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Scottish chefs and food lovers reveal what they really want for Christmas

They also share some of the worst gifts for foodies

Published: November 5, 2021

Christmas is the time when every food lover gets a gift they never wanted.

There’s the niche cookbook, which languishes on the kitchen shelf, the umpteenth cocktail shaker to cram into the cupboard, yet another nibbles dish and the Toffifee that extracts a molar.

In order to dodge these disasters, we’ve asked a few foodies what gift they’d really want to add to their gift list.

Kayla Nantais, restaurant Manager at McLarens on the Corner, Edinburgh, www.mclarensonthecorner.co.uk

“As a wine lover, I was thrilled last Christmas when I was given a Coravin Pivot (£119.99, www.coravin.com). It’s the perfect tool for enjoying amazing wine at home (hello DIY wine pairings), as it keeps your wine as fresh as when you first opened the bottle, for four weeks. I use this all of the time at home, and at McLarens in our Parlour and Tellers Restaurant. The Coravin has allowed us to expand our glass pour list, so all of our guests can enjoy premium wines by the glass. Slàinte Mhath! The worst Christmas gift you can give a home cook is a glass cutting board, hands down. I never understood them. The sound it makes when your knife hits the glass has to be up there with nails on a chalkboard. It’s the quickest way to dull your knives, so stay away from them. Your knives and ears will thank you.”

Fiona Houston, founder of Mara Seaweed, www.maraseaweed.com

“For Christmas, I’d want an incredible Scottish sustainable seafood delivery from the Isle of Mull's Ethical Shellfish Company (www.ethicalshellfishcompany.co.uk), which should include delicious hand-dived scallops (cooked in Mara Seaweed butter of course) to really shine on Christmas Day. Delicious!

And after a busy Christmas cooking for all the family, also consider a voucher for an special local meal. Trips to Restaurant Martin Wishart, Dean Bank’s Pompadour, Mono and The White Horse Oyster Bar are some of Mara’s local friends in Edinburgh that would be sure to put a smile on the face of any foodie this festive season.”

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Fiona Houston

Jamie Miller, head chef of Stravaigin, Glasgow, www.stravaigin.co.uk

The best present for me would be a really good knife, it makes all the difference having a nice sharp one. The brands we love at Stravaigin are F. Dick and Wusthof. For the more experienced or adventurous home cook something like an Ooni pizza oven (from £249, www.uk.ooni.com) is great fun - it makes delicious pizzas outdoors. Getting some fancy versions of kitchen staples like really nice sea salts and extra virgin olive oils can really elevate your cooking. If they have a sweet tooth like me, chocolates are always a great gift and my favourites are Sebastian Kobelt (www.sebastiankobelt.com) in Linlithgow or Bare Bones Chocolate (www.bareboneschocolate.co.uk) in Glasgow. I’m also a big fan of vouchers for other restaurants, it’s a great way to support other small businesses after a trying few years for the hospitality industry. I haven’t had many dud foodie presents but one year another chef gifted me a cling-filmed piece of cheese, from a delivery I had put away that morning. Make sure to at least wrap your presents.”

Krzysztof Dudkowski, general manager at The Three Chimneys, Skye, www.threechimneys.co.uk

“My worst gift to receive would be sets of spices that I’d never use. I prefer small, well thought out gifts. Foraging is a big part of my life and having recently settled on the Isle of Skye, I’d love to explore new opportunities for wild edibles. So perhaps a guidebook on coastal foraging would be an ideal gift which would be well used. Alternatively, I’d quite like diving lessons, allowing me to forage for treasures of the depths of the sea - if it’s not too much to ask!”

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Alexander Haebe, culinary director at Fairmont St Andrews, www.fairmont.com

“Being German, I cannot fathom celebrating Christmas without certain time-honoured festive recipes that remind me of my home. To add a Scottish twist, I love to substitute whisky in my favourite traditional recipes, for instance, I will often replace rum with Scotch malt in my weihnachtsstollen, a German cake-like fruit bread, and use it in place of brandy in a classic eggnog. For that reason, I would have to say that a bottle of premium Scotch whisky is my ideal multi-purpose Christmas gift of choice for the home cook – and the more expensive the bottle, the better. Of course, I would always opt for a local single malt, perhaps from Kingsbarns Distillery just a short six-minute journey up the coast from Fairmont St Andrews.”

Alexander Haebe

Shirley Aubrey, food and beverage buying manager for Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh, www.harveynichols.com

“I’d like to have three of our advent calendars on the go – a serious chocolate one like Venchi, a tea-filled calendar like Mariage Frères, and one for snacks like Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn Advent Calendar. But I wouldn’t say no to Lakrids liquorice or Reese’s Peanut Butter Pieces Gravity Advent Calendar.

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For Christmas Day, I’ll have one of our Harvey Nichols Really Chocolatey Christmas Pudding served with clotted cream”.

Peter Schaebbicke, owner of Great Taste Award winning spice company, BoTree, www.botreefarm.co.uk

“I’d like a bottle of Tarsier Gin (£34.99, www.tarsierspirit.com), which is a wonderfully unique and unusual spirit, or Menu Bottle Grinders (£75, www.utilitydesign.co.uk). There’s nothing worse than receiving mixed pepper in a dodgy pepper grinder. Black, red and white all have different qualities and varying tastes - they need to be used separately to maximise their potency. From our range, we suggest BoTree’s Chef’s Essential Collection - a set of single origin spices that covers cuisines from Italian to Indian - including Buffalo Ginger, Turkish Oregano Buds and Black Urfa Chilli”.

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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