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.

VARIATIONS
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

hotter
– 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.

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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.

VARIATIONS
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.

asparagus
– 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

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video version of the halloumi recipe

With love,
Jules x

ps.
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www.thestonesoupshop.com/your-no-worries-thanksgiving-christmas/

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{ 13 comments }

leaf (the indolent cook) November 22, 2011 at 12:25 am

I love food gifts! Love this simple meal too, and all the little variations. Just shows that eating well can be so easy!

betty November 22, 2011 at 8:02 am

that haloumi loks so good and i agree gifts of love go a long way

LiseyDuck November 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm

I’d love to do edible gifts one year – other than the mince pies my colleagues and students get in the last week of teaching – but because I live so far from my family and most of my friends there’s a massive lag between when I have time to make things and when the gifts are received. So this year I’m mostly making bathroom-type stuff – perfumed salts, coconut oil melts and the like, and I may have a go at making shaving balm and so on.

Christina @ Hair Romance November 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm

This is such a great idea, and more meaningful than the usual gifts. I’m definitely going to make this chilli oil!

Kyrstie November 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Thanks for the temptation Jules. As the mum of two little boys we dont get to have chilli as much as we would like any more (for the ease of cooking a meal for everyone) My husband and I adore Halloumi and will chilli what a great combo. this is one I definately cant wait to try.

Lizzy (Good Things) November 23, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Love the idea of making gifts. We are staying home for Christmas this year, which means a few days off work before Christmas Day and no travel, yay! Time to experiment with recipes such as yours. Love your blog!

Tessa @ FlexYourFood November 25, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Hello! I just came across your blog and absolutely love it. Have already spent 30 minutes browsing and am sure to spend at least an hour more! You really can’t go wrong with gifts that are both homemade AND edible! Thanks for sharing, looking forward to reading more :)

Dulcistella November 26, 2011 at 8:06 am

Hi, how are you?
I tried your coronation cauliflower some days ago and I’ve got to say it’s delicious :-)
But… It’s really a long time that you don’t post some sweet treats ;-)

Liz @ Perfect Meatloaf November 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I agree, food gifts are always great to get. I love the idea of the chili oil and those photos are fantastic.

Alecta December 2, 2011 at 9:59 am

I just made the carnivore version of this with thinly sliced chicken breast and it was perfect! Juicy on the inside, a nice crispness on the outside, and a little bit of heat from the chili oil (sans garlic, with cumin and paprika instead) was a great addition.

Maria March 26, 2012 at 6:17 am

Prepared this a couple of times. It is wonderful. I add a pinch of dried chillie flakes for color and a little extra heat. In the fridge it lasted well over 2 weeks. Gets better with age. Without solids it lasts just as regular oils… very nice and a lovely little hostess gift on a budget.

jules March 28, 2012 at 8:53 am

Thanks for your tips Maria!

www.JulieHyde.net January 28, 2013 at 5:13 am

I LOVE chili oil, especially on pizzas and salads. Will definately be trying out this recipe. :)

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