Christmas hampers combine the two best things about the festive period – food and gifts. But what are the best things to put in a festive hamper?
1. Smoked salmon
Smoked salmon is a real festive luxury, and also incredibly easy to prepare. Wild Scottish smoked salmon is considered the best, as the fish eat a natural diet.
2. Dessert wine
This goes well with Christmas pudding, and the traditional Christmas evening snack of cheese and biscuits. And if you have some left over on Boxing Day, try raisins soaked in dessert wine with ice-cream.
Tip: Wine buffs say that dessert wines should always be sweeter than the dessert you eat them with.
After a Christmas roast, you need a coffee you can taste! Choose one that has been roasted a long time, as this brings out a strong, smooth flavour. Arabica coffee is particularly good – remember to save some for your first day back at work!
4. Dark chocolate
Connoisseur chocolate is the perfect way to finish off a Christmas meal, and it also goes well with strong coffee. Chocolates by artisan makers like Paul Wayne Gregory and Damian Allsop are a perfect addition to Christmas hamper gifts.
5. Christmas pudding
The best Christmas puddings contain beer – its slightly bitter taste counteracts the sweetness of the pudding and also seems to improve the texture. The pudding should also contain fruit soaked in a stronger alcohol. The leftovers can be sliced and fried in butter, or used to make Christmas pudding ice-cream.
Soup is a perfect light dinner for Christmas Day. Festive flavours include broccoli and stilton, carrot and cranberry, lobster bisque, spiced pumpkin and bacon.
7. Goat’s cheese
A good ingredient to have on standby, goat’s cheese can be used to add a distinctive bit of flavour to just about anything. Try rolling out some ready-made pastry, adding sundried tomatoes, goat’s cheese and olive oil, and baking for 30 to 40 minutes.
An Italian delicacy, porchetta is a large sausage-shaped joint of pork, big enough to replace the Christmas turkey if you fancy a change. It is traditionally stuffed with herbs, but sometimes caramelised apples and brandy are used instead.
Lebkuchen is a traditional German treat, which was invented by monks around 700 years ago. It is a bit like gingerbread and traditionally eaten at Christmas. You don’t often see it in Christmas food hampers, which is a shame, because it is a tasty and fairly healthy treat.
10. Wild boar salami
Boar looks set to come back into fashion, as it is used in Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant, and the Waterside Inn in Berkshire – both of which have three Michelin stars. Boar apparently works well as salami, and though not very festive, it will at least provide a good talking point.