Posts Tagged ‘foodie gifts’

As you may have realised by this point if you have read any of my other posts I’m a little christmas-mad. I wasnt always this way and I’m not entirely sure what happened but I think it was something to do with moving from the warm southern hemisphere (where christmas day consists of cold meat, salad and a dunk in the pool to maintain a temperature suitable for the continuation of life), to the cold climate of Scotland. I remember the first time I walked past a holly bush in Edinburgh that actually had holly berries on it and did a little jump-squeak-dance on the spot of excitement which must have really scared my fellow pedestrians. You don’t want to see me when it snows.

My favourite kind of post to read at this time of year is other blogger’s last minute ideas for christmas dishes, drinks and foodie presents just in case I’ve missed out on something I wont be able to continue life without eating/drinking/owning. And I’m equally as eager to share my own santa list and some recipes so that I am returning the favour to those with a similar compulsion.


Here’s a selection  recipes from other blogs and my own with a Christmassy theme which I would recommend or have me interested.


Creamy Pea Soup – coconut milk makes this deliciously creamy and sweet and its the perfect cheerful green….   Spaghetti with Marmite (from Nigella) – when you’ve had enough of turkey….    Chocolate & Thyme Mousse – if you’re sick of Christmas pud….    Poached Pears (from Kosher Camembert) – festive and just stunning….   Chilli Glazed Gammon – warm and spicy….   Chestnut Chocolate Pots (from Nigella) – winter in a cup….   Parmesan, Rosemary and Pancetta Grissini – perfect for parties and gifts….   Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes – if Christmas had a smell….


Stomach sorted, presents next. Some ideas from my own Christmas list and other brilliant foodie gift ideas I’ve seen this year.

Le Creuset Stoneware Mixing Jug, AlmondThe basics – Stoneware Mixing Jug. 

Everyone needs a sturdy mixing bowl . I have a big metal one which is great because its light and good for whipping meringue but sometimes you need a heavy one that wont slide around the counter top while you are mixing. This one has the benefit of a pouring lip and Le Creuset good looks.

McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and CultureCook Books – McGee on Food & Cooking.

I love cookbooks that either have a narrative with the recipes or teach you about why you have to do things and the science behind culinary techniques so this book is on my wish list this year.

Its not Christmas to me without a good book to read on Christmas day after I’ve eaten so much I’ve lost the power of movement and speech and have to lie down (I know, aren’t I rock and roll).

Landing_page_beansSubscriptions – Kopi Gourmet Coffee.

My Delicious Magazine subscription is still one of my favourite presents but this is a subscription with a twist. If you know anyone who loves good coffee and drinks enough of it to receive a new bag every month then I think this is very clever.

Crafty – Jam making stuff.

I want to start making my own preserves and although I’ve started by making my own fruit mince without the aid of any special equipment its harder to make proper jams and other preserves without decent jars and strainers etc.

I have my eye on these jars  at Lakeland as well as a pile of other preserving related paraphenalia and books on amazon.co.uk

Andrew James Professional Fully Automatic Ice Cream Maker With Built-in Compressor + Free 128 Page Ice Cream Maker Cook BookGadgets – Ice Cream Maker

Every cook loves gadgets. My cupboards are already crammed full but I am dying to make my own ice cream. My head is brimming with recipe ideas but I’ve tried making it without an ice cream machine and it just doesnt come out the same.

I dont have space in my freezer or patience for the kind with a bowl you have to freeze so this one is a well priced version of the proper electric kind.

Christmas Cooking Challenge

And last but not least, don’t forget to join in my Mince Pie Challenge if you are making your own this year. The idea is to reinvent the standard formula with a twist of any kind but if you just want to share your traditional home-made pies you can still send me a link or photo and at the end of the month I’ll post the entries, pick a winner and send the best one a little surprise foodie christmas gift.  Just leave me a comment to let me know you are entering by the end of the Month.

I’ve started by making Nigella’s Rhubarb and Vanilla Mince which turned out to be delicious and I’m using that to try out different mince pie themed pastries and biscuits. Here’s the recipe if you want an alternative to the ordinary suet and citrus peel kind. The vanilla makes it really rich and velvety.

Rhubarb and Vanilla Fruit Mince

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Feast.

  • 1kg rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 5mm slices
  • 300g soft brown sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 200g raisins
  • 250g sultanas
  • 225g currants
  • 2 tbsp cherry brand

Put the sliced rhubarb with the sugar into a large pan. Cut the vanilla pod in halves length ways and scrape out the seeds, then cut each half into pieces, adding seeds and pod slices to the pan. Add the mixed spice and cook for about 5 mins.

Add the dried fruits and simmer for about 30 mins. Stir in the brandy and take off the heat. When it’s cool enough to handle, bottle in jars.

Makes 1.25 litres.

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There was a surprise waiting for me last week when I got home. A shiny February edition of Delicious magazine, which will be followed by another one every month for the next year…a Christmas present that was a little late in arriving.  This means one lazy Saturday morning every single month, paging through new recipes and articles – my idea of bliss. I have been suffering from a never ending winter bug lately so this was the perfect comfort for me this weekend. Curled up under a duvet with my magazine and a bowl of edamame beans to nibble on.

In a moment of inspiration I also decided to take a few pictures of some other foodie gifts I was given that you will no doubt see in future posts. Besides the deliciously retro mug you see above and beautiful new cake tins which I have already used to store my granola, my favourite gifts were already pre-owned and pre-loved which makes them all the more special. This little silver teapot and the glass sugar cannister were both given to me by Ross’s granddad and they are just beautiful. I have made a pact with myself to stop buying any brand new crockery for my kitchen and to shop only in second hand shops for pretty odds and ends which I can give a new home. These are perfect, especially because they belonged to family and will always remind me of someone when I use them.

And while I’m on the theme of old things with a new twist…as you can see from the pictures I did make french macarons in the end. Just before Christmas I shared some blogs that had given me inspiration, including a couple on macarons that I had been eyeing up cautiously because of their notoriously tricky reputation. Macarons always seem so old fashioned and elegant and they are one of those things you want to prove to yourself that you can make but they’ve also come back into fashion lately and have something of an air of retro about them, especially some of the less traditional flavours and colours. I had an idea brewing for a macaron version of red velvet cake but I was convinced that my first attempt at making these little blighters would be a flop so I had been putting it off. However, my pre-Christmas planning was so over efficient that I managed to land up with a few spare nights and a lot of spare eggs.

Having read through all the guides I had already found plus another encyclopaedia’s worth of recipes for both french and italian versions I felt suitably educated enough to proceed. I followed all the instructions for not over beating the batter , using a sturdy baking sheet (to avoid wonky shells as the sheet warps in the heat of the oven) and most importantly getting the piping right and although there were one or two cracked shells and some slightly special looking ones due to dodgy piping, overall I think I can say I baked a proper macaron. And it wasn’t nearly as much of a palaver as the experts would have you believe.  The piping is a bit fiddly and there is a fair amount of faffing around with baking parchment and a circle stencil but if I can pull off something on the first attempt then it cant be that complicated. And they are very very pretty.

Red Velvet Macarons

Adapted from Not So Humble Pie. I recommend Ms Humble’s basic recipe no matter what type or flavour you are making and in addition to previously mentioned useful guides her 101 on both French and Italian macarons is very thorough. I have shortened her recipe instructions and added my red velvet elements and other things that worked well but its worth reading her full version as a starting point and then using this shorter version to refer to as you bake.

  • 120g ground almonds
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 100g egg whites aged over night at room temperature
  • couple drops of lemon juice
  • 35g castor sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1-2 tsp red food coloring

Cream cheese filling

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 225g cream cheese
  • 450g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Line 2-3 heavy baking sheets (or double them up if you dont have a sturdy one) with parchment and trace out 1 inch circles roughly 1 and a half inches apart which makes the piping much easier. Prep a piping bag with a round tip (Ms Humble’s trick of placing the bag in a glass so you can fill it easily is a good one I’ve used before).

Blend the ground almond and icing sugar in a food processor and sift to make sure there are no lumps. Sift in the cocoa powder and set aside.  Weigh out the egg whites into a large stainless steel bowl and add the lemon juice. Start beating the eggs on a low speed. Once the egg whites are very foamy, begin sprinkling in the sugar as you beat. Increase the speed to medium and beat the meringue to stiff glossy peaks. If like mine your electric beater is a bit over enthusiastic then stop as soon as the meringue looks thick and whisk the last bit with a hand whisk to avoid over beating it. Add the food colouring and gently mix in.

Add about 1/4 of the almond mixture and fold in until no streaks remain. Continue to add the almond mixture in quarters, folding until you reach the proper batter. It should cling to the spatula briefly before it drops into the bowl. Pour the batter into your prepared piping bag and pipe blobs onto the baking sheets. Tap the pan on the counter to bring up any air bubbles and quickly pop them with a toothpick. Allow them to rest on a level surface for 30-60 minutes until they are no longer tacky to a light touch.

While they rest, preheat the oven to 140°C and then bake the macarons for 16-20 minutes. If all has gone according to plan they should have smooth tops and nice ‘legs’ (the rough edge around the bottom of the shell). Lift off the sheet soon after removing from the oven and place upside down to cool completely. Be gentle or you will damage the delicate shells.

In the meantime beat all the cream cheese filling ingredients together and then pipe a little onto half of the shells. Top with the other half and you are done. They benefit from being left to mature overnight in an airtight container in the fridge or for a few hours at room temperature which allows the filling merge slightly with the meringue shells.

Happy munching ♥

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