A few ideas for keeping you merry this Christmas, and some food and gift ideas
A case of wine is always a very welcome gift, either to send someone, or to bring if you are staying somewhere. This year we’ve been enjoying a mixed case from Virgin Wines, with the average bottle price in a mixed case at £8.32.
- Coorong Sounds Chardonnay 2016 – crisp, vibrant with no oak
- Walnut Block Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – citrus & gooseberry, crisp and dry
- 16 Little Black Pigs Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – Rich blackcurrant and herbs
- Domaine Andre Brunel Cotes du Rhone 2014 – rich spiced fruit and a hint of liquorice
- Finca Los Principes Rioja Crianza 2013 – wild berries, spice and cocoa
- Il Cortile Sereno Prosecco Brut NV – peachy, apply very drinkable prosecco
A decanter is a must for your Christmas port, or a special bottle of red wine. I’ve wanted a ship’s decanter for years, and am thrilled with this elegant Regatta decanter from Dartington (£40). Other designs are available, along with engraving on all items.
Beer drinkers will love the Countryside Collection from Dorset based Badger Ales. It comes in a box that is roughly the size of a croquet set, with 12 assorted bottles of beer in a wide variety of styles. Also ideal for someone wanting to get to know beer.
A new idea to me is Vinoa’s fine wine by the glass. The idea is based on a simple premise that less is more, and for your money you can have a better wine, but less of it. Fine wines come in 187ml bottles, the ideal amount for a week nights drink, and invariably, with something of better quality you will have less of it and sip and savour it. It also means that you can experiment with different quality wines for £6 – £8 a glass without having the expense of a full bottle. Also available are flights of wine, like the Pinot above, 4 mini bottles of 100ml from full bottles costing upwards of £50. Genius.
It would not be Christmas without a selection of spirits and liqueurs. We’ve been enjoying
- Cotswolds Distillery Spirited Sherry – This will confuse at first taste as you expect it be a whisky, but it is a mixture of all those lovely plummy, fruity sweet sherries such as Pedro Ximenez fortified with whiskey spirit. The end result has all the flavour of intense sweet sherries, but not the sweetness and stickiness. I love it! £29.99
- Tia Maria – A coffee liqueur is a Christmas Classic, drizzle it over ice cream, add to coffee Martinis, have it with ice. My favourite way is to drink it half and half with some Irish cream.
- The Famous Grouse Mellow Gold – I’ve made the mistake of being a blended whisky snob for far too long, which is a shame as I’ve missed out on things like this. It is a gentle, smooth blend form whiskeys aged in Spanish sherry casks, and charred American oak bourbon casks. The end result is mellow, gentle and slightly sweet, but with a rounded depth of flavour. Good uncomplicated drinking, or for someone new to whisky.
- Aperol – The essential ingredient for a refreshing Spritz. Simply mix with Prosecco, a slice of orange, glug of soda water if you are being sensible and be transported straight to a Venetia Bar. Think of it as Campari’s younger, smaller, gentler, milder sister, who has a great sense of humour and fantastic character.
- Ciroc Mango – I’ve only started drinking vodka in the last few years and love this mango flavour from French label Ciroc. It has mango with hints of orange and vanilla. Very refreshing and a welcome change on the palate after lots of Christmas food. It is 5 times distilled so is super smooth. We’ll be trying to keep half the bottle for summer time cocktails.
- The next three gins are an example of just how good and how far the British artisan gin renaissance has come, I’d be hard pressed to pick my favourite from these. Firstly The Botanist from The Isle of Islay, more known for whisky than gin. It is gorgeous. A complex blend of 22 botanicals with 9 berries. Fruity and bright, with notes from the Atlantic beaches to the heather covered moors, the taste goes from citrus and apples then through juniper and citrius. I’ve been sipping it with a splash of water rather than tonic to open it out and release that wonderful flavour.
- Dorset Dry Conker Gin contains local ingredients including wild gorse and comes from Dorsets first gin distillery, established in 2014. It is a taste experience you have to try and like no other gin, the gorse adds an unmistakable note of honey and camomile, and a worthy winner of several awards including a gold in the 2016 Taste of the West. £35.95 / 70cl.
- Cotswold Dry Gin – is juniper led, but with grapefruit and lavender, a more floral, but still dry number, with a hint of pepper and coriander. Good in the classic G&T.
For rehydration and for the non drinkers I recommend these 250ml bottles of apple juice from James White. I love that they have varietal juices to celebrate the glory of the flavour of British apples. With the small bottles you can mix, match and try a different one each evening. Great Uncle Cornelius’ Famous Spiced Ginger packs a punch and will warm you on the coldest day. mix with lemonade for a ginger beer type drink, drink it neat, or add some whisky to make a whisky Mac. Whichever way you have it, his splendid ‘tach will bring a smile to everyone’s lips.
Christmas leftovers need chutneys. We’ve been enjoying a set in fun, decorative star shaped jars from the Hawkshead Relish Company, cranberry relish, spiced Christmas chutney, and a Christmas marmalade (Also great in a bread and butter pudding).
Yorkshire based Rosebud Preserves, also have a comprehensive range, fig and red onion marmalade featured in this post, almond and orange mincemeat and a Boxing day chutney we are saving until after Christmas. From £3.95 a jar.
Despite the fact that neither Ed or I like dessicated coconut we both adore Ferrero’s Raffaello, the white version of the classic Ferrero Rocher, containing an almond in a white chocolate, coconut cream, with wafer, more white chocolate and then coconut. Available in all sorts of different gift boxes from different retailers.
A box of Chococo’s Tawny Figs is the perfect ending to your Christmas lunch. Figs soaked in 10 year old Tawny port, then wrapped in fine chocolate, also dairy free. Winner of a Silver at the International Chocolate Award 2016. Just gorgeous. £5.95 for 4. We also loved their fresh chocolates, as well as the festive shapes, fun packaging and good quality dark chocolate.
Good quality oils always make welcome gifts for most people.
Premium Greek products from Navarino Icons include oil, honey, and sesame seed bars from the Peloponnese region of Greece. All produced in small quantities by local artisans and come in beautiful rustic packaging. Available from M&S.
Pomora offer an olive oil adoption scheme. Pay a subscription in advance and receive olive oil every quarter, the gift that carries on giving! What I really love about the scheme is that The producers know they are going to be paid, so can plan their finances accordingly, which makes their job of looking after their trees and the land so much easier. £29 a quarter.
Digital scales are a must for anyone who bakes more than once a month. I’ve had my set for years and will be gifting this kitchen gift set from Salter to my 13 year old goddaughter, who is a keener baker than me by far (her cakes are probably better than mine), but does not yet have digital scales. The set contains, scales, times and a probe thermometer. £24.99
It might look like some sort of Frisbee, but the Staybowlizer is one of my favourite things to have arrived this year. It is a silicon ring that will hold your mixing bowl rock solid on the work top, at an angle, or over a pan as a bain marie. Perfect for anyone like me who does two things at once in the kitchen. I tested it with a 6 egg meringue mix with an electric mixer on full power and it did not move at all. It really is an extra hand in the kitchen, also ideal for children, or for anyone with joint problems that finds it hard to grip. £18-19.
You cannot have too many pretty bowls in your kitchen. These pretty Marakesh Dipping Bowls from The Dotcomgiftshop come in three colours and two sizes. Ideal for mezze, dips, nibbles with drinks, mise en place, and, of course food photography. £3.95 / £6.99
I love the silicon designs from Charles Viancin, and use my poppy bowl covers on a daily basis. The latest addition to my collection is the camellia tea strainer, simply fill with tea, infuse, use the magnet in the stalk to remove, and catch the drips on the leaf shaped tray. Delightful. £10.
I do like a new book to curl up with, and read in front of the fire on Boxing day.
- If you buy one book this year, then make is Regula Ysewijn’s Pride and Pudding. A remarkable first book, it is a towering achievement with both text & photography by Regula, and design and illustrations by her husband. Firstlty it is one of the visually stunning cookbooks I’ve ever seen, with exquisite attention to detail, and no effort spared. The content is encyclopedic, informative with Reguala’s passion for her subject, and love of all things British shining through. Much more than just a cookbook, this is a social history of food in the UK. The book deserves a place on every shelf.
- Phaidon’s China The Cookbook, is equally encyclopedic and contains everything you will ever need to know about Chinese cooking in over 700 pages. Arranged by dish type with comprehensive introduction covering ingredients, techniques and regional cooking, this will inspire many a trip to your Chinese supermarket for ingredients.
- If you want 2017 to be the year you get in shape, then buy yourself a copy of Dannii Martin’s Hungry Healthy Happy. Frank, no nonsense and intensely personal, Dannii tells the story of how she lost 100lb and still enjoyed the food she loves. It is not easy, but it is possible, and all without expensive equipment or pouches of so called superfoods.
PR samples featured. all opinions our own.