Our High Streets are overflowing with Christmas treats

PUBLISHED: 13:53 18 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:37 07 September 2010

There s no need to tear your hair out among the crowds on Oxford Street, there s plenty of delicatessens and markets in north London which are overflowing with Christmas treats, says Frances Bissell Think you have left it too late to do your Christmas s

There's no need to tear your hair out among the crowds on Oxford Street, there's plenty of delicatessens and markets in north London which are overflowing with Christmas treats, says Frances Bissell

Think you have left it too late to do your Christmas shopping? Can't face the West End and its crowds of Euro-spenders? Help is at hand on the local high street for all the Christmas presents one might need - as well as last minute shopping to aid the festivities.

Look for panettone and pandoro from Giacobazzi's in South End Green, together with lovely Italian condiments, such as mostarda di frutta (fruit relish), ideal with Boxing Day left-overs, and the fresh Levoni cotechino (pork sausage) you might want to pick up for New Year's Day.

Plus, of course, you'll want at least one batch of home-made pasta for a first course. Our favourite is the sumptuous tortellini alla zucca, richly spiced, sweet and savoury pumpkin filling, which needs nothing more to dress it than some melted butter infused with fresh sage leaves and some freshly grated Parmesan.

Pomona on Haverstock Hill, in Belsize Park, always has a fabulous array of fruit at this time of year, the perfect place to fill a box or basket with quinces and custard apples, chestnuts, pomegranates, clementines, mixed nuts and new season's lemons from Sicily and perhaps a pot or two of herbs.

At Rosslyn Deli on Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead village, you can make up a hamper of American goodies for a homesick expatriate, syrup and grits, Bisquik mix and don't forget the Reece's Peanut Butter Cups. Or put together a fabulous Continental cheeseboard, with some matching bread or biscuits for an instant gift for your hostess.

In the Community Market on Hampstead High Street on Saturdays, look for French cheeses and saucisson sec, goose fat, a handsome home-made cake or selection of tarts and a range of oils, including argan oil from Morocco, of which both culinary and cosmetic versions are available.

A selection of the finest artisan English and Irish cheeses from Neal's Yard, in the Community Market (from Thursday to Saturday) and a brace of oven-ready pheasant from Meat Naturally, plus a bag of the delicious miniature mince pies will make you a very welcome guest over the holidays.

That's also true of a box of 25 oysters from Hampstead Seafoods on Hampstead High Street, especially if accompanied by an oyster knife from Andrews Hardware on Heath Street, Hampstead. In fact, with just those items, there are the perfect ingredients for Christmas Day.

Ahhhh! Andrews! What would we do without them? This is a treasure trove for the cook, with all the handsome things we would like as presents, but then also the small essential gadgets we cannot find anywhere else outside the Lakeland catalogue.

It is a good place to buy unusual containers for presents, from plant pots and watering cans to soufflé dishes and other ceramics.

But it is also worth looking at Jackie's house clearance stall in Flask Walk, Hampstead, as well as Oxfam, the Marie Curie charity shop on Haverstock Hill, Belsize Park, and the Octavia Foundation shop in South End Green. Here is where to find a porcelain plate to pile high with home-made shortbread, a china teacup and saucer for you to fill with chocolate truffles, a polished wooden bowl to fill with nuts or citrus.

Kentish Town High Street and the Phoenicia Food Hall is where I shall be heading to stock up on nuts, dried fruit, Turkish Delight, olives and other Middle Eastern delicacies to serve after dinner.

Then it's on to The Wine Cellar at number 193 for a selection of Portuguese wines, the reds perfect winter warmers, and patron Nuno Lobo's guidance is always utterly reliable. A few well-chosen Portuguese cheeses will add to the interest of the holiday cheeseboard, especially when accompanied by some quince or guava paste, and don't forget the port.

A Happy Christmas to you all.

More of Frances' Christmas recipes can be found in her book Entertaining, published by Macmillan and available on-line.


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