Booze

Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

So, I deviated from my meal plan. I’m sorry but I had to. You know how on Wednesday I was planning to make raspberry ripple ice cream? Well I saw some delicious looking last-of-the-season peaches and I had to snap them up. I figured I’d adapt my recipe and make vanilla ice cream – something that despite having quite a varied ice cream repertoire, I can’t remember ever making before. I topped it off with said peaches rolled in brown sugar and flambéed in bourbon. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but it was pretty top. What can beat a delicious, boozy ice cream sundae to send off summer? Made for eating on a patio wrapped in a waffle knit blanket as the sun ducks down behind the trees. Because it’s autumn now, you know.

Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

My peaches were pretty wrinkly by time of consumption. Personally, I think that’s ok, as we’re cooking them down a little so they lose a bit of firmness anyhow. You could use tinned peaches for this too, in a pinch. I kinda like tinned peaches. I don’t mind leaving the skins on mine, mainly because it’s a faff to take them off, but if you’re a texture stickler, feel free to free those guys from their jackets.

For the ice cream, I used the same method that I used for my Yorkshire Tea Ice Cream recipe, but obviously skipped the part where we infused the tea. I was watching The Mind of a Chef (season one) the other night and that told me that this is a traditional “creme anglais” base, which I guess makes sense. It’s basically equal parts milk and cream, and then a shit-tonne of egg yolks. It’s very rich and kinda eggy – but that suits me down to the ground. I don’t have much of an inclination towards volume when it comes to ice cream, usually it’s just a scoop or two, so I need it to be super satisfying.

When it comes to vanilla, as with a lot of ingredients, you get out what you put in. Essence is a hell no, it’s the cheap, synthetic stuff that contains little actual vanilla. Extract is good, even better is vanilla bean paste or an actual vanilla pod, if you could get your hands on that. Trust me, if you have the money, spend it. A bottle of extract or paste lasts for a long time in your cupboard and you can use it in countless recipes – paying for quality will pay off in your baking. Plus, you get the satisfaction of seeing the little vanilla seeds in whatever you make. I’m easily pleased like that.

Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

I’m relatively confident when it comes to cooking with alcohol in savoury dishes, but I’m a bit hazy on sweet stuff. I guessed the amount of alcohol to cook the peaches in, and it seemed to work well, they were neither too strong or too bland. You can, of course, tailor the alcohol level to suit your tastes. I used a slug of my old favourite from back in my student days, Jim Beam. I love that guy. He’s always there.

You can use something fancier if you like, you could also try rum or brandy, or even a bit of Cointreau if you’re feeling frisky. The process is short, which nicely balances the long slog of the ice cream preparation. Eat them all or save some in a sterilised jar. As time goes by the texture will breakdown a bit more and it’ll turn into a lovely boozy compote.

You can be as posh as you like with it. Layer the ice cream and peaches in a tall glass for that ice cream sundae look, or just dump ’em in a bowl and tuck in. Now that I’ve tried it out, I might revive it next summer with an added layer of damson or raspberry jam and a few crushed and salted pecans.

Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream
Serves 4
A creamy, boozy treat to send off summer. Perfect for a big kid.
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Prep Time
16 hr
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
16 hr
Cook Time
20 min
For the ice cream
  1. 1 Cup of Whole Milk
  2. 2 Cups of Double Cream
  3. ⅔ Cup of Golden Caster Sugar
  4. 5 Egg Yolks
  5. 1 Vanilla Pod (Or 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract)
For the peaches
  1. 4 Ripe Peaches
  2. 1 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  3. ½ Cup of Light Brown Sugar
  4. 2 Shots of Jim Beam Bourbon
Instructions
  1. The day before you want to eat your ice cream, heat your milk and cream in a medium sized saucepan over a low heat. Whisk in the sugar. When the milk is steaming (don't let it boil), take the pan off the heat and scrape in the contents of your vanilla pod and stir through.
  2. Leave the mixture off the heat while you separate your eggs. Whisk the yolks in a medium bowl. Spoon a little of the milk into your egg mix, whisking quickly to incorporate. Add a little more of the milk mix a few spoonfuls at a time until about half is mixed through. Add the rest and give it a good whisk.
  3. Transfer to the pan and place back on the heat. You need to stay with it, stirring constantly over a medium heat, scraping the sides, until the mixture thickens into a custard and coats the back of a spoon – if in doubt, stick with it, it may take 10-15 minutes, but you’ll know when it starts to thicken properly.
  4. When it's reached the right consistency, strain the custard through a sieve to remove any lumps and place in the fridge to cool. It needs at least 4-6 hours to get to the right temperature. I prefer to leave it overnight and churn the next morning.
  5. Churn and freeze the mix according to your ice cream maker’s instructions – I churned once and transferred to a clip top tupperware container. Place it back into the freezer for 2-3 hours to firm up.
  6. When you're ready to make your peaches, remove the ice cream from the freezer. It'll take 15-20 minutes to melt enough to scoop cleanly. Chop each peach into eight segments and roll them in the brown sugar.
  7. Heat the butter in a large frying pan until it's frothy. Throw in your peach segments and cook for 4-5 minutes until the sugar starts to caramelise and the peaches turn golden. Pour in the bourbon and toss. The liquid will start to reduce and turn into a stickier consistency. When it's reduced by half, turn off the heat.
  8. Time to plate up! I scooped some ice cream into the bottom of a tall glass, followed it with 4 or 5 peach segments and a little sauce. Next, more ice cream, more peaches and a dusting of brown sugar. Take your spot on the patio and enjoy!
Notes
  1. nb. If you taste your custard before you churn it, it’s going to be very sweet, very creamy and very eggy. Don’t let this worry you. The freezer dulls its flavour, so think about how sweet you want it to be as a finished product, and turn it up by half again.
whip until fluffy http://whipuntilfluffy.com/
Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

How are you sending off summer? Let me know whether the turn of the season has you clinging on to summer with white knuckles, or if you’re embracing the colder, darker nights already. I think I’m a little of both!

Tweet me @whipuntilfluffy or catch me over on Instagram @whipuntilfluffy

Vodka, Grapefruit & Rosemary Fizz

Grapefruit & Rosemary Fizz

Vodka isn’t a spirit I know much about. Oh I’ve drank enough of it in my time, believe me, but it’s usually reserved for a nondescript vodka & cranberry while I dance the night away, too dizzy to think of anything else. Or with Coke in plastic cups, in suspect bars where my only other options are Tropical VKs or pints of Fosters. While we’ve been building up our home bar (something I’d like to write a post about very soon, but here’s a good one while you wait), vodka has pretty much sat there without much attention: a simple bottle of Green Mark collecting dust on our faux-marble trolley top. So when I got sent a little sample bottle of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, I used it as a much needed chance to give something I’d fallen out of love with a new lease of life.

Cocktails with a herby element are often my favourites, and while I’m not trained in the art of mixology, I think adding some botanicals is a great way to balance the sweetness of what usually starts with a spirit and a fruit juice. I’m partial to a Basil Grandé, so I know basil with berries works well, but for the vodka I had a hankering for citrus. Knowing how well a Screwdriver seems to go down (especially on board short-haul easyJet flights to southern Spain), I figured an acidic, fruity match would be a reliable place to start. A flavoured sugar syrup is an easy extra that seems pretty impressive, so I decided a quick infusion would be a good way to deliver a robust rosemary flavour and add something creative to my recipe.

Grapefruit-&-Rosemary-Fizz-1 Grapefruit-&-Rosemary-Fizz-8

I’ve never made a syrup before, at least not one I can remember, but I’m in awe of those people who have these sort of concoctions on their fridge shelves, ready to roll out just in case they fancy something special come 5pm. It was simple enough, just sugar, herbs, water and a bit of time made for a gorgeous, aromatic element to an otherwise pretty formulaic cocktail. As well as adding rosemary flavour, the sweetness of the syrup also serves to mellow the tartness of the grapefruit – a fruit I generally associate with old, wiry women with pinched faces and teaspoons. A health food in the extreme *shudder*.

Shake the vodka, syrup, grapefruit juice and a squeeze of lime with ice, and top up with tonic water. Served from a pitcher with plenty of ice, it’s a cliché but this feels a little like summer in a glass. If you can, drink it outside in bright sunlight, with some king prawns on the barbie.

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Grapefruit & Rosemary Fizz (makes a pitcher: 6-8 glasses)

10 Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Water
8 Shots of Vodka
1 Grapefruit
1 litre Pink Grapefruit Juice
2 Lime
1 Bottle of Tonic Water
Ice

1. Place a small pan over a medium heat. Pour in one cup of tap water and add one cup of sugar. Whisk to distribute the sugar and add 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary.

2. Bring to the mix to the boil and allow to bubble for one minute. Remove from heat and leave to steep for 30 minutes before draining into a sterilised container and placing in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours. If you’re in a rush, put it in the freezer, but don’t forget about it!

3. Fill a pitcher half way up with ice. Add the vodka, syrup and squeeze in the juice of both limes.

4. Pour in the grapefruit juice and muddle until well mixed. Top with tonic water and garnish with slices of fresh grapefruit and sprigs of rosemary.

Grapefruit-&-Rosemary-Fizz-12

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Tequila Soaked Prawn Tacos with Mango Corn Salsa + Update

TEQUILA SOAKED PRAWN TACOS WITH MANGO CORN SALSA

Sooo… that posting twice a week thing? Yeah, that didn’t happen. Sorry.

But hey, I’ve been eating tacos! I’ve been trying to spice up week night dinners. We don’t eat a lot of Central and South American inspired cuisine in our house, so this was a little experiment that turned out rather nicely. I didn’t intend to blog these guys but they happened to be pretty bitchin, so I thought I’d share. They’re boozy, zingy and quite spicy. Overall: pretty satisfying.

I think fish is my new jam… which makes me think of fish flavoured jam. Which is gross. Correction: I think fish is my new thing. It’s great for a lighter tea that still feels pretty flashy. I had Moules Marinere last night, for example, and it felt very luxe. I paid about £4 for half a bag of mussels at the market and that amount would easily feed four. Classy and cheap. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

I was making these tacos on the fly, so in an idea world I would’ve used proper corn, soft tacos. Instead I used tortillas, which worked fine but wasn’t quite the same. I bought mini ones but if you can’t find them just trim the regular size ones down using a knife around an up-turned cereal bowl. Voila!

Tequila Soaked Prawn Tacos with Mango Corn Salsa (makes enough for 4) 

1 Pack of Mission Deli Mini Wraps
200g Raw, Peeled King Prawns
50ml (about 2 shots) of Tequila
1 Lime
½ Iceberg lettuce

For the Mango Salsa:

1 Small Onion, diced
1 Mango, diced
½ Tin of Sweetcorn
3 Birds Eye Chillies
A Small Bunch of Coriander, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. About an hour before you plan to eat, place your prawns in a bowl and pour over the tequila. Squeeze over the juice of half your lime. Place to one side.

2. Dice your onion and mango, the smaller the better, and mix in a bowl together. Add the sweetcorn. Slice the birds eye chillies very finely (remove the seeds if you want to keep the heat down, I left them in) and chuck those in too. Then add the coriander and season with rock salt and black pepper to taste. Mix everything together and squeeze in the juice of your remaining lime.

3. Place two frying pans next to each other on the heat. While they’re warming up, shred the lettuce and place it in a bowl. In the first pan, warm the tortillas one at a time, flipping every 30 seconds or so until they’re nicely golden on each side, but take them out before they turn crispy. In the second pan, empty your bowl of prawns. They’ll have turned slightly pink already from the citrus. Cook for 1 minute on each side until they’re nice and rosy and turning out at the edges.

4. Take your bowls to the table and dig in. We added a drizzle of natural yogurt spiked with Tabasco, but if anything, that brought too much heat on top of the chillies in the salsa. I don’t think you need it, but you could add the yogurt on it’s own if you fancy.

TEQUILA SOAKED PRAWN TACOS WITH MANGO CORN SALSA

Next time, I want to try tacos with fried white fish of some sort too, more like a traditional fish taco, I bet the crunch would be amazing. But I’m a bit concerned about losing the tequila taste, because it’s on of the best things about this dish. Maybe I could experiment with some flavoured batters? My mouth waters at the prospect.

A little update: as I said earlier, sorry I’ve been away so long. There’s been loads going on, but the real reason is work. I’ve picked up some jobs from a couple of food clients over the past few months and it’s been really fun working on a subject matter I love. I plan to talk a bit more about what I do as a job here soon so hold tight for that, if you’re interested.

In the coming weeks (no promises on when, I’ve learnt my lesson!) I’ve got posts on all sorts coming – a trip around one of my favourite local foodie spots, a few more recipes and something a bit different too. Thanks for sticking with me! To round off, some stuff I’ve been enjoying lately:

Watching: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Trip to Italy, both equally entertaining.
Reading: A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin – please, no spoilaz.
Eating: Low sugar snacks, more on that later.
Drinking: Aperol Spritzes.
Celebrating: My 27th birthday with a trip to Norse in Harrogate. It’s incredible.

Bang Bang Shrimp

Bang Bang Shrimp

This is one of those recipes you might find on Pinterest, designed as the perfect game day snack. The effort that some Americans go to for the ideal half-time taste pleaser is quite frankly admirable, but while I can see what a glorious complement this dish would be for a clash of sporting titans, there’ll be none of that under my roof. Instead, I fried these up during one of my husband’s 8 hour Skyrim binges, and served them to him on a wooden platter to eat with one hand as he slayed dragons… lucky bastard.

These crunchy little prawns have a firm place in my culinary arsenal now and they’re a real people pleaser. The way I make them they pack a massive punch, bursting with sriracha and fresh chilli. The great thing though, is that you can adapt this to suit all palates. Without the spice they’re not quite as interesting but they’re still as moreish, like a savoury, tangy popcorn. It’s important to state that I can’t take the credit for these, I was inspired by a recipe I found at Fake Ginger and I’ve just adapted it a little over time to make it exactly what I want it to be. That’s where the name comes from, it may seem silly, but once you taste them you’ll understand. Now I can’t call it anything else!

Bang Bang Shrimp

Bang Bang Shrimp (makes enough for 4 sharing, or 1 very hungry dragon slayer)

400g Raw Prepared Prawns
750ml Vegetable Oil
Birdseye Chillies & Fresh Coriander to garnish

For the Sauce:
100ml Mayonnaise
3 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 tsp Caster Sugar
1½ tsp Rice Vinegar
1 Red Birds Eye Chilli diced

For the Egg Mixture:
1 Large Egg
120ml Milk

For the Breading Mixture:
75g Plain Flour
65g Fine Breadcrumbs
15g Seasame Seeds
½ tsp Sea Salt
½ tsp Garlic Salt
⅔ tsp Black Pepper
½ tsp Ground Basil
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper

1. In a shallow bowl (I used these) beat your egg and milk together. In another, mix all the breading ingredients. Set aside.

2. Grab a handful of prawns (around six if medium sized, up to 15 if you’re using the tiny ones) and, using clean hands, roll them around in the breading mixture. When they’re nicely coated, transfer them to the egg mixture, then back into the breading mixture. The double dip will build up the thick coating needed for a good crunch. Place on a baking tray. Repeat until all the prawns are covered. Place in the fridge to set for 10 minutes.

3. In a small mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Whisk until combined. Cover the bowl and set it to one side. Don’t put it back in the fridge, the sauce works better the looser it is.

4. Pour the vegetable oil into a deep frying pan or medium sized sauce pan (unless you have a fryer, in which case – lucky you, fried things for every meal!) and heat. I used the chopstick method explained in this post to test when it’s hot enough. Remove the prawns from the fridge and drop in 5-10 at at a time, depending on the size of your pan – you want them to be spaced out enough that they don’t touch.

5. Turn the hob down to medium and leave the prawns to bob around. After 1.5-2 minutes they should be golden brown. Flip them over and wait for the other side to turn the same colour (approx 1 minute). If you’re cooking with smaller prawns, reduce the time by at least half, you’ll be able to tell they’re done by the colour. When they’re done, remove the prawns from the pan and place them on a couple of layers of kitchen paper. Repeat until all the prawns are cooked.

6. Place the cooked prawns in a bowl and pour over about half of the sauce. Fold the sauce through so that each prawn is coated, but don’t be too rough or the batter may start breaking up. Add more sauce if you fancy it. Sprinkle with chopped chillies and fresh coriander and serve. Use the left over sauce to dip!

The prep and frying may seem fiddly, but these prawns are brilliant at a party. Serving on a platter with cocktail sticks to grab makes communal nibbling easy and keeps washing up low. They’re also excellent with alcohol. Beer, especially. On the flip-side, all that spice and crunch soothes a hangover nicely. Rustle these up for a boozy house party, but make sure you keep some leftovers for your recovery the next day.

Notes:
– Can’t get raw prawns? Use cooked, they’ll just be slightly firmer after frying. I think raw provides the best texture.
– In the abscence of rice vinegar, it’ll work with white wine vinegar too, just add ⅔ tsp sugar instead of a whole one.
– It’ll work perfectly fine with a full tsp of sea salt if you can’t get hold of garlic salt. The garlic salt just makes the flavour of the coating slightly more robust against the sauce.

Little Tipples

Little Tipples

Subscription services are pretty commonplace these days. There’s Birchbox, The Foodie’s Larder, hell, there’s even a box for your cat. Personally, I like it. I like that you don’t even have to go out to try new things. Stuff comes right to you, and it’s good stuff too, usually curated by someone in the know. The idea of trying different products at a much lower cost than if I were to buy them separately really appeals to me, especially when it comes to food and drink. So when  I was offered the chance to try Little Tipples, miniature measures to taste & savour, I got excited. Rum through my letter box? Don’t mind if I do.

Little Tipples

Little Tipples, as I understand it, runs on two aims. The first is to provide you with quality, varied spirits to drink at home at your pleasure. The second is to develop your palate and teach you a bit about what you’re drinking. Each month you’ll receive two 50ml bottles. Once you unpack them, the idea is that you log on, enter the codes marked on the front and read the tasting notes while you try them. After you’ve tasted them, both neat and with your favourite mixer, you click the reveal button to see which rums you’ve been supping on. You record your prefences, type up your comments and save them to your profile. That way you can revisit your thoughts whenever you like. If you wish, you can go ahead and purchase a full size bottle of any of the rums you’ve tried directly from the website.

The website itself provides a number of good resources to help you on your rum tasting journey. Not only is there a dummy-proof tasting method to walk you through your experience, but there are cocktail recipes to help you make the most of your minis. A leaderboard keeps you abreast of which rum other users rate, so you can anticipate next month’s delivery.

Subscriptions from Little Tipples come in at £10 a month including delivery straight to your door. The boxes are small enough to slip right through your letter box so no need to worry about those pesky “Sorry we missed you” slips. There are no long term commitments and your subscription is available to cancel at any time. You can also earn referral points if someone signs up because you sent them. You can put your points towards a full sized bottle from the leaderboard.

To be quite honest, I have very little to be critical about here. I think the price is good, the rums are varied enough that you wouldn’t get bored, and I think the fact you can log in and see what you liked from the start of your subscription is very useful (like those little tasting notebooks big fat men on real ale trails carry in their pockets, but digital). My only criticism would be that it’s limited to rum, but the word on the street is that whisky and gin are on their way. In conclusion, I wholeheartedly love this. Sure, it’s a bit of an indulgence, hardly a monthly necessity when you’re working out your budget, but it’s fun, informative and a nice thing. And we all like nice things, right?

Little Tipples

After I tasted what was in my bottles, I preferred the white rum (Banks 5 Island) neat and the dark rum (Pussers Blue Label) mixed, I thought it was only right to make a cocktail to celebrate. Rum is my favourite spirit and a Dark n Stormy probably my favourite cocktail, so I rustled one up. Little Tipples have their recipe listed on their blog, and it’s pretty darn perfect. Though a Dark n Stormy should be a long drink, I was taking it steady so I kept the measures small this time. I didn’t want to drown out the rum with too much ginger. For a traditional drink use a double shot. I also had no lime so used a lemon instead, but this is by no means a substitution I’d endorse. Sure, it’s better than nowt, but lime is the ideal complement to the spice of the ginger. The deep caramel flavour of Pussers Blue Label matched perfectly in this but if you’re making it at home with what you have, a spiced rum like Morgans or Sailor Jerry would work well too. This is how I made mine.

Dark n Stormy makes one cocktail

25ml Dark Rum
250ml Ginger Beer (I used Old Jamaica)
Wedge of Lime
3 Ice Cubes

Pour the ginger beer into a tumbler over your ice. Top up with rum. Take your wedge of lime and squeeze it lightly into your drink, then drop it in. Mix and enjoy.

Little Tipples £10 inc. delivery per month available to cancel at any time | @LittleTipples

Disclaimer: I was sent my first box for free to try. My thoughts on this product are unbiased and honest. I only endorse products I feel strongly about and this is one of them! I will be paying full price for an ongoing subscription.;

Nurturing the Inner Hostess

Winter is the time when my inner hostess goes into overdrive. Oh how I yearn to welcome people into my home, woo them with trays full of delicious nibbles, serve tart & tangy cocktails on a silver platter and try to make them feel like they’re living (just for an hour or so) in a page from the Farrow & Ball catalogue. I mean, obviously, this has never happened. My house doesn’t even have flooring yet. You have to keep your shoes on or you’ll get splinters, it’s hardly welcoming. When I dream about my future though, a warm, full house is what I see. Burning candles and rosy cheeked friends with full glasses in their hands. When a close friend recently said “Dinner at Lil & Matt’s is one of my best things” I almost squealed. I’m on my way, people.

Let’s get one thing clear, I bloody love a canapé. My one complaint about my own wedding is that I never got to actually eat the canapés I painstakingly chose. Apparently they were nice, but I’ll never know. This time of year presents loads of opportunity to crack out some bite-size bits and pieces. I have a few fail-safe ideas that are applicable to most social gatherings. Glazed Sausages are always a hit. Just ask Nigella. My mum’s done them at Christmas for years and in my experience very few people can turn down a banger. Buy raw chipolatas and marinade them in heaped spoonfuls of honey and wholegrain mustard. Keep them in the fridge for half a day and then roast them in a hot oven, ready to pull out when you guests arrive. They’ll be sticky, shiny and irresistible. Next, I like to make myself some Pear, Gorgonzola and Pancetta Crostini. Slice and toast some shop bought baguette and fry your pancetta until it’s brittle and gleaming. Smear some soft gorgonzola onto that toast and pile on the rest. There are loads of variations but I like to keep things simple (3-4 ingredients) and seasonal. This year I made a selection of pastries and some homemade potato rostis with some toppings.


Guardian Perfect Cheese Straws


Joy the Baker’s French Onion Pastry Puffs
Potato & Apple Rostis with Sirloin Steak, Horseradish Cream & Chives

Our home bar is, perhaps worryingly, one of the only things we’ve unpacked since moving in. Yeahhhh ok, we like a drink, but a collection of spirits is great when you have people over. After a year or so of building ours up we have a fair selection to choose from, and it makes cocktail making a lot easier because you don’t have to plan ahead. A Winter Sangria would be my perfect drink for a Christmas gathering, if you have friends over for dinner or a film (hands up for Love Actually!) or even for a present wrapping party in the week before the big day. Still seasonal but a refreshing change amidst weeks of mulled wine, use a bottle of Pinot Grigio and a slug or two of a spirit of your choice – gin or vodka would be ideal. Add a cup or two of fruit juice (I’d use apple or elderflower but anything goes) and chuck in plenty of seasonal fruit like apples, pomegranate and fresh cranberries – better yet, frozen cranberries or grapes can take the place of ice. Whack in a sprig or two of rosemary too. Asking guests to bring a bottle is the easiest way to keep the booze flowing all night without being seriously out of pocket, but I think a cocktail on arrival is a nice little flourish and definitely something I want to work into my routine when having people over.

In the shops over the festive period I keep seeing things to lust over when really my priorities should be elsewhere. I should probably consider buying some curtains rather than those perfect napkin rings or a cut glass punch bowl. My guests could probably do with some coat hooks for their jackets before  personalised glass markers, but yanno – I can’t stop. I won’t. One day, readers, one day.

Clockwise from Top Left: Martha’s Entertaining, Normann Copenhagen Liqueur Glasses, John Lewis Lacquer Round Tray in Gold, Marimekko Pieni Unikko Tray, Zara Home Teaspoon, Ball Canning Quilted Jars, LSA Punchbowl & Ladle.

It works the other way too. I make sure I’m a pretty good guest. Invite me over and generally, I’ll arrive with wine, flowers or occasionally chocolate, but I feel like 2014 is the truly the year I’ll come into my own when it comes to the hostess (or host) gift. I always go to town at Christmas, arriving at parents’ and in-laws’ with arms full of chutneys, curds and baked goods. I guess it makes me feel like a adult to bring gifts with me, since I’m the baby of the family. This year we made flavoured oils to take home with us. It can get expensive if you’re making a lot, but buying the odd glass bottle only costs a few quid, and it’s even cheaper if you save your oil bottles throughout the year. It helps if you have a well stocked spice cupboard too. This year we packed five of our bottles with garlic, rosemary, coriander seeds and peppercorns. The other five got green rocket chillis, red birds eye chillis, chilli flakes and peppercorns. Each couple in the family will get a pair to open with a note explaining what they are and asking the recipients to leave them to infuse for a month or two. It’s hardly original, but it’s tasty, useful and shows a bit of thought.

I always like to receive something handmade, it’s personal and every time you use it, you think of the person who gave it to you. I think these bottles look pretty impressive too. Similarly, jars of sweets or preserves work pretty well. Try these Bourbon Salted Caramels by Shutterbean for hosts with a sweet tooth!

Did you make gifts for christmas this year? Do you go to town when you entertain, or do you prefer to be the perfect guest? What are your fail safe dinner party recipes?