I love making self-made gifts. Be it Christmas, birthdays, or any other occasion. When I was young, I made pottery, sculptures, self-made Christmas decorations, and drew paintings for my parents. I doubt that I’ll get away with a poorly drawn painting nowadays (yes, mom, I know you still think I’m a young Picasso – I definitely am not). I think though that there’s still plenty of things you can make yourself that will make others happy. Of course, you could just go into a shop and buy a present, but it doesn’t really come from the heart for me. At least when I give it to someone, when I get something bought, I’m happy with it just as I’d be happy with something made by that person.
1. Herbed Salt
Herbed salt is such a lovely thing to give away. You buy a good salt, like Maldon or any similar sea salt flake brand, and you make your own spice mix. That could be a Middle Eastern one with coriander seeds, cumin, orange zest, and sumach or a simpler one with dried thyme, lavender, rosemary, and lemon zest, for example. Just think about what the person you’re giving this to likes to eat. Maybe she or he is an avocado toast lover? Make a spice mix of salt, lime zest, pepper, and chili flakes. Packaging plays a big role, too. Pick a nice jar with a lid, put a pretty ribbon around it, a hand-written label, and maybe even a small wooden spoon. And you’re set!
2. Chocolate Truffles
You can make any type of chocolate truffle you want. Wrap them one by one into sandwich papers, close the packages with ribbons, and put them into a nice bag closed with another big ribbon. A hand-written tag, and that’s it! To make the truffles, you chop 200g of good chocolate really finely and mix it with 100ml of steaming (not boiling) cream. It should get a smooth texture. If it curdles or splits, just add 1-2 tbsp of water and mix again. Now, you can add anything you want. Add some sea salt flakes and make a caramel swirl through the chocolate. Maybe add some caramelised sesame seeds and Tahini, or orange water and star anise? You could add pistachios and saffron, or perhaps just some rum? Up to you. Cover, let rest in the fridge for at least an hour, and then form balls from the chocolate mixture. Wrap them in pieces of sandwich or parchment paper, and you’re done!
3. Quince Pâte de Fruit
This present will be eaten straight away on Christmas Eve. A pâte de fruit is a jam-like candy from France that is basically a thick and set jelly. It can be made from any type of fruit, so be creative here! It could be quince and hibiscus & pomegranate, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, blood orange, or tamarind. To make a pâte de fruit you need equal amounts of sugar and fruit and sometimes a bit of extra pectin if the fruit you’re using doesn’t have enough of its own. This means you’d use around 250g raspberries, 250g sugar, and 15g pectin. You bring everything to a simmer, then to a boil until it reaches 110C. Fill everything into a form lined with parchment paper, sprinkle with extra sugar, and let cool down. You can then cut it up into pieces and pack it into lovely gift bags.
4. Home-spiced gin with star anise, orange, and black pepper
We all have that friend who loves gin and is preparing the most creative combinations during parties. Why not make them their own signature gin? You buy a good gin, pour it into a jug and mix in 3-4 star anise, a handful of large orange zest stripes, and a teaspoon black pepper. You cover it, let it infuse for around 5 days, and then pour it back into the bottle through a sieve. Add a nice hand-written label, a bow, and your gift is ready!
5. Tahini Swirled Chocolate Bar
This sounds much more difficult than it is. You basically melt down chocolate, give it a tahini swirl and let it firm up again. What you’ll get is a beautiful bar of chocolate with your own touch. Does your friend like coffee? Add some roasted coffee beans. A fan of roses? Add some rose water. More on the sweet side? Use white and milk chocolate. How to make something like this? Over a double bath/bain-marie gently melt your dark or milk chocolate. Prepare a baking tray or large plate by lining it with parchment paper. Pour the chocolate onto it and spread until it reaches the thickness of your liking. You can spread it into a circle, a rectangle, or a bit uneven for a more rustic touch. Add a few teaspoons of Tahini on top of the chocolate and make many swirls with it. Sprinkle some black or white toasted sesame seeds on top. Done!