Christmas Food & Gift Guide
The Photographer’s Table isn’t just about sharing my photography and recipes, it’s also about supporting local and sustainable people, makers and brands. Whether that’s telling their story or researching why they’re the best in their field, they own their business because they have a passion and we want to support them! With this in mind, I thought I’d bring up the “C” word… Yep, Cake. No wait… CHRISTMAS!
I’ve been very fortunate to meet and work with some amazing people over the past year. So I’ve challenged myself to shop local and support the producers I work with and I want you to do the same!
Here are a few reasons why you should consider shopping locally:
- Boosting your Local Economy – Research by local authorities shows that for every £1 spent with a small business 63p stayed in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business.
- The Ethical Choice – When you shop at local butchers, bakers, farm shops and green grocers, it is likely that a percentage of the produce has had a short field-to-fork journey. Along with supporting local farmers, it means the food is likely to contain more nutrients and have less packaging.
- Personality and Character – The fantastic thing about independent businesses is that they are run by people… REAL PEOPLE! You will usually find they add character to the community and a touch of warm, welcoming personality.
- Contributing to a Dream – Through supporting your local businesses, you are actually helping to support local producers who have decided to quit the norm and do what they enjoy every single day. You’re paying for passion and dedication… That stuff is priceless!
- Quality over Quantity – Because each and every maker is passionate about what they do, their work is to the highest of quality! As a creator, you don’t put out satisfactory work and always strive for the best.
How Local is Local?
As many of you know I’m normally found somewhere in Wales, Shropshire and the South West, so my ‘local’ is quite broad. There are a few people on this list who have online sites, so no matter where you reside you can still support them!
For the Big Day
I know it would be much easier for you to sit on your sofa and do an online shop, or to go to one store and buy everything in one go, but where’s the fun in that? No one likes doing the Christmas food shop, so why not make it more enjoyable by putting a few smiles on the faces of those who are passionate about what they do? Turn your big shop into a plan of action and head to your local shops over the course of a few days. Not only will it be more enjoyable but I can guarantee you won’t be barged into with a trolley!
Shrewsbury Market Hall
Held in the Market Hall in Shrewsbury, the award winning market has been running since 1965. It has been home to many traders, offering fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry, fresh fish, delicatessen, books, china, antiques, collectables and contemporary arts and crafts to name a few.
Mold Farmers Market
Found in St Mary’s Church Hall in King Street every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month, Mold Market is the place to find a great range of freshly produced food, drink and crafts by local farmers and skilled crafts workers.
Hope Cottage Farm Shop
Ran by the farmer rearing the animals, Hope Cottage Farm sell everything including joints of meat, sausages, raw milk, honey and eggs. What more could you want on your doorstep?
Morgans Country Butchers
Recently awarded Britain’s Best Sausage with a 35 year old secret recipe, these guys know a thing or two about butchery! Not only are they nationally recognised, local chefs can’t recommend them enough. Imagine having the country’s award winning sausages for breakfast or whip up some pigs in blankets for the ultimate treat!
Chathams Dairy Farm
Just outside of Bridgnorth lies this little Dairy with a big impact. Supplying locally made butter, cheese and eggs along with their very own raw milk, this is Shropshire’s alternative to Hope Cottage Farm!
In the heart of Shrewsbury is this lovely deli supplying the biggest range of cheese I’ve ever seen! A Must for your Boxing Day Cheese Board!
Kills two birds with one stone, metaphorically of course, and get your hands on Moyden’s Cheese at Appleyards Deli. My favourite is the Ironbridge Blue! These guys are also well renowned among my chef friends.
Mossel & Croust
We’re heading back down to the South West with this one. Richard and Julie are the loveliest people I’ve ever met and they create the tastiest vegetable crackers. Not only are they gluten free but they’re also reducing waste by embracing ugly produce and making it into something lovely. In true Cornish style, you can find them at local markets in Mousehole and Sennen. You can also buy them online.
Another one of our Abergavenney Food Festival finds, Droitwich Salt is sourced from one of the oldest and purest brine springs in the world. The salt is harvested by hand at Churchfields Saltworks where the gentle process of crystallising the natural brine to pure salt is done using renewable energy. You can buy their salt over on their website and if you like a little indulgence, add a jar of their Salted Caramel Sauce to your basket.
Mostyn Kitchen Garden
Mostyn Kitchen Garden is a Victorian walled garden set in the grounds of Mostyn Hall in North Wales. The garden is run as a social enterprise and is used to grow a wide range of fruit and vegetables. All their jams, chutneys, pickles and sauces are produced in small batches and sold at local markets and in artisan shops. My favourite is their cranberry sauce, perfect for Christmas.
Now where would we be without a little bit of chocolate at Christmas? Tell the massed produced tins to move over, we have something better coming through.
The Little Welsh Chocolate Company
Adam and I met these guys at the Abergavenny Food Festival. At first we couldn’t get anywhere near their stall but perseverance paid off! From delicious bars to chocolate drops that fit perfectly in your car door pocket I may add, then you’re certainly not going to struggle to find something for everyone with their range.
I’ve learnt a lot about forging in this past year so when the Chocolarder popped up on my Instagram feed with Cornish Gorse Flower Chocolate I could resist giving it a go. If you’ve ever heard of eating Gorse flowers before then you’ll know they give off the most beautiful coconut taste!
Ceramics & Pottery
Whether you’re looking for a travel mug for a friend, new plates for Christmas dinner or just a beautiful decoration to hang on your tree, we’ve got the people for you!
Kara Ford Ceramics
I met Kara back in September after discovering her Travel Mugs in the Tonic Gallery in Salcombe. We spent the day together talking all things pottery and photography and after that day I have a greater appreciation for handmade pottery. I’ve chosen Kara’s Travel Mug to feature as they are insanely beautiful and encapsulate her incredible skills. Every mug Kara makes has to be a specific diameter so that when they’re glazed and fired, the Silicone lid fits perfectly without spillage or the risk of it popping off! Please find the link to her website here. She will be reopening her shop in the first week of December so make sure you sign up to her newsletter for updates.
Instagram is a great thing and that’s how I stumbled across Myfanwy and Tom Gloster. Based in Porthmadog, the couple, along with their dog Arthur run a little shop and online store selling the most beautiful pottery. On a daily bases you can find Myfanwy on their Insta stories talking about all things business, life and general ongoings. She truly encapsulates the ‘Personality and Character’ aspect of supporting local businesses. I’ve bought three mugs, two miniature pumpkins and a lantern from these guys but at the moment they have a limited stock Christmas decorations that would go great on your tree!
We all have someone picky in our lives and it’s hard to buy them any sort of present. So why not give them the gift of food!? Surely you can’t go wrong?
Wild Shropshire by James Sherwin
James has been a huge part of TPT from the very beginning and I think I’ve eaten is his restaurant at least 6 times! Not only is the food amazing but James and his team will treat you to an experience, not just a fancy meal! Wild Shropshire have been pushing boundaries this year and 2020 will be even better. So grab a voucher and keep your ears open, because you’re going to want to treat it like Willy Wonker’s Golden Ticket!
Twenty Seven by Jamie Rogers
Jamie and his team have just been awarded Taste of the West Best Restaurant and well renowned in the area! Talking of Willy Wonker Tickets, you can buy gift vouchers and afternoon tea golden tickets from the restaurant and by phone, so give them a call to get your hands on them!
Sponsorships, Memberships & Courses
Again, another set of present for anyone, but also work perfectly for those loved ones who have everything but probably not these…
Hilltop Honey Adopt a Bee
This is a popular item amongst budding beekeepers, honey lovers and Hilltop Honey fans. They can’t dispatch your adopted bee out to you, but they will dispatch you some bee-rilliant goodies and you’ll know that your adoption will being helping the dwindling bee population!
Glosters Mug Club
Okay, so I could have mentioned this above but we’re in a different section now so here goes. Every now and again Myfanwy will update the shop with some very exclusive items, one of which is their Mug Club. The concept is you sign up and when it gets to your selected month, they send you one of their secret creations! I missed out on Octobers Mug and I was absolutely gutted when I saw this beauty! Not only that, they also run courses and workshops!
Kara Ford’s Pottery Club
Another mention, but I’m not sorry! Recently Kara launched her Pottery Club or patron. A patron is a where makers can connect with their community and share their skills and products. Kara offers two options ranging from £3 – £9 a month with all the very best exclusives like first access to her store and pottery tutorials. Along with her Pottery Club she also offers 121 Pottery Lessons in her beautiful Somerset Studio.
This is specifically for anyone living in Flintshire, so very close to home for me. FlintShare is a community ran project of people who enjoy local, sustainably produced food. As members they enjoy growing, sharing and eating our produce and socialising together. A membership to FlintShare gives you access to healthy fruit and vegetables grown to organic principles, a chance to learn about growing food in a friendly, supportive atmosphere and develop your gardening knowledge and they hold social gatherings such as paella evenings, BBQs, apple pressing days, willow weaving, and more!
For Furry Friends
If you’ve ever met me, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of dogs. So Christmas wouldn’t be a celebration without getting a gift for every member of the family.
Pupcakes Dog Bakery
Local to home, Pupcakes Dog Bakery offer a wide range of doggy treat and around Christmas the bakery is always excited to produce a deliciously inspiring array of healthy themed goodies to mark the occasion! Buy online or find them at one of the local markets this festive season.
Knots & Buttons Snoods – Have you ever seen a dog in a snood? Well up until a month ago, neither had I. Obviously I bought one, first for the smallest and youngest member of the pack, Gillie. These snoods are beautifully knitted in a range of colours and are made to fit any size dog! Not only that, they look incredibly cute and adorable when out for a walk! You can find these over on Etsy.
Homemade With Love
Finally, why not make some homemade gifts? You can head to your local producers and pick up the ingredients to make the below:
- Put the fruit into a preserving pan or large heavy-based saucepan. For blackberries, add 50ml of water and 1½ tbsp of lemon juice; for plums (halved and stoned), use 150ml of water; for strawberries, add 3 tbsp of lemon juice (no water); and for raspberries, add nothing.
- Bring to the boil.
- Lower the heat. For blackberries, simmer for 15 minutes; for plums, simmer for 30-40 minutes; for raspberries, simmer for 2 minutes; for strawberries, simmer for 5 minutes. The fruit should be soft.
- Tip in the sugar, stir over a very low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Raise the heat, bring to a full rolling boil, then rapidly boil blackberries for 10-12 minutes, plums for 10 minutes, raspberries for 5 minutes or strawberries for 20-25 minutes – don’t stir though – until the setting point of 105C is reached.
- Remove from the heat, skim off any excess scum, then stir a knob of butter across the surface (this helps to dissolve any remaining scum).
- Leave for about 15 mins so the fruit can settle.
- Pour into sterilised jars, label and seal.
500ml Granulated Sugar
75ml Liquid Honey
125ml Unsalted Butter
5ml Vanilla Extract
- In a heavy saucepan, stir together the sugar, honey and cream.
- Place over low-medium heat stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Attach a thermometer ensuring the bulb does not touch the bottom of the pan but is immersed in the liquid.
- Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Do not stir till the mixture reaches 240’F.
- Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.
- With a wooden spoon, beat constantly till the mixture cools and thickens slightly.
- Pour into a well-buttered 8×8 inch lined tin.
- Cool for 10 – 15 minutes, score slightly with a sharp knife.
- Allow to finish cooling before cutting.
170g Hilltop Honey
265g White Granulated Sugar
1tbsp Baking Soda, sifted
200g Dark Chocolate
- I know some people don’t like sifting ingredients but sifting the baking soda is really important. Be sure to do that before you start the next step.
- Gather all of your ingredients and supplies because this recipe goes very quickly.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment and have it nearby. A silicon spatula also comes in handy with this recipe.
- In a large pot, pour in the sugar and honey. Heat the sugar mixture for about 5 minutes, stirring it with a silicon spatula to ensure even caramelisation. During this time it’ll turn an autumn-like brown.
- Remove your honey mixture from the heat and then immediately add the baking soda. The mixture will foam up quite a bit, continue stirring until the baking soda completely dissolves.
- Pour into the lined baking tray and allow to cool
- Once cool, break into large pieces
- In the meantime, melt the dark chocolate over a bain marie.
- Dip the honeycomb in the chocolate and place on baking parchment to set.
I think I’ve covered everything, if I have however missed anything please let me know in the comments below!
Have a wonderful time preparing for Christmas!