When you've already ruled out the usual kitchen gadgets as gifts for the chefs among your friends and relatives, it could be time for a little blue sky thinking. It doesn't have to chop, stir or boil to win a foodie's heart. After all what could be more appropriate for a true taste connoisseur than a special flavoursome treat or tipple?
Know someone with a sweet tooth? Burnt Sugar sea-salt caramel crumbly fudge, £3.49, is available from most good supermarkets, and is the ultimate money can buy. Even more luxurious is a Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh chocolate bar from London chocolatier Paul A Young. Deliciously different from the norm this rich, intense confection (£12.95, from www.paulayoung.co.uk) is just the thing for chocoholics who think they've tasted it all.
Then there are savoury options, like a really great culinary oil – such as Cyprus Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Named 'England's best' by a New York Magazine journalist, this delivers the true taste of the Mediterranean in spades (from £4.50, www.planetmem.com). Or introduce someone to the more local flavour of Norfolk-grown Oleifera Rapeseed Oil, the health benefits of which have been making headlines of late (£18 for three bottles, www.borderfields.co.uk).
If you're really feeling flush, you might fancy splashing out on a whole Gran Reserva Joselito Jamon (£1,000, www.brindisa.com). The pinnacle of pork delights, this has to be the best ham on earth. Admittedly, it's not cheap – but then what do you expect for a little slice of heaven?
There are lots of shop-compiled hampers around, but how about making your own? You get to choose great things, it will look like you made lots of effort, and you can avoid those duff 'filler' items that just end up at the back of the cupboard. If you don't have a good deli in easy reach, just shop online for everything you need.
A favourite tipple is likely to equally well received. If you're stumped over what to buy mum or someone who enjoys their afternoon tea treat them to a really special version, such as the wonderful Emperor's Breakfast, Oolong or Jasmine Silver Tip from the Rare Tea Company, £6.50 for 25g, www.rareteacompany.com. A Rajah among brews, this is subtle, aromatic and hand-selected by one of the country's leading tea experts, Henrietta Lovell.
If you want to present something a little stronger, Godminster Rhubarb Vodka (£23 from www.godminster.com) offers endless possibilities for cocktail fans. Another niche tipple is Woodford Reserve, a small-batch bourbon made in the States' oldest distillery (£25 from Waitrose, Wine Rack, selected Asdas, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols).
For a closer-to-home dram check out one of the UK's greenest companies, Auchentoshan. This small, Scottish lowland distiller produces an 18-year-old whisky (£49.99 from www.auchentoshan.co.uk) perfect for the serious Scotch connoisseur, ie Dad.
And don't forget great kitchenware needn't mean just dishes and plates – although John Lewis' own range of 'White' porcelain is reasonable enough to make a brilliant gift without having the thick, cheap feel of less expensive stuff (from £10, www.johnlewis.com). A good long white apron, chef's jacket or butcher's apron would all make practical and stylish presents. And they're cheap enough to make stocking fillers, too (from under £5, www.british-chefs.co.uk).
More unusual table-toppers worth considering are items of ultra-hip retro tableware which can usually be picked up on eBay. Dariole molds are indispensable, too. Perfect for making cool panna cottas or little steamed puds to be doused with lashings of hot custard, they can be found in most good kitchen shops.
Also perfect as a pressie are unusual ingredients such as dried rose petals – ideal for keen cake bakers or chefs who like experimenting with Middle eastern recipes (around £3, at online retailers such as www.steenbergs.co.uk). And if you want to add a little extra value to the gift, why not throw in a couple of Kilner Jars (from £2.50, at good kitchen shops) to store them in?
Finally, one potential gift which keen foodies may lust after but feel guilty about indulging in, are cookery school classes. There are lots of options to be found online these days, including those on the Red Letter Day website (www.redletterdays.co.uk), which is offering hellomagazine.com readers a discount on culinary course purchases using the code RLDXMAS.