Review: Handmade Gifts From The Kitchen by Alison Walker

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I was very excited to get an opportunity to review this book. For a few years now, I have handmade Christmas gifts for friends and family, so this was a book after my own heart.

Alison Walker is the Food & Drink editor for Country Living Magazine. In her introduction, she extols the virtues of homemade gifts. You’re preaching to the choir here, Alison. Although, one reason she gives is that it is cheaper. My experience is this is not always the case, but she is right when she says homemade gifts will always be more appreciated than the store bought version.

There is a wide mixture of sweet and savoury recipes, from chocolate treats to jams and chutneys. There are flavoured oils and salts, as well as syrups, sauces and cordials. The recipes cover all seasons and various celebrations, so whatever the occasion, you will not be short of ideas.

The 100 plus recipes are split into nine chapters, such as Sweets For My Sweet, and From The Garden. These are followed by a brief chapter on packaging ideas for your gifts, to ensure they look as good as they taste.

There are nicely staged photos for each of the recipes . However I found the lighting in some a little dark, with the pretty gifts in too much shade. I would have preferred them to be a little brighter, but they work well within the context of the book as it illustrates what you are aiming for in making these recipes.

The instructions are clear and concise, in numbered order which I find much easier to follow. The ingredients are listed in metric but have imperial too should you prefer that. The recipes range from very simple recipes that can be done with children, to the more complicated and time consuming. There is a great amount of choice, so cooks of all levels will be happy with this book.

The ingredients run from common-place store cupboard items to things you can find in every decent supermarket. Beginners may need to be aware that a small few of the recipes contain slightly more exotic ingredients, such as Lavender Sugar (although the book tells you how to make your own), or rose petals, but if you are a keen gardener (so long as they are not sprayed) you can use your own.

Another word of caution to beginners is that some of the recipes seem to have the wrong quantities, or there are errors in the instructions. The Mocha Muffins includes enough ingredients for 24 full size muffins, yet the recipe clearly states a mini muffin tin is to be used. Another example is the Viennese Whirls which includes an instruction to blend the flour and baking powder, however baking powder isn’t listed as an ingredient. I can only think that this recipe has been converted from plain flour and raising agent, to just self-raising flour (the listed ingredient) but the instructions were not updated. None of the recipes I tried had a fault, but it makes me wonder how many more of the recipes have not been tested prior to printing.

I really wanted to like this book, and it has inspired a few ideas, but the recipe errors just make me hesitant to recommend it.

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