Nutri Natters

Rita’s blog for lovers of real food

Countdown to Christmas Cooking

14th December 2011

Ways with Christmas vegetables
The traditional Christmas dinner doesn’t skimp on vegetables. We pile on Brussels, carrots and turnip, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, leeks, parsnips and potatoes- all good seasonal fare. Here are some simple ideas on how to transform some of these festive favourites.

Leek and Celeriac Soup (makes at least 8 servings)
This velvety soup makes a delicious starter.

Celeriac: not pretty but tastes great

1 dessertspoon of coconut oil, rapeseed oil or olive oil
2 or 3 leeks
1 head of celeraic
1 tablespoon of freshly grated root ginger
a handful of chopped parsley or a few sprigs of rosemary
1 litre of vegetable stock (depending on the size of the leeks and celeriac, you may need more)
2 cloves of garlic, freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
ptional: single cream or plain yoghurt

Split and wash the leeks, peel the celeriac. Chop both vegetables into bite-sized chunks. Gently heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the vegetables on a medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add the root ginger, parsley and stock. Put a lid on the pan and simmer soup for about 30 minutes until vegetable are tender. When the soup is cool, add the garlic and liquidise until smooth; you may need to add more stock if the soup is too thick. Add seasoning to taste. Reheat and swirl some cream or yoghurt into each bowl, if liked.

In the unlikely event that there is any left, the soup keeps well in the fridge for up to three days.
Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts
Sprouts and chestnuts are a perfect combination of flavours and textures. You’ll need some pre-cooked chestnuts (they are available in vacuum packs or you can cook and peel fresh chestnuts) and a knob of butter or drizzle of olive oil. Once your sprouts are cooked, mix in some chopped chestnuts. As a rough guide, use one chestnut to every 5 sprouts; big chestnut fans may wish to add more. Top with melted butter or a drizzle of oil.

Roast Parsnips
Here’s how to pep-up your Christmas day parsnips:
Peel and cut the parsnips into big chunks and roast them with your potatoes. When the parsnips are cooked, sprinkle them with some roasted cumin seeds (heat seeds in a dry pan for a few minutes) and the juice of half an orange before serving.

A vegetarian Christmas feast
f you have a vegetarian in the family and are wondering what to serve for Christmas dinner, this nut roast – with a layer of chestnut puree in the middle –  is a real feast. Serve it with a mushroom and wine gravy and the usual line-up of Christmas vegetables. Even meat-eaters will be impressed.

Christmas Nut Roast with Mushroom and Red Wine Gravy (6 generous servings)
1 dessertspoon of coconut oil, olive oil or rapeseed oil and extra for greasing the tin
1 large onion and 3 sticks of celery, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic, crushed
100g/4oz cooked and mashed celeriac or parsnip
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
Juice and grated rind of half a lemon or orange
1 dessertspoon of grated root ginger
350g/12 oz ground nuts of your choice e.g cashews, almonds, Brazils, hazelnuts
50g/2oz of flaked millet or quinoa
50g/2oz wholemeal breadcrumbs*
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable stock to mix
225g/8oz chestnut puree (tinned)

First, line a 2 lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper (you can buy ready-made linings from cookery shops) and brush with oil.

Set oven to 190 degrees C/Mark 5/ 375 degrees F.

Gently heat the oil and cook the onion and celery for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Put all dry ingredients – nuts, millet/quinoa, breadcrumbs- into a large mixing bowl with the cooked onions and celery; add the mashed celeriac/parsnip, garlic, parsley, ginger, lemon/orange juice and rind. Mix well then bind the mixture with the beaten egg. Moisten with some stock if the mixture is too dry (it should be of a fairly firm consistency). Season to taste.

Spoon half of the nut mixture into the tin and flatten with the back of a spoon. Add a layer of chestnut puree then pile in the rest of the nut mixture and flatten again.

Bake in a hot oven for 50 – 70 minutes. The nut roast should be brown on the top and a skewer or knife inserted in the mixture should come out clean. Allow the roast to stand for 15 minutes before cutting into thick slices and serve with…

Mushroom and Wine Gravy (makes about 1 pint/600ml)
25g/1oz butter
225g/8oz chestnut mushrooms, wiped and cut into quarters
2 tbsps wholemeal flour*
1/4 pint/150ml vegetable stock
1/2 pint/300ml red wine
2 tbsp chopped parsley
seasoning to taste

Saute the mushrooms in the melted butter for a few minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Add the stock a little at a time stirring well – don’t worry if it becomes lumpy as you’ll be liquidising it later. Pour in the wine and simmer for about 15 minutes with a lid on the pan. Stir in the parsley. Leave to cool then liquidise the gravy until it is smooth. Re-heat gently before serving.

* use gluten-free breadcrumbs and flour if you are intolerant of wheat

Cranberry and orange sauce
Cranberry sauce adds a cheerful deep red hue to the festive table and goes well with turkey, ham, cheese and the Christmas nut loaf recipe (see above). Cranberries are a rich source of powerful, immune-enhancing antioxidants. Look for the darker red berries, which contain higher level of antioxidants than their paler cousins.

8oz/225 grams fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed)
juice and zest of 1 orange
1 dessertspoon of molasses

Place all of the ingredients in a pan and slowly bring to the boil. Stir the mixture, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes to make a thick sauce. Serve warm or cold. It keeps well in a covered container in the fridge.

Serve with turkey on the big day and use as you would chutney with your Boxing Day dishes.

Mince pies
Mince pies are my favourite Christmas treat, yet I’m often disappointed when I bite into commercially produced varieties. They’ve just got to be home-made to pass muster. This recipe makes a light and delicious mince pie with a gluten-free almondy pastry that melts in the mouth. It’s worth paying a bit more for a jar of good quality mincemeat that doesn’t stint on the fruit.

Almondy gluten-free mince pies (makes 8 pies)
100g/4oz gluten-free flour mixed with 1 dessertspoon of ground almonds
1 teaspoon of gluten-free baking powder
50g/2oz butter
2 -3 tbsp cold water
200g/8oz mincemeat (add 1 tsp of mixed spice, 1 dessertspoon of chopped nuts and 1 dessertspoon of brandy, if liked)
Icing sugar

melt-in-the-mouth almond pastry

Heat the oven to 170 degree C/325 degrees F/Gas 3. Add the baking powder to the flour/ almonds and mix together. Lightly rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the water with a knife being careful not to make the mixture too runny- you should be able to gather it into a ball of soft dough with your hand. Knead lightly for a few seconds on a floured surface then wrap in a damp tea towel and leave to rest in a cool place for about 30 minutes.

Lightly roll out the pastry on a floured surface and use pastry cutters to make 8 circles to fit an oiled patty tin. Spoon some mincemeat into each pie. Cut 8 smaller circles for the lids. Moisten the edges of each pie with water and place a pastry lid on top. Pierce each lid with a fork to allow steam to escape while cooking. Brush each pie with your choice of milk (cow’s, rice, goat’s, soya) and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes until the pastry is golden. Dust with icing sugar.

Variation: Instead of a pastry lid, top your pies with chopped pecans or flaked almonds before baking.

See below (under November) for a light and fruity Christmas pudding recipe.

Happy Christmas!


Rita Carmichael    registered nutritional therapist and metabolic balance® coach, Nottingham, England