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Valentine Wishlist

While surfing the web over the last for weeks I’ve spotted fantastic ideas to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t have to be a box of Milk Tray and flowers from the garage down the road or even a huge bunch of roses, it’s about a token gesture to show someone how much you appreciate and love them.

Storeyshop has a beautiful selection of hand cut and laser cut cards in her Folksy shop. She also does commissions. For our wedding anniversary she made me a I love you more than my KitchenAid card.

HWR Designs Helen is based in Hilton on the Derbyshire, Staffordshire border. I particularly love the fabric birds she makes at the moment.

The Blossom Tree Flowers on the 14th of February don’t always have to be roses. Tulips and anemones are some of my favourite flowers and I certainly wouldn’t be unhappy if this beautiful bouquet arrived for me. Kerry is also giving 10% off orders over £25 if ordered before 31st January. Just enter iloveyou at the checkout.

Pong – Say I Love You with cheese. I’m a big fan of Pong, but just be warned lots of the cheese they sell are true to their name! Always fantastic interesting choice of cheeses with great service.

The Montpelier Basement – This Supperclub, based in Bristol, is hosting an Anti Valentine weekend that is perfect for those of you want to avoid dodgy dining experiences around the 14th.

A Quarter of – They do say a way to a man’s heart is thorough his stomach and I know the hamper from A Quarter of I gave Hubs for his birthday went down very well. I admit I’m partial to a packet of fizzy Love Hearts.

National Trust Tea Room – While many National Trust properties are closed at the moment many of the gardens and tea rooms are still open. How about a lovely walk followed by a well-earned cream tea from one of their renowned tea rooms? I can personally vouch for the fabulous cream teas served at Calke Abbey and Berrington Hall.

Quirky Cookies & Cakes – Wendy is also based in Derbyshire and makes fantastic biscuits and her rocky road is to die for!

River Cottage Valentine’s Feast – We attended this feast a few years back and it was an amazing experience. A I write this they have a few tickets left for this fabulous event.

Top Cookbooks

In the run up to Christmas quite a few people have asked about which cookbooks I would recommend and with Jamie O’s 30-minute meals being declared the fastest selling non-fiction book I thought it was apt to share my top choices of cookery books. Some in my list were published this year and some have been long time favourites of mine. All (apart from 1) have pride of place in my kitchen and are aenthusiastically splattered with the remnants of dishes. A messy dog-eared cookbook is a sign of a great cookbook. Of course for food geeks like me the holy grail of cookbooks is an ancient copy of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, which Hubs kindly gave me for Christmas last year, but these are not the easiest to come across.

For ease I have linked all the books to a well known online retailer, but they are all easily available from anywhere that sells books. A few of these books are currently for sale for bargain prices at The Book People

Darina Allen – Forgotten Skills of Cooking (2009) This monster of a book could quite easily be described as an encyclopedia of cookery. Full of lots of recipes including recipes things that have probably slipped off the foodie radar. We were lucky to pick up our copy up for the bargain price of £8 at a local discount bookshop.

Perfect for: keen cooks and people with an interest in classic cooking techniques.

Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3 (2009) I love this bread book. Every recipe I’ve done from it has worked well and it’s one of the few bread books around that remains to be interesting, informative and not patronising. Interestingly they have brought out a US version.

Perfect for: both beginners and experienced bread bakers

Mark Diacono – Taste of the Unexpected (2010) Mark is Head Gardener at River Cottage and this book is all about not filling your veg plot with fruit and veg that is readily available but experimenting with more unusual plants like Egyptian Onions. The book not only has tips and advice about growing these unusual plants but also recipes for them.

Perfect for: keen veg gardeners.

Stefan Gates – Extraordinary Cookbook (2010) This is the 1 book on the list I’m yet to own, but I know it’ll be a fab book. Come on, if Stefan Gates can turn uninterested kids on to the wonders of food this book will be great. There appears to be two different covers for the book.

Perfect for: people who like to experiment and do something different in the kitchen.

Mallika Basu – Miss Masala (2010) I’ve been avidly following Mallika’s blog for years so when I heard she was releasing a book version of her blog I was very pleased. The book is down to earth and gives all the secrets of great indian cooking away. All the recipes I’ve tried so far has been superb with my favourite being the Murgh Makhani.

Perfect for: Indian food lovers, people who don’t have loads of time on their hands to cook good food.

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall – The River Cottage Meat Book (2004) I honestly believe this is the bible for meat. If we ever have a query about a piece of meat,be it how to cook it or what to do with it you can guarantee this book has the answer.There is various different covers for this book but inside they are the same.

Perfect for: carnivores, suitable for beginners all the way through to enthusiasts.

The Cookie & Biscuit Bible (2010) This book has been and gone over the years and is about to be republished again. Catch it while you can because it really is a great book. Has recipes for every type of biscuits & cookie you can imagine. I use this book a great deal in my classes because the recipes work so well. What is great is that the book has a section about baking for people with allergies.

Perfect for: kids who like to bake, baking fans,

Sarah Raven – Garden Cookbook (2007) I first bought this book as I was drawn in by the amazing photography, but it  has turned out to be an incredibly useful book in the kitchen. When ever I’m lost for inspiration with fruit or vegetable Garden Cookbook is my first call. I also love how it is set out in seasonal order. This book is to blame for us getting a bit obsessed with growing odd coloured vegetables. It all started with the purple sprouts!

Perfect for: grow your own fans, lovers of great photography, fruit & veg fans!

Nigella Lawson – How to be a Domestic Goddess (2003) This isn’t a book for healthy types. It’s all about comfort baking. If your squeamish don’t look at the amount of butter that goes into these recipes! A classic cookbook that was the first one I bought when we moved into The Cottage. It was this book that gave me the cooking bug. Nigella has brought out many cookbooks since releasing this one in 2003 but it is still my favourite. The brownies and banana bread from this book are the best.

Perfect for: any budding Domestic Goddesses/Gods, cake lovers

What cookbooks would your recommend for presents?

Christmas Food Wishlist

After writing my 2010 wishlist last week it made me think about the products that will hopefully be appearing on our Christmas table this year. Many of them are firm favourites with us. From top left:

Quenby Hall Stilton Our favourite Stilton. Strong and creamy and perfect for a Christmas cheeseboard. The beef from Quenby Hall is also superb and the best I’ve ever tasted.

Brays Cottage Pork Pie We first tasted these pies at the Good Food Show a few weeks back. Let’s just say they converted me to pork pies. What is delicious about the pies is that they don’t have jelly in them plus you can buy them either ready baked for frozen so you can cook them fresh.

Sainsbury’s Canape spoons I’ve seen these advertised in a recent Sainsbury’s magazine and love the idea of them. If we don’t have the time to workout how to make them successfully by our Christmas Drinks do we’ll certainly be buying some of these.

Camel Valley ‘Cornwall’ Brut A superb sparking wine from Cornwall of all places that is great drunk on its own or with a splash of sloe gin. I’m intrigued by their sparkling red.

Lidl Christkindle Glühwein At less that £4 a bottle it’s not surprising that this flies off the shelf as soon as it arrives in the Lidl stores. Aldi’s version is just as good. It’s tradition in our house to drink this while putting the Christmas decorations up.

Belvoir Spiced Winter Berries Cordial Delicious hot or cold and perfect for the non-alcohol drinkers. At parties I usually serve it in the same way as the mulled wine with fruit floating in it.

Heston from Waitrose Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding You may have heard all about these puddings in the media. The pudding developed by Heston Blumenthal for Waitrose has been flying off the shelves priced £14.99 and now selling for over £100 on eBay. Unsurprisingly they are now sold out in Waitrose. I’ve been lucky enough to be sent one and while I admit I did toy with the idea of flogging it on eBay I have decided to share it with friends next week as our Whisky Pudding for Christmas Day is currently maturing. You can read a review of the Heston pudding on Fuss Free Flavours.

Aldi Stollen Bites Warning: these are incredibly moreish and a packet doesn’t last long in this house. One problem with getting these as that I can’t go into Aldi without buying other products in the Christmas range like lebkuchen, pfeffernüsse and spekulatius. Lidl make a similar products that are just as good.

Chocolate Confetti Forget your Roses, Quality Street or Heroes at Christmas these made not far from me are so much better. They are not scared to experiment with flavours. A few years back I tastes  some of their Vintage Port & Quenby Hall Stilton chocolates (far better than they sound!) At the moment they are only available at Farmers Markets in the East Midlands, but you can order via the website to pick up at these markets.

What delights will be on your Christmas table this year?

Wishlist – 2010


I admit, I’m not the easiest to buy for or at least I don’t think I am. While scanning the web for Christmas pressies I stumbled across these beauties. I can dream, but certainly wouldn’t say no to them. As my wishlist shows I have a bit of things for birds in craft/art at the moment. Starting at top left:

Starling Brooch Anna de Ville is an artist based in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. Her silver designs are gorgeous and I already own one of her little wren necklaces. She does commissions and I this starling brooch has to be one of my favourites.

Wool cup cosy – With working from home a great deal of the time I have a habit of making a cup of tea then getting distracted and end up drinking a lukewarm cuppa. I’m sure a snuggly wool cup cosy would make things a great deal better!

Little BirdsLittle Doodles illustations are glorious and I especially like her Little Birds collection.

Silver Bird Lariat – This silver lariat is everywhere on Etsy, but it doesn’t stop me loving it.

Beater Blade –  I’ve heard so many things about this Beater blade I know I have to try one. Perfect for the times when I’m making cake batter in my Kitchen Aid.

Winter Wonderland bouquet – I’m a big fan of flowers from Blossom Tree. I love this particular bouquet because of the Amaryllis plus the green & cream tones.

Looped Ribbon NecklaceThese necklaces remind me of quilling and I adore the shapes that can be made with plain ribbon.

Button Wreath – felt – check; buttons – check. Why wouldn’t you want to use this Button wreath to adorn doors this festive season?

Windrush Candlesticks – Although I don’t really have room in the house for these, I really like how the 3 candlesticks entwine together.

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