CHECKOUT (Christmas edition – December 2011)


Premium cookware… OXO Good Grips & Mermaid Cookware &

Panic is really starting to set in now! We have invited six people to our little cottage for Christmas dinner and didn’t really know where to start… Then we found Good Grips & Mermaid Cookware, AKA Santa’s little helpers! Imagine a gadget and Good Grips have it, from the best peeler we have ever used (Y Peeler £5.62) to an ingenious Gravy/fat separator (£13.28) so you can cut the fat but still keep your gravy or stock. Another must have is the Instant Read Thermometer (£10.21), well you don’t want to make all your guests ill by serving undercooked meat! It’s easy to read, easy to handle and easy to clean. They even have a digital version too… OXO Good Grips is a hugely popular US brand, now making a name for itself here in the UK and we can see why. We love the OXO Tot kid’s range too, going to try them out on our new little nephew.

Instant Read Thermometer - so easy!

Now, if you want to cook the perfect turkey, you’ll need a good baking tray and we don’t think that you’ll get much better than Mermaid Cookware. The hard anodised trays make sure you have even heat distribution and they won’t warp or buckle at the hottest temperatures, even if you whack the oven up to max for extra crispy roasties. You can even use them on the hob! And as an added bonus, they are really easy to wash up too. Check out their website for the full range of tins, trays and bowls. Delia Smith loves this brand and she is rarely wrong, except maybe for her ‘where are ya, let’s be ‘aving you‘ rant!

Mermaid Cookware - Ideal for baking and roasting for 2


A Festive Tipple… Thornton’s Chocolate Liquor

Chocoholics? Us?

Thornton’s master chocolatier, Keith Hurdman created this liquor from a combination of luxury cocoa, vodka and cream. It can be used in desserts too but we prefer to drink it over ice. They have a great easy Christmas cocktail – the Christmastini. Just mix 50ml of Thornton’s Chocolate Liqueur with 25ml vodka, serve in a martini glass, float cream over the top and dust with cinnamon. We’ll be saving the rest of the bottle to make these on Christmas day. Handy having a brother-in-law who’s an ex-bar manager… We weren’t sure whether to put this in the drinks section (see below) but as Thornton’s are better known for chocolate, we left them here…

Fantastic Chocolate cookbook Green & Black’s Ultimate Chocolate Recipes Cookbook

A must-have Christmas pressie for chocolate lovers, edited by Green & Black’s Head of Taste Micah Carr-Hill. This recipe is on our ‘to bake list’.
Available on Amazon, click here to buy

A Healthy Chocolate Snack… Munchy Seeds

The hand painting isn't a necessity!

Munchy Seeds have introduced a totally delicious and “guilt free” new Belgian Dark chocolate mix with Chilli and Ginger. OK, these sound quite unappetising but they’re actually really nice. Saff’s been eating them at work instead of her usual daily bar of chocolate.

Standby cupcakes… The Fabulous Bakin’ Boys

Let the boys do the bakin'

These are great to have on standby in case you don’t get time to do any festive baking. They remind us of when cupcakes were flat, not piled high with icing. Typical Xmassy flavours – Mint Chocolate and Chocolate Orange. Both versions have a moist chocolate sponge with either a white, milk or dark chocolate flavoured topping. They have no artificial flavours and are baked in a nut-free bakery.

The Christmas cupcake range will be available at a special introductory price of £1.00 per pack of six (RRP £1.69) in Tesco, ASDA and Morrisons stores nationwide

Xmas Must Have… Quality Street

5 prizes to be won every day, that's quality!

It wouldn’t be Christmas without Quality Street. To celebrate its milestone 75th birthday this year there’s the chance to win one of five prizes every day up until 31st December 2011.

Prizes including laptops, TVs, games consoles and much more.

Quality Street is available from Tesco, Sainsbury and all good retailers RRP: 1kg Tin £10.50 & 400g Carton £4.38.

Open to UK, ROI, IoM and CI residents aged 18+. Daily closing dates; midnight each day from 05.09.11 to 31.12.11. Two late entry draws close at midnight on 31.01.12 and 31.03.12.

See for full Terms and Conditions and prize details.


We wish we could go to one of these fab restaurants on Christmas day rather than spending all day in the kitchen…

For great value… The Avalon

Avalon - the place where King Arthur's sword Excalibur was forged. And they serve a very good pint!

The six-course meal is £50 per adult and £20 per child under 12 and includes a glass of prosecco on arrival plus tea and coffee at the end of the meal. Reservations are essential and a deposit of £25 per head is required. Menu must be pre-ordered in advance.
Click here for the menu

The Avalon Pub and Dining Room, 16 Balham Hill SW12 9EB
T: 020 8675 8613

A touch of decadence… The Gilbert Scott

We're sure it'll be busier on Christmas day...

Handy if you’re in the Kings Cross area or lucky enough to be staying at the St Pancras hotel. Their festive menu is available for lunch and dinner in our Private Dining Room throughout December.

Christmas Day, 25th December Open from 12:00 to 6:00pm. Festive 7 course tasting menu at £99 per person* with our sommelier’s selection of matching wines for £49 per person* (additional service charge of 12.5% applies). Deposit required for full menu price.

The Gilbert Scott
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
Euston Road

A lovely local… The Tufnell Park Tavern

A proper pub, serving proper food

Ah, Tufnell Park, where Saff lived for several years and would often frequent this pub.
Great value at £35 per person / £20 (under 12).
Click here for the menu

162 Tufnell Park Road,
London N7 0EE
To book call 0207 281 6113.

An Indian Twist… The Cinnamon Club

Christmas curry anyone?

Christmas cheer is given an inspired, Indian twist at The Cinnamon Club, housed inside the Grade II-listed Westminster Library and headed up by executive chef Vivek Singh.

Priced at £75 per person, the menu includes a welcome Cranberry Kick cocktail plus coffee and petit fours. Click here for the menu

The Cinnamon Club,
The Old Westminster Library,
30-32 Great Smith Street, SW1P 3BU

T: 020 7222 2555

Push the boat out… The Rib Room

I've gotta stop calling it The Bib Room!

Christmas private dining available throughout December (excluding Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve), for £75 per person and the Christmas Day set lunch available on 25th December for £225 per person. Click here for the menu
Call 020 7858 7250 or e-mail:

Saff’s meal at The Rib Room…

The Rib Room has had a huge refurbishment, courtesy of designer Martin Brudnizki. Michelin starred chef Ian Rudge, previously of Northcote has joined this prestigious and famous restaurant.

Situated in super posh Knightsbridge, Saffron was lucky to tuck into an amazing meal a few weeks ago.

And the prize for the world's biggest bowl goes to...

She sat down to a stunning three-course meal while I was sat at home eating a bowl of Cornflakes. To start she had Rib Room prawn cocktail served with Marie Rose sauce and gem lettuce £16, which tasted exactly as a prawn cocktail should, and served in the largest ever bowl.

Aged rib eye... (drawl) How jealous am I?

Main was Aubrey dry aged rib eye 250g (9oz) £26, an amazing juicy flavoursome steak, one of the best she’s ever had. Served with slow cooked plum tomatoes, Portobello mushrooms and steak fries and a bone marrow sauce.

Ginger parkin with cinnamon ice cream and caramel sauce

Flamin' hell... A bloke in a blazer making a blazer!

Dessert was also a winner, Ginger parkin with cinnamon ice cream and caramel sauce £8.50 and she was treated to a cocktail ‘show’ at the table where an aptly named ‘Blazer Cocktail‘ was mixed. It was super strong and tasted of both ‘danger and christmas’. Invented in the 1800s and made famous by pioneering mixologist Jerry Thomas, the
flaming whisky cocktail is poured from one Cafetière’ (randomly) to the next in a thrilling serve at the bar.

The wine list is presented on fully interactive iPads, shame you can’t order from them though…

If these prices scare you, don’t worry, as well as the à la carte menu, they also have a very reasonably priced set menu at just £19 for two courses. I am hoping I can return one day with her to sample it, the food sounds incredible.

The Rib Room,
Jumeirah Carlton Tower, 2 Cadogan Place, SW1X 9PY

T: 020 7858 7251


Christmas spirit… Martin Miller’s Gin

A Huskoodle - bet you've not seen one of them before.

We have been getting into our gin recently, must be getting older. This beautifully bottled gin is distilled using pure Icelandic spring water for the freshest, cleanest taste possible. The water is infused with a range of 10 hand-picked botanicals and essential oils in a secret recipe, to create a unique creamy soft palate, unlike any other gin.

Apparently it’s the gin of choice for the Dorchester, Kensington Roof Gardens, Hakkasan and Galvin at Windows

Available for around £22 for a 70cl bottle from Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Majestic, Spirited Wines, Nicolas and Wine Rack.

A gift for wine lovers… Half Wine

Don't worry, you simply drink twice as many bottles!

Newly launched website, specialises in fine wines by the half bottle. The 37.5cl sized bottles of wine gives you between two and three glasses. The founders have put together gift packs and tasting packs alongside the usual offerings; these selections make the perfect Christmas present for wine-lovers and a brother who is notoriously difficult to buy for. gift packs include: Champagne Gift Pack (2 x 375ml Guy Charbaut NV, Cuvée de Réserve Brut 1er Cru Champagne), The great 2005 vintage Bordeaux and Burgundy (4 x 375ml) for just £38.90 including delivery, The Dinner Gift Pack (4 x 375ml) – champagne, white, red and a dessert wine and Tasting Packs (choose your own). The wine club also offers a chance to taste new wines throughout the year. Available from £33.90

For Christmas drivers… Luscombe non-alcoholic drinks

Soft drinks, hard-hitting flavours!

For something a bit more special than the usual soft drinks, these will suit any non-drinkers over Christmas and new year. Or you could add them to cocktails. Luscombe produces sixteen different types of drink including juices, ginger beers and lemonade. Made in Devon, Gabriel David, the head of this family owned business, sources the ingredients direct from growers he trusts. We love the wine-like packaging.

Luscombe drinks are sold in 74cl and 32cl bottles at independent retailers nationwide, online at and and leading department stores including Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason and Harrods. Luscombe drinks are priced from £1.50.

A light tipple… Banrock Station Light Rosé


This is a perfect wine to start with on Christmas day, at only 5.5 per cent alcohol and 60 calories per glass, this vibrant rosé is full of red berry flavours and jam-packed with juicy strawberry, raspberry and cherry.
Approx £5.45

A classic… Mount Gay Rum

‘Now don’t laugh’ said the rum to the pretty cocktail, ‘my name is…’

We obviously liked this for the name… The oldest brand of rum in existence, has been produced on Barbados with passion since 1703. Expertly fashioned from rich sugar cane and with the pristine, coral-filtered water native to the island. They make great cocktails too like this Mount Gay Cinnamon Kiss (pictured above).

RRP £16.99 70cl Available at all major supermarkets and specialist drinks retailers  

Seasonal treats

Scandalicious… A Swedish Christmas at Harrods

Jar 1 couldn't wait to get jar 2's top off for a special kiss under the mistletoe

Better than Ikea's

Having a Swedish sister-in-law has resulted in us growing quite fond of Swedish food, especially at Christmas. Harrods is launching an exclusive range of Swedish products, many of which will be completely new to the UK. The array of treats will be available right up until Christmas day, including Almnäs Tegel, a mature cheese, Kalix Löjrom, caviar from the tiny whitefish living in the Gulf of Bothnia, wild boar salami and an organic lingonberry jam

For further details on Swedish food and gastronomic experiences go to

Boxing day essential… Garner’s Pickled Onions

Pickled onions will always remind me of my first kiss...

Another necessity for Christmas – pickled onions. I love this jar!
The full Garner’s range includes Original Pickled Onions, Sweet Baby Pickled Onions and Pickled Shallots as well as pickled eggs, cabbage and chutneys.

A perfect food lover’s gift… Cookery School Vouchers
for the Beach Bistro at the Gallivant Hotel

The glasses went in two by two, hurrah! hurrah!

We hope to visit this gorgeously cute hotel in the new year, so keep an eye out for a blog post. The perfect gift for food lovers as the vouchers can be redeemed against a number of different courses throughout the year, including ‘Boat to Plate’ ‘Field to plate’ ‘Shoot to Plate’ and most recently ‘Festive Cooking’. The Beach Bistro Cookery School offers simple, seasonal cookery that you can do at home. Courses are perfect for anyone who can boil an egg to enthusiastic home cooks with a focus on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients.

Cookery School: £95 per person, 10am – 5pm
Cookery School for 1 & overnight for 2 with breakfast: £169.00
Cookery school for 2 & overnight for 2 with breakfast: £235.00

The Gallivant Hotel, New Lydd Road, Rye, East Sussex,
01797 225 057

Scented stocking filler… Jelly Belly iPhone cover

Have you 'bean' on that phone again

Saff loves this! They’re jelly bean scented! The smell lasts for a few months, great for a stocking filler. Even the camera lens hole is the shape of a jelly bean!

From £17.99, click here to buy

Do your bit for charity… The Mince Pie Project

Who ate all the pies?

The Mince Pie Project is a festive fundraising project in the form of an auction which will run on till the 16th. People will be able to bid for mince pies made by their favourite chefs (below) with all the proceeds going to Action Against Hunger and The Jamie Oliver Foundation.

Don’t forget…

Ordered your turkey yet?… field&flower

City boy James Mansfield and farmer’s son James Flower – the pair behind premium online meat delivery company field&flower – have unveiled their limited edition Free-range Christmas Turkey Box with Streaky Bacon. £85 including free delivery.

The box contains a fantastic free-range bronze or British white bird that has been raised and slow grown outside on a local Somerset farm. This box also contains three packs of free range streaky bacon. The birds are outside reared from six weeks left free to roam in extensive paddocks when weather permits

field&flower rear and butcher their own traditional breed cattle on Home Farm in North Somers where the Flower family has been farming for five generations.

Delivery date: Choose from Thursday 22nd or Friday 23rd December.
The last day to order a Christmas box is Friday 16th December.
Each customer/delivery will receive a 20% New Year discount voucher, to be used in January 2012. Click here to order

Look out for our January edition of Checkout…

If you have any new products, gadgets, launches or events planned, you can contact us at or message us on our Facebook page