Christmas is coming…

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For writers and reviewers, Christmas starts in July, with a host of events to launch the festive season’s goodies. As always with seasonal celebrations, there’s a danger of peaking too soon and getting far too fed up with all the Christmas razzamatazz before the day itself even happens.

I’m afraid I’m already slightly bored by Monty & Mabel delightful as they both are, it has just signaled to me that we’re heading for a good seven weeks of Christmas goodies being thrust upon us. However, I am not complaining too much, as it’s been a good time to try out some fabulous cakes and treats (after all, it wouldn’t do to have bought the wrong one come Christmas day, would it…).

There are some brilliant ideas out there, with the supermarkets really making a massive seasonal effort. As far as cakes and goodies are concerned, me and my fellow testers loved these: The best of the bunch, looks-wise, are:

The Parcel Cake by Fiona Cairns from Waitrose

Waitrose Fiona Cairns Small Parcel Cake £20

The Chocolate & Passion Fruit Popping Candy Bites by Heston from Waitrose

Waitrose Heston Mini Popping Candy bites £8.99

The Hand Decorated Holly Leaf two-tier cake from Tesco… the Crackling Praline Cheesecake Crackers, both from Tesco

Tesco hand decorated two-tier holly cake £20

The Crackling Praline Cheesecake Crackers from Tesco

Tesco Finest Crackling Praline cheesecake crackers, £8

and the stunning White Chocolate Igloo and Chocolate Stollen from Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer white chocolate igloo cake £8

Marks & Spencer chocolate stollen £13

Zwilling Pro Carving SetI’m glossing over the latest series of Masterchef The Professionals, mainly because once again I am so impressed at the incredible skills of these young chefs and consequently, slightly disheartened by my own limitations! I watched the first quarter final, where the invention test was to create a dish using scraps and trimmings. Some of the scraps actually looked quite distasteful, but were transformed into dishes of wonder (on the whole, apart from one or two mishaps), such as Seafood Ravioli, which was cooked by Darren, using plain flour rather than pasta flour. The other hit was Brian’s Lamb with Samphire – which the judges said was one of the best things they’d ever eaten on Masterchef. Note to self … will try and be more adventurous with leftovers …

And I’m also going to sharpen up my knife skills … so will be shopping for some ideas for roasts so I can show off how well I can carve. At the moment I’m practicing with the Zwilling Pro Carving set. It’s such an upgrade from my previously worn-out and not-sharp enough knife that I’m feeling flushed with success already! The Carving Set of 20cm carving knife and 18cm meat fork is available here – it’s £156 and well worth the investment, any keen chef will appreciate the ease of use of a perfectly balanced knife,

As we’re approaching the seasonal trauma that is Christmas shopping, I thought I’d make a few suggestions that will be welcomed by a wide range of age groups and which, of course, will also look fabulous in a super-stylish kitchen. First up, a new set of kitchen textiles … the Kissing Stags design by Anorak has a festive motif that fits in well with all things woodland …buy them here; shown here, Apron, £22, tray, £18, double oven glove, £15 and a pair of tea-towels, £14.

anorak kissing stags cotton apron

anorak kissing stags tray top

anorak kissing stags oven glove

These quirky plates and coasters will be making an appearance on my Christmas shopping list … Live Fast Dine Young plates are £21.60 for a boxed set of four plates, and £10.80 for a set of four coasters, and are a fabulous idea for brothers and male friends who are already completely stacked up with techy stuff. The website has a few other great ideas too…

Live Fast Dine Young Plates - Bass (2)

Live Fast Dine Young Plates - Mic (2)

Live Fast Dine Young Coasters Set (2)

Mulled wine, or Gluhwein, is such a Christmas treat … I think it should be required to be on any drinks menu from Halloween onwards. I have been known to buy ready-mixed mulled wine (the Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Ginger Mulled wine from Asda is pretty good), but there is something lovely about mixing up your own fruits and spices and adding generous amounts of alcohol according to your own personal taste.

A simple red wine and splash of orange juice with slices of orange and lemon and a touch of cinnamon is perfect for an inexpensive treat, if you want to splash out, add brandy. The Mulled Wine Urn from Swan is a very good investment for anyone who loves a winter drinks party; it’s £79.99 and has a capacity of 5 litres…

The Mulled Wine Urn from Swan

The Mulled Wine Urn from Swan

Of course, it can also be used for tea, coffee, hot chocolate, mulled cider and so on. The very best recipe in the world ever for mulled wine comes from Jamie Oliver, and involves making up a syrup … but oh, so worth it!

For my final kitchen-related gorgeous gift suggestions, big spenders may like to consider the new Ted Baker Audio FINISTERRE digital radio – £199…

Ted Baker Audio FINISTERRE digital radio

Ted Baker Audio FINISTERRE digital radio

…it has a beautiful brushed aluminium/silver finish, with a sturdy Tan leather trim and handle. This model has a warm, acoustic sound, and is perfect for dancing in the kitchen to the Arctic Monkeys whilst chopping carrots, or catching up on the news first thing in the morning. It’s DAB/DAB+/FM and has a Bluetooth speaker, a 3.5mm stereo line in cable, headphone out, a clock/alarm with snooze/sleep function, and a USB for updates. All in all, a lovely, stylish yet ‘old fashioned’ addition to the kitchen counter-top.

If you’re looking for inspiration for a smaller budget, consider the Retro Touch Speaker, which is USB or 3 x AA battery powered, and all you have to do is place your smartphone on the speaker – no wires or connections are necessary, it can also act as a charger, and costs an affordable £29.95 from Red5

Red5 Retro Touch Speaker

Red5 Retro Touch Speaker

It’s not often any of us get excited about a kettle (well not since Heston Blumenthal launched the Sage Teamaker, available from Lakeland Ltd), but I am very keen to see this gadget, which can be controlled by your iPhone or smartphone.

wifikettle

I have to admit that I can think of few situations where I actually need to do that, but that’s not the point, is it. The fact is, that I could, if I wanted to. Have a look at it here

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About Linda Parker

Interiors & Lifestyle Writer, who’s spare time is currently spent planning storage strategies for the new house

  Email:  Linda Parker

  Website:  https://www.thekitchenthink.co.uk

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