It’s that time of year again. The most wonderful time of the year, in theory. The most administrative-heavy time of the year in practice. Original, thoughtful, budget-friendly gifts for a diverse bunch of family and friends can feel like an insurmountable challenge – or at least one that’s designed to suck all of the joy out of the festive season. I can’t pretend to have all the answers, but I can give you a pretty good bunch of ideas for the food lovers in your life – everything from cokobooks to gadgets, courses to sweet treats.
For the adventurous cook
I’m a longtime lover of Sous Chef: their online shop offers all sort of unusual ingredients, equipment and cooking kits. This year, they have a ‘‘cult ingredients’ set which contains everything the trendy chef in your life could want, including Tonka beans (like a combination of vanilla and clove), chardonnay vinegar, swanky Valhrona chocolate, and activated charcoal sea salt (nope, no idea).
For the Japanophile
There’s no such thing as too many socks, that’s just a fact. And even if there were, you’d want to add these gorgeous sushi-inspired socks from Anthropologie to your sock drawer straight away anyway – they look good enough to eat.
For the perfect host
For lovers of Christmas luxury, Fortnum & Mason has always been the gold standard. Luckily, their elves (aka Tom Parker Bowles) have distilled their Christmas spirit into one beautiful cookbook: Fortnums’ hot toddy, roast goose, Christmas pudding soufflés – it’s impossible to read this and not feel festive.
For the chocoholic
Chocolates for Christmas might not be the most original gift, but Pump Street don’t just make any old chocolate. Made by hand, using traditional methods and all natural ingredients, their chocolate has a wide fan base. Their chocolate often takes inspiration from their award-winning bakery, and their Christmas gift box includes bars made with their eccles cakes, panettone and gingerbread (as well as a nutmeg flavoured bar).
For the person who has everything
We all have one of these at Christmas, don’t we? Impossible to buy for, a well-appointed kitchen, very particular taste which is hard to second guess, and enough disposable income that if they want something, they tend to get it for themselves. Donate to Magic Breakfast on their behalf and bring healthy, filling breakfasts to schools for children in the UK who are at risk of hunger.
Magic Breakfasts, any donation possible, but £58.50 gives one year of breakfasts and support to a child in need.
For the eco-warrior
We all know we need to be doing more for the environment in the face of climate change, and the kitchen is often the focus of this: no single use plastics, less meat consumption. But it can feel a bit overwhelming: where does one even begin? Help someone to eliminate metres of clingfilm with handsome and reusable beeswax wraps, or step into the garden and increase local biodiversity with a bee hotel.
For the all-round foodie
Everyone knows Boxing Day is better than Christmas Day. The same good food and company and less of the hype. Harvey Nichols’s Boxing Day hamper is the perfect companion for your post-Christmas slump. There are plenty of festive treats – brandy butter, Christmas pudding and chutney – so that you don’t feel sad that Christmas is over for another year. The range of sweet treats is also sure to mean you’re popular with relatives; the milk chocolate thins are a particular highlight. And don’t fear: there is lots of booze too. The Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec and delicious damson gin will keep you well stocked up until New Year.
For the Northerner
As someone who bakes a lot, I am rarely the recipient of baked goods: the rationale being that my home is probably full of them and that I’m possibly a bit sniffy about which cakes and buns I consume. On the contrary, there’s nothing I love more than being presented with a perfect little cake or a packet of biscuits that haven’t come from my own oven – especially if their packaging is as beautiful as those of Betty’s of Harrogate, a Northern institution. Their Christmas cake in a tin or box of miniature fat rascals make the perfect host or hostess present if you’re spending Christmas at someone else’s home. The box of rascals is not only beautifully packaged, but also designed to fit through the letterbox, so it’s a good choice if you want to send someone a sweet treat.
For the yeast obsessive
Sourdough has never been hotter, but it’s also a temperamental beast, and one that can be difficult to master without a little guidance. Happily, there are excellent one-day sourdough courses all over the country. Give the gift of bread this Christmas: in Martha de Lacey’s East London kitchen you can learn everything from the basics to all the tips and tricks to make a top shelf loaf of sourdough, while enjoying homemade sourdough crumpets slathered in Martha’s home-smoked butter, skillet pizzas made in front of you, wine, and coffee. You’ll leave with two loaves that you’ve made during the course of the day to take away and bake, a proving basket, scoring blade, some of Martha’s starter, and access to her recipes.
For the gadget lover
This little metal maze, when stuffed with (the included) wood dust and lit with a tealight will transform your kettle barbecue into a cold-smoker, enabling you to smoke your own butter, meat, fish, nuts and cheeses. Better get moving if you want your smoked salmon blinis in time for your New Year’s Eve party!
For the cheese aficionado
Sure, you know someone who really loves cheese, but have they ever codified that love into something that comes with a certificate they can frame? I doubt it. But now they can with the Master of Cheese Level 1, a one day course (held all over the country), in which they’ll learn about cheese history, cheese making, cheese matching and, most importantly, a hands-on approach to cheese tasting.
For the out-and-about gourmet
You never know when the need might arise without notice for a bottle opener while you’re out and about: the frustration, the indignity of having to do without is unimaginable! Perhaps you have found yourself with an urgent need for a garlic crusher, or a channel knife? We’ve all been there. Whatever your culinary implement emergency, wild + wolf have you covered with their 12-in-1 gourmet multi tool, featuring the above mentioned plus can opener, paring knife, serrated knife, corkscrew, cheese grater, peeler, zester, fork and spoon.