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my christmas shopping guide for kitchen and tableware

The question I get asked most often by other food lovers is ‘What’s your favourite olive oil?’ Actually it’s the Sicilian oil produced by Ravida, closely followed by oil from Les Baux in Provence (which is much harder to get hold of). After that the questions are always about crockery and kitchenware, where I found a particular cloth or dish. I pick things up all over the place but here are the things I’ve discovered – and loved – in the last year. All make good presents.

Cox and Cox

It’s dangerous to go on this site too often, I could spend a fortune. Plain, understated quality stuff.

mercury tea light holders

I bought loads of these for a photographic shoot of a Christmas dinner, mixing them with empty glass yogurt jars and other tea light holders. The designer and I must have spent two hours setting them all up and lighting the tea lights… but it was worth it. These were even better than I thought they would be. Unlit they look quite cold, lit they create a gorgeous glow and the mercury glass shimmers.

£15.50

wooden nut cracker

nutcracker and nutsThe only time of year I ever actually need a nut cracker is Christmas and many of them look functional and a bit ugly. Not this one. Lovely wood and a good weight.

£5.63

Netherton pans

Pans hanging from ceiling NethertonMy ‘find’ of the year, British-made cast-iron cookware from a family firm. The pans are solid, stark and beautiful and you can decide whether to leave the wooden covers on the handles or take them off (they can just be unscrewed so every pan can also be ovenproof). They’re not too heavy – that can be a problem with ironware – in fact they’re much lighter than they look. The firm’s aim? To make kitchenware that ‘lasts a lifetime’. You can find Netherton pans in some independent kitchenware shops or just buy directly from the website. Look out Le Creuset…

prices start at £15 for a blini pan

Rocket St George

Purveyors of the unusual.

etched iron dishes

etched iron dishesI mostly like plain serving dishes in muted colours, but am always looking for texture. These fit the bill.

£13.95

metal jug and slate dandlion matsslate dandelion mats

Couldn’t resist these. Enchanting.

£42.00 for 4

floral metal jug

It’s almost impossible to say where this is from: it could be Middle Eastern, it could be Indian and yet it also looks great mixed with Scandinavian stuff.

£35.00

Pale and Interesting

As you might expect there’s lots of glass, white and pale grey stuff on this site and always something interesting.

water bottles

water bottles in a rowEasier for children to pick up than big heavy jugs (I seem to have rather a lot unwieldy jugs and bottles are definitely easier); cute, clean, cheerful and recycled.

£7.95

grey bowls

grey bowls ceramicPlain, so whatever food you put in them pings out. I love food on grey or white.

£6.95

Opinel knives

Ever since I bought myself an Opinel penknife while on holidays (a picnic must, it slices straight through salami and baguette), I have loved them. They have been made in the Savoie since 1890 by a family firm, started by Joseph Opinel. He came from a family of blacksmiths and gave birth to a whole family of cutlers. The penknife, which comes in different versions, is a recognized design classic.

A few years back I became aware that Opinel were producing kitchen knives as well and have gradually been building my collection. They’re a good weight and are so woody and honest, you feel as though they must have been made in a forest. They’re timeless, too. I don’t have a complete set yet – they’re not cheap – but for me they feel better than any other knives. This little set was where I started. After that I moved on to the bigger knives. You have to find a stockist – Opinel don’t sell online – but go to their website to find out where you can buy them. Happiness in the kitchen is made up of such small pleasures as holding a knife that feels truly comfortable.

Opinel knives in a wooden boxLes Essentiels set in natural beech

£27.80

Tags: Cox and Cox, etched iron dishes, mercury tea light holders, Netherton pans, opinel knives, pale and interesting, Rocket St George, slate dandelion mats, wooden nut cracker

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