“These are a few of my favourite things ……”
No. Definitely not ‘raindrops on roses‘ at the moment. We are having too much of that in the UK. But I was just thinking of all the lovely presents to either give or receive at Christmas, and have put together some of the great gifts that I would love to buy for friends and family. And I wouldn’t mind if a few found their way into my Christmas stocking as well. It’s a sort of ‘Dream Wish List’.
First and foremost has to be the classic Calendar I have been buying for everyone (including Erik and myself) for about the last 12 years. It is the one dreampt up by that incredibly talented husband of Emma Bridgewater, Matthew Rice. This big Calendar is a work of art, full of food and garden tips, overflowing with colourful birds, flowers and vegetables, and does, I believe, give a smidging of what life is like in the Rice/Bridgewater household. The title is ‘The Matthew Rice 2013 Year in the Country Calendar’, with big spaces to write in Birthdays, Appointments etc and it comes complete with a large, tough white envelope so that you can post it to friends all over the world.
When I receive my Calendar, everything stops. A nice ‘cuppa’, a ginger biscuit and a seat at my kitchen table – then page by page I explore Matthew’s artistry and humour. Basically, every home should have one!
New this year, I believe, is the Matthew Rice ‘Year in the Country’ steel tray. A
substantial round tray, 38.5 cm in diameter, with two strong handles, and covered with Matthew’s colourful drawing of Chickens and country life. Brilliant for carrying breakfast in bed upstairs, or tea and crumpets out into the garden in summer.
To complete this Matthew Rice Trilogy, I just have to include this great Biscuit Barrel. Overflowing with colourful artistry in typical Matthew Rice fashion, this 17.5 cm Biscuit Barrell features a sun-washed country house and garden scene. Fill it to overflowing with your home-baked crumbly biscuits to make a great present. Or just keep it to yourself and squirrel away your secret horde of cookies.
Moving on to Divertimenti, (who deliver to most countries in the world) – my all-time favourite cook shop for many years, I stumbled across one of my favourite pieces of fun cookware, the Raclette. When we had our cookshop, Kitchen Emporium in Beverley, this was one of the most popular items we sold at Christmas. The Raclette is 41cm x 31cm, has a grill element under the metal top plate, and comes with 8 non-stick mini pans, so that you and friends or family can have great fun can frying, grilling or poaching meat, fish, eggs or sauces individually. You can sear food such as steak, fish, gammon on the top, cook a complete ‘Full English’ Breakfast, make creamy wine sauces, grill cheese or (very yummy) grill spiced pineapple. Just use your imagination to create fun sharing meals.
I devised a recipe for our own use on the Raclette, and when I explained it to potential customers I was lucky enough to get a guaranteed sale every time. Let’s call it “Astrid’s Crevettes”. The recipe consisted of very large Crevettes ( Large Prawns), washed and de-veined, then wrapped in thin, streaky bacon, and marinated for a few hours (overnight if possible) in a mixture of cooking Sherry, chopped fresh ginger, pinch of dried or fresh red chilli and a tablespoon of runny honey. To go with the Crevettes, make a vinaigrette with Raspberry Vinegar and good olive oil, season well and add a spoonful of pink peppercorns. To compliment the Crevettes and Bacon, I add a mixture of colourful and feathery salad leaves.
When ready to cook, heat the Raclette, brush the top with a bit of olive oil, carefully drain the Crevettes wrapped in Bacon and place on the hot surface. Stand well back as it might spit. The Crevettes don’t need long, just until the bacon crisps up, which should happen quickly (3/4 minutes), place the Crevettes in Bacon on the plate (3 or 4 per person, depending on size), add the salad leaves and drizzle over the Raspberry Vinaigrette and Pink Peppercorns. Sit back and enjoy. The taste is amazing!
The cost of the Severin Raclette is only £44.95 from Divertimenti. Incredible value for so much fun (and, would you believe, cheaper than when we sold it in 1990). Click Here to have a look, to purchase or just have a good look at the 4,500 products for keen cooks.
Another one of these products is this Chilli Mill. This 20.5 cm Mill uses a unique stainless-steel mechanism to cut Chillies, rather than grind and crush them, so that their aroma and flavour is fully released. Just imagine having a mill especially for Chillies. If you grow them, like Erik and I do, we grind a lot of different strengths of Chillies. This Chilli Mill is £25.00 – Click Here to have a look.
Well, you learn something new every day. Browsing the Divertimenti website, I came across this selection of Palette Knives. I just possess one Palette Knife, but apparently with the huge increase in Home Baking, different types of this knife are used for very specialised methods when baking a cake. The Little Venice Cake Company are the masters when it comes to ‘couture cakes’, and are internationally renowned. So using their talents and experience, they have created a whole range of bakeware products, to encourage us all to be more adventurous with our cake creations. Click Here to have a good look at the full selection and to watch a video of The Little Venice Cake Company.
Imagine when you are having a few friends around, and you are serving Buffet food, with Homemade Dips and Pates, and Cheese. I am never sure whether to carve my Baguettes into slices before the party, or whether to leave it to the guests to slice, to make sure the crusty Baguette is fresh. So am I glad I have just found this Baguette Guillotine – it answers that problem. Guests can slice their own. No more slightly stale bread. The Baguette Guillotine is £39.78 – Click Here to have a better look.
Next, from the AGA Cookshop, is a brilliant idea. The Stainless Steel Sauce Pot, complete with a lid. Well designed, with a capacity of 1.5 litres, and comes with a non-stick interior, to enable us to make delicate sauces, melt chocolate or to prepare creamy porridge. This Stainless Steel Sauce Pot isn’t just for AGA owners, it is suitable for any type of hob, including induction. The price is £57.99 for this substantial piece of cookware. Click Here to find out more.
This Cast Iron Coalbrookdale Pot is one of my favourite pieces. Something about the shape of this casserole makes me want to stroke it. It looks so friendly, so ready to cook you something soothing and comforting. When I worked for AGA in the 1990s in Beverley, I bought one of these in Black, and it sits next to my AGA, waiting to be used for such as the traditional Boston Baked Beans, or a garlicky French Cassoulet, with fat Toulouse Sausages or a big pot of Pea and Ham Soup.
This Pot Casserole is really brilliant to use – it is made in Shropshire of AGA Cast Iron ‘which retains heat that radiates onto the food to lock in flavours and succulence during cooking’. This makes the Cast Iron Pot perfect for slowly cooking casseroles and soups. It has a fully enamelled finish on the outside including the base, and the acid enamel coating on the inside endures this AGA pot is easy to clean. It is Dishwasher safe and suitable for all heat sources, including Induction. AGA Cast Iron ‘is designed and manufactured with the same meticulous attention to detail and quality …… so each piece of cookware comes with a 10 year guarantee. The quality of this Coalbrookdale Cast Iron Pot is reflected in the price …… £99.99 …… but it’s worth it. Click Here to see this and all the AGA Casseroles.
Those of you who have read a bit of our blog, will know I’m a Cookware Addict. So, “These are a few of my favourite things”, but I’m sure there are a lot more to find. At the moment, with our move to a new house looming closer, Erik keeps dropping hints that I ought to throw out a huge amount of what I class as my “Collection” of Cookware amassed over the years. But I want to wait and see what room we will have in our new kitchen. Wonder who’ll win that one?