Why the Keen Cooks’ Pantry Gift Box is a very special food hamper…

It’s the most wonderful cookery gift, with a distinct Cornish twist – ideal for cooks who like to add a bit of zing, zest and interest to their favourite dishes and who appreciate really good new products. Owner of the store, Ruth Huxley, explains why she took a highly personal approach to this particular gift box.

Central to the wonderful pantry collection is the small pot of exotic and perfectly formed Cornish Saffron from the Roseland Peninsula. The stigmas in this pot of gold are grown, handpicked, plucked and dried on the family farm – a true labour of love, but the resulting intense flavour simply can’t be beaten. A tiny pinch goes a very long way.

“I remember when Brian Eyers, the grower, first brought in a sample pot for our chef to try,” says Ruth. “We opened it together – and WOW! The aroma immediately literally filled the whole kitchen.  As soon as I decided to create a selection box for keen cooks, I knew this saffron had to be in it.”

Also included are two pots from the range of signature Cornish Sea Salt. Renowned for its mellow coastal undertones, one comes spiced with four peppers, ready for pinching, the other is seasoned with wild seaweed for an umami hit, rubbed, stirred or sprinkled.

“Cornish Sea Salt is one of those products that exemplifies the transformation that’s happened in Cornwall’s food and drink scene over the past 15-20 years,” says Ruth. “For a county almost surrounded by sea, it’s incredible that prior to that, no-one here was harvesting its beautiful mellow salt and selling it. And it’s SO good! The guys behind Cornish Sea Salt have turned salt into a whole new category of its own when it comes to culinary ingredients. The examples we’ve selected for the box are the Cornish Sea salt mixed with a blend of peppers, our most popular line after the classic sea salt crystals (you get your salt and pepper in one pinch!); and the Cornish sea salt mixed with seaweed, a little more unusual but another nod to Cornwall’s association with the ocean and also to the increasing popularity of seaweed as an ingredient.”

The small-batch Hot Chorrito Sauce delivers on fire and flavour. Its vibrant colour comes from the blend of fresh oranges with red hot Cornish-grown habaneros and Chorrito’s own coffee infused vinegar. You can enjoy the bittersweet earthy flavour and mouth-watering long burn of the sauce in a magical harissa, or in dressings and marinades.

“I love this sauce and was really excited when Dan Bentlett, the brains behind this brand’s new range, approached me about selling them. It’s everything a new ingredient for serious food lovers needs to be these days – the quality and balance is just right, and the recipe is creative and well thought through. It’s also very multipurpose and the bottle is just the right size – this definitely won’t be one of those chilli sauces that sit in the fridge for months while you wonder what to do with it.”

Fowey Valley’s Vintage Cider Vinegar is made from vintage Fowey Valley cider and aged for no less than three years. Unpasteurised, unfiltered and with no additives, this is a keen cook’s must-have – a splash will lift a multitude of dishes, hot or cold, savoury and even sweet.

“I wanted to include this in the collection because it’s a revelation compared with many other cider vinegars, mainly because it starts with a really good cider rather than something that was too poor to put in a bottle!” Ruth explains.  “I first met Barrie Gibson, the cider maker who makes it, at a food festival when he was just starting out. He’s come a long way since then, but has never failed to impress me with his ability to get his products just right.”

Finally, the sensational Smoked Liquid Chorizo Oil from Hardpressed Cornwall is a classic, cold-pressed, multi-seed cooking oil that’s gently infused with paprika, garlic, and spices and then traditionally smoked over sustainably sourced wood to create a wonderfully realistic chorizo flavour (without the meat). Dip, drizzle and cook!

“The wonderfully named Liquid Chorizo made me smile from the first time I tasted it because it’s clever, it’s classy, it’s different. Jack Baines has worked wonders on all his cold pressed seed oils and this one in particular is just superb. Once keen cooks discover Liquid Chorizo, they’ll be splashing it about and wondering how they managed without it.”

So there you have it. An imaginative, distinctly Cornish pantry gift for keen cooks everywhere.  “I use all these ingredients in my own kitchen and have a genuine love for them,” Ruth sums up. “I felt sure when putting together this gift, there would be others who would appreciate them too.”

You can buy this gift in store, and online for delivery across mainland UK.