Thursday, 12 December 2013

REVIEW: Grey's Fine Foods Spanish gourmet hamper

A hamper is generally a welcome gift in my home, but Christmas ones less so - when you live alone, baskets full of Christmas pudding, family-sized tins of chocolate biscuits and the like seem like a wasted opportunity as well as useless (I hate Christmas pudding and it would take me half a year to get through a tin of biscuits).
Hampers like this, though? Now you're talking. This fabulous package came from Grey's Fine Foods, which imports a huge range of artisan Spanish produce, and is perfect for one person. I love Spanish food - I know my way reasonably round both standard and regional menus, sometimes cook Spanish dishes and am generally influenced by the cuisine. So a truckload of gourmet imported Spanish products is the sort of thing to put a smile on my face.
I tore into the charcuterie for a quick lunch. The Ibérico ham, produced from the renowned Iberian black pig, is a wonderfully dark red colour with a rich, nutty depth of flavour from their acorn and grassland diet. There was a good layer of creamy fat too, which for me is essential on an air-dried ham. The black pig salchiçon has a lighter flavour, with tones of fennel and something fruity that I couldn't quite place. I had these simply on a plate, with a handful of salted Spanish almonds (not in the hamper but lurking in my larder) and some of the roasted peppers straight from the jar. They had a decent, firm texture and a sweet intensity. The only thing missing was a glass of chilled fino sherry. 
I had a quick nibble of the chocolate, which was made with olive oil and sea salt - I could taste both of these, which cut nicely through the sweetness of the chocolate. The turrón I'm saving for when I crave a proper sugar hit - sticky Spanish nougat is always a winner for me because I love the chewy, nutty mix of honey, toasted almonds and egg white. It's a generous pack too, which will last me months. Alarmingly, when I took it out of the box the oils had leached out into the plastic vacuum wrapper so it will need to be opened carefully.
Of the store-cupboard ingredients, I dipped a little bread in the olive oil with my lunch. It was fruity with a distinctly peppery kick, definitely one for drizzling and dipping rather than cooking with. I love the pretty ceramic bottle - I'll be looking to reuse it in my kitchen for something. I was also blown away by the cute packaging of the piquant pimentón, which had a fiery punch beneath its dark smokiness. I'll be using that in my paella.
I'm not a big fan of tinned tuna, as most in the UK are cheap and nasty and taste very unpleasant - my larder tends to have sardines and mackerel instead. This can of bonito tuna (in olive oil, which really marks it out as a cut above) will make a great fallback staple though for a quick tuna and bean salad. I love gazpacho, the chilled tomato and cucumber soup - so easy to make yet never as good as the real thing. This bottle is also a great store-cupboard standby although I'll probably wait until the weather's warmer to eat it.
All in all, this is excellent value. All the products are artisanal and their total worth is slightly more than the cost of the hamper. The only item I missed was a wedge of manchego cheese, which would have rounded it out perfectly. Almost everything was in amounts ideal for one person: the charcuterie packs are 100g, for example. The packaging was beautiful and even the wooden crate - once I'd turfed Nelson out of what he thought was his new bed - was quickly repurposed as a storage box for my home office. 

Now the details... The Grey's Hamper costs £50 from Grey’s Fine Foods, one of a range starting from £35. Delivery is usually 3-7 days but they offer a one-day service too if you plan to order for Christmas (either for yourself - and why not? - or as a present).

Disclaimer: With thanks to Grey’s Fine Foods and Coffeepot Digital. I received the hamper free of charge, for review purposes. All views and opinions are my own and I was not paid nor obliged to write a positive review.