You possibly don’t want to hear about December again but let’s shoo the last knockings of it out of the door. There were a few posts to talk about this month but even more in the way of nibbles, goodies and gewgaws I sampled.
Potatoes: I started on an introspective note, discussing why I like potatoes so much as a way to pay tribute to my mum.
Speaking up for Sprouts: I also put forward the defence for the green December beacon, the humble Brussels Sprout, and gave it a little more life with potato and cream.
Best Cookbooks of 2013: I also carried on my annual tradition of running through the top cookbooks of the year. Slim pickings for me this year so I presented a crowdsourced list instead. Pitt Cue was top of the shop so it’s ended up on my shelf. I’ll let you know how I get on with it later in 2014.
Waitrose Christmas Desserts: Waitrose pulled out all the stops with their Heston festive treats: their mince pies with clementine sugar were by a million miles the best mince pies I’ve ever eaten. It’s worth saying that I’m not usually fussed about mince pies at all; and these things were completely different beasts, all cakey and sweet. Better than can be said for the “hidden chocolate” Christmas pudding, which was kinda boring and nothingy. To finish on a high, the infamous Heston box of chocs were intriguing and delicious, particularly the Earl Grey tea one which tasted different with every chew.
Aldi Christmas Pudding: On a related note, Aldi sent me their 12 month matured Christmas Pudding. It was super-average. Nothing is beating the hidden orange, it seems.
Garner’s Pickles: Garner’s sent me a sample of their pickles. There’s an odd North-South thing in my house; Mrs. Spud originally from the North refers to pickled onions simply as ‘pickles’ and I always wonder if she means generic pickled things. As far as I’m concerned pickled onions are called just that. December always meant Grandad had a batch of his eye-watering onions ready to munch on Boxing Day with cold turkey. Garner’s Sweet Pickled Baby Onions (pictured) were particularly good, a perfect balance of crunch, sweet and sharp. I also received a few others in the range, notoriously the pickled eggs which I immediately dispatched to my brother’s so a true connoisseur could enjoy them. “Yummy” was his one-word review. What more can I say! Not a favourite of mine.
Sage Appliances Heston Fryer: Did you think I’d had enough of fryers? Nope, I’m currently trying out the Sage Appliances Heston deep fat fryer and early reports are good. A more detailed writeup on this in January.
Bill’s Restaurant Hamper: After last month’s disappointing John Lewis hamper I was anxious about opening another. The one supplied by Bill’s Restaurant brought a massive smile to my face. Bespoke produce all sourced and branded by the restaurant, and each one a joy. The fudge was packed with Christmassy flavours, the toffee cookies snappy and sweet, and the chutney was fruity and punchy. Not a duff job among them. I’ve not heard of the brand before but I’ll definitely pop along to one this year to find out more.
Castello Cheese: Castello sent me a range of cheeses, but they were the sideshow to their invite to test a “molecularly paired cheeseboard”. You had me at “molecule”. They had a flavour expert, Danny Hodrien, break down the flavour profile and pair them up with some unique partners. So I tried their creamy white (Brie-style cheese) with blitzed pistachio and fennel dust, and that was very interesting. The cheese and quite tangy yet smooth, and the nut-seed combo helps both flavours linger on in the mouth. Surprisingly good. I tried some of the cheese on their own and the Castello Blue is very tasty, not pungent but very savoury. There are a number of other combinations they’ve asked me to try, and I’ll be digging further into how they can influence my cooking.
And I must mention my favourite foodie Christmas present of this year: the Sgt. Peppermill. Thanks Mrs. Spud!