Stuck for what to buy at Christmas? In the run up to Christmas 2014 we’ll be adding to this page, to give you 12 delicious foodie ideas. Check back often!
The Freshest Christmas Ever
May I suggest a fabulous Christmas Eve supper? Something that’s easy to cook, but certainly has that “wow” factor. My suggestion is a delivery from the Hebridean Food Company established by Douglas Stewart a lobster fisherman’s son from the Isle of North Uist. Imagine the freshest, tastiest langoustine possible, or would you prefer crab claws or lobster? We tried the langoustine. Aren’t they beautiful? I quickly cooked them in a ribbed grill pan whilst warming butter and garlic. (To avoid the bitterness you sometimes get from garlic, boil the cloves in water for a few minutes before chopping them). At the last minute I added chopped coriander. I kept all the shells to make a stock for a risotto. I will share that recipe with you in the future.
If you’d like an even bigger treat or looking for a great gift. choose one of their hampers. The Hebridean Supper hamper (£38) contains a selection of gourmet treats including North Uist lobster, white crab cocktail claws, crab meat and a gourmet sauce; the Hebridean Party hamper (£52) has a dozen oysters and a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck champagne and the Hebridean Feast hamper (£76 ) has a selection of peat-smoked salmon and scallops, crab, lobster and sauces for those people in your life you really love! Each option is delivered in a beautiful wicker hamper.
The deliveries arrive within 24 hours of ordering. Last orders sent on 22 December! The pricing on the website includes postage and packing.
Check out other Hampers we recommend.
Books for Cooks
I am sure that’s the name of a shop somewhere, but I use that phrase rather than cookbooks deliberately. Some are hot off the press, others have been out a while. Many books were read on an electronic device at first, but truly I still love a hard copy. One that becomes splattered and stained as you use it. Proof that I’ve cooked from the book. So here are just a few volumes that I’ve enjoyed. Go on, pick one for yourself, place it on a wish list and if you really must buy a copy for someone else.
Relae, Christian Puglisi
The book’s subtitle is A Book of Ideas. Christian draws you into his world. You understand how the restaurant (in Copenhagen) began, its ethos and its vision. It’s an unconventional book that introduces you to ideas and techniques rather than focusing on recipes. You may never have the ingredients or means to tackle the recipes. Is this an issue? Not for me, I loved getting absorbed in his world.
Burnt Toast Makes you Sing, Kathleen Flin
I guess you could call this escapist reading, but so enjoyable. This memoir transports the reader back to 1960s America and what it was like growing up poor in a large family. Through necessity food was always made from scratch. Rather than providing presents, the parents let their children choose what they’d like to eat all day on their birthday was amusing results. Each chapter ends with a family recipe and the story of how it came to be made and tips on how to cook or indeed update it from its origins. A thoroughly enjoyable read that left you wanting more.
Plenty More, Yotam Ottolenghi
Not so long ago, our local theatre was packed with eager home cooks anxious to hear about Ottolenghi’s latest book. We were not disappointed. He was as entertaining in person as on screen. His passion for produce and dishes from the countries around his birthplace in Israel make you want to cook. Yes, all the recipes are vegetarian. But it is also simply the sort of food you want to eat. This will certainly have pride of place with his other books that I use more often than any others.
Bay Tree Preserving – A Complete Collection of Classic and Contemporary Recipes
Having spent much of this year in France, I was inspired by the wonderful produce to make more preserves than I had for some time,. I loved this book from Emma Macdonald. It had just the right mix of traditional and new recipes: Fancy orange and cardamom marmalade or raspberry curd? The recipes were particularly easy to follow too
Ever wanted to make your own chocolate? It’s quite a skill to get to grip with. Rather than having to go in for long training, satisfy your creativity by creating your own chocolate bars at Chocolat Chocolat. First choose how many bars you’d like, then select the type of choccolate, white, milk or dark and add flavourings.
You can choose their suggested mixtures but far more fun is to delve into their list. Cardamom and rose? Ginger and coconut? Raspberry and cinnamon – spend as little or as long as you like thinking what the recipient (or you) will most enjoy. When you’re finished complete the formalities and the bars will wing their way to you in about 5 days The packaging is stylish and shows your creation off and even includes a label saying who made it! I was very pleased with my chosen flavours – delicious if I say so myself! Price is from £5.95 for one custom bar.
Check out our other chocolate favourites
Gifts that last all year
One of my most inspired presents for Mr EF was membership of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I get the benefit too! There is of course the whisky, a really good programme of events and tastings (Japanese Whisky anyone?), the atmosphere and a very welcome place away from the frantic shopping streets. It’s also a great place to take friends when they visit. There are two tasting rooms in Edinburgh and one in London.
Other subscriptions we love: Beer52 – specially chosen craft beer delivered to your door at regular intervals, Pact Coffee, flavoursome coffee cleverly packaged so it fits through your letterbox and Gousto, all the ingredients for a meal delivered to your door.
Looking for a little something extra for your beloved? A gadget that really works is an ideal solution. I must admit I was rather sceptical about the Pasta Maestro measurer. Could it really make it easy to measure a portion of spaghetti? Well, yes, the pasta measurer does exactly what it says it does. Choose the weight you require, use the gadget to grab the spaghetti or and transfer it directly to the pan. You shake off any excess. It costs £5.99, you can purchase online.
We’ve tried plenty of gadgets over the years. One from this year that we’re still using regularly, is the Smood to make mash potato quickly and most importantly smoothly! Our perennial favourite is the ceramic garlic and ginger grater.
Have you tried smoked trout? If you’ve not you’re in for a real treat. My recent tasting of R R Spink smoked trout surprised and delighted me. Far from a slightly muddy taste some trout can have, the flavours were crisp and clear.
Following on from their collaboration with Edinburgh Gin in the summer, they have teamed up with Spencerfield who own Edinburgh Gin, to create a whisky infused peat-smoked trout, using their Sheep Dip whisky, and a delicious warming winter spiced smoked trout. It was fascinating to taste the trout alongside smoked salmon. The trout was far more flavoursome. Definitely something for a Christmas starter or perhaps as canapés. We tasted some lovely ones, including some with prunes, a surprisingly but rather lovely combination.
In 2014, RR. Spink became the first fish producer to launch a Freedom Food standard smoked trout. Endorsed by the RSPCA, Freedom Foods assures that the fish have been reared to the highest animal welfare standards throughout the supply chain. Also in 2014, RR. Spink’s products were accredited by the Great Taste Awards. Its whole side and cold smoked trout products were each awarded one star and its kiln roast salmon gained two as well as a Best in Class Farm Produce Award. They hand rear the trout themselves.
Where to buy
Loch Etive Sheep Dip Smoked Trout is £6.00 per 100g. The trout is smoked over peat and whisky chips for a deep rich smoke flavour, before being infused with Sheep Dip. Loch Etive Smoked Trout with Winter Warming Spices is £6.00 per 100g Smoked Trout. This is made with a special blend of traditional winter spices; orange, cinnamon and cranberry. You can buy the products online or at selected retailers.
We know you’re busy, but baking is such a relaxing occupation. Get the whole family involved!
- 25g sultanas
- 125g currants
- 125g raisins
- 20g glacé cherries, chopped
- 20g mixed peel
- ½ bramley apple, grated
- 20g carrot, grated
- 2 tsp finely grated orange zest
- 40g prunes, stoned and chopped
- 50g plain flour (use gluten free flour if you wish)
- 20g ground almonds
- 60g bread crumbs
- 1tbsp milk
- 50g soft dark brown sugar
- 75g proper beef suet
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 egg
- Pinch each of salt, mixed spice and cinnamon
- Glug each of brandy, sherry and rum
- 4 tbsp stout
- Place the sultanas, currants and raisins in a large bowl. Add the alcohol and leave to soak overnight.
- Line a 2 pint pudding basin with muslin, leaving enough spare to tie at the top.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl of soaked fruit and mix well.
- Fill the lined pudding basin with the mix and tie up the muslin with a piece of string.
- Gently steam the pudding for 2 hours in a lidded pot (water covering half the pudding basin). Don’t allow to boil dry.
- Before serving, check that the centre of the pudding is piping hot.
- Serve with brandy sauce or pouring cream.