Healthy, Easy Cooking with Cast Iron

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It may seem that cast iron cookware has been around since the dawn of time, and there is probably a good reason for that. Although modern technology has given us perfluorooctanoic acid (also known as POFA – also a well known carcinogen) non stick coatings which might appear to be an easier alternative to a seasoned cast iron pan, the truth is your hand-me-down, hefty cast iron cookware that your gran’s mum’s sister passed onto her 75 years ago, will far outlive its modern non stick coated counterparts. Sometimes, even after just a year or two, a non stick coated pan may have started to peel or blister, which not only means it will no longer perform as non stick cookware, but also may leave bits of POFA coating in your cooking and not only ruin the taste but also make this a pretty unhealthy alternative. This is not to say this is true of all non stick cookware, as a decent quality non stick pan may well serve you well for years and years without peeling, scratching or blistering if treated with a little love and care, but a cast iron alternative is undoubtedly a healthy and easy option.

The first thing you will notice when cooking with cast iron is that it is heavy and incredibly durable. This durability and strength will, of course, add to its longevity although there’s no getting away from the fact that you will need two hands at times, or a pretty strong forearm, and please whatever you do, don’t go dropping those things on a tiled kitchen floor because you will regret it! So, safety out the way and onto the good stuff…..

solutions 2 smallFirstly, the aforementioned longevity. This is a massive plus side of cast iron cookware because you will never have to replace your cookware, and can even pass it on to younger generations of the family and it will continue to perform perfectly time and time again, making it an incredibly green and economical type of cookware.

Another fantastic element of cast iron cooking is the health benefits. When seasoned, cast iron pans require very little or no oil or fats, yet perform to the same standard as a coated non stick pan. The lack of (often harmful) chemical non stick coatings obviously reduces health risks and ensures you are eating only the food you put into the pan, and not elements of the pan itself!!

The density and weight of a cast iron pan ensures it is fantastic at distributing heat evenly, meaning great results from your cooking, and because it is such a tough material, the pan can be used at extremely high temperatures without warping, making it a fantastic option for searing foods that want a crisp outside without overdoing the inside (*drooling imagining a perfect cast iron cooked fillet steak…)

There is a little duty of care involved with cast iron, but it is no real hardship in return for having a lifelong cooking friend. When cleaning, simply scrub with hot water and a scrubbing brush – no need for abrasive chemicals or soaps – dry thoroughly and spray lightly with a little cooking oil. Wipe any excess off with a cloth or paper towel and store. Easy peasy.

So there’s the practical benefits, the health benefits, the economical benefits, but what about that all important style and appearance? Well, we can assure you cast iron cooking isn’t skrimping on aesthetics. Let’s face it, kitchen trends come and go, but there are some traditional and vintage looks that will never fade out of fashion and cast iron cookware is one of these. Its simplistic, timeless design sits well in any household, and a well looked after, well seasoned cast iron pan will simply gleam on your stove top, and look utterly divine despite its heft, practicality and ultimately important functionality.

To have a look at Typhoon’s great range of fantastic cast iron cookware, click here.

Kilner Drinks Dispenser Cocktail Recipes

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The Kilner Drinks Dispenser has without a doubt been our most successful product this summer, and continues to grow in popularity even though the garden party season is coming to an end. But just because we aren’t serving up delicious homemade lemonade in the sunshine, or basking in the garden with a Kilner drinks dispenser full of pimms and fresh fruit, doesn’t mean our beloved dispenser has to go away for the winter and gather dust. What with Halloween on the horizon, Bonfire night, the ridiculously long build up to Christmas, (and we’re sure you can find a few birthdays somewhere in the next few months) there are definitely enough reasons to keep on breaking out the cocktails.

Making a cocktail for a pitcher or dispenser is always a little trickier than making a cocktail for one. Sometimes you can just multiply the recipe by 20 and crack on, but the likelihood is this probably will taste nothing like the original individual cocktail and your guests will either be trollied or wonder why you’re serving them cordial and trying to pass it off as a Cosmopolitan.

We’ve hand picked a few pitcher cocktail recipes that can be used in a Kilner drinks dispenser, to make life a little easier for you and make sure you get your quantities right and impress your guests time and time again.

First and foremost, we may be charging into Autumn but we thought we’d better keep our favourite Pimms cocktail in there just to squeeze that last little bit out of the English summertime. The trick with the Margarita recipe is to remember to salt the rims of your glasses first. A little extra effort than just chucking the drinks dispenser on the table, but well worth it.

Pimms-and-Margaritas

Always an easy one to serve in bulk, Sangria is a great party cocktail. This watermelon version is delightfully tasty and refreshing. Keep a ladle or long spoon in your Kilner drinks dispenser so you can add a few melon cubes to garnish if you wish.

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A party wouldn’t be a party without a gin and tonic but why not put your own spin on it and try this gorgeous Gin and Elderflower cooler recipe from Gordons. The cucumber slices just finish this off perfectly.

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Strawberry and basil? Yes it sounds like an odd combination. One you eat with cream, and the other is an essential herb for a spaghetti bolognese but just trust us on this one!

Strawberry-Basil-Margarita

Last but by no means least, any experienced party host will know they need to offer a virgin option for the designated drivers, under agers or those that simply don’t fancy the boozy option. This cilantro jalepeno limeade is a great way to offer a non alcoholic option but keep things interesting.

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For all the equipment you need to make and serve your cocktails in style, including the Kilner drinks dispenser, check out our Drinkware section here.

Weekend Sale – 10% off all Typhoon Vintage Storage Sets

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The summer is coming to an end, the temperature is dropping. clouds are rolling in and the kids are back to school. So we thought it’d be a great idea to cheer you up with a little weekend sale. For this weekend only, we are offering a 10% discount on all our Typhoon Vintage Storage Sets!
The Typhoon Vintage range has been one of their most popular storage ranges for years now, and the recent addition of the stunning Summerhouse Blue colour has only served to increase its popularity. The retro style storage tins are all made from high quality, durable enamel coated steel and feature retro lettering on the front. The bread bins make a statement on your kitchen worktops with their contrasting beechwood lids, which turn over and double up as a chopping board – full marks to Typhoon for functionality! The airtight tea coffee and sugar canisters keep your brew making essentials fresh and on hand whenever you need them (around once every 30 minutes in our house!). The large storage canisters are fabulous for biscuit storage but can also be used for flour, or indeed whatever you feel like putting in them. The changeable labels are a nice touch, as you can have your tin saying “Biscuits”, “Cookies” or “Flour” or could even print up your own labels to add to the collection.
With children back at school, no doubt having left a trail of destruction in their wake, there’s no better time to have a deep clean, get the house organised and get harmony restored. Just in time for the Christmas madness!
Remember this sale only lasts for one weekend so hurry and snap up your Typhoon Vintage storage set before it’s too late!

Check out the sets by clicking on the links below.

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Make the most of the summer bounty by pickling and preserving!

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We’re coming to the end of August, which means we’re getting ever closer to the end of summer (*sigh*). Nights will be getting darker, the days will be getting cooler and it’ll be time to exchange leafy salads and barbecue food for hearty casseroles, soups, stews and pies. Although there will be a good variety of root vegetables available throughout the winter, there is significantly less choice than provided by the abundance of fruit and vegetables on offer throughout the summer months.

Although, here in the UK, we are lucky enough to live in a world where we can buy pretty much any fruit and vegetables year round, imported food does not compare to locally grown, fresh from the field produce. With such a vast decline in available fruits and vegetables in the UK winter, it seems only right that we get the most out of summer bounty and look to preserve as much as possible for later consumption. There are a number of ways we can pickle and preserve our fruits and vegetables that will keep for several months or even longer, if stored correctly. And most of the methods are fairly easy to do, if you have the right knowledge and equipment. Homemade jams, jellies, marmalades, fruit curds, cheese, butters, pickles, chutneys and relishes are all inexpensive to make and allow you to keep enjoying delicious seasonal specialities the whole year round.

Most preserving techniques can be done using basic kitchen equipment which most of you will already own, but if you plan on getting your teeth into preserving then there are a few bits of specialist equipment that will speed you up and make your life easier.

The first is fairly obvious. You will need jars and lids. It is possible to reuse old jars if they are washed and sterilised properly. To make sure your glass jars are clean and sterile, they must be washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water. Once clean and soap free, stand the jars upright on a baking sheet and place in a pre-heated oven (around 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4) for at least five minutes or until completely dry. This dries the jars, sterilises them and helps prevent cracking when hot preserves are poured in. A lot of recipes demand a cooling period of 15 minutes or so before the contents are transferred to the jars, so this is the ideal time to wash and dry your jars in the oven, so there is less of a temperature difference between preserve and glass jar, so making it unlikely to crack.

Although as mentioned, you can sterilise and reuse old jars, proper preserving jars with an airtight seal are the best way forward to get the most out of your preserving. Kilner’s Preserving range is perfect for this and very affordable. If you are using a recipe containing vinegar or substantial quantities of lemon, lime or orange juice, you will need to use a plastic coated lid to avoid corrosion. Waxed discs are also incredibly useful for sealing your preserves and keeping them fresh. Made from circles of paper with a thin coating of wax, they are pressed over the jar top when the preserve is still hot so the wax melts and forms a seal. The lid can then be put on top of that to keep the seal ultra tight. Labels are also a must have, be them plain labels from the local stationers or something a little prettier to decorate your homemade jars. Kilner do a fantastic range of wax discs, labels and lids to decorate your finished products. Always remember to label your jars once they have fully cooled or the labels will most likely not stick.
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An absolutely essential piece of preserving equipment is a large heavy based preserving pan. You could just use any large saucepan or stock pot, but be warned – preserves may spatter and can very easily burn. You need to make sure your pan is large enough to catch any spatter to avoid it catching you. Ideally a preserving pan with a lip for pouring and an ear shaped handle on the side plus a longer handle to carry with is perfect for the job. Around 9 litres should be big enough for most preserving needs, and if it has a graded scale on the side this is extra useful for jelly, fruit butters and cheese as the quantity of sugar etc added is dependent on the quantity of juice or puree.

Jam Funnel included in preserving kitAnother handy piece of preserving kit is a jam funnel. Inexpensive but very useful when transferring contents from pan to jar, a jam funnel will help prevent you dripping mixture down the sides of your jars, or onto your kitchen surfaces.

Muslin squares are another cheap handy preserving accessory, which you will come to wonder how you coped without. In many pickles and preserves, you will need to add spices, herbs or fruit stones and if wrapped in a muslin square, this makes them far easier to remove before the cooling the mixture.

When you are making jams or jellies, you may find that a scum forms on the top. This is perfectly natural and harmless but you will, of course want to remove it. Once the pan is off the heat, you can skim the scum off the top, but if this does not fully get rid of it all, try stirring in a knob of butter to disperse it.
Once your preserves are potted, sealed, cooled and labelled, they should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place. Light and heat will adversely affect the flavour, while damp or steamy conditions can cause mould on the surface. If mould does form, this does not necessarily mean your preserve is for the bin. Scoop the mould off and remove the top 2-3 inches of preserve. Dip a waxed disc in a strong spirit such as brandy or vodka, to sterilise and then reseal your jar.

Although most preserves can be cupboard stored, relishes must be frozen, as must chutney recipes which are designed to be eaten immediately.

However, most chutneys are a little different to jams and preserves, as they can rarely be consumed immediately. Generally speaking, they need to be left to mature or they can taste vinegary. Over time, the flavour will mellow and the chutney will taste far better. You should leave a chutney at least four weeks to mature, but ideally about 3 months. This can be true of some pickles, so be sure to thoroughly check your recipe. This is yet another reason why labelling is essential, so you know the date your pickles or preserves were potted. It is also a good idea to leave a gap on the label to add the date the jar is opened.

One term you will see again and again in preserve recipes is “setting point”. This is something you need to know when making a preserve. The setting point is the point at which the mixture has been boiling long enough to solidify into a spreading consistency. Pretty self explanatory, but there are some tricks and tips to gauge when your preserve has reached its setting point.

When making jam, a sugar thermometer is the easiest way to check the setting point. If the temperature reaches 110°C/225°F, it should be removed from the heat and potted. If you do not own a sugar thermometer, you can try putting a small saucer in the freezer, and when you think your jam may have reached setting point, place a teaspoonful onto the frozen saucer. When cooled, push it gently with your finger and if it wrinkles, it is set. If the surface does not wrinkle, it needs to go back on the heat for a few more minutes. With chutneys and fruit cheeses, simply place some onto a saucer at room temperature and run a wooden spoon through the middle. If the channel made by the spoon remains clear and no liquid runs in, then you have reached your setting point.

All preserves, pickles, jams etc should be kept refrigerated once they have been opened, and should be eaten in the time (hopefully) stated in the recipe. If there is no time stated though, do not fear. You will be able to tell by the look and smell if it is no longer fit. Put simply, if doesn’t smell or look right, don’t eat it!
We intend to share several preserving recipes with you over the following month or so, but to get any of you amateurs started, here is a very simple Strawberry jam recipe.

strawberry-jam1Strawberry Jam

Makes: 1.5kg Prep time: 5-10 minutes Cook time: 30-40 minutes

You will need:

1.5kg whole strawberries hulled and rinsed.
Juice of 2 lemons
1.5kg jam sugar
1 teaspoon butter

Method

1. Place the strawberries and lemon juice into a heavy saucepan or jam pan, and simmer over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until the fruit is soft, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the sugar and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the teaspoon of butter and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for 10-20 minutes until setting point is reached.

3. Remove from the heat and cool for 8-10 minutes. Funnel into sterilised jars and cover with wax discs immediately. Seal with lids while the jam is still hot, then leave to completely cool before labelling.

Remember: store in a cool, dry place and place in the refrigerator once opened.

Duralex Glassware – Timeless Beauty in Toughened Glass

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Duralex drinking glasses have long been known for their superior strength and durability and classic looks. Still manufactured in La Chapelle Saint-Mesmin in France, Duralex glassware today maintains the same standard and quality they possessed since they were first manufactured in 1945. In fact, Duralex began making glassware in the 1930′s and over a few years, the company pioneered the technology of tempered glass, the first attempt at applying the process to the manufacture of tableware. It was in 1945 that the Duralex trademark was registered, and this is the date you will see on the stamp on the bottom of a Duralex glass.

The 1950′s, 1960′s and 1970′s were years of expansion for Duralex, with households in France and the rest of Europe looking to equip themselves with modern products and practises, with a focus also on aesthetics and economy. Throughout this time, the Duralex brand and its products became familiar to millions of consumers worldwide.

The turn of the 1990′s brought internationalisation of new markets and stiff competition for Duralex and Saint Gobain, who owned Duralex, decided to sell it on to concentrate on other businesses. Over the years, we have heard numerous reports of the Duralex factory closing its doors forever and ceasing to manufacture these world famous, much loved drinking glasses. Stocks had dwindled and you would have to hunt high and low to find precious Duralex, and possibly pay higher prices as supplies decreased. Luckily as they’re triple tempered and extra strong, they would be worth the higher price because they’d last so long!

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Each time the factory has shut its doors and said its “final” goodbye, time passes, and eventually the ever increasing popularity and demand for Duralex is recognised and somebody comes along to save the day and re open the factory, but all owners since Saint Gobain seemed to fail to really stimulate activity. Until 2008, that is.

In 2008 the Duralex company was taken over by a shareholders group who have invested significant resources to save the brand. These resources have been used in all areas to bring the factory into the 21st century and really get the most out of the brand. Modernisation of production techniques, better management, mechanisms for sustainable management, and site rejuvenation are all areas which have been addressed and the Duralex company is finally turning a profit again. Despite the fact that they are still producing the timeless classics, Duralex are now also looking toward innovation and development and regularly launching new models and more colours, to keep the brand fresh and up to date.

The classic and best known Duralex glassware shapes are the Picardie, the Prisme and the Gigogne. The Picardie glass, which is available in a range of sizes, is often fondly remembered as a drinking glass you may have seen in school, especially in Europe. The Prisme is a little more unusual yet by no means less beautiful, and the Gigogne is a very simple yet highly stylish shape which has proved incredibly popular.

At Silver Mushroom Ltd, we have worked closely with Le-Tom, online retailers of Duralex and, dare we say it, experts on the brand, for several years and we have had small amounts of Duralex stock for sale. In recent months, Le Tom have made the decision to move away from online retailing and into other fields, leaving behind a hole in the UK Duralex market. As their friends and co workers, we have been lucky enough to acquire their remaining stock and contacts at Duralex with a view to moving forward with the brand ourselves. We are very pleased to now be able to offer a variety of sizes and colours in each of the classic Picardie, Prisme and Gigogne shapes. Although Le Tom will no doubt be sorely missed, we will do our best to live up to their fantastic reputation and service and hope to continue to expand our Duralex range in years to come, as the factory grows and develops.

To have a look at our current Duralex range, just go to our Drinkware section by clicking here.

Lemon and White Chocolate Cheesecake

Lemon and White Chocolate Cheesecake

Part of making a great dessert is in the presentation, and what better way to serve up a divine dessert than in a Kilner clip top jar? No messing about trying to cut up even portions, no devastation when your masterpiece crumbles before it is even on the plate, just a lovely way to serve dessert.

This hassle free No Bake Lemon and White Chocolate Cheesecake is a recipe we put together ourselves and if we may say so, it’s positively yummy. Making, storing and serving the cheesecakes in the 125ml Kilner jar only made the whole process easier and let’s face it, everyone loves dessert in a jar. Super quick, super easy and super tasty, this is a great recipe to throw together quickly, although it will look and taste like you’ve slaved over it for hours. Don’t worry, we won’t tell…..

First of all, if you don’t already own Kilner clip top jars, you can buy them here. You will need 8 of the 125ml round clip tops for this recipe.

Ingredients:
For the base

15 Digestive Biscuits
75g Butter
2 teaspoons light brown sugar

For the filling

500g mascarpone cheese
100ml double cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 lemons juiced and zested
50g grated white chocolate
Extra grated white chocolate to decorate

Method

1. Put the digestives in a clear sandwich bag and bash down with a rolling pin until the biscuits are a fine crumble. Add 2 teaspoons of brown sugar and mix together.

2. Melt the butter and mix into the biscuit mix until it is moist and slightly sticky. It does not have to stick together in a lump at this point.

3. Spoon the cheesecake base mixture evenly between the Kilner jars and press down well. Put the jars in the fridge to chill.

4. Combine the mascarpone with the cream and sugar and whip well for a couple of minutes. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and whip well again for about 1 minute. Add the grated chocolate and whip again for a further minute. You may want to taste the cheesecake filling at this point to see if you want to add any more sugar or lemon.

5. Spoon the cheesecake filling mixture on top of the chilled bases up to the rim of the Kilner jars. Top the finished cheesecakes with grated white chocolate and close the clip top lid. Put in the fridge and chill for a couple hours and you’re done.

Your Steak Your Way with Steakstones

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Entertaining is one of my favourite things to do. I love being able to have fun with friends without leaving the house, and for me the perfect evening is one of delicious food and drink, laughter, music, jokes, games and interesting conversation over a few glasses of decent wine. The only issue I have with attempting to host a dinner party or even just a games night, is that when food is involved, I spend most of the evening faffing about in the kitchen while everybody else has a great time without me in the living room or round the dining table. I’m not a particularly bad cook, but I do have some issues with timing and if I’m trying to watch several pans, heat plates, serve things up, talk to my friends and drink my wine (priorities), things can get a little out of hand. I’ve taken these days to resorting to cold finger food that can be laid out before anyone arrives and eaten whenever people want, or even (and I’m not proud of this) forgetting completely to serve food when we’ve all focussed on a few drinks and a lot of chat which usually results in a telephone call to the local takeaway around 10pm or a frozen pizza being shoved in the oven and devoured but not particularly enjoyed. Neither of these options is advisable, and neither really makes for what you might consider a successful dinner party. It may just scrape a passable games night.

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I suspect a lot of you have slightly more control in the kitchen than I do, and can probably juggle a dinner party with your eyes shut, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that a host will always have to spend some time away from his or her guests while they prepare dinner. So wouldn’t it be great if you could all stay together and still cook a fabulous meal that will be remembered long after the plates have been cleaned, with minimal effort.

Steakstones are a fresh new way to cook and serve food and eliminate the problem of having to leave your guests at the table while you prepare food. They also eliminate the problem of fussy eaters, because guess what? They cook it themselves, to their personal liking.

Steakstones are a fantastic product that we have just added to the range at Silver Mushroom Ltd and I personally, think they are not only a massive help when it comes to cooking and serving steaks and accompaniments but also a great way to put a fun spin on a dinner party and to keep all your guests happy. There is definitely something fun about being able to sizzle your own steak or fish at the table and get it just how you like it.

Serving steak at a dinner party could pose real problems in some circumstances as everybody has their own preference for how they like it cooked. You may have one guest at one end of the table who believes it is sacrilege to do anything more than sear the outsides of a steak, while the person sat next to them thinks if any pink is showing, they are eating something which is still alive. So, eliminate this problem and let them cook their own, exactly how they want it. Job done, all your guests are happy and can enjoy their food.

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Steakstones come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some with ceramic side dishes to serve up vegetables and dips or sauces, but the main factor in each piece is the lava stone. Made from a selection of nature’s most amazing and sustainable materials, the lava stone can be heated on the hob, in the oven or on a barbecue, and will retain heat throughout your meal to allow you to enjoy every last bite as hot and delicious as it should be, whether you are dining inside or out. The dry heat of the lava stone means there is no need for oils or fats, as it will sear in the natural moisture and flavour of the meat or fish, making it tasty and healthy at the same time.

Steakstones are not limited to cooking steak, despite the name suggesting so. Although you can cook up an amazing fillet, sirloin or rib-eye, you can also cater to people who enjoy a lighter or vegetarian based meal, because Steakstones also do a fantastic job cooking fish or vegetables. So all you have to do is put the food on the table, and let your guests do the work.

This is a revolution in entertaining. There is no better way to keep all your guests entertained and happy with their food, and the best part is, you can enjoy the whole process with everyone else, without having to remove yourself from the party and be a slave to the cooker.

Steakstones do a variety of serving plates, including a starter set, simple lava stones, and full serving sets with ceramic side plates and dishes. They also offer a range of glazed serving plates which can be chilled or heated to serve up sharing dishes, either to start or as dessert, whilst keeping the theme throughout the evening. This literally is the perfect way to share an evening with friends or family.

Have a look at the Steakstones collection here!

10 Fabulous Things To Do With A Kilner Preserve Bottle

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cliptop-bottles1Kilner jars have stood the test of time for over 150 years, and although the clever iconic clip top design has been updated over time, Kilner preserve jars still maintain the original vacuum feature invented by John Kilner around 1840.

Today, as well as many different preserve jars, Kilner also make preserve bottles. Ideal for liquid preserves, these bottles are functional, and offer the same clip top vacuum storage as the archetypal Kilner jar, but on top of this they look fabulous. So, not only are they a useful kitchen tool, they can be used as a decorative piece as well.

In recent years, many households have seen something of a revival of the classic 1950’s housewife, and people are getting more and more into making things at home, from cakes and pies to cushions and gifts. So to celebrate what we believe is a beautiful piece of kitchenware, we have trawled the internet to come up with the top ten things you could make and put in a Kilner preserve bottle to turn it into the perfect homemade gift!

oliveoil_300x3001. Infused Olive Oil: These make a great present because they add that little something extra to your cooking, look beautiful on display, and they don’t break the bank. Check out the methods we found here!

2. Homemade Fruit Syrups: Vibrant, colourful homemade syrups are tasty and can be given as a gift with this fantastic recipe for Italian Sodas, or could be used as yummy homemade cordial.

3. Homemade Limoncello: The traditional Italian lemon liqueur is usually produced in Southern Italy, but you could recreate it yourself for a fabulous after dinner digestive which will look simply stunning in the Kilner preserve bottles! Check out this lovely recipe here.

4. Homemade Vanilla Extract: A fabulous gift idea for home bakers, this looks and smells delicious and will last for years. Get the recipe here!

5. Mushroom Ketchup: Yes, that’s right; the word ketchup does not only apply to the popular tomato based sauce. Try making this alternative ketchup for a quirky gift, in a delightful Kilner preserve bottle of course. Get the recipe here!

6. Elderflower Cordial: Elderflowers are in season around the end of May and beginning of June so now is the perfect time to make this tasty cordial to make a lovely homemade gift. Here is a great recipe for this refreshing cordial!

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7. Nettle Cordial: If you want to be really daring, this nettle cordial recipe makes the perfect refreshing yet totally unique gift. Click here to see how.

8. Homemade Salad Dressing: There are many many recipes we could give you that make yummy dressings, but we particularly like this Sweet n Spicy Rosemary Salad Dressing from Renaissance Herbs in Australia.

9. Homemade Diffuser Oil: A great scented gift which will look super stylish in a Kilner bottle. Learn how to do it here!

10. Homemade Bath Salts: These are super easy to make and a lovely gift. You’ll just need a funnel to get them into the bottle! For directions, click here!

To get started, shop for you Kilner Preserve Bottles here, and get started on your stunning homemade gifts now.

Celebrate the World Cup with some Brazilian Cuisine

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The time has finally come for the 2014 Brazilian World Cup. A time when even those people who would normally not even know the shape of a football spend their days organising sweepstakes, checking fixtures, chilling beers and preparing the mandatory snacks for an evening with friends in front of the TV.

This year, why not show off to your friends and serve up a typical Brazilian dish to honour the country holding the 2014 World Cup? We’ve dug around for a couple of easy recipes for you to prepare so you can bring a real taste of Brazil into your home, making you feel that little bit closer to the action.

Recipe #1: Pizza Empanadas

The first recipe is for Pizza Empanadas, something Brazilians term a “salgado”, or what we might describe as a salty snack. Fast food if you will. This flaky pastry crust filled with mozzarella cheese, ham, tomato and oregano is somewhere between our typical pasty and a pizza. Our mouths are already watering at the thought. Read on to make your own and surprise your guests with your cultural knowledge and culinary genius.

For the Dough
385g cups flour, all-purpose
1/4 teaspoon salt
175g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg, chilled

For the Filling
100g cup shredded deli ham
100g Cup shredded mozzarella cheese
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large egg (white and yolk separated)
*pinch of oregano

To make the dough: in a food processor, mix the flour and salt together. Add the butter, egg, and 5 tablespoons of water until a clumpy dough forms. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Just mix until it comes together.

Form the dough into ball, wrap in plastic wrapper, and chill in the refrigerator for approximately 30 minutes. Then, unwrap and roll out the dough into a thin sheet over a floured surface, working from the center of the dough to the edges.

Cut out round disc shapes using a round medium-sized or small mold or cutter. Use immediately or store in the freezer for up to 3 months. (In the latter case, pile one disc on top of the other with plastic wrap in between them. Wrap the pile well and store in a ziploc bag. Thaw in the refrigerator before filling the pizza empanadas).

For the filling: In a small bowl, mix both the ham and cheese. Reserve.

Brush the edges of the pizza empanada discs with the egg whites or a little bit of water (although the whites tend to be more effective at sealing the edges of the pizza empanadas).

Fold the empanada discs and seal the edges gently with your fingers. Then, press the edges of the pizza empanadas with a fork to crimp. Lightly brush the top of the pizza empanadas with the egg yolk thinned with 1/2 teaspoon of water.

Layer the pizza empanadas in a single layer in a deep baking pan or pyrex dish. Cover with aluminum foil (don’t let it touch the pizza empanadas). Let the pizza empanadas rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes or until ready to bake.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and bake empanadas for 15 – 20 minutes, or until golden. Serve pizza empanadas warm by themselves or with a dipping sauce (e.g. chimichurri).

Recipe from The Latin Kitchen

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Recipe #2 Black Bean Stew

If you’re celebrating the World Cup with a beer or two, it’s always a good idea to line your stomach with something nourishing and hearty beforehand. This traditional Black Bean Stew recipe is a great way to do this, and it tastes fantastic, like a hearty chilli, but prepared with black beans and chunks of beef and sausage instead of minced beef and kidney beans. Rustle up a vat of this and get all your friends round to help you eat it.

You Will Need:
450 grams dry black beans
4 Tbsp olive oil
450 grams pork shoulder, cut into chunks
2 large onions, sliced
1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
450 grams carne seca or corned beef, cut into chunks
225 grams fresh sausages, such as chorizo or Italian sausage
450 grams smoked sausage, such as linguica or kielbasa
1 smoked ham hock or shank
3-4 bay leaves
Water
1 14.5 ounce can (411 grams) of crushed tomatoes
Salt

Pour boiling water over the black beans and let them sit while you prepare the rest of the stew.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and brown the pork shoulder. When it has browned, remove the meat from the pot, set aside and add the onions to the pot. Brown them, stirring occasionally, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Sprinkle a little salt over the onions and add the garlic. Stir well and sauté 2 more minutes.

Add back the pork shoulder, and the other meats and add enough water to cover. Add the bay leaves, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 1 hour. Drain the black beans from their soaking liquid and add them to the stew. Simmer gently, covered, until the beans are tender, about an hour and a half.

Add the tomatoes, stir well and taste for salt, adding if it’s needed. Simmer this, uncovered, until the meat begins to fall off the ham hock, which will probably take 2-3 hours.

Serve with white rice and hot sauce.

Recipe from Simply Recipes

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Recipe #3 Bolinho de Chuva

Of course, a party wouldn’t be a party without something for dessert. Brazil’s Bolinho de Chuva are essentially little cinnamon doughnut holes. They’re easy to make so long as you have the right equipment, and your guests are sure to go bonkers over these little Brazilian bites.

You Will Need:

250g flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2-1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon baking powder
65g cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Vegetable oil for frying

In a deep fryer or skillet, heat several inches of vegetable oil to 360 degrees (F).

In a small bowl, stir the cinnamon into the 1/2 cup sugar and set aside. Mix the flour, salt and 3 tablespoons sugar in a bowl. Stir in the eggs and 1/2 cup buttermilk with a wooden spoon. Add more buttermilk, slowly, until mixture has the consistency of a very thick cake batter. Stir in the baking powder.

Using 2 teaspoons (or a small cookie scoop), scoop a generous teaspoon of batter and carefully drop it into the oil, using the second spoon to help scrape the dough off of the first one. Repeat with several more teaspoons, but do not overcrowd the doughnuts or they will stick together.

Cook the doughnuts, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides.

Remove doughnuts from the oil with a slotted spoon, and drain briefly on paper towels.

Roll the doughnuts in the cinnamon sugar while still hot.

Cook the rest of the doughnuts in batches, and serve warm. Doughnuts can be reheated or kept warm in the oven.
Makes about 25 small round doughnuts.

Recipe from About.com – South American Food

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Treat Dad to the perfect, unique Father’s Day gift….

C4-DAD

Father’s Day is looming and if you’re anything like us, you’ll be racking your brains to think of a brand new, unique gift idea to show Dad how much you appreciate him. Like flowers and chocolates on Mother’s Day, it’s all too easy to go for the obvious bunch of socks or a bottle of (pretty average on our budget) whiskey, purchased in a panic on Sunday morning when some guy on the radio has reminded you that once again, you forgot to get a gift!

So, for all those times Dad has changed your tyre, mowed your lawn, acted as a taxi service, slipped you a fiver when you’re running short and hidden your (harmless) misdemeanours from Mum, why not show him your gratitude with a quality, unique, but great value present that shows you put a little thought into Father’s Day this year.

HM-HLD If you’re working to a fairly low budget, the His Lordship mug from Hudson and Middleton is the perfect Father’s Day gift to show Dad how important he really is. Made from fine bone china, and giftboxed, this mug is special, unique, and top quality, just like Dad. And the best part? It only costs £9.95 plus £3.50 P&P for 1st class postage.

Click here to buy His Lordship mug

C4-DAD If you’re looking for something a little bigger, why not go for a handcrafted, engraved chopping board made specifically for Dad, and featuring the words “Dad’s BBQ Board” across the bottom. Hand made from Canadian Rock Maple, these boards are perfect for chopping and serving. The wood is top quality, and all boards are finished to the highest standard, being sanded to a super smooth finish then coated in two coats of wax and three coats of food safe oil. These boards are amazing value at only £25.00 plus £3.50 shipping.

Click here to buy Dad’s BBQ Board

Order the perfect Father’s Day gift today to make sure you don’t miss out.