Now is the time to order an Advent Calendar for your child, yourself, a friend or for your pet (yes, indeedy!). And, for the first time, I have noticed a Hannukah calendar. All kinds of goodies can be found behind the numbered doors – chocolates, candy, tea, beer and wine, little pots of jam, spices and that is only the edible ones:
Godiva Holiday Luxury Chocolate Advent Calendar – www.godiva.com
Sugarfina Gourmet Candy Advent Calendar and Sugarfina 8 Nights of Delight A candy Tasting Collection for Hannukah – www.sugarfina.com
24 Day of Tea – www.davidstea.com
Beer Advent Calendar – www.aldi.us
Wine Advent Calendar – www.ingoodtaste.com
Bonne Maman Limited Edition Advent Calendar featuring some exclusive new holiday flavor jams – www.bonnemaman.us
Le Comptoir Colonial Spice Advent Calendar – www.williamssonoma.com (also try their Peppermint Bark Advent Calendar or their 24 Days of Baking Cookies Holiday Advent Calendar)
For your cat – Trader Joe’s Advent Calendar for Cats – www.traderjoes.com
For your dog – Himalayan Pet Supply Best Friend’s Advent Calendar Dog Treats – www.chewy.com
Here is a list of some ideas for Christmas presents in case you need some inspiration:
Ninja Foodi 15-in-1 multi-cooker – don’t get too excited as it is currently sold out, but is food for thought. It has 15 functions in one piece of equipment – slow cooker, pressure cooker, air fryer, grill, roast, bake, sear, saute and more. An absolute miracle it would appear.
Fire pit for the backyard – lots of different types and sizes, real flames or artificial.
Edible Arrangements – these fruit or fruit and chocolate arrangements are attractive to look at and make a great gift for an older person who doesn’t really want more things. They also make a nice centerpiece and a bit of a talking point. www.ediblearrangements.com (US) www,fruity-lux.co.uk
Tagine – a Morrocan cooking pot for cooking wonderfully moist tagines – slow cooked stews if you like
Knife – a cook always needs a good knife
Musical cookie tins – attractively designed, full of cookies and a bit of a party piece. UK only – Fortnum & Mason, Lakeland, Waitrose
Vintage or quirky cook books or try www.willoughbybookclub.co.uk – give a few details about the recipient – what kind of cuisine they like, etc. – purchase a 3 month/6 month/12 month gift certificate and the recipient will receive a cook book each month chosen by the company.
Here are stocking stuffer ideas:
Unusual spices – Whole Foods have a good selection to choose from or Waitrose UK. Maybe try and buy spices that go together for a particular cuisine.
Mini whisk – great for making vinaigrettes
Avocado cuber – makes cubes of avocado for salads
Knife sharpener – great knife sharpener that suctions to kitchen surface. Brand is Any Knife. Available at www.lakeland.co.uk and Amazon in the US
Battery operated can opener – it really works (I have one)and is a boon to anyone with arthritis, Brand is Kitchen Mama. Available at Amazon UK and US.
Box of Sugarfina candy www.sugarfina.com (just don’t give the Champagne gummies to kids!).
Now, what not to buy:
A Tuna Squish – this tuna fish shaped object squeezes the water out of your tuna fish can. Apparently this presents an enormous problem for some people…
A Fat Magnet – meant to remove the fat from stews and suchlike and take the place of a good old spoon or paper towel. Despite what it says it appears that the description on the box is wide of the mark.
A Banana Slicer – say no more.
A Carrot Sharpener – so that all your carrots are evenly pointed
Bear Meat Claws come in for a lot of flack. They are huge. Two forks do a perfectly good job.
If you are having guests for any part of the Holidays and are looking for something to do (hint, this will also save you cooking a meal) book one of the tours offered by the West Palm Beach Food Tour Company (www.westpalmbeachfoodtour.com). There are now four choices: Downtown West Palm Beach Food Tour centered around Clematis Street; Historic West Palm Beach Neighborhood Food Tour centered around Grandview Heights and Flamingo Park; Mornings in the Market Food Tour which explores the highly praised West Palm Beach Farmer’s Market and, lastly, a 2 hour Happy Hour Tour. You can’t go wrong with any of these tours. In addition, this company offers a ‘Sunshine Box’ – a gift of Florida foods and tastes and all the contents come from 6 local stores, so you are giving back to the local community when you buy one.
Before you pour your morning glass of orange juice from a carton, you might want to take a pause and ask yourself if it wouldn’t be better to squeeze an orange instead (or, if you are local to West Palm Beach, go to Bedner’s and use their orange squeezing machine). The juice from a carton is probably already a year old and has been through a rigorous process including heat pasteurization which inactivates enzymes and kills off microbes. Then the pulp and seeds are removed. Unfortunately during these processes smell and flavor are compromised and that all has to be added back in from carefully blended flavor packs which doesn’t sound too natural to me.
I have read of adding the rind from Parmesan cheese into soups and sauces to intensify the flavor and thicken the liquid but it has taken me up until now to try it. I was cooking a new recipe which was neither soup nor sauce but hovered somewhere in between and I added the rind once the mixture was simmering and I let it cook for 15 minutes, wondering if that would be enough time for the rind to make an impact. It did change the flavor of the liquid but only very slightly thicken it. Remove the gooey mess of Parmesan before serving. Next time you have a piece of Parmesan save the rind and freeze it for later use.
Spam is making a comeback during these times of inflation – in fact it is flying off the shelves because it is relatively cheap and has a long shelf life. It now comes in a wide variety of flavors: Turkey Spam, Spam Teriyaki, Hot and Spicy Spam, Jalapeno Spam. That is in addition to Spam Lite and 25% Less Sodium Spam (original Spam is incredibly high in sodium). There is a Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota.
BOOK OF THE MONTH – In Defence of British Cooking by George Orwell
This came as a surprise – George Orwell writing about English cooking. It is an essay and only a couple of pages long and is still quite relevant today. There are so many restaurants in the UK serving all manner of cuisines but it is hard to find a completely traditional one though you may be able to choose a classic or two on many different menus. Traditional English cooking veers towards the heavy and filling. Things to taste once: roast beef with Yorkshire pudding for Sunday lunch; fish and chips with mushy peas; steak and kidney pie; bangers and mash; shepherd’s pie, apple crumble with custard; treacle tart; fruit cake; Stilton, cheddar and Wensleydale cheeses. Here is where you can read the essay – https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-foundation/orwell/essays-and-other-works/in-defence-of-english-cooking/
PRODUCT OF THE MONTH – Bomba
Bomba is a tomato paste with a socking great flavor and gives a richer, deeper taste to soups, stews, sauces. My sister-in-law introduced me to this and I took a little taste straight from the tube – wow! It is easy to find cheaply in supermarkets in the UK. Once it wends its way over the ‘pond’ its price has increased six-fold to around $14.00. I am going to bite the bullet and invest and I have asked Trader Joe’s if they will consider stocking it.
MOVIE OF THE MONTH – Rotten
Rotten is a documentary series (Netflix) highlighting the travails of producing food/wine before it gets to our tables and is very thought-provoking. Each of the five episodes is stand alone. Topics covered are the avocado market, wine production, bottled water, sugar and chocolate.
RECIPE OF THE MONTH – Panettone Pudding
This is so scrumptious and moreish and yes, of course, it is packed full of calories and you should really only have a small portion but you keep on going back for just a little bit more (and a little bit more and a little bit more!). I first saw this in the FT weekend section over 20 years ago and I cut it out, made it once and promptly lost the recipe. A few years ago I thought of making it again but with Panettone which is much tastier, richer and buttery than regular white bread (p.s. Panettone is lovely for breakfast, toasted). The key ingredient is Lyle’s Golden Syrup which is available in the International section of many supermarkets or in a British shop/online British shop in the US. Molasses or maple syrup aren’t good substitutes. The other ingredients are milk and double cream/heavy cream/good butter and you can serve it with extra cream! Let me know if you tried it and loved it.
1 x Panettone cut into quite thin slices as you will make two layers, cut in half and remove the crust(you may not need all the Panettone) and
7 fl. oz. milk (full fat)
3 1/2 fl. oz heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla essence
Butter for spreading – soften it a little first
2 1/2 fl. oz. Lyle’s Golden Syrup
Place milk, heavy cream and vanilla essence in a pan, bring to a boil, then immediately turn down heat and simmer slowly for 3 minutes. Turn off heat, put a lid on the pan and leave to cool.
Butter the Panettone on both sides and lay the slices, slightly overlapping in a baking dish.
Whisk the golden syrup and eggs together, then pour the cooled milk mixture over it and keep whisking until smooth (milk mixture must be cool or it will curdle the eggs).
Pour half of the mixture over the Panettone, add another layer of Panettone and pour the rest of the milk mixture over the second layer.
Now heat the oven to 350 degrees F (don’t pre-heat as you want the milk mixture to really soak into the Panettone).
When oven is ready, pop the baking dish in and cook for around 30 minutes.
The Cow Pub London
After a recent trip to the UK where the subject of high electricity charges is a real concern, it appears that sales of airfryers have increased dramatically, with Lakeland reporting a whopping 600+% increase between February and August, 2022. Cooking with an airfryer is more efficient than an oven though they aren’t suitable for all types of food. There are plenty of airfryer recipes you can google. I was interested to discover that you can make an omelet or fish tacos or muffins in it.
I had lunch at Hive, West Palm Beach recently and was presented with a slice of Fruit de Pate (fruit jelly), a kind of sweet Amuse Bouche to go with our dessert. It was a mixture of passion fruit, orange and mango delicately scattered with desicated coconut – absolutely lovely. Even better, on my way out I discovered that they sell it – stocking stuffer.
Before I moved to Florida, I lived in Westchester, NY for many years and occasionally I would go to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx and wander around the mainly Italian stores and the market. I really wanted someone who knew the area to take me around and point out historical facts and answer questions about how the home made mozzarella was made and where to buy the best bread and pastries. Two years after I moved south a couple with Italian roots did just that – they set up their own tour company. I did know, however, that Fiorello La Guardia, erstwhile Mayor of NYC, set up local markets in a bid to rid the streets of largely immigrant hawkers selling food and good from pushcarts and hence the Arthur Avenue covered market.
I call November and December Canape season and I always want to have one or two new canapes to hand out and if they are well-received I put them in my Holiday folder (how organized is that?!). One idea that I really like is scaling down a big dish into a miniature, one mouthful bite. For this a mini muffin tin is essential. This year I am cooking mini Yorkshire Puddings, spooning in a little gravy and topping them with rare roast beef and a dab of horseradish. I am constantly thinking of what I can miniaturize at the moment and really having fun doing it. I am also going to serve cooked Brie with cranberry sauce – so done and done!
Ceramic spoons and hors d’oeuvres.
TOMM – Time Out Market Miami
Kick off your Thanksgiving with either champagne with a cranberry in the glass or a Kir Royale
My Thanksgiving menu may be slightly different to the traditional US menu because I grew up in the UK. However, we can agree on turkey, mashed potatoes (some serve roast potatoes) and gravy. My cranberry sauce is flavored with marmalade (see recipe), my stuffing is very different and is my grandmother’s recipe – quite lemony. I serve bread sauce flavored with cloves and apple sauce as condiments. Sausages accompany the turkey. Vegetable side dishes in my childhood included Brussels sprouts and carrots. I like to serve a mixture of Brussels sprouts, carrots and peas with bacon and this year I am going to add honey mustard roast parsnips to the mix. Roll on Thanksgiving!
I am seeing turkey broth on the shelves – stock up on it because there is never enough gravy to my mind and if you have leftovers you can whip up a gravy in no time by thickening the broth with cornstarch.
Thanksgiving doesn’t involve presents but I like to give, what I call a table present. It could be a chocolate turkey but it could be many other things – a Christmas ornament, a Christmas scented soap, a T-towel (funny (there are some hysterical ones out there or just very pretty ones), a little box of sugarfina candy, a pack of Uno cards and the list goes on.
I love Bangers and Mash – such wintry comfort food set atop some smooth, buttery mashed potatoes with onion gravy poured over and accompanied by fiery Colman’s mustard. The trend now seems to be to serve them in a bowl with a rim like a soup bowl. Good English bangers, those without a lot of filler are quite difficult to find in the US but William’s Pork in S. Carolina has four different types – pork sausages, Cumberland sausages, Lincolnshire sausages and Irish sausages. I think I will start by ordering some Cumberland sausages (and maybe one of their Wiltshire cured hams for Thanksgiving). If you are not familiar with British sausages they are nothing like Italian sausages – spicy or not.
My dear friend, Kitty, had the brilliant idea of giving T towels personalized with a family recipe as a gift – what a lovely and meaningful present. So I have been picking her brains as to how to do it as easily as possible – quality of T towel, how to design it, get it printed. If you don’t have a family recipe that has been passed down, then maybe just something you love to cook. I have my grandmother’s Christmas stuffing. I make it once a year and it is unlike any stuffing I have ever tasted – lovely and lemony. That has just given me an idea – a T towel each year with a recipe could become a family tradition…
For another newsletter – visit Tropical Acres Farms, WPB – you can pick mangoes.
Where can I buy passion fruit.
Do you ever cook with a friend – not as a helping out thing but as a ‘let’s create this and have fun doing it’. A friend and I do it from time to time and it is such fun. She is a recipe ignorer, she just wants the gist and then goes off piste and I am left saying ‘but the recipe says…’