Christmas is synonymous with over-indulging with a big dinner with all the trimmings. But with more people choosing to go vegan or having dietary requirements, it may be time to see what else is on offer at this festive time of year and how to cater for a range of guests without losing the yuletide spirit.
Pigs in blankets, heaps of gravy, mince pies and pudding are just a few of the traditions that many people associate with Christmas. If you are going to go all out, there are a few things you can do to ensure the day runs smoothly. Make sure your turkey will fit in the oven and have a roasting dish large enough to hold it. Preparation and timing are key and if this is your first time cooking a big lunch, create a chart with timings on working back from your intended serving time to include prep and cooking times. Make whatever you can in advance and keep it in the fridge this can include the stuffing, the gravy and for the perfect roasts, pick small potatoes then cook them the day before in lard or beef fat for about 15 minutes until tender. Then on Christmas day, just roast in butter and sprinkle with sea salt.
Got a few people coming over for a glass of wine and nibbles? Canapes are perfect for a party and you can get very creative. For a really festive feel, you can offer a Christmas dinner on a stick. Simply roll up a slice of turkey with some stuffing in the middle, add a roast potato, with a dollop of cranberry sauce and voila. A cheeseboard is also a winner for a party and with some crackers and different sauces and grapes, your guests can just help themselves. If you are short on time, a blini with salmon and mascarpone is a classic and you can find plenty of good quality shop-bought blinis that you simply need to top before your guests arrive.
Keep the kids healthy
Of course, the holidays are all about indulging in sweet treats, but kids and copious amounts of sugar don’t always mix well. Get some green goodness into the children but make it ‘cool yule’ with healthy snacks with a festive twist. Create an antipasto wreath with cheese, grapes, sliced meats and bread in the shape of a festive wreath or get them off to a healthy start with Christmas-themed characters made out of fruit for breakfast – check Pinterest for the most amazing creations. If you are traveling a lot over the holidays, make a batch of energy balls packed with healthy ingredients like dates, rolled oats and cranberries – perfect for snacking and will keep hunger at bay.
Whether you are on a full-time vegan diet or just want to include more plant-based food in your everyday life, there’s no denying that after a couple of days of rich food, most of us are craving something a bit healthier. You don’t need to forgo the festivities when eating your veggies, give your salads a Christmas look with sprinkles of green and red such as pomegranate, finely diced red onion, chives, spring onions, herbs, and cherry tomatoes. For easy canapes, luxury hummus with crudités and warm pittas are a great little snack. For a warming starter, an indulgent soup with celeriac, hazelnut, and truffle is healthy and silky smooth. Serve with bruschetta and get creative with a romesco sauce for added luxury. There are plenty of options to replace turkey on Christmas day; from the classic nut roast through to cranberry and lentil bake or vegan ‘cheesy’ leek crumble. It’s all about the herbs to create that Christmas feel so think about using sage, rosemary, and thyme. Don’t forget the pudding either by making or buying a vegan Christmas pudding, cake or mince pies or for an alternative, try a sticky toffee pudding rich with dates, spices, and poached pears.
Handy hacks for festive food
- Take the cheese out of the fridge in advance for a fuller flavour.
- Leftover anything can be blended into a great soup
- Limited hob space? Cook the veg with your turkey.
- Warm plates in the dishwasher on a plate warming setting or a quick wash and wipe down.
- Freeze meals for the in-between days when you really can’t face cooking again.
- Stock up on the essentials such as tin foil and baking sheets.
- Make sure you have a bottle opener and stirrers for cocktails.
- Cooks’ muslin draped over the turkey will help keep it moist.
Christmas cooking tips for beginners
- Keep the legs of the bird free. If you truss it, by the time the legs are cooked, the breast meat will be dry.
- Make your stuffing in advance and refrigerate it.
- For crispy roast potatoes, get the oil really hot.
- Don’t do too many sides. Great potatoes and a couple of vegetables will be perfect.
- Remember to always pre-heat the oven.
- Fluffy potatoes such as Maris Piper make great roasties.
- Clear your kitchen to give you space so put away toasters or anything else you don’t need.
- Wash up as you go or even better, get someone to do this and be chief veg peeler.