A £700 leg of Jamón Ibérico, a copper-bottom Sautee pan and a new batch of hens might be the perfect gift for the foodie in every Guardian readers’ life, but – no offence – I can’t imagine anybody who reads this blog spontaneously dropping a stack on a pan and some ham because an article said so.
If your favourite glutton doesn’t happen to live inside a Habitat catalogue shoot, they’re more likely to appreciate some of these Christmas treats:
Polyscience Smoking Gun
Let’s get it out of the way; yes it looks like – and would probably perform functionally as – drug paraphernalia, and using it as such might actually make you the only person in the country to laugh during the Mrs. Brown’s Boys Christmas Special – Feck The Halls (just kidding, that’s much too clever a name).
To do that would be such a waste though, when you could be using it to infuse meats, cheeses, vegetables, crisps, beer, wine and liquor with cold-smoke from wood, herbs, spices, teas and any other combustable you can think to put in there.
Minosharp Water Sharpener
A knife is a very personal item that could very well last its owner a lifetime, and there’s so much room for error when choosing one – pick the wrong size, shape, balance or type of steel and you’ve wasted your money, ruined Christmas, and the person you bought it for could be forgiven for never talking to you again. Besides, any home chef worth their Maldon will already have one or two that they swear by and use for 90% of the jobs in their kitchen.
A knife-sharpener is unlikely to evoke an N64 Kid-esque reaction when it’s opened on Christmas morning, and everybody else in the room might be thinking “A knife sharpener, what a sad bastard. They’ll much prefer the Minion I’ve bought them despite the fact we’re both grown adults” – but when your giftee’s trusty old blade has been given a new lease of life, and it’s slicing off thin, silken ribbons of Turkey breast without a care in the world, you’ll both know that you’ve won Christmas.
Besides, what kind of selfish sociopath is going to already have one of these, at this price?
People who are predisposed to really liking food are inevitably coffee people as well. They go hand in hand – the sophisticated flavour palates, the experimentation and customisation that comes from the infinite combinations of grinding, brewing, cupping and whatever else, and certainly the inherent elitism. Espresso machines are mostly bogus, and highly unlikely to yield barista-style results, so don’t bother spending hundreds of pounds attempting to.
Aeropress and Bialetti both make equipment that makes good quality espresso with minimal effort, for around £20. That bag of Whittard’s coffee that’s been half-folded over in a cupboard for 18 months just isn’t going to cut it, so do the equipment some justice by getting them a subscription to Pact as well – they deliver fresh roast and ground gourmet coffee as often as you’d like on a rolling subscription, so you can get them as much or as little as you think they deserve – the first bag is only £1 as well.
Pact Coffee £6.95/250g(£1 for first bag) Pact
Maldon Sea Salt
Imagine my delight when I found out gold-standard of seasoning is available in 1.5kg buckets. Giving this to an aspiring home chef is the gift equivalent of a sly wink or a secret handshake, they’ll know that you just get them, and this type of quantity will last for up to a week in their kitchen.
We live in a golden age of stylish, high concept cookbooks catering to every possible niche cuisine, but speaking from experience, your giftee will be inundated with them every special occasion as soon as they show even a passing interest in food. Magazines will look just as good on their coffee table, and a subscription will remind them every few months what a great friend you are.
TOAST and Lucky Peach are both pleasingly high-quality, design-conscious publications which feature articles, photography and illustrations from a range of contributors, sharing their perspective on the people, stories and culture of food. Like this blog, but less crap.
If you’re set on giving somebody a cookbook though, SousChef.co.uk has done what somebody should have done a long-ass time ago, and made hampers containing books and a selection of the harder to find ingredients used – nothing’s worse than getting the new Ottolenghi book for Christmas and not being able to find a shop open that sells Harissa.
TOAST £15 EatDrinkToast.com
Lucky Peach $48/4 Issues lky.ph
Leeds Indie Food Festival Passport
If your pal is anywhere near Leeds in May, they’ll be going to the Indie Food Festival. As I mentioned here it’s going on for two weeks – with anybody who’s anybody in the Leeds food game taking part in events – and finishes with the biggest street feast the City’s ever seen.
We’re not 17 any more, so nobody wants to keep a skeevy fabric wristband on for two whole weeks. The Festival Passport acts as the wristband for public and gets filled with stamps as its owner attends tastings, panels, workshops and screenings over the course of the fortnight, entitling them to priority tickets, discounts, and exclusive events and products.