By Emma Winterschladen
As the festive season arrives in all its gluttonous glory, it is both a perk of my job as a Food Editor and a burden to my waistline that I’m sent lots of edible goodies to try. It also means that, when it’s time for my late Christmas shopping spree, I’m well equipped with a handy insight into the very best offerings from the world of food. So, whether you’re looking for tasty stocking fillers or want to create a personalised foodie hamper, hopefully my tried-and-tested top picks will help you along the way. And if, like me, your idea of the perfect present is something you can eat, then you may want to forward this list onto your loved ones or - better still - print it off and stick it on your fridge!
That Hungry Chef
Thai Green Chilli & Coconut Relish
I’m a real condiment fiend - my cupboards forever bursting with chutneys, jams and relishes. But they have to pass the all-important taste test and this delicious relish has earned itself a distinction. In fact, the whole range is delightful: created by Michelin trained chef Pratap Chahal, inspired by the flavours of world and made using the best of British produce, they deserve pride of place on any table.
The African Chef
Baobab Chilli Jam
I first met The African Chef, Malcolm, at a photography exhibition he was catering for last year. I was so taken by his delicious dips and chutneys that I was persuaded to try his Fire Water, made with African birds eye chillies and scotch bonnets. Ten glasses of water later, I decided to stick to his milder options and am never without a jar of this in my fridge, which still - I may add - packs a good punch.
There are so many new gins popping up, which can make topping up your tipple cabinet somewhat overwhelming. But if you’re after a quirky, locally-produced, artisan gin then my recommendation goes to Poetic License. Batch-made in small quantities in an independent micro-distillery in the North East (Sunderland), they grow a lot of their own botanicals, as well as sourcing them from far and wide. Their new Fireside Gin, with mulled winter fruit and juniper, has just come out in time for Christmas and is the perfect quaff for a cosy evening in.
Beer & ale
A box of beers from this family-run brewery is always top of my Dad’s Christmas present list each year. Hand crafted in small batches in the heart of Brixton, their distinctive, colourful labels and range of tastes will get the thumbs up from even the most seasoned beer-glugger. And if you ever find yourself in Brixton, make sure to pop along to their brewery to see first-hand how it’s all made - with a cold craft beer in hand of course!
I was sent a few bottles of this golden elixir only a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. Not only is kombucha packed full of good bacteria and vitamins to help keep you and your gut happy and healthy, but this particular one is a delicious, low-sugar alternative to fizzy drinks. I can’t decide whether I prefer the ginger or passionfruit flavour, so I suggest you buy both. All hail the ‘booch’.
Jarrkombucha.com (available from planetorganic.com)
Allow me to introduce you to the chocolate for those of us who don’t like chocolate. All the way from Down Under, this lovely brand is redefining the dark stuff. Their bars taste so luxurious it’s hard to believe they’re raw, organic and free from everything (including dairy, refined sugar and gluten). My favourite flavour is goji berry and coconut, but having tried them all (in the name of research of course) I can confirm that there’s a flavour for everyone.
100% Natural Coconut Jam
This stuff is sticky, jammy, brown goop and it’s totally addictive. I first discovered it earlier this year and it’s now my go-to treat if ever I’m craving something sweet - particularly if it’s spread lavishly over a banana. With its smooth, caramelised flavour it’s hard to believe it’s made of 100% coconut. But beware: it’s almost too easy to finish the pot once you start!
Whilst at university in Edinburgh, many a day was spent in Artisan Roast’s flagship cafe on Broughton Street - my essay-writing fuelled by their perfect flat whites. A packet of their freshly roasted, ethically-sourced coffee would make a great stocking filler for the java-lover in your life or, better still, why not treat them to a six-month gift subscription to have it delivered straight to their door?
Earl Grey Rooibus
I love tea - it’s one of those ‘mindful’ rituals that breaks up my working day and restores a sense of calm to my often-frazzled being. Which is why I’ve been looking for caffeine-free alternatives to my usual Earl Grey to try and avoid the anxious butterflies I get if I drink too much. Enter this glorious brew. Made by hand in South Africa’s remote Cederberg Mountains, it’s delicious with or without milk and - despite being naturally caffeine-free - still leaves you feeling like you’ve enjoyed a satisfying tea break.
The Travelling Bee Company
Organic walnuts in Acacia honey
Located in the North East, but with apiaries also up in Scotland and in Europe, this a beekeeping company with a mission. Their aim is to not only create delectable honey, but to also help protect the bee population by giving them access to the very best natural habitat, nectar and pollen. Their organic walnut halves are covered in a raw acacia honey harvested from the forests of Northern Hungary. The sticky sweetness of the honey mixed with the crunch of the nuts makes this your Christmas cheeseboard essential.
Organic vintage cheddar
This burghundy-wax covered vintage cheddar is the ultimate stocking filler for cheese-lovers alike. Matured for 12 months, it has a smooth texture and rich flavour - without that tang you sometimes associate with vintage cheese. What’s more, Godminster farm is certified organic by the Soil Association and upholds the highest standards in sustainable farming - so you can rest assured you’re eating cheese from happy cows.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a wheel of good stilton cheese - at least not in the Winterschladen household. With years of stilton-tasting behind us, Colton Bassett’s award-winning blue has become our firm family favourite. They certainly know what they’re doing and have been producing cheese since 1913, with a lull in stilton-making during WWII as it was seen as too much of a luxury. Today, they produce only stilton and a delicious Shropshire blue, which is also a cheeseboard must-have.
Available from nealsyarddairy.co.uk