A safe bet
Sometimes the traditional solution to a problem is as good, if not better, than the high-tech modern approach. Mackenzie Hill's cheese larders are not a new idea, but they will gladden the heart of any cheese lover. To be enjoyed at its best, cheese needs to be brought up to room temperature - if you plonk even the finest cheddar on the table straight from the fridge, it's going to taste like soap. Hand-made in pine to traditional designs, Mackenzie Hill's cheese safes come in a range of sizes, and they look good at the table, too.
From £25-£40, available from good cheese shops, Fired Earth shops, or direct from Mackenzie Hill, 10 Kestral Close, East Wittering, Chichester, West Sussex (01243 673134; www.mackenzie-hill.com)
Use your loaf
In 1976 Andrew Whitley founded The Village Bakery in Melmerby, Cumbria. It quickly became one of the country's leading organic bakers (specialising in artisan breads made by hand and baked in wood-fired ovens), winning a string of awards, including the Organic Trophy. His increasing involvement with the organic movement and the Soil Association led to him stepping back from the Bakery in 2002 and setting up his "Bread Matters" business, which concentrates on bread-making courses. His new book Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own is every bit as feisty as the title implies. Its premise is that the only way to counter the declining standards of our national loaf is by baking your own. A good sense book that includes recipes for sourdough and gluten-free baking.
'Bread Matters', published by 4th Estate, £20. Or buy online from www.village-bakery.com
Newly arrived from Australia: Wild Hibiscus Flowers in syrup, which you can use as an ingredient to make a delicious and simple cocktail. Take a champagne flute, add a little splash of the pink syrup plus a flower, and top up with champagne or cheap fizz. As the bubbles stream off, the little flower will slowly open up, and after you've drunk the cocktail, you can eat the raspberry and rhubarb-flavoured flower; as hibiscus is rich in vitamin C, it might even help stave off that hangover. Each jar contains 11 hibiscus flowers. It's a great excuse to crack open a bottle of bubbly.
£7.50-£7.95, available at independent delicatessens such as Delifonseca, 12 Stanley Street, Liverpool (0151-286 9929); Madelicious, 14 High Street, Stone, Staffordshire (01785 818189); or order online at Hot-Headz! ( www.hot-headz.com; 01453 731052)
"Larger than life tastes" is what it says on the boxes of flatbreads produced by Biloxi Southern Foods, and that is pretty much what you get. Esther Galen's food company may be UK-based, but it hammers home its heritage and the idiom of the American South.
A bit like large crunchy crisps, the flatbreads make the perfect accompaniment for dips. The folksy names are cringe-making, yet engagingly over the top: "Pop-Pop's Poppy Seed Flatbreads"; "Hominy & Rosemary" and "Bubbacue Cheddar".
Biloxi flatbreads are yeast-free and made with natural ingredients, they keep well in an airtight container and they can always be revived by a short spell in a hot oven - which makes them a very useful back-up in the store cupboard.
£1.99-£2.99 at branches of WaitroseReuse content