It’s getting to that time of year when everyone starts stressing about presents. It often gets a bit out of hand in our house, as my birthday, Chanukah, and our wedding anniversary come in quick succession. In case you have the same problem, I thought I’d make a list of foodie gift suggestions for your friends and family. Don’t buy any of these for me though – I already have them 🙂
Books are always a good place to start. There are lots of books that I love, use and recommend, over in my shop. However, here are a few that are extra special, and would make amazing presents.
The first is The Family Meal: Home cooking with Ferran Adrià. Ferran Adria was the man behind El Bulli – which for several years was crowned the best restaurant in the world. He is also credited as one of the fathers of molecular gastronomy. But don’t let that put you off! This book is full of the recipes that were cooked for the staff of El Bulli, who would eat together before service. It is full of delicious menus, all of which can be cooked and enjoyed in a home kitchen.
What I particularly like about this book though, is its format. Each recipe is presented as a series of photos with instructive captions, so you can see exactly what you should be doing and what it should look like. The photographs are beautiful and clear, and of course you spend ages ogling them and drooling! There are also clear, illustrated sections about kitchen tools, ingredients, and so on. A terrific book for any keen cook.
Next up, also for its AMAZING photography, is Modernist Cuisine at Home. This two volume set is the ‘domestic’ version of the amazing 6-volume Modernist Cuisine: (which would be a truly magnificent gift for any foodie, myself included!)
The book is justly famed for it’s astounding illustrations, many of which show the construction of dishes by ‘exploding’ them, or explain cooking methods using cross-sectional photos. These were apparently taken by…. cutting things in half and taking photos of them! You know, things like pressure cookers, ovens etc. – take a look at the siphon in the photo below.
The second volume in the set is a spiral-bound, wipe-clean book which gives only the recipes. So you can pore over the big, fully illustrated book, decide what to cook, then use the recipe-only book in the kitchen, keeping your gorgeous full-colour detailed volume pristine. Good thinking!
Now, if you want a book that will be cooked from again and again, rather than just ogled for its beautiful photos, I strongly recommend Evelyn Rose’s New Complete International Jewish Cookbook. Even if you’re not Jewish. Evelyn’s recipes are completely foolproof, and the resulting dishes always look like they took much more effort than they did! It has a good range of basics and more elaborate dishes, and even suggests menus for various events. I don’t eat meat, and I rarely cook it, but when I do I turn to Evelyn and she’s never let me down. There are vegetable dishes, starters, desserts, cakes – you name it. If I was going to be stranded on an island with only one recipe book, this would be the one. No question.
One more book suggestion, just because it’s unusual, interesting, and also quite useful. It is The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. It is a wonderful resource for pairing flavours, checking out new combinations, and generally making your food taste more interesting. Whenever I’ve looked something up in it, I’ve ended up sitting, reading page after page of fascinating foodie facts, insight and suggestions. A lovely book both for browsing and cooking from.
If the foodie in your life prefers gadgets to books, then here are a few that I love. Some are more practical than others! The rolling pin, for instance, gets plenty of use, while the siphon only comes out every so often, usually to make yogurt foam – yum yum yum.
The Joseph Joseph Multi-Colour Adjustable Rolling Pin (right) is an absolute genius piece of kit that enables you to evenly roll pastry (or cookie dough) to a pre-determined thickness. How did I live without this?! It even has a measuring scale along its length so you can gauge when your pastry is the right size for the dish. Amazing!
It may look mundane, but this stainless steel rotary grater (see photo below) is probably one of the most used gadgets in my kitchen. It grates cheese in a fraction of the time, and you can grate straight onto things too. It’s surprisingly easy to clean. I love it! To be honest, it probably wouldn’t be much of a gift on its own, but together with a lump of amazing parmesan-esque cheese? Now you’re talking.
If you want to spend the big bucks, how about an Ice-cream maker? We love ours. It got plenty of use over the summer, as you might expect, but I’m already fantasising about wintry frozen desserts like spicy brown-bread & marmalade ice-cream, or mulled wine sorbet. The beauty of this one is that you can just plug it in and go, you don’t need to freeze anything in advance. Good if you’re likely to experience a spontaneous urge to make ice-cream 🙂
I love the Pyrex Kitchen Lab range – it really appeals to my geeky side, especially this Measure and Shake Mixer which is brilliant for shaking up salad dressings, marinades etc. You can just see it in the photo below. If you know a scientist who’s also keen in the kitchen, they might really enjoy this range.
I know some people don’t like giving knives as gifts, but I got my Global vegetable knife as a house-warming present more than 10 years ago, and I still use it almost every day.
And finally, a siphon! We were given this Mastrad siphon gift set for our anniversary last year and we love it! Admittedly, we haven’t been too adventurous with it, mostly using it to make whipped cream and yogurt foam, which is really delicious on top of fruit salad. Or waffles. Or ice-cream. Mmmm. I might just nip out and get some yogurt…
I’m not going to recommend any specific foods as gifts, because I think they are so much more subjective than books and gadgets. However, I will give this one piece of advice. If you’re buying chocolate, get it from Hotel Chocolat! Not only is theirs the best, most delicious chocolate available (IMHO), but their approach to cocoa production and sourcing is remarkable both for its scientific rigour and its ethical approach. Mmmmm.
So, those are my suggestions. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments. I can’t promise a satisfactory answer, but I’ll do my best.
Happy shopping 🙂