THIS year it wasn’t difficult to find great food gifts for under €10.
There are wonderful, good-value treats to be found. Supermarkets have plenty of offerings from big brands, but this year I looked for more speciality or new products and was spoilt for choice.
You can’t go wrong in shops such as The Chocolate Shop, On the Pig’s Back and The Real Olive, all in the English Market, Cork, Urru in Bandon; Farm Gate, Midleton; Cinnamon Cottage, Rochestown, Cork; Country Choice, Nenagh; McCambridges Galway; Ardkeen, Waterford; The Village Grocer, Castlemartyr; Rohu, Inishannon; Cavistons, Avoca and Fallon & Byrne, Dublin and great farmers’ markets countrywide.
Of course, we can make our own treats, and I bought great ceramic jars in Dunnes Stores reduced from €15 to €4 for filling with biscotti (they keep well) or other seasonal biscuits. You could break up delicious chocolate bars such as the organic bean to bar Wilkies (Chocolate Shop and elsewhere) or fill with mini Green & Black bars.
Any jar nicely tied with ribbon will be appreciated, but make sure it has a good seal so baked goodies stay fresh from when you make them up to when they are opened.
Watch out for our mince pie survey on December 16
Marks & Spencer Wobbly Penguin Tin €9
Tasters were undecided between this attractive tin of double chocolate penguin biscuits for kids and their own preference for delicious brandy snaps (€7.50) and Tartufini Dolci, chocolate covered nougat sweets (€6).
There is also handy clementine and cranberry curd (€3.70) and Rosebud beetroot (€3) to minimise work on 25th.
Olives et Al Preserved lemons €9.50
I spent a lot of time preserving lemons that I managed to grow myself once, but this jar is just as satisfying.
The salting of the lemons brings out their flavour, so you don’t need more than half a lemon for four servings. Chop one up, skin and all, and add to tagines and stews (lamb and chicken are wonderful with it) and add to olive oil for a simple pasta sauce and to elevate grains such as quinoa.
Buy for anyone interested in Eastern cooking.
From Bradleys, North Main Street, Cork and other outlets.
Olives West Cork olive oil 1 litre €9.95
Olive oil makes a terrific gift and a decent bottle like this makes a substantial contribution to a household.
Last year I featured great oils from The Real Olive Company/Toonsbridge Dairy, and this one is from a newer company based in Lisavaird.
Made from Spanish Empeltre olives for a mildly fruity, smooth oil with a light bitter aftertaste.
From Bradleys, Cork, farmers’ markets and speciality food shops nationwide.
Tesco Bauble Biscuit Kit €3.99
A bag of gingerbread mix to make and bake comes with a syringe filled with icing sugar, a bauble template, sprinkles, and red ribbon to hang the finished, sweet decorations. This will occupy a few happy hours between school and Christmas Day.
We also liked the reusable tin penguin filled with shortbread (€6.99) and a tubular Tesco Finest tin filled with delicious dark chocolate ginger biscuits (€3.99).
Opies Black cherries and figs €8.95 per jar.
Figs preserved in a light syrup flavoured with Courvoisier would make a great gift, but also an easy yuletide dessert with ice-cream or yoghurt.
The black cherries in a syrup flavoured with kirsch will be great as a filling with cream in a simple chocolate cake, resulting in a version of Black Forest gateau for a ’70s nostalgia foodie trip. Nice jars.
From Bradleys, Cork, and Amazon.
Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms Cep Oil 100ml €8
In an attractive corked bottle, this olive oil flavoured with wild ceps is delicious sparely drizzled on toasted sourdough spread with ricotta for easy nibbles.
Good on potatoes too, and over pasta or scrambled eggs for an easy supper. In food shops.
Lidl gingerbread house €4.99
Aldi has a good DIY gingerbread house, but Lidl‘s ‘Here’s one we made earlier’, is fully formed and ready to be a centrepiece of a party table.
We also liked the Favorina dark chocolate Florentines (€2.99) which would be perfect in an attractive jar as a gift, perhaps with some sugared almonds (€1.49) — good as a stocking filler too.
The Chocolate Garden Salted Caramels €5; Pandora Bell Sweet Liquorice €4-€4.95
These two Irish companies are always experimental and worth a look at on line.
The Chocolate Garden salted caramels have a soft centre with just a little saltiness. Saltiness is also a good combo with liquorice (very Nordic), as well as the sweet liquorice pictured here from Pandora Bell.
They make good nougat too. From O’Keeffe’s St Luke’s, Cork, as well as other shops countrywide. Good stocking fillers.
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