‘Oh the weather outside is…. really quite mild for November?’! It might be a tad too early for Christmas songs, but it’s never too soon to think about The Perfect Gift, and food related goodies have got to be brilliant even for the most awkward recipient! (last we checked literally everyone has to eat something.. right?!)
Here at Devon Cookery School we’re on a mission to FILL the remainder of 2020 with good cheer for all our friends celebrating Christmas or other holidays at this time of year. It’s been a tricky few months and we really want to get through this post without saying the C word or the P word (we’ll leave you to fill in those blanks…), so let’s just say, ROLL ON THE FESTIVE VIBES!
Devon Cookery School is all about local and sustainable produce and breaking down the barriers between you and fabulous dining, so we’ve put a Devon twist on our Christmas foodie gifts ideas and thrown in a couple of local Devon delights - including a shameless plug because we’d love to meet you!
So.. just what can you get food lovers to bring an enormous smile to their face and plenty of brownie points for you? Let’s get started!
01 A Devon Cookery School gift voucher
First of all we debated putting ourselves on this list… and then where to put ourselves on it… but to be honest we’re delighted to have opened our doors very recently - in fact about one week before Lockdown 2.0 began (we didn’t say we wouldn’t say the L word!). So, turning bad news into positive thinking, now we’re excited all over again for what feels like our second launch post lockdown, and just in time for Christmas. And that means we’d love to meet you, your friends and family at our cooking classes. We’ve got a host of festive Devon cooking classes coming up that are perfect to get in the Christmas spirit, and reconnect with loved ones you may not have seen for a few weeks. Our Gift Vouchers are perfect for wrapping up for Christmas, and are fully transferable across our range of classes and in our shop.
Check out festive Devon cooking lessons including 'Festive Foodie Gifts' (half a day of pure indulgence) and 'Get Ahead for Christmas' (an absolute must for anyone who wants to take the stress out of Christmas dinner). For all year round cooking confidence, take a look at our dozens of full and half day cooking classes including ‘Back to Basics’ (including both cooking and kitchen skills, and you’ll take home your own beef ragu), or ‘Full Day Veggie Feast’ (to treat yourself or impress the veg fanatic in your life).
02 A comforting cook book
It would probably be some kind of terrible treason if our favourite cookbook wasn’t by Jamie Oliver (we aren’t sponsored, Jazzi genuinely loves this book and it reminds her of working with the man himself). It's not Devonian, although it is available from Waterstones (you could pick it up from the Exeter store if you want/are able to shop local this Christmas) and other Devon bookshops.
‘It's all about the dishes that are close to your heart, that put a smile on your face and make you feel happy, loved, safe and secure. Inspired by everything from childhood memories to the changing of the seasons, and taking into account the guilty pleasures and sweet indulgences that everyone enjoys, Jamie's Comfort Food is brimming with exciting recipes you'll fall in love with.’
… what’s not to love? It’s perfect for this time of year, and when the new year rolls around, its 408 pages will keep you company with delicious food to fuel you through winter.
03 Pestle and Mortar
We tried to find a Devon made pestle and mortar for this entry and came up with this beauty from Distinctly Living in Dartmouth (not sponsored). A Pestle and Mortar is a genuinely useful bit of kitchen kit (and our favourite) that many people overlook in favour of just smashing stuff with rolling pins. Apart from making the recipient feel elevated to some kind of kitchen sorcerer, the mortar and pestle helps release flavours from foods in a way nothing else can do, and because it’s purpose made you don’t end up with bits flying everywhere or getting embedded where they shouldn’t…
Grinding is supreme when it comes to making curry pastes, creamy guacamole (yep, we said it - no more mashing with a fork), or smushing ginger for the ultimate stir fry. Crushing releases essential oils, mouthwatering flavour and important nutrients far more than even the finest chopping will, by bursting the very cells of the plant. And if you’re thinking of chucking your ingredients in a food blender and hoping for the best instead, good luck using a toothpick to scrape out your 1/4 tablespoon of messed up peppercorns! For tiny amounts, the mortar and pestle is your go-to.
Like this beautiful olive wood set from Distinctly living, there are some really stunning mortar and pestles out there that are truly worth of gifting. Wooden pestles in particular have a nice warmth in the hand.
04 Baked Camembert
You can’t really send baked camembert through the post (we suspect the Royal Mail get enough dodgy things in envelopes as it is). You could send this recipe, but we’re not sure that would really count as a proper gift? So the thought behind this one is that it is absolutely great to make for your best pal when they pop over for a Christmas catch up. We haven’t seen enough of loved ones this year, and when we’re able to again, what could be a nicer present than inviting someone round (following all the guidelines of course) to really connect with them. When shared with a bottle of red wine and fresh French bread, Tiger loaf, sourdough or focaccia (really, take your pick!), there’s nothing more companionable than a big melty wheel of cheese.
1 camembert wheel, in a box (don’t forget this, the recipe won’t work)
1tbsp runny honey
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 sprig rosemary
chilli flakes (optional but we do love the warmth they add)
1. Preheat oven to 180°C /350°F (oven fan 160°C). Arrange a baking tray onto the middle shelf.
2. Remove the plastic packaging (please say you already thought of that one) and arrange the Camembert back in its wooden box, or in a small baking pot.
3. Score a deep cross or a crosshatch pattern on the top rind of the cheese so that it doesn’t explode, and to help the heat penetrate deep inside the cheese for maximum melt. Drizzle with honey or extra-virgin olive oil and insert the leaves of one sprig of rosemary into the gaps.
4. Sprinkle with chilli flakes, season with sea salt flakes and optional black pepper (like the chilli, it does help bring the flavour alive)
5. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes - you might want to keep an eye on it to check how gooey it’s getting.
6. Remove from the oven and serve it straight away whilst it is still hot and creamy and utterly irresistible (can you tell that we really want one now?)
05 A Devon Christmas tipple
One of the main reasons we love Exeter Cathedral Christmas Market is for the mulled cider. There’s nothing more festive than huddling with friends on a dark, cold night with a hot spiced drink, overlooking the hustle and bustle of the market, with the magnificent shoulders of the Cathedral leaning towards the market lights against a backdrop of stars. Gosh we surprised ourselves there with that bit of poetry!
Unfortunately the Exeter Christmas Market isn’t able to go ahead this year- but EVERYONE can bring a bit of market jolly into their homes with a mulled cider. If you’re thinking of sending it as a gift, try Sandford Orchards Devon Mist (not sponsored, just in love), tucked into a homemade hamper with eco friendly wood wool packaging and a homemade spice pack in a mason jar (or that old marmalade jar you were going to put in recycling).
The rich autumn fruits of the Sandford cider bring alive a good spice mix to make a heartening drink that really tastes like falling leaves and frosty nights.
Here is what you will need:
a litre of Sandford Orchards Devon Mist
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp allspice berries
Demerara sugar or honey (you could try maple syrup)
glass of good apple juice (or 2 sliced fresh apples if making at home)
dried orange segments (or fresh if making at a home)
Some people like to add a kick with a shot of gin, rum or whiskey depending on your taste
Bung the cider and apple juice together and heat until beginning to simmer.
Add all other ingredients except sugar/alternative and reduce to a low simmer
Allow to mull for around 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally
Taste and add sugar to taste (or not) and adjust spice mix if you want.
Turn off the heat and serve right away!
We wrote this post on a Friday night, and now we’re craving baked camembert with mulled cider… well now we know what Saturday night has in store! What do you think - will you get these gifts for loved ones, or end up gifting them to yourself? What are your go-to foodie presents? We’d love to know in the comments.