Little yummy snippets … Mostly perfect for Christmas
I really enjoyed the mushroom kit from Prêt à Pousser, simply open the box, spray with water several times a day and wait for the mushrooms to erupt from the box. Growth time is about 10 days, but once they take off they really grow fast with the majority of growth happening in 48 hours. Huge fun for children who will notice a difference overnight, or having even been at school for the day. I am sure I noticed a difference during a 40 minute phone call at the peak of their growth. Once harvested there will be a second, smaller crop. Kits from £14.90. This has been one of my favourite discoveries this year, I want another one and set up a time lapse to make a film of it. Hugely fun! Twitter @pretapousser_uk
British company Hotel Chocolat never disappoints for excellent chocolate on the High Street. We love the Sleekster boxes at £22 each which are designed to fit though a letter box, and come in a range of flavours to suit every taste from milk, white & light, tipsy truffles, less sweet to the serious dark fix (pictured). Also available and would make an fun Christmas gift is chocolate beer, or gin along with matching truffles. Lots of lovely attractive ideas in store too. Twitter @hotelchocolat
Did you know that high street chain Boots has all manner of fun, nicely presented foodie gifts? All would make ideal presents for colleagues, secret Santas and friends. We loved the mini cup measures, the since of measuring spoons, a set of peri peri sauces for those needing a “cheeky” Nandos fix at home and Starbucks and Twinings gift sets are all attractive and can be picked up at lunchtime. Prices range from £10 – £18 with lots of other options available. Currently on a 3 for 2 offer. Twitter @BootsUK
The latest subscription box is from Hot Sauce Club, which provides a carefully curated selection of chilli products each month including 1 sauce, 1 jam or chutney, 1 rub , paste or chilli flake, 1 confectionery item and a chilli grow kit from a variety of producers. It would make an excellent present for a chilli lover, but be warned that the products are really very hot so it is not for wimps. Price £19.50 for a single box, £15 on subscription. Twitter @hotsauceclubUK
I love the simplicity and timelessness of Cornishware and it transports me straight to a clifftop cottage. Get a memory of sea air every morning with the classic blue and white striped mug (around £12 in a range of sizes) or branch out to one of 10 colours including a cheery red, sage green or black. Mugs can be personalised and there are lots of other items to choose from including tea pots, egg cups and textiles. Twitter @Cornishware
My love affair with my Froothie Optimum 9400 continues. If you want a healthier start to 2016 then ask Father Christmas to bring you one of these. A power blender is a revelation and will enable you to whizz up smoothies in seconds and dramatically increase your fruit and vegetable intake . At £349 it is an investment, but in my view worth every penny, and performs better than its more expensive competitors. Full review here. Twitter @FroothieUK
And because Christmas is not Christmas without a new cookbook under the tree.
Nikkei – Japanese Food the South American Way by Luiz Hara
The Japanese diaspora in South America have their own cuisine, reflecting both heritages. This – fusion food with provenance – is not a cuisine with which I am at all familiar. But from this book by Nikkei supper club cook Luiz Hara, there is much of interest to discover. Recipes that look particularly interesting include: kouji fried chicken and renkon chips, scallops with black quinoa tabbouleh and candied kumquats, triple cooked pork belly with spicy sauce, lime butter salmon, Micha’s Nikkei cebiche, Nikkei hot pot of pork belly, cod and seafood, pan fried rib-eye steak marinated in miso and aji panca, pimientos de padron Nikkei. I wasn’t even really aware of the Japanese populations in South America. Having seen now a little of how they have integrated the twin heritages of their food, the thought of a visit arises. 256 pages, and we really like the sharp and mouth-watering photography.
Published by Jacqui Small, cover price £25
Gin by Aaron Knoll
A comprehensive guide to gin, this book would make an excellent present for any gin lover. Broadly split into three sections, the first gives a history of the spirit, a rundown of how gin is made, a guide to the various botanicals that can be used for flavourings, and an introduction to the various types of gin. The second section of the book is an extensive guide to different gins, distilled both in the UK and around the world. Finally, a short section for well-known gin based cocktails and drinks, including a guide to different tonics for the classic G&T. As boutique and small batch producers are coming and going all the time, I doubt that every maker is covered but it will go a long way to widening my knowledge of what’s out there. One for the gin drinker, obviously, but he or she can lose themselves in the 226 pages and get inspiration to start planning an artisan gin company.
Published by Jacqui Small, cover price £25
Taste – The infographic book of food by Laura Rowe
Taste isn’t a recipe book, but an exploration of food facts, both well and lesser known. Six chapters: from the plot, off the farm, out the water, in the larder, on the table. For example, in the plot chapter, the page about pumpkins shows the common varieties, gives ideas about how to cook each one, and details the ingredients that combine well with pumpkin. The book touches on history, flavour, some food pairing and recipe ideas, little known pieces of information and interesting titbits. It’s a perfect book to dip into, to widen your knowledge, and much like an encyclopedia, you find yourself chasing threads of thought through the book. It’s dense with information, though; it would make an Christmas present for a foodie and should last well into the new year. I did think, though, that a font of knowledge like this would be the perfect starting point for a board game. Perhaps that comes next. 224 pages, illustrated with attractive graphic design with a strong Nordic feel.
Published by Aurum Press, cover price £20
Food for thought – Changing the world one bite at a time by Vanessa Kimbell
Vanessa’s book is for those who are looking to think globally, and act locally. She has thought about each recipe, and how it might be possible to minimize the impact on the planet of how and what we eat. Recipes that look interesting include seasonal homemade pesto, leek, feta and nasturtium quiche, seasonal vegetable curry, homemade baked beans, wild boar salami and rocket pizza, sour cherry and almond stolen, seasonal berry tarts, sour milk scones, and coffee frappe. Recipes are well thought out, but I have to admit that it’s a book that, while it definitely has its heart in the right place and is rightly well intentioned, is in some ways quite intense. 222 pages, and well-illustrated with large photographs for most recipes.
Publisher Kyle Books, cover price £19.99
The Silver Spoon – Quick and Easy Italian Recipes
Over 100 Italian recipes, published to celebrate the original publication of the best-selling The Silver Spoon cookbook a decade ago. Classics like Milanese risotto, spaghetti carbonara and zabaglione are all included, and other dishes that I like the look of include: fettuccine with chicken and almonds, a summer rice salad, bread soup with tomato, baked eggs with leeks, sole with thyme, chicken anchovy and caper roulades, and spicy broccoli with yoghurt. The simplicity of Italian cooking shines throughout: ingredients lists are short, and the method of preparation is equally brief. Not because the instructions are in an incomprehensible shorthand, but because the essence of the food is quality ingredients cooked simply to show at their best. As a go to source of classic Italian dishes, it’s a relatively short at 240 pages but invaluable book. Full page photographs for each recipe show the finished dish.
Published by Phaidon, cover price £19.95
Many thanks to brands and publishers for samples. All opinions our own.