Taste of Christmas and Chestnut Gnocchi!

Taste of Christmas – Excel London

It was a bit of a lightening trip around Taste Christmas this year for me – but heavily incentivated by the chance to take part in the Electrolux Theatre event and learn some secrets from the chefs…in my case Aiden Byrne.  More of what I learnt there in a minute.  Sadly I couldn’t shop because I was on my way to Birmingham..so, you know I did what any girl in my stilettos would do, and TASTED a lot!

Taste of Christmas is run by the same people who organise Taste of London and follows much the same format, with food and drink specialists and a whole range of restaurant stands where you can sample food.

For me at least, it has the advantage of being indoors and slightly quieter than Taste of London.  And, it’s an excellent way to get some ideas for Christmas food.

I really enjoyed tasting some great Compte cheeses

best compte cheese

Some lovely bacon from Denhay Farms in Dorset (if they sold bacon rolls I’d have been there!!! as it was I just nibbled on the tasters and reminded myself that I could buy some from Waitrose!

best bacon!

And some great Italian cured meats and cheese

best italian

I was trying to remember why LIMA sounded familiar – only after chatting to the Managing Director did I remember that I missed a cocktail event there that happened while I was in Tuscany.  But I did get to try some of their fabulous peruvian food.

The Seabass Ceviche which was light and tangy without being too overpowering and beautifully presented, despite the ‘interesting’ challenges of makeshift kitchens!

lima sea bass ceviche

And the salmon – Organic salmon tiradito with rocoto pepper, tigers milk, powdered corn and ginger – which was intriguing.  Gabriel, the Managing Director, explained to me that Peruvian food draws some of its influences from Japanese settlers who began arriving in Peru in the 1800s.  So, this raw fish dish is rather like a spicy version of sashimi – and very delicious too.

lima salmon II

Of course, no visit to Taste would be complete without a few sips of something nice and alcoholic.  In my case I tried some of the Hayman’s gins and particularly enjoyed the 1850 reserve – which is distilled in small batches of 5000 bottles and rested in old Scotch Whisky Barrels for 3-4 weeks.  Rather like their equally fabulous sloe gin, this is a drink that doesn’t need a mixer…

hayman's 1850 reserve gin

I visited a few wine stands too, but the one which stands out for me was Croatian Fine Wines.  I’d had a brief introduction to Croatian wines at a recent travel show and was really curious to see what their top end wines were like.  This sweet Muscat was  fruity and floral and would make a great aperitif and seems very reasonably priced at £12.49 for 500ml.

croatian fine wines


croatian fine wines2

And this was a splendid rich  wine aged for twelve months in oak “barrique” barrels.  With a deep ruby-red colour and wild berry aroma tinged with vanilla this would be a great accompaniment to game!

Time to go cook – the beautifully fitted out Electrolux theatre allowed about 30 of us to have a go at making a christmassy gnocchi dish

chefs secrets

And it was great to see one of the North of England’s chefs down south showing us all how to knock up a quick gnocchi (sorry!!!!)

aiden byrne

Remarkably unassuming, Aiden focussed on how to make something easy and delicious.  The Gnocchi was simply mashed potato, egg and a little flour, all mixed together and then rolled out into a sausage and cut up much in the same way that I was taught to make pasta.  And the sauce was a finely chopped onion softened in oil with a little thyme, then mixed with madeira and stock and reduced down with the chopped chestnuts before adding butter to finish.

chestnut sauce for gnocchi


I’m planning on trying this at home and if I can reproduce it, I’ll write out the recipe with quantities.  It was seriously good though and took about 20 minutes to make from start to finish…in fact I think ours lost shape a little because we overboiled the gnocchi…but we still managed to eat it all!  I’m always impressed with induction hobs, I don’t have one but the technology fascinates me (they heat by induction, so the plates themselves never get hot – and they are much more energy efficient as a result).  Those we used were CLEARLY effective (hence overboiling the gnocchi).  They heated our food really quickly and seemed to be very responsive.

gnocchi finished

Now, having been knocked out by the Gnocchi, I only had just enough time to grab a quick chocolate from the Fererro Rocher stand before heading off to Birmingham.

taste christmas ferrero rocher

Many thanks though to Electrolux for inviting me along and to the exhibitors I met.


4.5 / 5 stars     
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