Christmas is the time for feasting. Literally, all the best food comes along at Christmas. That might be because we’re all out celebrating and dining on street food at Christmas markets, or because we’re whipping up dinners and canapes/party food at home for those get-togethers with family and friends over the festive season.
This year, I feel like the supermarkets have all upped their game with quirky festive flavours, easy-to-prepare party food and themed/hidden centre desserts. They all have their best bits.
Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to taste test some of the M&S Christmas range. The dream right?
I actually got to tour the West Hampstead store with the team introducing me to the highlights and their favourite bits – it was great seeing such a passionate team, and Solieman and Scott (store manager) were so informative, friendly and helpful when showing me around and introducing me to other section leads too!
From Milk Chocolate Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Rolls to Goats Cheese and Caramelised Onion Tart Tartin, Chicken, Honey & Orange Liqueur Parfait and Christmas Pudding Smoothie, there’s something new and exciting for all occasions, from lunch at work in the run-up to the big day, to those family get-togethers and even sit-down three-course dinners.
Lunch – On-the-Go Range
Christmas sandwiches are some of the most anticipated festive launches, with many attempting to try as many as possible, and other awaiting the TimeOut pick of the best to help narrow it down.
This year M&S has launched the Taste of Christmas Selection, meaning you can try four different Christmas Sandwiches in one; Turkey Feast, Brie & Grape, Prawn & Smoked Salmon and Ham Hock & Golden Beetroot Piccalilli!
All four quarters were packed with filling. The Turkey Feast was delicious and moist between two fresh slices of wholemeal bread. The Brie & Grape was a fantastic combo of creamy cheese and sweet fruit. The Ham Hock & Golden Beetroot Piccalilli was a mix of salty and sweet flavours, the ham potent and complimented by the piccalilli. The Prawn & Smoked Salmon was juicy, a perfect combination of two of the best fish sandwiches.
The Christmas pudding smoothie, also on the ‘On-the-go’ range, wasn’t as thick as I expected. Imagine fruity Christmas pudding, plenty of cream, slightly watered down and you got this smoothie. At first I wasn’t sure, as I was expecting more a milkshake consistency, but after a few sips I was loving it. So much so, I’m heading back to get another this week!
The mini mince pies, which are free when you buy two Christmas sandwiches (go with a friend!), are buttery, crumbly and sweet, with rich mincemeat filling. The perfect size to accompany a lunch.
There are plenty of other bits and pieces in ‘On-the-Go’ range including a fantastic trio of macaroons, a vegan wrap, gluten free options and turkey feast flavoured crisps. What’s more, 5% of sales from the festive collection go to Shelter, so you’re also doing your bit in helping the homeless too! I love this charitable touch, especially at Christmas!
M&S have several festive flavours in their crisps range this year including Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese & Champagne Hand Cooked Crisps, Turkey Feast Hand Cooked Crisps, Bloody Mary Red Hand Cooked Crisps, Honey Mustard Poppy Seed Tortilla Rolls, Pigs in Blankets Hand Cooked Crisps, Miso, Soy & Ginger Parsnip Hand Cooked Crisps and even Milk Chocolate Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Rolls!
The Bloody Mary Red Hand Cooked Crisps were salty, with a mild tomato flavour and slight tang. Not as potent as I remember other tomato crisps, they were delicious.
The Milk Chocolate Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Rolls however were amazing! Sweet and salty, the cinnamon, salty tortilla and milk chocolate goes together so well. I think these might be our favourite crisps of the season – Alex loves a sweet and salty combo and these sure impressed.
There are some seriously stunning chocolates in store this year – beautiful sparkling caramels, to champagne truffles and fancy chocolate nuts, there are so many fab options for pressies or after dinner treats.
The Sprayed Chocolatiers Box (£15), a selection of sophisticated hand finished chocolates with gourmet flavours including smoked caramel, peppermint ice, chai latte and mango, chilli and lime. They look divine and tasted really indulgent. The chai latte a creamy favourite, whilst the mango, chilli and lime was a fruity number with a thin chocolate shell and slight spicy kick in the after taste.
The Sparkling Caramels (£6), a trio of metallic coated caramels (dark chocolate with liquid salted caramel, milk chocolate with orange, hazelnut gianduja and fig flavoured salted caramel, and a milk chocolate with clementine and pomegranate flavoured salted caramel), were beautifully presented and all delicious. The milk chocolate with orange, hazelnut gianduja and fig flavoured salted caramel, my fave, radiating the festive flavours of Christmas.
The party food range includes such a range of different options including Steak & Chips canapes, Melt in the Middle Mini Yorkshire Puddings, Chilli Beef Tacos and Italian Mozzarella Pesto Filled Mini Bites, Melting Cheese Bites, Brie & Cranberry Tartlets and Sticky Asian Style Chicken Lollipops. All are super easy to prepare (Some can even be baked in the trays they come in), ready in under roughly 20 minutes, and pretty reasonably priced – most included on a ‘4 for 3’ deal!
The Bacon Wrapped Mac & Cheese Stacks made an awesome canape. Perfect sized and super cheesy, they topped our faves list!
The Chilli Beef Tacos were delicious too, with a crispy outer shell once baked, and rich beef filling topped with sour cream and cheese, they’re ready in only 10 minutes! Great for the last minute guests!
I also tried the Goats Cheese and Caramelised Onion Tart Tartin – a flaky puff pastry, with sweet red onion and creamy goats cheese. A fab vegetarian option, with a tasty sweet and creamy flavour.
I’m definitely stocking up on these for Christmas Eve/Boxing Day when we’re all mingling and chilling out – I think they’d be perfect for a lunch of little ‘picky’ bits.
We also tried the Chicken, Honey & Orange Liqueur Parfait. Spread thickly on toasted wholemeal, it was creamy and mild with a citrus fruity jelly layer, giving it a truly festive flavour. It would make a great starter or appetiser – the parfait comes in a ceramic dish which could be served on the side next to small squares of toast for guests to help themselves!
Overall, we were really impressed by the inventive flavours, combinations and how they’re catering for all with wheat free and vegan options too. The competition is tough and M&S is definitely up there with the some of the best Christmas options this year.I’d highly recommend popping into store for a few bits to help with entertaining this year, you won’t regret it – I know I’m falling back on M&S again before the festive season is out!
What’s your favourite inventive/quirky flavoured Christmas food this year? Or do you prefer traditional flavours?
*I was invited along to a tour of the M&S food store and sent home with a few options to taste. All views my own.