A Chef Shares What’s In Her Christmas Food Shop
A Chef Shares What’s In Her Christmas Food Shop

A Chef Shares What’s In Her Christmas Food Shop

Stuck in a rut when it comes to your festive food shopping? What if you could have a peek at someone else’s for fresh inspiration? We asked Jess McGill – chef and co-owner of plant-based Peckham restaurant Omni – about her big Christmas shop. From festive snacks to statement cheese boards, here are her favourite picks…

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FRUIT & VEG

Squash: One of my favourite veggies and a great way to add colour to side dishes. Delica pumpkins are the best, but I also love classic butternut squash chopped up and roasted with the main Christmas dinner. I also like it roasted with ginger, garlic, chilli and firm tofu for a midweek supper.

Parsnips: These are a Christmas classic, and they’re hard to get wrong. The natural sweetness means they caramelise easily, but you could add a good glug of maple syrup. I also like to blitz them with a bit of salt and garlic to create a festive dip alternative to hummus. 

Fennel: Either kept fresh and enjoyed in a salad with lots of lemon and olive oil, or fried with a little seasoning, I love fennel. It’s great roasted with a little olive oil and served with your Christmas leftovers.

Jerusalem Artichokes: These are sweet and delicious roasted or pan fried in slices then blitzed to make a rich soup or purée. 

Hispi Cabbage: Ditch white cabbage in your Christmas roast and try hispi for extra flavour. Charred with olive oil and salt, it doesn’t need much else to improve your spread. You can also top with some crushed toasted nuts or a bechamel-style sauce with a mushroom crumb.

FRIDGE STAPLES & CHEESE

Plant-Based Butter: Flora is my go-to for festive baking and cooking. This is the closest I’ve found to real butter, but Vitalite is another good alternative. 

Unsweetened Soya Milk: I prefer this for making garlicky aioli and winter salad dressings. It has to be unsweetened, however, otherwise you’re in danger of a very sweet mayonnaise and it only works with soya milk due to the structure of the soya beans. 

Capers: Over the festive season we like to make pizzas at home and use up whatever leftover cheese is knocking about. Capers are essential for adding a salty punch and extra flavour. 

Miso Paste: Miso is the secret ingredient to lots of plant-based dishes. It adds extra depth and flavour – you can add it to any roasted veg, but it works particularly well with tenderstem broccoli or Brussels sprouts. 

M&S Vegan Pigs in Duvets: Our Christmas dinner is mostly veggie, so we like to have lots of these plant-based pigs in blankets. It’s a mix of mushroom and soya sausages, and soya and 'chorizo' sausages wrapped in pastry. 

This Isn't Chicken Plant Based Pieces: Great for creating a Boxing Day sandwich, layered with seasoned veg and sliced tomato, hot sauce and a decent spread of vegan mayo.

Cathedral City Plant-Based Cheddar: This is the best plant-based cheese you can get in the supermarket. A lot of the others have a buttery aftertaste that I don’t love, but this is a good one for Christmas sandwiches or snacking. 

La Fromagerie's Cheesemongers' Festive Board: La Fromagerie is one of the best places in the capital to buy cheese. When we’re entertaining over Christmas, we buy one of its festive cheeseboards which includes a Tomme de Fleurette, Sao Jorge, L’Etivaz, Soumaintrain, Herve Vieux Moulin and a bleu de Queyras – covering all the bases of hard, soft and blue. 

Baron Bigod: Fen Farm Dairy is an excellent producer in Suffolk, and its Baron Bigod is delicious. The farmhouse brie-style cheese is best with crispy crackers and onion chutney.

OMNI

CUPBOARD ESSENTIALS

Peter’s Yard Crackers: I love Peter’s Yard crackers and the Rosemary & Sea Salt flavour is a great choice with a festive cheeseboard and any leftover meat. They’re extra crispy and stand up to stronger cheeses, too.

It’s Bagels: This newly opened store in Primrose Hill makes delicious fresh bagels each day, so I’m looking forward to picking up an order to enjoy over Christmas. We’ll freeze half a dozen and enjoy the others on Christmas morning with a festive tipple.

Lentils: I always have lentils in the cupboard for a bit of balance, either to bulk out dishes or make a big batch of dhal. You can add in whatever leftover meat you have and drizzle over some creme fraiche and extra virgin olive oil.

Rapeseed Oil: This is my favourite neutral oil to cook with. Roast potatoes come out extra crispy and you can use it in air fryers, too.

Dried Shiitakes: I have these on hand to elevate dishes like stocks and broths. You can also fry them to add a crispy ‘bacon’ style crumb to salads or Brussels sprouts.

SNACKS & TREATS

Bonilla A La Vista Patatas Fritas Crisps: These crisps are pricy but Christmas is all about treating yourself. They’re vegan, have just the right amount of salt, and are incredibly moreish. 

Selfridges Chocolate & Hazelnut Gianduja Spread: This is a decadent treat, slathered over toasted panettone – or eaten out of the jar by the spoon!

Divine Milk Chocolate Golden Coins: It’s not Christmas without a handful of chocolate coins in the stockings. These ones from Divine are made with Fair Trade cocoa beans.

West Country Legends Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese Straws: Moreish and delicious, these are made with buttery puff pastry. A lovely snack alongside canapés.

Dried Mango: This is a real treat for me, and a great option after a few too many biscuits. I also like to add some topped on my fruit and boozy Christmas trifle.

Pistachios: A great salty snack with crisps and a cold beer or glass of fizz. I usually toss some crushed over roasted veg.

Cashew Nuts: A delicious addition to creamy sauces, cashews add a nutty richness and depth that can be missing from plant-based sauces otherwise. If you leave them to soak and ferment overnight, they can then be blitzed into a cashew paste, like a cheese spread.

FREEZER ITEMS

Petit pois: No other peas will suffice, I’m afraid. Petit pois rarely go hard like other garden peas and are delicious sautéed with butter, garlic, chilli and herbs. They’re also a good staple to have when making a risotto or pie with leftover turkey or chicken.

Frozen Spinach: This goes so much further than fresh spinach and it’s the right consistency cooked in dishes like a sag aloo curry – a great choice between Christmas and NYE when you’ve overindulged.

Dumplings: I love dumplings and gyozas, which can be steamed or fried as a cheat’s canapé. 

Sourdough Bread: I like to keep sliced sourdough in the freezer, ready to be toasted on Christmas Day morning and enjoyed with freshly squeezed orange juice, or as a late-night snack with butter and Marmite.

Jus-Rol Croissants Dough: This also stores well in the freezer. Once defrosted you can quickly roll each croissant or pop in a square or two of chocolate for a pain au chocolat.

DRINKS

Krasna Hora, Anna Pet Nat: At Omni, we get this from Basket Press Wines. It’s a pet nat, so much less sweet than most supermarket fizz. It’s perfect for a special occasion like those Christmas toasts.

Utopia Ice Cider: Like a dessert wine, you only need a tiny glass of it at a time, but this is special, deliciously sweet and such a treat. 

Sloe Gin: My parents make sloe gin each year, so this is ‘Christmas in a glass’ for me, enjoyed by the fire at the end of a chilly day. 

Mulled wine: A highlight of winter is the first mulled wine of the year. I’m not particularly fussy and enjoy the supermarket one just as much as making our own with a bit of cinnamon, mixed spice, cloves, orange slices and sugar.

OMNI


SHOP JESS' FAVOURITES

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