Lifestyle

OK!’s ultimate Christmas taste test, most authentic mince pies and a showstopper pudding for just £10

We really are spoilt for choice when it comes to Christmas. And with a huge range of delicious food cramming the shelves it can be difficult to know what to buy. Factor in value for money, brand and even appearance and things get more complicated still.

Stores pull out all the stops to entice us with their festive offerings, from beautiful packaging to the best Christmas food adverts of the year, but we all want to shop smartly with the best, informed decisions made – which is where we step in.

From mince pies and statement desserts to veggie options and the best glass of fizz you'll ever pour, our team have forced themselves/ had the best fun ever sampling all the best delights around to help you with your shopping plans.

Party nibbles

Winner

Tesco Fish & pea rosti baskets, £4.50

TASTE: 10/10

APPEARANCE: 8/10

VALUE: 9/10

Verdict: A twist on the classic takeaway, the rostis feature juicy battered basa fish, a helping of mouth-watering mushy peas and a potato rosti basket. The salt and vinegar seasoning had us dreaming of the seaside – we could have eaten this three times over.

M&S Pulled beef & potato rosti towers, £7

TASTE: 8/10

APPEARANCE: 7/10

VALUE: 6/10

Verdict: Combining crispy potato rostis with slow-cooked beef, creamy cheese sauce and a red wine and port jus, these are the ultimate comfort dish. They are on the pricier side for 10 towers, but they do pack a punch with every mouthful.

Sainsbury’s Cheddar & Confit Onion Bites, £4.50

TASTE: 8/10

APPEARANCE: 6/10

VALUE: 7/10

Verdict: Cheese lovers, these will be right up your street. With extra-mature Cheddar, sweet confit onions and a Chardonnay white sauce all encased in crispy onion breadcrumbs, these bites are creamy without being overpowering.

Iceland Crispy Coated Butterfly Prawns, £6

TASTE: 8/10

APPEARANCE: 8/10

VALE: 8/10

Verdict: Coated in two flavours – sweet chilli and garlic and herb – these prawns have got something for everyone. The sweet chilli had a delicious, subtle kick while the garlic and herb prawns were seasoned to perfection.

Lidl Deluxe salt and Vinegar Fish & Chip Sliders, £3.99

TASTE: 7/10

APPEARANCE: 6/10

VALUE: 6/10

Verdict: These bites feature basa chunks in a salt and vinegar batter alongside a mushy pea sauce and a chip. While the flavour is good, and we love the concept, we found that the chips were a little on the limp side.

Prosecco

Winner

Iceland Maison de la Rougerie Brut Crémant de Bordeaux, £9.50

TASTE: 9/10

APPEARANCE: 9/10

VALUE: 10/10

Verdict: Plenty of bubbles and a gorgeous, smooth finish on the palate makes this a first-class affordable alternative to Champagne. Crisp and refreshing, it’s an ideal choice as a classy pre-dinner tipple or to impress your party guests.

Sainsbury’s Conegliano Prosecco Superiore, £9.75 (on offer for £7.50)

TASTE: 8/10

APPEARANCE: 9/10

VALUE: 9/10

Verdict: Zesty without being acidic, this has a gorgeous pale colour in the glass and just the right amount of sparkle. It’s neither too sharp nor overly sweet, so makes a very drinkable choice.

Lidl valdobbiadene prosecco superiore, £7.99

TASTE: 8/10

APPEARANCE: 8/10

VALUE: 9/10

Verdict: Lots of flavours of apples and pears in this fizz, but without being sweet or cloying. Plenty of bubbles too, so it stays fizzy in the glass and with its pretty bottle, looks more expensive than it is.

M&S Bellante Prosecco, £12

TASTE: 7/10

APPEARANCE: 8/10

VALUE: 6/10

Verdict: Quite a dry fizz, which won’t suit everyone, but is nevertheless a dependable choice that comes in a stunning bottle and has a real taste of summery, ripe peaches about it. Good easy drinking to accompany those party nibbles.

Tesco Prosecco Rose Brut, £8

TASTE: 5/10

APPEARANCE: 7/10

VALUE: 6/10

Verdict: It was a struggle to detect the "fresh ripe red berries and citrus fruit flavours" promised on the label although there was a tangy after-taste. Its pink colour might make it a choice for a girls’ night, but there are better tipples out there for this price.

Vegetarian and vegan mains

Winner

Tesco Finest Roasted Butternut, Spinach & Sage Galette, £7

TASTE: 10/10

APPEARANCE: 10/10

VALUE: 8/10

Verdict: Gorgeous buttery pastry surrounds a generous, colourful filling with the earthy spinach and sage complemented perfectly by the sweetness of butternut squash. Beware – non-veggies will be fighting for a slice.

Lidl Deluxe Vegan Sausage and Cranberry Wreath, £4.99

TASTE: 9/10

APPEARANCE: 9/10

VALUE: 9/10

Verdict: With tangy cranberry complementing its vegan sausage filling, this looks great on the plate. The seasoning is just right, and with light and crisp puff pastry this is one dish that won’t last long on the Christmas table.

Iceland The No Meat Company No Turkey Roast, £6

TASTE: 8/10

APPEARANCE: 6/10

VALUE: 9/10

Verdict: A great no-meat main for traditionalists who’d like something that looks like turkey. Made from pea protein, this vegan-friendly “joint” has a sage and red onion stuffing that hits the spot when you add roasties and veggie gravy.

M&S Brie, Butternut and Mushroom Wellington, £20

TASTE: 7/10

APPEARANCE: 6/10

VALUE: 6/10

Verdict: Flaky lattice pastry surrounds a lovely mix of cheese and veg – but we found that cutting slices was a bit messy. The pastry could have been crisper inside, but the rich, mushroom and squash flavours make up for that.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Maple Parsnip and Chestnut Wreath, £7.25

TASTE: 6/10

APPEARANCE: 8/10

VALUE: 7/10

Verdict: Could be the main course, but also looks great in portions for a buffet. The pastry was good, but there was an overpowering thyme and sage flavour to the filling, which was like a dense vegetarian stuffing.

Statement desserts

Winner

Tesco Finest Orange and Mascarpone Highwall Cheesecake, £10

TASTE: 9/10

APPEARANCE: 10/10

VALUE: 9/10

Verdict: We were lost for words on this one. Festive spiced ginger flavours in the crust and strong zesty orange within the thick creamy mascarpone filling make it a seasonal delight! The beautiful deep orange glaze with a sensational shimmering golden coating is a massive bonus, too.

M&S Frozen Trifle Caked Alaska, £12

TASTE: 8/10

APPEARANCE: 7/10

VALUE: 7/10

Verdict: The 1970s retro feel of this brings us joy, and the presentation is great. The whole raspberries combined with the rich, delicious custard and cream are stars of the show in this dessert. Beautiful served chilled, this is a welcome dessert if you don’t fancy a warm pudding after your hot dinner.

Iceland Luxury Caramelised Biscuit Sticky Toffee Star, £7

TASTE: 6/10

APPEARANCE: 8/10

VALUE: 7/10

Verdict: We thought this was on the heavier side to follow a huge Christmas dinner. But with chopped dates throughout, this is spectacular with custard and a perfect alternative to the traditional Christmas pudding. Just leave it a few hours, until you’ve digested your sprouts.

Lidl Belgian Dark Chocolate Double Smash Cake, £8.99

TASTE: 7/10

APPEARANCE: 9/10

VALUE: 7/10

Verdict: A fun addition to your Christmas table, this dessert ticked the "statement" part perfectly, but was lacking when it came to providing enough actual pudding, with the bulk of our each portion coming from the smashed chocolate pieces. The salted caramel sauce was divine, though.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Salted Caramel and Chocolate Bombe, £9.50

TASTE: 6/10

APPEARANCE: 5/10

VALUE: 7/10

Verdict: Under £10 feels like a treat, but a lot of the content is sauce – meaning it won’t go far between many family members. It has gorgeous flavours though, and the chocolate filling is silky smooth and not overly sweet. Absolutely delightful with pouring cream or brandy sauce.

Mince pies

Winner

Iceland Luxury All Butter Mince Pies, £2.50

TASTE: 9/10

APPEARANCE: 9/10

VALUE: 9/10

Verdict: In terms of taste, this is your classic mince pie with a fruity and Christmassy flavour. The consistency of the pastry is flaky and the filling is moist and delicious. Good value for money too, as you get six in a pack. Perfect for traditionalists who like to stick with classics.

Sainsbury’s Cherry and Kirsch Mince Pies, £2.75

TASTE: 8/10

APPEARANCE: 8/10

VALUE: 7/10

Verdict: A lovely melt-in-the-mouth mince pie with a cherry and kirsch kick. You get four pies in a pack so they aren’t as good value for money, but they’re a great luxury addition to a dessert board if you want to pay a bit more. Enjoy with custard for a really indulgent treat.

Tesco Finest Golden Mince Pies, £2.50

TASTE: 8/10

APPEARANCE: 8/10

VALUE: 7/10

Verdict: We think the Merry Christmas message on the top is a lovely touch – it made us smile and makes these stand out from the crowd a little. But they’re not all style and no substance – this is a really yummy and rich mince pie with a buttery taste that is definitely worth the money.

M&S Chocolate and hazelnut collection mince pies, £4

TASTE: 5/10

APPEARANCE: 8/10

VALUE: 5/10

Verdict: A very, very rich and dense chocolatey mince pie. Indulgent but, honestly, these weren’t for us, we’d prefer a mince pie or chocolate tart, not mixed together. These are on the pricier side but might suit those looking to treat themselves or who want to tray something a bit different.

Lidl Deluxe All Butter Mince Pies, £2.19

TASTE: 6/10

APPEARANCE: 7/10

VALUE: 8/10

Verdict: Simple, standard mince pies. They taste okay, but the texture is more dense than the other offerings we tested, which we struggled with. However, they are worth the money if you’re a fan of heavier desserts as you get six for £2.19. And because they are denser, you could make do with just one (yeah, right).

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