DIY holiday gifts: Dog biscuits, bread and butter, jars of condiments and toasted sugar

Sami Tamimi’s favorite condiment, which quickly became Evan Kleiman’s favorite too, is called “shatta.” It’s a fermented hot chile condiment, and you can put it in jars as a gift this holiday season. Photo by Jenny Zarins.

Evan Kleiman thinks that giving a gift you made yourself is one of the most endearing and lovely ways to say “I appreciate you” at the end of 2020.  Many of us discovered our kitchens this year and have new skills, but even if you’re a new home cook, there are several recipes you can make that the giftee will appreciate.  

If you developed sourdough skills over the past several months, make a bunch of bread and buy the best butter you can find, and leave the gifts on friends’ doorsteps. You’ll be a holiday hero.

All of us are eating more condiments than ever before. Most cookbooks these days have a section of condiments that are part of the recipes throughout the book. Make some, put it in jars, and give it to your friends who are lazier than you are. They become instant flavor bombs to perk up a dinner that’s been on repeat for too long. Here are a few of Kleiman’s favorite ideas.

Sami Tamimi, Ottolenghi’s partner in the eponymous empire, came out with an outstanding book this year called “Falastin.” His favorite condiment, which quickly became Kleiman’s favorite too, is called “shatta.” It’s a fermented hot chile condiment that’s dead easy and was the recipe Kleiman made most this year. (See full recipe below.)

If baking is still your obsession, why not make several jars of toasted sugar? All you do is put sugar in a large glass pan and bake it until it’s golden. You can use it instead of regular sugar in anything. After the house fills with that toasted sugar aroma, you’ll definitely want to keep some for yourself, so make enough.

If your life is populated with friends with canine companions, make some dog biscuits. Kleiman even bought an alphabet stamp set so she could personalize the puppy presents. Buy a set of dog biscuit cookie cutters, look online for a recipe and get baking.

Each of these ideas is easy, doesn’t take up too much time, and will give you the satisfaction of heartfelt gifting.  Plus you’ll have some new recipes in your pocket.

Recipe: Shatta (red or green)
Makes 1 medium jar

Sami knew that he had a true partner in culinary crime in Tara when he spotted a jar of this in her bike basket one day. “I don’t go anywhere without some,” Tara said, as casually as if talking about her house keys. This fiery condiment is as easy to make as it is easy to become addicted to. Shatta(ra!) is on every Palestinian table, cutting through rich foods or pepping up others. Eggs, fish, meat, vegetables—they all love it. Our recommendation is to keep a jar in your fridge at all times. Or your bike basket, if so inclined.

*Equipment note: As with anything being left to ferment, the jar you put your chiles into needs to be properly sterilized (instructions below).

Indigents 

  • 9 oz/250g red or green chiles (with seeds), stems trimmed, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Olive oil, to cover

Instructions

-Place the chiles and salt in a medium sterilized jar and mix well. Seal the jar and store in the fridge for 3 days. On the third day, drain the chiles, transfer them to a food processor, and blitz; you can either blitz well to form a fine paste or roughly blitz so that some texture remains. Add the vinegar and lemon juice, mix to combine, then return the mixture to the same jar. Pour enough olive oil on top to cover, and keep in the fridge for up to 6 months. The oil will firm up and separate from the chiles once it’s in the fridge, so just give it a good stir, for everything to combine, before using.

-STERILIZING JARS is a necessity when preserving foods; makdous, for example, or shatta. It ensures that all bacteria and yeasts are removed from a jar so that the food remains fresh. There are various ways to sterilize a glass jar; including a water bath, where the jars go into water, with their lids added separately, the water is brought to a boil, and then the jars are “cooked” for 10 minutes, or filling the jars with just-boiled water and then rinsing and drying with a clean dish towel. We tend to just put ours into the dishwasher, though, and run it as a normal wash—it’s a simple solution that works very well.

“Reprinted with permission from Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, copyright © 2020. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.”