Independent food writers select the delicacies that would fill their ideal hampers, then we cast an eye over the companies that do it all for you

We are just so over Italian. Instead, for our virtual hampers, we've tracked down healthy Oriental delicacies, French fancies, trad Brit and good food with which to feed a family over Christmas. For those that insist on Italian, we've rounded up the amaretti, panettone and biscotti packages, as well as other hampers for festive feasting or gourmet giving without schlepping round the shops. If you're planning to order by mail, move fast; deadlines for delivery by Christmas are looming.

Tradition with passion

Pair of Manx kippers, £3.65 including delivery or multiply by 12 for a monthly consignment. (George Devereau & Son 01624 673257.)

Montgomery Cheddar and jar of tomato chutney from Garden Chutneys. A really tangy mature Cheddar from Somerset, £3.83 for 250g, chutney, £2.99. (The Fine Cheese Co,

Taylor's of Harrogate Nagri Farm Special Rare Darjeeling, 125g caddy £4.95 excluding postage. (Bettys by Post, 0845 345 3636, or Bettys Tea Rooms in York, Ilkley, Northallerton and Harrogate.)

Stockan & Gardens Petticoat Tails, 69p. (Selected Asda stores in Scotland, fine food shops and delis, or in Tods of Orkney's tin of award-winning oatcakes, shortbread and preserves, £12.50 including delivery 01856 873165.)

Denhay Farms dry cured bacon. Tastes as bacon should, comes from pigs fed on whey. From £2.25 for 250g pack of streaky; minimum order four packs. (Denhay Farms, 01308 458963 for mail order and stockists.)

Country Game Box: venison to roast, a brace of pheasants, game pie, cranberry and orange relish, cold smoked trout, £65 including delivery. (Heal Farm, 01769 574341 or

Tracklements Strong English Mustard, £1.60-£1.90. Case of six £7.20. (Tracklements, 0800 731 3229 for deli, butchers, farm shops and grocer stockists or mail order.)

Duchy Originals Lemon Curd, £2.75. (Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Safeway).

Elvas plums, preserved greengages, 500g, £17.95. (Fortnum & Mason.)

Berkshire Butteries. Bread rolls made on the Yattendon Estate in Berkshire, packet of four, £1.75. (Selected Cullens, Somerfield, independent and farm shops, stockist inquiries, 01635 203900.)

Geo Watkins Mushroom Ketchup, to give sauces a savoury kick, £1.19. (Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco.)

Hamper filled by Caroline Stacey

Orient without excess

Bunalun Organic Farm Thai black rice in a jar. Purply-black rice essential for coconut-flavoured desserts and porridges, £4.50 (Fortnum & Mason.)

Clearspring 100 per cent buckwheat soba noodles, to add to soup or dip into soy sauce flavoured with ginger and spring onion, £2.99. (Fresh & Wild or

Khun Perm's Original Recipe Yum Talay Thai seafood salad dressing, £1.75. (Harvey Nichols.)

Khun Perm's Original Recipe Tom Karr Thai coconut and galangal soup. Add water and prawns, chicken or beef for a piquant soup, £1.75. (Harvey Nichols.)

Namjai Natural Palm Sugar Pot. A sticky, toffee-like sugar, essential for Thai salad dressings and great used in regular desserts and baking, £1.99. (Sainsbury's.)

Clearspring organic, toasted sesame oil. To sprinkle over zen-like dishes for an intense toasted flavour, £2.49. (Fresh & Wild, Sainsbury's or

Bundle of extra-long cinnamon sticks. Looks pretty on the buffet but lasts all year in the kitchen, £7.50. (Marchents.)

Umu Organic Sencha green tea caddy. Fine Japanese tea, acknowledged for its health benefits such as cancer-fighting antioxidants, and possibly even weight-loss encouragement. £9.95. (Harvey Nichols.)

Keiko Green Kiss green tea drops with ginger, £1.75. (Harvey Nichols.)

Kasugai Peas & You Wasabi Green Peas, an addictive, spicy alternative to crisps, £2.65. (Harvey Nichols.)

Brown rice and black sesame seed crackers, £1.99. (Sainsbury's, Fresh & Wild or

Hamper filled by Jenni Muir

Family values

Box of 24 English apples. Choose from: Egremont Russets, Coxes or Kidds Orange Red, or a mixed box, £9.95. (Marchents.)

Traidcraft Apricot Geobars. A box of 24 oat, raisin, honey and apricot snack bars, £7.50. (0191-491 0591 or, or in sixes from supermarkets.)

Swaddles Green cottage pie. It's organic, meaty, beefy and with creamy mash on top; frozen for up to six people, £22.40. (Swaddles Green, 01460 234387 for orders and stockists of individual meals – from Cullens, Fresh & Wild and Planet Organic stores.)

Half a Welsh Mountain lamb, from a cooperative of 20 organic farms in West Wales, £39.95 plus £5 delivery. (Cambrian Organics 01559 363151,, order by 14 December.)

A dozen quails eggs, £1.20. (Teesdale Trencherman, 01833 638370,, and leading supermarkets.)

Merchant Gourmet's Banoffee Toffee or dulce de leche. Argentinians eat this caramelised condensed milk on pancakes; try it on ice cream, £1.69. (Sainsbury's, Waitrose or Teesdale Trencherman, 01833 638370 or

Green and Black's vanilla ice cream, organic and creamy, from the company that pioneered fair trade chocolate. £3.79. (Sainsbury's)

& Clarke's granola, 500g £6.50. (& Clarke's, Kensington Church Street, London W8, 020-7229 2190.)

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference delicata mushroom-and-red-onion pizza. Thin, crisp, convincingly Italian, £3.49.

Bonanza Tin. A red tin bucket with five mini packs of double chocolate brownies and two mini packs of classic chocolate-chip cookies, 500g tin £24.95. (Marchents.)

Hamper filled by Caroline Stacey

French leave

Box of eight Mont Blanc Bouchées chocolates filled with mousse, £20 plus £6 postage. (La Reine Astride, 27 Burlington Arcade, London W1, 020-7499 8558.)

Crystallised violets, £3.05 for 100g plus £2 postage. (Comptoir Gascon.)

Fleur de Sel, the top of Brittany's salt crop, redolent of the sea, £5.85 ,plus £2 postage. (Comptoir Gascon.)

Vacherin Mont d'Or, a gorgeous French cheese, 760g £9.95. (Harrods.)

Champagne, Billecart Salmon NV Rosé, £31.95 or £15.95 half bottle. £11.75 postage. (Lea and Sandeman, 020-7221 1982.)

Fossier Biscuits Rose, sponge biscuits, £2.45. (Selfridges.)

Calvados, Chateau du Breuil VSOP, £22.95 plus £11.95 postage. (Lea and Sandeman, 020-7221 1982.)

Limogue chestnuts, the best for roasting, £6.99 per kilo. (Harrods.)

Poilane sourdough bread, 2kg loaf for £7.10. (Poilane, 46 Elizabeth Street, London SW1, 020-7808 4910.)

Four-dozen rock oysters, £43.50 including delivery. Order Loch Rock oysters from Scotland, and they'll keep for a couple of days. (Loch Fyne, 01499 600264, last orders 10 December for delivery between 13, 18, 30 and 21 December.)

Hamper filled by Annie Bell

Happy hamper people

If you haven't got the time to tailor-make your own hamper, here are some of the best companies that will do it for you. Most will accept orders up to 12 December, but some are later, so check for details.

Carluccio's (020-7580 2552). All-Italian hampers. From £25 for a terracotta dish with a packet of egg garganelli pasta and two sauces, to £100 for everything you'll need to make an Italian meal.

Comptoir Gascon, 61-63 Charterhouse Street, London EC1 (020-7608 0851). Heavenly shop filled with delicacies from France.

The Fine Cheese Co, 29 & 31 Walcot Street, Bath; 5 Regent Street, Cheltenham (01225 448748). Cheeses, biscuits and chutneys from £23.50.

Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London W1 (0845 300 1707). From £40 (plus £7 postage). No delivery charge for the £3,000 Imperial Hamper.

Fresh & Wild, 210 Westbourne Grove, London W11 (020-7229 1063). Five other branches, head office, 020-7250 1708.

Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road, London SW1(0845 605 1234). Gift boxes from £12.95 to £5,000 (for the Chairman's Choice), delivery £5-£10.

Harvey Nichols, 109-125 Knightsbridge, London SW1 (020-7235 5000), 107-111 Briggate, Leeds (0113-204 8888), 31-32 Wharfside Street, The Mailbox, Birmingham (0121-616 6000). Pick up from stores: no more mail-order hampers.

Liberty, Regent Street, London W1 (020-7734 1234). Has introduced, for the first time, exuberantly packed hampers starting at £35. Delivery £7.50.

Marchents (0870 606 1623 or Internet store (but you can phone from the catalogue) offering fine produce from craft producers in Britain and Europe.

Machiavelli (020-7498 0880). Distributor of top-notch Italian food. Hampers from £40.

Marks & Spencer (0845 603 1603). Hampers from £20 to £200.

Mortimer & Bennett, 33 Turnham Green Terrace, London W4 (020-8995 4145). One of London's best delis has put together a 10th-anniversary hamper for £74.95, including post and packing.

The Picnic and Hamper Company (01243 575013). A range of hampers representing the best of Spain, Italy, France and Russia. From £40. Delivery £4.50 to £8.

The Portobello Food Company (020-8748 0505). Italian hampers from £40 to £120 (plus £7 delivery).

Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London W1 (020-7629 1234) and 1 The Dome, Trafford Centre, Manchester (0161-629 1234). Many variations on the Christmas treats theme. Delivery £7.50 for each hamper.

Solstice (020-7498 7700). Hampers packed with fresh produce. Prices start at £65 without delivery.

Teesdale Trencherman (01833 638370). County Durham-based mail-order service of well-chosen supplies of imported and local foods. Hampers from around £60.

Villandry, 170 Great Portland Street, London W1(020-7631 3131). From £50 for a selection of really unusual contents (including rhubarb and rosewater jam andcherry pepper jelly). Up to £120 for the Mont Blanc hamper of indulgences.