Monthly Archives: December 2015

Christmas Present Solutions

Enjoy this selection of Foodie Christmas Presents, sampled and chosen by The Taster. If you make an order, please mention our name.

Fabulous tableware by new designers Black+Blum

Foodie Christmas PresentsOriginal and stylish items: glasses, candle holders, water bottles, cutlery and lots more. The Taster’s fave new designers. The last word in chic. Click on the pic for more. NB LAST ORDERS midnight tonight (Sunday 20th)

Foodie Christmas PresentsVery Chic Ginger Liqueur

For the spirit-lover in your life. This chic, scalloped bottle of French ginger liqueue (Domaine de Canton) is very impressive in reality (we assume the bottle would be quite small, but it enjoys a full-sized, satisfying wine-bottle volume). Cleverly reminiscent of pieces of raw ginger, the bottle itself is an attractive piece, and the contents festively delicious. A good after-dinner liqueur, it adds a spicy seasonal note to cocktails, chocolate or orange puddings, sushi, pork or Thai food. Order from thewhiskyexchange.com (use the search option to find “Domaine de Canton”) £32

Wine Tasting Classes

Foodie Christmas PresentsIf you want to give someone An Experience rather than More Stuff, our very own wine columnist, Richard J. Smith, runs wine classes and events across Cheshire. Richard is a delightful chap who will be sure to provide a friendly and amusing experience, along with lots of insider info and top wine tips. Book an event for a friend to attend or, if you suspect they’d rather choose an event themselves, you can give them a gift voucher for £25, £50, £75 or £100 to spend as they prefer. If you’re running out of time (aagh! Christmas countdown! etc) the vouchers can be sent as eVouchers, sent to the recipient immediately upon payment. See all details on wineschoolofcheshire

More experiences – smokehousing in Shropshire, breadmaking across the UK, or Food Adventures in South Wales

Foodie Christmas PresentsFoodie Christmas PresentsMake Sausages and Cider, or learn about smoking and curing, at Pool Cottage Smallholding; learn how to bake bread from basic loaves to Italian and French speciality with the Bread Angels; or gird your loins for a course in anything from wild foraging to Butchery & Beer days with Food Adventure

Marys Meals

Give a Foodie Charitable Gift
Foodie Christmas Present
Pic (c) Chris Watt
Tel 07887 554 193
www.chriswatt.com

If you want to give beyond friends and family this Christmas, consider Mary’s Meals. Technically, all the charity provides is lunches for schoolchildren in the developing world – but in reality, this means giving struggling, hungry boys and girls the motivation and energy needed to get to school, get an education and build better futures for themselves. A brilliantly simple idea that is cheap but fantastically effective, with benefits that go far beyond lunchtime

Highly Original Foodie Cookbook

Foodie Christmas PresentsAuthors Wendy Trusler and Carol Devine relate the tale of Antarctica’s first cleanup, carried out by 54 volunteers from five countries. In three months, they cleared the detritus of 30 years’ worth of previous expeditions. But while most of the volunteers were clearing rubbish, someone had to do the cooking. As the authors say, ‘The first thing that comes to mind about Antarctica is not likely the food. But if you are going there, it is the second.’ Trusler spent ‘many long, white nights’ devising menus with limited ingredients in a camp kitchen — with some success, if the 42 recipes given are anything to go by. The international nature of the project is evident in dishes from Great Wall [of China] dumplings to fondue, goulash and roast leg of lamb. Along with many original illustrations and photos, the book reproduces Shackleton’s hilarious — but impressive — advertisement for volunteers: ‘Men wanted for hazardous journey . . .’ (you’ll have to buy it yourself to get the punchline.) A handsome and unusual book, of interest to foodies, geographers and historians. £25 from publishers Harper Design 2015

Foodie Christmas PresentsChristmas Hampers

Three of The Taster’s friends are producing Christmas hampers this year. The joy of hampers is that if your family includes one or two large branches, instead of buying each individual a present, you can buy them one large hamper as a Joint Present for All. It’s actually sometimes cheaper than buying individual presents, and you can let them fight it out for the choicer items. Try Cornwall’s Etherington’s Farmshop (excellent value; traditional wicker hamper of Cornish goodies for just £25) and Low Sizergh Barn up in Cumbria (themed Christmas hampers include  the Ginger Lovers Hamper; Cumbrian Storecupboard Hamper, Chocolate Lovers Hamper,  etc) ranging from £25 to larger hampers at £90. If you order a hamper from Picnic Cornwall, the recipient may get a free copy of The Taster inside it (an excellent addition!); options include the Charcuterie Board Hamper, the Cheese Board Hamper and (of course) the Cream Tea Hamper.
NB have a crack at winning an Etherington’s Farmshop hamper (pictured above) by entering our Readers Survey Prize Draw  HERE

Seafood-Lovers Hamper (Yorkshire only)

Foodie Christmas PresentsAs above, a hamper makes a good joint gift and The Taster is very pleased to see Ramus Seafood Emporium, a really lovely company devoted to sustainable fish, offering such pleasing hampers, containing not only vouchers for delicious seafood but some very nice ceramics and utensils (oyster clamp, crustacean kit, moules pot) as well. Send a themed hamper to oyster (pictured), lobster or mussel lovers. Sadly it’s Click & Collect only but, if you can get to Ilkley or Harrogate, for the right person these are perfect presents.

Exceptionally Good-Value Handmade Pottery

Foodie Christmas PresentsHandmade, artisan chinaware, pottery & gifts at amazingly cheap prices. These two Continental cups or the handmade bowl below would not look overpriced in a Knightsbridge boutique at £20 each; shop savvy and get them for a mere fiver each at  Sun Pottery

Foodie Christmas Presents

For the Self-Sufficiency Enthusiast/Bear Grylls Type

For the self-sufficiency enthusiast: Foodie Christmas Presents an entire collection of 12 self-sufficiency books, from foraging to cheese-making and bee-keeping, some of which have been featured in The Taster — an amazing bargain for just £9.99 here. Titles include Grow Your Own, Herbs & Spices, Home Brewing and more

Foodie Christmas PresentsWine aerator

Domu produce this and similar gadgets, of interest to all wine-lovers. You pour the wine in the top, let it bubble down, and it really does transform some wines, especially cheaper reds, into something special

Foodie Christmas PresentsThe Best and Only Independent National Food & Drink Magazine in the UK Today

Be part of our world. Order a subscription today, let us know if it’s a gift & we’ll put a special message in. Every season your friend will be reminded of your thoughtful gift, as they receive another lovely new issue of The Taster. And remember: this is not just subscribing to any old food & drink mag — this is subscribing to a foodie magazine that is, unusually, NOT sponsored by a giant supermarket, television company or any other huge and faceless corporate entity. For example, you will never read a lovely article about Shopping Local in our magazine, only to be presented with an exhaustive list of the best out-of-town hypermarkets at which to purchase matching wines. A full year’s subs is currently just £10 — total bargain. Click to order

Upcycled Plates

We very much like these made-over vintage plates; see lots more unique sets by alijoedesigns
Foodie Christmas Presents

Foodie Christmas PresentsMake your own yoghurt

This yoghurt-maker was a nice surprise in more ways than one. First, it turns out that making a tub of yoghurt is as easy as making as a cup of tea! Second, the result has a fresh, delicate texture, often with a slight bubbliness at the top which reminded The Taster of the yoghurts of his youth, when they were presumably made with fewer additives. Third, the makers claim that the extreme freshness of the live culture makes it better for you, as many more of the microbes are alive than in yoghurts which have been sitting on the shelf for weeks. Certainly, there is a lightness and freshness to this yoghurt we found very appealing, and there is something about making it from scratch yourself which encourages experimentation and variation. Our top tip is to add lemon juice and a sprinkling of black pepper to the strawberry yoghurt – really good!
The yoghurt-maker & six packs of mix is currently on special offer at just £14 (down from £22) from Hansells.

 Foodie’s Map Of The World

Foodie Christmas Presents

Get The Taster’s own view of the world with this decorative and informative poster from The Taster. You never know, we might put something extra in with it, as well.


The Oxford Companion to Food

Foodie Christmas Presents At £40, this hefty volume is a substantial Christmas present for any serious foodie, gourmand or connoisseur who hasn’t already snapped up a copy. Funny and illuminating in equal measure, the original 1999 volume was an overnight success, winning prizes and accolades worldwide for its author, the late Alan Davidson. It contains over 3000 entries “on every possible food, its history, cultural significance, and culinary usage.” The  Taster finds it invaluable.

Tom Jaine recently updated this edition (2014).
Tom has produced numerous cookery books and often writes for The Times, The Guardian and The Sunday Telegraph; and he has edited The Good Food Guide and presented BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme.

 Himalayan cooking slabs, rocks and ground salt

Foodie Christmas PresentsAmazing cookstones, slabs, small ‘rocks’ and ground salts, all made of Himalayan salt. The cooking slabs make really original gifts for foodies, while the bags of ready-to-use ground salt are excellent stocking fillers. Click on the pic for more – NB quote “TASTER25” for a very generous 25% off everything on the Saltan website.

Marguerite Patten – Grub Street

The Original Domestic Goddess

These words originally published in our Autumn 2015 issue, in our Book Reviews and Celeb Chefs pages, following Marguerite’s death in June, just a few months shy of her 100th birthday.

Grub Street books
Picture (c) Andrew Crowley

THE FIRST ever female television chef, MARGUERITE PATTEN OBE, died this month aged 99. From 1947, she co-presented the BBC’s Cookery Lesson alongside Philip Harben.

During World War II, Marguerite worked for the Ministry of Food, giving practical advice to families trying to stretch their rations into nutritious and tasty meals. After the war, she continued at the Ministry of Food Bureau (rationing was only finally dispensed of in 1954, nine years after the end of the war).

Grub Street booksShe wrote nearly 170 cookbooks in her lifetime, achieving sales of 16 million. She was often described as ‘England’s Cookery Queen,’ although she herself preferred the modest description ‘home economist.’ She received an OBE for Services to the Art of Cookery, a CBE and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guild of Food Writers, and was a great friend to younger chefs including Jamie [Oliver] and Nigel [Slater].

Regarding A Century of British Cooking, it is worth noting that ‘with over 170 cookery books to her name and a lifetime spent in the food world, Marguerite Patten’s association with Grub Street has been a privilege. Her books are as in-demand today, as the first time they were published’ says the Grub Street website of this memorial issue.

An elegant volume, it is fascinating to read the lists of recipes for each decade in the 20th century, from Windsor Soup and Empress Rice in the 1900s, to the tempura, satay and pesto of the 1990s. Useful in the kitchen, attractive on the coffee table – this is a great book, both for practical cooks and (like The Taster) not-so-practical bookworms, who enjoy reading and tantalising themselves with interesting cookbooks.

Published by Grub Street, 2015

Christmas Food Books

We’ve gone through this year’s book reviews and are pleased to bring you our top dozen. Click on any pic to link to the publishers. If you make an order, please mention The Taster. Happy reading

Foodie Christmas Presents1. UNUSUAL ECO FOODIE BOOK

Authors Wendy Trusler and Carol Devine relate the tale of Antarctica’s first cleanup, carried out by 54 volunteers from five countries. In three months, they cleared the detritus of 30 years’ worth of previous expeditions. But while most of the volunteers were clearing rubbish, someone had to do the cooking. As the authors say, ‘The first thing that comes to mind about Antarctica is not likely the food. But if you are going there, it is the second.’ Trusler spent ‘many long, white nights’ devising menus with limited ingredients in a camp kitchen — with some success, if the 42 recipes given are anything to go by. The international nature of the project is evident in dishes from Great Wall [of China] dumplings to fondue, goulash and roast leg of lamb. Along with many original illustrations and photos, the book reproduces Shackleton’s hilarious — but impressive — advertisement for volunteers: ‘Men wanted for hazardous journey . . .’ (you’ll have to buy it yourself to get the punchline.) A handsome and unusual book, of interest to foodies, geographers and historians. £25 from publishers Harper Design 2015

2. FOR THE HOME BAKER: Seasonal Gingerbread Recipes
Christmas food booksA jolly little book by Mima Sinclair, who is not limited to gingerbread cottages. She also does town houses, red doubledecker buses, animals, birdhouses and even an entire street. There’s a useful section on the art of icing which will be of great help to novices. Our favourite is the spiralling Christmas tree — one of those ‘genius recipes’ which is really just a heap of iced biscuits, but looks like something from a cake shop window. Order from Kyle Books

 

 

3. FOR THE THOUGHTFUL CHEF

Philosopher's Cookbook162 The Philosopher’s Cookbook by Martin Versfeld. “Versfeld’s recipes have more of the poet about them than the instructor, they celebrate the complex relationship between humanity and food. A suitable gift for those of a thoughtful and contemplative nature, The Philosopher’s Cookbook is about the twin arts of slow cooking and pondering. “The art of preparing and eating food is inextricably intertwined with the meaning of life. . . ” Reading this book is like having a big friendly hug from someone who then goes on to explain in close detail why life is, in fact, good; and then serves up an excellent stew as a closing argument.

4. A FUNNY BOOK FOR YOUNG(ISH) PARENTS

We’re going on a Bar Hunt, A Parody
Bar HuntJosie Lloyd & Emlyn Rees, illustrated by Gillian Johnson. Give a copy to any parents of young children you know. Inspired. Starts with two rhyming couplets:
We’re going on a bar hunt.
We’re going to find a cool one.
The babysitter’s booked.
We’re not old!
Any parent will get the gist . . . Originally published by Constable & Robinson 2013; now published by Little, Brown. Other similar titles include The Very Hungover Caterpillar and The Teenager Who Came To Tea

5. IMPRESSIVE COFFEE TABLE BOOK & MATCHING SPICES

Spices & Spandex — an epicurean adventure down the length of the world on a hungry stomachThe Nomadic Kitchen 2014
Spice Kitchen UK has teamed up with author Tom Perkins to present a collection of African spices, to match and complement Tom’s ravishing, tactile, beautifully distressed coffee-table volume. The book tells of a monumental bike tour undertaken by Tom and a buddy, Matt Chennells, through 26 countries over 501 days, from Kent to Cape Town. Cycling 20,000km required a lot of calories. As Tom puts it, the boys travelled ‘at street level, focusing on the local: the backstreets, the vendors and the artisans’ — an approach that led to this ‘magpie book of esteemed national dishes, local delicacies and side-street offerings.’ With over 350 pages of menus, recipes, essays, photos and collages, this is a fabulous foodie gift; putting it together with the spices is a master move. Click on either pic (below) to link to the Spice Kitchen page.

Spandex picspices & spandex

6. WITTY PERSONAL MEMOIR

Hungry YearsCLICK: The Hungry Years (Confessions of a Food Addict) “One January morning in 2003, William Leith woke up to the fattest day of his life. That same day he left London for New York to interview controversial diet guru Dr Robert Atkins. What started out as a routine assignment set Leith on an intensely personal and illuminating journey into the mysteries of hunger and addiction. The Hungry Years charts new territory for anyone who has ever had a craving or counted a calorie. This story of food, fat, and addiction will change the way you look at food for ever” Very engaging, often extremely funny, one of those books you cannot put down as you long to find out how it all ends.

Christmas Food books7. COOKBOOK FOR CHILDREN

The Gastronomical Guide to Fabulous Food! By Claire Bosi & Petri Hosken. One of the best food books we’ve read in a while, very Taster in approach. Ostensibly for children, but adults may well pinch it from time to time. Crammed full of entertaining pics, recipes, info, trivia. Brilliant. Published by A Way With Media

8. ONE FOR THE SCIENTISTS

Catching FireCatching Fire (How Cooking Made Us Human) A riveting read for anyone interested in human evolution and the importance of cooking in early human history. Rather than opposable thumbs, or complicated powers of vision, Richard Wrangham “argues that it was cooking that caused the extraordinary transformation of our ancestors from apelike beings to Homo erectus. At the heart of Catching Fire lies an explosive new idea: the habit of eating cooked rather than raw food permitted the digestive tract to shrink and the human brain to grow, helped structure human society, and created the male-female division of labour. . . Covering everything from food-labelling and overweight pets to raw-food faddists, Catching Fire offers a startlingly original argument.”

9. SET OF FOOD HISTORY BOOKS

Christmas food books Whether you buy one, two, or all 50+ titles in this series by Reaktion Books, each slim volume “explores the rich history of cuisine. . . reveals the global history and culture of a particular food or beverage.” The Taster has now read several and so far, every book has proved to be reliable, well written and enjoyable. With so many titles to choose from, you can build up a very personalised set for someone special. The Taster knows what he’d like — Cheese, Figs, Lemon, Pie, and Brandy, thanks very much :) His Aged Mother, in contrast, might like Tea, Cake, Bread, Game and Pancakes. See the whole range HERE, from A for Apple to W for Wine.

Grub Street books10. THE NICHE PUBLISHER
(Grub Street)

If you haven’t yet found your perfect gift book, it’s always worth rummaging through the archives at Grub Street Publishing House. This excellent independent publishing house specialises in just two niches: food & wine, and aviation. (We’ll leave the aviation for now.) Like The Taster, Grub Street’s mission is to publish excellent food writing, rather than the latest celeb chef tomes: pleasingly, this hasn’t stopped Nigella herself(!) describing them as ‘the cookery publisher with a culinary conscience.’ The Taster has been lucky enough to peruse a number of their titles and what we’ve noticed is how often they contribute to our understanding of food history, as well as lots of delicious recipes. Our current favourite is Cakes, Regional & Traditional (pictured above). Although The Taster himself has more of a savoury than a sweet tooth, if anything is going to make that old gentleman try a Singin’ Hinny, or a Norfolk Vinegar Cake, this book is it.
DeliciouslyWGDF_Cover_screenClick on our previous blogs on The Best of Jane Grigson
and A Century of British Cooking
Grub Street is also taking an especial interest in catering for the new interests in healthy cuisines, including wheat-, gluten- and dairy-free diets as typified by their new title by Antoinette Savill (see pic), The Vegan Bible by Marie Laforêt and Best Salads Ever by Sonja Bock and Tina Scheftelowitz.

 

11. FOOD MATCHING – A DIFFERENT WAY OF COOKING

Flavour ThesaurusThe Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. An excellent (in fact a unique) alternative to a conventional cookbook. The Taster has encountered several food professionals who use this book on a regular basis, whether to find inspiration for a new flavour of ice cream or come up with a side vegetable to go with a particular type of meat. It’s just as useful for home cooks: “Ever wondered why one flavour works with another? Or lacked inspiration for what to do with a bundle of beetroot? The Flavour Thesaurus is the first book to examine what goes with what, pair by pair. . . There are 980 entries in all, with 200 recipes and suggestions embedded in the text.”

12. FOR ROMANTICS AND CHIC LIT LOVERS

Food of love
The Food of Love
by Anthony Capella. For lovers of Italian food, Italian lifestyle, Italian cookery or chick lit, or just plain lovers. A romantic tale with the added benefit of an appendix of recipes. If the gloom of winter should overcome you, pick this book up and immerse yourself in the sunshine and blue skies of Rome and the Italian countryside and beaches. “It’s a hymn to la dolce vita and the joy of food by someone who knows his stuff and his stuffing, a text that breathes authentic backstreet Rome from every page. I loved it” — The Times. Capella has since written a few more food-themed novels, including The Empress of Ice Cream and The Various Flavours of Coffee

And because The Taster always does a Baker’s Dozen . . .
13. THE ULTIMATE GIFT ENCYCLOPAEDIA

The Oxford Companion to Food
111 BOOK Oxford Companion This new edition is a seriously substantial Christmas present for any foodie, gourmet or connoisseur who hasn’t already snapped up a copy. Funny and illuminating in equal measure, the original 1999 volume was an overnight success, winning prizes and accolades worldwide for its author, the late Alan Davidson. This updated 2014 volume has been expertly achieved by the impeccably credentialed Tom Jaine. Tom has produced numerous cookery books and often writes for The Times, The Guardian and The Sunday Telegraph; and he has edited The Good Food Guide and presented BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme.
The Taster frequently finds it invaluable. £40 from the publishers (click on the pic)

Have a good one!

Friends of The Taster

Frequent these excellent establishments and pick up a free Taster

Cairndow, Scotland - Loch Fyne Oysters
Cumbria - Low Sizergh Barn Farmshop & Tea Room
Fife - Pillars of Hercules
Yorkshire - Ramus Seafood Emporium
Cornwall - Etherington's Farm Shop
South Wales - Arboreal Wine Bar & Restaurant
Cheshire - the Wine School
Buckinghamshire - the Environment Centre

The Taster Free Magazines

FOOD (AND MORE) BOXES, DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR.
Customers with these companies currently receive free
copies of
The Taster along with their vegbox & food deliveries; plus you can pick up free copies at selected outlets
SCOTLAND
WALES
Bedfordshire
Cheshire
Cornwall
Cumbria
Devon
Gloucestershire (and Bristol & Bath)
Hampshire
Hertfordshire
Kent
Lancashire (West) & parts of Cheshire
LONDON
Nottinghamshire
Northumberland
Shropshire
Somerset
Surrey
Sussex
Warwickshire
Wiltshire
Yorkshire

Foodie Gifts and Treats

Click here for food & drink

Foodie gifts & accessories below

Christmas Gifts for Cooks
Kitchen furniture
Plates, cups, bowls
More tableware
Wine Tasting Classes
Foodie Experiences, Courses & Classes
Foodie Charities
Books & Cookbooks
Kitchen Gadgets
The Taster's Own Pick

We hope you find something in all our Foodie gifts and treats to help make this Christmas a good one. Happy 2018!

Foodie Stocking Fillers

Find Original And Thoughtful Foodie Stocking Fillers

Sweet RevolutionHot Chocolate and Ethical Bars

Dairy-free and made with just three ingredients: cacao, coconut milk and crystallised coconut nectar. The Taster particularly likes Sweet Revolution as the company uses cacao from small-scale farms, which helps the farmers themselves and helps protect the rainforests they live among.
Plus a whole range of ethical chocolate bars:
Foodie Stocking Fillers

Order from  Sweetrevolution

O Come All Ye TastefulMillionaire’s (Pocket) Guide to Christmas

Excellent and amusing book with a great blend of the thrifty and luxurious. Roasties, mince pies, Perigord turkeys, potato snow, Christmas cheeses and Irish coffees. See Legend Press for details and to buy

 

Foodie stocking fillersFabulous nougat, panettone, Prosecco and other Italian treats

A box of three gourmet bars of nougat is a great present . . . or for thrift, you could split them up and wrap them individually . . . we tried these and they are genuinely the best nougat we’ve ever tried. Larger treats include Chocolate Panettone and a Christmas Prosecco. See Vallebona

Foodie Stocking FillersHimalayan Salt Rocks

£2.99 for a generous-sized packet of satisfyingly chunky salt rocks; quote “Taster25” for 25% off and they’re just £2.24. Use to season food and/or add visual interest to your more special culinary presentations. See Saltan

Foodie Stocking FillersCoriander, Paprika, Parsley, and Chilli & Garlic salsa

We’ve tried these and can’t recommend them more as dips and as pasta sauces (delicious alternative to pesto). A gift pack of four (£20) is a decent under-the-tree present; you can of course split them up to make thoughtful stocking fillers. To make an order, ring the lovely Rosie Alvarez on 07876 532245 or email rosie@lasaucysalsa.com; see all details on LaSaucySalsa
Top tip: squeeze a bit of fresh lime juice over the coriander salsa. Takes it to another level!

Foodie Stocking FillersClever bag (for lunch and other things)

No zips, no buttons, no catches — there is something oddly delightful about this velcro-closing bag, designed for a very stylish lunchbox but, at £4, this is priced for a stocking filler (the lunchbox pictured is £17 – more suitable for under the tree, perhaps). See Black+Blum for many more original and interesting items

Foodie Stocking FillersNot A Peanut Butter

No peanuts – but every other type of nut, pounded and crushed into a delicious buttery substance that can be enjoyed on toast or in puddings, possibly even sandwiched between macaroons, or guiltily spooned down whole. Very pure – most of the butters are composed of literally nothing but the nuts themselves. Includes almond butter, hazel, coconut, pecan (deliciously dark and toasty), walnut and more. £10 for a gift set of four, and you can split them up to create four stocking fillers at £2.50 each. Quote “Taster-Nut” to get free p&p, courtesy of  The Taster – order from NuturalWorld

Chutney, relish, jam, picalilli, marmalade!

Hembridge OrganicsOne of our distribution partners, Hembridge Organics provide a nationwide mail order service to provide organic, award-winning jam, chutney, picalilli, relish, marmalade and honey. All these are made using ‘ugly vegetables,’ reducing waste and giving farmers a fair price for their produce, and everything except the Seville oranges is sourced locally. No chemicals, no animal setting agents — everything is natural, organic and delicious. They do sweet little wood-and-straw gift boxes, too. Order from Hembridge Organics

Roasting fat: for a thoughtful little prez, try Alternative Meat’s Christmas Larder, Alternative Meats Welsh Wagyustuffed with festive food ideas. Having tried a sample, The Taster can confirm that their Welsh Wagyu fat really does make extra special roast potatoes and croutons.

SHOP bhaji mango chutney Premium mango chutney: we’ve tried this, and it’s delicious; with exciting-looking black seeds and chunky bits. Complete list of ingredients is mango, sugar, vinegar, salt, ginger, garlic, spices, lemon zest & pectin; and a Great Taste winner to boot. A bargain at £2.99. Bhaji Man also does curry kits & packs which would make a nice gift for any foodie friend

African spices: South African sauces/marinades by Safari or a packet of mixed spice by Vandotsch Speculaas; we have a packet and it smells absolutely gorgeous
SHOPPING safari speculaas

Foodie Christmas Presents

Fabulous tableware by new designers Black+Blum

copper tealight holderOriginal and stylish items: glasses, candle holders, water bottles, cutlery and lots more. The Taster’s fave new designers. The last word in chic. Click on the pic for more

Himalayan cooking slabs, rocks and ground salt

Win Foodie PrizesAmazing cookstones, slabs, small ‘rocks’ and ground salts, all made of Himalayan salt. The cooking slabs make really original gifts for foodies, while the bags of ready-to-use ground salt are excellent stocking fillers. Click on the pic for more – NB quote “TASTER25” for a very generous 25% off everything on the Saltan website.

Foodie Christmas PresentMake your own yoghurt

This yoghurt-maker was a nice surprise in more ways than one. First, it turns out that making a tub of yoghurt is as easy as making as a cup of tea! Second, the result has a fresh, delicate texture, often with a slight bubbliness at the top which reminded The Taster of the yoghurts of his youth, when they were presumably made with fewer additives. Third, the makers claim that the extreme freshness of the live culture makes it better for you, as many more of the microbes are alive than in yoghurts which have been sitting on the shelf for weeks. Certainly, there is a lightness and freshness to this yoghurt we found very appealing, and there is something about making it from scratch yourself which encourages experimentation and variation. Our top tip is to add lemon juice and a sprinkling of black pepper to the strawberry yoghurt – really good!
The yoghurt-maker & six packs of mix is currently on special offer at just £14 (down from £22) from Hansells.

Wine Tasting Classes

Foodie Christmas PresentsIf you want to give someone An Experience rather than More Stuff, our very own wine columnist, Richard J. Smith, runs wine classes and events across Cheshire. Richard is a delightful chap who will be sure to provide a friendly and amusing experience, along with lots of insider info and top wine tips. Book an event for a friend to attend or, if you suspect they’d rather choose an event themselves, you can give them a gift voucher for £25, £50, £75 or £100 to spend as they prefer. If you’re running out of time (aagh! Christmas countdown! etc) the vouchers can be sent as eVouchers, sent to the recipient immediately upon payment. See all details on wineschoolofcheshire

More experiences – smokehousing in Shropshire, breadmaking across the UK, or Food Adventures in South Wales

Foodie Christmas PresentsFoodie Christmas PresentsMake Sausages and Cider, or learn about smoking and curing, at Pool Cottage Smallholding; learn how to bake bread from basic loaves to Italian and French speciality with the Bread Angels; or gird your loins for a course in anything from wild foraging to Butchery & Beer days with Food Adventure

Foodie Christmas Presents

Give a Foodie Charitable Gift
Foodie Christmas Present
Pic (c) Chris Watt
Tel 07887 554 193
www.chriswatt.com

If you want to give beyond friends and family this Christmas, consider Mary’s Meals. Technically, all the charity provides is lunches for schoolchildren in the developing world – but in reality, this means giving struggling, hungry boys and girls the motivation and energy needed to get to school, get an education and build better futures for themselves. A brilliantly simple idea that is cheap but fantastically effective, with benefits that go far beyond lunchtime

Highly Original Foodie Cookbook

Foodie Christmas PresentsAuthors Wendy Trusler and Carol Devine relate the tale of Antarctica’s first cleanup, carried out by 54 volunteers from five countries. In three months, they cleared the detritus of 30 years’ worth of previous expeditions. But while most of the volunteers were clearing rubbish, someone had to do the cooking. As the authors say, ‘The first thing that comes to mind about Antarctica is not likely the food. But if you are going there, it is the second.’ Trusler spent ‘many long, white nights’ devising menus with limited ingredients in a camp kitchen — with some success, if the 42 recipes given are anything to go by. The international nature of the project is evident in dishes from Great Wall [of China] dumplings to fondue, goulash and roast leg of lamb. Along with many original illustrations and photos, the book reproduces Shackleton’s hilarious — but impressive — advertisement for volunteers: ‘Men wanted for hazardous journey . . .’ (you’ll have to buy it yourself to get the punchline.) A handsome and unusual book, of interest to foodies, geographers and historians. £25 from publishers Harper Design 2015

Win A Christmas HamperChristmas Hampers

Two of The Taster’s friends are producing Christmas hampers this year. The joy of hampers is that if your family includes one or two large branches, instead of buying each individual a present, you can buy them one large hamper as a Joint Present for All. It’s actually sometimes cheaper than buying individual presents, and you can let them fight it out for the choicer items. Try Cornwall’s Etherington’s Farmshop (excellent value; traditional wicker hamper of Cornish goodies for just £25) and Low Sizergh Barn up in Cumbria (themed Christmas hampers include the Ginger Lovers Hamper; Cumbrian Storecupboard Hamper, Chocolate Lovers Hamper, etc) ranging from £25 to larger hampers at £90

NB have a crack at winning an Etherington’s Farmshop hamper by entering our Readers Survey Prize Draw  HERE

Foodie Christmas PresentsVery Chic Ginger Liqueur

For the spirit-lover in your life. This chic, scalloped bottle of French ginger liqueur (Domaine de Canton) is very impressive in reality (we assumed it would be quite a small bottle — but no, it’s a very satisfying size indeed!). Cleverly reminiscent of pieces of raw ginger, the bottle itself is an attractive piece, and the contents festively delicious. A good after-dinner liqueur, it adds a spicy seasonal note to cocktails, chocolate or orange puddings, sushi, pork or Thai food. Order at thewhiskyexchange.com (use the search option to find “Domaine de Canton”) £32

 

Exceptionally Good-Value Handmade Pottery

Foodie Christmas PresentsHandmade, artisan chinaware, pottery & gifts at amazingly cheap prices. These two Continental cups or the handmade bowl below would not look overpriced in a Knightsbridge boutique at £20 each; shop savvy and get them for a mere fiver each at  Sun Pottery

Sun Pottery

For the Self-Sufficiency Enthusiast/Bear Grylls Type

For the self-sufficiency enthusiast: Foraging 2 an entire collection of 12 self-sufficiency books, from foraging to cheese-making and bee-keeping, some of which have been featured in The Taster — an amazing bargain for just £9.99 here. Titles include Grow Your Own, Herbs & Spices, Home Brewing and more

Wine aeratorWine aerator

Domu produce this and similar gadgets, of interest to all wine-lovers. You pour the wine in the top, let it bubble down, and it really does transform some wines, especially cheaper reds, into something special

Foodie Christmas PresentsThe Best and Only Independent National Food & Drink Magazine in the UK Today

Be part of our world. Order a subscription today, let us know if it’s a gift & we’ll put a special message in. Every season your friend will be reminded of your thoughtful gift, as they receive another lovely new issue of The Taster. And remember: this is not just subscribing to any old food & drink mag — this is subscribing to a foodie magazine that is, unusually, NOT sponsored by a giant supermarket, television company or any other huge and faceless corporate entity. For example, you will never read a lovely article about Shopping Local in our magazine, only to be presented with an exhaustive list of the best out-of-town hypermarkets at which to purchase matching wines. A full year’s subs is currently just £10 — total bargain. Click to order

Upcycled Plates

We very much like these made-over vintage plates; see lots more unique sets by alijoedesigns
Plates by Stephen Dotsch wife

 
Foodie’s Map Of The World

A2 world map

Get The Taster’s own view of the world with this decorative and informative poster from The Taster. You never know, we might put something extra in with it, as well.

Foodie Stocking Fillers

The Taster has endeavoured to ensure that all the items on sale below are ethical, healthy, and exceedingly delicious. Please mention The Taster if you make an order after scrolling through the below

Sweet RevolutionHot Chocolate packets – and more

Dairy-free and made with just three ingredients: cacao, coconut milk and crystallised coconut nectar. The Taster particularly likes Sweet Revolution as the company uses cacao from small-scale farms, which helps the farmers themselves and helps protect the rainforests they live among.
Plus a whole range of ethical chocolate bars:
Foodie Stocking Fillers

Order from Sweetrevolution

O Come All Ye TastefulMillionaire’s (Pocket) Guide to Christmas

Excellent and amusing book with a great blend of the thrifty and luxurious. Roasties, mince pies, Perigord turkeys, potato snow, Christmas cheeses and Irish coffees. See Legend Press for details and to buy

NB Enter your name in our free giveaway before 20th December and you might get a free copy

Foodie stocking fillersFabulous nougat, panettone, Prosecco and other Italian treats

A box of three gourmet bars of nougat is a great present . . . or for thrift, you could split them up and wrap them individually . . . we tried these and they are genuinely the best nougat we’ve ever tried. Larger treats include Chocolate Panettone and a Christmas Prosecco. LAST ORDERS 20th December – see Vallebona

Foodie Stocking FillersHimalayan Salt Rocks

£2.99 for a generous-sized packet of satisfyingly chunky salt rocks; quote “Taster25” for 25% off and they’re just £2.24. Use to season food and/or add visual interest to your more special culinary presentations. See Saltan

Foodie Stocking FillersCoriander, Paprika, Parsley, and Chilli & Garlic salsa

We’ve tried these and can’t recommend them more as dips and as pasta sauces (delicious alternative to pesto). A gift pack of four (£20) is a decent under-the-tree present; you can of course split them up to make thoughtful stocking fillers. To make an order, ring the lovely Rosie Alvarez on 07876 532245 or email rosie@lasaucysalsa.com; see all details on LaSaucySalsa
Top tip: squeeze a bit of fresh lime juice over the coriander salsa. Takes it to another level!

Foodie Stocking FillersClever bag (for lunch and other things)

No zips, no buttons, no catches — there is something oddly delightful about this velcro-closing bag, designed for a very stylish lunchbox but, at £4, this is priced for a stocking filler (the lunchbox pictured is £17 – more suitable for under the tree, perhaps). See Black+Blum for many more original and interesting items

Foodie Stocking FillersNot A Peanut Butter

No peanuts – but every other type of nut, pounded and crushed into a delicious buttery substance that can be enjoyed on toast or in puddings, possibly even sandwiched between macaroons, or guiltily spooned down whole. Very pure – most of the butters are composed of literally nothing but the nuts themselves. Includes almond butter, hazel, coconut, pecan (deliciously dark and toasty), walnut and more. £10 for a gift set of four, and you can split them up to create four stocking fillers at £2.50 each. Quote “Taster-Nut” to get free p&p, courtesy of The Taster – order from NuturalWorld

Fresh-ground spices
Foodie Stocking Fillers

We love various spice kit companies but one that is, perhaps, particularly suitable for stocking fillers is Spice Kitchen. You get a sweet little fabric bag (made from recycled sari fabric, so very pretty) full of tiny packs of fresh-ground spices with handwritten labels, which you can combine as you like. As soon as you open the bag, the perfume is delightful; and the extreme freshness of the spices makes a huge difference to your cooking. All spices lose flavour over time, so it’s much better to buy a large selection of small fresh batches in this way, than a few giant jars which sit on the shelf for months.

Chutney, relish, jam, picalilli, marmalade!

Hembridge Organics

One of our distribution partners, Hembridge Organics, provide a nationwide mail order service to provide organic, award-winning jam, chutney, picalilli, relish, marmalade and honey. All these are made using ‘ugly vegetables,’ reducing waste and giving farmers a fair price for their produce, and everything except the Seville oranges is sourced locally. No chemicals, no animal setting agents — everything is natural, organic and delicious. They do sweet little wood-and-straw gift boxes, too. Order from Hembridge Organics

Wine aeratorWine aerator from Domu – a fantastic gadget. You pour the wine in the top, let it bubble down, and it really does transform some wines, especially cheaper reds, into something special

 

SHOP bhaji mango chutney Premium mango chutney: we’ve tried this, and it’s delicious; with exciting-looking black seeds and chunky bits. Complete list of ingredients is mango, sugar, vinegar, salt, ginger, garlic, spices, lemon zest & pectin; and a Great Taste winner to boot. A bargain at £2.99. Bhaji Man also does curry kits & packs which would make a nice gift for any foodie friend

 

 

Christmas Ice Cream Bombe

The Taster’s Christmas Ice Cream Bombe

Christmas Ice Cream BombeThis is The Taster’s biggest Top Tip for Christmas. The shape and colour make this Bombe a showstopping alternative to Christmas Pud: stick a bit of holly on top, and who’d know the difference? All the ingredients can be personalised, so your Bombe is as unique as you choose to make it. And because it is frozen, you can create it in advance and remain relaxed and unhurried on The Big Day.

Ingredients

1 litre ice cream (2 posh pots)
200g dark chocolate (2 posh bars)
1 kg Madeira cake, panettone or similar
125ml wine (1 small glass)
4 tablespoons raspberry jam
Pistachios, candied peel, glacé fruit etc

Method

Take the ice cream out of the freezer. While it is warming, line a bowl — first with clingfilm, and then with slices of cake. Pack them well together. Cut out little triangles to fill any gaps. Drizzle the wine over the cake, then use the back of a spoon to spread the jam all over it. Stir your fruits and nuts into the melty ice cream, and pour it into the bowl.
Tamp it all down well, clingfilm the top and freeze overnight.
Next day, melt the  chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir it, to make it smooth. Turn the bombe out onto a cakestand, and pour the chocolate evenly over it. Serve straight away, or return to the freezer.

Variations

Any cake that absorbs wine will do — Madeira, Panettone, plain sponge, Swiss roll. The wine could be Marsala, Madeira, vin santo, amaretto or medium sherry.
Raspberry jam seems to work best, but apricot would add a floral note.
For the ice cream, The Taster suggests vanilla, cookie dough, coffee or pistachio. Enrich it with anything you like. The chocolate too can vary. Fairtrade supplier Divine does dark chocolate & raspberry bars, which would tie in with the raspberry jam. See divinechocolate

Suggestions

Christmas Ice Cream Bombe1. Strawberry ice cream, whole strawbs, almonds & peach slices

2. Coffee & chocolate ice creams, chocolate-coated coffee beans, hazelnuts & white chocolate shell

3. As mentioned above – for a raspberry explosion, try using raspberry ripple ice cream, raspberry jam and Divine Chocolate’s dark chocolate & raspberry bar (pictured). The tangy raspberry pieces in the chocolate gives the shell a lumpy appearance which is not without its own charm.

4. Christmas cake ice cream, with fruit already in it — Simply Icecream does an award-winning version with winter spices and rum-soaked raisins, so half your work is done. See simplyicecream

This piece appeared, along with much other excellent and informative writing, in our 2015 Winter/Christmas issue of The Taster. We rely on our subscribers, as we’re a completely independent food & drink magazine; unlike many others, we are not sponsored by a supermarket, television company or any other corporate parent. We’ve been going for three years and it looks like we *can* do this :) – with the help of our subscribers. If you’ve enjoyed what we’ve written, please subscribe for yourself, or as a Christmas present for a foodie friend, BY CLICKING HERE. Many thanks!

Christmas Ice Cream Bombe