OPINION: Celebrate our county and tuck in to a Norfolk Christmas

You can't beat a drop of Bullards gin at Christmas, says Andy

You can't beat a drop of Bullards gin at Christmas, says Andy - Credit: Newman Associates PR

I’m always surprised at people who complain about Christmas. I understand why you might not want to see festive decorations in the shops in August, but given the misery which we have endured for the past 20 months – and the fact that Christmas was more or less cancelled last year – surely it’s time to ditch the Scrooge act and embrace the joy of the festive season.

Even if we are sliding back into a Covid quagmire, what’s not to like about Christmas? Most of us get an extended break from work (I know that doesn’t apply to everyone – this year above all others we should show our appreciation of all those key workers who keep the vital services running 365 days a year).

There are presents, sparkly decorations, festive gatherings with cheese and wine and Secret Santa presents (these are not parties, no, no, not at all), and goodwill to all.

Above all, it’s an excuse 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, like me, 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. I’ve chosen Horatio, a rosé sparkler made by the same method as Champagne, with a lovely salmon pink colour coming from the addition of red regent grapes. Just the thing for Christmas morning.

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2) The gin revolution continues apace in the county, and there are many to choose from. But for my Christmas hamper, it has to be Bullards Coastal Gin, made with foraged ingredients from our wonderful coastline including marsh samphire, sea purslane and wild fennel. It’s Norfolk in a glass.

3) Charcuterie is an ideal hamper item, and there are several Norfolk producers making names for themselves. I’ll plump for the garlic and black pepper salami from Claxton’s Marsh Pig.

4) 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.

5) 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.

Andy suggests buying your turkey from a local butcher who will be able to tell you where it came from

Andy suggests buying your turkey from a local butcher who will be able to tell you where it came from - Credit: Getty Images/Monkey Business

6) Much as I love Norfolk, I still think our county has a long way to go to punch above its weight when it comes to cheese, so I’m going to cheat by straying across the county boundary by just a couple of miles to Fen Farm Dairy in Bungay, makers of the famous Baron Bigod. It’s Christmas, so I’ll have a wheel of their truffled version in my hamper, please.

7) We have to have to sweet delights in the hamper, so let’s start with pudding. Personally I like to make enough puddings at Christmas to be able to give homemade gifts, so instead I’ll choose the quirky limited edition Christmas Pudding cookies from the Norfolk Cookie Company.

8) Next comes chocolate, another vital element in the festive fare. Norwich artisan chocolatiers Saffire use the finest Belgian chocolate and no additional artificial flavours to create beautiful and colourful handmade chocolates, so a box of those has to go in. Actually, I have a Saffire advent calendar this year, so I have started early!

9) Rounding off the sweet selection, something as natural as you can get: Norfolk honey. The runny honey from the Hempnall Honey Company has a wonderful floral flavour – perfect on yoghurt at breakfast as you quietly regret that second glass of port the night before.

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, the past 18 months has seen challenges like they have never faced before. 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 2022.

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