Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas gifts for foodies...

If you’re looking for a gift for a food-lover/yourself, then check out my list of top foodie presents.  I would get almost as much pleasure from giving these gifts as receiving them.


Is an average brownie better than none at all?  Not according to Sophie in Pear-Shaped and I heartily concur - so thank goodness for Blue BasilBrownies, a fabulous brownie maker based in Oxfordshire. They sell award-winning mail-order brownies, all wrapped up and delivered straight to your door in a box tied with string, and an old fashioned luggage tag - a perfect gift for any serious brownie lover. 
Their regular flavours are marvellous (Chockwork orange, anyone?) but at Christmas they surpass themselves.  My favourite is Rudolph’s Rumnut – an intense combo of dark rum, chocolate, brazil nuts and Christmas spices – in fudgy, smooth brownie format.   
It’s a winning combo, as is Coffee and Irish Cream, Cranberry and White Chocolate, Toasted Almond and Amaretto and the ultra gingery Dark Chocolate and Ginger. 

Order before 10am on Friday 19th December for delivery on Monday 22nd.


In one of my many previous lives I was an olive oil taster.  When I’d recovered from drinking an awful lot of oil (correct - not fun – but then again neither is drinking fish sauce neat, but that’s a whole other story) I came to the conclusion that for day to day use any regular high-street branded extra-virgin olive oil is good enough.  But for special occasions even a tiny drizzle of great olive oil can elevate a dish.  My favourite is this Sicilian oil from Planeta.
It’s so fruity and fresh and clean, you could actually drink it quite happily without gagging.  Every time I buy it, it seems to have gone up in price.  (I only treat myself to a bottle twice a year, and even then I feel guilty.  Still, it’s about the price of a cinema ticket in central London, and I’d argue offers more pleasure than many a Richard Curtis movie.)

Available at Carluccio's, nationwide.


To say I’m mildly obsessed with Bread Ahead’s custard doughnuts would be an understatement.  
In fact they star in my new book, The Dish (out next year, hurrah – but you can pre-order on Amazon today…) But it’s not just about the doughnuts - frankly these guys can do no wrong.  Check out these beautiful breads!
For Christmas, swing by their stand in Borough market and pick up some mince pies - made to master baker Justin Gellatly's mum's recipe.  

They are entirely delicious: thick, crisp pastry that you almost can't tell is sweet until your teeth hit the magical sparkle of crunchy demerara on top.
And then the filling is a luscious, not too sweet, not too sharp mincemeat - perfectly in balance with its surroundings.  (Though I'd eat these pies even if they had air in them, the pastry is that good.)

And if you can’t make it down to Borough, you could always buy Justin's brilliant book, Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding - or better yet, buy your loved one vouchers for Bread Ahead's Bakery School so they can learn to be a master baker and make you wonderful treats such as doughnuts and bread and croissants and pizzas all year round.


I once was so in love with a man I bought him almost half of Neal’s Yard as part of his Christmas present.  (Well, a good £30 worth of lovely Stichleton which it turns out was far more than he deserved.  He gave me a necklace that came from a cracker, then dumped me on Boxing Day.  Still, the moral of that story is – buy yourself nice cheese / don’t date mean men).
Neal's Yard Covent Garden and Borough stores are mini-temples to cheese, where everything looks beautiful - for example, look at these Cheddars and then tell me the British aren't the best cheesemakers in the world.
More importantly, every cheese tastes amazing.  Plus staff are super-knowledgeable and friendly and positively encourage you to try before you buy.
You can pre-order or buy for delivery on their website, or get in line at a store, along with a lot of fellow cheese-lovers, right through until 2pm on Christmas Eve.


If I were rich, I'd buy one of everything in Fortnum & Mason's foodhall.  Seriously, what is not to love about angry chocolate owl?

Or cutesy snowman?
A debonair bear?
Or a daily sponge pudding?
Cocktail chocolates?  Obvs.
Clearly a hamper wouldn't go amiss either...
But realistically, I can only buy one thing - and that one thing has to be under £20 - so therefore it has to be the greatest biscuit of all time, the heavyweight champion of chocolate, ladies and gentleman, open your mouths, wide, for THE CHOCOLOSSUS!
Modelled here by my lovely friend Lexie, who is herself six feet tall - so that should give you an idea of the scale of the thing!  It is an epic, super sized macadamia biscuit, dipped in ultra thick dark chocolate.
The Chocolossus is just so on the borderline of being almost too chocolatey, if such a thing were ever possible.
It is FULL ON, UBER chocolatey – you need a cup of tea with one, if you go for two, in my experience you then need a little lie down, but what is Christmas for, if not over-eating and sleeping?

They're not cheap - but I've found you generally get what you pay for in this world - and if you can't spoil the ones you love (that includes you) at this time of year, then really, what's the point?

Happy Shopping!

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