Review: Gift Hampers by Caledonian Hampers

It’s getting to that time of year where Christmas is getting closer & you are thinking about gifts for people. And don’t we all have that one person (or people) who have everything & you just don’t know what to get them. I’m in the same situation this year & will be doing a hamper gift as it’s (hopefully) a better gift than getting someone something for the sake of it that they don’t really want.

Caledonian Hampers recently sent me one of their personalised hampers for me to review. I’ve never been too keen on pre-made hampers since they are a bit impersonal & often have loads of products you wouldn’t use often like lemon curd or weird & wonderful sauces.

I have to say I was impressed with the gift box I was sent. Presentation-wise there wasn’t much to shout about as the products came in a yellow box sealed with a ribbon & were cushioned in straw. However, the range of products in the gift box made up for it.

Gift Hamper

The company pride themselves on only including Scottish food & drink producers in their gift boxes, with a total of 60 producers supplying products. This made the hamper quite niche for me as it contained goodies such as Borders biscuits, Scottish rapeseed oils, seasoning from Simply Add Chilli & packets of oatcakes to name but a few products (see below for the full list). I would go as far to say that I liked 95% of the products supplied in the hamper!

Gift Hamper

With the hamper you can also choose to have a personalised bottle included. In the hamper I was given, there was a personalised bottle of Cairn O’Mhor cider, which is something I often pick up at the farmers market so it was a pleasant surprise!

Personalised Cider

Although the large hampers similar to the one I received are £50-60 each, given the amount of produce included as well as a personalised bottle of your choice, I think it’s good value for money. Especially when you compare it to hampers in stores this time of year where you get 5 pots of jam & some oatcakes for £25 because it’s a Christmas gift! One area that would be good would be the choice of what goes into your hamper. I know that’s a logistical nightmare for small companies but it would make that personalised gift all the more personal.

For all readers, Caledonian Hampers have provided an exclusive 10% off code until the end of November. When ordering, just use the code stuffnov to receie the discount!

Disclaimer: UK Gift Boxes provided the gift box free of charge

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BBC Good Food Show Scotland

Last week I attended the BBC Good Food Show as part of their official blogger team for the show. I had visited the show last year & enjoyed the atmosphere, producers & demos so I was hoping that this year would live up to expectations!

After watching Paul Hollywood & Mary Berry cut the ribbon to declare the show open, I had enough time for a quick wander before the first demo started at 11. One thing I did notice about this year was the amount of space! Last year’s show was rammed full of producers & it took a while to get from stall to stall due to the amount of people. This year, there were noticeably less stalls, which meant more room to move about but unfortunately meant there were less producers on hand.

paul mary

Being a big Great British Bake Off fan, I was looking forward to see Paul Hollywood & Mary Berry do their thing at the Chef’s Theatre. We were treated to a demo of a couple of dishes: Mary’s chicken & mushroom bake & a joint effort of Lemon Posset & Pistachio Shortbreads. All dishes looked good enough to eat & as luck would have it, all recipes were in the show guide so I’ll be able to reproduce the shortbreads for some christmas gifts this year!

The rest of the day was spent talking to different producers, watching interviews & of course, sampling & buying lots of goodies! Despite there being less producers than the previous year, it did take us a good 4-5 hours to get round all of the stalls. This may have had something to do with stopping to chat with most producers! The stand out producers for me this year were:

producers

Isle of Skye Sea Salt – They are one of the few salt producers who use the traditional method of evaporation. They have recently been awarded a great taste award.

Billington’s Deli – Winner of the BBC Good Food Show Scotland Deli for the second year, Billington’s have an amazing array of products available in their deli. They have a focus on artisan producers & won a big tick from me for stocking Rock Rose Gin that I have been dying to try for ages!

Scotia Spice – Winner of a bursary award for this year’s show, Scotia Spice provide recipe kits to create authentic Punjabi dishes. I will be doing a feature on this soon.

Plan Bee – Another bursary award winner, Plan Bee are actually a bee hive management company. They have hives across Scotland, including at the Two Fat Ladies restaurant & Glasgow city chambers. Their honey is the best I’ve ever tasted! Oh & they gave me a snazzy badge!

producers3

It wouldn’t be the Good Food Show without spending a small fortune on goodies. This year I had a budget & I was so surprised at how much stuff I was able to purchase & stay within budget:

– Ochil Fudge Pantry – I picked up a few bars of fudge, including their bakewell bar which is full of almondy goodness & whole cherries

– Heck Sausages – I had some last year & bought 4 packs of their sausages. The quality is amazing & there is little fat to them.

– Martin Miller’s Gin – I couldn’t go without picking up a bottle of this, one of my favourites!

– Plan Bee Honey

– Ramsay’s of Carluke Black Pudding – we’ve eaten a lot of this since we bought it, amazing quality!

– Piper’s Chicken Pakora – probably the biggest pieces of pakora I’ve ever eaten!

– Simply Add Chilli – as we’re both big chilli fans, we couldn’t resist picking up a jar of the extreme chilli seasoning

– Collective yoghurts – I had found their spiced pumpkin yoghurt in the supermarket recently. At the show, I picked up a few tubs, including their coconut & lime version which is very moreish!

– Edinburgh Gin – no I didn’t get more gin, honest! Instead, I picked up a lovely Harris Tweed hipflask & whisky set for my Dad’s Christmas

– Borders Biscuits – I got to the stall far too late as they had been ransacked & only had dark gingers left. It would’ve been rude not to pick up a pack!

As you can see, a lot of produce & we’re still working our way through this! Not to mention, the amazing goodie bag I received for being part of the blogger team which contained cute Warner Edward’s miniatures, a lot of cakes from Mrs Crimbles & vinegar & maramlades from The Little Herb Farm.

And I shouldn’t forget to mention that I also had a quick meet & greet with Mr Bake Off himself:

Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight 2014

As the title might suggest, this September, from the 6th to the 21st (yes it’s not quite a fortnight, more 16 days), there is a nationwide celebration of Scottish Food & DrinkScottish Food & Drink Fortnight

. The aim of the campaign is to get people more involved with food & drink from their local area by taking part in events or buying from local producers.

One of the campaigns is to aim to eat only Scottish produce for the length of the campaign. I’ll be honest, it’s not something I often pay attention to when buying food, especially fruit & veg so it’s something I think is worth giving a go. In particular, I’m interested to see if there’s a difference in taste & quality compared to what I normally buy. With the number of farmers markets & local artisan producers, there’s no excuse really for not buying Scottish. To find out when your next farmers market is, you can find out through the Visit Scotland site here (NB – the Scottish Farmers Market website appears to have been hacked as Google would not let me open the page)

Ok so I’ve mentioned buying Scottish food but what else is there on to get involved I hear you ask? There are a whole host of events lined up that you can view via Scotland Food and Drink. Here are my pick of the events coming up:

Loch Lomond Food & Drink Festival, 6-7 September

This year’s Loch Lomond festival promises to be bigger than ever! With a range of food producers, there is a lot of variety of Scottish produce to buy from companies such as Ochil Fudge Pantry, Eden Brewery, Hebridean Food Co  & Wwoof UK. There will be cookery demos from James Morton (of Great British Bake Off Fame), and others on the day. This year also sees the first Lochtober Fest, hosted by Loch Lomond Brewery, which will showcase beers from breweries all over the country. Entry to the festival is free during the day & there is ample free parking if coming from further afield!

Eat Drink Discover Scotland, Edinburgh, 12-14 September

A new festival celebrating all things foodie & Scottish based in Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Hall. Eat Drink Discover Scotland promises to be full to the brim of things to see, do, eat, drink & buy! There are over 100 Scottish producers attending with products covering all aspect of food groups & drink categories that you can think of! Ones to watch out for include Berry Good, Galloway Chillies, Plan Bee & The Wee Fudge Co.
[EDIT – after publishing this, the organisers have informed me that readers can get discount tickets by using the code EDDS2014]

In addition to all of that food & drink, there will also be chef demos from well-known Scottish chefs including Mark Greenaway, Tony Singh & a host of others. There will also be masterclasses on offer (for an additional fee) & skill sessions.

Living Food Festival, Cawdor Castle, 21 September

In it’s 9th year, the Living Food Festival in the Highland’s original food & drink festival, focussing on local, artisan & organic produce. On the day, there will be 50 producers selling their wares, family entertainment including face painting & balloon modelling & musical entertainment. In association with Slow Food Scotland, there will be 10 Scottish Ark of Taste products on display, allowing visitors to find out the stories behind some of Scotland’s most interesting food heritage.

Whether it is buying food from a local shop instead of the supermarket, attending one of the many events on offer or even going for a meal at your local independent cafe/bar/restaurant, Scottish food & drink is definitely something we all need to embrace a bit more often!

Disclaimer: I have not been asked to include any events or producers in my post. All are of my own choosing.