I HAVE a confession to make. There is only one person on my mind when I go in search of cool Christmas gifts for foodies. Me!
This year’s list reflects my desire to just read books, drink craft spirits, and pick my way through an endless selection of hampers. But how is this even a bad thing?
I can hear my drinks cabinet groaning already, and really 2021 is doing nothing to alleviate my book-buying addiction either! With so many great reads this year, it seems our favourite food writers have been busy during our super-long lockdown creating some really great books.
I’m sharing some of my favourite foodie crafters, shopping haunts and courses too. Foodie Escapes are never far from my mind either, as are the wonderful selection of seasonal hampers.
So, let’s get stuck in and see if I can help you tick off that gift list in super-quick time this year…
Longueville House, Mallow
Big changes at Longueville House means that this grand 300-year-old listed Georgian Country House Estate has now transformed itself into a luxury private rental property, perfect for gatherings of 2-30 people in the Main House and adjacent Country Mews.
Live like a lord and enjoy private salmon and brown trout fishing on the River Blackwater, falconry on the lawn, a range of cross-country hikes; orchard, garden, and distillery tours; cider tastings, dawn chorus walks, and October mushroom hunts.
For the gourmand, a field to fork ethos ensures the seasonal food produced within Longueville is given exceptional treatment by host and personal chef William O’Callaghan.
All vegetables, herbs and much of the summer and autumn fruit comes from the walled kitchen garden and poly-tunnels on the east side of the house, and the menu style ensures a unique dining experience for guests.
Two Green Shoots, Glengarriff
From virtual gardening advice sessions, to handcrafted pieces for home and garden, feasting experiences, and stays in their stunning botanical themed accommodation, Two Green Shoots have a delicious mix of nourishing gifts to suit all ages and interests.
Vouchers over €100 in value come with complimentary gift wrapping and include a handcrafted botanical card, a voucher card with unique code to redeem for a gift of their choice in the online shop, and a posie of dried botanicals from the garden, all wrapped inside a branded gift box.
Sprig Cookery School
The brainchild of professional chef Eamon Lynch, who has curated an incredible schedule of online cookery classes with some of Ireland’s most celebrated chefs – including Cork’s very own Aisling Moore of Goldie Fish and Ale.
From Michelin-starred drinks to award-winning chocolate, to zero waste cooking and simple seafood, Sprig operates as a subscription service with a full schedule of classes available at your fingertips for just €30 per month or €240 per year. Alternatively, courses can be booked on an individual basis too.
Alison Ospina runs courses in designing and crafting stools, small tables, and chairs out of hazelwood from her studio near Skibbereen, West Cork. Courses run as either 1-day (€200) or 3-day (€590) during spring and autumn and, with only up to three participants per course, Alison ensures each person gets the most out of their time with her.
I love the aesthetic of this type of natural furniture and like to imagine one day having a dining table and chairs hand-built by me rather than from a factory! This is the place to learn how to do it.
CRAFT & KITCHENALIA
Dunn Bladeworks, Glengarriff
Sam Dunn is fast gaining a remarkable reputation as a leading knife maker. His knives are workhorses, designed to be both beautiful to look at as well as exceptional kitchen tools crafted from high carbon steel.
The striking angular design of the blades makes a Dunn Bladeworks knife immediately recognisable. The carefully chosen materials from which to craft the handle of each unique knife adds a touch of luxury.
Susan Herlihy Ceramics - The Beachware Collection
Inspired by the colours of the coastal landscape near her studio in Midleton, Susan Herlihy’s Beachware Collection of ceramics are beautifully crafted.
Bright whites contrast with sandstone gold, and tones of sea blue and green. I love the pottery Wine Cup in this collection, elevating the evening sup of wine to something elegant yet rustic.
Kitchen Stories, Ballydehob
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Ballydehob really is the place to be for foodies! Not only do they have a Michelin-starred restaurant, one of the best live music venues, and melted cheese food trucks, but they also have Kitchen Stories.
A mecca for all the kitchenalia your heart could desire, from fancy cocktail ware to table dressing, gold cutlery and enamel ware, ingredients and cookbooks, Joanne Cassidy has curated an Aladdin’s Cave of foodie treasures!
Valentia Island Vermouth
Anna and Orla Snook O’Carroll are the wife-and-wife team behind one of the most sought-after sips released this year. The first vermouth to be crafted in Ireland, on the wistfully rugged Valentia Island in Co Kerry, this drink is an expert blend of 20 different botanicals.
The name Ór comes from the main ingredient, the vibrant golden yellow flower of the gorse shrub rich with the aroma of coconut.
Other botanicals include nutmeg, yarrow, orris root, cinnamon bark, and star anise.
Galley Head Single Malt Irish Whiskey
The latest release from Clonakilty Distillery is their first single malt whiskey, adding to their range of premium cask-finished blended whiskeys.
Aged in two barrel-types: a re-charred wine barrel and freshly disgorged Bordeaux wine barrel, each wood imparts different flavours from rich caramel and cocoa to fresh spice.
The whiskey has been carefully aged in the distillery warehouse which overlooks the Galley Head Lighthouse, just outside of Clonakilty, and from which this whiskey takes its name.
Kinsale Mead Co, Wild Red Mead – Merlot Barrel Aged Limited
This very special Mead, produced as a limited edition once a year, was the recipient of the 2021 Irish Food Writer’s Guild Drinks Award.
Taking their Wild Red Mead and aging it for 12 months in French Merlot barrels, this is an intriguing sip that is juicy with bright flavours of Wexford blackcurrants and dark, sweet cherries.
There is warmth from the honey and caramel from the barrel-aging, and it’s perfect as an aperitif, a great substitute for red wine with food, a digestif or even in a cocktail.
Hampers from The English
Home to Cork’s best variety of local seasonal produce - including free range turkeys, Cork’s famous spiced beef, award-winning smoked and unsmoked hams, smoked salmon, mince pies, Christmas cakes and puddings with all the trimmings, homemade preserves. This year, there is also a huge variety of handmade and carefully curated festive hampers available from a variety of your favourite market stalwarts!
The Roughty Foodie ‘Pure Cork Hamper’, The Farmgate ‘Luxury Hamper’, On The Pigs Back ‘Cork Rebel Hamper’ and Tom Durcan Meats ‘Tastes of The English Market’ (priced from €55 - €135) all celebrate the heritage and variety of local, artisan produce of the traders.
Irish Oak Smoked Salmon from K O’Connell’s Fish Merchant (€15 - €40), and Hederman Smoked Salmon - 40 years of Panache and Provenance Hamper (from €90) shines a spotlight on the tradition and craft of smoked fish from two much-loved and respected names in the business.
Meanwhile, a little festive gathering is sorted with Bubble Brothers Wine Merchants ‘Green to the Extreme’ wine gift set (€45), The Chocolate Shop Luxury Chocolate Gifts Boxes, and Café Marius Christmas Cakes (€25) and ‘Ready to Bake’ Mince Pies (€14 for 6).
Finally, My Goodness have really outdone themselves this year with their biggest hamper offering yet. ‘Vegan Christmas Survival Kit’ (from €65) aims to provide everything for the “awkward vegan”, but that will have everyone wanting a little taste more! Keep an eye out too for their Tex-Mex Xmas Tamale kit too.
Carewswood Garden Centre Hampers
An enormous range of 17 different indulgent hampers ranging in price from €29.95 to €350, you can be sure to find a hamper for every taste.
I like the sound of the Sparkling Breakfast Hamper (€125), Christmas Comforts Hamper (€129), and Country Picnic Hamper (€129) – perfect for a St Stephen’s Day outing!
The Tiny Turnip’s Christmas Grazing Gift Boxes
Lovingly handmade to order by award-winning Ballymaloe-trained chef Aisling Murphy, each grazing box features her own festive homemade nibbles along with a carefully curated selection of cured meats, cheeses, crackers, smoked salmon, honey, and mulled wine mix for a memorable gift or for entertaining friends and family at home.
Aisling has teamed up with the likes of Gubbeen, Shanagarry Smokehouse, Milleens, Ardsallagh Goats Cheese, and Baltimore-based Foxglove Cocktails for a delicious hamper delivered to your door.
There are so many great books to choose from this year, it’s hard to pick a favourite, so here’s a shortlist instead!
The Official Guinness Cookbook, by Caroline Hennessy
From savoury braised short ribs to traditional Guinness soda bread to decadent cheesecake brownies, this comprehensive book includes over 70 recipes for dishes that feature or pair with the stouts, ales, and lagers of the Guinness brewery.
Soup Broth Bread, by Rachel Allen
Cook up warm, comforting dishes this autumn with Rachel Allen’s timeless collection of soups, breads, garnishes, stocks and much more.
Rachel also shares easy recipes for fresh homemade breads, as well as clever garnishes, essential stocks, and a wealth of tips on equipment, batch-cooking, freezing, and presentation.
How to Cook, by Darina Allen
One hundred essential recipes for any home cook, which use simple and accessible ingredients to create nutritious and mouth-watering meals.
A Cook’s Book, by Nigel Slater
A book of 200 recipes, and so much more besides. Nigel Slater’s writing is at its nostalgic and heart-warming best when his cooking and writing convene for his ‘Diary’ series of books. This is the latest, and many are saying it’s his best to date.
Food Through the Ages – A Popular History, by Mike Gibney
An entertaining look at the history and development of the different foods we eat every day by tracing the story from early hunter-gatherers through settled agriculture to the migration across Europe, and it examines the influence imperial conquests and medieval exploration had on the food chain.
Mixing history, anecdote and even verse, the result is a culinary tour that informs, amuses, and surprises.
Get behind a new independent Irish book publisher!
Taco, Hot Fat, United States of Cookies, and Wok are the first four publications launched by new publishing house Blasta Books.
Founded by editor Kristin Jensen, who wants to shake up the cookbook publishing world by creating short-form books with 60 recipes and illustrations by some of Ireland’s leading diverse verses in cooking.