Check yourselves in for festive fun at Hotel Chocolat

Hotel Chocolat chocolate Christmas tree

We’ve been busy doing lots of Christmas-themed posts in the past couple of weeks. So much so that we need to give our own Christmas plans a little more attention maybe – especially on the Yuletide gift front.

Hotel Chocolat packaging | H is for Home

We’ve just been sent a beautiful chocolate parcel by Hotel Chocolat and it got us thinking… chocolate has to be the best foolproof Christmas present ever. We’re don’t know the exact percentages involved, but surely there aren’t many people who don’t like a bit of chocolate! In fact, in all my years, I’ve only ever met one person that doesn’t like chocolates… and I think they were just in denial! You can be pretty confident that a present involving chocolate will be a big hit with most people.

Christmas Hotel Chocolat

The standard newsagent bar of chocolate is fine for everyday consumption however, at Christmas you want something just a little bit special – whether it be superior quality, creative flavours or festive themes & packaging. Fortunately, Hotel Chocolat has built it’s reputation on fulfilling all three.

Hotel Chocolat Christmas stocking | H is for Home

Chocolate is the perfect gift idea for grown ups and for children. Kids especially like the fun shapes, novelty packaging, exciting flavours and quirky twists on a Christmas theme. The chocolate parcel stocking we received contains some lovely little treats including creamed caramel puddles, a sleigh team and Santa on a stick!

Children's chocolate from Hotel Chocolat | H is for Home

The kids’ section on the Hotel Chocolat website contains a myriad of chocolate-themed Santas, snowmen, robins, penguins, snowflakes, puddings and the like. We’re looking forward to trying our novelty reindeer/ we enjoyed sampling our novelty reindeer, but perhaps most grown ups will be looking towards more sophisticated options.

Hotel Chocolat & Prosecco gift box

The classic champagne & chocolate springs to mind. A variety of choices are available on this front. There are other boozy options too including gin, Prosecco or even beer & chocolate collections. Or how about incorporating the chocolate into the drink itself with delicious salted caramel cocoa vodka?

Hotel Chocolat wreath box

There are things for the whole family to share – such as Christmas crackers, advent calendars and tree decorations. There are hampers too with something for everyone to enjoy. Some of the hampers and boxed collections are so attractive that they’d make a wonderful centrepiece display for those festive get together meals and parties.

Hotel Chocolat subscription box

The Hotel Chocolat website is a joy to browse – full of tempting choices for all occasions. Chocolate is wonderful gift for Christmas, however – Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and anniversaries provide plenty of other chocolatey opportunities too!

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Luxury home-made mincemeat

Jars of home-made mincemeat | H is for Home #recipe #Christmas #ChristmasFood

Many people don’t like thinking about Christmas until the beginning of December – I know I don’t! However, there are a few things that need to be prepared well in advance for them to be at their peak for the big day. Christmas cake, sloe gin, piccalilli  and home-made mincemeat are just a few.

Home-made mincemeat mixture | H is for Home

I’m very fussy about my mincemeat; I don’t like it to be overly citrusy – so, very little orange or lemon zest & juice and no mixed candied peel. In addition, it needs to be veggie – so can only contain vegetarian suet. The only way to ensure it tastes the way I like it is to make it myself. A very easy job and well worthwhile. It works out much cheaper than the cost of ‘luxury’ jars of the stuff in supermarkets. Once made, potted up and put away correctly, it stores unopened for years!

Home-made mincemeat mixture being decanted into jars | H is for Home

Save my luxury home-made mincemeat recipe to Pinterest!

Luxury home-made mincemeat
Ingredients
  1. 200g/7oz currants
  2. 200g/7oz raisins
  3. 200g/7oz sultanas
  4. 100g/3½oz dried cranberries
  5. 100g/3½oz figs, roughly chopped
  6. 100g/3½oz prunes, roughly chopped
  7. 30g/1oz blanched almonds*, roughly chopped
  8. 1 medium cooking apple, peeled, cored & finely diced
  9. 300g/10½oz muscovado sugar
  10. 200g/7oz vegetable suet
  11. zest & juice of 1 lemon
  12. 3tsp mixed spice
  13. ½tsp cinnamon
  14. ¼tsp nutmeg
  15. 6tbsp rum or brandy
  16. 100g/3½oz butter, cubedHome-made mincemeat ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Put all the ingredients except the alcohol into a large saucepan over a low heat
  2. Stir to ensure the contents are well combined and the suet and butter have melted (about 10 minutes)
  3. Allow to cool completely before stirring in the alcohol
  4. Decant into sterilised jam jars - gently bang the bottom of each jar to fit as much of the mincemeat in as possible.
  5. Seal the jars immediately and store for at least a month before use
Notes
  1. *To blanch almonds, put them in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 1-2 minutes before draining through a sieve. Pat them dry on some kitchen paper or clean tea towel. You can quickly get the skin off one by one by pinching the broader, rounded end of the nut
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Price Points: Cold smoke generators

Cold smoke generators | H is for Home

A couple of weeks ago, we watched an ex-fireman show Nadiya Hussain how to easily and cheaply home-smoke food. All you need is one of these cold smoke generators and a cardboard box. I immediately thought I’d like to try my hand at it so investigated online how to get started.

The process of cold smoking is done without the need for actually cooking the food. This means it’s ideal not only for meats and fish but also – if you’re vegetarian like me – tofu, cheese, eggs, nuts and vegetables. Smoked almonds and garlic are amongst my favourite smoked foods.

There are lots of YouTube tutorials for making a cold smoker out of a cardboard box. However, if you’re not confident, ready-made ones are available from Hot Smoked. A variety of sustainable wood dusts are available to try when cold smoking such as alder, apple, beech, cherry, hickory, maple, oak and whiskey oak.

  1. 6”/12” stainless steel round pellet tube: from £6.59, eBay
  2. Jaeger Sparbrand stainless steel cold smoke generator: £24.46, Amazon
  3. Pro Q cold smoke generator by Hot Smoked: £34, Notonthehighstreet

Price Points: Coffee subscriptions

Coffee subscriptions | H is for Home

Last week, we featured online tea offers; this week, it’s only fair to investigate a few coffee subscriptions available. We only drink one or two cups each per day, but we like them to be made using good quality beans. Favourite of ours are full-bodied espresso beans – and decaf espresso beans for evening consumption.

  1. Coffee-Direct: from £5.99 per 227 sample bag (save 15% when bought on subscription)
    Probably the one of the three that has the most choice – there are 16 different Espresso roast coffees alone! Coffee-Direct explain:

    At the checkout you have the option to choose to receive your order periodically, at any frequency that suits you. What’s more, once your subscription is set up, you’re able to amend, skip, pause or delete your subscription at any time.

  2. Coffee REAL: subscriptions – £36 – £328 (3, 6 or 12 month coffee subscriptions, 6 – 52 bags of beans)
    Coffee REAL is a company with a charitable heart. 10% of the purchase price of their espresso blend goes directly to the Born Free Foundation – and, even better, the blend is made from 2 top coffees that originate in areas where Born Free run wildlife projects.
  3. Skinny Coffee Club: from £24.95 (28 day, 8-week and 12-week day/night programmes)
    Well, I never knew that you could drink coffee in an effort to help you drop a dress size or two! According to their blurb:

    Skinny Coffee Club is ideal for those looking to lose weight, fast. It’s tasty, organic and designed specifically to raise your metabolism, burn fat, fill you with energy throughout the day and leave you feeling fuller for longer.

    There’s only 63mg of caffeine and 6 calories in each cup. Skinny Coffee is comprised of ground coffee, ground green coffee bean extract, green tea extract powder, Garcinia Cambogia, Siberian ginseng powder and spirulina powder. I’ve no idea how much like traditional coffee it tastes but there are thousands of reviews on their website posted by satisfied (slimmer) customers!

Price Points: Tea subscriptions

Tea subscriptions | H is for Home

Working from home, we drink a lot of hot beverages during the day – the kitchen is less than 10 paces away from where we sit at the computer. We tend to have one or two cups of coffee in the morning, then switch to loose leaf teas for the rest of the day.

We drink all sorts of tea – black, white, green – depending on the time of day or what we’re eating. I also cook with tea leaves occasionally.

We tend to buy our ‘everyday’ tea (Yorkshire Tea) at the supermarket,our ‘special everyday’ tea from Fortnum & Mason, our usual brand white tea from Amazon and green and jasmine teas from a Chinese supermarket in Manchester.

Tea subscriptions were made for people like us. We’re always up for trying new ones that you wouldn’t normally find in the supermarket. What kind of tea(s) do you drink?

  1. Teabox: from £39.70 for 3 months
  2. Silver Lantern tea: from £36 for 3 months
  3. Fortnum & Mason: from £45 for 3 months

Price Points: Bucket barbecues

Bucket barbecues | H is for Home

What glorious weather we’ve been having – day after day of brilliant sunshine! It’s a bank holiday weekend, there’s only one thing for it BARBECUE!

If, like us, you only have a small garden or patio, bucket barbecues are a much more practical option than one of those super-duper barbecue grills. Much as we’d love one kitted out with quadruple gas burners, rotisserie, warming cupboard and instant ignition – we’d have no room for table and chairs… or us!

The Hema bucket barbecue (#1) is so affordable, we could buy two and have one each. One for Justin’s steak / burger / rack of ribs and the other for my vegetable skewers and veggie sausages. I’m not best keen on them being cooked side-by-side.

My favourite is the Fortnum & Mason eau de nil number. It’s not dissimilar to the budget Hema example and is almost 3 times the price. By way of justification, I really like the detailing of this one and the fact that you can lift the grill off by the handle – vital when my kebabs need rescuing quickly from certain cremation! Oh, and call me shallow… but I do love the classic F&M logo too.

What’s your favourite barbecue food?

  1. Bucket barbecue: £15, Hema
  2. Gentleman’s Hardware barbecue bucket – black: £26.91, Amazon
  3. BBQ bucket in Eau de Nil: £40, Fortnum & Mason