Advent Calendars for 2018:
A far cry from the days when we’d open a window in our advent calendar to reveal a Christmassy picture, today’s offering are full of tiny gifts. I’m a bit of a sucker for a chocolate advent calendar and get one every year. We’ve been checking out some of the options on the market for 2018 and have to confess to being quite overwhelmed by the creativity involved.
24 days of Happiness from That Boutique-Y Gin Company.
I remember the excitement so well of opening the windows on an advent calendar. In those days, all that was behind the little doors were pictures related to the Nativity. Would it be a donkey? Or a Wise man? Or a candle? I could barely wait to open the little window each day, always knowing that the picture behind 25 was going to be special. When I had my son, we carried on this tradition, although his contained chocolate and more often than not was tied into the latest children’s film or TV craze.
I didn’t really ever expect to have an advent calendar again. But in the last couple of years, there’s been a bit of an explosion of adult interest themed advents. What could be more up my street than a gin advent calendar? Produced by That Boutique-Y Gin Company, there’s a wax sealed 30cl bottle of gin waiting to be discovered from the 1st December onwards.
It arrived really well packed, in a rather stylish box, and taunted me. So in the interest of market research, purely for London Unattached readers’ benefit you understand, I opened one of the windows.
Behind it, I found rather appropriately, the ‘World Gin Day’ gin, a perfect London Dry Gin, and decided to pair it simply with a Fever Tree tonic.
I’m looking forward to discovering what’s behind the other windows. Will it be a Chocolate Orange gin, or the Ice Wine Old Tom, or even the Yuletide gin? I’m now going to wait until 2nd December to open the next window. Honestly!
If you want to spoil the gin lover in your life, be that yourself or someone else, this is a wonderful gift. This is a great way to sample some new gins and find a new favourite or two, or three.
The Big Chilli Advent Calendar from Sous Chef:
For the spice lover in your family and friends, this could be the perfect treat in the run-up to Christmas. It might at first seem a little off-beat, but once I peered inside the box and saw the sachets of chillis awaiting inside along with the recipe book, I started to realise how much fun this could be. I love spice, but do tend to find that I make my tried and tested trio of chicken jalfrezi, swordfish with a tomato, lime, chilli and crème fraiche sauce and the obvious chilli con carne far too much.
The advent calendar takes you through the gamut of Scoville’s from the mildest to the hottest and provides a recipe for each. I loved the fact that these recipes covered savoury, sweet, and alcoholic suggestions. None of which I’ve previously tried. All the meat and fish recipes had an alternative vegetarian option.
In the interests of seeing how well the recipes worked, I randomly selected window 17, which contained the recipe for Aji Amarillo Sweetcorn Fritters, using Aji Amarillo chilli powder. This had a rating of 2 for heat. This chilli hails from Peru, is yellow, and has a fruity aroma. It gives dishes a subtle chilli warmth. This was the perfect snack for a party.
A fun way to start a party with friends informally snacking in the kitchen. The sunshine-coloured aji amarillo chilli adds a lingering and fragrant heat to these fritters.
- 200 grams tinned sweetcorn drained
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 4 spring onions finely chopped
- 1 red pepper finely diced
- 1/2 lime zest
- 1 lime juice
- small bunch fresh coriander finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 75 grams potato starch/potato flour
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 sachet aji amarillo powder 8 grams
- 75 grams cold sparkling water
- 7 cms sunflower oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Put the sweetcorn, garlic, spring onions, red pepper, lime zest and juice, cumin, coriander and salt into a large bowl and mix.
In a separate bowl stir the potato starch, bicarb, aji amarillo chilli and the water to make a thick paste.
Pour the potato starch paste into the vegetable bowl and mix thoroughly.
Heat the oil in a heavy based pan until it reaches 180 degrees.
Working in batches, carefully lower tablespoons of the sweetcorn mixture into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes until it's a deep golden colour.
Remove from the pan and drain onto kitchen paper. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and squeeze a wedge a lime before serving.
In all honesty, I’m not sure that I’d cook a meal with chilli every day on the run up to Christmas, but I’d enjoy looking at the recipes and maybe have something planned for each week of the month and into New Year. The recipe we tried worked perfectly, and I am looking forward to trying the others, especially the Green Dragon & Amarena Cherry Whisky Sour!
The Continental Chocolate Advent Calendar from Thorntons:
Probably the ‘safest’ option, the Thornton’s Advent Calendar is full of their Classic Continental Chocolate range. Beautifully packaged in white and gold, it’s elegant enough to sit on a mantelpiece, tempting you to peek in and open a door a day or two early!
It’s also widely available – and priced at just £6. For that, you get 24 continental chocolates including old favourites like the Alpini Praline (given the opportunity I will buy a whole bag of these – little hazelnut praline milk chocolate ‘logs’ dusted with finely grated white chocolate). There are also a few new chocolates promised…I don’t remember trying the Salted Caramel before – a nutty praline base with salted caramel enrobed in milk chocolate.
There’s a certain psychology for me about advent calendars. I can’t bring myself to open the doors early and the result is that I get a little treat every day in the run-up to Christmas. That’s the complete opposite to me with a box of chocolates – an open box is an invitation to gorge myself and the whole lot can easily vanish in a single evening.
The result is that I get childishly excited about a chocolate advent calendar because it’s permission indulgence – it’s not going to blow my diet and yet I know it will make me happy in a way that is completely disproportionate to the chocolate I get. I love opening the doors each day and the chocolate inside is just what I need after supper. A bit of me that wishes someone would invent a calendar for every day of the year with chocolates behind each door.
The Continental Chocolate Advent Calendar is available from Amazon and leading supermarkets. If in doubt, it’s one that won’t disappoint any chocolate lover. Thorntons have a range of personalised chocolate advent calendars available from their website too – worth taking a look if you want something for your children because each one comes with the name of the recipient carefully piped onto a chocolate bar ‘window’.
Other Advent Calendar Options:
There are, of course, excellent advent calendars on offer from every chocolatier. We always love the Hotel Chocolate advent calendar for two which contains not one but two truffles behind each door. And, we are rather taken by the ‘fill your own’ option you can find at Godiva, with little drawers you fill up with chocolates from their boutique.
If you are looking for the wacky, then how about a pork scratching advent calendar (really!) or ‘happy socks’ with a pair of socks for every day! Both are available from John Lewis…
For a real foodie, Carluccios have a luxury limited edition luxe advent calendar features quintessentially Italian products from Carluccio’s core collection. Just some of the treats behind the doors include limoncello chocolates, truffle butter, aged balsamic vinegar, torrone pieces and porcini oil to name but a few.
And there are beauty advent calendars with a little treat for every day in the lead up to Christmas. I particularly like the Beauty Universe advent calendar by Charlotte Tilbury which is filled with favourites, including the iconic pillow talk lipstick!
You really could start Christmas giving on the first of December with some of these advents retailing at well over £100.
Will you be indulging in a luxury advent calendar this Christmas?