Christmas is almost upon us and the task of Christmas shopping should be coming to and end. If however you are still struggling to find the perfect gift for that ‘difficult to buy for relative or friend’ then might I pass a few suggestions your way.

In my view a cookbook is a fantastic present to receive. It’s a gift that keeps on giving if chosen with care for its recipient. Plus books are incredibly easy to wrap!

Below are a few of my recommendations;

New Bistro by Fran Warde…

New Bistro

This book takes you on a wonderful tour of France with all its delicious tastes and aromas. Its focus is on new French bistro cooking that refines many classic dishes introducing a new lightless, freshness and all over relaxed style. Author Fran Warde not only shares her inspired new bistro dishes with the reader but also introduces recipes from a selection of France’s best bistros. The book is beautifully illustrated with some wonderful photography; from the food itself to snap shots her favourite  bistro’s complete with addresses should you wish to sample these gastronomic gems for yourself. Having read through this book I am not only left with a desire to try cooking some of the recipes, but with a yearning to jump on board the next Eurostar!
New Bistro by Fran Warde. Published by Octopus Publishing, £20.00

The Juice 2010…

The Juice 2010

This book is brilliant. It takes the mystery out of wine buying. Author [and mate of Jamie Oliver], Matt Skinner shares his no-nonsense advise with us on the best wines to suit our budgets. This is a yearly ‘annual’ and for 2010, Matt has focused on many good value wines. Overall he has selected 100 bottles, which provide ultimate quality wine at a comforting price. The book is easy to navigate with it four sections: ‘Skint’ – 25 wines for as little money as possible; ‘Drink’ – 25 top wines for every lifestyle; ‘Dine’ – 25 fab wines that bring out the very best in your food; ‘Splurge’ – 25 amazing wines when you are wanting to throw caution in the wind. Each recommendation ends with a list of stockists you can get the wine from, with many being on our local high street. A perfect book for any wine lover. Cheers!
The Juice 2010 by Matt Skinner. Published by Octopus Books, £7.99

The Veg Box…

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We all like a ‘Box Set’ at Christmas – it makes for such a substantial gift. But I’m not talking CD’s or DVD’s but a lovely box set of cookbooks. More and more people are growing their own veg and this fantastic collection of books is all you need to ensure you will be forever creative with your harvests. The Veg Box consists of 14 vegetable recipe books, totalling 300 recipes in all. As well as the books the box includes vegetable markers so you can locate the book you need in an instant. It’s the perfect gift for any green-fingered cook.
The Veg Box. Published by Octopus Publishing, £25.00

My Favourite Ingredients by Skye Gynell…

My Favourite

This is a beautiful book. I’ve always been a fan of Skye’s cooking style. She uses fresh seasonal produce in her recipes and makes the prettiest plates of food. I became aware of Skye when I discovered the beautiful Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, Surrey. Skye is head chef at Petersham Nurseries Café and the menu’s there are so inspiring with their use of local fresh produce of the moment. This book allows you to create a bit of that in your own home. The book is divided into chapters of food that are, as the title suggests, Skye’s favourite ingredients. They include Cherries, Olive Oil, Pulses & Grains, Chocolate, Honey, Fish & Shellfish, Leaves, Tomatoes and Cheese to name a few. The recipes make your mouth water and the photographs are nothing short of stunning – a purely beautiful addition to any cookbook collection.
My Favourite Ingredients by Skye Gynell. Photography by Jason Lowe. Published by Quadrille Publishing. £14.99

Antonio Carluccio’s Simple Cooking by Antonio Carluccio…

Simple

I’m a huge fan of Italian food and of Antonio Carluccio’s cooking. If you by one Antonio Carluccio book, make it this one. This book is for anyone who loves Italian food whatever their cooking abilities. The recipes are indeed simple, focusing on clever combinations of fresh, seasonal, quality ingredients. There are Starters & Salads, Soups, Gnocchi, Polenta & Rice, Meat, Fish, Vegetables, Desserts and of course Pasta. I was thrilled to find that this book contains Antonio’s recipe for Pasta with Courgette Sauce and Spinach Balls – a recipe that he created for Carluccio’s Caffes, that I seem to order everytime I eat there. Antonio is generous with his cooking advice, offering up extra tips at the end of many of the recipes such as ‘what to make with any leftovers’ or ‘slight variations to make the recipe more special’. Readers of this book will find Antonio’s passion for simple Italian cooking infectious, so be warned.
Antonio Carluccio’s Simple Cooking by Antonio Carluccio. Published by Quadrille Publishing. £20.00

The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson…

The Vegetarian Box

This is a book devoted to mouth-watering recipes without meat or fish, recipes that deliver beautifully with the use of good quality seasonal vegetables and herbs as well as pulses & grains, pasta, rice, eggs, fruit and nuts. Author, Simon Hopkinson supports the recipes with his evocative writing alongside beautiful photography; even the font used to title each recipe is beautiful.

I see this book as a ‘classic’ that any home cook would refer to on a regular basis for both inspiration and trusted favourite recipes.

The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson. Photography by Jason Lowe. Published by Quadrille Publishing. £20.00

Cake Chic by Peggy Porschen…

Cake Chic

The cupcake has never been so popular as it is right now; there are specialist cupcake shops, we’re making them at home and good old Marks and Spencer even sell them. If however you want to go up a step beyond the popular buttercream and sprinkles cupcakes this is the book for you. Peggy Porschen creates cakes and cookies for some top-notch clients including Madonna, Stella McCartney and Elton John. In this book she shares her tip on how to create her edible works of art from ‘Little Black Dress’ cookies, inspired by a 1950’s Dior dress design to the fun and flirtatious three-tiered ‘Pink Poodle Cake’. The book explains the many specialist techniques with clear instructions and useful images, plus there is a selection of templates at the end of the book. I for one can’t wait to try my hand at these beautiful creations.
Cake Chic by Peggy Porschen. Published by Quadrille Publishing. £20.00

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Sigh, readers – are you still there? It’s been a battle with the world wide web this week – I am so despondent with my slow internet connection and frustrating lack of posts this week, I apologise profusely that I wasn’t able to share this last week before Christmas with you…

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and hope to see you all back here in the New Year with some exciting new features that I am planning. I leave you with some delicious book reviews from Louise – perfect for a large stocking filler!

Hamburg

Mr Kebab – tick
Some of the best street art in the world – tick
Great bar snacks – tick

Apparently Hamburg’s official name is the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. I’ve had to look up ‘Hanseatic’ and I still don’t entirely understand what it means – something about trading. Anyway, that’s not important because we need to talk kebabs. Immediately!

I’m going to jump straight into food and the wonderous place that is Mr Kebab. Found in St Pauli, we were recommended this haven of Turkish goodness by a local. Note, having had an all you can eat breakfast only two hours earlier is a mistake. Despite this error in judgement, we made the vital stop before heading back to the airport. And while we walked out feeling 10 pounds heavier, it was well worth it. It was cheap, local and the food fresh and tasty.

Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/13654549@N06/

Image Courtesy of Flickr

Other eating options are: Das Weisse Haus but make sure you book well in advance. And for breakfast , try Die Herren Simpel.

For vintage shopping try the Schanzenviertel or Karolinenviertel, particularly Marktstrasse. There are loads of cool boutique stores dotted around.

Kunst Kiosk for design products and their monthly art exhibitions.

If you want to mix coffee with shopping try Kaffee Stark.

hamburg

Around the city, Hamburg really is a lovely place. It’s not the first place you’d think of going, but that’s the charm of it. Surrounded by water, it’s easy to get around. There aren’t hoards of tourists and the inner city has a very student feel. As usual, if I mentioned everything to do there, this would end up being an essay. But quickly:

Reeperbahn: Europe’s biggest red light districts, with Herbertstraße closed off by a wall for minors and women. By all means, walk past, but if you do down there, you’ll be greeted with some hostility. Still, worth checking out as there is some great street art around the Reeperbahn.

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Planten un Blomen: it’s Europe’s largest Japanese garden and it’s lovely.

Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/clausmorell/

Image Courtesy of Flickr

Alster Arkaden: if you have money to burn, come here to shop.

Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/fstifter/

Image courtesy of Flickr

Finally, if you’re coming to Hamburg via Lübeck, be prepared for over an hour bus ride to get into the city. If you can, try and fly into Fuhlsbüttel. -Vanessa.

latke

This week I am handing over my weekly spot to a guest contributer – Lèonie Sidgwick. Lèonie grew up reading pictures books and never stopped. She loves all things pictorial and she has created an image bank of inspiration in between working on various other projects.  Lèonie is a fellow book worm devouring photographic text books, Illustrated novels and books with weightier topics, I thought she would be perfect for the Books to Read and Love section – Lauren.

Latkes and Candy Canes and Satire, Oh My!

Regardless of your religious persuasion, December is a time when families get together, and Lemony Snicket’s ‘The Latke Who Wouldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story’  is one of those brilliant childrens books that will keep the adult contingent as entertained as the kids.

As with all of Lemony Snicket’s books, the tone is satirical but funny throughout as the story reveals how a Latke is born in a house that is viewed with suspicion in the village for its lack of Christmas lights. Then, with perfect storybook logic, the Latke screams as it is fried in hot oil and escapes out of a window to continue its adventure. Echoing the tale of the Gingerbread Man leaping out of the oven and running away, the Latke meets a bossy string of fairy lights who dismisses him as “a hash brown”. Lisa Brown’s slick retro illustrations are a spot on foil to the satirical story, crisply heightening the angry Latke’s increased frustration at not being understood by a candy cane and pine tree whilst a cheeky squirrel in a Santa hat peers on from the corner of the page.

Snicket manages to squeeze in informative passages that explain the differences between Christmas and Hannukah in detail neatly into the action and younger readers will enjoy screaming along with the Latke throughout. Like all good fairytales the story is about finding a place where you belong but that doesn’t mean there’s a happy ending for everyone, [it IS a Lemony Snicket book after all]… - Lèonie

This year amongst creating pantomime outfits and fashioning glamorous neck warmers, I have been finding it really hard work getting the time for much Christmas shopping and what I have managed has been snatches of frantic online searches for ideas for my friends & family. I’m sure I’m not the only one,  so I’ve gathered together some gift ideas, all under £20 to save some of the hassle. – Morgan.

Ceramic Pink Wafer Box By Robert Archard £20 Beyond the Valley

Urban O

Ceramic Jam Ring Box by Robert Archard £20 Beyond the Valley

Beond the Valley

Now Panic & Freak Out Mug by Cool & Collected £8.50 Not on the High Street

Now Panic

Love Magnets by Jo Heckett £17 Not on the High Street

love-sq

Bow Tie Glitter Necklace £19.50 Tatty Devine

Tatty Devine

Photoprint Tea Towel Set of 2 £8.90 Zara Home

Zara Home

Chocolate iPhone Cover £12 Urban Outfitters

iphonecase01

Elm Tree jewellery stand £16, Urban Outfitters

Elm Tree

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