Our Christmas party food range is designed to take the stress out of hosting a festive get-together. Product development manager Sarah Denyer blogs about what to look out for...
We started planning for this year's Christmas party food range back in October last year. We gave ourselves plenty of time because it’s really important that as well as tasting delicious everything looks amazing on the plate – and I think that’s where we’ve excelled this year.
Typical party food can be quite beige, so we’ve made a concious effort to make it look pretty and to get a splash of colour into it.
Our Oriental range is a great example of this. A lot of it is handmade, so it’s tied with pandam leaves or is really colourful, like our Vietnamese Spring Rolls.
It’s all about creating that Instagrammable, vibrant and hand-finished look. It’s not just about big parties where everyone is getting together and they want to fill a table, it’s also about a few friends having a glass of prosecco and having a few of the Extra Special ranges – like the lovely big Tempura Prawns or the Duck Selection with little flower and cone shapes.
I love how the range works across a lot of different cuisines. We’ve got British, Oriental, Italian, Mexican and American flavours – it’s all about creating that miniature version of everybody's favourites so that you can have little bits of everything that you love. We've worked hard to make sure that our party selection is fun – as it’s not a staple weekly purchase, we know it’s something our customers really enjoy buying.
This year, one of the biggest trends we looked into was inclusivity – catering for dietary requirements is really important, whether that's food allergies and intolerances or veganism.
With our vegan food it's not just about the standard meat-free alternatives though, it’s about bringing inspiration to your party. Our vegan Mexican Bean Bites are really delicious. They're made with mixed beans, green peppers and carrots in a red pepper breadcrumb and they're sure to go down a treat with everyone at your Christmas party! We've also added our new Vietnamese Rainbow Rolls which I’m really proud of – they look amazing, so bright and visual.
We’ve also got lots of Free From items in our main range this year, like our new gluten free Mozzarella Sticks and Ham and Cheese Croquettes. We’re trying to make sure that some of the core staples are gluten free so that everybody can enjoy them.
Lots of people are looking for a bit more of a treat at Christmas – and we've got lots to fit the bill. Classic table fillers such as sausage rolls, mozzarella sticks and bacon rolls will always be popular, but when you want something for a real treat our Extra Special range is great. We’ve developed our Mini Barber's Vintage Cheddar Burgers, which are the same recipe as our Extra Special burgers, in a brioche bun with an ancho-chilli relish.
We’ve also created these King Prawn and Lobster Mac and Cheese Bites. We knew that our customers loved our normal mac and cheese but we’ve added king prawn and lobster to add a really premium feel. I’m really proud of it because I really wanted to get lobster into the range this year!
Our Chicken Laksa Roses are hand finished and hand formed so they just look amazing on the plate – they're such a crowd pleaser. And our Mini Beef Yorkshire Puddings are a great British favourite, served with a little bit of creamed horseradish. We've also got Mini Beef Wellingtons and Mini Steak and Ale Pies – they're a twist on really good flavours but just a bit fancier.
We’ve also added little Scottish Smoked Salmon Blinis, which are already made for you so they can just be defrosted and served. They look so good on the plate with so little effort.
Plus we've brought back lots of the things that we know our customers love – our Chicken Nugget Christmas Trees are always a real hit. It’s bringing that fun element that people love to share on Instagram. A lot of our core range is things we know customers love and trust. They have their staples like pigs in blankets and then build on that with things like the little mini gyoza or mini calzones to get something a bit different in there as well.
When we developed the range we wanted to make sure it's as easy to create at home as possible. Everything cooks at the same temperature, 200 degrees. It’s all about convenience – you can just pop it all in the oven at the same time and have that glass of fizz with your guests while the hard work is done for you. The last thing people want to be doing is messing about when they’ve got people over for a party. You just want to put it all in the oven, get it out, put it on a plate and get on with the party.
I’ve got two kids and it's their birthdays around Christmas, so we always have a party with lots of people and we know when we have guests round it’s just so simple and easy for me to get party food.
This year we'll also be serving some of the Extra Special ranges on Christmas Day as a brunch. We get up early, open presents and then have a later lunch, so around brunch time we'll have some delicious nibbles with a glass of fizz.
Find our great range of chilled and frozen party food in selected stores and online now.