IT'S THE WEEKEND: Food and drink - What's in your perfect Christmas hamper?

South Wales Argus: Turkey Christmas dinner (3072097) Turkey Christmas dinner (3072097)

It's a delight of the festive season packed full of tasty treats. PAUL CAREY asks Gwent people what would be in their perfect Christmas hamper.

WHEN CHRISTMAS arrives there is one thing that gets everyone licking their lips in anticipation.

Whether you love or hate the festive season, everyone uses Christmas as an excuse to ditch their diets and indulge in an abundance of treats.

So from savoury snacks, to bottles of wine, to delicious chocolate treats, we’ve asked everyone what they’d put in their perfect Christmas hamper.

And if it gets you in the mood to tuck into your Christmas goodies four days before Christmas, don’t blame these guys.

From a chef at a famous Gwent restaurant to local councillors that can’t wait to get stuck in to their Christmas dinner, here they reveal all about what really makes a Christmas hamper.

Stephen Terry, chef and owner of the Hardwick Hotel in Abergavenny, says that a focus on preservatives is important to keep people going over the Christmas period.

“As it’s a hamper and for Christmas you need to have a lovely mix of simple things and luxury items,” he said. “Get your stuff local and it’ll taste a lot nicer.

“Welsh Cheese is a must. In my opinion Hafod Welsh Cheese is the best on the planet. It’s made on Wales’ oldest organic farm and you can really taste the difference.

“Without a doubt I’d include some cowboy pickles. It’s an American recipe made in Talybont. It’s really big slices of gherkin and they’re lovely on Boxing Day.

“Preservatives are really important as they last over Christmas and you can get the best ones from the Preservation Society.

“They do a gorgeous chilli jam which goes fantastic with cold meats in the days after Christmas.

“Their buttery and boozy mince meat is also a must have, it makes their mince pies delicious and just what you need on Christmas day.”

Away from the preservatives, treats and supplements, it leaves the most important thing at Christmas, what meats to have.

Everyone indulges in a huge turkey that sees them through to New Year’s Day via a wealth of curries and leftover sandwiches.

But what other meats are a delicious treat over the festive period?

“Smoked Chicken from the Black Mountain Smokery in Crickhowell is gorgeous,” added Mr Terry. “I’d definitely put it in a hamper to either give to someone or have myself.

“Their smoked salmon is also lovely. They’re renowned for it and we serve a lot of it at our restaurant because it is so popular.”

“Lastly I would have some duck and pates from Cnwd, a welsh company in Camarthen. They’re pates and duck are absolutely amazing and they’d go down really well.

“I think that would be my perfect hamper but I’m pretty sure it would please anyone.”

Whilst a hamper of that quality would certainly raise a lot of money at a Christmas raffle, what else do people around Gwent feel is needed to contribute towards a hamper full of goodness?

Cllr Miqdad Al-Nuaimi focused on treats that are popular at Christmas and making sure the hamper had a selection of wine to accompany the food.

He said: “You need some food with a long shelf life so I’d have some fruit and nuts. It’s nice to have food that you don’t have all year round.

“I’d also have Christmas cake in there as I like indulging in that at Christmas, although I try to have it in moderation.

“It’s also vital to have some nice wine in a Christmas hamper. I love a French wine. To have with a Christmas meal I would choose a French Bordeaux which is lovely, fruity and very seasonal for this time of year.”

Chairman of Pontypool Council, Giles Davies, echoed the opinions as he described the drinks he would love to find in a Christmas hamper.

“I would have a bottle of whisky in it as well as a bottle of brandy,” he remarked. “Christmas is more about drinking shorts than beer so those two bottles would make my hamper.

“I’d also have a box of orange Matchmakers as I always have them at Christmas as well as brandy cream with some fruitcake.

“You definitely need some lovely loaves of bread to make some sandwiches with leftover meat in the days after Christmas.

“It’s important to have what you want in the hamper as everyone eats what they want at Christmas.

“Normal rules go out the window and you eat stuff you wouldn’t normally eat for breakfast which is great.”

Alan Edwards, president of the Newport Chamber of Trade, focused on a high quality selection of meats to present to someone in a hamper.

“Everyone has turkey at Christmas but I’d have some Parma ham in there. I’d also get a horseshoe joint as it is the best cut out of the pig that you can get and it’s delicious.

“Duchy of Cornwall bacon is also tasty and should be included. That and some smoked salmon would go down well.”

Whereas a selection of mouth watering foods, sparkling wine and fantastic local products would make it to the top of the list of most people, Cllr Matthew Evans had a different idea.

“I’d love to receive a hamper that contained a Newport Gwent Dragons victory over Cardiff Blues on Boxing Day!” he joked. “Can that be put in a hamper?

“Apart from that, I have a great taste in white wine so I’d put in a bottle or two of that.

“I’d have some things I’m not normally allowed like white chocolate.

“I’d also have some finely ground coffee to wake me up the day after Christmas.

“All of that would certainly make the ideal Christmas hamper.”

The leader of Monmouthshire council, Cllr Peter Fox, didn’t stray from the traditional Christmas goodies as he remarked how his hamper would contain everything that is popular around the festive season.

“I am a Christmas traditionalist and would probably include the obvious things whilst recognising that we all have our different traditions.

“Some fresh veg, a Christmas Pudding and probably a box of mince pies all make for a traditional Christmas Day.”

So whether it’s a Welsh joint of beef, a lovely bottle of wine sourced from France or simply a Christmas Pudding from the corner shop, everyone has their own ideas of what adds to the perfect Christmas hamper.

Sometimes simple is better, but each person will have a taste that they associate with the festive season and traditionally eat or drink it every year.

By passing that food or drink on in a hamper, you might just start the tradition for somebody else.

And if you receive a hamper this Christmas that contains a lot of recommended items from above then you know where it’s come from.

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