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Spices – it’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

Spices – it’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas


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From 22nd December until at least New Year’s Day, my parents' kitchen becomes my festive laboratory. As soon as my suitcase is unpacked and the presents are under the tree I lock myself away, happily churning out spiced and sweet treats for anyone that might be coming round.

Everyone who knocks on the kitchen door is given a sample of some kind of hot toddy, thrust a warm mince pie or sausage roll, and then ushered back out if they hang around too long. I love when the relatives or friends arrive and they are greeted with the scent that glides around the cold air, wrapping them in a warm hug of rich and zesty tidings before they’ve even stepped through the door.

Mull it over

Key to all that is mulled cider or wine, which is the perfect hot treat to greet any pink-cheeked drop-ins. All you need to do is pick the right spices and give everything enough time to infuse beautifully (about an hour just ticking away on the hob). Jamie has the perfect recipe for mulled wine and cider (just replace cider with apple juice for the non-alcoholic version). This is when the spices take centre stage: cinnamon sticks, gratings of whole nutmeg, power-packed cloves, liquoricey star anise and lots of vanilla and citrus – it’s the smell and taste of Christmas in a nutshell. Mulled cider is my favourite as it feels a bit lighter (plus it’s easier to get out of the cream carpet – sorry Mum!). I like to add a thumb sized piece of peeled fresh root ginger to my mulled cider. Give it a bash with a rolling pin before you add to the pan to release its warming glow.

Sugar and spice

A really simple way of adding some festive fairy dust to your meals is to make your own spiced sugar and salt. Simply grind your chosen spices with a little sugar or salt to release the flavours and colours, then mix in the rest of the white stuff. Jars of this make brilliant homemade gifts too – just make a personalized label and pop it under the tree.

For sugar, try ground cinnamon or sticks, ground allspice or anise. You could then mix it all up with some finely grated citrus zest, bashed up fresh bay leaves, thyme or rosemary for even more flavour and aroma. Keep it in a jar and use it to sprinkle over fresh, warm biscuits, mince pies and popcorn, dust a little over a decadent cream-topped hot chocolate, or even roll homemade chocolate truffles in it. While we’re on the topic, if you’re making ganache-based truffles, try infusing the cream with bashed up whole spices before pouring over the chocolate – amazing.

The same method applies for making spiced salts, which are amazing for adding flavour to festive roasts and leftovers – just choose your favourite spices or herbs. You can use it as a seasoning, or add layers of dried herbs and spices to make a festive rub. For example, a Chinese five-spice and chilli salt would cut brilliantly through roast duck or goose. You could also mix a little flavoured salt with homemade quick pickles like finely sliced cucumbers and onion, and serve with slow cooked beef or Boxing day cold cuts and cheese.

The possibilities are endless, really easy and help make your spices go a little further. Share your festive spicy tips below and let us know how you get on experimenting…


It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

Smells and aromas are profoundly evocative. Those related to Christmas are often connected to our childhood, able to bring us back (at least with the memory) to that awesome time of our lives. This year, we need more than ever this powerful tool to escape at least for a little bit the harsh present reality.
What gives Christmas its special smell and aroma? Besides the scent coming from Christmas trees, made up by a blend of mono and sesquiterpenes, we must doubtless mention the spices used for preparing sweets and drinks. Each Country has its own traditions, often even different among regions and areas. However, there are some spices that are frequently used, alone or mixed together, to give that specific Christmassy aroma, like cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, and star anise. The aroma of each of these spices is composed by a mix of volatile compounds, but all of them also have one specific and characteristic main chemical.

Cinnamaldehyde

Cinnamaldehyde is a phenylpropanoid that gives its characteristic aroma to a spice present in almost any Christmas cookie and sweet, cinnamon, obtained from the bark of some species of Cinnamomum (Lauraceae) trees. Many biological activities are attributed to cinnamaldehyde. It has antifungal, antibacterial and antibiofilm properties (1,2), insecticidal and insect repellent activity (3). It has also anti-inflammatory, hypoglycaemic and hypolipidemic properties (4,5), although this has only been demonstrated in animal models. The role of cinnamaldehyde in the tree is not clear yet, although it might be related to some of the above-mentioned activities, with a defensive action against pathogens and predators.

Eugenol is the main responsible of the characteristic smell of the dried flower bud of the clove tree, Eugenia caryophyllata (now Syzygium aromaticum, Myrtaceae). Analogously to cinnamaldehyde, it is a phenylpropanoid with several biological activities (6). It is used as a flavouring agent and as a component of cosmetics and soaps. Furthermore, it is used as a local antiseptic and anaesthetic. Eugenol also finds applications in agricultural practices as a pesticide and fumigant and it can be used as a food additive to protect it from microorganisms during storage (6). Besides its possible role as plant defensive chemical, eugenol has also an interesting function in bees, particularly in a species of South American orchid bees. These insects are thought to collect eugenol and other plant volatiles and to use them as pheromones, chemicals used to trigger a social response in other members of the same species (7). Alternatively, they can use the plant chemicals to synthesize these pheromones, with small chemical modifications.

The spiciness of ginger (Zingiber officinale), is due to gingerol, which has a mechanism of action analogous to that of capsaicin. Several gingerols of various chain lengths (n6 to n10) are present in ginger, with the most abundant being 6-gingerol (8). The dried ginger contains a few derivatives of gingerol that make it even more spicy. During cooking, gingerol undergoes a reverse aldol reaction, giving zingeron, which is responsible for the typical sweet spicy aroma of gingerbread. Gingerols and their derivatives seem to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, but also antiobesity and antidiabetic activities and protective effects against respiratory disorders (8). However, many of these properties need further evidence. Gingerols also have antimicrobial activity, which could explain, along with the antioxidant properties, the use of ginger essential oils as food preservatives (9). Concerning the role in planta, although it is not clear yet, a protective role (especially as feeding deterrent) is plausible, but studies are needed to prove this.

Nutmeg is a spice native to the Moluccas Islands (Indonesia). Its distinctive nutty, slightly sweet, warm aroma is due especially to myristicin, which has a mild narcotic and hallucinogenic effect. Once ingested, it is thought to be metabolized into a compound structurally related to amphetamine (and in particular to ecstasy), 3-methoxy-4,5-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MMDA) (10), although this has only been demonstrated in rat livers. Due to the hallucinogenic effect of nutmeg, there is an history of its abuse that often resulted in intoxications. However, the doses used for cooking are safe. Myristicin is also an insect repellent and it has insecticidal activity (11). Activity that it could also have in planta, although this has not been extensively explored yet.


Anethole is the main compound responsible for the aroma of star anise. Star anise (Illicium verum) is used not only as a spice, but also as a decoration, due to its peculiar and beautiful shape. It is a plant native to China and Vietnam, where it is largely used in the cuisine and in traditional medicine. Anethole is broadly used in cosmetics and soaps, but recently also several roles in human health have been proposed and are under investigation (12). It has antifungal activity (13) and although its original function is unknown, it might be involved in the plant protection against pathogens.

Cinnamaldehyde, eugenol, gingerol, myristicin, and anethole are all phenylpropanoids responsible for the aroma of many sweets and drinks that contribute to the warm atmosphere of Christmas time, although they are originally made by the plants for very different reasons (sometimes still unknown). Let’s all enjoy some nice food and drinks containing these compounds and, at least for a while, create a cheerful environment and forget about our sorrows…but, hey, nutmeg only allowed for cooking!


It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

Last week I stuffed an enormous tree into a friend’s car – and it was instantly Christmas!

There is something about that intoxicating pine smell that makes me feel festive I have an immediate need for a glass of mulled wine and Michael Buble on the stereo! This year I had an immediate need for TWO glasses of wine as I’d just braved the Gorham’s rush.

Gosh, that was a little crazy but Gorham’s is a firm part of our Christmas calendar and there is no shaking it. My favourite memory is the year they tied the tree to the car by using rope that went through the open car windows and up and over the roof. The only problem was that I couldn’t open the car doors so I had to climb in through the windows for the rest of the morning’s errands. Very funny as it turns out!

Anyway, despite the cloud hanging over us all, we’ve decided to make the most of our Covid-Christmas and just wholeheartedly throw ourselves into every festivity we can. The tree is up, we’ve decorated outside, the elf has arrived and we’re cooking lots of our favourite recipes. Cooking with my kids used to result in a spectacular (although delicious) mess, but the advantage of tweens is they are much better in the kitchen, even if there is the occasional eye-roll. We’ve arrived at the stage where I am officially embarrassing …. How long does this last? Help!

This weekend we have Christmas morning muffins lined up. I love these because they taste amazing but also because they make the whole house smell of Christmas as they bake. Between these and the tree, I am going to be in heaven! They’re pretty light and also gluten/dairy-free, so great for people with sensitivities too. Recipe is below, along with one for a Christmas salad. I thought I’d give this to you in advance so you can add the ingredients to your list. It’s a brilliant way to use up leftovers and the wedges smell amazing too as they cook. Yum!

Christmas morning muffins (gluten- and dairy-free)

Ingredients (makes approximately 30 mini muffins):

5oz almond flour or ground almonds

4oz Sucanat, coconut sugar or brown sugar (plus extra for the topping)

4oz (weight) apple sauce (unsweetened)

Approximately 350ml milk (I use flax but almond is fine)

¼ cup melted extra virgin coconut oil

4oz dried cranberries (ideally Eden organic)

1. Get the eggs and “milk” to room temperature.

2. Melt the oil in a small pan over a very low heat if yours isn’t already liquid.

3. Preheat the oven to 390F.

4. Line the pan with muffin liners and spray lightly with coconut (or other) oil.

5. Mix the flours, flax, baking powder, bicarb soda, sucanat (or equivalent), cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl.

6. Stir in the dried cranberries.

7. Zest the two satsumas over the flour mix, catching as much as you can.

8. In a large measuring jug, squeeze in the juice of the two satsumas.

9. Now top this up with your milk until the 200ml mark.

10. Whisk in the melted coconut oil, apple sauce and eggs.

11. Make sure everything is at room temperature otherwise the coconut oil will harden. Whisk quickly!

12. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well but lightly.

13. Spoon into muffin cases and sprinkle the tops with a little sucanat.

14. Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes (seems a long time but they will need it) or until the tops are firm but springy.

15. Cool for five minutes in the pan and then move to a rack to cool.

Christmas salad with sweet potato wedges (serves four)

2 cups of shredded roast chicken/turkey, organic if possible

1 apple, cut into matchsticks and dressed with a little lemon

4 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 tbs maple syrup or 2 tbs apple juice

½-1 tbs raw apple cider vinegar

1 tsp mustard sea salt and pepper to taste

Toss shredded chicken, warm roasted beets, apple, scallions and arugula with dressing. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

Roasted sweet potato wedges (serves four)

4 medium sweet potatoes cut into 1-inch wide wedges

Light olive oil or coconut oil

Sea salt and black pepper

Rosemary (optional but delicious)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss wedges with a little olive oil and spices. Bake for 45 minutes or until tender.


9 Best Nutmeg Substitutes for all Your Cooking and Baking Needs

It&rsquos beginning to smell a lot like Christmas! There&rsquos something magical about the aroma of freshly baked Christmas cookies and warm holiday spices. One of the best holiday spices is nutmeg: It's a key ingredient in many baked goods and essential when you're whipping up an eggnog recipe! Nutmeg gets a lot of attention during the holiday season, but it doesn&rsquot get much love the rest of the year&mdashwhich means you may find yourself forgetting to stock up on the spice. That&rsquos where this list of the best nutmeg substitutes comes in handy. If you&rsquore about to make a recipe that calls for nutmeg, like Ree Drummond's Gingerbread Thumbprint Cookies, and you ran out of the spice, don't worry! These easy nutmeg substitutes will save the day.

What is nutmeg, anyway? This fragrant spice actually comes from the seed of an evergreen tree (no wonder it screams Christmas!). It can be found whole or ground, but many people prefer the whole seed because it lasts longer and can be freshly grated for the best flavor. All you need to do is grate whole nutmeg with a fine grater (like a Microplane). Ground nutmeg loses its flavor quicker, so keep an eye on the expiration date. Either way, nutmeg is an intense spice that should be used sparingly. It has a warm, nutty, and spicy flavor that packs a punch in both sweet and savory dishes. You&rsquoll find nutmeg in desserts like pumpkin pie and gingerbread cookies, but it also adds flavor to creamy dishes like Alfredo sauce and green bean casserole. Luckily, nutmeg is often used in combination with other spices. So if your Christmas cookie recipe calls for nutmeg&mdashand you realize that you&rsquore all out&mdashyou can easily increase the amount of the other spices, or swap in one of these nutmeg substitutes instead.


Vanilla

From biscuits to puddings, from ice creams to custard, through panettone and pandoro: it is the very sweet vanilla. This spice is obtained from the fruits of a variety of orchid (of the genus Vanilla) native to Mexico.

If you are familiar in the kitchen, you may have heard of vanillin: it is the molecule most responsible for the vanilla aroma, identified for the first time in 1858 today it is on the market in the form of convenient sachets, to give our desserts that unmistakable sweetness.

However, not only flavor: to conquer Europe, starting from France, it was above all vanilla scent. The vanillin molecule in fact has an aldehyde, a very common chemical group in volatile and odorous molecules, which are perceived by the nose and associated with known odors.


It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas…

Ah, the smells of Christmas. Many years ago, when pot pourri was still fashionable, I had a wonderful mixture that smelled of Christmas. I would put it out in early December, and each night when I got home from work, the spicy fruity smell would welcome me in the door.

The real thing, of course, is Christmas baking. The heady fragrance of the Boozy Christmas pudding mix that wafts up as you stir it. The warm smells of a rich and spicy Christmas cake as it slowly cools.

There are so many recipes for fruit cake, and I’ve certainly tried a few. But this one is my keeper. It’s a boiled fruitcake from Aussie cookbook author Belinda Jeffrey that was published in Australian Home Beautiful magazine a few years ago. The beauty of the recipe is its flexibility—the types of fruit included can be varied to include any combination of raisins, sultanas, currants, prunes, dates, apricots, and other dried fruits similarly the liquids can be varied to include orange and lemon juice, brandy, rum, port, to your tastes.

One of the main ingredients in this fruitcake recipe is fruit mince, and I’ve included a recipe for a homemade version as well, although a good quality store-bought fruit mince will work just as well. This recipe also comes from an Australia cookbook writer, the beloved-by-many Margaret Fulton.

I’m not one for the traditional marzipan icing and fake holly leaves. I don’t even make a nice pattern of almonds and pecan nuts on the top of the cake. It’s all about the rich, dark, fruity, dense cake for me.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and all the best for a Happy New Year.

Christmas Cake

Adapted from a recipe by Belinda Jeffrey, published in Australian Home Beautiful, December 2009.

Makes 2 Christmas cakes, 20cm diameter.

Measure out lemon and orange juice and add 1/2 c water to it, then pour in brandy until mixture measures 900ml total. Add the zest and set aside.

Melt butter over medium heat in large saucepan. Add the sugar and stir until the mixture is wet and slushy. Add the dried fruit, fruit mince, bicarbonate of soda and reserved juice mixture and stir to mix. Increase heat to high and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then stop stirring and bring the mixture to the boil. Allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to avoid the frothy mixture boiling over. Then turn off the heat and allow to cool completely in the saucepan.

Preheat oven to 150C. Grease 2 20cm round deep cake tins with butter and line with a double thickness of baking paper.

Add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, cloves, vanilla and almond extracts to the cooled mixture and stir. Add eggs and stir in well. Mix in flour and stir to thoroughly combine, then allow batter to sit for a few minutes before scraping it into the two prepared tins.

If desired, decorate the tops of the cakes with almonds and pecans arranged in concentric circles.

Bake the cakes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, approximately 1.5 hrs. Check the cakes periodically during cooking, and cover with foil once the tops are a good rich brown colour.

Leave the cakes to cool completely in the tin, on a rack. Remove from the tin, and brush the base and the top with brandy/cognac, then wrap in cling wrap and foil. To prolong the life of the cake, store in the fridge.

1. The boiled fruit mixture can be cooled overnight if that is convenient.

2. The top of the cake will feel firm when lightly pressed when it is fully cooked.

3. The cake will last in the fridge for at least a couple of months.

Fruit Mince

Adapted from a recipe by Margaret Fulton, published in Australian Home Beautiful, December 2009.

Makes approximately 4.5 cups.

Process dried fruit and almonds in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Spoon into a bowl and combine with grated apple, sugar, butter, brandy, spices and orange juice and zest. Mix well.

Cover and chill, stirring daily for at least 2 days before use.

1. Fruit mince will last for several months in the fridge. Give it a stir now and then.

2. This recipe is actually half of the original recipe, but I find I don’t use it all up (I’m not one for making fruit mince tarts). I have enough left over after making the cakes to make a batch or two of fruit mince muffins.


It's Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas

It's that time of year again! Nothing fills the house with a merry spirit more than the tantalizing smell of a spiced chai brewing over the stove. Alongside some cheerful Christmas tunes.

Presenting my gift to you this year. My Chai recipe!

Traditional Spiced Chai

You'll Need:

  • 3 tbsp black tea leaves - We recommend our Spice Island Chai for its fragrant spices, but you can also use a pure Assam or Ceylon black tea. If you don't have either, substitute with 3 breakfast teabags.
  • 3 cups water (700ml)
  • 1 cup milk (250ml)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 4-5 slices fresh ginger, smashed
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 tsp cloves

Steps:

  1. Simmer fresh spices (ginger, cinnamon, clove) in boiled water over the stove for 5-10 minutes until the infusion is spicy and fragrant.
  2. Add tea leaves and infuse for 3-5 mins until the color is a bright golden brown.
  3. Add milk on high heat. Let the infusion bubble and rise to top and then lower the heat. Repeat two or three times so that the mixture rises and falls several times, making sure the tea does not spill over, and then turn off the heat. This helps create a creamy texture. Total 5-10 mins.

*For healthier option, replace milk and sugar with oat milk and honey.

Voila!

And there it is - As simple as that. The key is to make sure the initial infusion is spicy, the tea is brewed strong, and the ultimate texture is creamy. I like to taste along the way to make sure.

A great alcohol-free alternative to mulled wine that is sure to impress your guests. Would love to hear how your Chai experiments go! Comments welcome in the section below.


Simmering spices

When I think of the holiday season, there are certain scents that immediately come to mind. One is the delightful fragrance of a freshly cut Christmas tree gently permeating the air. Another fond memory is the smell of warm apple pie and pumpkin bread filling my grandma’s kitchen. I’m starting to smile just thinking about it.

Smells are often associated with memory. If you toss in an emotional connection, then the ability to recapture these wonderful events in our mind’s eye is compounded. But, who has time these days to make homemade pies, breads, cookies and the like? We are all so busy.

I came across an online article from Garden Therapy about simmering spices. I immediately thought that this was a grand idea! My home can be filled with the smells of the holiday season without spending three days in the kitchen.

On the Garden Therapy website, they suggest simmering your spices on the stove top or in a crock pot. They also share that fresh or dry ingredients can be used. There are an endless number of combinations, so here are a few from their website: gardentherapy.ca/simmering-spices

The first one is called “It’s Like Snowflakes Melting in Your Nose” and they describe it as a blend that is “cool, crisp, and fresh, like a woodland stroll in a winter wonderland.” My goodness, that sounds lovely. It includes star anise, evergreen leaves, peppermint, sage and eucalyptus.

“Sleepy Time” incorporates relaxing scents, such as lavender, chamomile, and rose. While “Pumpkin Spice” has pumpkin skins, allspice, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

There’s even a recipe for “Cold Virus Relief.” This one uses lavender, chamomile, lemon and eucalyptus. For “It’s Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas,” combine pine leaves, bay leaves, cloves, rosemary, cinnamon and dried orange peel.

I have personally put cinnamon and clove on the stove, but with these great ideas I am going to get a little more creative. Let’s all remember to monitor those simmering spices. We don’t want to go off and forget about them in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the season.


It’s Beginning To Smell A Lot Like Christmas

If I close my eyes and think of holiday memories, I can smell them. I know. What am I talking about: Smell them?! But scent is the closest sense linked to memory. For me, those memories involve cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, vanilla bean, allspice, nutmeg and so much more. Christmas mornings were spent running down the stairs to look for presents that had been left for us, and there was always a lingering smell of a cinnamon pull-apart baking in the oven and hot cocoa simmering on the stove.

Traditions for my family always involve a specific recipe — a meal made with love and patience. These dishes are made from recipes passed down from the family members who came before us. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without my great grandma’s noodles or my grandmother’s ambrosia salad. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without nana’s cinnamon pull-apart or great grandma’s cocoa in a Santa mug.

Many of my most cherished memories were made in the kitchen, mixing and stirring, learning and laughing with some of my very favorite people. Lessons included mastering the perfect pie crust and boiling sugar to make a chewy caramel. That time spent in the kitchen with family and friends, learning skills and recipes, are moments I get to keep forever. I don’t only get to tell the stories of these people who I know and love. I get to share tangible (and edible) memories by cooking or baking a recipe passed down from them.

I have been taught by example that the act of cooking or baking for someone is an act of love. The entire process involves thoughtfulness and mindfulness in the creating. Putting time and love into a recipe and creating something delicious for the enjoyment of others is just as satisfying as eating. I mean, who doesn’t love getting cookies or a meal from someone you care about, just to let you know they’re thinking of you?

Now that I’m a mom, I get to make new holiday memories with my own family in the kitchen. My kids love to help me bake and cook, and they love to hear the sweet stories of how I learned to make something. We are carrying on traditions, passing down old recipes and creating new memories of our own that I hope will be shared with their children and grandchildren for years to come. I am so lucky to have recipes handwritten by my mother, grandmother and even my great grandmother. When we get them out to make a certain recipe, it puts a smile on my face to know it was written with love by someone who I care so much about.

I am lucky enough, in my profession, to be able to share joy and excitement with people through baking. I love knowing I am putting love and happiness into the creation of someone's special day or holiday. I am able to use knowledge passed down from generations to create memories and traditions for others!

Jessica Colvin is a born-and-raised Southlake mom and baker who competed on “Spring Baking Championship” in 2019.


It’s-Beginning-to-Smell-A-lot-like-Christmas!

Christmas, what an enchanting time of year! Here at Hip & Healthy, our thoughts are on the weeks ahead: on family time, on the presents we’ll be gifting, the food we’ll be enjoying and the special scents that will be filling our homes. Ah yes, the familiar scents of Christmas: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pine, oranges, mince pies, mixed spice, mulled wine…even this list is enough to flash back to times of merriment and itchy Christmas jumpers. Feeling fabulously festive (as you might have guessed), we recently caught up with Tessa Williams, author of Cult Perfumes, to mull over the extraordinary power of perfume, what makes us feel good and what’s likely to be at the top of our wish lists this Christmas!

In your book, many of the perfume “greats” talk in detail about how they have used scent to capture specific memories from their childhood. Are there certain scents which make you feel nostalgic?
Oh yes, absolutely. Mitsouko by Guerlain reminds me of my mother and I love it for this reason! It instantly makes me picture her getting dressed to go out, looking beautiful and then leaving the house with a gorgeous gust of perfume behind her. In fact, my love of perfumes goes back to the early age of 6 or 7 as my Grandmother used to gift each of her grandchildren with the smallest bottle of Chanel No.5 pure perfume. I was absolutely fascinated by this incredible liquid that had the power to transform my mood – a magical substance of sorts.

Speaking of moods, winter is synonymous with dark mornings, the biting cold and an overwhelming desire to retreat to our duvets. Are there any ingredients or scents that you would recommend to inject a little joie de vivre into a frosty winter’s day?
I find that tuberose is one of the most uplifting scents. It’s a floral scent with a big personality which can be found in Bubblegum Chic by James Heeley, the Parisian perfumer (www.jamesheeley.com). Citrus and bergamot scents can also boost your mood one of my favourites is Cala Rossa by Santa Maria Novella. Sicily is an amazing citrus scent too (www.smnovella.it).

H&H Top Tip: we all have our own personal mind maps of scents. However, if escapism is what you’re after, check out Efflora by ODIN New York. It’s a fantastic scent that instantly transports us to a hot summer’s day (www.odinnewyork.com).

As well as memories, it’s clear from your book that perfumers draw inspiration from the finer things in life such as flowers, herbs and nature which very much compliments the Hip & Healthy ethos of appreciating the everyday. What makes you happy day to day?

For me, seeing my daughter happy always lifts my spirits and being with my partner and family makes me happy too. Perfume also makes me happy – I don’t know why but it’s one of the only few legal things that really can change your mood! I love seeing good news on the TV or in the papers as well as hearing inspiring stories of people who have succeeded against all odds. I believe we’re in charge of our own happiness you have to seek it out however you can.

H&H Top Tip: Lululemon are running a great campaign entitled ‘Give Presence’ – why not ditch the distractions this Christmas and focus on being with the ones you love?

No doubt a number of readers will be treating their loved ones to a new scent this Christmas, which boutiques would you recommend in or around London to find that something special?

I do love Santa Maria Novella, they have three stores in London but their iconic flagship store in Florence is a must visit for any perfume lover. I was lucky enough to have an event there for Cult Perfumes in summer. In London, I love Roullier White (125 Lordship Lane, London SE22 8HU), also Ormonde Jayne (192 Pavilion Road, off Sloane Square), Floris (89 Jermyn St, London SW1Y 6JH) and Les Senteurs (71 Elizabeth St, London SW1W 9PJ).

H&H Top Tip: if you know someone who’s always on the go, how about a solid perfume that they can take with them? Priced at £10, Pacifica has a great range of affordable solid perfumes (www.pacificabeauty.com).

If you’re looking for something a bit different, are there any new scents “shaking up” the world of perfumery?

There are some fantastic new scents like Incitatus by Electimuss that really does smell of a horse! Smell Bent have created some exciting new scents too St Tropez Dispenser is a great one that smells very similar to Hawaiian Tropic – kind of like a beach in a bottle. For my new book, A Scent for Every Day – I have discovered over 365 different perfumes. It’s been quite a journey!

H&H Top Tip: if you’re not looking for something quite so adventurous, woods and spice are often linked to the winter months and so people tend to embrace dark, woody, spicy Orientals at this time of year. Nevermore by Frapin and Fortis by Liquides Imaginaires are two warming winter fragrances.

Last but not least, what scents are you gifting next month?

I’m very excited to be launching my own range of Perfumed Candles which are aimed to evoke The Elements Earth, Water, Air and Fire. I worked with a perfumer/ candle maker to produce what I believe to be the scents of these hugely influential elements. I’m excited to share them with my friends and family.

H&H Top Tip: We love ‘Fire’ – because we’re all for cosying up with a cup of warm almond milk!


6. Make a natural Christmas wreath from eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is a great wreath-making alternative to pine and fir branches a pliable and supple plant, it will also fill your home with its distinctive, woody fragrance. Eucalyptus is often available from independent florists and flower markets.

Love the look but don't have the time to look for the real thing? The Frosted Eucalyptus Mix Wreath from Cox & Cox looks very realistic and pretty. You can fragrance it with a couple of drops of eucalyptus essential oil, which is available in pharmacies.


Watch the video: Holiday spices - its beginning to smell a lot like Christmas