Back in February I had a good sort through my cook books and cleared some out with half an eye to making space for some new things on the shelf (a small flat imposes some sort of control on my book acquiring habits). One book I’d been looking at since before Christmas and have since got my hands on is Annie Rigg’s ‘Gifts From the Kitchen’. Annie Rigg’s C.V. is fascinating she’s been a food stylist for all sorts of magazines as well as on tour cook for the likes of Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones, I can’t help but wonder if she did heart shaped pastel sugar cubes for them as well.
I like the idea of making things for people although in real life juggling the time to create with how long perishable items can be kept, or how long they need to mature – well I think you can see where this is going. It’s at least one of the reasons that I’m always looking out for new/usable ideas. At first glance ‘Gifts From the Kitchen’ looked like a lot of confectionary and some pretty cakes (I can’t tell you how much I want to make marshmallows or how impractical it looks - they don’t keep and I don’t feel up to organising a sufficient number of marshmallow eaters as well as production on a single day.) However there’s more than just cake in here. Lots of chutneys, pickles, liquors, preserves, spicy nuts, even pasta (and okay so it’s sweet but how to make your own Nutella style chocolate spread – now that I can do) all sorts of good things in fact, and for all conceivable occasions.
What really sets this book apart though is the styling. Give or take a couple of things (mostly that chocolate spread recipe, but there are a couple of others I’m very pleased to have to hand) I could probably find most the things in here somewhere else in my extensive assortment of cookbooks but – and it’s a big but as my other new cookbook (Pam Corbin’s ‘Cakes’) highlights - styling is what turns something ordinary but delicious into an extraordinary present. Some of it’s simple enough stuff – toffee would make a nice enough gift, but toffee still in its baking tin tied up with ribbon and a little hammer... Or perhaps homemade herbal tea bags with hand printed labels and a vintage teapot?
I see a trip to tk maxx coming up and a good scour round the market for ribbons and the like, I will be prepared for Christmas this year (a ‘career’ in retail will make you think April = Christmas planning, by August it needs to be locked down). The blonde, my sister, and the Scottish one all have birthdays coming up soon so perhaps there will be some dry runs first. I did think at one point that this might be a good way to save money as well as doing something nice, the saving money thing doesn’t add up, but the more thought I give it the more I like the idea of making instead of buying. On the other hand it’s entirely conceivable that ‘Gifts from the Kitchen’ will be the staple birthday present of the year from me and I’ll just hope to receive the fruits of other people’s labours.