CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE: NOT THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Now that Santa and the ’deers have received their Transiting Australia Travel Exemption, it’s game on for Christmas. Here are things that I think are useful, delicious, or at the very least, amusing.
This is not your usual gift guide (you will note a complete lack of scented candles), in that I’ve just thrown it together on a combination of panic and instinct. Rest assured, it’s all completely independent and unpaid for, and not even expected by those whose lovely things I am putting in here, as I haven’t quite gotten around to telling them.
SOMETHING FOR THE JUDGEMENTAL ENVIRONMENTALIST:
(And aren’t we all?) 100% cotton canvas tote from the ever-inspiring Becker Minty, $39. www.beckerminty.com
SOMETHING FOR THE COOK: TWO GOOD COOK BOOK TWO
“Recipes for Resilience” is the theme for Two Good’s second cook book, and it’s a beauty, resplendent in Christmas green and chockers with recipes from top Australian chefs and the women of the Two Good kitchen.
Get it for Kylie Kwong’s prawn wontons and Sarah Wilson’s Inside Out Avo Toast and Matt Moran’s fish fingers and Michael Rantissi’s cauliflower and cranberry salad, which sounds just right for Christmas Day.
And the best part? You’ll be creating meaningful employment pathways through Two Good’s #WorkWork program for women at risk of homelessness, some of whose stories are planted throughout the recipes.
Beautifully realised by The Cru agency for the Two Good Foundation, it’s been a labour of love for designers Evi-O Studio, artist Emily Imeson, photographer Petrina Tinslay, food stylist David Morgan with food prep by Jimmy Callaway, Two Good head chef Jen Shaw and Director Jo Rosenberg. $45, available from Two Good (and check out their amazing Chrissy gift guide).
(Disclaimer: I have the pleasure of serving on Two Good’s Advisory Panel, and my recipe for Steamed Orange Marmalade Pudding is on page 189).
SOMETHING FOR THE MESSY: THE CUTEST DUST PAN EVER
I’ve gone all practical this year, and (family, look away now), will be packaging up a number of useful kitchen tools as presents, and this cute-as dustpan and brush from OXO is one of them. It’s just perfect for anyone who’s just had a baby (I told you to look away), or who leaves a trail of crumbs behind them ( yes, you), or who works with crafty things on their dining room table (uh huh), or who can’t be bothered getting the vacuum cleaner out to do under the table ( all of us). Currently $16.95 at Oxo Australia.
SOMETHING FOR THE BITTER: BEECHWORTH BITTERS B8 AMARO
We’re a quiet lot, we who love the bitter as much as the sweet. We sit quietly in bars with something darkly ruby in a rocks glass; we’re not showy or loud.
It’s for us that chef Michael Ryan of Provenance restaurant in north-eastern Victoria has made a range of Amari and launched his brand Beechworth Bitters. What began as a lockdown sanity project became a deep dive into making alcoholic extractions of over 120 botanicals – citrus, fruits, leaves, barks, roots, spices – and, as Michael says, “many, many blending sessions”.
There are five in the range, but I’m making a beeline for the B8, based on a V8-like combination of tomato, beetroot, carrot, celery, herbs, artichoke and other vegetables, with koji and kombu adding umami. For my health, mind. $70, 500ml, from Beechworth Bitters Co.
SOMETHING FOR THE HOTTY IN YOUR LIFE: FERMENTED CHILLI SAUCE
Buying chilli sauce is fine, but it’s dead. Buy fermented chilli sauce like this Batch#3 Fermented Hot Sauce from Kangaroo Valley’s super-fermenter and cook Angie’s Food ($8), and it’s alive. And it’s small enough to fit inside a bag, for any chilli emergency.
Actually, anything from Angie’s Food would be good – especially the preserved lemon paste - but I particularly like foods that raise a sweat.
SOMETHING FOR THE BAKER: THREE-LEGGED CHIFFON CAKE TIN
Chiffon cake is the tallest, lightest, fluffiest, cakiest cake in the kingdom of cakes. Technically known as a foam cake, it has a high ratio of well-beaten eggs to flour and rises high in the pan. It’s as rich as butter cake and as light as sponge.
BUT ONLY IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT PAN - a 25cm chiffon or angel food tin that has a central funnel and three little legs. And once you get over the VERY SCARY PROCESS of turning the cake upside down as soon as you take it from the oven, the way they do panettone, or it will sink. (Tip: set up three cans on the kitchen bench, one for each leg. Much less scary than balancing it on a bottle, which is commonly recommended).
I’m not one for buying kitchen tools for single-use only, but this is something you or the recipient of your gift will use many, many times, or indeed, pass around to family members - this is a very contagious cake. Maybe print out my Masterclass recipe from Good Food to go with it, or send them a link to complete your gift, or buy them a copy of Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paull or the Monday Morning Cooking Club’s Now For Something Sweet.
Available from specialist cookware shops such as Cake Bake Decorate, Sugar Time and Williams-Sonoma (their Nordic Ware angel food cake tin shown, $45), Kitchen Warehouse (currently on sale), and Amazon.
SOMETHING FOR THE PERSON DOING THE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING.
Seriously, sometimes all they want is for someone to make them a cup of tea.
Feel free to add a comment, or share with a mate. Or subscribe (it’s free) for more recipes, tips and food news in your Inbox every Thursday. Special thanks to Terry Durack for getting me a bottle of Beechworth Bitters V8 Amaro for Christmas, or else.
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands and waters upon which I work, live, cook and play; the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I fully support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to be enshrined in Australia’s Constitution.