delicious. Discoveries: 16 of the best food & drink buys for Christmas

We’ve tasted, sipped, broken apart, crumbled and examined all the festive products from small producers we could get our hands on, then whittled the list down to the very best of them – just for you. Read on for our independent Christmas food shopping guide…

delicious. Discoveries: 16 of the best food & drink buys for Christmas

8 of the best festive food buys from small producers

1. The Boxing Day centrepiece
Calum Franklin, master of the double- crust pie and proudly self-described ‘pastry deviant’, has again created a Christmas showstopper for Melton Mowbray-based traditional pork pie makers Dickinson & Morris. If you don’t have time to make Nokx Majozi’s black pudding and apricot pork pie, this one is good looking enough to take pride of place on anyone’s Boxing Day table. The burnished, crisp-yet-satisfyingly-lardy pastry is perhaps a little thick in parts but other than that the pie is a marvel: the shiny, ruby-red port and cranberry jelly blankets a magnificent mixture of well seasoned outdoor-bred pork, chicken and smoked bacon. £40 for 1.1kg, available from Fortnum & Mason, selected Waitrose deli counters and from Dickinson & Morris’s shop in Yorkshire

2. Luscious biccies
You’re no doubt familiar with the crackle-topped, chewy almondyness of trad Tuscan ricciarelli, but have you tried chocolate ricciarelli? They’re made by Nannini to an old family recipe, with the genius addition of melted Belgian chocolate in the dough (a revelation). Serve with coffee for a two- bite-size dessert on days when you want less time in the kitchen, more at the table. Nannini ricciarelli with almonds, £18 for 250g, available from Sacla’

3. Are you team mint chocolate?
If you’re orange-flavoured chocolate only, move along please, nothing to see here. Mint choc fans, however, will love the products of Summerdown, a farm in Hampshire that grows the sought-after black mitcham variety of peppermint. We tried the thins, crisps and mini choc squares, but our favourite is the peppermint creams, which have a satisfying dark- chocolate-to-gooey-peppermint-cream ratio, a pleasing plumpness and just the right amount of chew. £8.50 for 200g, available from Summersdown

4. Get the party started
Every festive gathering needs crisps, and these aren’t just any old crisps: they’re Tyrell’s new black garlic and sour cream flavour, so moreish we advise buying six bags – two for the party; two for betwixmas snacking; two for emergencies. The black garlickiness is rounded out by the sour cream: super- tasty yet with no breath-affecting aftertaste, if you get our drift… £2.75 for 135g, available from Waitrose

5. Frozen genius
Layers of gelato, creamy with mascarpone and saturated with the flavours that make tiramisu perennially popular: sweet marsala wine and coffee, finished with a blanket of dusted cocoa. A refreshing yet indulgent ready-made dessert in one chic pot. £6 for for 430ml, available from Ocado and Waitrose

6. Smoky hamper from the hills
The Black Mountains Smokery in Wales is one of the UK’s best. It was the award-winning smoked chicken that drew us in first, closely followed by the smoked duck and fish – ingredients it’s great to have on hand for impromptu salads, sandwiches and snacks of the highest order. The Taste For Two hamper also includes a jar of dill sauce (fantastic with smoked fish on blinis), smoked welsh cheddar and hedgerow port jelly (cheeseboard heaven). £58.75, available from Black Mountains Smokery

7. Ready for a bun fight?
Fitzbillies, The 100-year-old Cambridge bakery rescued by food journalist Tim Hayward and his wife Alison Wright in 2011, has been renowned since 1920 for its chelsea buns. Now you can order a load in three flavours – original, cinnamon and chocolate & salted caramel – all stuck together in a Christmas tree shape to wow your guests – until they fall on them and tear them to pieces in a fit of mad bun-lust. The buns come part baked, so you can serve them warm from the oven to increase the fervour. Attractively boxed, they’d also make a great gift for a sweet-toothed family, and the website has lots of other goodies, including buttery mince pies, gingerbread man-topped brownies and a rich Christmas cake. Chelsea bun Christmas tree (10 buns), £35, available from Fitzbillies

8. Mince pie perfection
Two reasons why Rosebud Preserves’ festive bakes, handmade in Yorkshire, have standout: first, the pastry is buttery and oh-so-tender shortcrust; second, the almond and orange mincemeat within is rich in plump vine fruit, apple and citrus, laced with brandy (no cheap vinegary taste here). The pies come beautifully boxed, too. Want to make your own? You can buy the mincemeat in a regular jar or Kilner jar instead. Mince pies, £12 for 8; mincemeat, £6.95 for 340g (£11.95 for 450g Kilner jar – great gift), available from Rosebud Preserves and select stockists


3 handy festive standbys

9. The guest pleaser
We’re long-time fans of the Snowdonia Cheese Company’s powerfully tangy cheddars, and now its Rock Star cave-aged cheddar has been made into an irresistible fondue in a little clay pot. It takes 20 minutes in the oven (or two in the microwave). There’s a debate in the delicious. office as to whether ‘unexpected guests’ at Christmas are a thing, but if you do get one, this is great to pull out and serve with a fruity white wine and good things to dip (crusty bread, cornichons, a big spoon…). £6 for 150g, available from Snowdonia Cheese

10. The treat-yourself ready meal
At a busy time, the posh ready meal is a welcome standby. The new lamb, carrot and prune tagine from the Devon family farm of Eversfield Organic is good enough to pretend to yourself you made it. Satisfying chunks of tender lamb and sweetness (but not too much) from the carrot and prunes combine with judicious spicing for a meal to make you sigh with wintry contentment. Serve it with couscous, fried savoy cabbage and a squeeze of citrus. £6.95 for 550g (serves 2-3), available from Eversfield Organic

11. The pie in the freezer
With rugged good looks, crisp pastry and high- quality fillings, the creations of Yorkshire Handmade Pies are firmly in the top tier. The new game pie is a beaut, packed with venison, pheasant and partridge from a Yorkshire game supplier, in a rich redcurrant sauce with mushrooms and smoked bacon. You cook the pie from frozen and it needs a little finessing to ease it out of its foil after baking, but then you glide into pie heaven. £33 for a box of six individual 250g pies (you can mix and match with other flavours), available from Yorkshire Handmade Pies


5 of the best festive three-star Great Taste winners

12. Mrs Bell’s Blue, Shepherds Purse Artisan Cheeses
Editor Karen was a big fan of this one on the final judging day, and she wasn’t alone. “This is visually striking and incredibly appealing,” enthused the judges, “with beautiful blue veins, not only on the rind but also in the paste… The aroma is gentle and enticing, almost hay-like… The cheese takes you on a journey of taste and flavour…” Order before it sells out! £6.70 for 170g, available from Shepherds Purse

13. Chocolatia chocolates
Made by hand in Scotland by patisserie chef-turned-chocolatier Chloe Oswald, three types of these won three stars – for good reason: the flavours sing (our most memorable: a choc that tastes of fresh coconut and just-squeezed lime juice… How does she do that?). Each choc is a mini work of art, and the boxes are almost too pretty to open. Almost. £19 for the nine-piece Great Taste 3-star collection, available from Chocolatia

14. Colombia El Placer 100% Pink Bourbon ‘IPA’, Dark Woods Coffee
Beer and coffee combined? Somehow it works, and the judges loved this out-there brew. “There’s no question that this is a combination of beer and coffee notes,” they said, adding, “It could have been overambitious but it’s so cleverly blended and restrained… A really long finish with the return of a delightful moment of hops. A triumph.” £14.95 for 150g, available from Dark Woods Coffee

15. Panettone infused with vin santo liqueur, Tenuta Marmorelle
Controversially, this Tuscan-made product from specialist Italian foods supplier Tenuta Marmorelle is shaped like a loaf rather than the traditional panettone. You won’t care about that when you taste its 36-hour-leavened sourdough charms, though. We loved its featherlight, sultana flecked textures, made beautifully moist thanks to the vin santo. £20.95 for 450g, available from Tenuta Marmorelle

16. Hojicha sparkling tea, Saicho Drinks
delicious. drinks editor Susy Atkins is a big fan of this one and said: “It’s subtly smoky with mellow tinges of toasted nuts and earthy forest floor, finishing dry. Hojicha is a roasted green Japanese tea; a little white grape juice is added, lifting the freshness. It will match wonderfully with a mushroom risotto.” £17.99 for 75cl, available from Master of Malt

Looking to buy from independent retailers this year? Visit our festive food and drink directory.

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