2020: The year of comfort eating

2020 has been stressful enough, you don’t want to spend the best part of the last month wrestling other shoppers for the last tin of Quality Street. To help you out a little, here’s my Christmas gift guide featuring some of the best independent businesses the UK has to offer.

Bring on the booze:

Brownies & Beer

The (award winning) Cartford Inn has been winning at lockdown by putting together the most incredible Christmas hampers. Containing two cans of their own brew Giddy Kipper ale and a box of their decadent home-made brownies, you can also add a personalised message for your loved one/yourself (let’s face it, that’s who we should all be ordering one for).

The Cartford Inn Beer & Brownies costs £20 and can be ordered here.

Seamist Liquid Garnish by Salcombe Gin

Distilled and crafted in Salcombe, Devon, England, this unique liquid garnish has been handcrafted with red grapefruit, coastal botanicals and Cornish sea salt to elevate your ‘Start Point & Tonic’ experience and encapsulate the essence of the sea. The perfect gift for the foodie who has everything.

Seamist costs £22 per bottle, or £55 as part of a gift set containing a bottle of Seacombe Gin. Both items can be purchased here.

Kendal Mint Cake Vodka

The only drink in the world to actually contain the famous “Romneys Kendal Mint Cake”. A luxurious smooth spirit drink with a unique flavour profile. Great enjoyed on its own over ice, but also very versatile being a good base or addition to many cocktails, incredible mixed with Baileys and delicious in Hot Chocolate too.

Kendal Mint Cake Vodka costs £12.99 for 200ml or, if you’re doing Christmas RIGHT, £24.99 for 500ml. Buy it here.

Fut de Chene MV Ay Grand Cru Brut from The Vices, York

An exquisite offering from The Vices, York, this fine champagne makes the perfect gift for the loved one who has everything. Go a step further by arranging a private shopping experience at The Vices with sommelier extraordinaire Daniel (experiences are free but need to be booked in advance).

A bottle of Fut de Chene MV Ay Grand Cru Brut costs from £135 for 75c and can be purchased here.

Remy Martin Old Fashioned Kit by Hearts, Heads, & Tails

Rémy Martin has teamed up with renowned drinks experts at Heads Hearts & Tails and curated the ultimate Old Fashioned cocktail kit to create your bespoke version of a classic drink. Reveal your inner mixologist with five measures of Rémy Martin 1738, four syrups and four garnishes and create your tailor made Old Fashioned. Serve in complimentary glasses and enjoy a neat tasting too.

The Remy Martin Old Fashioned kit costs £39.99 and can be purchased here.

Lakes Distillery Christmas Crackers

Christmas crackers filled with miniature bottles of The One Whisky, The Lakes Gin, The Lakes Pink Grapefruit Gin, and The Lakes Salted Caramel Vodka Liqueur. I don’t think I need to say anything more. Just buy them.

The Lakes Christmas Crackers cost £20 for 4 and can be purchased here.

Parkin Cake Gin by Bashall Spirits

Bringing to life flavours from the past through long-cherished family recipe books from their home in the idyllic village of Bashall Eaves in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland, Bashall’s parkin recipe dates back to the Victorian era, a time when every northern family would have had their own take on this traditional treat. Capturing the comforting aromas and flavours of treacle and ginger spice, their Parkin Cake Gin is an enticing and distinctively warming spirit. You know I’m going to be pouring this over ice cream.

Parkin Cake Gin costs £37 for 70c and can be purchased here.

Goosenargh Gin

Multi-award winning Goosnargh Gin is lovingly crafted by Richard and Rachel Trenchard at their micro-distillery, based at the foot of Beacon Fell, on the edge of the Forest of Bowland AONB, in the parish of Goosnargh, Lancashire. Their gins are distilled in small batches by hand, using traditional copper alembic stills. They develop their own recipes in-house using their baby still, Constance. Once they have the blend of botanicals absolutely right, their larger stills, Beatrice or Constance, then work their magic distilling their handcrafted, small batch gin ready for bottling and hand labelling. All bottles are hand finished to include handwritten details such as the batch and bottle number.

Goosnargh Gin starts at £38 per bottle and can be purchased here.

Foodie Favourites:

Blacksticks Blue Cheese Brûlée

A magical melange of creamy, yet, tangy Blacksticks Blue cheese with a sweet sugar crunch. Perfect for the person who claims to have tried everything, and who you really want to prove wrong.

Blacksticks® Blue Cheese Brûlée costs £4 and can be purchased here.

Maters Raw Honey Gift Set

Not sure where to start with raw honey? This is the perfect way to sample a range before investing in a larger jar. Featuring an abundance of flavours, from toffee pudding scented Forest Honey to malty Premium Oak and everything in between, each gift set comes complete with a mini dipper and optional luxury gift wrapping.

The wrapped 10 jar gift set costs £22.99 and can be purchased here.

A Very TOTI Christmas Hamper by The Cartford Inn

One of many beautiful hampers available from The Cartford Inn’s famous Taste of the Inn store. Containing everything from seasonal pesto and local honey, to handmade chocolates and own brew ale, each hamper is beautifully packaged and comes with a personalised message.

The Very TOTI Christmas hamper costs £55 and is available to purchase here.

Highland Park Malt Vinegar by Orkney Craft Vinegar

Condiment trailblazers, Orkney Craft Vinegar, have done it again with their Highland Park Malt variety. Their delicious Highland Park Malt Vinegar is made using a proportion of peat malt from Highland Park distillery. Aged in their renowned sherry seasoned whisky casks, delivering classic heather honey flavours. A cracking ingredient for any cook.

Highland Park Malt Vinegar costs £10.50 and can be purchased here.

Majestic Selection Box by Conscious Chocolate

A luxury, festive gift box containing four of Conscious Chocolate’s best selling, delicious 60g Chocolate bars, the Majestic Chocolate Selection features Peppermint, Orange & Tangerine, Love Potion No. 9 and Dark Side 75% bars. Organic, vegan, ethically sourced conscious indulgence. Each bar is made from the finest Puruvian cacao and premium essential oils combined with a blend of spices and vanilla for pure taste pleasure that’s suitable for vegans, vegetarians and coeliacs. The Conscious range is all free from dairy, soya, gluten and refined sugars.

The Majestic Gift Box from Conscious Chocolate costs £11.99 and can be purchased here.

Spiced Chocolate Almonds by The Raw Chocolate Company

Organic, vegan, gluten free, soya free, and not a drop of palm oil, these Lebkuchen spice mix chocolate coated almonds will tickle your tastebuds with special occasion flavours, taking you down merry memory lane.

Spiced Chocolate Almonds cost from £9.95 for 180g and can be purchased here.

Blackthorn Scottish Sea Salt

Made with wind, sea and thorns on the West Coast of Scotland, Blackthorn Salt is the ultimate transformative ingredient for today’s kitchen. Poignant and bittersweet, with a taste echoing sea, Blackthorn Salt adds a rolling moreishness to any meal. This attractive 120g Blackthorn box is perfect for as a thoughtful wee present, to include in a hamper or for foodies looking to broaden their salt knowledge and try something different without having to spend too much.

Blackthorn Salt starts at £3.90 for 120g and can be purchased here.

The Smoke Folk Deluxe Hamper

For those special occasions, The Deluxe Hamper from The Smoke Folk includes half a side of Alder smoked salmon, their four signature nuts and either a piece of pecan smoked Edam or chestnut smoked cheddar, depending on your taste. They are also able to supply a whole side of salmon if desired (which it most certainly should be).

The Smoke Folk Deluxe Hamper costs £75 and can be purchased here.

Mara Seaweed Gift Set

The perfect introduction to Mara’s core range of flavours, enjoy Dulse, Shony and Kombu in beautifully packaged tins for an easy-to-use seaweed experience. Simply shake-on the seaweed flakes like salt and pepper for a boost of flavour and nutrients. Each box comes with recipe cards and a leaflet of ideas for inspiration, making the trio of tins an excellent gift for foodies too.

The Mara Seaweed Tin Selection costs £17.45 and can be purchased here.

Mature Your Own Blacksticks Blue Cheese

Mature Your Blacksticks Blue Truckle. Get your strength just the way you like it with the latest, greatest, most tastiest experiment ever! A must for any Blue Cheese Lover and fun for all the family as you watch your cheese grow those beautiful blue veins. Easy to do, just leave it until it matures to your perfect strength. I’m going to flip if I don’t receive at least 6 of these.

Mature your own Blacksticks Blue Truckle costs £20 and can be purchased here.

Non-Edible Goodies

Spirit & Spice by Ghillie Basan

Spirit & Spice is a portrait of family living and eating in the Scottish Highlands using Scotland’s fabulous produce, wild food and whisky. In Spirit & Spice Ghillie delves into the Scottish larder, using her knowledge of spices to shine a new light on local ingredients. She shares her expertise in pickling, preserving, smoking and cooking outside. She opens up whole new worlds of flavour with her food and whisky pairings and can be relied upon to find a dram to go with any meal – breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Most importantly, she traces the stories behind the recipes to paint an inspirational and heartfelt picture of family life in one of the wildest and most beautiful corners of Scotland.

Spirit & Spice is available from Amazon for £19.72. Click here to buy.

Hand Thrown Dinnerware by Askew Pottery

Cute, characterful stoneware from the talented Dina Son, Askew Pottery features an array of beautiful homewares including platters, candleholders, and the occasional one off item. A favourite of food stylists and proud homemakers alike, Dina’s Etsy shop is a treasure trove of giftable goodies.

Askew pottery prices vary depending on item. Check out Dina’s Etsy shop here.

First Catch Your Gingerbread

Gingerbread is a lovely, squidgy treat which has played a part in almost everyone’s childhood. But do you know what gingerbread was made of when it first arrived on our plates; was it flavoured with honey? When did treacle, dark and sticky, and strong tasting, which adds moisture, depth of flavour and character to baking, first become available? Then there is the question of when gingerbread migrated from the home kitchen to commercial products. And why did the gingerbread man leap from the tin, and run so fast with a fox snapping at his heels? Sam Bilton examines the history of gingerbread, from ancient times right up to the present day, before introducing us to a range of delicious gingerbread and ginger cake recipes that bring the story of this spicy and much loved treat to life.

First Catch Your Gingerbread is available on Amazon for £11.67. Click here to purchase.

And finally…

Doggy Gingerbread House by The Good Boy Bakery

Tis the season to have fun! Get in the holly jolly, Christmassy vibes and let your pooch have fun tucking into this super tasty gingerbread house! Don’t act like you don’t think this is awesome.

The Doggy Gingerbread House costs £13.99 and can be purchased here.

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