If I asked you to tell me what is the first thing that springs to mind when I mention Christmas and Iceland Foods in the same sentence, what would it be? Budget buffets? Kerry Katona with a prawn ring? Cheap, frozen grub without much flare?
Yeah, you wouldn’t be alone in those misconceptions and let me tell you, they are 100% misconceptions. You couldn’t be more wrong.
I’ve been working with Iceland Foods since the beginning of the year and they are one of my favourite collaborations, not only have they totally changed my perceptions but they have impressed me over and over again – and fed me a shit tonne (I can change this is you want Zoe!) of glorious food that I honestly can’t get enough of. Back in July I was asked to come to their Christmas in July event, and when I said to my husband that I was going he said exactly what so many people think: “Won’t it just be prawn rings and vol-u-vents?” Well, no. The Iceland range consists of award winning savoury feasts and desserts that out sell every other major food retailer’s desserts they are THAT good.
Last weekend I was lucky enough to go to Iceland’s Reason’s To Be Jolly Christmas event where they gave us cooking demonstrations, explained about their products and what was on offer from their range and (ahem, best of all – obvs) let us TRY everything. From mince pie martinis to lobster tail tacos to salt baked turkey and a VERY delicious chocolate snowflake melting pud. I think the thing to remember is that, unless you have tried something, you really can’t pass an opinion and if you do try it and still think it’s not great, then cool. I was like most people and equated Iceland to the budget buffet that wasn’t all that crack but was alright for the office party – but this is so much more.
I wanted to share some of the things that I learnt and then tell you what is going to be on my Christmas table this year.
First up, the tips:
- Lobster tails from Iceland are sold en masse. Christmas time brings out the lobster lovers and Iceland have several options, from a very awesome de-shelled version that you can just cook and run with to whole lobster tails. Quick tip: Don’t blanche lobster! Grill it instead – blanching it loses it’s flavour.
- Want to smoke lobster? Use Hay. Sorry guineas, your hay is required so you’re going to have to go without this year. Cook your lobsters and then lie them on clean hay, set alight and voila – almost instant smoky flavour! I was so impressed, it really tasted smoked and super tasty. Best done outside though because, you know, smoke detectors are never fun on Christmas day.
- Frozen avocados are the way forward. Did you know that avocado is one of the most sold products over the Christmas period? Sure is! How, pray tell, do you think they organise a bajillion avocados on 24th December? They freeze them of course! Freeze your avocados, add lemon juice and then blend to make a lovely avocado puree (keeps the colour too!)
- Salt bake your turkey for a different take on a classic. Prepare as you would normally, butter under the skin, lemon juice over the top, seasoning and basting… then take a cheesecloth and fill it with salt (they used 4kgs of sea salt for a 3kg bird – mix with egg to help it form a pack) and then cover the turkey with the salt. Bake as required and you will find a really solid case or “salt oven” around the turkey when you take it out. The flavour was lush – do make sure you brush off the salt though!
- Not a fan of that idea? What about smoking your turkey using a BBQ? Yep, Iceland showed us how to smoke a turkey using a £40 BBQ, smoking chips and allowed us to free up the ovens for more yummy goodness. BOSH!
- Never put foil near your turkey!! YES, I know! I do this year upon year. Apparently foil’s place is in the garage – it’s a chef’s nightmare and should never meet a turkey. Ever. Put the foil away because it dries out your turkey and is the worst thing you ca use according to the head honchos!
- Want a show stopper for Christmas dinner dessert? Taking inspiration from some of the best chefs in the world, Iceland chefs set up a wax table cloth, their melting chocolate snowflake puddings, macarons, eclairs and edible shimmer spray snowflakes ON the tablecloth – no need for dishes or plates – and let everyone dig in. I love this idea, not a fan for the mains, but for dessert, when you’re all relaxing and enjoying each other’s company, I loved it.
So those are the tips but what’s on my table?
Well I rather like doing my own veggies, so I’ve decided to crack on with that, however I always find the big problem in our home is that I end up giving SO much turkey to the dogs, so forget it. This year I’ve decided to go cray, push the boat out and do a few different “mains” (despite their only being three adults and three kids!) I’ve chosen.
- Iceland’s beef wellington.
- Iceland’s Chicken cushion
- Iceland’s Veggie option, Roast parsnip, mushroom, spinach and hazelnut pithivier because it was so damn tasty that I just want it again even though we aren’t veggies…
For the dessert I’m going to go for none other than the melting snowflake chocolate dessert. I LOVE a melting pud and I wasn’t sure about this because I’m a bit picky about the brownie base. It’s almost always dry but this couldn’t have been fudgier. Sweet, decadent and everything I love. PLUS the kid’s will all get *such* a kick out of pouring the hot sauce over the middle of the dessert.
So, if you haven’t tried Iceland’s Christmas selection, then please please do. It’s £8 for the chocolate dessert, £15 for the beef wellington and I think it’s well worth trying one just before to prove that this is amazing food on any budget.