Food, wine, travel, music
Christmas gifts up to €5 Published 4/12/15 Irish Examiner
This year the recession is not quite over on this page, and the task set for me was to find delicious gifts for up to €5. I go to Iceland frequently and gifts exchanged there are usually beautifully wrapped modest tokens of affection. The are often hand-knitted hats, chcolate or sweet or biscuits which are often made as a family activity before Christmas. For me the season is about doing our best for those near us and that starts with where and what we buy. Irish food from small producers is getting better and better with new ones appearing at terrific markets and food shops before going mainstream in supermarkets. Not all products on this page are made in Ireland, but most of them are. I couldn’t fit in a simple egg timer (€4.50) by Dexam from Urru, Bandon. Useful for more than eggs, keep it near the hob and use when cooking vegetables, or bring it with you when answering the phone. It may save some saucepans burning. You could even time family members in the shower to keep water charges down! I also like the sandwich bags I spotted in SuperValu for €2.50. I use them all the time, not just for sandwiches, but to heat pitta bread, halved scones, slightly stale baguette. No scoring today, just, I hope, inspiration. Watch for my mince pie survey on 18 December.
Lettercollum Kitchen Project €2.50-€2.95
I chose these three from a decent selection for givers who like to keep it local. From fruit grown in the walled-in garden of the Clonakilty-based shop, quince jelly (membrillo) is traditionally delicious with Spanish manchego, but is also great with semi soft cheese such as Ardrahan, Durrus and Gubbeen. The peach chutney here is gorgeous for dipping with samosas and naan bread and on toast. The dukkah is a savoury mix of toasted nuts, seeds, spices and salt. Dip chunky bread in olive oil, then blot with this. Rose harissa and rosehip jelly also available and can be posted nationwide. Heavenly!
Farm Gate €4.50–€5
Like this one, the in-house chicken liver pate (€5) in many food shops is good value and a welcome gift for the festive season to serve on chunky bread or crackers. I paired it with their apple and sultana chutney €4.75 and a bottle from Ballyhoura of red mulled apple juice €4.50 (also in stores including SuperValu and at Mahon Point market). Ballyhoura also does a beetroot and apple juice. I still also love the original fresh style apple juice from Crinnaghtaun in Cappoquin which is available in some SuperValu shops.
Toonsbridge Dairy €2.50 –€5
This delightful shop (with weekend café) near Macroom has products made in house and selling good quality gifts from elsewhere which are also available on their Real Olive stalls nationwide and on line. I picked up Spanish extra virgin olive oil and Spanish sherry vinegar in attractive square bottles (€2.50 each), a ball of Italian style scamorza cheese (available plain or smoked) made in the dairy (€3.75 and available in larger) and an attractive hand-painted Tunisian dish, ideal for olives and dips (€4).
The Chocolate Shop €4.50 to €5
This stall in Cork’s English market cannot be beaten for variety at all price points. The €5 challenge was not as difficult as I expected. The superb Midleton-based Wilkies bean to bar organic chocolate comes up trumps at €4.95. London’s Akesson’s single plantation bar made from Bali-based Sukrama Farm beans €4.50 gives it a run for its money with superb milk chocolate flavoured with fleur du sel and coconut blossoms sugar. Michel Cluizel’s milk chocolate sardines are delicious fun for children €4.95. Available on line: chocolate.ie
Daisy Cottage brown bread mix from €3.75, honey €4
I found these two at The Roughty Foodie in Cork’s English market but the mixes are available nationwide. Daisy Cottage also does a gluten free version and a scone mix. This is a good one to give for the festive season when we so often run out of bread. Just add butter and buttermilk, but if you don’t have the latter, I often use yoghurt or a squeeze of lemon in regular milk for a few minutes to allow it to curdle. I paired this with an attractive slim bottle of Galtee Irish honey.
Crackers and cheese €3.49 – €5
There are terrific crackers available for under €5, and the Baking Emporium has several flavours. Sheridans cheesemongers crackers have a few flavours too, including this Irish brown-bread variety. I paired the latter with Hegarty’s mature cheddar available from many decent food counters nationwide. Like most cheeses, this can be kept in a cool place (or ‘fridge not at its coldest setting) for a few weeks.
Marks & Spencer €3.79 to €4.19
There are plenty of gifts here for under €5. We chose deliciously crunchy Made without Wheat ginger snaps for gluten intolerant friends €3.79, chocolate cornflake mini bites €4.19 for young and old kids, and seasonal mini iced chocolate biscuit penguins €3.79 to hang on the tree.
Tea and a treat €4.29–€4.99
Two teas caught my eye this year. A simple loose leaf Earl Grey from Dublin-based Niks Tea (in shops nationwide) is a full flavoured example of how much better loose leaf is than tea bags. However, Marks & Spencer’s pyramid see-through bags in cranberry and pomegranate variety have added hibiscus, dried apple, rosehips and liquorice root which sound like they could cure any ill effects of Christmas. I paired these teas with M. Greco chocolate covered candied lemon peel treats. From Italian shops nationwide (I bought in Delitaly, Cork), they also come in orange flavour (€4.99). Delicious for after dinner.