‘There’s nothing nicer than receiving something that has come from someone’s heart’ — Emma Marsden

When she’s not working as a food stylist on campaigns with some great British brands you can find Emma Marsden writing for herself and others. She also happens to be an expert in all things foodie gifts. Her book Christmas on a Plate is jam-packed with ideas for edible gifts for you to try this Christmas.

We had a little chat with Emma to learn more about why she loves foodie gifts, tips for making your own, her future plans and much more. Take a gander below and discover a little more about Emma Marsden

Tell us about yourself and what you do…

I’m a food stylist and food writer and my time is split between both of those. I sometimes take on projects where I’m the ghost writer so I take on someone’s voice; I talk to them about their ideas and what they’d like and put it into recipe form. For the food styling, I’m quite often hired for jobs where the brief is to make the food look as lovely as possible, just as though you’d either want to tuck into a page or tuck into an advert or a shot on TV.

Homemade foodie gifts for Christmas have always been popular, why do you think that is?

I think it’s because there’s nothing nicer than receiving something that has come from someone’s heart and someone’s head because that’s what a food gift is all about really. It’s someone thinking about you and really wanting to put their love into that gift to give it to you.

Your books Christmas on a Plate and Heart on a plate have some fantastic foodie gift ideas, where did you get your inspiration from?

They all had to be a mixture of both sweet and savoury recipes. So I started by writing a synopsis and thinking about the time of year they’d be coming out, the sort of things that people like and obviously ingredients and food that I like to eat as well and putting them all together. Ideas come from lots of different places: seeing things in a shop, watching things on television or I’ve tasted something in a restaurant. All of those things often come to your mind when you’re writing things in a synopsis so they can be a whole amalgamation of things and ideas, a whole melting pot of ideas.

Are you planning any of your own foodie gifts this Christmas, and if so, can you tell us what you plan to make?

I always make a few things with my nieces and we tend to make things that are quite simple but have quite a lot of impact so there might be some chocolate truffles, there might be some set chocolates because I have lots of different moulds, maybe some seashell chocolates filled with a salted caramel. We often used this recipe when I was on Good Housekeeping: it was in the magazine and it’s very simple with only three ingredients but it’s very delicious. It tastes so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s white chocolate, dark chocolate and peanut butter all swirled together and you make a great big marble slab which sets in the fridge; and then it’s served up in tiny little squares. Because I’ve got an apple tree I always make chutney and jelly at the end of September, so I’ve already got quite a big stash to go. The other thing I really like making is mango chutney, because that’s very easy to put in a homemade hamper, and homemade crackers and some lovely cheese from a good cheese shop.

What are your top tips for making foodie gifts?

Make sure the contents are as good as the outside. You’ve got to make sure that it looks appealing when you’re handing it over but also have a good taste along the way when you’re trying the recipes to make sure you like it and make sure the person you’re giving it to will like it as well. As much as people like to experiment at Christmas, personally, I’d stick to traditional flavours and to work with the ingredients that everyone loves. If you’re going to do a chocolate truffle, why not add a bit of orange zest and make it a little bit orangey? Or you can put some cinnamon in with the cream, but don’t add too many otherwise the flavours are going to get slightly confused… and you won’t get a great chocolate in the end. You’ll get something that doesn’t taste of anything much at all.

What are your plans for 2017?

I’ve got a couple of ideas on the back burner and hopefully they’ll come off. I’m just looking forward to expanding and seeing what London has to offer with lots of different ideas. I think it’s a very exciting time at the moment because there are so many pop-ups. Last year the big new thing was Korean and I don’t think it’s really taken off massively, but I think there’s still lots of scope for people to eat well, eat quite natural, well-sourced products and cook yourself. I think that’s what I’m really passionate about encouraging really.

A couple of years ago I did a project with a blind group, two sets of people, for a charity and that was really inspiring because even though we took very simple recipes, they absolutely loved smelling all the ingredients that were cooking and tasting the recipes at the end. I think that’s what people should appreciate if you’ve got a night in, cook something for yourself and enjoy it really.

This post has been created in partnership with MailleKnorrHellmann’s and Colman’s.

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Emma’s book Christmas on a Plate