Stocking fillers are the best part of Christmas shopping. An excuse to surrender to temptation when it comes to all the weird and wonderful little things you’ve had your eye on. Retail therapy at its whimsiest. These 12 goodies for foodies will have Santa enviously eyeing up the stockings over the hearth (once he’s polished off his ginger wine and mince pies).
English Heritage Lemon Curd
English Heritage have entered the preserving business. Only this time it isn’t tending to the nation’s historic buildings, but creating a thick and luscious lemon curd preserve to slather on warm toast. Though they’ve received a chunk of the government’s rescue package for the arts it’s not enough to plug the hole that Covid has left in their finances, hence the rather unexpected, but admirable, idea for revenue generation.
Every jar you buy will help secure our national heritage but this is no mere exercise in charity: it’s a top-quality product handmade in the UK from free-range eggs, and it has won a Great Taste Award for that perfect sweet and bitter balance.
Beeble’s Honey Whiskey
Beeble describes its product as a “British honey spirit drink made with whisky” which is a bit of a mouthful but a good way to describe it. Realising it was difficult to avoid wasting the honey stuck to the frames of their Wiltshire hives, Beeble’s creators decided to soak the frames in barrels of whisky. The result is a deliciously smooth and sweet 30% proof whisky, that comes in 50ml bottles or, for the perfect stocking filler, 20 cl “Drone” sized or 5 cl “Worker” sized bottles.
Grocycle’s Oyster mushroom kit
Fancy growing your own oyster mushrooms at home from coffee grounds? Who doesn’t? Months of lockdown-induced boredom and the proven tranquillity of the outdoors have led to a surge of interest in home growing fruit and veg for those lucky enough to have a garden. These nifty kits enable even the most space-starved city dwellers to experience some of the magic: they arrive with the hard work done for you so you simply need to water, watch them grow and harvest (you should get 2-3 crops). Mushroom Wellington anyone?
Why does no-one seem to eat Gentleman’s Relish anymore? This intensely salty, slightly fishy paste made from anchovies, butter, herbs and spices, is as good as anything you can put atop buttered bread. It divides opinion as stridently as Marmite, but once you have developed the acquired taste, you won’t be able to get enough of it. It can be eaten at any time of day—breakfast, teatime, or a surreptitious snack between Zoom calls. Mrs Beeton advised that anchovy paste spread on toast was an “excellent bonne bouche which enables gentlemen at wine-parties to enjoy their port with redoubled gusto”. Which sounds like just what we all need at Christmas.
Sous Chef’s Edible flowers
Most of us have been doing at least a bit of baking of late. There’s no reason to sneer at sprinkles of course, but for Instagram-worthy decoration it’s hard to beat edible flowers. Fresh violas, nasturtiums and pansies are undeniably beautiful but they’re hard to get hold of and cost a pretty penny. Instead, try these dried and crystallised versions of rose, viola petals and cornflowers. Just a scattering on your cupcakes or trifle and pud will look as good as it tastes.
Pump Street’s Sourdough and sea salt chocolate
Hand-made in Suffolk, Pump Street’s bar is a masterful combination of Ecuadorean dark chocolate, sourdough crumbs and a sprinkle of sea salt. It’s more than a gimmick: the sourdough adds crunch and a malty taste. Now admittedly £6.25 is rather a lot to pay for 70g of chocolate. But then again it’s Christmas, and besides, anything with sourdough in it is enough to command a 300% price premium in this day and age.
The Wasabi Company’s starter pack
What do you get for the foodie who has everything? Enter The Wasabi Company. They treat wasabi with the sort of reverence and care more usually reserved for fresh truffle and for that we salute them. The flavour and pungency of fresh wasabi apparently peaks 5-7 minutes after being broken down and so it should be served at the table and grated little and often. This starter pack contains 50g of fresh wasabi, a wasabi grater, bamboo wasabi grater brush, and a helpful guide. Just what you need in readiness for January clean eating.
Somerset House honey
Urban beekeeping is nowadays all the buzz and what could be more special for a locked-down, jaded Londoner than a jar of honey from a colony of Buckfast Bees residing high above the Thames? It’s mellifluously described as “Bright and citrusy, with a delicate yet spicy aftertaste and heady lime aroma”. Fortnum’s Piccadilly honey (produced from a colony on the roof of its St James’s store) is already sold out, so don’t delay.
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Just the thing for autumnal and wintery dishes, this virgin oil is made from Styrian pumpkin seeds that are lightly roasted before being pressed. It has the same nuttiness that normally has foodies reaching for sesame oil. It is the creation of a small Hungarian family outfit and the resulting product has a remarkable depth of flavour. It is perfect to drizzle on top of warming squash soups, in dressings or on your Brussel sprouts just before serving.
If we ever do end up going back to office working, a “dabba” or Indian tiffin lunchbox is just what you need: plastic-free, odour-free, compact and with enough compartments for you to enjoy a four-course meal during your lunch hour. They’re delivered by bicycle and railway by Mumbai’s dabbawalas in a daily exercise of ingenious efficiency that keeps the city’s office workers nourished with hot, home-cooked food (Irrfan Khan, who sadly died earlier this year, gave them a fitting tribute in the 2013 film, The Lunchbox). It’s the perfect way to keep up the habit of home cooked lunches that you’ve honed during lockdown.
Black Garlic Whisky Smoked Salt
Any chef worth their salt now uses Maldon or a fleur de sel. But if you want something really special to use in rubs for meat, roasted aubergine or indeed anything in which you want to impart a sweet, smoky flavour, buy a jar of this stuff which is heavy with notes of molasses and umami. Hawk Head use aged whisky casks from Scottish distilleries in their smokery to get the unique taste: each cask will have seen up to 70 years of service before being burnt. For this salt, they’ve added in black garlic, a mainstay of Far Eastern cuisine that has in recent years emerged onto the European food scene. The result is a triumph, and at just £5 for a large jar or £2 for a smaller one, a very good value one.
Pommery Wholegrain mustard
This season’s must haves are well and good, but that’s no reason to neglect the timeless classics. And what could be more timeless than the Pommery mustard produced in the cathedral town of Meaux, close to Paris, in a recipe dating back to 1632? Pommery’s great rivals are the equally distinguished moutardiers, Maille, but nothing can beat Pommery’s iconic stoneware jar, stoppered with cork and sealed with red wax. It looks ever so Christmassy, and a couple of spoons of the grainy, nutty mustard is just the thing for your glazed ham. The great epicure Brillat-Savarin dubbed Pommery wholegrain mustard as “the mustard of gourmets”. What more recommendation do you need?