Gifts for the make it yourself kind of food lover


Now, these can be a tricky kind of food lover to buy for, as they love to get into the nitty gritty of preparing food. They certainly aren’t going to love a pepper grinder. Here’s five ideas for gifts that might do the trick.


Helping out at Brays Cottage, producer of the best pork pie


Learn how to make pork pies from the best!

We love Bray’s Cottage pork pies in this house, and now Sarah is revealing the secrets to great pies and sausage rolls at the Macarons & More Cookery School. Great course, great people, fabulous location, so you could make a weekend of it. Classes fill up really quickly so check the site regularly for new dates.


Pro Q Ranger Elite Hot & Cold Smoker Starter Kit


Smoke it Yourself

Smoking your own food has been a bit of a thing recently, and it would certainly give them plenty of options on different things to produce. The Pro Q Hot & Cold Smoke Kit means they can do things like hot or cold smoked salmon, smoked cheese, possibly even smoked vodka. It’ll certainly keep them busy through till New Year.


Sixty year old sourdough starter from Hobbs House Bakery


Guarantee them great sourdough every time

Sourdough starter can be a tricky thing, but is essential for making your own sourdough bread. If they’re keen, then give them some vintage starter with the 60 year old starter from Hobbs House Bakery. Complete with instructions, this should guarantee you some fabulous bread over Christmas and beyond.


Chocolate making and tasting events at Paul A Young


Eat chocolate, make chocolate

I love Paul A Young’s approach to chocolate in all its forms. If you think they’d love some time trying some of his creations and then learning some of the secrets behind them then this could be for them. From a vertical chocolate tasting of bean through to bar, and then learning about tempering and ganache making, they’ll come away with not only a taste for the good stuff but new skills too.


Food DIY by Tim Hayward for the make it yourself food lover


The DIY manual for food techniques

This is the perfect book for MIY food lover, it covers how to make everything yourself from sausages to smoked salmon, bacon to buns, sloe gin to sourdough. So if you know they love to make, or the idea of it, but just aren’t sure where their interest lies, then this might well be a perfect gift as they decide what to tackle next.

Choose right, and you may not see much of them through the rest of the festive period as they get seriously into making mode.


The Friday Five – Bringing home the bacon


I’ve never heard of it before, but apparently Bacon Connoisseurs Week is coming up from the 18th of this month. Sounds a great week to me, as rather partial to bacon, and other cured meats. I’ve struggled a bit to find any events listed, but perhaps I’m just a little too early. If you wanted to be organised and have your own bacon or charcuterie ready for next year, then maybe some reading matter might inspire you.

Though I imagine the first instruction might say “first get your pig”. So I’ve included a couple that are just about cooking with the stuff.


Fifty Shades of Bacon


Fifty Shades of Bacon – ok, just including this so we can all groan at the bandwagon leap here. I’ve included it in case you need a “novelty” gift. I mean seriously, the chapters are called Foreplay, Afternoon Delight and Multiple Orgasms. I loathe it, but could send it to someone not really on my gift giving list.


Manual of a Traditional Bacon Curer


Manual of a Traditional Bacon Curer – I’ve written about this book before, as Maynard Davies is a bit of a legend in curing circles. If you’re going it alone, then this covers it all from bacon to haggis, and even how to design your smokehouse. About as opposite the first title as it’s possible to be.


Seduced by Bacon


Seduced by Bacon:Recipes and Lore About America’s Favorite Indulgence – not as naff as the first one, this has proper chapter titles, like Breakfast & Baked Goods, Sandwiches and Desserts, so more likely to get this out and use it. And who could resist a book with recipes such as Pecan Waffles with Caramel Bacon Sauce.


Ham an Obsession


Ham: An Obsession with the Hindquarter – this really is for the keen ones, and covers everything from pork joints, to wet and dry cures, from the old world and the new. It helpfully also covers taking hams through airport security. It’s an American book, so maybe that’s a big consideration. I’d be more interested in the different glaze and rub recipes.


Salt Sugar Smoke


Salt Sugar Smoke – whilst not entirely devoted to meat, I’ve heard really good things about this book from people who’ve bought it and used it. Covering smoking and curing, not to mention preserving (as in jams), pork is covered but sure there will be plenty of inspiration, not to mention accompaniments to keep your taste buds interested.

So, after indulging in pies this week, you’ve got a week’s break and then can freely indulge in great bacon. I can definitely see bacon sandwiches in my future! How about you?


Bank Holiday monsoon or BBQ?


Or some combo of the two? I mean, it’s surely a good British tradition of breaking the BBQ out on the May Day bank holiday, regardless of whether or not it’s pouring down with rain. So time to have a quick look at new things, fun, functional or otherwise to make the BBQ go with a swing, even in the rain!


Weber BBQ Smoker Book - great gift for a foodie who likes it smoky* If you invested in a Weber BBQ last year, then keep it fresh this year by adding a Smoker Box, to add a whole new raft of recipes and flavours to your outdoor cooking. Even the humble sausage will take on a whole new dimension of flavour after a turn through this box on top of the BBQ.


Hot Pot BBQ - perfect gift for a food lover who loves their gardening and their BBQ


* If you don’t have huge amounts of outdoor space, but would like to barbecue without resorting to the disposable variant, then I’d check out this multi-tasking tiny Hot Pot BBQ. A BBQ and herb planter all in one, it all stacks neatly together, takes up no more room than a regular planter,  and means you have fresh herbs to hand when cooking, and looks attractive when the cooking is over.


Great outdoor tableware - great gift for a food lover who likes outdoor eating


* You probably don’t want to risk the best china outside, but no need to go for paper plates either, not when there are funky melamine designs like these around. In fact, these are so lovely, I could use these all year round, indoors or out.


Tablemats for outside


* Not wishing to see a dropping off of standards, then you’ll be needing good place settings. But no need to go all formal, try these paper placemats from Oliver Bonas.


Homemade burger press - a great gift for the food lover who likes it meaty


* I don’t think you can beat a great homemade burger, made from great local beef. I know ours got better when we got a burger press, but I wish we had one that looked like this! Almost sculptural, but also very functional, this little lovely comes from Roullier White.

I think we all hope that this very wet drought comes to an end soon, and that we will be busy out in our gardens enjoying some cooking in the great outdoors again. That, or shivering under an umbrella wondering why we didn’t put everything under the grill in the kitchen.


Smoked Christmas food, as opposed to Christmas up in smoke


There are some fantastic smokehouses around the UK, some have been there since fire was invented, and some Johnny come latelys as well, but many turning out some great produce. I love smokey flavours and have been trying to work my way through a few places, and I think Christmas is a perfect time for these flavours.


The Weald Smokery - turning out perfect smokey gifts for food lovers


First up is The Weald Smokery, based in East Sussex. Smoking over oak in brick kilns, their hot roast smoked salmon won gold at this year’s Great Taste Awards. You could go the whole hog, or fish, and treat someone to a whole side, or treat them to a gift box that includes it and a good selection of their other delicacies.


The Artisan Smokehouse - great gifts of smoked deliciousness for food lovers


Moving round the coast to Suffolk and to The Artisan Smokehouse. Combining great smoking with the produce of other great British producers, their hamper offers some brilliant treats for Christmas including smoked beef fillet, smoked Cropwell Bishop Stilton and smoked rapeseed oil. Lots of things to work with to infuse smokey flavours into all kinds of dishes.


The Black Mountains Smokery - great smoked gifts for food lovers

Heading a long way west, and to the Black Mountains Smokery. Working with both hot and cold smoking techniques, Black Mountains harnesses the best of tradition with modern technology across a wide range of products. If you’ve got someone to buy for who isn’t a fish lover, then have a look at the Meat Platter Hamper. Some great meals in there, with things like smoked chicken, duck and goose to start with, along with some sausages and even a boned quail.


Brown & Forrest - great source of smoked gifts for a food lover


For something a little different, heading south to Brown & Forrest in Somerset, and try their smoked eel, which they’ve been smoking for over 29 years. This is hot smoked over beech and apple, and comes as small packs, or whole sides, or even converted for you into a pate.


The Hebridean Smokehouse - great gifts for smoked food lovers

Got to feature smoked salmon, and so heading about as far north in the UK as is possible to go, and to the Hebridean Smokehouse on Uist. You can choose peat smoked or beechwood smoked, from a small pack to a whole side, sliced or left ready for you to tackle. Perfect for Christmas morning with a glass of fizz.

Want to learn how to do it yourself? Check out the appropriately named Smoky Jo’s, who do one day or weekend courses, and they can even sell you the smoking kit to get on with your own produce. If you need additional incentive to book, they’re based up near Penrith, so some beautiful countryside and good eating around you, and you get to pick up a new skill. Perfect.


The Friday Five – Preserving the best


One of the things that struck me in France was that there were still lots of preserved things on the shelves (and I’m not talking about Bardot), not just in the jam aisle. Although the jam aisle was definitely crammed with interesting flavours that you don’t necessarily get here.

Preserving certainly fits in with the grow your own, credit crunch vibe, and really allows you to extend the season of your hard grown produce. So, here’s a round up of my five choices to preserving your best:

1. The Good Housekeeping Complete Book of Home Preserving – this is my go to book on the subject. Covers everything from jams to chutney, bottling to drying and smoking, if you want a primer for preserving this is it. My original copy show a price of £8.50, Amazon Marketplace sellers have it from £11.59, which is not enough to tempt me to sell!

Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber


2. Mes Confitures: The Jams & Jellies of Christine Ferber – I guarantee you did not know there were so many jam flavour combinations in the world! Everytime I open this book I want to make another one! Organised by season so you can make the most of what’s around, the recipes and photographs are wondeful. A definite keeper.

3. Keeping the Harvest – one for all the allotment owners, I think this is an update really to the first book, with similar subject matter, although doesn’t cover meat products.

4. Preserved by Johnny Acton and Nick Sandler – new out in paperback, this is a very attractive book with great photography and covers a wide variety of preserving methods, including making your own sausages and salami (assuming you have a pig to preserve). There’s also a useful guide to building your own smokehouse. In case the fancy takes you.

5. WI Book of Preserves – of course we know there’s more to the Women’s Institute than jam and Jerusalem, but if you don’t think there’s more to jam than the WI then this is the book for you!

Now all you need is a trip to John Lewis or Lakeland for supplies, a bountiful harvest, and you’re all set. Hopefully like your jam.