Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Top Food Events for 2015

Top Food Events for 2015

The baking industry’s gone bananas, celebrity cookbooks are propping up the publishing industry and the growth in artisan gastronomy is staggering. In other words, the general public at large can’t get enough of foodie themed things to do. So with that in mind this is our list to the top foodie events to attend in 2015 – you’ll find some of the biggest and best on our list, alongside secretive ‘in the know’ shenanigans that only insiders have the info on. 

The Clandestine Cake Club
Unique events that now take place all over the country, having started off as one women’s endeavour to celebrate all things cake. They take place monthly, all year, organised and held by regional groups at secret locations. You’ll need to join – which is free, pick an event to attend and register, then turn up with a cake that matches the organised theme. It’s a brilliant way to network, with like minded people and eat hideous amounts of cake! What could be better?

Cake and Bake Show
Since the inaugural Great British Bake Off, which took the country by surprise as well as by storm, the baking world is having a renaissance like it’s never seen before. So it’s unsurprising that some clever person has launched an entire show to cash in on the whole theme. The Cake and Bake Show takes place not just once a year, but five times a year! You’ll find absolutely everything you need here, from tools and ingredients through to workshops, seminars and inspiration, with appearances from foodie royalty, such as Rosemary Shrager.

A Taste of London
The ‘king’ of food festivals, located in the heart of Regent’s Park, showcasing the very best in artisan producers, retailers and world class chefs. Alongside vast numbers of stands, from which you can sample and buy, there are workshops, demos and seminars with the likes of Michel Roux Jr. In fact it’s been so popular that in 2013 they launched an additional date to the diary with a winter festival at Tobacco Docks.

Slow Food Week
Slow Food was founded in Italy in 1989, in response to the culture that was developing around fast food. It’s a grassroots organisation, with thousands of members around the world, that aims to promote a better way of eating, using traditional foods and techniques whilst protecting our edible biodiversity. It works with restaurants, retailers, producers, well known chefs and the general public, and in June there’s a week-long celebration around the world. In the UK you’ll find talks, workshops, special menus at top restaurants, seminars and tasting events.

The Big Feastival – Jamie Oliver
The pioneer of celebrity chefdom extended his gastronomic enterprise by teaming up with Alex James and launching a weekend festival dedicated to food. And it’s a good call – lots us really rate the food experience at music festivals, sometimes above and beyond the actual performances, and all Jamie and Alex have gone and done is put the food at the forefront of the programme, with some entertainment to back it up. So pack up your tent, sleeping bag and sunnies, but don’t worry about bringing a saucepan and supply of beans, this festival is all about eating well all weekend.

BBC Good Food Show
The good old Beeb is renowned for its dedication to flavour inspired output, so it’s great to see that they’ve wrapped up all their gastronomic offerings into various Olympic sized events – though the one at Olympia in London is quite possibly the jewel in the crown. As with the other big festivals, you’ll find everything you ever dreamed about in relation to food, and some. There are retailers, seminars, workshops, tastings and demos with some of the biggest names on the UK foodie scene. Really not to be missed. 

Ludlow Food Festival 
Reputed to be the very first food festival in the UK and still going strong after 20 years. The town itself has more than its fair share top quality chefs and this has extended into the festival, resulting in some top names alongside an aim to promote quality, regional produce from The Marches. And as well as having a festival site full of exhibitors, tastings, seminars, workshops and demos there’s the famed Sausage Trail and Ale Trail that wind their way around town.

This article is brought to you by Marler Haley, experts in exhibition stands, display stands and boards. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Christmas Gift Guide 2014

Every year we put together a gift guide to help you make those difficult decisions on what to buy your friends and family for Christmas. All the items featured in our gift guide have been tested by ourselves and come personally recommended by us. We hope you enjoy this years selection which is bigger and better than any previous year.

Neato – Botvac 85

The Neato Botvac85 has become one of the most regularly used household appliances in our home. We do prize ourselves as having a smart home however the Botvac is so intelligent itself that it requires very little knowledge of how it works. You can simply let it get on with its business and you get on with yours.
The basics of how the device works is that it has a laser built into the top of the robot. When your Botvac leaves its home base (where it lives and charges) on one of its missions (whether manually told to start or scheduled via the timer) it scans the room with the laser, identifying any big obstacles and the general shape of the room. It then sets out to clean the room systematically. It then moves onto other rooms if you leave the doors open. A whole apartment cleaned in one go....amazing! The Botvac is a little genius when it comes to avoiding smaller obstacles too such as cat food bowls or shoes, or even you! It simply adjusts its course.

Constantly baking means that the kitchen is continuously being subjected to a bombardment of kitchen debris but the Botvac has been an amazing help in the kitchen, completely eliminating crumbs or other kitchen debris which results in baking or even cooking. Whether the debris is sugar, oats, flour or just general crumbs the Botvac has no trouble at all in lifting these. The spinning brush on the side of the Botvac works wonders at pulling any debris away from the wall or kitchen kickboards and into the path of the brush blades and vacuum. The vacuum power of this robot is something I would like to particularly mention as some people have commented upon seeing the Botvac that it may just be a novelty or a toy but we can assure you this is not the case. The Botvac has not struggled with lifting anything we have put in its path. It has found debris in our carpet that even our big brand name standup vacuum didn't lift. This amazes us!
The Botvac is worth every penny of its price in our opinion. Another great point is that you can update the software of the Botvac when it becomes available by connecting it to a PC. You'll soon grow to love your Botvac's personality and you'll soon find a name for it too. Ours is called 'Crumbs'. What will you call yours? You can purchase a Botvac from numerous suppliers in the UK, you can find the list on their website. Prices around £449.
You can read our full review of the Neato Botvac 85 here.

Wifi Kettle

As we have told you before we are keen adopters of new technology in our home especially if it makes our lives any easier. The Wi-Fi Kettle is simply a piece of technology that works so beautifully well that it is a pleasure to use. First of all let us explain what a Wi-Fi kettle is as it sounds
like something the Jetsons would perhaps have in their home. The kettle itself is cordless as most are these days and it has a base which plugs into mains power. This base is connected to your homes Wifi. Don’t worry, it’s not complicated at all to set up! All you need to do is download the relevant app for your phone either from the Apple app store or Google Play app store and follow the very simple setup instructions. It then connects the base to your Wi-Fi. Then the fun begins! The app has several different functions. The first simply being the ability to boil the kettle at either 65, 80, 95 or 100 degrees Celsius depending on what type of beverage you are making. We must admit to mostly using the 100 degrees selection.  The app also allows you to trigger the ‘keep warm’ function to keep the water at the set temp for a set range of time. The app will then notify you when the boil cycle has finished and remind you to refill your kettle. You soon get use to refilling it each time you use it ensuring you can turn it on via the app without worrying whether it has enough water in it. The second functionality of the app is the Wake up Mode. You can set your phone to notify you in the morning when you wake up and ask whether you want to stick the kettle on. How cool is that! But the best is yet to come….The Home Mode enables your phone to detect when you arrive within range of your homes Wi-Fi network and then trigger a popup message on your phone welcoming you home and asking if
you would like to stick the kettle on. Amazing!!! These two additional modes are completely optional so you don’t have to use them if you don’t want. Of course if you are old school you can boil the kettle by pressing the button on the base station. But why would you want to do that when you have a cool shiny new app to play with. The kettle itself is designed with a modern stylish kitchen in mind. The sleek stainless steel design is an icon of beauty in the kitchen. If you don’t fancy the minimalist look of the stainless steel body of the kettle or fancy something a bit different the designers have thought of this too. There are a range of ‘skins’ available for the kettle in a multitude of colours meaning your kettle will never become boring again. We have to admit this is one of the coolest pieces of kitchen tech we have come across so far and it is an absolute pleasure to use in our home. Priced at £99 and available from a multitude of suppliers in the UK including Amazon, PC World, Currys, Firebox and John Lewis. You can check out all the details on their own website.

Marks and Spencers

Marks and Spencers never fail to come up with great gifts at Christmas and this year has been no exception. We chose this item to feature in our Christmas gift guide as it is such a wonderfully presented treat that the recipient will be guaranteed to want to keep it! The Marks and Spencer’s Carousel Tin (£10) is a beautiful vintage Christmas inspired tin of shortbread with one major difference. The tin itself is a rotating musical tin, making it easy to repurpose as a Christmas decoration too! Another product from Marks and Spencer’s Christmas 2014 range is the Sequin Tree (£15) which is a tree shaped box beautifully covered in gold sequins and filled with delicious milk, dark and white chocolate truffles. After something a little more traditional? How about box of Chocolates (£4) in milk, dark and white chocolate or the beautiful Stag Shortbread Tin (£4.50) which is filled with quality Scottish shortbread. Something for a small gift or stocking filler, why not check out the box of After Dinner Mint Buttons (£5) made with quality dark chocolate and mint oil or the Merry Christmas chocolates selection (£4) which comprises of individually wrapped chocolates in the form of the slogan Merry Christmas.

Sage Appliances by Heston Blumenthal – The Smart Toast

Making toast couldn’t get any smarter could it? Could it? Heston Blumenthal’s own team at Sage appliances have come up with an amazing series of appliances for our kitchens including the Smart Toast toaster (£169 for the 4 Slice, £129 for the 2 slice). You may ask what could possibly be different about a toaster that makes it smart. This is a fair question but the guys at Sage appliances
have put a lot of thought into the challenges we come up against when making toast, and they’ve come up with the solutions! If ‘ Is my toast done yet? I better check in case it burns’ or ‘It could do with a tiny bit more time’ sound like scenarios you come up against, which we believe everyone does when making toast, then this toaster is designed for people like yourselves. The Smart Toast has two very specially designed features built in, the ‘Lift and Look’ feature and the ‘A Bit More’ feature. The ‘Lift and Look’ feature does exactly what it says, the motorised carriage lifts the bread (or whatever you’re toasting) up just enough for you to peep to see if its brown enough. Saving your eye brows from a singe. And then lowers the bread back into the toaster, all without interrupting the toasting cycle. No more resetting the toasting cycle every time you need to check the toast. The ‘A Bit More’ feature also does exactly what it says, it adds a tiny bit more time onto the toasting cycle and lowers the toast back down into the toaster. We particularly love the LED indicator panels on the front of the toaster just above the heat settings which indicate how much time is left on the toasting cycle, leaving you enough time to work out when to make your tea to go with your toast. In our eyes this toaster has truly been designed to be the most user friendly toaster we have ever experienced.  Take the guesswork out of making toast and get a Smart Toast.

Cabanaz - Bread Box

The wonderful retro styled Bread Box (£60) by Cabanaz has a sleek and flawless design. This retro themed item of kitchenware is designed in such a way that it would take pride of place in any kitchen
whether retro themed, modern or traditional. The breadbox is available in several colours scarlet read, arctic blue, classic white and iron grey so easily fits into a multitude of colour schemes. The dimensions of the box are L40cm, H17cm and D22cm making it sufficiently large not only to hold your loaf, but pancakes, buns, biscuits and whatever else you keep in your breadbin. This designer piece, complete with its chrome look metal ends and spacious interior is the perfect finishing touch to any kitchen. Available from Formahouse in the UK.

Adagio Teas – Fairy Tale Bags, Story Time Bags, Tree House Bags

If you are regular readers of our website or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram you will know of our love of Adagio Teas. Their massive range of teas, teapots and other associated teaware amazes us and is always a first stop for any gift ideas for any lea lover friends. Adagio Teas have launched three fantastic gift boxes aimed to introduce kids to teas. We love this idea as all too often kids do not understand what is inside traditional teabags, where the tea comes from or that its available in an array of flavours. The three gift boxes are Fairy Tales, Story Time and Tree House (all priced at £16 each). Each gift box contains three beautifully illustrated tins (which are great for storage when you finish the teas). Each tin contains different blends of tea in mesh pyramid teabags. We also love these teabags as you can normally use the same teabag for multiple cups of tea. The Fairy Tales gift set contains tins of teabags entitled Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella. The Story Time gift set contains tins of tea bags entitled Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood and Alice in Wonderland. The Tree House gif set contains tins of tea bags entitled Rocket Fuel, Tea-Rex and Monster Brew. Each tin 15 tea bags. These make wonderful gifts for someone this Christmas whether they are a child or adult.

Whittard of Chelsea

We love Whittard of Chelsea’s illustrious and long history as one of the most prestigious suppliers of tea and coffee products. We have selected three of our favourite products which are also in their Christmas Gift section this year. The first product is a wonderfully presented Flavoured Hot Chocolate Selection (£18) which comprises of 5 tins of flavoured hot chocolate including crème brulee white hot chocolate, caramel hot chocolate, rocky road hot chocolate, chilli hot chocolate and of course mint hot chocolate.  Hot chocolate wouldn’t be complete without a generous topping of Mini Marshmallows (£4.50) and Whittard also stocks a wonderful large tub of these filled with white, pink and peach mini marshmallows.  If hot chocolate doesn’t quite cut it for you then why not opt for Whittard’s specially selected Time for Coffee (£18) selection which includes three wonderful coffees including Chelsea Espresso, After Dinner and Breakfast Blend. A coffee for every point in the day!

Hotel Chocolat

Hotel Chocolat are well known for their luxury chocolates and innovative flavours and they certainly have not failed to impress this Christmas! There is a huge selection of gifts suitable for Christmas on the Hotel Chocolat website. We have chosen but just a few of these to feature in this gift guide.  For a wonderfully indulgent Christmas chocolate gift why not try the Hotel Chocolat Truffle Tree (£26) which is comprised of alternate layers of 50% milk praline chocolate with crisp feuilletine and layers of caramel chocolate enhanced with a touch of sea salt. The tree is finished off with decorations of milk, vanilla white and dark chocolate truffle baubles.  For a wonderful stocking filler or secret santa gift Hotel Chocolat have created a Christmas H-Box (£12) which comprises of 14 festive chocolates including Christmas Eaton Mess, Caramel Christmas Tree and Caramel Supernova among many others.  Why not try the cute box of 8 Tiddly Reindeer (£5.50). Each reindeer is made from delicious melt in your mouth milk chocolate. A wonderful selection of Christmas gifts.

Charbonnel et Walker

Charbonnel et Walker is yet another long established and reputable company with members of the Royal family counting towards some of its loyal and illustrious clients. The original setting up of the business was encouraged by Edward VII himself who convinced Madame Charbonnel, a highly skilled chocolatier from Paris to form a partnership with Mrs Walker and establish a chocolatiers in Mayfair, London. Charbonnel et Walker is one of the few companies to be endorsed by the Royal Warrant as chocolate makers for Her Majesty the Queen, and they are immensely proud of this. It will come as no surprise to anyone that a company with this reputation of commendation will produce some of the finest chocolates imaginable. This year we have chosen to feature two items from their fine collection. The first is their decadent Fine Milk Chocolate Selection (prices from £22) which is also available in an alcohol free version. This collection of chocolates feature a range of our specialities, including fudges, caramels, marzipans, fruit fondants, and noisettes The second item we have chosen to feature are the Sea Salt Caramel Truffles which come in a wonderfully presented box. A perfect gift for your loved one. The Sea Salt Caramel Truffles are truly taste explosions which have to be experienced to be believed.

Firebox - Tetris

We all love retro gifts at the moment and we are no different. Whether its reminders of your childhood or toys you never had growing up, everyone seems to want to own retro designed items at the moment. Firebox has a wealth of retro goodies to keep even the hardest person to buy for happy! We’re massive fans of Tetris so we were excited to find that Firebox not only stocked Tetris Cookie Cutters (£6.99) but also an extremely cool Tetris Lamp (£29.99). The cookie cutters are a great gift for someone who bakes or is interested in starting baking. You can use any shortbread or biscuits recipe from our website with the cutters. These are great for kids as you can genuinely play Tetris with biscuits you have made yourself. We love this! The Tetris Lamp is amazingly cool. Not only is it a lamp but it’s in pieces in the form of Tetris blocks. The base of the lamp plugs into mains power. You can then build the rest of the Tetris blocks on top of this base block in any number of different combinations of patterns. As long as the blocks are touching the metal edges conduct just enough electricity to light up the LED’s inside the blocks. Meaning you will never become bored of your lamp again, in fact you won’t be able to leave it alone, and neither will your friends! When we ever leave our kitchen we return to find someone has rearranged the Tetris lamp in a different form. Whether for a child or an adult who thinks they still are a child this lamp is great fun and a really reasonable price for the fun you have with it.

DotComGiftShop – Everything Stops for Tea

If your regular readers of BakingBar or even follow any of our social media channels you will certainly know our fondness for tea, black tea, green tea, any tea! We love DotComGiftShop’s wonderful range of retro homeware. It’s hard not to get lost in their website and discover items you didn’t know existed or bring back fond childhood memories. One item we have fallen in love with this Christmas is tea themed and we absolutely love it. It describes exactly what happens in our home when it’s time for tea. The “Everything Stops for Tea” print (£14.95) is beautifully presented in a black PVC frame and ready for hanging as soon as it’s received. This very reasonably priced print is great for decorating a new kitchen or adding something new to an old one. The retro design of the print means that it not only fits in well with retro styled kitchens but also modern, sleek minimalist kitchens too. If puddings are more your thing DotComGiftShop also stock another print entitled “Classic Puddings” (£19.95) which pairs beautifully with the tea print.

Joe and Seph’s Popcorn

Remember the days when you only really ate popcorn and it was always the same generic bland flavour, well Joe and Seph decided to change all that and it’s been a massive success! They air-pop
their corn opposed to the normal traditional British method of oil and sugar mix. They have also developed a wide range of different flavours. From Strawberry Cheesecake to Mince Pie they have an exciting range of mouthwatering flavours, and this year they have released some very special Christmas flavours. Among the new exciting flavours are Caramel, Maple Syrup and Roasted Pecan popcorn, French Camembert, White Chocolate with Madagascan Vanilla Bean,  Caramel and Spanish Brandy (creating a wonderful Brandy Butter flavour), Mince Pie flavor popcorn, Mint Chocolate popcorn (our absolute favourite). Not to mention their new range of cocktail flavoured popcorn including Mojito, Margarita and Cosmopolitan. Proper grown up popcorn! 

Innis and Gunn – The Gift Pack

Innis and Gunn has quickly become our favourite beer to both drink and bake with. If you are regular readers of BakingBar’s recipes you will have seen us using the various varieties of Innis and Gunn beer. Innis and Gunn is based in Edinburgh and the beer is brewed in Glasgow. A lot of time, love and thought goes into the development of the different varieties which they create. Especially for Christmas Innis and Gunn have released a special Gift Pack (£10) perfectly presented to be given as a wonderful Christmas present for that beer lover in your life. The beers included in the pack are Original x 1, Rum Finish x 1, Toasted Oak IPA x 1, Bourbon Stout x 1 (all 330ml). Not only is the beer included in the pack but an exclusive Innis and Gunn bottle opener. So your recipient can crack open a bottle of beer the instant they open their gift. Perfect! If you’re looking for something for an Innis and Gunn beer fan (which you will soon become after tasting it) there is a wide variety of gift items also available including T-shirts (£16) and our favourite Innis and Gunn Genuine Cask Head (£60) perfect for hanging in your mancave or kitchen.

Rococo Chocolates

Rococo’s passion and drive to create the best chocolate delights time and time again is inspiring and they have some treats in their Christmas range this year!  They have a wonderful range this year but
when we seen these bars we knew we had to share it with you. This year Rococo has specially designed three amazing Christmas themed chocolate bars. The first bar is Christmas Pudding (£4.50) and has wonderful flavours of Cognac soaked raisins, toasted almonds, cloves and cinnamon which burst through the rich 65% dark chocolate of this Christmas bar. The second bar is Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh (£4.50) Taking the three elements from the time of the wise men, Rococo have added a hint of orange oil.  The gold leaf is 22 carat, the frankincense and myrrh lend distinctive aromatic resin notes.  Christmas would not be the same without this bar, first created by Rococo in 1996. The third bar is Morello Cherry (£4.50) which as the name suggests is made with sun dried morello cherries, which are rich, moist perfectly balanced tangy fruit and give citrus notes to this delectable Rococo Christmas bar, complementing the intense rich 65% dark chocolate. – Candle Holder

The taste of your food is important but so is the presentation. We absolutely love range of tableware and food platters which are all made of natural slate and crafted by the Hammond family who have worked with slate since the 18th Century. is a 100% Irish family owned and run business so please check out their website and consider their wonderful products for your next gift.  We love all their products but we have made the tough decision to feature an item from their new candle holder range, The Candle Holder (€20) which is also available in a trio Candle Set (€35). These are a beautiful addition to your coffee table and fit into any home whether ultra-sheik modern or traditional farmhouse. Slate is such a tactile material which is natural and durable, we love it. You can purchase these candle holders and more directly from the website. Before you know it you’ll be adding to your slate collection at every opportunity.

Henri Willig – The Tulip Gift Basket

Most of you will know who much we adore the Netherlands and it doesn't stop there. We are massive fans of Henri Willig cheese. Henri Willig’s traditional Dutch methods of making cheese attract over a million tourists annually to their farms in the Netherlands. If you’re ever in the Netherlands keep your eyes open for their 12 stores. But don’t worry, Henri Willig has exceptional customer service meaning you can order all the cheese you need online from their website! This Christmas we highly recommend the Tulip Gift Basket (€54.55) as a wonderful present for someone. The basket contains a wonderful selection of cheeses including four delicious Gouda varieties (Natural, Herbs, Cumin and Smoked), combined with a cheese slicer and a pack of traditional Dutch sweet button bonbons.


We love companies who have long, established and illustrious histories and Bettys is one of those companies. There is a lot of history behind the business and even a little mystery around where the name Betty actually came from! Its far too much to explain here so grab a tea or coffee and pop over to Bettys website to read ‘The Bettys Story’ about where this fabulous company came from here. Bettys always produce wonderful seasonal ranges and this Christmas they have not failed to disappoint. We made the difficult decision and chose to feature two of our favourite items. We have browsed their fabulous selection of Christmas treats and decided to feature the Large Christmas Chocolate Selection (£25) which contains a wonderful selection of handcrafted chocolates in a beautiful presentation box inspired by vintage Christmas cards. Or if you’re looking for something a bit different but equally delicious you should check out Bettys Swiss Milk Chocolate Glacé Orange (£5.95) which is a beautiful Christmassy house box filled with Tangy glacé orange strips coated in rich Swiss Grand Cru chocolate made with prized Venezuelan Criollo cocoa. Delicious!


Lindt always knows how to do Christmas well and in our opinion no Christmas is complete without receiving some Lindt chocolate of some sort. We have chosen two items from their wonderful Christmas 2014 range. We absolutely love their Master Chocolatier Collection (£12.99) which is full of a generous selection of Lindt’s finest chocolates from the sharp raspberry ganache to the smooth almond truffle, there’s something for everyone. If a smaller item is on your mind, whether for a child or just as a little extra something then the Lindt Bear and Friends Sharing Pack (£4.99) is perfect. The pack contains a selection of hollow bears, Santas, reindeers and bells made using Lindt’s finsest milk chocolate.


Thorntons is another well-known and reputable brand known by children and adults alike for decades, in fact Thornton’s recently celebrated their 100th Birthday! Thorntons was set up by Joseph William Thornton in 1911 who then handed the business to his two sons who made it into what it is today. Thorntons have released a wonderful Christmas range this year and we found it difficult to pick what we wanted to feature in our gift guide. But we eventually decided that the perfect advent calendar this year is the Thorntons Smiles Milk Chocolate Advent Calendar (£7.00). If you’re after something more to give as a gift the Thorntons Continental 60th Birthday Chocolate Box (£10) has the perfect selection of Thorntons chocolates to enjoy.


Cocoaloco is one of those special chocolate companies where you know a lot of love and passion goes into the crafting of their chocolates. All Cocoaloco’s chocolate is organic; they even use packaging which makes minimal impact on the environment. Sarah and Rory of Cocoaloco set out to make their company “build a premium treat reputation around words like approachable, affordable and genuine choice” and they have certainly done that! With a new website this year’s Cocoaloco’s range is even easier to order and browse through. We selected just a few items from the Christmas range. Cocoaloco has a wonderful range of stocking filler items including the Milk and White Chocolate Penguins (£3.99), Milk and White Chocolate Christmas Pudding (£2.99) or how about one of their Hanging Chocolate Angels (£2.49). If you’re interested in trying something a little different why don’t you choose their Sloe Gin Truffles (£5.99) which are made with a subtle sloe gin ganache tossed in raspberry powder. If the winter months have you craving a large glass of creamy hot chocolate why not try Cocoaloco’s Citrus Infused Hot Chocolate Spoons (£3.99).

Butlers Chocolates

Butlers Chocolate is Ireland’s favourite luxury chocolatier for over 80 years, being originally founded in Dublin in 1932 by Marion Butler and then bought in 1959 by the Irish Sorensen family who still own 100% of the business today. Butlers Chocolate takes pride in their heritage, even offering the ‘Butlers Chocolate Experience’ which allows you to see behind those secret chocolate factory doors. This years Christmas range contains a lot of classics, but classics done exceptionally well. It’s really hard to beat a good box of chocolates and Butlers obsession and passion with chocolate means that each chocolate is exceptional, combined with the beautiful presentation makes the Gold Christmas Star Decoration (£6.50) stand out to us. This gift is another one we have discovered this Christmas that also doubles as a beautiful Christmas decoration. If you’re after that something extra for someone why not check out Butlers Christmas Assorted Twistwrap (£5.50) containing 17 assorted chocolates. As every year Butlers also offers Christmas Crackers available in assorted sizes including small, medium and large (priced from £8.50).

Stellar Cookware – James Martin Knife Block and Winchester Cutlery Set

Stellar Cookware is part of the Horwood Homeware Ltd brand and was established in Bristol in 1896 and is still a family business priding itself on traditional values and excellence in products and services. What Stellar Cookware don’t know about knives simply isn’t worth knowing. A lot of expertise goes into designing the perfect high quality kitchenware that we all need in our homes. With this very reason we have chosen to feature two fantastic products from their range which in our opinion make great Christmas gifts! The James Martin Knife Block Set comes with a selection of 5 knives in a sturdy knife block. The set was designed exclusively by James Martin and therefore includes a wonderful recipe book holder on the back of the knife block. A wonderful multipurpose piece of kitchenware. The handles of the knives have been carefully designed including molded compound anti slip handles. We also discovered the wonderful range of cutlery designed and supplied by Stellar. The range which caught our eye was Winchester 24 Piece Polished Cutlery Set. The perfect gift if you want to impress. These polished utensils create a dazzling display at any dinner party. The cutlery is made using 18/10 quality stainless steel (knives 18/0) crafted in a modern yet timeless design. Completely dishwasher safe and comes with a Stellar lifetime guarantee. Who wouldn’t want to receive one of these gorgeous sets for Christmas?

Premier Housewares – Contigo Flask and SweetHeart Range

We absolutely love the new Premier Housewares Pastel Sweetheart Collection.  This stoneware
collection is a wonderful addition to any kitchen. It beautifully crafted with their sweetheart design yet its soft pink or cool green colours are clean and modern so fit in well with any kitchen. The collection is perfect for baking needs comprising of a wonderfully sized mixing bowl, storage canister, numerous baking dishes, ramekins and even a basting jug.  The collection has clearly been designed with looks in mind as this collection would steal the show at any dinner party. Don’t be ashamed of your worn and battered bakeware, present your creations in this superb collection. This collection will be available from WayFair. The items are all priced separately so you can mix and match to make up your perfect collection for someone. Prices range from £2.49 for a ramekin to £26.49 for the mixing bowl. We also have decided to feature the Contigo flask (£42) which is also stocked by WayFair. The Contigo flask is absolutly brilliant for someone who is always on the move or whether its for use during your morning commute to work or school. The Contigo flask has a brilliantly designed autoseal function meaning it seals completely, no drips! You must press a button on the flask while drinking, it is this design which ensures this flask stays sealed. A wonderful gift for someone who claims to have everything.

Nuance – Pocket Flask

Something for the man in your life perhaps, or equally the woman! This delightful Pocket Flask (£30) from Nuance is sure to put a smile on its recipients face. This pocket flash is classically designed with inspiration coming from the scout canteen. The flask is slim and perfectly curved to fit nicely in your pocket against your body. Yet the neck of the flask is wide enough to make filling, and drinking easy. A silicone tether keeps the flasks cap safely attached. Nuance is a Danish brand and they take a lot of pride in the design and functionality of their products. An optional extra which comes with the flasks are a set of four cups in a practical case (£14.95).

Sabichi – Mugs and Tea Towels

Sabichi is quickly become a well-known household brand in British and rightly so. They stock a huge range of homeware and we particularly love their kitchenware they offer. We have chosen two kitchen essentials which also make wonderful Christmas gifts too. We love Sabichi’s 4pc Ahoy Mugs Set (£10) which comprises of 4 porcelain mugs with a striking blue and white anchor prints in various designs. These are a wonderful set and come in their own gift box, ready for you to add a ribbon and a name tag! If you want to add something a little extra then Sabichi also offer a beautiful range of tea towels, we particularly love the Boucherie 3 Pack Tea Towel set (£8) which comprises of three tea towels with a striking blue and white butchers style pattern. However we think they match perfectly with the Ahoy mugs set too.

Bonieri – Bella Grande

Bonieri has a range of traditional Italian hazelnut chocolates, gianduja pralines, nougat and other specialities, from the master chocolatiers in Turin.  Combining ancient recipes, only the highest quality ingredients, and luxury modern packaging, Bonieri’s decadent chocolates, colourful foils and stylish “Bella” selection boxes taste as good as they look!  Bonieri also recently won gold stars at the world’s largest blind tasting food award, Great Taste 2014. This Christmas we recommend their Bella Box ‘Grande’ (£34.95). This box has a wonderful combination of Bonieri’s decadent chocolates for your loved ones to enjoy.

THATInventions – SpreadTHAT and ScoopTHAT

You may not have heard of SpreadTHAT or ScoopTHAT before so first we will tell you a little about the team. The team is made up of a group of enthusiastic designers, engineers, UX specialists, two college professors and three PHD science advisors spread across three locations worldwide. With that combination of experts you would think they could create some pretty amazing products, and you’re right! The SpreadTHAT butter knife is credited with being the most advance butter knife in the world. The SpreadTHAT knife is made of a material which is incredibly good at conducting heat, meaning that it heats up in seconds from the heat of your hands allowing you to spread even the hardest, straight out of the fridge butter. The knife, unlike conventional knives as no sharp edges so perfectly safe around kids too. The ScoopTHAT is made of a similar conducting material but with this product only the ‘Thermo-ring’ of the scoop, that’s the outside edge of the scoop part to me and you heats up with the heat of your hands, the rest of the scoop maintains a cool temperature. Meaning the scoop easily cuts through ice cream frozen solid that traditional ice cream scoops could not. No more soupy ice cream from having to dip your scoop in warm water each time. These guys are experts at solving problems that no one else has though to solve yet. We watch with excitement at what these guys will develop next.

Mocha UK – Dog vs Cat Kitchen Roll Holder

We all need a kitchen roll holder in our kitchens otherwise we end up with the runaway kitchen roll across the kitchen floor when it rolls off the worktop. Mocha UK have recently just took stock of a beautiful kitchen roll holder called the Dog vs Cat Roll Holder (£24.99).  This comprises of a decorative metal kitchen roll holder in the form of a cat sitting upon a post and a dog sitting beneath. When you place a kitchen roll upon the holder it looks like the cat is sitting on top of the roll itself. A cute addition to a kitchen. This makes a wonderfully unique Christmas gift this year.

Klipy – Cake Divider

KLIPYDESIGN was founded in 2009 by Guy Klipshtein. Guy is professor at the Technological Institute in Holon and the head of KLIPY Studio. Klipy design LTD is a small and flexible company, but large and experienced in its Kitchenware, Kitchen tools, Kitchen gadgets, and manufacturing capabilities. Klipy’s products are often characterized by a minimalistic form, based on a simplistic and innovative approach. We decided to feature their uniquely designed Cake Divider ($12.99) in our Christmas gift guide this year. This product really caught our eye when we first discovered it. Upon first glance the design leaves you wondering its purpose and when you discover its purpose soon leaves you discovering how this ingenious device works. You simply pop the cake divider into the centre of the cake and using its labelled markings for 6, 8, 10 or 14 equal pieces move the divider around as you use the knife guide to cut the perfectly equal pieces of cake. You’ll never be left with an unusually large or small last piece of cake.

Snow Leopard Vodka

When we heard of Snow Leopard Vodka’s mission we decided we had to try this spirit. Not soon after we were certain we must feature this wonderful vodka on our gift guide. Snow Leopard Vodka is a ‘Spirit with a Soul’. 15% of all Snow Leopard Vodka’s profits, and monies raised by their fundraising activities, are given directly to snow leopard conservation projects through the Snow Leopard Trust.  That is incredibly generous but that is not all Snow Leopard Vodka has to offer, its taste and quality is rivalled by few other distilleries. Snow Leopard vodka is made in Poland by Polmos Lublin, one the world's finest vodka distilleries. Snow Leopard is the first luxury vodka made from the rare Spelt grain. Snow Leopard vodka is distilled six times using natural spring water to achieve perfection. Produced in small batches each bottle is of the very highest quality. The brand was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2014 International Spirits Challenge. If this isn’t enough to convince you of this Vodka’s quality give it a taste yourself. Available in many good cocktail bars globally as well as good spirit stockists. Lists available on the Snow Leopard Vodka website.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Celebration Cake

Its the time of year when cakes start being exchanged as gifts so we have designed this cake in mind and named it 'The Celebration Cake'. This is a super cake to either gift to someone or take to someones house as a treat. We have incorporated our favourite beer Innis and Gunn into this cake for optimum indulgent flavour. We decided to use the limited edition Bourbon Stout variety of Innis and Gunn. We have also tested and and the Innis and Gunn Scotch Whiskey Porter also works a treat in this recipe.

The Ingredients:


300g Caster Sugar
40g Butter
2 Eggs
1tsp Nielsen Massey Vanilla Extract
90g NEILL'S®Flour
80g Cocoa Powder
1 tsp baking powder
0.25tsp bicarbonate soda
0.25tsp Salt
180ml Milk
70ml Innis and Gunn Bourbon Stout or similar

500g of Icing Sugar
110g of Butter
3tbsp Milk
1tsp Vanilla
3tbsp Cocoa Powder

1 Pack of Chopped Nuts

Recommended Equipment:
Food Mixer (Recommended Bosch MUM46A1)
Pyrex Mixing Bowls
Heston Blumenthal Dual Platform Precision Scale
Palette Knife

The How-To:
Preheat oven to 180c.
Cream the butter and sugar together.
Beat in the eggs one at a time until well combined.

Beat in the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl sieve the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet mix alternating with the milk and beer until all ingredients are combined well but do not over-mix.

Place the mixture into two lined cake tins.

Bake in the oven for 15 mins or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 5 mins before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.
Now we need to make the frosting.
Cream the softened butter in a bowl for approx 5 mins until light and creamy.
Beat the vanilla into the creamed butter.
Turn your electric whisk onto the lowest setting and slowly add the icing sugar and cocoa powder. The key here is to add it slowly. Making sure each addition is fully combined before adding the next. Continue until all the sugar is added.
Now combine the milk a tbsp at a time. You may not need all the milk so add 1tbsp at a time until you achieve the desired spreadable consistency.
Finally whip the frosting for approx 2 mins on high speed until light and fluffy.
Using a palette knife or large spatula to spread 1/3 of the frosting on the top of the base layer of the cake. Spread out evenly.

Place the top layer of the cake on top and ensure the cake is pressed down slightly and is stable.
Spread half of the remaining frosting around the outside of the cake. Do not frost the top yet.
Using small handfuls of the chopped nuts gently press these into the side of the cake using the palms of your hands.

When you  have decorated the edges of the cake now frost the top of the cake with the remaining frosting.

You're Done!