I’ve been asked for lots of different Christmas guides this year, and have been lucky enough to attend most of the big high street festive showcases – so here are the hottest food and drink trends that are hitting the supermarkets from now until the end of the year.
The biggest trend is that there’s a resurgence in traditional food and drink, from smoked salmon and regional cheeses to old fashioned types of gin. Having said that, there’s also a lot of novelty, starting with some really different new types of crisps.
Crazy crisp flavours
The least pleasant novelty crisp flavour this year is probably ‘candy cane’, but sweet peppermint crisps just don’t do it for me. However, you might like to try the prosecco flavour snacks from the Co-Op – savoury, tangy and bubbly with a hint of wine, £1.00 for 75g, for something a bit different. They also have sour cream and chive Christmas tree shaped crisps, 100g for £1.00.
Luxury fruit and nut selections
Forget peanuts and raisins, these are super luxury nibbles with dried cranberries, chocolate or toffee pieces, and more. The best I’ve tried came from Morrisons (not on sale yet), and there are some gingerbread and chocolate fruit and nuts goodies Tesco too (£3.00 for 179g).
Far East party foods
All the supermarkets are doing vast ranges of canapes and party snack foods, and the most striking trend is for Chinese, Thai, and Korean nibbles. This includes steamed hirata buns with Korean BBQ pulled pork, £4.00 for 184g from Co-Op. The widest selection can be found at Morrisons, including their tempura prawn ‘lollipops’ (12 for £3.00), 12 Satay chicken skewers for £2.00 and more in the frozen party foods section.
‘Push the boat out’ fish and seafood
There’s so much fancy fish-based buffet food and luxury seafood around that you’ll be spoiled for choice. In particular there are huge sides of salmon, decorated with fish pate, jumbo prawns and gold lustre, found at both ALDI and Morrisons (in store only).
Co-Op has two Coquilles Saint Jaques (scallops dish) for £4.99, and Irresistible whiskey smoked salmon, £4.99 for 100g. If you want to really push the boat out, try Booths online for a luxury range of salmon, seafood, and fish mousses and terrines.
Fancy game and pork pies
There are big game filled pies for buffet tables, unusual fillings, and mini pies with assorted toppings. The best range and value will be hitting the shelves at Morrisons soon, so keep an eye out for them.
As part of the general trend for traditional British foods, there’s a much wider selection of UK cheeses on offer this season. There’s a great value selection about to arrive at ALDI, Morrisons and CoOp, including cave aged cheddar and a range of blue cheeses.
If you’d prefer French cheese, look out for one of the many baked cheese kits, such as Morrisons Best Camembert Tear and Share (with a red onion and garlic bread surround), or cheese bakes with fig or pecans at ALDI.
Christmas dinner in a box
These are mostly trad-style turkey and trimmings sets, all prepared for you for as little fuss as possible. They’re usually meals for two, and some are designed to have a one hour cooking time. Handy if you’re having a quiet Christmas, or have limited energy or mobility. Tesco has a pre-orderable one, and the Co-Op has a traditional one in store (price TBC).
Pretty tins of biscuits
Tesco’s musical shortbread tin in the shape of a snowglobe is a real showstopper for £10. For something really fancy, the new range from Crabtree & Evelyn is worth a look too. Smaller budget? Co-Op is doing nice tins of cookies and shortbreads for about £3.00 for 200g, prices and weights vary, and Morrison’s has a cute gingerbread house kit for under £5.00.
Expanded ‘free from ranges’
In particular, there are all kinds of gluten free festive foods this year, but there are also goodies that are nut-free and/or dairy. The Co-Op has the biggest range by far and I also think it’s really good value, if you don’t want to make cake, pies, sausages, gravy, gingerbread and cookies etc from scratch. The prices range from 49p for chocolate buttons to £6.99 for a rolled pork join with stuffing, and some of it’s in stores already.
Gold and copper lustre on *everything*
This is just about everywhere, but Morrisons’ luxury Pear and Pedro Ximenez Sherry Pudding with its edible gold glitter topping is probably the tastiest example, £8.00 for 800g.
New mince pie toppings / fillings
ALDI’S gingerbread-topped mince pies are my favourites so far for 2017, and other shops have interesting flavours too. For example, Tesco has six spiced pear and plum fruit pies for £1.00, and they also have a box of mixed flavour Finest mini mince pies for £2.00.
The festive tart collection from Iceland is £2.00 for six, with two of each of the following: almond frangipane, fruit and nut, and lattice-topped mince pies. They can be frozen too.
New chocolate treats
For gifting, have a look at the Indian Ocean, Dominican Republic and India chocolate bars from Waitrose, or ALDI’s German-style chocolate log. For scoffing at home, pick up one of the three new bars from ALDI – they’re each flavour matched to bottles of different wine, perfect for an evening in watching movies.
Fancy gin is THE big story in spirits this year. I was especially impressed with the range by ALDI, which includes an Old Tom (a softer, sweeter gin), a pink gin (Angostura bitters already added), a mediterranean-style lemon gin, and even a Black Forest gin with pine needles in it. Not on sale yet, but coming soon. In the meantime, ALDI’s £9.97 Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin just won the gold medal at the IWSC and you can stock up on it now.
I also enjoyed Sainsbury’s 173 Craft Gin, with complex botanical flavours. It’s £20.00 for 70cl and already available.
PG Tip: Ignore the phrase ‘small batch’, as it doesn’t have an official definition in the spirits market. It just makes things sound exclusive, even if they aren’t. No need to pay extra.
Interesting whisky flavours
My favourite festive whisky this year is the Pike Creek 10 year old Canadian whisky from ASDA, which has been kept in rum barrels for a fuller flavour and a hint of spice. It’s £28.00 for 70cl and it’s going to be great in fireside cocktails, especially an Old Fashioned.
More rum drinks
The Rum Chata rum liqueur drink stocked by ASDA is one of the nicest Christmassy drinks I’ve tried in ages, £15.00 for 50cl. It also looks like Sainsbury’s will be doing an own brand premium golden spiced rum, and I’ll let you know more about it when the price has been announced.
Along with the resurgence of small batch / premium gin there’s also a move towards more ‘infuse it yourself’ gins. You can invent your own infusion with different ingredients (herbs, spices, flowers etc) or pick up one of the new ready made kits, some of which have the ingredients neatly stashed in teabags. The Carmencita brand gives you a box full with three different botanical flavours for £4.99.
There are multiple ingredients to add to your prosecco this year, and they’re good for party cocktails or giving away as stocking fillers. These include rose gold and flavoured glitter, and liquid-filled ‘bursting bubbles’ with different flavoured fillings. The main brand to look out for is Pop-a-Ball and you can find it at Lakeland and other stores, prices from £3.79.