Christmas ideas: Food and drink (Part I)

From hamper ideas to hot festive sauce boxes; prosecco and pasta to Fairtrade chocolate

It comes as no great surprise that my email box is starting to fill up with food and drink ideas for the coming Christmas festivities. So, I thought it was about time that I shared some of them with you. It’s a really mixed bunch ranging from hamper ideas to hot festive sauce boxes; prosecco and pasta to Fairtrade chocolate. And let’s not forget advice on how to cook and carve the Christmas turkey. I hope there is something here of interest… 


If you are looking for a tempting Christmas hamper for family, friends or yourself then Paxton & Whitfield, the UK’s oldest cheesemonger, says it has the perfect solution in its The Belgravia hamper.

The hamper retails for a tasty £375, but Christmas does only come once a year! It includes a tempting range of Paxton’s luxurious products, all presented in an elegant wooden hamper box. 

It contains: mini waxed Stilton PDO* (225g), Cheddar Pounder PDO* (550g), Camembert de Normandie PDO* (250g), Sloe, Fig & Almond Slice (100g), Creamed Honey with Sea Salt (130g), Gooseberry & Elderflower Jam (227g), Nuts About Figs (90g), Quince Cheese (140g), Shropshire Blue & Onion Cheese Squares (85g), Smoked Wiltshire Ham (1.2kg), Paxton’s grey Eco Bag with leather handles, Paxton & Whitfield Cotton Tea Towel, Paxton & Whitfield Ceramic Platter & Glass Dome, Paxton & Whitfield Canvas & Leather Apron, , Côtes de Duras White (75cl), Côtes de Duras Red (75cl), Champagne Grand Cru (75cl) and Vintage Port (75cl).

Everything listed is available from Paxton & Whitfield’s two London shops in Jermyn Street, Piccadilly, and Cale Street, Chelsea Green. The company also has shops in Bath and Stratford upon Avon as well as online at

* PDO – protected designation of origin, for products that are produced, processed and prepared within a particular geographical area, and with features and characteristics that must be due to that area. 

All prices quoted do not include postage and packing. For Christmas orders for UK mainland pre-Christmas Day delivery orders must be received by Thursday, December 19.

Hot sauces

Make Christmas extra saucy this year by giving someone a festive gift of hot sauce. At only £5.99 per bottle or £17 for a Festive Selection Pack, SaucyBitch Hot Sauces are the perfect gift for anyone who likes to spice up their turkey.  These artisan vegan sauces are stocked in the Luxury Brand LVMH store, Le Graden Epicerie de Paris, making them the ultimate hot sauce treat for any discerning Christmas condiment connoisseur. The eye-catching French Bulldog labels are the coolest addition to any kitchen cabinet and come in an array of collectible colours. That’s where the “bitch” element of the name derives from in case you were thinking of alerting the politically correct police!

SaucyBitch is available in five flavours:

Hot Stuff is a ballsy take on a classic hot sauce. This saucy little number is packed with premium red jalapenos, habaneros, bird’s eye and Romano chillies, then rounded off with a generous hit of garlic. SaucyBitch has given it a medium spicy heat so it appeals to all lovers of hot sauce. It is perfect to splash in home cooking or to use as a saucy hot dip.

Smokin’ Hot is a rich, lavish London take on one of the UK’s favourite sauce flavours ­– chipotle. This rich and intense saucy little number blends chipotle with molasses and liquid smoke imported straight from Tennessee’s finest barbecues to give it that authentic smoky taste. This is the ultimate sauce for any chipotle lover and is perfect for all occasions.

Sweet Heat is a luxurious version of the classic Thai hot sauce – Sriracha.  This fiery version is packed with garlic and an intense chilli sweetness to give it a sizzling kick.  They use fermented chillies and it is suitable for vegans. This is the perfect hot sauce for noodles, kebabs or using as a dipping sauce.

Triple XXX is for those who think that hotter equals better. There is a higher concentration of fermented hot habanero and Scotch Bonnet chillis to give this more bang for your buck.  This sauce was created for those who like their sauces hot but still want to be able to use it on their favourite foods rather than use it to remove paint.  Perfect with pizza, stir fries and meat dishes.

Mellow Yellow is perfect for lovers of a sweet chilli sauce who prefer it mild.  The heat comes from the renowned Fatalii Chilli while the sweet comes from a mix of succulent pineapple and sweet juicy mango all finished off with a citrusy twist of lemon.  This sweet and fruity hot sauce gives a milder lingering warmth and is perfect with fish dishes, stir fries, chicken and everything else.

SaucyBitch hot sauces are all vegan which is proving popular with customers at the SaucyBitch stall at London’s iconic market – Old Spitalfields Market. Customers are also raving about the fact that the hot sauce use fermented ingredients which experts predict will be the one of the main food trends in 2019. UK suppliers include: Eat17 Spar in Walthamstow, Eat17 Spar in Hackney, Kitchen Provisions in Stoke Newington, the newly-opened Kitchen Provisions in the exclusive Coal’s Yard, King’s Cross.

Pasta for those seeking something different

The pressure to wow guests with an incredible spread is at its peak during the festive season. But working tirelessly in the kitchen can now be a thing of the past with this Prosecco and creamy lemon sauce salmon tortelloni recipe. As experts in fresh filled pasta, La Famiglia Rana has crafted a deliciously delicate recipe that is bound to have everyone, including the host, in a celebratory mood. 

Italy’s favourite sparkling tipple gives crisp notes to the creamy lemon sauce, perfectly complimenting the smoky tortelloni filling.

The recipe was inspired by La Famiglia Rana’s aptitude for living generously and was curated to be shared and enjoyed with nearest and dearest. The Smoked Salmon and Ricotta Tortelloni was handcrafted with this same idea in mind and is the perfect accompaniment to any festive dinner table.

The salmon tortelloni with Prosecco and creamy lemon sauce recipe can be prepared in just 15 minutes. To create a showstopping experience for guests the dish is best served as main course.  

The Smoked Salmon and Ricotta Tortelloni can be bought for prices starting from £2.50 from various Sainsbury’s stores. To find a specific store location visit here

Tasty chocolate treats that help others

Divine, which claims to be the only Fairtrade chocolate company owned by cocoa farmers, has launched a seriously delicious festive range of new bars, treats and gifts. Sharing boxes, warming hot chocolate and beautifully designed advent calendars are included in the line-up.

When you choose Divine chocolate, you aren’t just picking mouth-wateringly good chocolate, you are also helping to make a difference around the world. With almost half its profits going to the farmers who own the company, and 2% of its turnover being invested in farmer projects that empower women, improve farming techniques, and help protect the rainforest – Divine delivers so much more.

Included in its range are:

Winter Warming Spiced Hot Chocolate (RRP £5): Included in the tantalising tasty festive line-up is their vegan winter warming spiced hot chocolate. This hot chocolate is a wonderful blend of ginger and cinnamon. It will make you feel like you’re sitting in front of a cosy fireplace. Add a couple of spoonfuls into milk or your favourite milk alternative for a creamy cup of goodness. Available at Oxfam and Amazon.

Divine Organic Gift Set (RRP £10): Featuring three full-sized bars from Divine’s premium organic range: Blueberry and Popped Quinoa, Lemon and Turmeric and Ginger. Bursting with character and ideal for those who prefer dark chocolate – these bars contain 85% Fairtrade and Organic cocoa, which comes from São Tomé, a tropical island off the west coast of Africa. Available at Oxfam, Ocado and Amazon.

Divine Milk Chocolate Pretzel Bites (RRP £5): Next on the festive list we have Divine’s Milk Chocolate Pretzel Bites. These are deliciously crispy pretzel bites smothered in silky smooth milk chocolate. Pop one of these in your mouth and you’ll be reaching for more! Available at Oxfam and Amazon.

Divine Dark Chocolate Fudge (RRP £5): The list continues with Divine’s dark chocolate fudge. Equally irresistible and delightfully moreish, these deliciously creamy fudge pieces are smothered in its award-winning 70% rich dark chocolate.  Ideal for sharing, they are perfect for dinner parties or nights in with friends and family. Available at Oxfam and Amazon.

Giant Milk Chocolate Coin (RRP £2.40): This smooth milk chocolate coin will make a giant treat for children and adults alike. Made with cocoa grown by Kuapa Kokoo farmers in Ghana, the coin is a reminder that Divine champions a fair deal for farmers. Available at Oxfam and Amazon.

Milk or Dark Chocolate Coins (RRP £2.40): A Christmas stocking isn’t complete without Divine’s signature shiny coins, they say. Choose between the smooth milk chocolate coins or their vegan friendly, dark chocolate coins wrapped in seasonal red and green foils. Available at Oxfam and Amazon.

Divine Vegan Friendly & Fairtrade 70% Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar (RRP £5): And let’s not forget Divine’s famous advent calendars. Designed by the illustrator & author, Stephen Waterhouse, the illustration features a large tree with leaves and cocoa pods, shading a Nativity scene. Behind each window reveals a fun animal fact, and of course a chocolaty treat. Certified by the vegan society, this pack also details Divine’s environmental credentials. Available at Oxfam, Waitrose and Amazon.  

Fairtrade Milk Chocolate Advent Calendar (RRP £4): Designed by the illustrator and author, Stephen Waterhouse, Divine Chocolate’s Fairtrade milk chocolate advent calendar will have both adults and children eager to count down the days until Christmas! Each window reveals a fun animal fact and, of course, a delicious Fairtrade milk chocolate heart. Available at Oxfam, Ocado, wholesalers and independent stores.

Limited Edition Flavour Sharing Bars (RRP £2.29): And finally, Divine welcomes back its much-loved limited edition bars. Choose between smooth milk chocolate with Gingerbread crisp or the vegan-friendly deliciously tangy clementine – these bars are bound to get you in the Christmas spirit. Available at Oxfam, Amazon, wholesalers and independent stores.

Paul Kelly’s Top Tips for Cooking Turkey

Paul Kelly of KellyBronze Turkeys has provided his top tips for cooking the big bird on the big day! Paul holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest carving of a turkey. 

His tips are:

  • Always place your turkey breast down on the baking tray when you cook it. This is because the majority of fat deposits are in the back of the bird, so as it begins to cook – the fat renders down through the bird providing optimum flavour and keeping it moist.  
  • Invest in a meat thermometer – it’s the only way to ensure your turkey is perfectly cooked. You should always check cooking times according to the size of your bird, and the thigh is the best part of the bird to check the temp.  
  • Don’t cover your turkey in foil once it’s out of the oven. The logic is that we don’t want it to get cold, but essentially it means that it continues to cook the meat and is a big reason turkey gets a bad rep for being ‘dry’. Just leave the bird to rest on the side for an hour after, and it will remain cooked to perfection. 
  • For the best turkey crackling ever, remove all the skin as soon as you’ve carved the bird. It’ll now be much easier to peel the skin off the breast, legs and wings. And don’t forget the back of the bird (the triangular portion of flesh at the rear). Lay the skin out flat on a baking tray, season it with salt and pop it back in the oven at 180°C/360°F. It will take about 20-30 mins to get the most amazing turkey crackling – just don’t forget about it, as it will burn quickly! 
  • Carve in this order: wings off first, then the legs, third comes the breast meat, followed by the skin and then slice up the sections of meat. 
The fastest turkey carver shows how it’s done
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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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