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christmas is just around the corner: introducing co-op's festive irresistible range.

Christmas spices, mince pies, mulled wine and lots of cheese... Christmas is just the best time for food. Party food in particular is always a treat! I love a good spread of festive favourites, ready to delve into whilst catching up with friends and family. I went along to discover what's in store for Central England Co-op for the merriest of seasons - and had my first mince pie of 2016. (Well, that's assuming I haven't forgotten about all the leftovers I ate back in January). 

Like Co-op shops themselves, the lovely team have aptly opted for the tagline "Christmas is just around the corner." And it's true, December 25th really is just around the corner. I for one can't wait to open the first door on my advent calendar...

Greeted with a couple of glasses of fizz and a warm welcome from the team and chef, the Seasoned Cookery School had been totally transformed into a showcase of festive food. I always grab a Co-op magazine for my coffee table - I love their food styling and always find it helpful for inspiration in my own photography.

With a few canapés and some delicious pigs in blankets, it was soon time to find out more about the Christmas collections and how to rustle them up at home. Simplicity was key, showing you from start to finish how you can easily bake, prepare and serve the dishes in record timing. A lot of the baked products called for the same oven times and temperatures, whilst garnishes were easy to accomplish.

The first dishes came in the form of chunky sausage rolls, posh salmon quiches and pate with chutney. Our chef Ian came up with some great combination ideas, including serving pate with garlic flatbreads. A rather dangerously tasty duo.

For main course, we indulged in step-by-step Christmas trimmings, melt in the middle salmon fishcakes and sweet potato pies. They were lots of veggie and seafood ideas, along with the traditional side dishes you'd expect. (Brussels - yes!) All that was missing was the turkey! I took a couple of the salmon fishcakes home - which are waiting in my freezer for a super easy and delicious midweek meal.

To conclude, there had to be dessert. Whether you're a Christmas pud fanatic or prefer an alternative festive treat, there was plenty to try.

We began with a billionaire's cheesecake - super easy to bring out and impress your guests. The sparkly sweet went really well with the Cornish clotted cream vanilla ice cream, which is available all year round. Not there on the night, I was wowed by pictures of their chocolate and passionfruit star, available from December 19th.

A nd of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without a festive pud and warm mince pies. The Irresistible range offers packs of six luxury mince pies made from British apples, a mix of juicy sultanas and currants, with textures of almonds and walnuts. The port and brandy soaked mincemeat is then encased in a crumbly and buttery pastry case just waiting to be enjoyed with a cup of tea (or glass of mulled wine...)

Although struggling for room, I had to try of of their melt-in-the-mouth truffles. The perfect end to a rather Christmassy evening. Honestly, I don't know how Santa fits it all in...

Have you tried any of the Co-op's Irresistible Christmas range? What will be on your table come December 25th?

I was invited to try out the Irresistible range as a guest. All opinions, words and photographs my own.