For many out there, the perfect Christmas gift is peace on earth, some precious family time, or just the day off in front of the telly. For loads of us though, Christmas is all about the stuff. It’s a chance to get your hands on a massive great pile of coveted items and roll around in them like an ecstatically unashamed hoarder, weeping unrelenting tears of joy at your newly gained material goods and warding off any onlookers with a big clenched fist.
OK, that might just be me.
But it is true that the majority of people like an actual gift of some sort, beyond all the laudable and lovely goodwill to all men (sexist) malarkey. And Christmas is traditionally a time for fabulous food and drink, so it seems only right that we should come up with a list of the top 20 best gifts to give a foodie this Christmas.
So that’s what we’ve done. Read on.
Why shop around?
You know when you find a shop that sells it all and you can just pick up everything you need in one incredibly productive sesh? Like the supermarket at the end of Fantastic Mr Fox? Well, we’ve found just that thing in the shape of DukesHill, a supplier which stocks the very best of festive and year-round fare, both British and beyond.
If you like to know a bit about who you’re dealing with, then may we present a history as potted as some of its delicious meats. It all started way back in the heady and hairy days of 1985, when Wiltshire hams were produced as a labour of love by a small outfit of enthusiasts operating out of a shed in Shropshire.
So delicious were these joints that the producers were soon hamming it up all over the place, with none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II becoming a customer in 1998 (a Royal Warrant followed in 2003).
The business expanded hugely, growing to encompass all manner of quality meats and other exquisite foods. But two things remained. A concentration solely on the small producer, the artisan and the handmade. And the location - they’re still in Shropshire. Just in a larger shed.
One look at DukesHill’s website will tell you that your foodie friends are well covered here. Because, when your catering coterie has all the cast iron Le Creuset cookware they can shake a salt cellar at and a pizza oven in every room, they’ll want something else - something perhaps a little unusual but still super high quality. Let’s pick out some of the best.
This - the Christmas family favourite - is what DukesHill is world-famous for. They started out with just the ham, then added the per as it went along. It’s possible to do a whole gift guide devoted to DukesHill hamper selection. It really is astonishing. What they each have in common, though, is a quality wicker-lidded basket secured with leather straps. This is only right and proper - a cardboard box declaring itself a hamper is fooling no one.
The Christmas hamper collection includes the It’s a Wonderful Life Christmas Hamper, with a superb range of eminently edible items and a bottle of Cava, as well as the Star of Wonder Christmas Hamper, with an even bigger spread of tasty treats and a bottle of Prosecco. There’s also a misery-busting Bah Humbug! Christmas Hamper, full of festive bites that will put a smile on any Ebenezer’s face.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a Sweet Delights Hamper featuring chocolate honeycomb, shortbread, chocolate mendiants and some truly sensational chocolate-covered salted caramels. Or you can introduce a note of much-missed summer with the Afternoon Tea Hamper, full of cakes, flapjacks, tiffin and all the kind of things you would normally serve in sun-kissed gardens. It’ll be a welcome slice of July amid the winter gloom.
Cheese fans will go Emmental for the Cheese Lover’s Hamper (which has no fewer than four cheeses, complete with crackers and chutneys), while meat maniacs will thump their savage breast for the Meat Lover’s Hamper, stuffed to the gullet with more joints than were seen at this year’s Glastonbury.
There are so many more great hampers at DukesHill that we could talk about them all day. However, we thought it would be nice to cover some of the other items it’s possible to get. Not all of them are what you might consider conventional gifts, but for the right person, they will totally hit the spot.
2. Dark Chocolate Orange Hot Chocolate Set
For those who like a present with a lengthy name, the Dark Chocolate Orange Hot Chocolate Set ticks that box. But it’s so much more than that. Of course, it is. It’s the gift of richness. It’s super luxurious artisan hot chocolate plus an ingenious shaker that guarantees the smoothest experience outside of a Sade gig. The lucky recipient’s bedtime routine will be rendered as decadently darling as Zsa Zsa Gabor’s silk slippers.
3. Paolo Conterno Barolo
For the red wine fan, Italian is the language of love. And there are fewer more overpoweringly intoxicating devils as Paolo Conterno Barolo, a wine that will fondle the tongue so much it’s indecent.
4. Stollen Bites
Whisper it - not everybody likes Christmas cake. We know, it’s sacrilege. There are some who swear by their fave Euro-version, and Stollen’s right up there in the alternative chart. It’s a Teutonic treat and tastes a bit like a cross between fruit cake and a hot cross bun.
These miniature Stollen Bites are a lovely gift to send to someone who likes their Christmas to feature things that are a little different. Just be sure to tell them to be careful when the delivery comes that they’re not caught receiving Stollen goods (Christmas cracker gag circa 1992).
5. DukesHill Favourites
If you know somebody who loves a bit of meat - well, a lot of meat - as well as leaving room for a slice of high-quality shortbread and a lovely piece of brownie, this might just be the perfect gift. What is it? DukesHill Favourites is a set of some of the best-loved of DukesHill’s ranges, including bacon, chipolatas and ham, as well as the aforementioned sweet treats. So, if you can’t decide whether to go sweet or savoury, this is a great option.
6. Meat Thermometer
Again, for meaty maniacs, you can give them something their heart will crave. This will fillet with glee. Other gifts can be offal, but not this one - we’d steak a claim that it takes the brisket. The Meater+ Smart Meat Thermometer is the gift that will raise the temperature of any carni-cook. It’s an amazing kitchen gadget - it will reliably take the temperature of any meat joint you’re cooking, so you never have any undercooked misery or charred remains ever again.
What’s more, this stainless steel and ceramic marvel does its thing with a 50m wireless range. So you can take it out to the BBQ or even up on the roof, if you’re cooking topside.
7. Handmade Patisserie Selection
Everybody’s family contains a fan of exquisite little handmade patisseries. Delicate fussy little frou-frou things they may be, but, you know, they’re family, and you love them.
DukesHill’s Handmade Patisserie Selection is a gift box of small but beautifully formed gateaux and cheesecakes ideal for people who like to pretend to be giants when eating. But don’t be fooled by size - these patisseries pack some palate power and will take tastebuds on a unique journey to Delicious City via the lightest sponge and most lusciously luxurious fillings.
8. Yakitori Smoked Salmon
For those in love with the flavours of the East, this Yakitori Smoked Salmon is a great gift idea. Sure, it’s a change from gift boxes of chocolates and Christmas nibbles and what have you, but that’s what makes it so special. Its wonderful blend of soy sauce and miso paste makes it a Japanese gem, and its smokiness makes it taste like something that’s fallen from heaven itself.
9. Blackeye London Dry Gin
Gin’s become huge of late, getting itself a high-end profile that’s directly in opposition to how it used to be regarded. Well, some gins, in any case. This one’s a great example of the kind of gin that’s in with the gin-crowd in-crowd.
Blackeye London Dry Gin is what those in the know will choose for their G&T or cocktail. It’s a recent addition to the very best of gins, being brought to the market by Hawkridge Distillers in conjunction with Mike Tindall and other well-known rugby players.
Tantalisingly, its notes tell us that it features an ingredient not found in any other product in the world. What could it be? Unicorn horn shavings? Tears from a dragon’s eye? Or one of Mr Tindall’s post-match socks? Whatever it is, it does the trick - this gin is scrum-ptious. It’s also sold in aid of injured rugby players. So, worth a try.
10. Charcuterie Selection
Prepare to meet the meat. The DukesHill Charcuterie Selection contains a medley of four varieties of continental-style air-dried meats, all of which will be pleased to make the acquaintance of the keen meat meeter, er eater.
11. Weekend Breakfast Box with Coffee
There are those for whom breakfast is a big deal. For the coffee lover who likes to breakfast big, give them the Weekend Breakfast Box with Coffee (or, for those who like things a little more English, there’s a version with tea).
What will the big, bold and beautiful breakfast fancier find in the box? A fabulous DukesHill tasty trio of pork sausages, smoked streaky bacon and black pudding for a start. Then there are two different sorts of pancakes, together with strawberry jam, orange marmalade and Ampersand cultured butter (that’s right - it won’t put its elbows on the table and will always eat with its mouth closed). Breakfast bliss, all washed down with DukesHill's much-loved medium roast coffee.
12. Pancakes, Salmon & Fizz Breakfast Selection
We’re still in breakfast land, but an altogether different way to start the day is represented by the Pancake, Salmon and Fizz Breakfast Selection. It’s got Belgian-style pancakes plus smoked salmon from the Western reaches of Scotland; all washed down with a glass or two of La Grande Marque Saumur Brut, a frisky fizz of fabulous finesse.
13. Blonde Chocolate, Coffee and Caramelised Hazelnut Mendiants
What are these? Chocolate euphoria. They’re puddles of Valhrona chocolate, surmounted with contrasting sweet hazelnut and earthy tones of espresso. Blonde Chocolate, Coffee and Caramelised Hazelnut Mendiants are simply gorgeous and guaranteed not to be the kind of thing that the recipient will come across every day.
14. Carving Set
You know when chefs like to pose with a set of utensils that shows they’re totally in charge? That shows they’re the Big Cheese? The Ultimate Onion? The Giant Pudding? They’ll often plump for a cleaver, as it gives them a brutal medieval look. But those Chefs de Cuisine who really know what they’re about reach for a set of instruments that says more about skill than muscle.
A DukesHill Carving Set, for instance, is the kind of gift set that will bring out the craft in a cook. It contains a supremely well-balanced carving knife rendered in British steel and English walnut (for the blade and the handle, respectively - many is the failed cutlery manufacturer who tried it the other way around). There’s a beautifully finished fork and a honing steel, both featuring the richly grained English walnut handles.
15. Chablis Grand Cru
OK, there’s white wine and then there’s white wine. This bottle of Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2018 is from a small-scale winemaker who applies the time and patience needed to get the most out of this deservedly world-renowned region. In terms of a good choice for the Christmas table, a bottle of Chablis is about as perfect as you can get. Bring this bottle when you’re invited and show that you know your estate, not a state.
16. Hollis Mead Dairy Selection
Cheese is huge at Christmas. There’s something about the time of year that gets everyone champing for cheddar and stepping up for stilton. That’s why the Hollis Mead Dairy Selection is one of the best food gifts around. It’s an instant cheese board booster, so that the recipient will have something to proudly hand around after the festive meals are done. But it’s so much more.
What’s in it? A truffle brie, a Benville brie and a superb cottage cheese, as well as an organic Greek-style yoghurt and organic butter. Here’s the thing though - this range of delights is brought to you by the only pasture-fed, organic, regenerative and biodynamic dairy in the UK. So it’s a pretty special unique gift.
17. Whisky Cask Cider
Cider is one of those drinks that can mean all sorts of things to all sorts of people. A tankard of cloudy scrumpy can be all that’s wanted in some quarters, while nothing but an exotic fruit-flavoured artisan brew will satisfy others.
DukesHill offers a number of interesting ciders, but the one that stood out to us was the Whisky Cask Cider, which is aged in single malt barrels for six months, imparting notes of vanilla, oak and honey to the usual appley tang of cider. What results is a fabulous drink to enjoy at any time of year, but especially over the festive period, which is why a case of this incredibly special cider is a terrific Christmas gift.
18. Taylors Vintage Port and Potted Stilton
Port and Stilton are a Christmas combo that go together like Santa and Rudolph, like Bruce Willis and a grubby vest, like Macauley Culkin and an unfeasibly wide-open mouth. So it’s seasonally sensible to give a nod to tradition and give this set of Taylors Vintage Port and Potted Stilton. Taylors are rightly regarded as the queen of quaffs and pairs beautifully with this Cropwell Bishop Potted Stilton, the king of cheeses. All hail.
19. Delicious dressings
There’s nothing more naked than a salad in need of a dressing, and not in a good way. A really high-quality dressing is a gift that will be appreciated hugely and doesn’t have to break the bank. Take DukesHill’s Honey and Mustard Dressing - a golden galaxy of flavour with English wholegrain mustard and honey giving spice and warmth in equal measure.
And don’t forget the DukesHill Balsamic Dressing - it makes any salad a showstopper, especially when mixed with olive oil. Why not buy both and pop in a lovely box with a big red ribbon? That’s a condimental conjoining that will really be appreciated by any food lover.
20. Beluga Caviar and Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne
And now for the last word, which just happens also to be the last word in luxurious living: champagne and caviar. DukesHill doesn’t mess about here: its Beluga Caviar and Louis Roederer Brut Premiere Champagne is the kind of perfect pairing that the enormously rich have been enjoying for centuries. Help somebody join them, if only for a day.
O Come All Ye Grateful…
If you have a foodie friend, it’s absolutely certain that at least something on our list will appeal. And then all you’ll have to do is sit back and receive sledloads of thanks (and hopefully a glass or two of that cider). That, and advise them where necessary to pop the gift straight in the fridge. Christmas is a time to chill, after all.