What to bring when you're told not to bring a thing

Chocolate-covered strawberries from Chocobon.
Chocolate-covered strawberries from Chocobon. Photo: Supplied

Whoever the marketing genius was who came up with that ad will certainly have spiked the sales of those crowd-pleasing chocolates.

When you're told not to bring a thing, it's a good idea to respect a host's wishes – they may have a curated menu and you don't want to throw a spanner into their Japanese works with an oozy French cheese.  But it's still nice to bring a token of appreciation for their hospitality.

Keep it light, sweet and generous – don't go over the top so they feel they have to reciprocate by getting Sonos installed in your house.

Look at the size of the gathering – if it's a large event, flowers can be troublesome if everyone has the same idea and the host ends up spending the first half of the party rummaging in the back of the cupboard for that dusty vase from the '80s instead of plying you with champagne. If you do bring flowers, get a bouquet that comes presented in a vase.

Don't bring anything super perishable – you don't know the recipients' plans for the next few days and you don't want them to feel guilty watching your well-intended gift slowly go off.

Think tasty, useful – and preferably both. Here are some ideas that will guarantee you a return invite.

Chocolate-covered strawberries

These are the perfect treat to bring along to a brunch gathering as they're light, fruity and a bit of an indulgent sign-off without being heavy like rich cake. Chocobon's gorgeous gift boxes start at $25 and last up to four days in the fridge if they're not scarfed immediately. Yeah, right.

Olive oil

A really zippy, flavourful olive oil makes the ideal gift – it lasts, and it's a real treat when you get a slightly unusual one. Aim for a farmer's market and grab a bottle of, say, Mount Zero's organic olive oil. For extra points, double-down and roll it up in a stylish tea towel, and tie the top with kitchen string or ribbon. Other suggestions, depending on your hosts' tastes could be boutique barbecue or hot sauces (see this feature for some of our favourites) or a lavish tub of olives, such as Ely's Spicy Olives from Oasis Bakery.

Hand wash or lotion

If you want to avoid a foodie gift, a lovely handwash or lotion is a great alternative, and much needed after hours at the sink and the chopping board. The thankyou. brand make lovely, vegan-friendly washes and lotions in lime and coriander or vanilla and patchouli, with profits directed to charities to end global poverty.

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Rocky Boulevard

If you want to take a home-made sweet treat, this next level Rocky Road (recipe courtesy of now Nashville-based food-obsessive, Becky Leonhardt) is an absolute cracker. You can present it in a disposable air-tight container, embellished with coloured string and a paper tag with the ingredients hand-written on the back.

Ingredients

600g good quality milk chocolate

75g toasted almonds, roughly chopped

2 x 38g Fry's Turkish Delight, cut into 1cm cubes

200g marshmallows, chopped into different sized chunks

90g Maltesers

Method

1. Mix everything except the chocolate in a bowl.  

2. Melt the chocolate and pour about three quarters of it over the dry mixture and stir through, then spoon into a lined baking tray. Because of the lumpy consistency, there will be gaps and air bubbles throughout. Drizzle the remaining melted chocolate over to fill in the gaps. Refrigerate for two hours. When set, chop into generous cubes.

Home-made granola and coffee

Hosting a dinner party, no matter what size, can be, frankly, knackering.  Why not leave your hosts with a little replenishing treat for breakfast the next day? Create your own riff on a simple granola (add your friends' favourite nuts or dried fruits to it) and gift it in an airtight jar for them to enjoy with yogurt and fruit in the morning. This recipe has the luxurious addition of Yo-Chi's toasted and chocolate-dipped "zebra coconut" (which can also make a sweet gift on its own). If the recipient is a coffee-lover, add a heaped tablespoon of fresh ground coffee to the mix for a deeper flavour, or present the granola with a bag of coffee beans as well.

Ingredients

200g rolled oats

200g dried fruit, chopped – try figs, apricots or sour cherries

50g sunflower seeds

50g pumpkin seeds

50gms chopped walnuts

50gms zebra coconut

½ cup maple syrup (can use honey also)

Optional: 1 tbsp fresh ground coffee

Method

Preheat oven to 120°C.  Mix everything except the zebra coconut in a large bowl then spread on two lined baking trays and bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything  is nicely crisp and toasted. Allow to cool thoroughly then stir through the zebra coconut.

Serves 6