Last week, I walked into Christmas, as envisaged by Sainsbury’s. Invited along to their as a member of the Sainsbury’s Family Blogging Network, I found myself in some beautiful rooms packed with new ideas and innovations. Here is my pick of the range I saw:<
MAKE YOUR OWN
The British love affair with baking continues, and although I usually make everything from scratch I can see the sense in a little helping hand for busy times. Therefore I thought the new Gingerbread Dough Block would be a great boon for baking with the very young. My youngest son was always very impatient and leaving the dough to rest for 30 minutes before the rolling stage meant that he would wander off having lost interest. Why didn’t they think of this easy dough when my kids were small?
These Make Your Own Macaroons in raspberry or chocolate flavours will also be making their way into my shopping basket. Macaroons need time and patience, and it is a great way of encouraging new bakers to try something other than cupcakes for a change. I would make a batch of these to serve as finger food pudding, with a sprinkle of edible glitter, or for handing around at the end of parties. Likewise, even the very pushed for time might have a go at the Sainsbury’s Make Your Own Gingerbread House kit. This would be great fun to make as part of the run up to Christmas celebrations.
For keen bakers there is also a new range of edible decorations, including mini chocolate champagne bottles, cute cherubs, pretty snowflakes and tiny holly leaves, plus silver and gold cup cake cases. I remember painstakingly making my own holly leaves to decorate hundreds of mini Christmas pudding truffles; now I’ve discovered these it will save me masses of time.
I’m a bit of a canape expert and I love to serve one or two savoury canapes as a relaxed first course. It is a great way of experimenting with my new recipes and none of my friends has ever complained about being a guinea pig! As a professinal caterer, I would only serve bought in foods if they were at least as good as the ones I make myself, and some of the new range on offer this year at Sainsbury’s definitely fit the bill. The most original in the Taste the Difference chilled range are these Prawn Noodle Skewers in Banana Leaf Cones, which are due in stores on 7th December. These are bound to be a big hit at parties all over the festive period. Other things to look out for in the chilled canape range are the Chilli and Chorizo Muffins, due in store 23rd November and some yummy sounding nibbles such as Baked Ham & Marmalade Crisps. Another idea to try is to top some home made soda bread with Taste the Difference Whisky Smoked Salmon for another fabulously tasty canape or starter. Serve with a swanky cocktail or two and you’ll be the most popular host in town.
Anyone who thinks that turkey is dull will have their thoughts confounded by the fabulous Norfolk Black Turkey in the Taste the Difference range this Christmas. I felt very privileged to meet Mark Gorton, the genial turkey farmer who explained how his method of breeding results in succulent and full of flavour birds. Allowing all his birds to roam free in woodland and open fields follows the traditional way of rearing turkey and produces birds far removed from the dry and tasteless turkeys we have been led to accept. Aside from his whole birds, there is a more exotic sounding fig and orange stuffed crown. Either opt for the already stuffed crown with some of the mixed flavour cocktails sausages, or team the traditional turkey with the Pork and Pomegranate wraps which serve as an interesting alternative to stuffing balls. Whichever you choose you will be on to a winner, and even the turkey doubters won’t complain.
CHEESE & STUFF
I managed to avoid eating Christmas pudding or chocolate, but I couldn’t resist trying some of the specialist cheeses on offer. The 10 month Manchego sourced from a new supplier in La Mancha didn’t disappoint. In fact I was transported momentarily back to a particular little shady square in Tarifa where they serve Manchego with a well chilled glass of fino. The big surprise was the Extra Mature Gouda which would make a much more welcome sight instead of Stilton on my cheeseboard. Unlike the waxy version we are used to in the UK, this one is really noteworthy with a deep yellow colour encased in black rind with a harder texture and an intense nutty flavour. It came very close to some of the cheeses we sampled in a recent trip to Amsterdam where they take their Gouda very seriously.
For a stylish addition to a well chosen cheeseboard look out for Whole Kentish Cobnuts from the Taste the Difference. I am also interested in trying Blacksticks Premier Cru, which is a creamy and unique British soft blue made using Jersey milk that is exclusive to Sainsbury’s. A sip or two of the Taste the Difference Vintage Port would be the perfect thing to round off the Christmas Feast.
There were many, many new things to try and I wish I’d had more stamina as I had to pass on many of the products. For the sweet toothed there are plenty of new treats, among which the Mini Lemon Cheesecakes or the Mini Belgian Chocolate Melt in the Middle Puddings were the perfect canape size.
Aside from the abundance of food products being introduced, there was also a fab range of well made Nordic furniture and some great gifts. Mostly I enjoyed chatting to the Sainsbury’s staff and was impressed with the enthusiasm for the produce they all showed. It is also very encouraging to note the commitment of Sainsbury’s to offering British produce as much as possible when it is in season, as this is where supermarkets can really help both suppliers and customers get the best of what Britain has to offer.