If you want to change up some of the classics on the holiday season table I have you covered. I have tried a nice bunch of beverages, savoury treats and items to support your majestic Christmas spread.
I’ll start out with beverages; this time of year it tends to get cold and dark and I always find a large cup of tea helps, just a little to create that coziness.
Vahdam India has a lovely selection of items and bundles perfect for yourself or for gifting. Whether you need stocking fillers in the shape of tins filled with beautiful loose leaf teas or bundles like the Assortment Gift Set which gives you a lovely selection of teas to try. Or why not the Chai Tea Private Reserve holding three tins of premium black tea blended with exotic herbs and spices, and just so happens to be Oprah Winfrey’s favourite. The teas are all handpicked in India, are fully climate and plastic neutral and can easily be shipped straight to the door. Perfect as a gift or for yourself to peak up a cold crisp winter morning.
One can never have enough options of tea, Bird & Blend sent me the sweetest bundle. I received a very cute Christmas stocking gift cube holding a selection of 12 individually wrapped tea bags. My favourite in the cube is definitely the Gingerbread Chai, it’s one of their award winning teas and I totally get it. But I think out of the treats they gave me the Snowball Hot Cocoa takes the win. Think Chocolate, marshmallow, coconut all in one glorious fully plastic free teabag of joy. Add a smidge of milk and it’s a snowball.
Coffee, I can have it anytime of day, any day. I start my day with it an end a long day in the office with it. I received a lovely bundle from Ueshima, Japan’s No 1 Coffee. I received both Nespresso compatible pods as well as ground coffee. In this bundle there were three different levels if you were. Tokyo Roast, a level 3, Lungo coffee, House Blend a level 4 Espresso and Fuji Mountain, a level 5 Ristretto. I am one for strong coffee and dove straight in and made a Fuji Mountain brew for myself, it is a lovely cocoa flavour with hints of brown sugar. But my favourite was the House Blend, inside of this magical pod you’ll find notes of Caramel, Granola and dark chocolate. Now if that isn’t the most amazing mix I don’t know what is? Reading up on where this coffees are sourced I am met with such a lovely message. Where they say that in order to preserve the amazing work of their coffee masters the location is kept secret. Doesn’t the make it even more intriguing?
Like a hand in a glove with coffee I many times have a plate of Biscottis with my brew, and I am not one to say no to that. I now have a whole tin of a lovely mixture from Chiostro Di Saronno, well I mean I had a full tin but I have eaten much of the gorgeous treats inside. Starting with the very traditional Amaretti, legend saying it was first baked in the honour if the Cardinal of Milano. This bite sized bitter sweet almond biscuit goes do nicely with my coffee. We quickly move on to the next treat which is the Baci, two round buttery biscuits held together by a drop of chocolate. Baci translates to “you kiss” so knowing this and knowing that when making this biscuit they felt it looked like the two halves were kissing it kinda makes you go “awe”. Last but not least I have the Cantuccini almond biscotti, great with coffee, yes, but even better with a fine sweet wine. A traditional dessert and I totally see how it has evolved throughout the years. Crunchy and sweet but not overpowering. I can tell you it is easy to finish that gorgeous tin before even knowing it!
Continuing along the lines of treats that are easy to share and enjoy I have also tried Crackling Pork and Nuts from Robert’s Dorset alongside a very cooling Strongbow Dark Fruit Cider in a very handy gift box. There were 11 flavours to choose from so I took help from my colleagues at the office. Carefully sampling each flavour several times I think our favourites ended up being Sweat Chill and Sea Salt. But honestly they all disappeared before I knew it so they were all very much liked. Perfect amount for sharing and especially because there is a flavour for everyone. I kept two pots of Yummy Peanuts for myself because they were too nice to share, don’t tell Santa I’m bad! Sweet Chili and Salt & Vinegar, the latter was a wonderful tasty surprise. Whether it is their pork treats or nuts they all come in resealable pots to keep them fresh for longer.
On the holiday dinner table it always good to have options. So the Festive Four from Tracklements is perfect for this, not only are they very cute jars but also a collection of four condiments with a great array of flavours. Christmas spice chutney, Spiced Plum Chutney, Sticky Fig relish and Cranberry Port & Orange Sauce. Great with cold cuts but there are no rules, add them to whatever you fancy.
To continue adding goodness to this holiday table I present to you the Belazu Signature Trio, bringing an authentic taste of the Med to your collection. This entire trio has won Great Taste awards on many different years. Aubergine & Parmesan Pesto Winner 2012, Rose Harissa, winner 2019 and Black Olive Tapenade, winner 2012. If this isn’t a great trio to have on your table I don’t know what is. I’m not the most experienced with food, but I am getting there. The Black olive tapenade was lovely on a crispy bread. I ventured into vegetable soup making of sorts and found that the Rose Harissa added such a lush flavour. And last but not least the Aubergine & Parmesan Pesto with perfectly cooked pasta added much needed flavour to my simple cooking.
Remaining in the world of condiments I was excited to try out a nice selection of Vinegar, Olic oils and glazes from Seggiano. Starting with a duo of Balsamic Vinegar, I had the Organic White Balsamic Vinegar, aged in Oak barrels to help create its lovely flavour. Light and quite refreshing and so very useful. Food yes but did you know it can make magic happen by being added to cocktails? I didn’t! I like salads and it’s never complete until you have added a balsamic vinegar. The Fig Super Dense Balsamic Glaze is perfect for topping that salad. Thick fig extract blended with balsamic vinegar in a naturally dense glaze. And again, it is so versatile, cocktails and ice creams even! Staying with Seggiano I also tried and tasted their Oil and Vinegar set. In it was their Organic Matured Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, organically produced using only natural methods. Rich and sweet in flavour perfect for salads, meats and marinades. Followed by their Organic Limited Edition Lunaio Extra Virgin Olive Oil, from Podere Vignone, Tuscany. Creamy and delicate beautifully paired with salad, white fish and potatoes another versatile item to add to that dinner table.
I have one more item to add to your table before we move on to my last segment. I have seen many olive trees in my trips to Italy and they always look so beautiful to me. Puglia Bio IGP Extra Virgin Olive Oil is created with extreme care and dedication. With centuries old olive trees dedicated solely to this production. Due to being quickly pressed in low temperatures the vegetal aromas are preserved. Hints of bitter almond, artichoke to tomato and herbs. Fresh and light but filled with flavours. The bottle itself is a work of art with its green sheen carpeting the light perfectly. Great to drizzle on anything or to lap up with some rustic bread.
So if you want to gift someone a Hamper Christmas is the perfect time, it’s like a box filled with gifts. And who doesn’t want more?
The first hamper I want to share with you is from Baxter’s Of Scotland, who have a hamper for every recipient, from the Whiskey Connoisseur to the Chefs Larder. In my Red box neatly tied with a ribbon I found a pair of Kinalba Cashmere Cable Knit bed socks, they obviously were put on instantly to keep my feet warm and happy. So soft! While continuing to dive into my hamper I sip a glass of the Seidear flask of Scottish Craft Cider. Bubbly, crisp and fruity made with apples from the castle gardens of Aberdeenshire. Then I see a small round tin of Hawick Balls, I had no idea what I was going to find here but they were amazing, and I might have eaten a few too many in one go. A peppermint sweet that is perfect to just enjoy when you need something tasty. And last but not least in this lovely paper I had the limited edition Audrey Baxter Blackcurrant & Cassis conserve. I went all out and added it to my porridge, but this of course can be had with so many things, cold cuts or if you’re Swedish like me having it next to meatballs will be perfect.
The last hamper is going to have us go out with a bang, it’s a lush black wicker hamper from Sam’s Larder. Several hampers to choose from depending on what you want to treat your person to. Sam’s Larder has hampers in the range of £80 up to £450. Such an amazing gift for a loved one or yourself, no shame in that. I live alone so I get it! You’ll be able to find perfect hampers for Christmas such as “ Here comes Santa Claus” complete with Good & Proper English Teas as well as Love Coco Salted Caramel Biscuits, do you know someone who loves a good tea? Well, there’s a gift idea. Maybe “ Let it Snow” suits your recipient better with Pommery Aplenty, assuring every day feels like Christmas. Whichever hamper sounds like the one holds a diverse selection of artisanal produce. But if none of the above sounds like the perfect fit you can have a bespoke hamper, create it just as you like with all of your favourite preserves, biscuits, wine and more. Choose from English preserves from pear chutney to Piccalilli, the perfect addition to the festive cheese board. Want something sweeter? Then why not include the Pump street Caramelised Hazelnuts or Melrose & Morgan Dark Chocolate Florentines. And lets not forget the wine, whether it’s an Italian Montepulciano Vola Vole or a French Château Béchereau Lalande de Pomerol Sam’s Larder has it, or if you want to keep it closer to home, maybe a Gusbourne English Sparkling? If this isn’t the perfect gift for a foodie friend, family member or loved one, I don’t know what is. We certainly loved our bespoke hamper!