Mark Richmond, Asda's Head Innovation Chef, blogs about the fantastic festive fare that features in our magical Christmas TV ad
In my household, Christmas is all about quality time with the family, celebrating, indulging, and above all enjoying delicious food! There’s nothing better than cooking and presenting mouth-watering food for special family and friends. And this year we’ve turned classic dishes into imaginative, fun and festive creations that are simple to prepare so you can spend more time celebrating.
I've been working closely with suppliers, growers, farmers and specialist producers in the UK and further afield to bring you the best flavours and top quality ingredients in some show-stopping products inspired by grand and extravagant feasts from days gone by.
We've been working on the range since before last Christmas, and you can see some of my favourite new products in our Christmas TV advert – out this weekend – where a litle girl and her grandad watch them being created in a magical "Imaginarium".
In the ad, a giant pop-up Christmas cookbook snaps opens to reveal two Asda chefs preparing a delicious Christmas dinner including our Butcher’s Selection Turkey. All of our Butcher’s Selection turkeys are Red Tractor assured. You’ll see the ‘Poultry Retailer of the Year 2017’ label on all of our products. The awards highlight how we're getting behind British produce – we won in September for the fifth time in six years.
Look out for our other show-stopping centrepieces – like our Extra Special Triple Lamb Crown with Festive Fruit Stuffing which is made up of three Welsh-sourced lamb racks and comes with a port and mint jus. I've had some fantastic feedback on it – everyone who's tasted it absolutely loves it. I worked on it with a young guy called Zach Abbot. He won something called The Golden Apron, which is a competition to find Yorkshire’s best young chef. I've helped to judge it for the past few years – it’s a fantastic competition and the talent coming through is phenomenal. Zach’s cooking style, the way he presents things, and his knowledge of food was fantastic – and his food was delicious! He's one to watch...
Our exclusive Extra Special Wagyu Beef Dripping Potatoes are a new one for this year too and sure to go down a treat with the family for Christmas dinner with their light fluffy centre and crispy outer coating. The rich, juicy wagyu beef dripping is from the most premium cattle reared in Scotland – where the rearing and feeding method follows tried-and-tested guidelines to make tender, buttery beef. That, paired with King Edward Potatoes grown by fourth-generation farmers in Lincolnshire, gives a heavenly burst of flavour with every mouthful. I’ll definitely be serving them this Christmas.
We've got lots of new party food options in our Extra Special range. We did lots of work earlier this year to launch our Mexican range. I actually went over to Mexico in the summer of 2016 for some inspiration, and got the chance to meet up with chefs to learn more about their markets, street food stalls, supermarkets and restaurants. The range has been really popular, so we decided to bring a taste of Mexico into our Extra Special Christmas party range!
Our Extra Special Mexican Selection is full of bite-size canapés with a Mexican twist – take your pick from succulent Pulled Chicken Wraps, Spicy Bean Tacos and delicious Chicken Sliders. They're something a bit different – I'm sure they'll go down a treat at Christmas and New Year parties.
We've also got some classic British dishes in miniature sizes in our party food range – like our triangular Extra Special Mini Beef Wellingtons. The hand-wrapped butter-enriched puff pastry cushions are filled with succulent shredded beef brisket, diced chestnut mushrooms in a rich red wine sauce with a hint of thyme and a pastry star for a finishing touch. Look out for mini cottage pies, mini beef filled Yorkshire puddings and Vol-au-vents in the range too.
When we've got a tried and tested recipe that people love, we don't fiddle with it for the sake of it – like our Extra Special Christmas Pudding which has been the same recipe for the last two years. Customers tell us we’ve got it just right – one even got in touch to check that the cake will be the same this year because their family loved it so much last Christmas! It’s got a variety of juicy mixed fruits, glace cherries, almonds, walnuts, French cognac and sherry – and we’ve made sure we’ve got the right amount of alcohol and ratio of fruit to nut. The pudding is matured for nine months which makes it the perfect end to any festive feast. Smother it with a boozy brandy sauce and set alight for a sparkling finish.
Our smash cakes have also been hugely popular since we launched them nearly two years ago, so this Christmas we’ve introduced a Smash Igloo white chocolate dome, complete with a little chocolate penguin. I think it will go down a treat with the kids – I’m sure they’ll have fun smashing the top and watching the milk chocolate ‘snowballs’ roll out.
And for the adults ... gin has become the nation’s favourite tipple and has been even more popular this year – so we’ve brought it into our Christmas range in a number of ways.
Our Extra Special Gin & Sloe Gin Belgian Chocolate Truffles are a decadent duo of Belgian milk chocolate truffles in Gin and Tonic and Sloe Gin flavours, sprinkled with glitter for added festivity. We've got an Extra Special Sloe Gin and Cranberry Wiltshire Ham Joint for Boxing Day, a Sloe Gin and Cranberry Jelly to pair with cheese or to go with your turkey, and a Mulled Gin Cocktail Kit.
My favourite gin is the Extra Special Triple Distilled Premium Gin. I freeze sliced lemons and limes then bob them into my glass with one of our new Extra Special tonics.
The George team has got some exciting things too. They’ve launched a brand new range of novelty crockery and kitsch decorative accessories – like the elf mug and caravan teapot you might spot on the Imaginarium security guard’s desk at the start of the TV ad. They’re really fun products – I’m sure they’ll be popular. They’ve also got some stylish Christmas trends – Maple, Dark Romance, and my personal favourite, Frosted. It looks like a white Christmas!
We’ve got some amazing new products launching each week between now and Christmas – keep an eye out in store and online. Enjoy!