How to master the art of gift giving

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You know how there are some people who have a knack for always choosing the perfect gifts?

The type of people who continually surprise you with their thoughtfulness?

Well, I’m not one of those people.

But over the years, I’ve developed a fairly fail-safe system for choosing gifts for my family & friends.

It couldn’t be simpler and it will help even the most gift-dyslexic of us find the right thing.

I just choose one of the following options:

1. The gift of experiences
This includes things like tickets to a concerts or a show, vouchers for meals in restaurants, or offering to cook dinner for the recipient and their friends.

2. The gift of consumables
Mostly, this tends to be wine related. Champagne is always a winner, or a good bottle of red. It helps to know the favourite tipple of your recipient.

Flowers are another go-to when booze isn’t really appropriate.

3. The gift of something home made
It could be a favourite cake or pie. But more often than not it’s something with a longer shelf life like chilli oil (recipe below), preserved lemons, my homemade BBQ sauce, custom spice blends or infused oils. This year I’m planning on including little recipe cards with each gift to give ideas how to use each item.

The thing is, home made gifts are really personal. And in the age of cheap factory produced goods, the love that comes with a hand made gift makes all the difference.

Not to mention that it’s heaps of fun!

chilli oil halloumi

chilli oil
makes a little over 2 cups
takes 20 minutes

This oil has a million uses. It’s lovely with pretty much everything and anything from the BBQ and makes an instant sauce for meat and fish. My Irishman even loves it on his fried eggs with a little avocado on the side.

Will keep in the fridge for a couple of months.

200g (7 oz) long red chillies
3 cloves garlic
2 cups extra virgin olive oil

1. Remove stems and roughly chop chillies. Peel and smash garlic.

2. Place chilli, garlic and oil in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.

3. Simmer for 5-10 minutes or until garlic is golden brown. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.

4. Remove half the oil and puree the chilli and garlic with a stick blender or food processor. Return solids to the oil and store in an airtight container.

budget – replace some, half or all the olive oil with a cheaper oil such as vegetable, rice bran, or peanut oil.

milder – deseed the chillies before adding to the pan

– toss in a handful or small red birds eye or other super hot chillies

smooth – allow the oil to cool completely with the chilli and garlic then strain and discard the solids.


video version of the chilli oil recipe

chilli oil halloumi2

chilli oil halloumi
serves 2
takes 15 minutes

If you haven’t ever tried pan fried halloumi before you’re in for a real treat. Once you get over the idea of eating fried cheese, you’ll soon become addicted!

250g (9oz) halloumi, sliced into 4 thin slices
2 large handfuls green beans, tops trimmed
3-4 tablespoons chilli oil, to serve

1. Heat a large frying pan on a high heat for a few minutes.

2. Add a little oil and the beans and pop the lid on. Cook for 2 minutes.

3. Stir and add a splash of water and cook for another 2 minutes with the lid on. Or until beans are tender.

4. Transfer beans to a serving plate and reduce the heat in the pan to medium.

5. Add a little more oil to the pan and cook halloumi for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden and soft.

6. Serve halloumi on top of the beans and drizzle generously with the chilli oil.

vegan / dairy-free – replace the halloumi with firm tofu. Pan fry in a similar manner, although it will take a little longer to brown up.

– I’ve made this with asparagus instead of the beans and it was just lovely.

carnivore – pan fry some chicken thigh fillets or pork chops instead of the halloumi.

more substantial – toss a drained can of white beans in with the beans to heat through for a few seconds.

BBQ – you could cook the beans and halloumi on a BBQ hot plate.

no chilli oil? – make an instant chilli oil by combining 3-4 tablespoons olive oil with 2-4 finely chopped small red chillies


video version of the halloumi recipe

With love,
Jules x

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