It’s that time of year again - fighting through the masses in town and wading through Black Friday deals online. It’s a tricky business and rarely a good time, so luckily for you we have done the hard graft and put together some of the best options for your food-loving friends, family and partners. Avoid the trepidation as they unwrap that perfume and body wash set you bought them in the pharmacy - will they love it? Spoiler alert - they won’t. Here are some of our favourite food related gifts that will be sure to wow them on Christmas day. First up - cookbooks, memoirs and cookery classes.
Cookbooks and Memoirs
Taste: My Life Through Food, Stanley Tucci
We’re sure we’re not the only ones to fall a little bit in love with Stanley Tucci after the viral video of him calmly making his signature ‘quarantucci’ cocktail during lockdown. He was the cool, suave escape we all needed at a difficult time. Stanley has two cookbooks under his belt, and while this book does have some recipes throughout, it is actually a memoir of his life both in and out of the kitchen. As an instant New York Times Bestseller, this is sure to be under a lot of trees this Christmas. Find it your local book store, but we also found it online in case you can't get there.
Growing Up In A Nyonya Kitchen, Sharon Wee
'Growing up in a Nyonya Kitchen' was first published in 2012, but is being republished again this month after a scandal involving London-based chef Elizabeth Haigh, who has been accused of plagiarism in her cookbook 'Makan', which was pulled from shelves in October. Nyonya cuisine emanated from Malaysia and has influences from Chinese, Malay, Javanese and South Indian cooking, and the original has recipes for nasi biryani, curry puffs and pineapple tarts, as well as endearing stories from Wee's childhood and her mother's cooking. Buy it here.
To Asia With Love, Hetty McKinnon
Hetty McKinnon made a name through her community kitchen in Sydney where she earned the nickname ‘Salad Lady’. Her first three books follow this theme of salads, but her most recent book, To Asia with Love, takes a different approach and focuses on the food she grew up with. While this book isn’t hot off the press (it actually released in 2020), it is one of the most used cookbooks on our shelf and a perfect gift for someone interested in everyday Asian cooking. We haven’t spotted this in many Irish book stores but you can get it on Book Depository.
Jew-ish, Jake Cohen
We first came across this book when Cohen did an episode of The Sporkful podcast, and loved his stories of merging his Jewish food (based on Eastern European cooking) and his new husband's (based on Middle Eastern cooking), particularly the part about how quickly the women of the family accepted him when he asked if he could learn from them in the kitchen. The book is a mix of recipes spanning it all, with some up to date twists from Cohen, and while we're struggling to find ingredients like Matzo ball mix and amba in Dublin shops, there's plenty in here to make from what's readily available. We've earmarked the challah for some Christmas baking. Buy it here.
The Blasta Books Collection, Various
This quarterly collection of cookbooks came about through a Kickstarter created by publisher Kristen Jensen. The fundraising target was smashed, showing the enthusiasm for the cookbooks written by some familiar faces from the Irish food industry, like Lily Ramirez-Foran from Picado, and Eoin Cluskey from Bread 41. We would also buy the books purely for the beautiful illustrations by Nicky Hooper, and we were lucky enough to nab one of her pantry prints during the Kickstarter. You can pick one up here for €15, or splash out on the collection of four for €50.
And For Mains, Gaz Smith & Rick Higgins
It’s no secret that we (along with most people in Dublin!) are big fans of Michael’s in Mount Merrion, and this might be our chance to re-create some of our favourite dishes at home. Gaz Smith has paired up with his friend and butcher Rick Higgins to create a self-published book combining Gaz’s famous seafood recipes with Rick’s knowledge of meat and butchery. This is one for your carnivorous friend who loves a bit of a weekend project, and hopefully they’ll invite you over to taste the end result. The book can be found online and is also stocked in Higgins Butchers in Sutton and Michael’s.
Heartburn, Nora Ephron
This is an oldie but we recently discovered that Meryl Streep reads the audiobook, which made us appreciate its greatness once more. It's really a story of a marriage breakup, but it's interspersed with so many food anecdotes and recipes that we were hooked on a few levels. The fact that it's semi-autobiographical, based on the breakdown of her own marriage to Carl Bernstein makes it all the more gripping. Find it in Gutter Book Shop or Dubray Books.
Sourdough Bread Classes, Bread 41
No introduction needed for this business - if you haven’t had a chance to physically visit Bread 41's café you have surely drooled over their pastries on their social media. They hold regular three-hour evening courses so it’s perfect for someone who dabbled in the sourdough trend during lockdown, and who would be interested in learning more. Participants will leave the class with their own sourdough starter and some of Bread 41’s own bread recipes. Hands-on courses ranging from €130-€150 per person depending on the number of people in the class and can be booked here.
Indian Cooking Class, Rasam
For something a bit different, Rasam in Glasthule village runs demo style classes where participants will watch their dinner being made while they learn about different types of spices, traditional Indian cooking methods, and have an opportunity to pick the chefs brain about anything they please. At the end, you get to enjoy the results with a two-course meal. This class needs a minimum of six people, so this would be a great option for a group gift instead of the normal kris kindle. Classes are €60 per person including your meal and they will send you off with some of their own spices to cook with at home. More information here.
Silk Road, Kimmage
Silk Road Café in the Chester Beatty Library is one of our favourite hideaways in the city for a relaxed lunch in a gorgeous location. They also run a cookery school in Kimmage, offering one of the most wide ranging class schedules we’ve seen - they’re all Mediterranean or Middle Eastern inspired but vary from ‘Vegan Mezze’ to ‘Moroccan Tagine’ to ‘All Things Kofta’. The hands-on classes are all €65 and would be perfect for a vegetarian or vegan friend, but they cater for all. See the full range of classes online.
Dublin Cookery School
Dublin Cookery School holds over 100 cookery classes a year in their Blackrock cookery school, from pasta making to handmade tacos, cooking for friends to classes just for the guys. There are evening and weekend classes, and you can buy gift vouchers on their website. See the upcoming calendar here.
Pinocchio Italian Cookery School
Pinocchio restaurant in Temple Bar do a sideline in Italian cookery classes several times a month. As you'd imagine, handmade pasta and pizza feature a lot, but there are 2022 classes focused on recipes from Rome, a full Tuscan dinner, and even a couple's Valentine's Day class where you'll prepare a three-course meal with your other half while sipping Italian wine. If you don't want to pick the class you can buy vouchers for one, two or three classes, and you can see what's coming up here.
Howth Castle Cookery School
Based in the original 18th Century Georgian kitchen in Howth Castle, this cookery school does cooking classes for no more than 10 people with topics from simple fish suppers, to nutritious family food, to DIY sushi. The setting is beautiful, and there are classes for every experience level. Gift vouchers are available on their website, and you can see what's coming up here.
Teach Scoile, The Happy Tummy Co.
The founder of Happy Tummy Co. Karen O’Donoghue caught our attention with an impassioned post about the true value (and cost) of the food we eat and the investments we should be making to nourish our bodies with the best we can afford. Her bakes (including her ‘magic poo bread’ for €25 a loaf - we’ll leave that with you to investigate more) are available to sample in her cafe and workshop in Westport and to buy online, but we're mostly intrigued by her ‘Bread as Medicine’ course. This would be a great gift for anyone tuned into what they put into their body and the ways in which we can use food to improve our health. A full day class costs €180 per person and includes drinks, lunch and some low intervention wine at the end of the day. It's in Mayo so if Dublin based they'll probably want to work in an overnight stay but all the more fun. Check it out here.
Ballymaloe Cookery School Online
Attending a week-long course in Ballymaloe Cookery School is a dream of many foodies, including ourselves, but unfortunately for us our budget doesn’t quite stretch that far. Until it does, we can make do with their online cookery school to get live demos from some well known faces including Darina Allen, Rory O’Connell and Rachel Allen. You can choose a one-off online class for €60 or splash out on a yearly membership for €500. Take a look at their offering here.
Interested in giving experiences and subscriptions this year? See part two of our Christmas gift guide here.