Seasonal food is one of the most hotly anticipated aspects of Christmas, whether it’s the spicy scent of warm mulled wine, the turkey-and-trimmings meals, or the show-stopping desserts. But retailers and restaurants are getting more creative than ever with their festive concoctions – any one for mince pie ice cream?
A pillow-y macaroon, all light and airy with a crisp crunch and a chewy almond-y interior, meets a mince pie filling – a spicy, raisin-packed jam centre. The brainchild of Andrew Blas, executive pastry chef at London’s Café Royal, the genius of this dessert is that the macaroon isn’t too sweet, so that you really taste the Christmas flavours. Buy them on their own, to take away, or as part of a sit-down afternoon tea while you’re out Christmas shopping. www.hotelcaferoyal.com
Brussels sprout juice
I tested this, so that you don’t have to – unless of course you really like Brussels sprouts. Marks and Spencer’s seasonal apple, pear and Brussel sprout juice, which promises to deliver two of your five-a-day. Even though the drink contains just eight per cent sprout, there is a definite whiff about it. I’m sure it’s a new kind of superfood and a clever way to get us to eat (or drink) our greens, but it’s certainly an acquired taste. www.marksandspencer.com
Festive ice cream
Christmas in a scoop. Sainsbury’s has created Taste the Difference farmhouse ice cream, made with free-range eggs and Devon cream, in two fruity flavours: the mince pie ice cream comes complete with mincemeat and pastry pieces, while the caramelised orange ice cream is studded with chunks of cranberry compote (£3.25 for 500ml, www.sainsburys.co.uk). Not to be outdone, Waitrose has a Christmas pudding ice cream, created by Heston Blumenthal (£4.49 for 500ml, www.waitrose.com).
Buck’s Fizz marmalade
For retailers, Christmas means glitter, and increasingly that even includes novelty drinks containing flecks of gold. So it wasn’t surprising that before long food would follow. At least you can expect a quality product from Fortnum & Mason – so why not wow your family at the Christmas breakfast table with this Buck’s Fizz marmalade (£7.95, www.fortnumandmason.com) containing edible glitter. If Fortnum’s hadn’t already created it, someone on the Great British Bake-Off would surely try.
Want more glitter? Buy the new Fortnum and Mason Glitter Shortbread (£9.75) or M&S’s Gold G&Tea (£11.99, www.marksandspencer.com) – a pre-mixed gin cocktail infused with tea, elderflower, lemongrass, and flecks of gold.
The Christmas burger
A restaurant-take on the obligatory festive sandwich that every lunchtime outlet comes up with at advent, the Christmas dinner burger, is essentially a turkey roast and the veggie option (camembert cheese with cranberry relish) in one brioche bun. You also get a sprout instead of a gherkin, smoked bacon and a lettuce leaf, just in case it was too easy to get your mouth around before. It’s served with a side of roast goose-fat potatoes – of course it is. £13.50 from K West Hotel & Spa, available throughout December.
Recreating a sweet-meets-savoury festive pie – the original mincemeat pie concept that dates back to the 13th century – Brompton Food Market’s Spiced Mutton and London Porter pie contains rare-breed mutton, spices from Spice Mountain at Borough Market and ‘Brew by Numbers’ Porter – brewed in London with Columbus and Bramling hops. It’s as intriguing as it is intoxicating, and a hearty alternative to turkey. www.bromptonfoodmarket.com
Mince pie praline chocolates
They may look like mince pies, but these beauties are instead filled with praline chocolate – a great idea for guests who don’t like the traditional pasty treat. £6 for 6, www.johnlewis.com
The Christmas Dog
As a general rules, dogs are not just for Christmas – unless we’re talking hot-dogs, in which case it’s a brilliant idea. At Shake Shack, try the Shack Dog ‘n’ Blanket – a Sillfield Farm Cumberland sausage wrapped in bacon and topped with pumpkin maple mustard (£6, www.shakeshack.com).
American diner Dirty Bones also has a signature Christmas Dog, featuring a turkey & stuffing sausage, which is cooked in red wine gravy and comes served with cranberry puree in place of ketchup (£23 as part of the Christmas menu, www.dirty-bones.com)
Cookie and Caramel wreath
Half Florentine (which is already a sticky, caramelised festive nutty treat), half milk chocolate wreath, this pretty, sweet treat is also decorated with cocoa and shortbread biscuits and make a delicious stocking filler. £7 for 100g, www.HotelChocolat.com
Mulled wine cheesecake
Who doesn’t love mulled wine? It really is Christmas in a glass. Well now you can have Christmas on a plate, with Asda’s Chosen by You Mulled Wine Cheesecake, which is spiced with cinnamon, candied orange and Christmas spices. £7, www.asda.com
If you want to blow everyone else out of the water as the Christmas host-with-the-most this year, then hotfoot it to Tesco to pick up this Finest Croquembouche patisserie kit. Yes, some DIY is required to create the 60-strong towering cone of profiteroles, that you then drizzle with chocolate sauce and edible sparkling stars. It’ll definitely be a foodie instagram-moment, when you carry this to the table – just don’t drop it. £15, www.tesco.com (in store from 18 December)
Christmas afternoon tea
The festive Champagne afternoon tea at TwoRuba has all the usual suspects, plus mince pies, Bucks Fizz truffles, Christmas cake and stolen – if that doesn’t get you into the festive spirit, what will? £19 per person, www.tworuba.com
A Pine time
The tree is one of the key scents of Christmas – but are you brave enough to drink it? The Mistletoe and Pine cocktail at the Paramount Bar (£12, www.paramount.uk.net) contains pine-infused Bombay Sapphire gin, shaken with a splash of Pimento dram, freshly squeezed lemon juice, cinnamon sugar and an egg white.
Or head to Marks and Spencer where they are selling Adnams Southwold Spruce IPA, a fragrant blend of hops and Norway Spruce (£24 for a case of 12, www.marksandspencer.com).
This article appeared in Metro on 23 December. See the print version HERE.