Turkish delight and lemon-infused vodka for the comfortably numb

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Getting ideas for homemade gifts can be challenging, but we found a book with a decidedly British taste: Gifts from the Kitchen by the U.K. food writer Annie Rigg

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: So you were a rock 'n' roll caterer.

Annie Rigg: Yes. I spent 3 years of my youth traveling with Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd. I went around the world three times. So I picked up a few things along the way. It’s definitely a game for the young.

LRK: This book has a lovely British bent to it. For instance, you’ve got a recipe for Indian chutney in it.

AR: Well, we do certainly like our curries in the U.K. I don’t necessarily like the main part of the curry. I like the pickles and the breads, and the poppadums and all the bits and pieces that go with them. So, I’ve two chutneys in the book. One is an aubergine chutney and one is a mango chutney, and I quite often give them as gifts together.

They keep for about 3 months. They take a little bit of time to mature if they’ve got spices in them. Once they’re opened, they should always be stored in the fridge.

LRK: Let’s talk about crackers, because I don’t think people ever think about making homemade crackers.

AR: Well, I always think about baking. I particularly love cheese, and I think if you’re going to serve or give a nice box of beautiful cheeses, why not make beautiful homemade crackers to go with it? You can always get several different types of flours with grains and seeds in them. You can make some really beautiful gift packages of homemade oatmeal crackers and a beautiful bit of brie or a reblochon or something like that.

LRK: What’s in the oatmeal crackers?

AR: I use bran and wholemeal flour, which has lots of little interesting bits in it, such as barley flakes and oat flakes. Then I add a smidge of dried mustard powder, some salt, pepper, butter and sugar. It’s very easy. Most people have these ingredients in their cupboards already. So it’s a good gift to make at the last minute, if you’re invited for dinner or something.

LRK: What kinds of things do you like to do on the sweet side?

AR: I love all sweet-making. I love making candies, toffees, caramels, marshmallows and chocolate truffles.

I make Turkish delight as well -- quite a lot of that. Turkish delight is the rosewater-scented jelly that is set with gelatin and then cut into cubes and tossed in powdered sugar. They are slightly chewy and unmistakably girly. They are very, very pink and light and delicious. They take a bit of practice to cut into right-sized squares, but they are very easy to make.  They don’t keep for very long, so it’s best to make them and give them fairly quickly.

LRK: How about liquor?

AR: I do quite a lot of fruit-flavored alcohols. Limoncello is a good one. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like limoncello. It’s lemon-infused vodka, and it’s particularly nice if you prepare it as a gift with some short glasses, a nice bottle, and tie it all up as one great big package.

LRK: What have you learned the hard way about doing your own homemade gifts?

AR: I think the lesson I learned last year was not to give too much. I gave a number of hampers to people with six or seven different things in them, and they all came back saying, “Oh, it was wonderful. We had so much to eat but we couldn’t get through all of it. We felt bad because, you know, we didn’t have the time to eat everything.”

Some things have a shorter shelf life than others, so you need to make sure that people know for exactly how long something will keep. It always helps to write storage and serving instructions on the gift tag, as well as how long it will keep. The addition of any helpful information about the gift really makes a nice little touch.

 

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