Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Christmas Gift Guide: For Cooks

If you are buying for a baker or a cook, we have some real treats in store for you, from stocking filler and Secret Santa ideas to full-on fantasy kitchen kit.  Read on for everything your chef-y friend or relative could desire!

Remember Alaskagate?  Want to make sure your desserts don’t face the same fate as Iain’s?  Know somebody who might pull the same stunt as Diana?  This fab apron is the perfect gift for any aspiring Great British Bake Off-er!  "Don't Mess With My Baked Alaska" Apron, £24.00 from

If you are looking for a really versatile kitchen tool, one which chops, dices, grates, grinds, blends and juices, then look no further than the Magic Bullet.  The Original Magic Bullet does all of these jobs and more in 10 seconds or less, with no mess and no fuss, making it THE must have kitchen tool.

Unlike traditional blenders and food processors that take up valuable worktop space and are a pain to assemble, dismantle and clean, with its sleek, compact design, the Magic Bullet can be used every day, even several times a day, with no hassle.  We have been using ours to make immune-boosting juices and smoothies for the girls; to whizz down a chunky home-made, veg-filled tomato sauce for pasta; and to ground up almonds for baking.  It's amazing!

It is the specially designed blade and unique bullet-shaped design that automatically circulates food back into the Cyclonic Cutting Zone region, with so much force and speed that it can do virtually any job in 10 seconds!  The Magic Bullet is the easy way to prep food for soups, omelettes and quesadillas; to chop garlic, grate cheese and make frozen drinks and sauces; and so much more.  And with easy, hands-free operation (you just press and twist!), anyone can get the most out of this handy little appliance.  RRP £69.99

The Chef Pull’N Slice Mandoline from Lakeland is a re-imagination of the traditional mandolin, with safety as a top priority. Able to slice, shred, julienne and dice, this easy to use mandoline is the safest model on the market, with a safety guard over the permanently fixed super-sharp stainless steel blade. You pull and push the base board instead of moving the safety guard back and forth. Available only from Lakeland, priced £39.99.

We also love this ergonomically designed Herb Roller with its soft-grip handle and six stainless steel blades which make chopping safe, quick and easy. It fits neatly in the palm of your hand for ease of use, and comes with an easy to fit blade protector for safe storage. Available from Lakeland, priced £12.99.

We love the Vitamix range and was even more impressed with them after seeing the Professional 300 in action at BritMums this year. Able to make ice cream or sorbet in 30 seconds and fresh soup in minutes, these are fast, powerful machines that produce amazing results. Able to grind wet or dry ingredients, grind ice cubes, dice chop and blend, this could be the only machine you ever need! Designed to process food so that you retain all the vital nutrients, and easy to clean to boot – just half fill with soapy water and switch it on, then rinse with clean water. The new Vitamix Professional 300is 40% quieter than previous models and retails at £499.99.

The adorable Love Birds baking range from Lakeland is designed for Churchill by artist Alex Clark, and features a flock of red and blue feathered friends.  Each piece is hand-decorated and its quaint old-fashioned feel makes it a welcome addition to any baker's supplies.  It look sownderful on your dresser too!  Prices from £7.99.

Our resident chef's new favourite thing has to be the fantastic Heston Blumenthal Precision - Dual Platform Precision Scale, £49.99 from Homedics at John Lewis.  Seriously, you would not believe the love affair between the man and his scales!  I think he is secretly trying to catch them out in a bid to prove that precision is not all its cracked up to be.  No luck yet though, they have thwarted him at every turn.  Precision doesn't even begin to describe how accurate these are and for our baker they are just perfect.

These first of their kind, dual platform kitchen scales can weigh ingredients from as small as 0.1g to as large as 10kg, offering unparalleled precision.  The dual platform is such an innovative and original idea that you really do have to wonder why it hasn't been done before.  With hygienic, easy to clean stainless steel platforms, which can be weighed on directly or using your own bowl, and a large, clear backlit display, these scales offer the ultimate in ease of use.  And the brilliant Add & Weigh function allows for the measurement of multiple ingredients in one bowl.  We LOVE them!  The last word must go to the man himself, Heston Blumenthal:

"Successful baking depends on precision. If you prepare carefully and measure correctly, you should get great results every time. My new Dual Platform Precision Scale makes weighing-out simplicity in itself, no matter what the amounts or ingredients."

For lots of Christmas baking and gift ideas head over to online retailer Rosemary & Poppy.  We loev their range of bakeware and decorative storage and serving products, such lovely ideas.  Look out for our Christmas baking feature where we put their innovative Crusty Bake mince pie tray to the test.  The winning formula of this revolutionary bakeware is that the perforations in the bottom and sides help create the perfect crispy crust.  Great idea!  No more soggy bottoms ;-)

The Remoska Electric Cooker is the stuff of legend in Eastern Europe, and amongst caravanners worldwide. Still made and thoroughly tested in a small Czech factory, this simple cooker does everything and costs only pennies to run. In it you can roast chicken, cook perfect lamb chops, make stews and casseroles, pasta bakes, pies, tarts, roast or bake potatoes, toast sandwiches and cook pizzas; you can even bake in it! Available in 2 sizes, the 23.5cm original, priced £149.99, and the 31cm Grand, priced £169.99.

You know when you get a new thing in your life that is practical useful but also beautiful to look at and, well, it just makes you smile.  The Cole & Mason 30 cm Hudson 16-Jar Filled Herb & Spice Carousel is just that for me.  No more rooting about in the cupboard looking for that elusive jar of dried oregano, it's right there in front of me.  Nearly 100 years old, Cole & Mason are passionate about seasoning and the addition of their carefully sourced herbs and spices helps to bring out the best flavours in your cooking.  Packaged in stylish and elegant glass jars, with sleek chrome caps that one can shake or pour from, and on a carousel which spins for convenience, this attractive stand makes a lovely addition to your kitchen.  The 16 jar version retails at £54.99 and contains:

  • cumin seed
  • caraway seed
  • ground cinnamon
  • ground paprika
  • chilli flakes
  • fennel seed
  • coriander seed
  • ground bay leaves
  • rosemary
  • ground dill
  • ground basil
  • ground thyme
  • ground parsley
  • ground mint
  • ground oregano
  • ground marjoram

If your cook has a hankering to grow their own ingredients, treat them to a gift from Rocket Gardens.  Their unique idea is that you buy a garden gift voucher, send or give it to your recipient at Christmas, and then they redeem it in the spring.  They will then receive a delivery of seedlings from late April onwards ready to plant out and grow.  We received the small vegetable garden which supplies 153 baby plants, including lettuce, rocket, beans, beetroot, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, courgettes, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and peas.  All plants are organically grown in Cornwall, without the use of chemical pesticides, fertilisers or sprays.  The plants also come with full details on how to plant out and care for your plants, so the gift is suitable for even the most beginner gardeners.  A lovely idea.

Oven gloves are not perhaps the first thing you would think of, but these fun and practical Prepology Silicone Extra Long Double Oven Glove from QVC are a brilliant buy.  This heat-resistant (up to 350C) glove is made from durable, flexible silicone, with a comfortable polyester and cotton lining.  The specially-designed 'Hot Key' grip provides additional grip for safely carrying hot dishes.  The glove has also been made extra wide for ease of taking larger dishes out of the oven and is great for both left and right- handed users.  Machine washable and available in 5 different colour options, the glove retails at £16.50.

The Russell Hobbs Aura 600W 6 in 1 Hand Blender £64.99 is from their sleek, simple and stylish new range of small appliances, the Aura range.  In spite of its deceptively compact size, this amazing little gadget is a one stop kitchen wonder for all your cooking and baking needs.  It's multi-functional abilities include food processing, creaming, slicing, shredding, blending and whisking, all in the one device.  With a generous 1.2l processing bowl with feeder tube so you can blitz, slice, grate and shred ingredients, making cooking and prepping easier, it stands up well to a host of kitchen tasks.  We have been using it for baking and general kitchen prep tasks for a while now and love it.  This machine looks good and works hard, easily earning its space on the worktop.  A doddle to take apart and clean, it has seen sterling use in our kitchen recently.  Thankfully the tough stainless steel blending leg and stainless steel whisk make it reliable and tough enough to withstand a lot of use.  Widely available, RRP £64.99.

A lovely little stocking filler, this cute little Dutch windmill mould and spice kit from The Speculaas Spice Company will enable your baking friend to whip up some warmly-spiced, delicious, Dutch-style biscuits.  Complete with instructions and presentation bag, they may even make you some biscuits as a thank you, and what could be better than that!

We love the Bake My Day range from traditional kitchen brand Mason Cash.  Bang up to date with its trendy pastel colours and fun slogans, this is right on trend with the current British baking craze.  We have been using the Bake My Day Blue Batter Bowl for cake mixes, pancake batters and more.  It's ergonomic shape and wide pouring spout makes it a fantastic addition to our baking cupbaord, RRP £19.99.  the range also includes gorgeous mixing bols in 3 sizes and colours and a range o accessories.  Any cook would be delighted!

The new Pyrex Asimetria non-stick metal bakeware products feature a large, easy grip handle with upwards incline, supported by a small support handle on the opposite side.  The addition of a large grip handle ensures the Asimetria products can be carried easily and safely with just one hand, and makes it far, far easier to get your incredible creations out of the oven.  The non-stick coating also ensures perfect results every time.  Choose from a selection of muffin trays, cake and flan pans, loaf tins and a baking tray, all available from, prices start at £7.99.

Finally, if you really want to get in your cooking friend's good books, and hope to share their cfreations, why not treat them to the lovely Calico Cottage Chocolate Truffle & Lollie Making Kit?  Priced £19.50, this fab kit provides all the information, ingredients and tools you need to make several different varieties of chocolate truffles, and to even turn those truffles into lollies.  The kit contains dark, milk and white chocolate truffle kits (200g each), chopped hazelnut praline topping, chocolate vermicelli, milk chocolate drops, lolly sticks, gift bags and ribbon, and it makes a whopping 960g of Chocolate Truffles.  Bliss!

Happy shopping - and hopefully eating!

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