Any moment now, my wife and I are expecting our second baby. Little Sophie was due on Monday, but like her older sister, she is taking her time and is officially 6 days over due. So for this Christmas, the only gifts I care for is a happy healthy little baby, and an easy delivery.
To those of you who aren’t expecting sleepless nights and are instead having a good old regular Christmas, here are some food-related ideas for Christmas presents. They’re highlights from my year- books that I’ve received and loved, food that I’ve enjoyed and things that I’d like to have but cannot afford – one can only dream…
For full disclosure, please note that both books I mention below were sent to me by the respective publishing houses. I have both bought and received many books throughout the year, and these are my top two picks. I would happily spend my own money on buying them.
Every Grain of Rice
If you’re after an easy argument for keeping print publications alive, Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice will do the trick nicely. There’s a tactile experience that comes with this book – weight, design and texture – as well as a rich visual experience. I’ve never been to China; its cuisine is one that I find daunting but Dunlop’s recipes are so elegant in their simplicity and so beautifully photographed that they really motivate you to get cooking. Her eggs with tomato recipe has revolutionised my breakfast (and sometimes dinner). This has become one of my all-time favourite recipe books and I recommend it wholeheartedly. I saw Dunlop speak at the Sydney International Food Festival a couple of years back, and her immersion in Chinese cookery is inspirational. You can also follow her blog at http://www.fuchsiadunlop.com and at @fuchsiadunlop. Get the book for $36.34AUD here.
Pepe Saya Butter
Pepe Saya butter has probably formed around 30% of my calories over the past year. If you haven’t heard about it, you must be hiding under a rock that’s covered by a couple of other rocks. This European-style cultured butter that is handmade in Sydney by Mr Pierre Issa (Pepe Saya is his alter ego). It is simply one of the best butters I’ve ever had. The cream comes from cows that have been pasture-fed; live culture is then added and the cream is left to sour; this gives the butter depth and character. The flavour of the butter has been different every time I’ve had it, as you would expect from a seasonal, hand-made product. I met Pepe almost a year ago and we found out that we went to the same school in Lebanon. We hit it off immediately and have become really great friends. I was lucky enough to go on an excursion with him to Country Valley, a dairy in Picton where he sources the cream for the butter. There, I got to see the cows grazing on lush grass, outdoors and happy. As far as I’m concerned, only cows that happy and butter-makers as dedicated as Pepe can make butter this awesome. You can find Pepe Saya butter at most quality food stores, as well as several Sydney markets for around $8 for 225 grams. Follow Pepe at @pepesaya.
Japanese Knife from Chef’s Armoury
I often visit the Chef’s Armoury website to day dream about one day having a complete collection of their knives. Everything on that website is an item of beauty. This knife is just one example. Just look at that stunning damascus pattern. These guys are not cheap ($549.95AUD for this one), so maybe putting a dollar away each day is a good strategy for Christmas 2014. If you’re thinking about buying me a Christmas gift, here’s one big hint! Day dream at www.chefsarmoury.com and tweet at @chefsarmoury
Love & Hunger
I’m a sucker for good narratives, especially when they are food related. Written by Sydney’s own Charlotte Wood, Love & Hunger is my kind of book. Here you have a collection of food-centric, non-fiction short stories from Wood’s life. Wood is neither a celebrity chef nor a winner of a reality TV show; she is a serious writer with several titles to her name, and Love & Hunger is her first book on food. She’s also a normal person who “gets it” and her stories emanate with love and humanity with none of the fake glamour and decorative glorification that food writers usually dedicate to their topic. When I received a review copy of this book, I was unable to read it because my wife was hooked on it (she said that it completely changed her perspective on cooking, for which I am eternally grateful). Of course, I have since read it, and totally recommend this to anyone interested in great story telling as well as good recipes and tricks in the kitchen. Follow Charlotte’s lovely blog here and at @charlotteshucks.
Homemade Macadamia Butter
I can’t finish this post without talking about gifting food that you can make yourself. Don’t worry, I’ve made this one simple: roasted macadamia butter. This Australian nut is my absolute favourite and to turn it into luscious macadamia butter couldn’t be easier. Roast the nuts at 200 c for 15 minutes, turning every 4 minutes or so to avoid burning them. Let them cool and then put them in a food processor along with some good quality salt. Blitz until the nuts turn into butter, approx 1 minute. Make enough for 2 jars at least: one for you and one for the Christmas tree.