Food Gifts You Can Make at Home

Disclaimer: I have received payment for this post and the text and photograph have been provided to me. This post is in line with my blogging policy.

Now is a great time to make food gifts that you can give as Christmas presents. As the growing season comes to an end there is plenty of fruit and vegetables that you simply have too much of. Old fashioned cooking has been making a big return and one of the harvest time cooking tasks of old was to make preserves.

Food from the Allotment

With the resurgence of old fashioned cooking has come the desire to grow your own fruit and vegetables. Allotments have also seen a big come back and the varieties that you might find on today’s allotments may have changed a bit. While some people still grow the traditional potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage and beans (and there’s still a place for these) you might also find more exotic vegetables like yams or okra. Of course, it’s personal choice what you grow – it all depends on the food you like to eat. Inevitably there will sometimes be a glut. Runner beans have done exceptionally well this year and you can usually find some being sold at a very reasonable price outside the allotments.

What to do with all this Produce?

Without doubt, anyone who has grown runner beans this year has just about had their fill of them. Modern technology means we can freeze down a lot of our produce to use throughout the year. But there’s no fun in that and you can’t give a bag of frozen beans as a present at Christmas! How about making jars of runner bean chutney? This is sure to be a gift that thrills your friends and family and it’s not the sort of thing that you can readily find in the shops. Make a selection of chutneys and jams and you can put them together to make a charming gift that has extra meaning because it’s home-made.

I can’t grow Veg!

Not everyone has access to allotments or has the ability or desire to grow their own vegetables. You can buy fruit and vegetables when they are in season so that you can make your own jams or chutneys but you may not have the time to do it. All is not lost as there are a number of purveyors of luxury food gifts that have done the job for you.

The essence of a Christmas Food Gift

Whether you are making your own or collecting some food items to give as a gift put some thought into it so that the recipient gets a gift they will remember. Here are a few tips to help you create the perfect gift:

  • Mix your own home produce with a gourmet item like the ones you can find at http://www.maille.co.uk/online-boutique/gifts.list
  • Give the ingredients for a favourite recipe
  • Make up a winter picnic basket and include your chutneys and some mustard to warm things up
  • Make your gift look attractive by adding gingham cloth fabric lids to your jars and lining a basket with the same cloth
  • Make a cheese and wine hamper and include chutneys and mustard

It doesn’t matter if you use your own produce or buy speciality produce to make up your own gift. As they always say, it’s the thought that counts so make sure your gift will be special to the person it’s intended for.

Food Gifts You Can Make at Home Food Gifts You Can Make at Home

Food Gifts You Can Make at Home

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Simon Howden

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Recipe For Za’Atar

In 1985 I visited Israel and everywhere I looked I could see army personnel. They would walk around in a group of 3, with bullet proof vests and sub machine guns at the ready. This was an expected sight as the country is always in a state of war, whether actively or just waiting for one to happen. In 1991 I saw the same level of army presence in Singapore and as I was travelling alone, I found this of great comfort. In Switzerland, Italy and France you see the army patrolling the streets and frankly, I do not even blink an eyelid when I see this. There is a feeling of safety and security and the police carry some weight, making crime seem impossible. In South Africa, crime is everywhere. It is creeping closer and closer to where I live, with our local shopping mall having been the most recent target of a cash in transit heist. I think it is about time we deploy the army to patrol our streets and shopping centres. They should be armed and ready to shoot and anyone who pulls out a gun should expect to be killed. It is about time that the people in charge of this country took control so that we can feel safe and secure in what to me is still the most beautiful place on earth.

Something else I ‘witnessed’ for the first time in Israel, was the use of the spice blend Za’Atar. I am sure every household has its own recipe, and I used mine to coat some labneh. These middle eastern treats are easy to make at home, and no matter where you live, you will be able to experience the beautiful creamy fresh cheese with this spice blend. I used the left over Za’Atar to season a chicken I was roasting for a family dinner.

Does the army patrol the area where you live?

Labneh Coated In ZaAtar Recipe For ZaAtar

Labneh Coated In Za’Atar

Za'Atar

Za'Atar is a herb blend made mainly from fresh oregano and is used in middle eastern cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 20mls toasted sesame seeds
  • 60mls loosely packed fresh oregano leaves
  • 20mls dried marjoram
  • 25mls sumac
  • 5mls salt
  • 10mls ground cumin
  • 5mls dried thyme

Method:

  • Place all of the ingredients into a spice blender and blitz until smooth
  • Store in a sterilized glass jar and use as needed
http://tandysinclair.com/zaatar/
 Recipe For ZaAtar

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Le Mesturet, Paris

I cannot remember where I saw the recommendation for Le Mesturet in Paris, but as it was only a 20 minute walk from where we were staying, it seemed like the perfect place to go for dinner. Having returned from the Burgundy region, we chose a carafe of Bourgogne Pinot Noir Bader Mimer to drink. The wine was slightly acidic, with a distinct nose of red berries.

Le Mesturet Le Mesturet, Paris

Le Mesturet

We did not have starters as we had had a late lunch and I chose the fresh cod with home made aioli for my dinner. Despite it being served on a cold plate, the meal was perfect with just the right level of garlic. My cod was served with periwinkles, which I teased out of their shells with a fork. A hat pin would have been a good idea. Dave chose the fricassee of Beliac lamb which was served with an olive, tomato and lemon compote. The lamb was tender and moist and flavoursome. Both of the plates came with streamed seasonal vegetables. We decided to have dessert at a local ice cream place, so our visit was short and sweet. The coffee is good and you will find the staff most helpful and able to speak English fairly well.

Le Mesturet is situated at 77 Rue de Richeliue in Paris and is open 7 days a week from 12h00 to 23h00. Prices are reasonable and the restaurant is worth a visit. Contact them on +33 (0)1 42 97 40 68 and I would recommend that you make a reservation as they were pretty full on the Sunday evening when we went.

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Recipe For Chopped Liver

When I was growing up, every Jewish Holiday was celebrated at my Grandmother’s house. The day of the celebration she would have all the aunts over at her house to prepare for the meal. I can remember being served tongue, hunting for the affikomen on passover and enjoying my Aunty Tilly’s ice cream. Pesach meals are very traditional and during the reading of the Haggadah I would nibble on horseradish. We would start with boiled eggs in salt water and then move on to chopped liver, chopped herring, Danish herring and gefilte fish served with chrain. This would be followed by chicken soup with kneidlach before we got to the meat and vegetables. And then of course the desserts! Dave and I love chicken livers and I am always trying to find new ways to make them. When I got my copy of Jerusalem I paged through the book and came across the recipe for chopped liver. As soon as I saw the photos I was taken back to my childhood. Of being the oldest of the cousins at the table, of knowing my grandmother loved each one of us as if we were the only grandchild, of cuddles with Buddy, the border collie, and the little ones having ‘ships’ for beds. Next year April I will be having passover dinner at my house for the first time ever. My parents are going to spend the weekend with us, and this recipe for chopped liver will definitely feature as I am sure it will remind my dad of his mom.

Do you have a recipe that reminds you of your grandmother?

Chopped Liver Recipe For Chopped Liver

Chopped Liver

Chopped Liver

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi Jerusalem page 186

Ingredients:

  • 90g duck fat
  • 2 large onions, peeled, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 500g trimmed chicken livers, cut into chunks
  • 5 hard boiled eggs, peeled
  • 60mls dessert wine
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
  • 15mls chopped chives

Method:

  • Place 60g of the duck fat into a large frying pan
  • Sauté the onions over a medium heat until soft and they have taken on some colour
  • Remove and set aside in a bowl, leaving as much duck fat in the pan as possible
  • Add the rest of the duck fat to the pan
  • Add the livers and cook through completely, turning occasionally
  • Add the liver to the onions, retaining the duck fat in the pan
  • Leave to cool slightly
  • Place the coarse grinder blade into your meat grinder
  • Process the livers and onions and place into a bowl and set aside
  • Process two of the eggs and place into a separate bowl
  • Place the fine grinder blade into your meat grinder
  • Process the liver and onion mix and place into the bowl with the coarsely ground egg
  • Process two of the eggs and add to the liver mixture
  • Add the duck fat, wine and seasoning to the liver mixture
  • Mix gently and adjust the seasoning
  • Transfer to a ceramic or glass dish
  • Cover tightly with cling film and leave to cool
  • Refrigerate for 2 hours until slightly firm
  • Finely chop the remaining egg and sprinkle on top of the liver with the chives

Cooks Notes:

If you do not have a meat grinder, process the liver and onion mix in a food processor in 3 batches, until it resembles a slightly lumpy paste. Chop the eggs by hand. Using the meat grinder for your eggs helps clean the grinder and push through all of the livers. At the end process half a slice of bread to help clean it completely. I have decorated my liver as my grandmother would have done it. You can add some chopped spring onions for extra zing.

http://tandysinclair.com/chopped-liver/
 Recipe For Chopped Liver

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Out And About: Friday 24 September 2014

Last week Sunday Dave and I were out and about at the Lourensford Harvest Market. The market is open from 10am until 3pm and I would suggest you get there early. Other than the usual places where you can buy ready to eat meals, I was really pleased to see a stand with fresh vegetables. I bought a bag of courgettes which I sliced on my mandolin and pan fried with a little bit of olive oil and some lemon juice. From funki fungi I got two huge portobella mushrooms. I grilled these with a topping made from the stems, some button mushrooms and feta cheese, topped with a locally made grana that I also purchased from the market. As there were loads of mushrooms available I will be heading back, with more cash or an app on my phone to make payments. Dave bought half a trout from Lourensford Trout which he is curing using my home made liqueur and tarragon. Aside from the food, there are other stands with knives, clothing and one selling soap. I purchased a bar of hope soap which is a business that was started to empower unemployed women in a local community.

Lourensford Harvest Market Out And About: Friday 24 September 2014

Lourensford Harvest Market

On Tuesday night Dave and I went to The Cooks Playground to cook with Fry’s. Fry’s is a South African product range created by vegetarians for vegetarians. The invitation was extended to us by Carla from Have You Heard and we were there with a lot of home cooks. Amy from Fry’s told me that at least half of their client base is looking for a product that has the same texture as meat, and that is a motivating factor behind the range that is available. The meat substitute uses grains and legumes which makes them high in protein, an essential part of a good diet, and something most new to being vegetarian people don’t consume enough of. The food is also egg and dairy free which makes it suitable for vegans. We made warm sesame toasted strips with the ‘chicken’ style strips, and zesty c-food coconut curry with the crispy ‘prawns’. Being confirmed meat eaters both Dave and I do not feel that the products have the same texture and / or taste as meat but, if you are thinking about meat free options then I would go with Fry’s.

Frys Family Food Out And About: Friday 24 September 2014

Fry’s Family Food

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend the Fry’s Family Food evening and my invitation was not based on my writing a blog post. This post is in line with my blogging policy.

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Recipe For Grapefruit Cordial

I love how one word can have so many meanings! Being cordial means amongst other things being pleasant. When I deal with suppliers I try to be as cordial as possible. What makes me wonder, is why some people ignore polite emails when they are actually complaints. I recently took on a new product range but my clients were unhappy with the products and asked me to not stock this range of body products any more. The Beautiful Earth products were to replace The Victorian Garden range I was no longer stocking. My customers were unhappy with the shampoo but as I would rather stock one range of body products I decided to not stock any of their products. When I sent them an amiable email telling them my customers were complaining about the products, they did not ask me what the complaint was. They merely replied saying they would take me off their data base. I found that so strange, but as I had only placed one order with them I left it at that. But when I told a supplier I have been dealing with since 2009 that my customers were complaining about the consistency of her product range I expected some sort of response. Better Earth has been a regular supplier of household products and I love using them as I love the ethos behind the company. But, my complaint has been met with silence. Kerry has not emailed me back or called me to find out more about the complaint. As I needed to supply my customers with products they are happy with I turned to Earth Sap who do both body and  household products. I can only hope my relationship with them will be more than cordial. Now, let us turn to the noun which means a sweet fruit-flavoured drink. This grapefruit cordial is not too sweet and is extremely refreshing.

Grapefruit Cordial Recipe For Grapefruit Cordial

Grapefruit Cordial

Grapefruit Cordial

Mix this not too sweet grapefruit cordial with soda water for an extremely refreshing drink.

Ingredients:

  • 125mls water
  • 100g sugar - I used fructose
  • zest of 1 grapefruit
  • 250mls grapefruit juice
  • 5mls citric acid

Method:

  • Place the water and sugar into a small sauce pan
  • Over a medium heat, stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved
  • Bring to the boil and leave to bubble away for 5 minutes
  • Add the zest and the juice and bring back to the boil
  • Leave to simmer on a medium heat for 20 minutes
  • Remove from the heat and add the citric acid
  • Strain into a sterilized glass bottle
  • Leave to cool before storing in the fridge

Cooks Notes:

Use with soda water at a ratio of 5:1. Add a tot of Campari for a cocktail.

http://tandysinclair.com/grapefruit-cordial/
 Recipe For Grapefruit Cordial

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Tomate Et Chocolat, Nevers

We spent two nights in Nevers before heading out to the countryside to spend two days driving around the Burgundy region. We chose to spend our last night back in Nevers as we wanted to catch an earlier train to Paris than we had originally planned. We chose a different hotel and close to where we were staying was the very quaint looking Tomate Et Chocolat. The owner started off being quite abrupt but once we told him we were from South Africa he became quite pleasant. We chose the Domaine Dupré Bougogne 2008 wine which was very light and slightly acidic with cassis on the nose. Our amuse bouche were crispy toasted baguette with white sardines.

Tomate Et Chocolat Tomate Et Chocolat, Nevers

Tomate Et Chocolat

We both had the Moules de bouchet to start. The mussels came from Mont-St.-Michel which we have visited and they were fantastic. I had a very tasty steak done blue for my main course which was served with a vin rouge, and brilliant vegetables. Dave had the same vegetables with his fish main course which was served with a pesto de sésame. I am going to try and make this at home.

Our Meal Tomate Et Chocolat, Nevers

Our Meal

Dessert was listed on the menu as le cheesecake au citron vert and both Dave and I commented that they did not use the French for cheesecake. It was very smooth and full of lemon. Dave had the carpacio d’orange which was served with a very minty glace. Dave had an espresso to end which was served with biscuits.

Desserts Tomate Et Chocolat, Nevers

Desserts

Contact them on +33 (0)3 86 69 05 63 and reservations are highly recommended.

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Recipe For Candied ClemenGold Rusks

ClemenGold recently held a competition which entailed submitting recipes to them and they would decide on a winner. I did not expect to win anything as I did not come up with a special recipe, but I did want to show my support for a brand that has previously supported me. I chose to make candied ClemenGold rusks as I am still enjoying playing around with rusk flavours and I love having these as my breakfast before gym. ClemenGolds are unique to South Africa and sold at our local Woolworths stores. In your area you should be able to find tangerines or clementines which will give you the same flavour note. If you cannot find either then substitute using oranges. I added fresh raspberries as these are now available all year round from Woolworths, and they are a fruit I love using. After submitting my recipe I was quite surprised to get an email saying that I had won something for my submission. I have a gift voucher from Woolworths to spend on what ever my heart desires. I am saving them up for a special treat for myself as using the money to buy groceries would not be a real reward.

Do you have a rusk flavour combination I should try?

Candied ClemenGold Rusks Recipe For Candied ClemenGold Rusks

Candied ClemenGold Rusks

Recipe For Candied ClemenGold Rusks

The addition of fresh raspberries to these rusks give them a few soft bites of sweetness.

Ingredients:

  • 250g self raising flour
  • 1.25mls baking powder
  • 2.5ms fine salt
  • 88g sugar - I used fructose
  • 30g candied clemengolds, roughly chopped
  • 125g fresh raspberries, cut in half
  • 125g butter, melted
  • 125mls buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius
  • Line a loaf tin with baking paper
  • Place the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix in gently so as to not break the raspberries
  • Mix together the butter, buttermilk and egg
  • Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients
  • Mix gently until well combined
  • Pour the batter into the loaf tin
  • Bake for 45 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool
  • Preheat the oven to 40° Celsius
  • Cut into chunks and bake for 3 hours to dry out
http://tandysinclair.com/candied-clemengold-rusks/
 Recipe For Candied ClemenGold Rusks

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The Boy That Never Was, Karen Perry

The Boy That Never Was opening line: A storm is rising.

The Boy That Never Was The Boy That Never Was, Karen Perry

The Boy That Never Was

I found this book to be well written and a real page turner but I kept on waiting to hear that the boy was merely a figment of Harry’s imagination. Robin and Harry are artists who move to Tangier to capture the light. They have a child, Dillon, and lose him and the book deals with their reaction to the loss and their lives back in Ireland. The end offers a twist one would not expect.

First published in the United States of America by Henry Holt and Company and in Great Britain by Michael Joseph in 2014

ISBN number 978-1-405-91291-4

Paperback – 310 pages

Disclaimer: I was sent the book to review by Penguin Books South Africa. I was not required to write a positive review. This post is in line with my blogging policy.

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Recipe For Swiss Meringue

It is quite amazing how the same situation can be experienced in two completely different ways. About 4 years ago I went in to our local Foschini department store, which is nationwide, to purchase some perfume. They were selling off all their stock of Cacharel perfume and as this is the only brand I wear, I bought all the bottles that they had. It was only when I got home and unpacked the 5 bottles did I realize that I should have asked them for the tester bottle, which was quite full, as it would no longer serve any purpose. Last month, before we left for overseas I went to a local department store, Friedman and Cohen, to price perfume. They had one bottle left of the Tentation and it worked out to €40 for 100mls. In France, this same bottle cost €80! Last time I bought perfume in France it was way cheaper than what I could get at home, and it came with lovely gifts and a bag full of samples that I am still using when we travel. However, at double the price I was not going to splurge out. I happened to be at Friedman and Cohen for something else this past week, and they still had the one bottle left. Not wanting to lose out on a bargain, I bought it. And, the lovely sales lady gave me the tester bottle (which I had not even seen), without me saying a word! The bottle is nearly full and so I doubt I will have to purchase perfume again in a hurry as my old bottle is still about half full. I was so impressed with the service and from now on, all my perfume will be purchased at this store.

Another thing which impressed me was the Swiss Meringue I made with fructose. Meringues themselves do not work with fructose, but Swiss meringue which is prepared in a different manner worked perfectly, and I was able to indulge in these amazing grapefruit curd tarts.

Grapefruit Curd Topped With Swiss Meringue Recipe For Swiss Meringue

Grapefruit Curd Topped With Swiss Meringue

Swiss Meringue

Swiss meringue is made by first dissolving the sugar over a bain marie, and then whisking it into the egg whites until glossy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 85g castor sugar - I used fructose

Method:

  • Put the eggs whites into the bowl of your stand mixer
  • Place this bowl over a bain-marie
  • Whisk by hand until the sugar has completely dissolved
  • Remove from the heat and using the balloon whisk attachment on your stand mixer, beat for 2 minutes on the lowest speed
  • Increase to a medium speed and continue beating for 4 minutes
  • Use to top a lemon meringue pie, key lime pie etc.
  • Place under the grill for 2 minutes to scorch or use a blow torch if you have one
http://tandysinclair.com/swiss-meringue/
 Recipe For Swiss Meringue

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Swiss Meringue Recipe For Swiss Meringue

Swiss Meringue

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