Show Hide image Food & Drink 12 December 2017 Candy cane crisps, a brioche snow globe, and pudding smoothie: The ultimate Christmas lunchbreak guide This year’s best and worst festive food on the high street. By Anoosh Chakelian Follow @@anoosh_c Sign UpGet the New Statesman’s Morning Call email. Sign-up If, like the conscientious elves in the New Statesman office, you’re working until the bitter festive end, you’ll need a lot of high street Christmas food to get you through those long lunchbreaks. Here are our picks – and warnings. PS. We also did this last year, so have tried not to repeat ourselves. Lunchbreak landmarks EAT Turkey, stuffing and crispy onion baguette, £3.95 For the second year running, the EAT Christmas turkey sandwich was succulent, salty and delicious. But my first bite was blighted by the fact that, in last year’s round-up, the company couldn’t pinpoint where in the world the turkey was raised. This year, it appears to have gone cold turkey and not replied to my enquiry at all. India Bourke Goats cheese, pear and date bloomer, £3.95 Last year, EAT’s Christmas cheeseboard bloomer was far and away the best Christmas sandwich I ate all year – with fig, Cheddar and Wensleydale, it was part cheeseboard, part sandwich, and 1,000 per cent delicious (that’s just indisputable maths). I walked unreasonable distances to the rare EAT branches that actually stocked it, which, happily, barely made a dent to the high number of calories in each bite. This year they’ve gone for something more anaemic, more palatable, more acceptable to the masses who cluck their tongues, stroke their beards, and talk about “What’s to be done with this Cheeseboard-Sandwich hybrid?” The goat’s cheese, pear and date bloomer is still a bit off the wall – the pears are in big chunks and soaked in mulled wine, the date chutney is tangy, the goat’s cheese creamy. The bed of spinach (a popular salad replacement this year) is a bit much. It simply can’t reach the same dizzying heights as the cheeseboard bloomer of yore, which will now surely ascend to legend. Anna Leszkiewicz What a hearty, creamy tang meets the tongue when you bite into EAT’s cheesy Christmas offering. You need neither to love goat’s cheese nor pear to love this sandwich, as the combination creates a whole new smorgasbord of flavour that is certainly worth trying. Fans of this publication will recall that last year’s cheese offering tickled our tastebuds excessively, and we regret to inform you this is a weaker replacement. Nonetheless, it is a delicious sandwich – a wayward younger brother to its perfect predecessor, but still tasty as heck. Amelia Tait The soft, dark bread with poppy seeds perfectly embraced the sweet lightness of the fillings. The red pear with skin still on gave it a crunchy twist and the bed of spinach leaves, though maybe too thick, was balanced by an undisclosed but lovely yoghurty sauce. Then there’s the goat’s cheese (indisputably the king of cheeses): fresh, nicely cut, just the right amount. The date was more absent – it blended with the pear almost too well. The cheese could have been slightly more mature, but that’s just my Frenchness talking. Altogether this sandwich was like the first step in snow of the Christmas holidays: a real delight. Pauline Bock Merry mincemeat crumble bar, £1.65 This looks like the bar form of something I made in Year 7 food technology, which I think was meant to be a “healthier” fruit crumble and, surprisingly, was not great. But it has a very pleasant crunch and tastes like a pretty decent mince pie. If you’ve ever eaten a mince pie and thought, “this is nice, but I wish it had a lot less mincemeat and about 70 per cent more pastry and icing sugar”, then you will like this. Lizzie Palmer Roasted butternut squash, seedy stuffing & slaw, £3.35 (vegan) Looks like a rainbow, tastes like... rain? This sandwich sounded and looked so promising. And yet. The roasted butternut had a very bland taste and could have been roasted longer, but at least it was there, unlike the spices in the spiced mayonnaise and the cranberries in the cranberry slaw. The seeds, which weren’t very stuffy, were the (relative) highlight of this sandwich. Anything resembling a flavour was sunk in the malted bread’s sogginess. There must be better options out there for vegans. You’re allowed to love both animals and Christmas! Pauline Festive full works bloomer, £3.95 EAT’s social media brand is disgustingly twee but their Christmas sandwiches are on point. Thick, soft bread, just the right amount of turkey – ie. not very much as let’s face it turkey is very much the passenger in a Christmas sandwich – a good amount of cranberry and crucially no mayonnaise. Stephen Bush This feels quite wholesome compared to the traditional turkey ‘n’ trimmings feast, while containing all of its key components (except, thankfully, the sprouts). Chunky, seeded granary bread holds thick-sliced turkey breast, smoked ham (possibly a little overpowering), and some fruity pork prune and pancetta stuffing; any richness cut though with a tang of cranberry sauce; and some (not quite enough) virtuous fresh spinach leaves. Unlike certain other high-street sandwich brands, this was not ruined by being slathered in mayonnaise (just enough to moisten the bread), nor laced with butter. Jessica Cargill Thompson Smoked ham, brie and cranberry baguette, £3.50 I never thought I’d say it of a Christmas sandwich, but minimalism – in the case of EAT’s ham, brie and cranberry baguette – is a boon. With just three flavours and three textures jostling together it barely recalls a Christmas dinner at all and could be enjoyed at any time of the year: perfect for those who find the early onset of Yule’s commercialism depressing. I frequently find EAT a source of frustration – their chewy, featureless melts especially. But this smooth sandwich, best enjoyed when it’s been out of the fridge a while, certainly beats Pret’s baroque equivalent, where much time is spent looking for the crispy onions, and wishing there was something binding the many ingredients to the bread. Kate Mossman Leon The vegan Christmas wrap, £4.25 Pluses: certainly Christmas-ey, with the cranberry sauce. It’s filling, has interesting flavours, and is not dry (often a problem with falafel wraps). Minuses: wrap itself is big (and chewy), and there’s not much texture to the filing. Overall 3.5 out of 5. Would buy as a novelty, but not more often than that. It compares reasonably well to other vegan fare on the high street, I think. It’s just normally with vegan stuff you like to taste the ingredients – avocado, falafel, tomato, etc, and here the flavours are all mixed up, to get the Christmas effect. Xan Rice The Christmas wrap, £5.45 So, flavour-wise, this was spot-on. Perfect sweet/salty balance, and the addition of ham hock (on top of pork stuffing) makes it a nicely decadent way to feel like the worst Jew in the world. BUT, the combination of warmth, cranberry sauce and mayo makes for a hot, soggy mess, almost completely devoid of structural integrity. Basically: this is not a desk-friendly wrap. It’s probably best enjoyed either in private, or under one of those shame veils the French use when they eat baby birds. Eleanor Margolis Benugo British turkey, bacon and cranberry bloomer, £3.95 Benugo has always tried to come across as that little bit posher than its sandwich chain rivals. Miles above a Greggs, and even a bit better than Pret. The way this sandwich broadcasts its pretentions is with the dark malty bread – no ordinary packaging for this Christmas offering. But while the choice of filling container stands out visually, it’s nothing special to consume, and more importantly fails to disguise a very run-of-the-mill filling. It’s a pretty standard selection: British turkey, bacon and cranberry, coupled with pork and sage stuffing and spiced up with what is apparently horseradish mayo. It’s a serviceable combination, and all the constituent parts are well done, but nothing stands out as particularly flavoursome. It’s a perfectly serviceable Christmas sandwich, but one that falls short of Benugo’s normal aspirations to be a cut above. Jasper Jackson Honey roast pulled ham & smoked cheddar bloomer, £3.95 There’s so much happening in this sandwich – too much, in fact. Clearly Santa was in a rush when he packed himself this snack: the honey roast taste overwhelms the rest. I see how the ham’s noticeable fat would keep you warm on a long night on your flying sledge, but sadly I don’t own one yet, so it was wasted on me. What wasn’t, though, was the spiced apple chutney and wholegrain mustard mayo, which were a revelation: with the highly respectable cheddar and the dark, dark bread, it almost tasted like a savoury gingerbread. Santa, just leave the ham in the fridge next time. Pauline Pigs under blankets sandwich, £3.95 This was my first ever pigs under blankets sandwich – and as a concept I liked the idea of common Eurasian wild boars curling up in cosy plaids – but I am sorry to inform you that this will probably also be my last one. It may have nothing to do with Benugo; it had delicious bread and a solid cranberry sauce, with made it just festive enough. But I must ask: why do you Brits hate pigs so much? Why so much meat? Why isn’t it called “pigs and turkeys under blankets”, as this was as much of a turkey sandwich as a sausage one? And why is the bacon blanket UNDER the pig and the turkey? Absolutely nothing made sense. I’m so confused. This sandwich made me hate every single meat involved. Thank you, British concept of a Christmas sandwich, I guess I’m vegetarian now. Pauline Greggs Turkey, bacon and cranberry roll, from £1 Looks and, at first, tastes more or less like a standard Greggs sausage roll, which I find inoffensive – a bit on the greasy side but warm, filling, edible and most importantly, quite cheap. But this Christmas variant comes with a bit of kick, I assume from the cranberry, rich but not actually particularly pleasant – and rather overpowering in combination with all the fat. Personally, I’d stick with the original. Ed Jefferson Sweet mince pie, from 50p each or six for £1.75 My first mince pie of 2017, it had the reassuring taste of Christmas times still ahead. Slightly burnt on the edges and a bit flat, its thick crust and not-too-sweet mince fulfilled their purpose of warming my heart on a Monday morning. Minus points for the powdered sugar on top, which, like wealth in modern society, I like better when evenly distributed. Pauline Christmas ring bun, from 80p each or four for £2.75 Provided you’re ready for hundreds and thousands to fly EVERYWHERE, this cake will be a nice addition to your life. The cupcake itself is moist and soft, and the icing is the extremely sugary kids-party kind, adorned with green, white, and red sprinkles. It’s not what the French would call “delectable” and it’s not fancy whichever way you look at it, but it’s a good sweet treat. You also get a plastic ring with Santa’s face on, which is good once you’ve sucked the icing from the middle bit. Amelia Pret Smoked salmon, soft cheese and dill baguette, £4.25 I’ve never really associated smoked salmon with Christmas – is this a posh thing? But what I have always associated it with is being delicious. Pret knows there is no need to mess with a classic formula, providing a great salmon to cream cheese ratio and little else. No pointless cranberry or anything like that here. I’m not sure the dill flavour really came through much, but then I don’t think I actually know what dill tastes like. Lizzie Christmas muffin, £1.60 I like a panettone as much as the next person, but they are not exactly practical. Most of them are expensive, come in a box the size of a small car and feed about 30 people. Enter: this muffin. All the flavours of an Italian Christmas (orange zest, cranberries, sultanas, almonds etc) to help you forget that Brexit is creeping closer with every advent calendar door. Lizzie Festive winter salad, £4.50 Look, “festive salad” isn’t a thing, unless you count half a leftover sprout you eat accidentally because you think it’s one of those fake chocolate ones. But Pret’s new addition to its iconic festive menu valiantly tries to make Christmas salad happen by mixing sprouts, Wensleydale and cranberry with those famously festive foodstuffs of pomegranate seeds, butternut squash and French Dijon dressing. I mean, come on. I don’t even eat pomegranate at Christmas and it is the fruit of my people. Nevertheless, this mishmash is actually quite delicious – caramelised pecans and apple slaw give it texture, and broccoli and spinach add to its dazzlingly colourful appearance. It’s pious enough to be perfect for January – but at a shameless £4.50 it probably won’t be your first choice in the post-Christmas financial winter. Anoosh Chakelian Pizza Express Potato and fontal pizza, (prices vary from restaurant to restaurant, but the most expensive one is £15.95) This double carb and triple cheese slice is a hungry vegetarian’s dream – potato on pizza? Bechamel sauce on top of Fontal and Grand Milano cheese? Yes please. But is very rich – two slices were enough for a desktop lunch for me – without being intensely flavourful (the red onion is the only element that cuts through the bland but creamy cheese and potato mix). If you’re a fan of a filling beige food feast, this is one for you – but if you’re after a more exciting and colourful pizza, stick with the Padana. Anna Beef and horseradish pizza Mixing two great comfort foods – the mighty roast and the venerable pizza – should result in the most satisfying dish ever to lay gently upon a romana base. But there’s just a bit too much going on here. The presence of both potato and meat makes this meal feel a bit like you’re mopping up the leftovers of a Sunday dinner with a slice of pizza that would taste better in its own right. Ideologically, they just shouldn’t be mixed: roasts are for those rare and wholesome days when you have time and enthusiasm to cook; pizza is for when you just cannot face anything in life but the television. So I’d say this is an exciting Christmassy innovation but worth less than the sum of its parts. Anoosh Maple-glazed gammon pizza Like a big rubber insole with an unnecessary and humiliating pineapple perched on top, gammon has never held much appeal for me. But this pizza proved me wrong. Perhaps because it was pizza. The gammon is sweet and chewy, the goat’s cheese creamy and earthy and the parsley gives it a little herby punch. No spiced apricot chutney was available for the New Statesman delivery (either that, or one of the many office vultures licked it all off before we’d even fully opened the lid), but a little tartness would really lift these flavours. Ultimately a hammed-up ham pizza, but points for imagination. Anoosh More high end than high street Crosta & Mollica Classic Panettone (1kg), RRP £13.99 Peel is the problem of panettone – it’s crucial to the flavour, but it’s horrible and chewy to have in your mouth. The art is to make them small enough to ignore, or, in this case, to eschew them entirely. The problem is the resulting panettone is pleasingly insubstantial as far as its texture goes, but is also insubstantial flavour-wise, too. Stephen Cartwright & Butler raspberries in white chocolate and strawberry powder (in a jar), £7 What’s better than a raspberry? A raspberry that’s been freeze-dried, dunked in white chocolate, and dusted with the enigmatically named “strawberry powder”. Even better, they are so sweet that you can’t eat more than two. Self-limiting snacks: surely there has to be venture capital money to expand this concept. Helen Lewis Cartwright & Butler Classic Biscuit selection (three tins: triple chocolate chunk, salted caramel and demerara shortbread rounds, RRP: £24.00; Caramelised pecans in gianduja milk choc, (in a jar), £7; Sea-salted almonds in milk chocolate, £6.49 A pretty selection of traditional biscuits and artisanal chocolates, presented in handily reusable tins and jars. Of the chocolates, the rosy-red, white-chocolate raspberries proved the biggest NS office draw, disappearing almost immediately, the sweet, creamy outer shell cut through by the tang of the freeze-dried berry inside. Gianduja chocolate pecans dusted with cocoa powder and generously coated milk chocolate almonds both have a note of after-dinner sophistication. The biscuits were all are beautifully light, buttery and highly dunkable. The caramel shortbreads have a discernibly salty kick and a cracking crunch, while the classic demerara rounds offer a comforting antidote to seasonal chocolate overload. Although here, even the triple choc chunk biscuits have a light touch, holding back from excessive sweetness. Jessica The Naked Marshmallow Co. salted caramel marshmallow vodka, £32 Not one we’d recommend in the workplace but we thought we’d throw a few curveballs in just in case you get a cheeky afternoon off. This is a really high-end vodka – I mean, looking at it, I could only think to myself ‘you’ve come a long way from Tesco’s own, or buying Vodkat by mistake, my friend’. But whatever vodka I drink, I still get that little visceral phantom aftertaste of sherberty energy drink and regret from when this spirit was my student-day stalwart. But the sweetness of the marshmallow and the richness of the salted caramel make this one stand out. Anoosh Down the aisle Waitrose Wensleydale cheese & maple roasted vegetables sandwich, £3.70 Sharing this particular sandwich with a friend felt like a real moral conundrum: one was bursting with butternut squash, the other seemingly mostly spinach between two slices of brown bread. To add to the awkwardness, I struggled to remove it from its packaging (a plastic tray inside a plastic bag inside a paper bag). As for the sandwich itself: the vegetables are supposedly maple-roasted, but there’s no overpowering sugar taste. The cheese will be familiar to anyone who’s tried Waitrose’s Wenselydale with cranberry bits in (a favourite of mine), plus there’s an extra smearing of soft cheese. Like EAT, they’ve gone for raw spinach instead of salad (as a saladphobe I approve of the swap, even spinach is almost as aggressively boring as lettuce). Something that looks like pesto is, apparently, “kale and sprout mayonnaise”, which is inoffensive but not extraordinary. Beefier than your average veggie Christmas sandwich, more interesting that the hordes of brie and cranberry doing the rounds, but not the best ever tasted. Anna Spiced king prawn cocktail sandwich, £3.75 The prawns in this are really nice. Succulent, juicy, and mixed with “Bloody Mary-style aioli”, what’s not to like? But the rest of the sandwich is unforgivably bland – with mountains of spinach, and deeply boring brown bread. It’s a curt nod to a prawn cocktail, not a respectful bow. Commit to the joy of the prawn cocktail, Waitrose, or we are all left looking like fools! Anna Brie, cranberry, and grape sandwich, £2.95 If I’m honest, this offers me nothing. The brie is fine, the grape is fine, the bread is fine. Why waste any more words when I have already wasted energy chewing this mediocre beast? Amelia Sainsbury’s Salted caramel festive pretzel shapes, £1.25 Shaped like trees, bells, and stars, these festive pretzels are an insult to the thousands of years of human civilisation that preceded them. These pretzels are not “salted caramel”, they are first flavoured like caramel – and then like salt. The flavours are separate, divided, divorced – things we don’t wish to be reminded of at this festive time. They are vile. They turned to dust in my mouth. Amelia Wensleydale and cranberry crisps, 90p Taste the Difference, eh? Perhaps that’s a challenge – to see if you can taste the difference between these crisps and…any other cheesy crisp. “Not even Wensleydale?” bewailed a heartbroken Wallace at the end of A Close Shave, and it rings true here. All you get is the slightly unpleasant synthetic sweet taste at first bite (presumably the cranberry) before they turn into pale imitations of bog-standard cheese and onion on second chew. No discernible Wensleydale. Further proof of life’s eternal rule: why eat any crisp but ridged McCoy’s or pickled onion Monster Munch? Anoosh Snow Globe brioche roll, £3.50 I spend the first five minutes after receiving the Sainsbury’s Snow Globe just staring at it, slightly stunned. It doesn’t help that I’ve come down with man-flu and am slightly tripping on Boots’ own-brand Lemsip. Because this is not an actual snow globe: a vast, see-through plastic dome houses a shiny, brown, Zippy-from-Rainbow-esque brioche bun, its mouth lolling open to reveal a green spinach tongue and Christmas dinner teeth. On its head presumably edible silver stars twinkle. It truly is the jewel in the crown of mid-range supermarket Christmas lunch sandwiches. Actually I’m thinking it’s not so much a snow globe as one of those terrarium things, with little plants and soil trapped under glass for eternity. I certainly don’t want to shake it. I go in. Once I’ve dismantled the not inconsiderable packaging, the brioche bun removed from its black plastic pedestal seems slightly apologetic. But I squash it slightly in my hand and it reveals a pleasing moistness – perhaps the terrarium really was keeping it fresh. But sorry, I’ve failed to give its full title: “Butter basted British turkey breast, cooked beechwood-smoked streaky British bacon, with brussels sprout slaw, British pork stuffing mayonnaise, cranberry and port sauce and spinach in a brioche roll with stars”. Is it a coincidence this contains the words “British”, “Brussels” and “Stars”? I think not – inspired marketing to both Leavers and Remainers from Sainsbury’s there. I take a bite – it doesn’t disappoint. The turkey is juicy, the bacon and stuffing comforting, there’s the added tartness of cranberry and leafy crunch. Bizarre yet compelling. Five silver stars. Tom Calvocoressi M&S Festive trio of all-butter puff pastry rolls This isn’t just a festive trio of all butter puff pastry rolls, this is an M&S festive trio of all butter puff pastry rolls. Or, to you and me, three sausage rolls. OK, one is turkey, bacon and cranberry, one is a three-bird roast (they must be very small birds) with bacon and one is caramelised onion and goat’s cheese. Except they’re not, not really. All three look the same and taste the same. In fact, my colleague and I couldn’t work out which was which. Basically they’re just pleasing and comforting hunks of dense pastry with some gooey matter in the middle. Perhaps the trio of birds flew away. Anoosh Clementine, orange and passion fruit juice Delicious Christmassed-up orange juice – a welcome shot of vitamin c and non-alcohol in the season of sniffles and sin. Anoosh Christmas pudding smoothie, £1.50 I’ve never made a Christmas pudding but if there is a gooey mix-and-lick-the-bowl stage, then that’s what I imagine this smoothie to taste like (which is great, as bowl scraps are always better than finished cake). India Crackling crisps, with apple, cider and rosemary dip, £2 Shaped like delicate snail shells, and so delicious you’ll want to savour them at a snail’s pace. India Christmas chestnut roast wrap, £2.80 (vegan) Vernon Dursley would disgustedly describe this vegan wrap as “rabbit food”, and for once in his miserable little life he’d be absolutely right. The “red pepper” tortilla is both flavourless and glutinous, there’s way too much raw spinach and carrot, the roasted chestnuts and vaguely described “mixed grains” are rubbish, the textures are barf, and there’s even grape that has no right to be here, to rub salt in the wound. (Actually, a bit of salt rubbing could only improve this disaster.) Get this sad little meal away from me. Anna Co-op Irresistible Smoked cheddar and bacon relish sandwich, £3.35 This is a posh sandwich. You can tell because it’s in Co-op’s “Irresistible” range, and is marked with a classy bronze label. It’s also in a little bag rather than a box. The perfect accessory this festive season. But when you actually bite into it, it tastes pretty similar to your everyday snatched train station BLT or cheese ploughman’s, depending on which bit you’re chewing on. The poppy seed bread is a good upgrade from your regular sandwich but the spinach is a pointlessly sloppy replacement for some classic crunchy Iceberg. Apparently the relish is maple syrup and bourbon bacon, but it’s really just tarted up Branston Pickle – without the tartness. Anoosh Christmas chocolate chip shortbread trees eight-pack, £1 Is there anything worse than ordering a pepperoni pizza only to open the box and find just five or six pieces of pepperoni on what is essentially a margarita? Yes, it turns out: being promised chocolate-chip shortbread only to discover the chocolate chips are few and far between. That aside, a shortbread biscuit is never going to be unpleasant – it’s thick, sweet and crumbly and the ones which haven’t fallen apart are kind of shaped like trees. Pleasantly mediocre with a tinge of disappointment, much like the average Christmas. Lizzie Posh prawn cocktail crisps, £1.50 Think about the prawn cocktail for a moment: a cocktail glass full of prawns. A fancy receptacle meant for alcohol, overflowing with ten-legged aquatic crustaceans. Seafood in the form of a sassy drink. Why? I cannot say. But the biggest leap was making this dish into a crisp. Just imagine that young prawn’s journey. From the wild ocean to the cruel crush of the net, to the harsh chill of the supermarket or the humiliation of the fish market, to – why? – a cocktail glass, to a pile of fried potatoes. I mean, truly, if you think about this properly, what is going on here? Nevertheless, it worked out for Walkers, whose iconic hot pink-packaged prawn cocktail crisps are beautiful – but that tanginess of flavour doesn’t come through for Co-op here. Or for the little confused prawn who died in its name. Anoosh Tesco Succulent pigs in blankets limited edition Tesco Finest crisps, £1 The only thing better than a sausage wrapped in bacon is a sausage wrapped in bacon in crisp form. Salt three ways. Delicious. Anoosh Limited edition candy cane hand cooked potato crisps, £1 These pink-edged potato products seemingly defy common sense and morality, but it’s hard to deny: they’re good. The smell is atrocious – like the dentist paid a visit to a chip shop – but the taste is remarkably inoffensive. It tastes like eating a candy cane and then a crisp, rather than eating a candy cane-flavoured crisp – and believe me friends, this makes all the difference in the world. They beg to be hated and yet I cannot. The truth is, they’re a nice crisp. They’re a nice crisp. Amelia Tesco Finest hog roast & scorched apple roll, £3.50 I am suspicious of words like “scorched” in food, which are usually synonyms for “burnt”, but in this case this turned out to be a code for “damp, yet somehow unpleasantly crunchy”. The mayonnaise is the real problem here, though: it overpowers everything else, so what you’re really left with is unpleasantly textured mayonnaise. Shame, really, as I love a good hog roast. Stephen Tesco Finest bubble & squeak fritter with spiced red cabbage, £3.50 This hearty filling stands out among the usual brie-and-cranberry clones, and its inventiveness, for the most part, pays off. The cabbage is both crunchy and juicy, and provides a good companion for the dry and herby fritter. For vegetarians resigned to having the “healthy option”, there’s a certain satisfaction in eating festive carb-on-carb as the nights draw in, like a posh, Christmassy chip butty. The sandwich comes with a bag of “coconut bacon flavour flakes”, destined to divide vegetarians into the pro and anti fake meat tribes. In fact, the bacon flavour turns out to be smoked paprika, and the result is like soft crisps. Add in the faff of opening the sandwich to sprinkle them on, and you’d be better off loading carb-on-carb-on-carb by making your own DIY crisp sandwich. Julia Rampen Tesco Finest pulled beef and aged Red Leicester, £3 “Aged” and “pulled” aren’t usually an enticing pair of words in the same sentence, but they work together perfectly here. The beef is juicily pulled and the red Leicester cheese appropriately aged. They sit gooey-ly alongside one another, stuck to their springy malted bread bed with caramelised onion – plus some watercress and rocket to keep proceedings family friendly. The best of the Tesco Finest Christmas range, this rich saucy sandwich will be wolfed down before you can say “Waitrose”. Anoosh Have yourself a healthy little Christmas Holland and Barrett Mini Moos Free Chocolate Organic Santa Bar, £1 It bills itself as dairy free, lactose free, gluten free, wheat free, casein free (what is casein?), soya free, vegetarian and vegan. But what it definitely isn’t is sugar free – this bar is far too sweet even for my unsophisticated pumpkin spice-loving palate. It just tastes a bit too fake. It’s a shame because we should probably all be going vegan ASAP to prevent total destruction of the planet. And the bar’s wrapper features a hamster dressed as Santa which I love. Lizzie Ginger explosion 500g, £4.99 Ginger. I have loved it all my life. From those thin biscuits you could get in the Wembley Ikea canteen to the dark ‘n’ stormies I have ruined many a round by ordering, it has always been a firm favourite of the Chakelian palate. So I found Holland & Barrett’s 500g of “ginger explosion” a standout of their Christmas range, and indeed all that the healthier end of the high street has to offer all year round. At £4.99, you get a sweet office snack that can last you weeks – and it’s not that unhealthy. Delicious chunks of crystallised ginger are little nuggets of gold, and the ones covered in chocolate are… little nuggets of gold covered in chocolate. I’m too blissed-out to extend the metaphor. Just take my word for it. Anoosh Plamil Dairy Free Selection Box, £3.99; Grenade Carb Killa bar 60g, £2.49 This year’s Holland & Barrett chocolate selection is helpfully designed to help you feel good about your sweet tooth, and the Carb Killa bars are reassuringly health-conscious while also tasting sweet –and similarly virtuous. India Abakus Jujube fruit, £1.99 per sachet or gift jar Erm. This is not really a Christmas snack, as Abakus Foods claimed, but I suppose it is a bit like a healthy version of a date. And they do come in festive jars. Basically, jujube is a “healthy fruit from far away places” (although this description surely depends on where you are), it’s sweet, it tastes like a date and crams you full of essential amino acids and smugness. Abakus serves them dried like an apple crisp or stuffed with walnuts, cashews and almonds. Festive indulgence, they are not. Might be one to save for January. Anoosh Crussh Roasted carrot and nut roast with vegan mayo on malted bread, £3.45 This vegan sandwich doesn’t sound like much. A nut roast is a nut roast. It’s never going to get too exciting. The brown malted bread is equally boring. But the carrots come in big chunks, and though I know they can’t be cooked in butter or animal fat, there’s a lovely sweetness to them. The spinach isn’t overwhelming in terms of ratio and texture. And the whole thing is made even better by some brilliant vegan mayo, that doesn’t taste vegan at all. A slightly more exciting take on a nut roast sandwich – and without a hint of dairy. Anna Festive Turkey Feast sandwich, £3.95 This sandwich is a little beige – none of the flavours really stand out, making it a pleasant but ultimately dull attempt. Helen Figgy pudding energy balls, £2.50 Energy balls are the tyranny of modern living. You’re not allowed to just guzzle a Red Bull or hoof some Pro Plus these days – instead, you are expected to eat a compact beige sphere stuffed full of slow-release blandness to get through the day. But Crussh’s figgy pudding ones are different. With almonds, figs, sultanas, cranberries, citrus zest and mixed spices, they’re like eating an indulgent, spicy bath bomb of mulled wine in two bites. Being vegan-friendly and free of dairy and gluten, they don’t sound like the kind of thing that would taste deliciously and richly like Christmas, but they do. I’m not quite bouncing off the walls, but I do feel like I’ll make it to 6pm today. And that’s saying something. Anoosh We had a fridge malfunction partway through our taste test, so unfortunately there were a few perishable samples we couldn’t include. Apologies if you sent us something we didn’t feature. All photos: promotional Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor. She co-hosts the New Statesman podcast, discussing the latest in UK politics. Subscribe For the latest TV, art, films and book reviews subscribe for just £1 per month!