I really love Christmas. 

I love the anticipation in the weeks leading up to the big day, the lights and decorations, the festive music, the prospect of a week off from work when I can take my dog on long walks and spend hours in front of the fire with a good book. 

I just don’t get the ‘bah humbug’ brigade who make a big thing of disliking this lovely time of year.

If you are a regular reader of this column, it won’t surprise you to learn that for me, Christmas is above all an excuse (as if I needed one) to really indulge in food and drink, to splash out on the best ingredients, open those special bottles, make a particular effort in the kitchen.

For those who are either disorganised or who hate starting their Christmas shopping until December, you may be starting to panic about what you are going to buy your loved ones this year.  Well, here’s a solution: the Norfolk Christmas hamper.  Who wouldn’t want to receive a selection of the very best our county has to offer on Christmas Day? 

I have even made it easy for you – here are the ten things I would put in my festive foodie hamper from the county.

  1. You must have fizz at Christmas, so the first item in my Norfolk hamper would be a bottle of English sparkling wine. For me it has to be House of Hemmant from Chet Valley Vineyard in Bergh Apton, which has rapidly gained a reputation as ‘Norfolk’s Champagne’ – it is made in exactly the same way, and with the same grapes, as its famous French counterpart.
  2. I won’t apologise for including a second bottle of booze in my Norfolk Christmas hamper.  I’m plumping for Nelson’s Gold, a wonderful caramelised vodka liqueur from Beachamwell’s Wild Knight Distillery.  Just the thing to round off Christmas dinner as you settle down on the sofa.
  3. When it comes to the centrepiece of the festive celebrations, it has to be turkey – and we are well catered-for in our home county.  If you like your bird with a gamey flavour, go for a Norfolk black; but for a crowd-pleaser which has much more flavour than your average supermarket turkey, the best choice is a Norfolk Bronze.  Buy it from your local butcher, who will be able to tell you exactly were it came from.
  4. A cheeseboard is a must for any festive celebration, and there is a great selection of Norfolk cheeses to choose from – my advice is get down to Jarrolds' cheese counter to take your pick.  But one must-have is the indulgent truffled Baron Bigod from Fen Farm in Bungay (OK, this is just over the border in Suffolk).
  5. Charcuterie is another staple Christmas hamper item, and again we are spoilt for choice in the county.  I’m going for a whole wild venison and Norfolk sloe gin salami from Marsh Pig in Claxton.
  6. If you’re going to include charcuterie you will need a jar of chutney, and it has to be something from Norfolk’s chutney queen, Candi Robertson.  For my money no festive cold cuts selection is complete without a jar of her classic Parsnip and Chilli Chutney.
  7. After all that savoury good news, we need to turn our attention to something sweet.  Let’s start with Christmas pudding; I have already made enough puddings to last for two years, so instead I am going to include in our hamper a packet of the quirky limited edition Christmas Pudding cookies from Hemsby’s Norfolk Cookie Company.
  8. It’s not Christmas without chocolate.  I am a long-time fan of Dereham chocolatiers Saffire, and their amazing handmade truffles are like jewels to look at, and delicious to eat.  They use the finest Belgian chocolate, with creamy ganache fillings in a range of flavours.  An honourable mention for Carousel Chocolates of Aylsham, who stock not just Saffire, but a whole range of locally-made goodies.
  9. Rounding off the sweet selection, something as natural as you can get: Norfolk honey.  Many years ago I spent a day touring his wild hives with beekeeper Leigh Goodsell, and I have been a fan of his honey, marketed under the Leigh’s Bees brand, ever since.  His coastal wildflower honey is made by bees occupying a beautiful wildflower meadow on the edge of one of North Norfolk’s tidal marshes near Brancaster, which makes it the essence of the north Norfolk coast.
  10. Finally, why not round off your Norfolk Christmas hamper with a voucher for one of our independent restaurants?  It’s no secret that the hospitality business is tough at the best of times, and the cost-of-living crisis, coupled with soaring food and energy bills, means that life for our restaurateurs has seldom been more difficult.  January is traditionally a lean time for the restaurant trade, so your voucher will enable you to banish the post-Christmas blues and help Norfolk’s best eateries make a strong start to 2024.