If the much-documented chaos and clamour of Black Friday was enough to put you off shopping for life, it’s time to consider the alternatives as Christmas draws nearer. I have long been an advocate of the edible gift, not simply because I love my food and suspect many of my nearest and dearest do as well; but because both the cooking and the packaging allow me to get a bit crafty and creative. If I can squeeze a little down time into the pre-Christmas mayhem, that is.
Sweet treats and preserves are the best option for the Martha Stewarts of the world who like to get their Christmas presents organised early: homemade biscotti, chocolate dipped honeycomb, fruit chutneys and jams all have an impressive shelf life, and are general crowd pleasers. The Alsace chapter of My Little French Kitchen features a selection of make-ahead Christmas treats, like Coconut Snowballs (above) and Almond Spiced Biscuits – you could also try my Gingerbread recipe.
I got to work early this year with a glut of apples and took to jarring kilo upon kilo of apple chutney. Paired with a handmade postage label and a quick little illustration, you have a unique and personal gift (if you don’t fancy the illustrated effort you can find a few websites that create graphic jar labels).
Le Parfait, Weck and Ball are all exceptionally beautiful jar creators (check out Labour and Wait’s site for a good range), but as far as I’m concerned, most keen cooks (or eaters!) will probably have a stash of recycled jams jars at the ready for any preserving situations, and this is the time to clear them out. Try my Cherry tomato and vanilla jam from The Little Paris Kitchen, which is perfect paired with an after-dinner cheese board.
For a quick and easy way of creating your own jam labels, buy some coloured card or heavy paper and some butcher’s twine or string. Cut out rectangles and use a hole punch to create neat holes. Thread through the string, write your message artistically (fountain pens can improve the scruffiest of hand writing) and tie your tag to the lid.
One of the simplest and most stylish options of all the edible gift ideas has to be the chocolate truffle. My Rolled Chocolate Truffles from my Evening Standard column fit the bill perfectly. Spiked with some Maldon sea salt crystals and tossed in freeze dried fruits or pistachios, these are both pretty and speedy. You can pop them into tiny coloured cupcake cases or into a cellophane bag to be accessorised with a pretty bow. Alternatively, if you have any pretty pieces of linen or fabric lying around, tear them into strips and tie or plait them together for an upcycled bow.
If the creative side of things is not quite what you had in mind for your edible gifts, my Daily Mail Side Orders column will be offering a few food-related gifts over the coming weeks. From an elegant Stilton pot from Paxton and Whitfield, through to the brilliant Biscuiteers who offer a super range of intricately decorated biscuits for dangling from trees or sending out as christmas cards, there’s something for everyone and every budget.
Some more festive inspiration from around the web:
Check out Pearl and Earl for plenty of pretty packaging
Some festive fun gone wild: Extreme Gingerbread Houses slideshow on Bon Appetit
Candied pecan biscotti from Joy the Baker