This article titled “Heston goes the whole hog this Christmas with bacon and banana trifle” was written by Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent, for The Guardian on Monday 28th November 2016 00.01 UTC
Supermarkets are opening a new front in the fight for consumers’ Christmas cash, deploying their top chefs to cook up eye-catching twists on festive British classics.
Waitrose will on Monday unveil the latest gastronomic gamble from Heston Blumenthal – a bacon and banana flavoured trifle, which it hopes will build on the success of the Michelin-starred chef’s best-selling “hidden orange” Christmas pudding.
Blumenthal, renowned for pushing culinary boundaries and for unlikely flavour combinations – with creations such as snail porridge served at his Fat Duck restaurant – says he was inspired for his latest pudding by childhood memories of enjoying a bacon and banana sandwich during the school holidays.
“I loved how you wouldn’t normally think of putting those two flavours together but they just worked so well,” he said.
“I can’t wait to hear about people’s reactions when they see and taste this fantastic dessert at their Christmas dinner table – it’ll definitely be a talking point.”
Heston’s new trifle includes a caramelised banana compote topped with rum-soaked chocolate sponge, a layer of salted caramel sauce, chocolate shavings, a creamy vanilla custard with a smoky bacon flavoured cream – all topped with sprinkles of gold cocoa nibs. The trifle also comes with a handy sachet of bacon pieces for customers to add themselves.
Supermarkets have been pushing the boundaries to produce Christmas desserts and puddings to satisfy consumers of all ages, tastes and budgets, with growing pressure to create the season’s “must have” product.
Heston’s Hidden Orange pudding, encasing an entire orange or clementine, is on sale again. This has been a festive showstopper for the six years since its launch, changing hands on eBay for £250 at one point after selling out in Waitrose.
On the shelves for the first time is Heston’s Persian Christmas Pudding, packed with apricots, caramelised orange, Middle Eastern spices, pomegranate liqueur and pistachios. It also has an oozing honey and rose butter centre and is dusted with gold.
The UK’s largest Christmas pudding manufacturer, Matthew Walker, says younger shoppers in particular are attracted by “bling” with one in five of its puddings on sale this year either gold-dusted or glittery.
The company turns out 26m puds a year for all the major supermarkets and brands – from German discounters Lidl and Aldi through to Harrods and Marks & Spencer.
Great British Bake Off Winner and pudding enthusiast Frances Quinn said: “The wide selection available in the UK has grown tremendously as retailers tap into different food trends and flavours.
“From Heston’s Middle Eastern Persian pudding, molten hidden centres and mature puds, to edible gold lustres and bejewelled fruit and nut decorations, bling is in.”
Marks & Spencer has already triumphed in seasonal taste tests. Its Belgian Chocolate and Orange Star Christmas Pudding, costing £12, was recently crowned the best of the Christmas pudding bunch in Good Housekeeping’s Christmas tasting.
Also highly rated in the same poll were Iceland’s Luxury 12-month Matured Christmas Pudding and Morrisons’ Jewelled Top Christmas Pudding.
Behind the scenes, Iceland executive chef Neil Nugent has been transforming the store’s frozen food range (and fusty image) into an award-winning offering with highly affordable quality Christmas foods, while ITV chef James Martin is an adviser to Asda.
The new Heston trifle will launch in Waitrose shops this week as part of a meal deal – where it will be available in packs of mini trifles costing £3.99 – to allow customers to try ahead of the launch of the larger £12.99 Christmas offering.
Not all Blumenthal’s Christmas products have cleared supermarket shelves. In 2011, Waitrose launched his new range of pine sugar-flavoured mince pies, which the chef declared were “delicious eaten warm from the oven and then sprinkled with pine sugar for a Christmas tree aroma”.
Consumers were not so sure, however, with huge quantities discounted after Christmas.
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