Hamper horrors can become a tasty treat

If you don’t know what to do with the contents of a hamper this festive season, then the team at money.co.uk: https://www.money.co.uk/guides/christmas-hamper-index have come up with some solutions

IF you have ever received a Christmas hamper from family, friends or colleagues but have not been that keen on some of the items inside, then you are not alone.

The new Christmas Hamper Index report by the consumer spending experts money.co.uk has revealed that more than a third (36 per cent) of shoppers admit that their most-loathed Christmas hamper gift was caviar.

Blue cheese was also often binned with almost a third (29 per cent) claiming that the pungent product was their least favourite inside festive hampers.

Pickles were the third least favourite item with one in five consumers revealing that they were put away into the cupboard and left there uneaten for months.

And nearly a fifth (19 per cent) of shoppers admitted that charcuterie and dried fruit were items they would prefer not to receive in their hamper.

A study from American Express revealed that around a third (35 per cent) of consumers would take their unwanted hamper item and regift it in order to save money on their Christmas shop.

But rather than regifting these items they could be transformed into something new which could reduce the festive shopping bill, as well as reducing food waste.

Salman Haqqi, personal finance expert at money.co.uk, said: “With one in three (35 per cent) shoppers saying they would be willing to re-gift an unwanted hamper item it shows that the majority of consumers are looking to maximise their budgets and prevent food waste during the festive season.

“This is especially important as around 270,000 tonnes of food is wasted during the Christmas period. Additionally, by re-gifting unwanted items to friends and family you can cut their Christmas shopping bill down as they will not have to purchase the items themselves.

“You can also cut your food shopping bill down by using the items to create dishes that your holiday guests will love, saving you money by not having to purchase pre-made buffet food”

Top 10 most-hated hamper items revealed:
Caviar – 36%
Blue cheese – 29%
Pickles – 19%
Charcuterie – 19%
Dried Fruit – 19%
Christmas Pudding – 18%
Iced fruit cake – 17%
Wensleydale Cheese – 15%
Bread – 13%
Condiments/Sauces – 12%

The team at money.co.uk has compiled a recipe guide of how to turn distasteful products into delicious canape recipes for the ultimate Christmas Eve banquet:

Caviar Moons

Although voted the least favourite in a festive hamper, caviar is considered a delicacy and is usually eaten as a garnish or a spread.
With this simple but classic dish, your perfectly shaped toasted moons with caviar will leave your guests stunned as you complete your scrumptious Christmas banquet. You could also add salmon, or substitute creme fraiche for sour cream. If sour cream is for you, a top tip for this tasty appetiser is not to use too much of it.

10 very thin slices firm white sandwich bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
125ml sour cream
100 g (3½ oz) caviar
Special Equipment: a 2-inch crescent-moon cookie cutter

Preheat oven to 180°C
Brush bread with melted butter and cut out 40 moons
Arrange, buttered sides up, on a large baking sheet
Bake in the middle of the oven until pale golden, for about 10 minutes
Cool completely
Serve toasts topped with sour cream and caviar

Recipe via: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/caviar-moons-104375

Stilton puffs

Hidden in pastry, your guests will be none of the wiser when they smell these stilton puff pastries cooking away in the oven.

plain flour, for dusting
1 x 380g/13 oz ready-made puff pastry sheet
300g/10½ oz Stilton
1 free-range egg, beaten
100g/3½ oz parmesan, freshly grated

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Line a baking tray with baking parchment
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to 30cm/12in x 23cm/9in
Cut the pastry into four strips lengthways and then six across, leaving you with 24 rectangles of pastry
Crumble the Stilton into a bowl and crush with a fork
Put a heaped teaspoon of the cheese into the centre left of each rectangle, brush the edges with the egg wash
Fold the pastry over the cheese and crimp the edges to seal and place onto the lined baking tray
Brush the outside with the beaten egg and grate the parmesan over each parcel. Make a little hole in the top of each parcel with the tip of a sharp knife.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden-brown all over.

Recipe via: https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/stilton_puffs_33929

Gingerbread muffins with dried fruit

These tasty gingerbread muffins with dried fruit will definitely get you into the festive spirit. The dried fruit gives them extra sweetness, texture and flavour.

180g flour
100g almond flour/ground almonds (1 cup)
2 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp mixed spice/pumpkin spice
1½ tbsp ground ginger
140g dried fruit sultanas, raisins, currants, cranberries (1 cup)
70g dark brown soft sugar
60g granulated sugar (¼ cups)
1 tbsp cocoa/cacao powder
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 large eggs
70ml vegetable oil
240ml semi-skimmed milk/1% milk
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste/extract

For the icing:
7 tbsp icing sugar/powdered sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C/ Gas mark 5 and lightly grease a 12-hole muffin pan or line with paper cases. In a bowl combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, spices, cocoa and pinch of salt. Whisk together until thoroughly combined. Stir in the dried fruit
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla until well combined. Pour the egg mixture and stir just to combine. Do not overstir!
Spoon the batter into the muffin cases and bake in the centre of the oven for 26-28 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes then transfer onto a rack
In the meantime, prepare the icing. Combine the icing sugar with the lemon juice until smooth. Once they’ve cooled down a little, pour over the muffins.

Recipe via: https://www.everydayhealthyrecipes.com/gingerbread-muffins-with-dried-fruit/

Christmas pudding scones

Treat yourself by using your Christmas pudding and incorporate it into these rich, fruity scones with a dollop of crème fraîche.

80g unsalted butter, (cold)
20g dried cranberries
1 orange
250g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
30g golden caster sugar
70g leftover christmas pudding or cake (any icing or marzipan removed)
½ teaspoon mixed spice
1 large free-range egg
4 tablespoons semi-skimmed milk , plus extra for glazing
1 tablespoon treacle

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas 6. Line a baking sheet with baking paper
Chop the butter into small cubes, roughly chop the cranberries and zest the orange
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and stir in the sugar. Add the cubed butter and rub into the flour and sugar until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
Crumble in the leftover pudding or cake, then tip in the cranberries, orange zest and mixed spice, then gently stir to combine
Beat the egg with the milk, add to the dry mix and use an eating knife
to bring it all together to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. Fold in the treacle right at the end
Tip out onto a clean, lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll
to about 2.5cm thick and use a 5cm cutter to press out 8 rounds
Place on the baking sheet, brush with a little milk and bake in the oven for 12 minutes or until risen and golden
Serve warm or cold with a dollop of crème fraîche, and some cranberry sauce or stewed fruit, if you like.

Recipe via: https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/uncategorised-recipes/christmas-pudding-scones/

Pasta with mushrooms and prosciutto

Got a hamper full of charcuterie products and not sure what to do with it all? This easily-made creamy mushroom pasta dish is a must have with prosciutto, for extra flavour you could add a shallot and garlic.

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto (about 6 slices)
1 pound mixed mushrooms, torn into bite-size pieces
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, plus more for serving salt, freshly ground pepper
250ml chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
250g pappardelle or fettuccine
100ml heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat ¼ cup oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. Arrange prosciutto in a single layer in the pot and cook, turning once or twice, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain
Heat remaining 2 tbsp. oil in the same pot over high. Cook mushrooms, tossing occasionally, until browned and tender, 5–8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add shallots and 1 tsp. thyme, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until shallots are translucent and softened, about 2 minutes. Add stock and reduce heat to low. Bring to a simmer and cook until only a thin layer of stock coats the bottom of the pot, 5-7 minutes
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions
Using tongs, transfer pasta to pot with mushrooms and add 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Crumble half of the prosciutto into the pot. Increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, and cook, tossing constantly, until pasta is al dente and liquid is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add cream, return to a simmer, and cook, tossing, until pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, add butter, and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt if needed
Divide pasta among bowls. Top with more thyme and crumble remaining prosciutto over; season with pepper.

Recipe via: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/pasta-with-mushrooms-and-prosciutto

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