This article titled “The great Christmas 2016 taste test” was written by Fergus Henderson, Gizzi Erskine, Gary Usher, Giorgio Locatelli. Interviews by Molly Tait-Hyland, for The Observer on Sunday 11th December 2016 08.00 UTC
Party food, tested by food writer Gizzi Erskine
Inverawe Smoked Scottish Salmon
100g, £4.99, ocado.com
Really good, not oily at all and loads of flavour. Cut in long strips rather than short ones, classic and neat.
Deluxe Hickory & Applewood Smoked Scottish Salmon
100g, £2.49, lidl.co.uk
Thick cut. Tastes like it’s smoked over something different.
Marks & Spencer Scottish Smoked Salmon Smoky & Robust
100g, £5, marksandspencer.com
It is so smoky it’s almost acrid. Not oily, just too smoked.
Waitrose Peat & Heather Scottish Smoked Salmon
140g, £6.99, waitrose.com
Thin cut. Nicely smoked but it’s got a bit of a weird flavour.
Cranberry-topped pork pies
Marks & Spencer Cranberry Topped Pork Pie
880g, £10, marksandspencer.com
Very good pastry, well cooked. Lots of jelly so I’m happy. Well balanced filling. This is a really good pork pie.
Tesco Finest Mulled Cranberry Topped Pork Pie
860g, £5, tesco.com
Perfect crisp pastry line. Lightly spiced berries – needs more jelly.
Waitrose Christmas Cranberry Topped Pork Pie
440g, £6, waitrose.com
Crisp, well-seasoned pastry; undercooked, sour cranberries.
Fortnum & Mason Cranberry Topped Pork Pie
1.35kg, £36.95, fortnumandmason.com
Looks classic. Tastes a bit Spammy; berries are too acidic.
Marks & Spencer Mini Ultimate Cheese Burgers
10, £7, marksandspencer.com
Super cute. Lots of meat, a buttery brioche-style bun. The sauce is tasty, but you lose the cheese.
Irresistible Mini Pulled Pork Sliders
10, £4, co-operativefood.co.uk
The bread is really soft, but the filling is too sweet, which really lets it down. Pretty grim.
Taste the Difference Chorizo Sliders with Manchego & Roasted Pepper Relish
8, £3.50, sainsburys.co.uk
Strong flavour of chorizo, but not in a good way; acrid. The manchego doesn’t contribute anything; the bun is dry.
Morrisons The Best Mini Beef Burger Sliders
10, £3.50, morrisons.com
The meat is completely overshadowed by whatever the chutney is on top. Massive fail.
Pigs in blankets
Deluxe Freedom Foods Cocktail Sausages Wrapped in Bacon
210g, £1.99, lidl.co.uk
Really nice sausage meat. Great seasoning, herby – tastes of something.
Irresistible Cocktail Sausages Wrapped in Bacon
240g, £3.29, co-operativefood.co.uk
Quite fatty; a very porky flavour but not much definition.
Extra Special Pigs in Blankets
210g, £2.98, asda.com
Really nice bacon on these but fairly ordinary sausage, which lets it down.
Waitrose Three Little Pigs
276g, £3.99, waitrose.com
I think the three sausage thing is stupid. Tastes quite ordinary. Salty. All I’m getting is salt.
Morrisons The Best Mini Quiche Selection
12, £3.50, morrisons.com
Really good pastry, deeply filled. You can taste the bacon in the quiche lorraine but it’s also peppery and gooey in the middle.
Daylesford Mini Quiches
16, £12, daylesford.com
The stilton and caramelised onion is quite nice. Well seasoned. Good, crisp pastry.
By Sainsbury’s Mini Quiche Selection
12, £2.50, sainsburys.co.uk
There’s something that’s quite evocative of growing up. The quiche lorraine tastes of bacon, the other is underseasoned.
Specially Selected Mini Quiches
12, £1.99, aldi.co.uk
One seems to have poppy seeds in the pastry – weird. The quiche lorraine is OK. The orange one tastes bizarre.
Festive sausage rolls
By Sainsbury’s Turkey & Sausage Garland with Bramley Apple & Cider
630g, £7, sainsburys.co.uk
Looks very festive. Nicely spiced, good balance of seasoning. The cranberry is not too sweet.
Marks & Spencer Three Bird Sausage Roll
420g, £5, marksandspencer.com
Meaty, chunky. Feels like a mini pie. Underseasoned. Gamey, but not enough to stand out.
Tesco Finest Hog Roast Sausage Rolls
188g, £2.50, tesco.com
Sweet. Not densely packed enough, as a good sausage roll should be. The flavour is nice.
Iceland Mulled Wine Sausage Rolls
320g, £1.50, iceland.co.uk
Oh my God, disgusting. So sweet, so mulled. Heavily spiced, underseasoned.
Chocolate, tested by Sticky Walnut chef owner Gary Usher
Marc de champagne truffles
Morrisons The Best Milk Chocolate Marc De Champagne Truffles
140g, £4, morrisons.com
The chocolate tastes quite rich and it’s not too boozy. This tastes like real quality.
Thorntons Bag of Marc De Champagne Truffles
97g, £3, thorntons.co.uk
Really caramelly. Not too strong, and delicious. I could nail a box of them.
Tesco Finest Marc De Champagne Boxed Truffles
140g, £5, tesco.com
Not much booze coming through. The chocolate is good. Nice aftertaste.
Fortnum & Mason Marc De Champagne Truffles
125g, £13.50, fortnumandmason.com
It tastes like it has the flavour of praline. Not what I want.
Salted caramel truffles
Tesco Finest Salted Caramel Truffles
140g, £5, tesco.com
The sparkly shell looks nice. It doesn’t taste like salted caramel. Moreish, but doesn’t taste like it’s supposed to…
Waitrose 1 Salted Caramel Truffles
200g, £5.99, waitrose.com
You do get caramel and salt in the dark one but it’s subtle; I prefer the milk. Not salty enough.
Harrods Sea Salt Caramel Alcohol-Free Milk Chocolate Truffles
140g, £13.95, harrods.com
The chocolate tastes cheap and is too thick. Not enough salt.
Thomas & Grace Salted Caramel Truffles
130g, £4.99, lakeland.co.uk
It’s offensively salty, and I like salt.
Chocolate orange peel
The Chocolate Society Dark Chocolate Orange Peel
110g, £8.95, chocolate.co.uk
Mild but moreish. A long-lasting orange flavour. The chocolate is rich and dark.
Hotel Chocolat Orangettes in Cointreau
150g, £8.50, hotelchocolat.com
Heavy on the zest but the orange isn’t coming through. Not tart enough; the aftertaste is soapy rather than citrusy.
Fortnum & Mason Chocolate Lemon & Orange Peel
250g, £20, fortnumandmason.com
Really subtle. The orange you can taste is quite nice, but it’s not much. Boring.
The East India Company Orange Peel Enrobed in Chocolate
150g, £8.99, ocado.com
The chocolate is pretty poor. I can’t taste any orange. Quite bad.
Rose turkish delight
Sebahat Rose Turkish Delight
500g, £5.50, souschef.co.uk
Tastes quite perfumed, but I like that and the texture is good. My favourite, really lovely, I’d eat another one straight away.
Fortnum and Mason Rose Turkish Delight Tin
125g, £8.95, fortnumandmason.com
Quite fragrant but I think it’s a little bit too dense… I had to really chew to get through it.
Gama Turkish Delight Rose Flavour
200g, £1.25, asda.com
That’s not very nice; actually, that’s horrible. It’s so dense. More soapy than it is sweet.
Kahve Dünyasi Rose Turkish Delight
500g, £18.95, harrods.com
That is so plain, it has no flavour. Terrible, it doesn’t even taste of turkish delight. Too subtle.
Selection boxes, £10 and under
Thorntons Christmas Classic Collection
457g, £10, thorntons.co.uk
Super tacky. But there’s loads in it. Good variety. Looks cheap and cheerful and that’s what it is.
Tesco Finest Safari Collection
180g, £6.50, tesco.com
Eye catching. A nice mix of flavours, all quite interesting. I want to go back for another…
Irresistible Gold Collection
175g, £6, co-operativefood.co.uk
Style over substance. Lots of packaging and the chocolates all taste the same.
Divine Chocolate Dark & Milk Belgian Collection
215g, £10, ocado.com
I’ve had better chocolates from a petrol station. Give me a box of Maltesers over these.
Luxury chocolate boxes
Michel Cluizel No.48 Milk and Dark Chocolate Ganache
525g, £39.95, harveynichols.com
Quite dark and rich and taste luxurious. They haven’t messed around too much. Moreish.
The Chocolate Society Christmas Chocolate Box
210g, £27.50, chocolate.co.uk
A few eye-catching chocolates, classy tasting. The rest look boring. Mutton dressed as lamb.
Hotel Chocolat The Everything Luxe
545g, £35, hotelchocolat.com
If you opened it up, you’d be impressed. They taste really different, but I don’t think the chocolate is great.
Marks & Spencer Ultimate Chocolate Collection
600g, £30, marksandspencer.com
Impressive looking. Soapy, overly sweet; they’ve sacrificed taste to make it look cool.
Cheese and biscuits, tested by Locanda Locatelli chef owner Giorgio Locatelli
Specially Selected Handmade Cheddar Truckle
400g, £3.49, aldi.co.uk
Well balanced – continuous, deep taste. Almost a sweetness at the end.
Daylesford Organic Cheddar Cheese
250g, £7.25, daylesford.com
Definitely the best looking. Really deep and musky flavour. An after-dinner cheese.
Marks & Spencer 3 Year Old Cornish Cruncher
300g, £5, marksandspencer.com
Good acidity but flat. I don’t think salt crystals should be in this kind of cheese.
Irresistible Mature Cheddar
340g, £3, co-operativefood.co.uk
Nice seasoning, not so strong. The consistency is like processed cheese.
Tesco Finest Comte
200g, £3, tesco.com
I like the consistency and it has a very persistent flavour, which makes it superior to the others. I would definitely serve this.
Pong Comte AOC
Approx 250g, £6.95, pongcheese.co.uk
Stronger on the nose than the palate. Let down a bit by the texture. It doesn’t melt in your mouth the right way.
Marks & Spencer Comte
£4.50, 200g, marksandspencer.com
This is very good, it has a fantastic smell. It’s just more acidic than the others, so it’s less persistent.
170g, £1.79, lidl.co.uk
I’m not too keen on the yellow colour. It doesn’t feel like a comte at all.
150g, £4, ocado.com
It’s got a very lasting flavour – it comes to your nose. If you are having one for Christmas, buy this.
Waitrose 1 Cave-aged Roquefort AOP
100g, £2.99, waitrose.com
I’m attracted to the blue – it’s darker, more refined. Slightly less salty and a nice creaminess.
100g, £1.81, morrisons.com
Oof… I don’t like the smell of it compared to the other. It has a bit of a rancid smell.
Pong Roquefort AOC
Approx 100g, £4.95, pongcheese.co.uk
A disaster. Really soft and watery in your mouth. It’s almost like it’s a bit split. Very salty, not tasty.
Specially Selected Brie with Truffle
310g, £4.99, aldi.co.uk
This is a delicious brie with the right amount of truffle – there’s harmony between the two flavours.
Waitrose 1 Brie with Mushrooms & Truffle
£20 per kg, waitrose.com
I wouldn’t go across town to buy it, but it’s a decent cheese. The mushroom and truffle go well together.
Mons Truffled Brie
£6.50 per 100g, selfridges.com
Here the truffle and the cheese do help each other, they don’t fight each other. It’s a little bit too salty for me.
Maison de la Truffe Brie de Meaux
£6.20 per 100g, harrods.com
This is terrible. Overpowering truffle. It hasn’t got the right consistency for a brie. It’s like a marscapone with truffle oil.
Biscuits for cheese
Asda Extra Special Biscuits for Cheese
250g, £2, asda.com
I like the mixed box. Attractive, golden, the wholemeal look. These ones have a bit more depth. Good texture. Very nice.
Taste the Difference Biscuits for Cheese Tin
300g, £5, sainsburys.co.uk
Perfectly croquant. Beautiful size. Not so many added flavours, so they really are a good companion to any cheese.
Paxton & Whitfield Biscuits for Cheese
240g, £5.25, paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk
When they are so thin, they snap as you try to put cheese on top. Wow! There is a delicious galette.
Waitrose Christmas Biscuits for Cheese
675g, £6.25, waitrose.com
Garlic, sage… Sometimes when the flavours are too elaborate they’re not good. The plain ones are good quality.
Rosebud Preserves Fig Chutney
198g, £3.60, rosebudpreserves.co.uk
Definitely my favourite. I like the consistency. There’s raisin, apple – you could eat it with any cheese.
Irresistible Fig & Apple Chutney
300g, £2.19, co-operativefood.co.uk
More like a fig jam. It needs texture. May be too sweet for cheese, I guess you would go for something salty.
Taste the Difference Sticky Fig Chutney
310g, £1.80, sainsburys.co.uk
A bit too much spice – it would throw you off the flavour of the cheese. Loads of character.
The Bay Tree Sticky Figgy Chutney
320g, £3.35, ocado.com
I can taste the fig, but there’s something reminds me of an Indian chutney. I wouldn’t have it with cheese.
Cakes, puddings and pies, tested by St John chef owner Fergus Henderson
Luxury Mince Pies
6, £1.50, iceland.co.uk
Festive stars. I like this one the most, I think. It has a bit of character, a bit of singe.
Waitrose 1 All Butter Mince Pies
6, £2.50, waitrose.com
It isn’t the happiest thing. Really quite sweet. I’m not sure I like it.
Fortnum & Mason Traditional Mince Pies
6, £10.95, fortnumandmason.com
Quite a mushy mince pie. The pastry is shorter; it is very light. Crumbly and sweet.
Morrisons The Best All Butter Deep Fill Mince Pies
4, £1.70, morrisons.com
Very sweet, overpowering. Shiny mincemeat … I’m worried about that.
Favorina Panettone Classico
1kg, £3.99, lidl.co.uk
Rather dense. Delightful flavour … more bom-bom-bom! This looks the nicest, the height is good. I like how it shreds.
Selfridges Selection Classico Panettone
1kg, £18.99, selfridges.com
Much yellower. More citrus. There’s a gentle tang. A saffron warmth? I don’t know, I’m distracted by the pillowy-ness.
Marks & Spencer The Collection Italian Panettone Classico
1kg, £15, marksandspencer.com
Tasty. A little crunch in the topping. Too many sultanas would kill it, but they’ve done well.
Waitrose Christmas Classic Panettone
750g, £9, waitrose.com
The dough has a strange dampness. Enough fruit, more would be too much. Quite sweet.
Gluten-free mince pies
Marks & Spencer Classic Recipe Gluten Free Mince Pies
4, £2.50, marksandspencer.com
Quite figgy, which lifts the mincemeat a bit. The pastry is missing that perfect singe.
B-Tempted Gluten Free Mince Pies
6, £10.95, harrods.com
These are cooked at least. Dry and dense, figs in the mincemeat. A stodgy stuffing.
Tesco Free From Mince Pies
4, £1.75, tesco.com
Looks anaemic. The filling lacks a certain ‘wahey!’ A shame – we want coeliacs to have a nice time.
Sainsbury’s Deliciously Freefrom Iced Mince Pies
4, £2.25, sainsburys.co.uk
Ruined Christmas for me. The icing is not a good thing.
Chocolate yule logs
Fortnum & Mason
Double Chocolate Yule Log
Serves 8, £16, fortnumandmason.com
Looks jolly. Oh dear, there’s a crunch of sugar right through it. It’s just butter, with sugar added as an afterthought.
Irresistible Amaretto Yule Log
Serves 10, £4, co-operativefood.co.uk
The sponge is damp, squidgy. The chocolate leaves aren’t bad. Terrible sweetness.
Marks & Spencer The Collection Chocolate Buche de Noel
Serves 10, £10, marksandspencer.com
The thick milk chocolate coating makes it hard to cut. There’s a powdery texture to the sponge.
Extra Special Hand Finished Belgium Milk Chocolate Yule Log
Serves 8, £3, asda.com
A bit sad – it has a translucent glow of yucky chocolate. It tastes of sugar and nothing else.
Daylesford Organic Fruit & Nut Christmas Cake
1.4kg, £30, daylesford.com
Only a slight fruity sharpness. It’s reassuring that there’s fruit and nuts on the top.
Co-op Christmas Cake
907g, £6, co-operativefood.co.uk
A big glump of fondant icing. It’s more gungey fruit than fruit cake.
Morrisons The Best Snowman Fruited Christmas Cake
900g, £10, morrisons.com
A child might like it; it tastes like it wouldn’t be great for their teeth.
Taste the Difference Vintage Christmas Cake
1.6kg, £16, sainsburys.co.uk
Looks like granny’s knickers. The look of it puts me off.
Specially Selected Exquisite Vintage Pudding
907g, £9.99, aldi.co.uk
That’s the colour you’re looking for – dark, sinister. It shouldn’t crumble, it’s quite bitsy.
Selfridges Selection Traditional Christmas Pudding
900g, £15.99, selfridges.com
Too light. It shouldn’t call itself a Christmas pudding for another year – at least.
Snowy Lodge 18 Month Matured Christmas Pudding
907g, £8.99, lidl.co.uk
Cherries… I say no to cherry. It has a dull look. A bit youthful.
Meg Rivers Large Christmas Pudding
800g, £12.99, ocado.com
The ingredients haven’t really got to know each other… and yet it’s strangely like wallpaper paste.
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