I thought I would treat you all to a last-minute Christmas gift guide. I am not the most organised of shoppers, usually opting for a hectic dash around the shops the week before…
So if you’re doing your Christmas shopping this week, like I am, these gifts might just make it in time for Christmas!
notonthehighstreet.com is a great website if you’re looking for something a bit different.
Their lovely food-themed framed images would brighten up any food lovers kitchen or dining room. I think the British foods map or the one that just says FAMILY, FRIENDS, FOOD, FUN are particularly stylish/charming. And reasonably priced.
Personalised food jars
Both Marmite and Nutella are offering personalised jars this year. You can do the Marmite ones via their Facebook page and Nutella have stall in most Selfridges stores where they label them while you wait.
Great little stocking fillers, and they can be washed out and kept afterwards to store pencils on your desk. Cute!
Food Photography Workshops
If you know someone who enjoys photography and loves eating street food – this is the perfect, practical gift. A Street Food Photography Workshop where you get a guided tour around London’s street food hotspots snapping images along the way.
Sounds like a fun, visual and culinary adventure and an opportunity to learn and make friends too.
For the organised foodie
If you know a foodie who likes everything just-so, then they might appreciate these. These mini Kilner jars means they can organise their spices, and even store them outside of the cupboard on a shelf for easy-access that looks good too!
These are also kind on the environment as they encourage you to then buy the re-fill packets instead of new plastic or glass jars each time – so in the long run better value for money too. Win-win for the practical food lover.
Gifts for Dads of Grandads
Food-themed gift boxes – men are notoriously difficult to buy for, but also quite ‘easily pleased’ if you get it right. My advice is to keep it simple when buying for the men in your life – be it brother, boyfriend, dad or grandad. If they like food and drink (most men do, right?) then something like ‘The Man Box’ from the Portly Grocer should hit the spot!
The Portly Grocer also make these wonderful wooden cheese larders, which are beautiful if you know someone who appreciates good cheese and is passionate about it. They are perfect for a dinner party too, with a bottle of port and some grapes. Yum.
And if you’re still left scratching your head…
Then buy something that will really benefit someone else. Oxfam sell an amazing range of ‘Unwrapped’ gifts. A few caught my eye but the ‘Pile of Poo’ stood out. It isn’t just any pile of poo. It’s the ideal mix of manure, organic fertiliser and training in eco-friendly farming techniques to help a family grow a lot more crops. This means regular meals and a more varied diet, ultimately helping people out of poverty.
I have already purchased it for someone in my life who I think will find it funny, and will really appreciate the good cause.
Buying this gift supports Oxfam’s ‘Making a Living’ projects, and I really think this is charity gifting in its best form. The gifts also suit any budget so if you’re stuck for a materialistic gift this Christmas, this might just be the answer!
Looking after yourself is important, we all know that. The mantra that ‘you are what you eat’ is becoming increasingly apparent to me as I get older, and so recently I have been favouring an intake of more lean protein, ‘good fats’ and fibre, and in turn less sugar, saturated fats and unnecessary carbohydrates.
All the big dogs seem to be on the health-hype too. Deliciously Ella promotes a healthy lifestyle with her “clean-eating, gluten free” recipes. The Hemsley and Hemsley sisters also promote a healthy approach with their #TheArtOfEatingWell campaign, and I have recently taken to following @TheBodyCoach (Joe Wicks) on Instagram, as I love the way he is revolutionising quick-and-easy meals for gym buffs with his “#LeanIn15” recipes.
Jamie Oliver has also recently released his Everyday Super Food book, along with a full series on Channel 4; really promoting a healthy approach to food to the masses. Another firm favourite of mine is Gizzi Erskine, she’s always promoted healthy eating and her newest cookbook, Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite, shows us how healthy can be delicious and doesn’t always have to be rabbit food!
I love all of the above chefs and foodies and have taken tips from all of them (as well as recipes, of course) over the past 12 months. My version of the Hemsley sister’s light cottage pie makes use of cauliflower and sweet potato mash instead of the usual mashed white potatoes. And Gizzi’s roast duck and noodle soup is low on calories but doesn’t compromise on flavour whatsoever.
My approach to healthy eating is simple, I try to follow a sort of 80:20 rule (eating more considered 80% of the time, and relaxing it a little for the remaining 20%). When I first started my blog, there was a split between ‘Mid-week rustle up dinners’ and ‘Weekend gourmet’ dishes – so I am going to be focussing more on this approach going forwards. It works for me and can work for you too!
Below is a short list of some of my favourite bloggers who promote a healthy lifestyle:
www.spamellab.com – Pamela focusses on gluten-free, high protein, healthy AND tasty recipes, made from clean ingredients. Her #IndulgingInnocently campaign proves that you can have your cake and eat it, its shows that sweet treat don’t need to be packed full of sugar and additives.
www.tessward.com – Tess says ‘Count colours not calories and goodness not grams with simple, unprocessed, stripped back dishes.’ Her ‘naked’ recipes are vibrant, simple and gorgeous.
www.thebodycoach.co.uk/blog – I mentioned him earlier, and I will again. You can catch most of Joe’s amazing #LeanIn15 recipes on Instagram for now, but I mean it when I say his recipes are SO QUICK, SIMPLE, LEAN and taste fantastic.
www.minimalistbaker.com – these guys are so cute, and their ethos is simple: easy-to-make, delicious food, all recipes either require 10 ingredients or less, 1 pot, or 30 minutes or less to prepare. Many are vegan and/or gluten-free too.
How do you define healthy eating, and which approach do you prefer? Who are your favourite bloggers, cooks or chefs that inspire you to eat well and use fresh, quality ingredients?
In my next blog post I will be sharing my key tips for keeping your diet healthy, fresh and interesting. Make sure you stay posted our subscribe so you don’t miss it ❤
I recently received a wonderful artisan food hamper from The Portly Grocer, a Knutsford-based company who work to support Britain’s finest artisans. Always one to support local businesses, I was delighted to learn that they wanted to send me some of their offerings to try, so I didn’t hesitate to get stuck in.
The Portly Grocer is a husband and wife team who operate an online fine food & drinks business specialising in new up-and-coming, mainly British artisan foods. They started nearly 12 months ago and aim to help small food producers launch their products and provide free business advice. They also don’t charge the producers to sell on their (lovely) website. Whatsmore, they have a rather wonderful story that dates back to 1884, which explains how and why they came to be in the business of sourcing and selling fine food products. If you fancy a nice little read, find the full story here.
Artisan Food Hampers
When the box promptly arrived, I was first impressed by the sheer range of goodies inside. Other things it contained included Amaretto flavoured ground coffee, luxury breakfast granola, a salad dressing vinaigrette, some chutneys and a range of rather ‘grown up’ crackers made by Cartwright & Butler. So to save this being the longest blog post in the world, here’s my thoughts on a few key products.
Spice Entice Thai Green Curry
This little spice kit promised ‘lovingly selected herbs and spices with a recipe to make a delicious dish of Thai Green Curry, to serve four’. The shopping list was quite long, but luckily I had most of it in; soy sauce, fish sauce, stock, coconut milk, palm sugar… that sort of thing, plus some fresh ingredients like garlic, onions, birds-eye chillies, veg, and chicken. I was surprised not to see fresh ginger on the shopping list for this curry, but not all green curry pastes contain it. As I had some monkfish in I was eager to use, I substituted this for the chicken. I would highly recommend this, just reduce the cooking time a little to suit the fish instead.
The recipe was really easy to follow, you do need a blender to whizz up all the ingredients for the paste (it perhaps should say that on the outer packaging) but that’s my only gripe as it was quick, simple, nutritious and delicious. Just how I like it.
Mellow Yellow Classic Vinaigrette
Apologies for the photo of the half empty bottle, but I think that goes to show how much I am enjoying this item! The main ingredient is Rapeseed oil so it’s lighter than olive oil dressings, which it really nice. And very convenient for my ‘health kick’. It’s scent and flavour is tangy as you would expect from a classic vinaigrette, and it seems to have the perfect balance of oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, herbs and seasoning. Below I have served it with a simple couscous salad with baby spinach and cherry tomatoes. Very easy to put together for a working lunch and absolutely maximum flavour with very little effort.
Mellow Yellow Dressing
Simple couscous salad
Olive Branch Aubergine & Basil Paste
This stuff came as a real surprise as it was wrapped so beautifully, which is part of the service if you wish, complete with cute personalised labels! At first I was a little unsure of what to make of it. Was it a pesto, a dip, a sauce? Turns out it’s all three… Such a versatile little jar of deliciousness. So far I have used it as a dip with the Cartwright & Butler Linseed and Sesame Flatbreads which worked really well. I’ve also used it in a simple pasta dish, instead of pesto and it made a really creamy, yummy sauce to coat the pasta.
Sweet Treats – Breakfast Granola and Chocolate Biscuits
Other highlights were these delicious sweeter items in the hamper. Sensible Dave’s Strawberry Granola with White Chocolate shavings is a real delight. I wouldn’t eat this on a regular basis for breakfast, but, on a Saturday morning after being good all week it’s the perfect treat and much quicker to put together than a bacon sarnie!
The Chocolate Oat Crumbles were also a firm favourite. Beautifully rich and creamy chocolate, and the biscuits were buttery and crumbly and very, very morrish. The wafers and dark chocolate and lemon varieties were also lovely, but the oat crumbles stole the show for sure.
Sensible Dave’s Granola
Cartwright & Black Luxury Biscuits
Packaging & Attention to Detail
As The Portly Grocer’s story dates back to fine foods during the 1920’s, they are keen to replicate the attention to detail of that era; by hand-wrapping each product in luxury brown paper, and tying each one with twine in a vintage style. I must admit, the products look as good as they taste and it really makes it clear you’ve got something special on your hands.
The Portly Grocer Packaging
Beautiful Attention to Detail
Overall, I am really impressed with The Portly Grocer’s range of products, packaging and the service in general. Their website is also beautifully simple and very easy to navigate. It also has a lovely blog and some fantastic recipes ideas. They seemingly sell products to suit everyone – teas and biscuits for Grandma, Curry Kits for Dad’s and a huge array of everyday products that are bound to jazz-up your experience in the kitchen, all whilst supporting independent artisans – the ethos at the very heart of what they do.
If you’re looking for a gift idea for literally any type of person and for any occasion – then I would highly recommend you give these guys a whirl!
They also have an alcohol licence and have started retailing British produced spirits, with plans to expand into British gins, cassis and wines later this year. Also, you can look out for their pop-up stalls at various food & drink events in the North West.
Being a Cheshire-based food blogger can often be tricky, as it’s such a large space to try and cover. So, when an event like the Foodies Festival happens pretty much on your doorstep, there’s no way you can pass up the opportunity to go see what’s happening.
The weather was pretty good for a start – a little windy, sometimes sunny, sometimes overcast, but most importantly, no rain! A short drive from my house in Mobberley, and we arrived at Tatton Park – one of Cheshire’s most beautiful and scenic country parks, complete with freely roaming deer and sheep along the main pathway approaching the far-end of the park.
The Foodie’s Festival is located near to the parks’ wonderful kids fair and play area. On arrival we were greeted by smiling faces and a free sample of Stella Artois’s fruit flavoured Cidre with ice. It was refreshing, very tasty and got us straight in the mood to start the rounds by heading down the left-hand-side of the festival (where all the bars are!)
This year they had a lovely Pimm’s bar which was shaped like a big red teapot, and the usual big red London bus bar serving a great range of drinks at reasonable prices (£3.50 for a Rekorderlig cider with ice, £4 for a glass of wine, and £4 for a pint). Just down the way was Sloe Motion gin bar serving some amazing sounding cocktails, a Kingfisher truck serving its classic Indian beer, and a gorgeous Festival-style tent called The Cider House, which specialised in Somerset ciders as well as some unusual options such as an Italian cider called Montano (cider with Prosecco). Each bottle of the Montano bought (for £3.50) included a free black plastic tumbler, so I was sold, and it tasted fantastic!
It wasn’t too long before we were ready to eat. Being a huge fan of Curried Goat (admittedly there are not enough places where you can get it in Cheshire), Bradley’s Dad went for the Curry Goat with salad and Rice and Pea from ‘Big Bird Catering’. The goat was tender and the curry was packed full of flavour. The rice and peas were delicious too, and the guys gave me a sneak-peak of their special – Jerk Pork chops, which I must say looked amazing! They were absolutely huge for a start, as you can see (pictured below, top right). They also had some great smelling Jerk Chicken on the charcoal BBQ and were serving it all up alongside a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice. A nice group of guys, very friendly and serving food for the soul. It was great to meet them. ❤
Bradley and I can be indecisive at times, especially when surrounded by so many epic food options. But, when you know, you know, and we certainly had one of those ‘eureka’ moments when we came across Rad Burger Co‘s gorgeous little burger stall in the middle of the festival. They specialise in burgers using top quality, ethically-sourced produce from Kent (where they are based).
We both went for their “RAD BEEF” a 5 oz ground chuck steak patty with grilled halloumi, smoked streaky bacon, rocket, mango chutney and garlic mayonnaise. They also had lamb, pork and veggie options which to be honest all sounded equally as delicious and epic, but the beef one really caught our attention. The beef patty was tender, slightly pink, the bacon was juicy and thickly sliced and the halloumi cheese was, well, perfectly grilled halloumi ❤
The bun was soft and topped with poppy seeds which looked great and added a slightly crunchier texture than standard sesame seeded buns. The mango chutney was new to us (on a burger), but equally intriguing, but it added a soft sweetness that complemented the juicy meat and salty cheese/bacon perfectly. Just wow. We teamed it with a portion of their Rosemary Fries and ate every last bit. In my opinion, this was street-food burgers at their absolute best!
After letting our burgers go down a little, we were ready for a bit more shopping. A stall we were recommended was Continental Cottage who sell specialist German salamis, which get imported from Germany so are authentic, and really, really delicious! I couldn’t find their website (oddly), but we got a selection of 7 different varieties for £10 which I thought was excellent value. We were able to try before we bought too, which I always like to do, if possible.
Next up was a cup of tea. And possibly a slice of cake. We had spotted Daisy’s Vintage Tea Room on the first walk around the festival, and certainly didn’t spot anywhere else nearly as inviting to stop for a cuppa and a slice of cake, so we went back to get our fix. Serving up lovely English tea in bone China cups and saucers and an array of British classics, such as homemade scones with fresh clotted cream & jam and Victoria sponge cake. We tried both of these (pictured, below) and they were both delightful. The Lemon Drizzle cake however was really disappointing, it was so dry and not all that lemony at all. The dog liked it though!
After fixing our sweet tooth, we were done. We had tried some excellent food and honestly couldn’t squeeze in another morsel. So, it was on to a few more ciders in the sunshine whilst we people watched. We also ended up doing a LOT of dog watching too, as there seemed to be lots more canines there this time compared to last year… Including ours.
A few other noteworthy stalls were the Cooperative’s offering of Procecco & Pizza for just £4 – with all proceeds going to charity. It was good to see one of the big names there doing their bit, and it seemed to be quite a popular choice. The pizza did look lovely.
A further stall I want to mention, but didn’t get chance to eat from was World Food Cafe. Having done a little research, it turns out they are one of the street-food offerings of Plymouth-based event company “Main Event SW“. Their ‘Award winning saffron-infused chicken with all the salad, in a wrap for £8″ was going down an absolute storm. By about 2.30pm, the queue was unbelievably long, so I went over to take a few snaps to see what all the fuss was about! Pictured below (from left to right) is their saffron-infused chicken, the guys on their stall very hard at work and their beautiful array of salads.
A lovely lady who we were sat close to let me take a photo of her epic looking wrap, which was so nice of her and she probably thought I was a bit of a weirdo. Anyway, I’m really glad I did because this photo alone inspired my next recipe post. As we were too full-up to try one at the festival, I decided to recreate my own version at home that evening, a quick and simple version which you can literally knock-up in no time. Watch this space, foodies!