The Bank of England reports that we spend an average of 29% more in December than in a typical month. And whilst spending on video, music equipment and books grows the most, spending on food still increases by a massive 20% on average. Keen to carve out their share of the market, supermarkets have been consistently upping their game each year with enticing festive food ranges, from frozen party treats to Christmas lunch centrepieces.
We thought we’d get into the festive spirit by rounding up some of the supermarkets’ seasonal specials. Whilst they’ve covered the classics well as usual, with bacon-wrapped turkey crowns and brandy-laced mince pies aplenty, we share some of the more interesting dishes, that offer a twist on the usual festive fare.
It’s probably fair to say that most of us don’t wait until Christmas proper to open a box or two of mince pies. Indeed, many will already have started their own taste tests of the various offerings the supermarkets now provide. With some stores boasting half a dozen or more varieties, from simple ‘all butter’ to ‘frangipane topped’ and ‘gingerbread crumble’ there are certainly plenty to choose from! Aldi have captured another national obsession in their ‘sloe gin mince tarts’, which will surely make them immensely popular. Available from Aldi, £2.19 for 6 (290g).
As Continental style markets have surged in popularity in the UK in recent years, so too have festive treats inspired by them. These stollen bites are a great alternative (or addition!) to mince pies, and boast a marzipan filling, with kirsch syrup to finish. Sainsbury’s, £3.00 for 9.
A party buffet without sausage rolls will likely upset a large proportion of your guests, but if you find them to be rather dull, Iceland have created a luxury centrepiece fit for any buffet table. Their sausage roll wreath is finished with a herby crumb and is ready to tear and share. The savoury wreath centrepiece is a trend seen across several supermarkets this year, with a brioche and camembert wreath at Ocado, antipasti wreath at M&S, and a vegan sausage wreath at Morrisons. The Luxury Sausage Roll Wreath at Iceland is £4.00 (73p per 100 g).
If a prawn crown is a little on the retro side for you, then you might find Morrisons’ king prawn selection more enticing. Comprising ten pieces each of breaded torpedo king prawns, garlic and herb butterfly king prawns, sweet chilli butterfly king prawns, and sriracha bubble king prawns, the selection cooks at 200 °C, as with all their party food. Get it from Morrisons, £8 for 40 pieces.
Most people have strong feelings about the trimmings for their Christmas meal, but if you’re considering a change or perhaps just something that’s easier and quicker to prepare, these ‘All the Trimmings Christmas Dinner Croquettes’ really do have it all: creamy mashed potato blended with shredded brussels sprouts, British chicken, British smoked bacon and chestnuts, coated in an oat and herb breadcrumb, with a sachet of cranberry sauce. If you’re a traditionalist, why not serve them as party food instead? From Sainsbury’s, currently £3.00 (usually £3.50) for ten croquettes (220g).
Stuffing can be a contentious trimming, and certainly at risk of being forgotten and dried out. To take off the pressure, Iceland have created these pork and bramley apple stuffing parcels, which are wrapped in streaky bacon and are ready to cook from frozen in the oven or air fryer. Iceland, £3.50 for 8 (312g).
Pigs in blankets are a firm favourite on most Christmas dinner plates, but if you’re game for something a little different this year, then Waitrose set Heston Blumenthal on the case. His twist on the festive favourite features dry cured treacle bacon wrapped around a succulent chicken, pheasant, duck and pork chipolata, with cranberries, Seville orange marmalade and festive spices. Waitrose, £10 for 12.
Fish dishes are a popular break from the heavier meat based meals that often dominate the Christmas calendar, and provide a lovely light supper or starter option. Lidl have taken cues from the much-favoured three bird roast with their three fish roast. The dish is layered with cod, salmon and smoked haddock in a creamy cheddar cheese and spring onion sauce, finished with a fried onion crumb. Lidl, £6.99 to serve 4 (750g).
Whilst turkey is a must-have as the main event for many, it’s not everyone’s favourite, and in recent years alternatives have become increasingly popular. M&S consistently include seriously eye-catching and indulgent centrepieces in their festive range, from a slow cooked pork belly feast to a pair of roast partridges. Their beef and bone marrow pie will certainly make an excellent focal point to the Christmas table, and is filled with beef in an ale and bone-marrow gravy, with bone-marrow-roasted onions and bacon pieces, encased in all-butter shortcrust pastry and finished with a decorative marrow bone. M&S, £30 for 1200g.
Another alternative worth thinking about is a meat-free dish, since so many are turning to vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets. Far from the soggy nut roasts many people associate with the vegan diet, this butternut, almond and pecan nut roast has a beautiful jewel-like topping, and combines roasted squash, mixed nuts, cannellini beans, cranberries and a red wine and thyme gravy. M&S, £10 for 800g.
Pudding should be an indulgence for everyone to enjoy, but it can be divisive, not least because not everyone enjoys a traditional Christmas pudding. If chocolate is more of a crowd pleaser in your family, this moist yule log, coated with indulgent chocolate frosting might be the way to suit everyone. Since it’s free of milk, eggs and nuts (and is made in a nut and peanut free factory), it’s also a great option if you have guests with allergies. It’s also suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Waitrose, £7.00.
If it really must be a Christmas pudding for your dessert, but you’d like to please those with a sweeter tooth, perhaps try this sticky toffee pudding twist from Aldi. It’s laced with cider, rum and brandy, with a sweet toffee sauce centre that will surely please everyone. Aldi, £8.99 for 800g.