This is the week that I start to finish my Christmas shopping. I say finish because in my head I started in July. At the Christmas in July press shows. So many ideas and the promise of being better organised. Hmmmm. If like me, you’ll be recharging that iPad with credit cards at the ready, here’s wishlist which might inspire you for the foodies in your family.
Let’s start with wine. My wine heroes are Aldi, (yes I did say Aldi), Majestic and Waitrose Cellar. Aldi’s Christmas range is really, really good. The’re also doing some delicious dessert wines in great little gift boxes. the Turkish one is a current favourite. Majestic have a great Portuguese red which we haven’t been able to stop buying since tasting a few months ago.
Now let’s move on to Harrods. I know it’s not your average shopping destination but what I love about Harrods at this time of year is the magnificently over the top decorations. It’s just so festive in store that you cannot help but get carried away. They have such decadent gifts which to be honest are just perfect for those in the family who have everything. I would love any of these. The Alexandre Stern honey was so delicious that I could have eaten a whole bucket. The flavours are delicate and luxurious. The Black Forest and Isphahan were the best for me. We buy the girls chocolates of some kind every year and the Prestat ones ooooooze with caramel. My daughters also love anything in a box that can be reused to house their little trinkets and treasures – mostly Lego truth be told – so this box of hot chocolate discs is perfect dual purpose decadence. Grandma Millie gets the gift and then the girls bagsie the box.
And if you’re out and about near Harrods you may as well hop over to Harvey Nicks for these. The bento box is just fun and reminds me of the cute kids I used to teach in Japan. The molecular gastronomy kit is really good fun. I bought it for my husband last year and we had a great time making unusual cocktails like gin and tonic with blue gin pearls. And the Himalyan rock salt is just one of those unusual wow ingredients that you must have.
You can’t go wrong with gifts for foodies at Carluccio’s. Aside from their Vin Santo, my top three would be the chocolate coated figs. The figs are baked, revived with water, stuffed with a walnut and then covered in chocolate. The baskets are handmade in Calabria. Then you have the Sicilian orange peel coated in chocolate made by a 120 year old patissier. And finally staying with the chocolate orange theme these orange segments coated in chocolate. They’re so sticky inside because as soon as they come off the tree they’re encased in sugar syrup again and again.
Not all foodies want something edible. I rather like getting out and about experiencing what cities have to offer. It’s the first thing I research when I’m planning a holiday. So these explorer packs for London from Taste Tripper are brilliant. Beautiful Jen has been running Chocolate Ecstasy Tours now for over a decade and there isn’t anything she doesn’t know about chocolate, coffee or craft beer.
Let’s take a look at cookbooks. So many brilliant ones in 2016. Here are some which are always first for inspiration.
There are so many courses to choose from now across the UK. My must do are the Thai and Vietnamese Cookery Day at Demuths, Knife Skills at Billingsgate, Sourdough Masterclass with Dan Lepard at the Cookery School on Great Portland Street, An Introduction to Dim Sum at The School of Wok, Anything at Food at 52 as the atmosphere is so relaxed and wonderfully cosy it’s just a lovely evening out. All of these schools have gift vouchers too.
I tend to make up my own hampers at Christmas but if I were to choose some ready made ones it would be these from the wonderful folk at Halen Mon. I love salt and their salt is spectacular because it’s from the waters that are metres from their factory. You can visit them in Anglesey and take a tour to see how their salt is made. A must buy is the vanilla salt which finishes off a dark chocolate tart. I also love their smoked water. A few drops on hummus or scrambled eggs gives a really woody, earthy flavour without the rigmarole of actually smoking.
I tend to buy spices off the shelf at my local Indian grocer in Wembley but if you’re a novice and want to get started or know someone who does then you can’t go wrong with Spice Kitchen or Green Saffron for Christmas gifts. Both are passionate family businesses with great products which are lovingly sourced and packaged.
This is the tiniest snapshot of things I would be happy to find wrapped up for me under our tree. I’d also like lots of cuddles from my girls. Don’t get very many of those any more. In addition to those perhaps a massive box of fresh mangoes – Kesar or alphonso of course. And then a huge sack of fresh vegetables so I can get cooking! That is of course the best gift of all.