups for £46, available from Quince Living.

 

Kokeshi Lamp

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After two holidays in Japan, I’m utterly charmed by Japan-inspired items for the home, such as this adorable Kokeshi Lamp, available from Mr Maria. It costs 165 Euros and shipping is free not only across the EU but to many other countries too. Miffy fans take note; there are Miffy Lamps sold here too.

 

You can also browse my previous gift guides below. Not all products are still available, but many are.

Please note that I have affiliate accounts with Amazon UK and Master of Malt – the cost you pay for anything you buy from them doesn’t change but I receive a tiny referral commission for any items you buy after following my links.

Oh and if you do buy something from the list, let me know. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling!

 

Mendiant.

It’s an interesting word, isn’t it?

It usually refers to a disc of chocolate with flavours and toppings added. But what’s the origin of this chocolate treat?

Traditionally, a mendiant is a French confection described as a chocolate disc studded with dried fruits and nuts that represent the four mediaeval Roman Catholic mendicant orders of the Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans and Carmelites; Mendicant comes from the Latin verb mendicans, to beg, describing the reliance of these orders on begging for charitable donations, following their vows of poverty. Figs, raisins, almonds and hazelnuts were chosen for their colours, each representing the robes of one of the monastic orders.

In Provence, the Christmas tradition is to finish the celebration meal with the 13 desserts of Noël, representing Jesus and his twelve apostles. The list of items varies among households but nearly always includes the four ingredients representing the mendicant orders.

Today, mendiants often have flavours added into the chocolate as well as a much wider range of toppings than the four original fruits and nuts.

BettysMendiants

This Christmas, Bettys have three different mendiants in their range.

I’m most intrigued by the Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh ones. Dark chocolate discs are flavoured with oils of frankincense and myrrh, and sprinkled with golden sugar crystals. The flavour is musky and citrusy and rather delicious. They are priced at £7.95 for 85 grams and come in a pretty presentation tube.

Crystallised Orange Mendiants are also wonderful. The crystallised citrus fruit pairs beautifully with the dark chocolate. They cost £7.25 for an 85 gram tube.

And last but not least are the Peppermint Mendiants, in which peppermint oil has been mixed into the dark chocolate. The sugar crystals on top are pepperminty too! These are also £7.25 for an 85 gram tube.

BettysMintMendiants-4167

 

COMPETITION

Bettys are kindly offering one Kavey Eats reader a set of all three chocolate mendiants above. The prize includes free delivery within the UK.

 

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me what flavourings and toppings you’d use on a chocolate mendiant.

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 a set of chocolate mendiants from Kavey Eats and @Bettys1919! http://goo.gl/KdH90I #KaveyEatsBettysMendiants
You don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet.

Entry 3 – Facebook
Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.

 

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 6th December 2013.
  • 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 winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • 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.
  • The prize is a set of three chocolate mendiants from Bettys of Harrogate , with free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Bettys of Harrogate.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You do not have to enter all three ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at 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 Facebook. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

 

With thanks again to Bettys for review samples.

This competition is closed. The winner is Jason Fallows (@smilingback2u).

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