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Conbini Katsu Ketchup
Built on the Japanese concept of yōshoku (a Japanese spin on western-style dishes) Conbini was founded by Holly Dalton, a professional chef with a lifelong love for Japan. The Irish brand comprises several fun, cutely illustrated sauces. As well as Sunday Sauce (similar to teriyaki) and its Onsen Hot Sauce, my favourite is her Katsu Ketchup. Whether you need something to dip your chips into, fancy adding a kick to curries or you want to add a Japanese twist to the likes of burgers or eggs, this sauce is addictive.
THE AUTUMN TREAT:
I recently spent an age in the Läderach giftshop at Zurich airport. Launched in 1962, the brand is the largest chocolate retailer in the country and now has five shops in London. If you haven’t tried it before, beware – it’s genuinely some of the best I’ve ever tried, and I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Recent additions to its autumn line-up of confectionary include this chestnut praline (pictured), which is made with milk chocolate and filled with smooth hazelnut gianduja and decorated with a green icing to represent the prickly outer shell of a conker. It’s almost too impressive to eat.
Dishpatch brings some of the UK’s best chefs to tables nationwide, with seasonal, restaurant-quality meals to finish at home. Billing itself as ‘the antithesis of Deliveroo’, customers can choose from a variety of dishes and menus from some of the most well-loved restaurants in London, such as Angela Hartnett’s Café Murano and El Pastor, and top chefs like Sabrina Ghayour and Georgina Hayden. Some of my favourite picks for this time of year are the St John ox cheek and pickled walnut pie (which comes with an enamel pie dish to keep) and Jose Pizarro’s ‘Spanish Croqueta Party’, which includes six each of prawn and garlic, jamón and blue cheese and spinach croquetas.
Kitchen Person by Rachel Cooke
In Kitchen Person, Rachel Cooke (a writer, critic and award-winning journalist who has written for the Sunday Times and the Observer) chronicles several food upheavals since she began writing about food in 2009: new TV cooks, Brexit, viral recipes, the home delivery phenomenon, and the pandemic. She journeys from her childhood in Sheffield with Henderson’s relish (which, in my opinion, is far superior to Worcestershire sauce) and her granny’s lamb chops, to a job interviewing top chefs and eating in fancy restaurants, to learning to shop and cook well herself, all the time growing more knowledgeable and opinionated about food. A must for anyone who loves delving into text-heavy cookbooks for pleasure.
Daylesford has launched some excellent bottled cocktails for winter 2023 – think yuzu margaritas, a pink pepper and plum cosmo and cranberry and cherry negronis. But what’s really caught my eye is its prettily illustrated bottles of gin and vodka, featuring designs by Hugo Guinness. Its fig leaf gin is fragrant and floral and is distilled with fig leaves and bergamot; and its sister bottle of organic vodka features British wheat grain organic vodka with hand-picked hops, fresh rosemary and thyme. I can already see myself buying one or two of these for friends’ Christmas presents.
Imogen Kwok X Rosewood London
This year, Rosewood London celebrates its ten-year anniversary. As well as a cool campaign between The Pie Room and Anya Hindmarch earlier this season, the five-star hotel has a really special residency with renowned food visionary Imogen Kwok until March. Hosted in the beautiful Mirror Room, the menu – in collaboration with Ruinart – allows guests to try Imogen’s visually striking, sculptural dishes first hand (she’s usually busy creating dishes for the likes of Dior and Loewe). Menu highlights include ‘peanut pearls’; pork terrine with Imogen’s signature radishes accompanied; red mullet with fennel and finger lime; and a pear and cardamom fruit tart. I sampled the menu at the launch event and can confirm everything tastes as incredible as it looks.
More Is More by Molly Baz
I’ve been cooking from New York Times bestselling author Molly Baz’s latest cookbook loads this past month. More Is More is a philosophy that encourages more risk-taking, better intuition and fewer exact measurements – which is just the style of cooking I love, especially when the pressure is on to conjure up something special when you have people over for dinner. A self-proclaimed maximalist, these recipes are big and bold (and admittedly probably not something you’d make on a Monday evening when everyone’s trying to be healthy, although there are some banging salad recipes) – highlights include her takes on drunken cacio e pepe, rarebit mac ‘n’ greens, crispy orecchiette with sausage ragu, and a breakfast sando.
London Essence Co
I love experimenting with different tonic waters and sodas, so I was pleased to see London Essence Co has launched two new flavours for autumn/winter. Both its Aromatic Orange & Fig and Raspberry & Rose sodas are light and low in calories, and have been designed to be paired with anything from tequila to vodka and gin. The former combines intense blood orange with a fig distillate, which I’ve been pairing with whisky to create a fun highball. The Raspberry & Rose soda has a pleasing hint of sharp blackberry and floral notes of lavender and rose – as well as pairing well with vodka, this mixer is complex enough to drink alone as a non-alcoholic option.
THE GIFT BOX:
On The Table
If you’re on the hunt for a great Christmas present, look to On The Table, a collection of sets curated from some of the best produce from independent suppliers across the UK. Founder Lucy Mee explains that the beauty of the collection is that there’s ‘nothing tacky and no wasteful, boring ‘filler’ items’ and I agree. My favourite is the ‘Cheese & Fancy Fizz’ box, which comes with a trio of British, small-batch cheeses, paired with Amie’s sparkling cremant de limoux, fire flame chilli jam handmade at the female-owned Single Variety Co and a bar of Harth Chocolate made in a micro bakery in Somerset.
These Days Bucks Sprit
Move over, Bucks Fizz. If you want to serve something a little cooler this Christmas Day morning look to These Days’s Bucks Spritz, a fun, orange refresh of the traditional tipple. With the same sippable low ABV, this new bottled cocktail swaps out the fizz with an on-trend orange wine base, before adding organic white wine, bitters and freshly squeezed orange juice from Natoora, then topping with soda. As it’s a ready-to-drink concoction, it just needs to be served straight from the fridge.
Pump Street Chocolate
Pump Street is a family run, award-winning bakery and craft chocolate maker from the village of Orford, Suffolk. This summer, the brand unveiled some new and improved packaging in soft ‘Suffolk pink’ paper, the same colour the exterior of Pump Street Bakery has been painted in from the very beginning. The team has also launched a new flavour – the Cookie Chip Chocolate Bar 60%, dark milk chocolate with chunks of Pump Street Bakery’s freshly baked cookie dough. The dough is baked to a caramelised crisp for added flavour and texture, and embedded into the chocolate ahead of the tempering stage to ensure the crumbs remain distinct and crunchy. It joins my two favourite flavours – Rye Crumb, Milk and Sea Salt 60%; and the Croissant bar 62% – alongside seasonal favourites such as Hot Cross Bun 60% and Panettone 70%.
THE KITCHEN COUNTER ADDITION:
Yiayia & Friends Chilli Oil
I’m a sucker for great packaging, so this vibrant collection of condiments, crackers and oils caught my eye in Selfridges. Exclusive to the department store, Yiayia and Friends is a project centred around the idea of reimagining the art of growing, cooking and sharing food. Part of the creative collection is this artistic, red bottle of cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, sourced from Crete and infused with fresh chilli. I can confirm the carrot breadsticks are extremely more-ish.