The Modern Gentleman’s Guide to Valentine Flowers

(or indeed anyone wishing to buy anyone flowers at any time)

Last year I wrote a guide to buying valentine chocolates. To make sure you get it just right, its useful to know what the recipient might like This year its all about the flowers.

Thinking of you

Flowers don’t have to be expensive, you can get small bunches of daffodils this time of year for around 80p, and a small token of ones affection can often mean just as much as extravagance. The gentleman of the house used to buy me ‘rescue plants’ you know the ones that are a bit past their use by date in the supermarket but sometimes just fine. This is an example of knowing your loved one. Once a friend teased him for buying me garage flowers but he knows that I wouldn’t take offence (however if you do want to make garage/supermarket flowers a bit more special you could swap the wrapping for some pretty coloured paper and tie with some ribbons). Buying a £2.99 bunch of flowers  and leaving the label on may be ok in some situations, but in others it may just like it was an ‘oh heck i forgot the flowers’ on the way over. (image source)

optimized-img_3093

A lasting arrangement

Cut flowers are all very well but they don’t last. Why not buy a longer lasting potted plant, all it needs is watering and you don’t need a vase. You can always make a bulb pot: shops are selling daffodil and hyacinth  bulbs in pots at the moment and with a bit of compost and a new pot you can make a beautiful gift.

LN_427825_BP_a_4

Culinary garden

Why not try an edible bouquet if your sweetheart is a fan of cooking. You can buy herbs in pots in supermarkets and garden centres, and to make them a bit fancier why not buy get/make a windowsill herb planter. The one below is from Sparrow and Finch You may find that supermarket herbs are tightly packed together and it can be good to split the plants over 2 or more pots. Alternatively you could buy a set of pots and seeds like this one from Greenfingers.com

window_box_herbs_1

LS5119D_l

Make an entrance

With spring on its way why not make up some floral entrance pots to flank your loved ones front door. (image source)

6-pansies-sample_1_6

Hey big spender!

If you do want to splash out then bob to your local florist and get a special bouquet made up, or go online and order a delivery (do make sure you know the recipient well enough that they wont be embarrassed if flowers arrive at work for them – or that your ex-girlfriend doesn’t work on reception in the same firm – oh yes this really happened). There is always the classic red roses and sprays however when I was looking at wedding flowers I came across these amazing arrangements by Nikki Tibbles Wild at Heart in London, they really are quite fantastic. Left The Romantic Vintage bouquet and Right The Seasonal Eclectic bouquet

nikkitibbles

The gardening guru

Is your sweetheart a keen gardener? Why not buy some bulbs or seeds for them to enjoy. Chose something unusual, or maybe heritage vegetables (varieties which are being marginalised by mass farming – we don’t want them going extinct). This however will not see immediate results and do check the planting times (you dont want to get something which should have been planted in October). Alternatively you can adopt a veg or get involved with the Heritage Seed Library

There are of course edible bouquets made of sweets or fruit, i saw a chap in town selling ones made from flying saucers but didn’t catch the name of the company

Valentines day is however about more than the gifts, think of it as a day to celebrate love and caring however you spend it, even if youre on your own take some time to have a really nice relaxing or pampering evening doing what you enjoy best. Personally I love it, lots of red and pink, and excuse for baking, and probably buying myself random heart shaped pink and red tat.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Valentine Chocolates

Or indeed anyone buying chocolates for anyone on any occasion, it is likely that your recipient will be thrilled anyway but with a little research you can get it just right. The main point here is know who you are buying for.

Strapped for cash: A present does not mean expense, when the gentleman of the house and I were poor students he would occasionally surprise me with a gift of chocolate buttons and I thought it terribly romantic. Later when he had a little more cash started getting me Green & Blacks bars (image source)

cadburys buttons

Her absolute favourite: If you know his/her absolute favourite chocolates then you may be on to a win (however make sure its something they actually do like, not something you buy every year and they are too polite to say anything) (image source)

Anthon berg plum in madeira marzipan chocolates (my favourite)

The Chocolate Connoisseur: Did you know you can now buy single estate chocolate bars (image source)

dark chocolate collection from chocolate trading co

Its all in the presentation: If you want to make a real splash (and have a pretty box to use later) I saw these in the Leonidas window and couldn’t stop going ooooh (image source)

leonidas valentine chocolate box

Alternatively there are these much cheaper tiny truffle boxes from Charbonnel & Walker (they’re so adorable and yum too) (image source)

Dairy Free, Glutan Free, Vegan: There is even chocolate available for those with specific dietary requirements. Booja Booja  truffles are all these and they also sell raw organic cacao beans! Im definitely curious to try those (image source)

booja booja truffles at ethical superstore

Alternatively why not treat yourself to your favourite chocolates this valentines day, at least you will always know what you like (yum yum yum)

Man Baking! …or cakes for the discerning gentleman

This is baking, but Manly Baking! A lot of men like to bake, its a fact but when it comes to recipe books what do you find: you can always tell the cake section in the bookshop as its a whole row of pink pink pink. For me there is nothing that attracts me more than a sugary pink book, all pretty and pastels and quite rightly this is an image that sells. However there are a lot of people for whom this is not the case

Im not saying that a man wouldn’t buy these books but in marketing terms thats not the audience intended. There are a lot of women too who either don’t like cutesy pink or find it stereotypical (or just don’t like frosting)

I spend a lot of time looking at cookbooks on amazon, and some of my favourites have been found on the ‘those who bought also bought’ feature which I love (so many new finds). Over time (and especially recently) Ive come across a number of books which look to contain delicious recipes but aren’t pink and often written by men.

man baking cook books 1

Warm Bread and Honey Cake: I was originally attracted by the name and cover, first getting the book out of the library and then later buying a copy. You won’t find pink cupcakes covered in buttercream here, but you will find an array of exciting cakes, bread and sweet delighted from across the globe. A feature I especially love is the introductions to the recipes which include history of the dish and origins of the ingredients.

Baked Explorations: Again it was the cover that attracted me and the insides are really classy too, all black and gold (I do love a book with lots of decoration) and a photo of two gentlemen in ties partaking of  cake and coffee? against the backdrop of an old fashioned bookcase. I really get the feel of this book being the Modern Gentleman. Inside you will find iced cakes, muffins, cookies, fruit pies and the Monkey Bubble Bread looks exciting. Another important addition is the American – Metric – Imperial conversion chart.

The Fabulous Baker Brothers: I came across this while browsing through the shelves of Waterstones. Predominantly about bread it has a vast array of exciting recipes. Bread isn’t just what you make toast out of for breakfast (apparently this ties in with some telly program but I’ve never seen it)

Tea with Bea: If you like your sandwich sponges but don’t want to drown in pink then this is the book for you. The cover itself is mouthwatering and inside are delicious looking cakes, cheesecakes cookies and tarts accompanied by very classy photography. Im planning to take a trip to the cafe sometime soon in Bloomsbury

Cox Cookies and Cakes: An array of  exciting and decorative cupcakes (this is the book if you like incredible icings or toppings). Ive not seen this book in real life but the coca cola cupcakes look yum (involves cola jelly sweets)

Green and Blacks Chocolate recipes: Its all about chocolate from tarts to biscuits

Sweet by Levi Roots: This book isn’t out yet but the idea of Almond Cake with Lime and Cardamom Syrup sounds good to me!

Another not yet released yet is the Hairy Bikers Big Book of Baking which is bound to be good and Im hoping is a tie in to a telly series. In the meantime they have a Perfect Pies book which includes recipes for both sweet and savoury pies

And if you want to spark their interest at an early age theres always Spot Bakes a Cake

All images from Amazon