The Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

A foodie’s guide to Christmas gifts

A foodie's guide to Christmas gifts
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Like Father Christmas, I’m making a list, and checking it twice. I have scoured the food and drink world to bring you the greatest and most varied gifts for Christmas 2021. Entirely coincidentally, those who are obliged to buy presents for me can consider this my Christmas list, but I hope it will also provide inspiration for the food-lover in your life.

For the keen cook

I’ve used a lot of cooking thermometers over the years, both at home and at work, and Thermapen is the hands-down winner. With a temperature range of -49.9 to 299.9°C, and an accurate measurement in one second, it is easy to use, easy to read, and easy to clean. Compact and brightly coloured, use the Thermapen to check temperatures in meat cooking, jam-making, confectionery and any other kitchen temperature you care to think of.

Thermapen digital thermometer, Thermapen, £66

For the fancypants food lover

I’m not sure there’s a better gift than really posh butter (I might be sightly biased), but this crab and lobster butter not only received three stars at this year’s Great Taste Awards, but was also awarded their Golden Fork award, for the best product of the year from London. The butter combines the ‘sweetness of British Isles lobster and Devon crab, the nutty complexity of caviar, and the herby, aniseed uplift of fennel.’ At just shy of £100, it’s not cheap, but then it’s not your common or garden butter – and it does come with its own butter dish.

Ridiculous No 55 crab and lobster butter, Sublime butter, £95

For the baking obsessive

Bakery Bits makes me feel like a child in a sweetshop: I want everything, immediately, thank you very much, and I might cry if I don’t get it. There are cloches, specialist ingredients, cake cases, books and kits galore. But if you really want to win over the bread baker in your life, then it has to be the Challenger bread pan: baker extraordinaire Jim Challenger set about designing his perfect cast-iron Dutch oven to create the platonic crust and crumb on his sourdough loaves. The result is the Challenger, an extremely tactile, domed bread pan, with shallow base, and thoughtfully placed handles, designed to withstand the high temperatures that sourdough baking requires. A clever piece of design.

Challenger bread pan, Baker Bits Ltd, £234

For the pizza fanatic

If you want to be able to make your own proper stone-baked pizzas at home, you need an Ooni pizza oven. Reaching 500°C in 15 minutes, and cooking a 12 inch pizza in 60 seconds, it is incredibly hot and incredibly fast. This is the outdoor pizza oven which will give you that distinctive blistered, leopard-spotted crust in a domestic setting – and the ovens are lightweight enough to be portable, if you want to take them out and about. The ovens are available in wood-fired or gas-fired models, but whichever you plump for, it will transform you into a true pizzaiolo.

Ooni Koda 12 gas-fired pizza oven, Ooni, from £239.20

For the snack-lover

I hope my brother-in-law isn’t reading this, because I have already gifted him this subscription. Each month, a box full of snacks from a different country arrives at your door. Previous boxes have focused on top snacks from New Zealand, the US, Bulgaria, and Hungary. You can gift subscriptions for 3, 6, or 12 months, or send a one-off box, and each box contains biscuits, chocolate, crisps, nibbles and a drink from that month’s surprise country.

Original SnackSurprise Gift Box, Snack Surprise, from £15.49

For the hostess

Is there a more beautifully packaged foodstuff than panettone? The Muzzi traditional panettone is no exception, sitting in a distinctive bright blue box, covered in tropical birds and flowers. Beyond the classic, there are other interesting flavours available – pistachio and chocolate, marron glacé – but whichever you choose, you’re certain to be the most stylish gift-giver in the room.

Muzzi traditional panettone, Souschef, £23.99

For the chocolate lover

Look, I love a selection box and a chocolate orange as much as the next person, but if you’re looking for something really special for someone you love this year, then you need the Cartografie Christmas collection. Cartografie focus on the terroir of their single origin chocolate, matching their single origin chocolates with complimentary flavours. The Christmas box contains eight beautiful single origin chocolates, with ganache fillings including quince eau de vie, brandy butter and mandarin, and pistachio praline.

Cartografie Christmas collection, Cartografie, £26

For the person who has everything

If you’re buying for someone who drinks, there’s no gift more elegant (or welcome) than a really lovely bottle of fizz. Acclaimed English sparkling wine producer, Nyetimber, have brought out a new bottle specifically designed to sit alongside food. With ​​delicate honey notes, balanced with pure lemon and tangerine flavours and a refreshing minerality, it is especially suited to rich food, which makes it perfect for Christmas.

Cuvée Cherie, Nyetimber, £38

For the chilli head

Eaten Alive was set up by two chefs, Glyn and Pat, who were obsessed with fermentation. Their It’s Alive Discovery Box contains four award-winning, full-size bottles of their hot sauces: smoked sriracha, scotch bonnet, Chocolate BBQ, and Preserved Lemon. It will light up the eyes (and mouths) of the hot sauce obsessive in your life.

It’s Alive Discovery Box, Eaten Alive £15.99

For the cocktail connoisseur

Felix Cohen has been making amazing cocktails for over a decade. Previously the brains behind Every Cloud bar in Hackney, he founded Daisy in Margate. During lockdown, he began selling postal cocktails. Available in 100ml or 500ml pouches, the cocktails are brilliant: smart, sometimes tongue in cheek, but always delicious. Try the hay-infused gimlet, the modern classic naked and famous, the pecan-smoke spiked American gothic, or the kitsch popcorn old fashioned.

Mail order cocktails, Manhattans Project, from £6.40

For the next star of Junior Bake Off

Craft & Crumb have created baking kits for kids. Aimed at 3-11 year olds, it encourages creativity, skill-building, learning and independence – as well as producing something delightful to eat. Each monthly box contains a kid-suitable bake and craft, and you can choose from a 3, 6, 12 month, or rolling subscription.

Baking and Crafting Club Subscription, Craft & Crumb, from £60

For the crafter

Toft, the king of crochet kits, has brought out a range for the seafood lover in your life. Suitable for beginners, this is the perfect stocking filler for a crafty foodie: the kits come in tin cans, and contain everything you need to crochet sardines, scallops, mackerel, prawns, mussels or snails.

Sardines in a Can Crochet Kit, Toft, £16

For the littlest food lover (or biggest pastry lover)

Jellycat make the softest toys probably in the world, and they have a new fantastic selection of foodie friends for the little (or not so little) person in your life. I’m hard pressed to choose a favourite – I love the pistachio macaron, the farfalle, and the nigiri sushi – but I’m having a baby in late December, and if I don’t receive the pain au chocolat from at least half a dozen of my nearest and dearest, I need to reconsider the message I’m sending out.

Pain au chocolat soft toy, Jellycat, £15.50

For the maker

Ok, so what do you get for the person who’s already mastered sourdough, whose kimchi is bubbling away, and whose stone-baked pizza game is on point? What is there left for them – or for you to gift them? Well, I’m going to guess they haven’t yet whittled their own spoon. There’s only one way to fix that: with a spoon whittling kit. The kit contains different grades of sandpaper, beeswax, a cloth, and the wooden block, along with translated instructions to ensure whittling success.

Japanese spoon whittling kit, Kitchen Provisions, £16

For the not-so-green-fingered gardener

If you’re anything like me, you have grand plans for growing your own ingredients, and finally stopping buying those sad bags of supermarket herbs. But perhaps the reality is a little lacklustre. Well, this smart garden is about to change your life: this is a foolproof way of growing your own herbs at home. With automated light, irrigation and nutrients, it doesn’t need any natural light to grow, and has a water tank which holds three weeks of water and will remind you when it needs refilling. The initial set includes curly parsley, chives, thyme and sweet basil, but can be refilled with salad leaves, cocktail ingredients or fruit and veg.

Veritable Indoor Smart Garden, John Lewis, £175

For some festive indulgence

In this age of Covid, everyone knows that jetting around the continent isn’t as fun as it used to be. Thankfully, Harvey Nichols has done the hard work for you. Its Christmas ‘Continental Hamper’ helpfully gathers various festive flavours from around Europe and delivers it to your doorstep. There’s chocolate and amaretti panettone from Italy, champagne - and champagne truffles - from France, and Gouda cheese palmiers from the Netherlands. Britain is also well represented: a selection of Earl Grey teabags and cheery cherry jam – laced with brandy – make the cut. The hamper's highlight though is an old-fashioned favourite: a tin of chocolate biscuits. These are meant for sharing but you can hardly be blamed for scoffing the lot before the big day.

Harvey Nichols continental hamper; £140

For hot chocolate fans

A steaming cup of hot chocolate is the perfect drink for a cold winter’s day. Knoops – a chocolatiers that has taken Sussex by storm and recently opened two new branches in London – has added some Christmas spice to its hot chocolate gift set: a pouch of festive spice mix. A warming mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, white pepper, cardamom and orange makes for the perfect accompaniment to a cup of hot chocolate. Their hot chocolate comes beautifully gift wrapped and presented, making for the perfect stocking filler.

Knoops Festive Spice Hot Chocolate Gift Set; £27.00

Written byThe Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

Olivia Potts is a former criminal barrister who retrained as a pastry chef. She co-hosts The Spectator’s Table Talk podcast and writes Spectator Life's The Vintage Chef column. A chef and food writer, she was winner of the Fortnum and Mason's debut food book award in 2020 for her memoir A Half Baked Idea.

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