Some people look forward to Christmas for the presents, some for the chance to see the family altogether. Others for the joy of signing carols and celebrating the birth of Christ and some for the much needed time off. But me? I just look forward to the excuse of eating anything and everything but especially those extra special delicacies you only get at Christmas. Here is my Christmas Food Guide 2021 to either find under the tree or to nibble and pick at whilst enjoying the most wonderful time of the year!
I’m going to start off with something that is essential each morning not just through Christmas, but happens to fit the festive mold. Allpress Espresso roast specialty coffees for the best independent cafes throughout the UK as well as the home. This year they have created a Christmas Blend consisting of beans of Guatemala, Sumatra and Ethiopia origins with berry, cocoa and sweet spice flavours. The Ethiopia Anderacha gives us bright berry acidity and floral aroma, while the Guatemala Sierrea Encantada brings good body, smooth apple acidity and chocolate and caramel flavours. Finally the Sumatran Mandheling brings spice and dark raisin fruit notes which when combined together is like the smell of a hot Christmas pudding. I prefer an espresso but it makes an equally lovely Americano or a fabulous Espresso Martini (BBB style of course!).
Now we’re awake it’s on to lunch (no one’s up for breakfast in the Christmas holiday are they?) and for that I had an order from Parson’s Nose Butcher’s who specialise in ethically and sustainably farmed British free range meats. On their online shop, delivering nationwide, you can find everything from a full Turkey, speciality meats, preserves to home made ready meals. I made sure I tried a wide variety to give a thorough review and started with the Catalan Beef Short Rib and Chorizo Stew with Butter Beans and Roast Peppers. With simple cooking instructions and a very generous portion, this flavoursome winter warmer was a real winner for when you’re too tired to cook. We also had a lovely few slices of smoked salmon with scrambled egg one morning and more than a few honey roast ham and cheddar cheese sandwiches. However, a real favourite were the pigs in blankets, which to be fair was a treat in itself having them in the middle of October as they are usually only reserved for Christmas day. We’re saving the Farmhouse Pork pate and Cranberry sauce for Christmas day so I can’t tell you how they taste, but if their other products are anything to go by then the whole family is in for a treat.
Another fabulous selection of food came from Seggiano. The Christmas collection from Seggiano celebrates truly artisanal festive food from producers in Italy who have been perfecting their craft for generations. Top quality ingredients are at the heart of the recipes, with products curated into a bespoke collection perfect for gifting, or simply for enjoying with family and friends at special times. Whether it’s the evocative flavour of lemons from Sorrento used to make Amalfi Coast limoncello panettone (which was my absolute favourite!), or the Chocolate Clementines, the small team at Seggiano carefully sources every single one of their products from specialist, innovative producers, making for a truly magical and luxury festive range. As well as ready to eat treats there’s also fabulous products for the avid chef such as the Balsamics for Cooks Set and an extra special Lunaio Extra Virgin Olive Oil which didn’t last long in my house whenever a fresh loaf of bread was around.
Let’s move back into the sweet treats now, and I always like to include a brand that is able to cater for vegans and offer gluten free options. The Exploding Bakery offer ethical gifts that are letterbox friendly, so there’s no need to tell people to wait all day for a surprise, they can simply find it with their pile of Christmas cards and heating bills. I was sent their Nutcracker Letterbox Brownie Christmas Gift, a moreish Christmas Brownie with crunchy hazelnuts and walnuts, warming cinnamon and tangy orange peel and dusted off with icing sugar for the ultimate festive finish. The brownie has a massive 9 portions so they are the perfect gift for big families or great to order when you know you’ll have a few visitors. For every Nutcracker Brownie sold The Exploding Bakery will donate a meal to the hunger fighting charity Food Cycle.
I don’t know about you but when it comes to buying distant relatives or your work colleagues, I always go for the standard chocolates and a bottle of wine, but some awkward people aren’t a fan of either so it can be difficult to find something everyone likes. This year I discovered The Popcorn Shed as they sent an advent calendar to review for a previous article. A family business who have been operating out of their garden shed since 2016, the Popcorn Shed specialise in gourmet popcorn in a tantalising variety of flavours sure to please every taste. I enjoyed their Merry Christmas Tin with Caramel, Chocolate and Christmas Pudding gourmet popcorn all within a lovely festive tin. All the flavours are Gluten free and suitable for vegetarians making this an ideal gift this year.
Another food item I thought would make a perfect gift comes from Eaten Alive. There are thousands of hot sauces available to buy, but only a handful have been through the fermentation process which gives addictive, satisfyingly savoury characteristics, complex flavours and a rounded chilli heat. Their sauces are bio-live, vegan and totally addictive. Being absolutely spoilt for choice I decided to try them all and was sent the Fermented Hot Sauce Discovery Box (which is an absolute bargain at under £30) which contains all seven of their award winning, wonderful flavours such as Smoked Sriracha, Scotch Bonnet, Cacao and Lime and Preserved Lemon. My other half said the Scotch Bonnet was very hot and was quickly demolished by the lads at his work who gave it the thumbs up (I thought this was my review?) but my favourite was Jalapeno and Lime which was a super tasty dipping sauce and great slathered all over wraps, toasties and anything else you could put it on!
Now for something that is simply a Christmas essential, I’m talking about cheese. The more the merrier and the stinkier the better, I turned to independent family business Butlers Cheese to provide a selection for all the family to squabble over this year. What I love about this brand is that they don’t just make your standard blocks, their innovative ideas have resulted in cheese Easter eggs, Mega Burger Cheese slices and one I got to try which was the Blacksticks Blue Cheese Brûlée, a magical melange of creamy, yet, tangy Blacksticks Blue cheese with a sweet sugar crunch. Ready to cook, each pack contains two servings in their individual ceramic dishes. Full disclosure, I hate blue cheese, so I gave this to a couple of students whose plants I was looking after over the holidays. I think they were just glad of a meal but they seemed to like it! But right up my street was The Perfect British Cheese Board which combines their 18 month aged Sunday Best, beautiful soft and delicate Button Mill and award winning, smooth and creamy Blacksticks Blue.
Now we come to the end, and at the end of the day at Christmas there is nothing better than sitting in front of the telly and gorging yourself on half a box of chocolates. Don’t judge me, you know you want to/have done the same. One of my favourite chocolates since I was a child (which my mum always thought was rather strange) are the Guylian Original Belgian Chocolate Sea Shells. The World’s Favourite Belgian Chocolate Sea Shells are Guylian’s flagship product.
Each carefully crafted shell is a blend of delicious white, milk or dark Belgian chocolate, made from the finest West African cocoa beans and filled with the delicious Guylian roasted hazelnut praliné, still produced according to their unique recipe and using a secret method of roasting and caramelizing fresh hazelnuts that gives the chocolates their signature taste. Although praline isn’t for everyone, if you’re a fan then there really is no competition when it comes to these.
But there is some stiff competition when it comes to new brands of chocolate and I found one that is an absolute game changer to how I previously enjoyed my chocolate. I am of the opinion that chocolate should never go in the fridge, it should always be at room temperature, so I was more than sceptical about Russel and Attwell’s Christmas offering which I was instructed to put straight in the fridge. Sacrilege I say! But you will understand the need for the refrigeration when you learn of the way in which their chocolate is made, with fresh, organic cream and no palm oil (traditionally used to preserve foods). I was sent their Festive Orange Golden Monty Refillable Triple Jar Pack a luxury gift box of fresh chocolates, including the limited-edition Suave Seville Orange, Creamy Milk and salted caramel. I have to be honest, these were some of the best chocolates I’ve ever had. I can’t quite describe how creamy and delicious they are and also so flavoursome and moreish. I also had the creamy hazelnut flavour and I just couldn’t get enough! As soon as we finished a jar we were on the website ordering more because they really were that good and I would wholeheartedly recommend this brand to anyone who loves chocolate as they are such a treat.
And so we come to the end, and if you think that was a hard read, well it’s nowhere near as hard as the month of dieting and workouts I’ve had to do to burn all the calories from all this… just in time to do it all over again for Christmas!