Tried and tested: Marks and Spencer festive food and drink
It is never too early to think about Christmas treats.
Eager shoppers may have noticed the aisles of Marks and Spencer brimming with festive goodies and our tried and tested team has delved in.
HAND DECORATED SHIMMERING TREE
The beautifully crafted tree is made with Belgian chocolate and edible gold shimmer.
This was certainly a favourite among our testers.
Although it was difficult to break into, and our fingers were covered in gold shimmer, it was certainly worth it. The chocolate was thick and the taste was delicious, with the lovely creaminess you would expect from Belgian chocolate.
DELACOURT CHAMPAGNE TRUFFLES
Made with Belgian milk chocolate
Whilst one taster was a bit disappointed, saying it was run-of-the-mill chocolate, the rest of the team were impressed.
One said: “rather appealing in a gentle way and didn’t have an alcoholic kick,” which another added “is usually welcome in these chocolates.” It was decided these would be perfect with an after-dinner coffee.
The luxury tin was also a bonus and will no doubt make a welcome addition to the kitchen.
SALTED CARAMEL PINECONES
Milk chocolate pinecones filled with salted caramel
These certainly were a guilty pleasure, with one taster saying they could gorge on these all day.
There was certainly lots of caramel filling which was very rich, so we wouldn’t advise gorging too much.
The pinecones were described as “one for the sweet tooth, being gooey, slaty, sweet and delicious.” It was also described as a treat that was “sweet but seductive.”
And our young taste tester enjoyed licking the caramel out of the chocolate.
SHIMMERING MILK CHOCOLATE ACORNS
Filled with almond praline
Whilst one tester found these a bit tasteless, another said they were better than Ferrero Rochers and “too good for the ambassador’s party.”
They did look very impressive, shaped and coloured like acorns and would make a great stocking filler.
TRIPLE DISTILLED IRISH WHISKEY FUDGE WITH BOOZY RAISINS
Made with Irish whiskey and juicy raisins
This was described as sweet, but a couple members of the tasting team not too keen on the whiskey taste. It was likened to creamy butter fudge, with a subtle whiskey undertone. Another said it was very tasty and moreish and another liked the unusual addition of raisins.
BRANDY BUTTER FUDGE
Brandy butter flavoured fudge
One taster said it was nice, rich and creamy and another went further, saying: “It smells like Christmas” and was a “smooth sugar hit that tastes of luxury.”
HANDMADE PROSECCO MALLOWS
Sadly, these were a bit of a disappointment. The packaging was golden and luxurious but inside were eight large yellow marshmallows which did not look all that appealing to the eye. Tasters found they were too sweet and didn’t like the sugary texture.
Percy Pigs are a popular treat for adults as well as children. We liked the addition of a Santa’s hat to our favourite little pig. Tasters found them nice and sweet, although one taster, who is usually a big fan, found the taste was a bit bland and not up to Percy Pig’s usual standards.
MINCE PIES, CAKES AND PUDDINGS
6 MONTH MATURED GOLDEN SHIMMER TREE CAKE
Deliciously luxurious fruit cake, bursting with cognac and port soaked Vostizza currants and flame raisins, matured for 6 months then hand finished with soft icing decorations.
The decoration was classic and elegant, without being too fussy. Testers found the cake to be moist, fruity and delicious. It was not too sweet and carried a nice texture. Whilst one taster said it has great flavour, they found it a little dry.
THE COLLECTION FESTIVE PROSECCO AND ORANGE TOPPED CHRISTMAS PUDDING
A golden pudding studded with juicy golden and crimson raisins laced with Prosecco, hand finished with candied orange slices, served with a delicious cranberry and Prosecco sauce to pour over. Serves four. Our tasters enjoyed the pudding. It was very fruity and filling, with plenty of raisins, and topped by tasty orange slices. It came with a cranberry and prosecco sauce, which was a little too sweet for the tasters, who were more used to brandy sauce. It would suit someone with a sweet tooth.
THE COLLECTION 6 MINCE PIES
Melt-in-the-mouth all butter shortcrust pastry pies deep filled with plump vine fruits, cranberries, clementine, cherries, and brandy.
These had the perfect pastry and had a nice, fruity taste. Another taster said: “Lovely - the perfect mince pie to start feeling festive.”
6 ALL BUTTER MINCE PIES
All butter shortcrust pastry mince pies filled with classic mincemeat, bursting with juicy sultanas, Vostizza currants and raisins and topped with delicately nutty frangipane and crunchy flaked almonds.
‘Tis the season to start getting jolly and what better way than mince pies. With two different styles to try, they were both enjoyed equally. Tasters liked the soft crumbly pastry and savoured the smooth butter taste.
THE COLLECTION BELGIAN CHOCOLATE AND TOFFEE SPONGE PUDDING
An indulgently rich, yet light textured Belgian chocolate sponge star shaped pudding studded with chocolate chips, coated in shimmering gold lustre. Serves eight.
This was a favourite among tasters. Presentation was key on this. The gold shimmer and spiral shape made it a very attractive centre piece to the table and makes great party food to give that extra sparkle. It was described as nice and light and very moist, with a nice mix of Belgian chocolate sauce and toffee sauce, whilst another felt there was not enough. This may have more to do with how you pour over the toffee sauce and how the cake is divided. Being able to control the amount of toffee sauce and nuts yourself was also a welcome idea, especially if you don’t like or are allergic to nuts.
12 MONTH MATURED VINTAGE CHRISTMAS PUDDING
An exclusive recipe bursting with vine fruits, nuts and brandy soaked whole cherries, delicately spiced cinnamon, ginger and cloves, enriched with cognac, port and sherry, matured to perfection over 12 months to marry perfect festive flavours. Serves six.
We found the pudding very comforting, with rich flavours. It was quite moist, but also the alcohol element made it quite sticky. The nuts give bit of texture.
CLASSIC RECIPE PANATTONE
100g for £2 for 500g for £7
A deliciously light butter and egg enriched Italian fruited bread, with succulent sultanas and candied citrus peel.
It was very hard to cut and fell to pieces on the first slice, but it was tasty. Tasters found it quite sweet and had a refreshing hint of orange. Another member of the tasting team said they were a big fan of the candied citrus peel. The cake also got a convert, with one fussy taster saying: “As someone who hates panettonne, this was not too bad.” Another went further to say: “Move over Christmas cake. It is great as a pudding or special treat for a guest. It has good flavours and textures.”
TWELVE BEERS OF CHRISTMAS - 12x 330ml cans
M&S brings you the first Twelve Beers of Christmas selection pack to enjoy over the festive season. The beers, carefully crafted in breweries across the UK, range from hoppy IPAs to full bodied, dark porters providing the ultimate festive journey: Cornish Saison, Five Hop Lager, Double Hopped Citra IPA, Laid Back Pale Ale, Laid Back Lager, Laid Back IPA, American Pale Ale, Blood Orange Wheat beer, Grapefruit IPA, Wimbledon Ale, Salted Caramel Porter and Amarillo.
Our tasters felt the best one was the Cornish Saison, with the Salted Caramel Porter coming a close second, carrying a nice strong flavour. The Grapefruit IPA was perhaps a little too successful, with one taster saying it was “almost like grapefruit juice with a bit of beer added.” The Blood Orange Wheat beer was full of flavour and was a nice surprise on the palate.
CHRISTMAS DRY GIN
The festive gin is blended with spicy ginger, cardamom and cinnamon, produced in the Secret Herb Garden in Edinburgh by Head Gardener Hamish Martin.
Swept up in the popularity of gin, our tasters enjoyed the tipple. It had a strong flavour and goes well with a choice of mixers, including tonic water and lemonade. On its own, you can certainly taste the cinnamon, with the spicy ginger and cardamom work well creating subtle and smooth taste.