Christmas Gift Guide for Gourmets

Thinking of original and interesting gifts for gourmets is not easy. There are so many things to choose from and every year, there are so many new products to confuse you further.

Here is an edit of some lovely food and drink gift ideas for Christmas.

Dazzle your guests with a Luxury Cheese Selection from Paxton and Whitfield. If you pop into the shop they can help you pick some of their favourites cheeses. Highly recommend the Lincolnshire Poacher. They do fab Christmas Hampers too.


Add an unexpected sweet to the end of your Christmas meal with these Hadji Beh Turkish Delights. I tasted them this summer and they were unlike any I have previously tasted. The texture is not too gummy. I like the yellow box with the mix of citrus and rose flavours.

turkish deligths

These clever people at Lily O Briens makes really lovely and unique pudding flavoured chocolates liek Key Lime Pie. The flavours are really zingy and every one is a surprise.

lily obriens

For a very tasty slow grown Turkey, order one from Copas Turkey. All their birds are free range and slow grown so they have a nice layer of fat which makes the meat succulent and tasty. They sell some useful kitchen accessories to help you carve and some nice condiments to go with your Christmas meal too.

copas turkey

If they have run out, you can order one online from Donald Russell or Waitrose and collect instore.


The perfect gift for the coffee lover is an AeroPress Coffee Maker to make a professional cup of coffee at home. It takes less than a minute and there are no fiddly parts to wash up. Instead of a slow drip into the middle of a coffee filter in old machines, this uses even pressure to produce a rich cup of coffee with lower acidity. Once you try this, you won’t go back.

For those of you who like a healthy Green Smoothie in the morning, the Nutri Bullet is must have gadget, make your smoothies and get healthy. It completely breaks down your fruit and veg (including tough skins and seeds) with no pulp. Comes complete with a cook book to help you get started quickly too.

The hottest kitchen gadget this year is the Vegetable Spiralizer. Use this to make courgette noodles for those of you who are on a low carb or a paleo diet. Use it to make other vegetable noodles and salads too.


This is a gadget that really caught my eye this year, the Unikia Stirio Automatic Stirrer which is battery operated and is extendable to fit different pot sizes. It’s great for making risotto, soups and anythings else that needs constant strirring without you having to stand over the pot for hours. Genius.

unikia automatic stirrer

For Festive Food hampers, here is a selection to choose from:

Lakeland Buttermere Hamper which has a plum pudding, brandy butter, chocolate fudge, Claire’s St Clements Marmalade, Liqueur Truffles and more (free delivery too).


lakeland hamper


John Lewis Hampers - read my review of a couple of the Christmas Hampers here.

john lewis hamper


Marks and Spencer Hampers with free delivery. This one is one of the many to choose from a Mulled Wine and Fruit Hamper

M&S Christmas Mulled Wine and Fruit Hamper


Here are some stocking filler ideas:

Camera Lens Coffee Mug

Whisky Chilling Rocks

Every budding chef would love one of these, to make creme brulee, or to use of a meCook’s Blowtorch

Make cooking over Christmas fun – get the chef one of these Christmas Novelty Aprons .

for a fun gift or secret santa, this Biscuit Pocket Mug

Taste of Korea launches in New Malden

Last week, this ‘Taste of Korea’ was launched at the Tesco in New Malden. Several aisles were filled with Korean food products and they had some tastings of some of the more popular dishes. This is an annual event for promoting great Korean foods to UK and European markets, which supported by Embassy of South Korea.

This event will be focused in providing most popular Korean foods in Taste of Korea to the increased number of Tesco Stores throughout Southern England. In this year, the visitors to Tesco would have more chance to experience excellent Korean foods through various tasting events and by purchasing Korean foods in a larger number of Tesco stores. If you wanted to try more Korean products, Korea Foods, the massive supermarket is just across the road too.
Taste of Korea Tesco New Malden

I bought some Korean BBQ marinade sauce and some spicy Gojujang to try out some Korean recipes at home. Check your local Tesco if they are participating in this too.

Taste of Korea in Tesco


The Espresso Italiano Championship 2014

The International National Espresso International (INEI) hosted its 2014 Championship in London for the first time in the stunning RAC Club. They brought together 15 top Baristas from around the world to compete the for ultimate accolade of overall champion.

15 Baristas at the Espresso Italiano Championship 2014

Each Barista had to make 4 cups of espresso and 4 cups of cappuccino and clean up in 11 minutes. Two groups of judges awarded points. the Technical Judges awarded points for technique, speed, presentation and cleanliness. The Sensory judges who had the overriding votes, tasted for the quality of the coffee produced, the coffee blend and flavour.

The only girl competing at the Espresso Italiano Championship 2014

The only girl competing at the Espresso Italiano Championship 2014

Each contestant used a different brand of coffee which seemed to be all Italian (all members of the INEI).

The overall winner of the Espresso Italiano Championship 2014 was Filippo Mezzaro representing Torrefazione Saturno.

The winner of the Espresso Italiano Championship 2014

Espresso Italiano Championship 2014 at the RAC

Expert Espresso Tasting

I had a mini Espresso Tasting masterclass with Fabio of Cortadoro Coffee Lab, the team that won the best espresso.

Cooling down the coffee grains holder

Cooling down the coffee grains holder

How you tamp down the coffee makes a big difference

How you tamp down the coffee makes a big difference

Letting the hot water flow for 25 seconds -Making Espresso

Letting the hot water flow for 25 seconds

The perfect crema on top of a perfect Espresso

The perfect crema on top of a perfect Espresso

Fabio tutored me on the elements that affect a cup of espresso. The taste of an espresso made by a professional barista on a professional coffee machine is quite different in the hands of an amateur. I tasted a cup made by the guy manning the coffee machine and it was highly acidic and bitter.

Fabio stepped in to make a second cup using the same beans from his company, a single estate, high altitude Ethiopian Arabica bean. He firstly flushed the machine, then cooled the coffee bean holder in a bucket of ice (as too high a heat makes it bitter and acidic). He then tamped in down tightly and smoothly and let the water flow for 25 seconds.

This produced a completely different espresso which was aromatic with no acidity, no bitterness but surprisingly sweet with very distinct fruity flavours.

The difference in preparation was not discernible to the average person. Makes me wonder at how poor our coffee experience is at the average high street coffee shop. This really highlights the importance of proper training for baristas as you can have the best quality product but badly executed would result in a very poor experience and taste.

The Italian Espresso National Institute safeguards and promotes the original Espresso

through a product certification. Each member company which complies with the certification requirements has the right to use the mark Espresso Italiano Certificato (Certified Italiano Espresso). More information here:

Highlights of the Speciality Food Show 2014

Every visit to the Speciality Food Show leads to new discoveries of interesting food producers and food products.

It also highlights food trends that are about to hit our supermarkets. This year, there was an abundance of new coconut water brands, Jerky companies, British Charcuterie, Bilitong, Raw Honey, beetroot ketchup, a 16 year old Basque Beef, designer salt and some medicinal mushrooms made into chocolates.

As usual, there are lots of interesting branding and labels too.

Woodalls British Charcuterie

Woodalls British Charcuterie – the make some amazingly tasty hams. Check them out!

Txuleton Basque Beef

Txuleton Basque Beef


Txuleton Basque Beef (6) Tideford 197

Speciality Food Show 2014

Tideford 241 Tideford 198 Tideford 199 Tideford 200 Tideford 201

Interesting salts from the salt house

Interesting salts from the salt house.

Tideford 203

Tideford 215 Tideford 217 Tideford 218 Tideford 219 Tideford 220 Tideford 221 Tideford 222 Tideford 223 Tideford 224 Tideford 225 Tideford 227 Tideford 228 Tideford 229 Tideford 230

Delicious Turkish Delights from Irish Company Hadji Bey.Tideford 232 Tideford 233 Tideford 234 Tideford 235 Tideford 237 Tideford 238

You can also watch a quick video of the highlights here too.


Some interesting products at #sfff14- Basque beef, Raw honey. Posh salts, Jerky, biltong, etc

A video posted by May London (@londonmay) on

Cooking Heston’s Barbecue for a BBQ Off

We are enjoying a nice summer this year. Walking around the residential streets of London, you will smell the wafts of meat grilling and the sounds of clinking glasses and drifts of conversation.

Last weekend, I had a little BBQ party with a few friend and to make it a bit more fun, we did a BBQ off. Everyone had to bring a dish and we would all judge their efforts and someone would be crowned an overall winner. Using Heston’s Ultimate Barbecue for recipe ideas, I decided to make Heston’s pulled pork recipe using pork shoulders and serving it in a wrap instead of a bun. I also made an Asian tangy slaw with red cabbage to go with it.

Waitrose BBQ Off Heston's Pulled Pork

Heston’s Pulled Pork with Asian Slaw

You can see the recipe here. It was much easier and faster to cook than I expected, took just 1 1/2 hours on the stove in stead of hours in a low oven. The use of smoked paprika in the braising liquid gives the bbq sauce a nice smokey flavour too. This recipe also gives you a lot of very tasty barbecue sauce from the braising liquid. I used this sauce to make some barbecued spare ribs after too.

Waitrose BBQ Off

The competition was meant to be based on everyone making the same recipe but of course no one ever follows the rules so we had some great spicy chicken, awesome beer steamed BBQ ribs and some courgette and haloumi skewers.

Waitrose BBQ Off

It’s not quite Guy Fawkes yet but we decided to make a big bonfire in the field too. This took half a day to build and we smeared ghee all over the bigger pieces of logs to make it burn faster and longer. It was quite awesome and I think we’ll be doing that again in the Autumn.

Waitrose BBQ Off (2)

You can get more ideas and recipes for Summer Parties here:

This BBQ off was sponsored by Waitrose Groceries.

Become your own Barista at home

latte art

Coffee Culture in London is exploding, with many new independent coffee roasters and coffee startups opening up in town. Sitting in cafes and making the most of al fresco coffee culture is always fun, but sometimes staying in is all we really want to do. When the week has been busy and the weekend beckons with promises of lazy mornings reading the newspaper and relaxing on the sofa, the idea of going out can seem too much. But you don’t have to force yourself out of your pyjamas to enjoy a decent coffee. You could actually impress everyone by becoming your own home barista.

No courses are required, you don’t have to go get a fancy apron or even get baking cupcakes. You just need to love coffee and be a bit creative.

Start with the fundamentals
There are so many great coffee machines on the market right now, you could easily turn your kitchen into a café. Forget Starbucks…call it Cafe Chez Moi and invite your friends round for some posh coffee!

You could always serve some freeze-dried instant coffee or cappuccino sachets to serve but there’s no fun in that and there certainly is no compromise on taste. It’s easy to make your own premium cofffee with freshly ground coffee beans, as there are so many great brands to choose from.

If you’re running a business from home or freelancing your way to the top, you could even impress clients with a little home networking over coffee. Talk about giving them the personal touch!

There are lots of different coffee machines out there of course and choosing can be tricky, so think about factors like the space you have in your kitchen, the style you want, cleaning-ease & budget as outlined in this handy video by Which?.

A touch of art with your coffee
Once you’ve selected the right machine, you may want to think about getting creative. Tassimo offer a really cool selection of coffee art stencils, so you can really impress your visitors with your coffee crafting skills. You could make coffee inspired art to hang around to give your place that extra authentic feel and if you wanted, to you could get baking a few cupcakes too, why not?
But if you truly want to take your coffee making to the next level you could invest in thermometers, coffee grinders and even get some training from London’s prestigious Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. You can learn to make fancy coffee art on Youtube too.

But at the same time you can still keep your barista status and keep it cheap too. Heating up milk in the pan, instead of using a milk steamer will still give you a nice latte-style drink. But if you want some frothy foam on top, all you need is a jar and a microwave.

And if you want to really impress your friends, you can explain to them how you know it’s a good espresso because of the ‘crema’ at the top. Crema is the foam on your espresso and barista’s use that as a sign they have created the perfect cup (or The God Shot as it’s also called). And if you want to get the fancy apron too, go for it! It’s your house, your rules, your own personal coffee shop!

This is a sponsored post.

Tom Aikens helps launch Market Deli by Walkers

It’s always fun to attend events where great chefs are doing a demo or masterclass. Tom Aikens was at the launch of Walker’s new premium snacks range, Market Deli. His introduction emphasised his reliance on really good produce and the provenance of his ingredients.

Tom demonstrated a couple of dishes using some of the ingredients that inspired the new flavours of snacks, a spicy. chunky gazapacho wiht a multitude of ingredients and a very decadent Mac and Cheese.  I picked up a couple of useful tips from his demo:

1) always use warm milk when making roux, helps the sauce come together, no lumps.

2) add some chopped up sun dried tomatoes into your mac and cheese. This adds an extra dimension to the flavours.

Walkers’ new Market Deli range comes in 8 flavours inspired by “deli” foods like chorizo, sun dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. The range come in potato chips, tortilla chips and the trendy pita chips which I quite like. My favourite flavour was the Flame Grilled Roasted Spanish Chorizo with Roasted Onion.

Walkers Market Deli

Market Deli Tom Aikens making mac and cheese

Tom Aikens making mac and cheese

Tom Aikens makes mac and cheese

Market Deli Tom Aikens adding sun dried tomatoes to mac and cheese

Adding sun dried tomatoes to mac and cheese

Adding sun dried tomatoes to mac and cheese

Adding sun dried tomatoes and fresh herbs to mac and cheese

Market Deli (23) Market Deli (29) Market Deli (28) Market Deli (26) Market Deli (27) Market Deli (48) Market Deli (47) Market Deli (50)

Market Deli (55)

Market Deli (54)


EatCookExplore was a guest of Walkers at this event.





Waitrose Cellar Debuts – Wine Buying Guide Online

Waitrose Cellar

When I was younger, I tended to just buy wine from the local wine shop where I got some help with the wine selection.  In the last few years, after attending a lot of wine tastings and with the help and tips from my Wine Judge friend, I have learnt a lot more about wines. I am not an expert by any means but I can certainly make a more informed decision now.

Today, you can buy wine from websites online with each giving advice of varying quality. Waitrose has just launched Waitrose Cellar just for selling wine online. The site includes at a lot of  information on the types of wine and helps you with your selection including food matching tips. This is a really great resource for anyone who is not an expert.

I’ve been at a couple of wine tastings recently (Wines of Rioja and Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux) where I was very ably led by one of the senior wine buyers from Waitrose. He is a walking wine encyclopedia and knew which wines and vintages to avoid and which ones were really amazing. When you are at a wine event where there are several hundred wines to taste in a day, this was a great help.

At the recent Waitrose Cellar launch event at the London Canal Museum, we met a couple of other Wine Buyers for Waitrose, Xenia and Stephane. Loaded onto a barge, our group drifted along the Regent Canal while sampling the Spring Foodie Collection of 12 wines. This collection was selected by the team and consists of some sparkling, some white and some red wines.

Waitrose Cellar (18)

Stephane Waitrose Wine Expert

Stephane Waitrose Wine Expert

 Of all the ones we tasted, I really liked

  • the award winning Waitrose Blanc de Noirs Brut made with only Pinot Noir, which will be great paired with Chinese food and fish and chips
  • the crisp and citrusy Waitrose Chablis (made by the Caves des Vignerons de Chablis) which will be good with seafood and
  • if you like dessert wines,  this sweet wine with a hint of peach was delicious, Waitrose Pacherence du Civ Bilh or Seriously Peachy.

Waitrose Cellar (66)

Waitrose Cellar (112)

The new Waitrose Cellar website lets you buy the wines by the type of grape, which I have not seen anywhere else. You can choose any of the pre mixed cases or choose your own. If you need help, you can either tweet them a question @waitrosecellar or call them. An expert will get back to you with some answers.

Waitrose Cellar Discount Code

Order any 6 wines at with free delivery. Save £10 when you spend £100 with our code WTCELLAR514

Regents Canal London

Regents Canal London

Waitrose Cellar Canal Museum

 Waitrose Cellar (32)

Waitrose Cellar