Did you know, carrots are part of the parsley family? They are cheap and probably one of the most frequently bought vegetables, to cook without carrots seems unimaginable. Their natural sweetness and unique flavour makes them a popular ingredient in most stocks and soups. There are so many different ways that carrots can be prepared and cooked, that is why I have chosen them for part one of my vegetable focus!
In Ireland they are in season most of the year, except March - June. Carrots can be big or small and vary in colour from a pale to deep orange, although there are some white and purple varieties available now.
Here is some inspiration for food related gifts this Christmas. At each of my cookery classes, I always give tips on where to buy food, which gadgets work, which don't. Below is a list and some links to help you with your Christmas shopping!
- Joseph Joseph Citrus Catcher - A great gadget for squeezing citrus fruit straight into a bowl/saucepan. It catches all the pips and pith! It costs around €12-15.
- Zyliss garlic crusher - No need to peel the garlic cloves, this is the best garlic crusher I have come across! It even comes with a piece to push out the skin afterwards so your hands don't smell of garlic. It is costs around €15.
- Non-stick baking sheets - These are great for baking and cooking savoury dishes. No need for parchment paper, they can be washed each time and you can reuse them 2000 times!, I have used them a lot more than that. I use them for turning out & baking sourdough, rolling & baking crackers, roasting slices of veg ....The brand I use is Seraphina's kitchen which can be bought online. However the recently opened Triggerfish cookshop in Blackrock, Co Dublin has other brands in stock, they usually cost under €20 for 2.
- Knife set - If you are looking for a set of knives for someone, this fabulous set of Global knives is usually half price (€250) in the Christmas Sale at Brown Thomas
- Knife sharpener - If you want to keep your kitchen knives, and your food processor blade sharp throughout the year, this 3 in 1 sharpener is easy to use and is good value under €10! The Kitchen whisk on Wicklow Street in Dublin may well stock these but don't have a website just yet.
- Wine decanter cleaning beads - Find it tricky to clean your wine decanter or Kefir bottles? These cleaning beads are brilliant, get into all the tricky edges, costs around €25 !
- Cook Books - I have fond memories of the year I spent working with Rory in the kitchen of Ballymaloe House. His new book Cook Well, Eat well is a really balanced cookery book and costs around €20. For someone who likes to bake and make desserts then Sweet by Ottolenghi is great and costs around €35.
- Practical Cookery demo in a fun environment - How about a gift voucher to one of my Cookery Demos? Jan and Feb schedule is on the website Starting with my new classes of Quick Midweek dinners on Jan 10th! For €50 you can come for dinner and learn how to cook at least 6 dinners Gift vouchers can be bought online but if you would like a voucher card in the post, simply email email@example.com
- Home- made edible presents - Last week I wrote a blog and posted the recipe for Pecan Christmas cookies. I like to make these with the kids at Christmas time so they are gifting something to loved ones on Christmas Day. It helps shift the weight from what they are 'getting'. Why not check it out and make them with your nieces & nephews, children or grandchildren so they have something to give?
Personally, I feel that it is so important to remind them of others less fortunate and get them involved in gifting.
Each year I get the kids involved in a charity. The last few years it has been the shoebox appeal. The kids choose what goes into the box and use some of their pocket money to purchase items for children less well off so that they receive a lovely shoe box of gifts and useful items at Christmas.
This year, thanks to Siobhan Fitzpatrick and the Women In Business Network (WIBN) we are providing dignity packs to local homeless people. My children were intrigued by this and each put together a bag, my daughter for a homeless female and my son for a homeless male. As it is so cold, we added in some warms, hats, scarves, gloves and socks. They even put in some treats from their Halloween stash. We then dropped it off to a local homeless charity to be distributed. A great ideal by Molly Comish.
As Christmas week approaches, I like to set aside some time to make cookies with the kids and to get them to package them up ready to give to all the relatives on Christmas Day. They are simple to make, really tasty and simply melt in the mouth! You will get approx. 40 biscuits in each batch and I usually allow 6 per person!
If you visit Sostrene Green or your local Tiger shop you can get lovely cellophane bags, of different sizes and ribbons to tie around them. You can let your children's creativity run wild and they can create the labels or messages they want to add to the gift.
The recipe can be found on my website . I often put these in the goodie bags at the end of my cookery classes at this time of year but seldom make them during the cookery demos.
Maybe we should ask kids occasionally, what are you 'giving' someone you love this Christmas?