Wholesome Christmas Menu

1 Dec, 2015

It’s that time of year — Christmas menus are planned, mouths watering in anticipation. But your tables don’t need to be full of high-fat, high-sugar, nutrient-deficient foods. Here is a menu sample of healthy Christmas meal ideas for your table this Christmas.

salad

Baked mushrooms stuffed with ricotta, pomegranate & fig salad, cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes, vegan nut roast, wild rice & brussel sprout super salad, the ultimate roast chicken, and a super healthy Christmas cake.

1. Baked Mushrooms Stuffed with Ricotta

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Ingredients

  • 75 g good crumbly ricotta cheese
  • 1 lemon , zest of
  • 1 fresh red chilli , deseeded and finely chopped, to taste
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano or marjoram leaves , finely chopped
  • 1 small handful Parmesan cheese , freshly grated, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 4 handfuls mushrooms (portobello or field mushrooms are the best) , brushed clean
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 handful rocket or soft leafy herbs

Method

Preheat your oven to 220ºC. Put your ricotta into a bowl with the lemon zest, chilli and a little salt and pepper. Beat together with a wooden spoon, then fold in your chopped oregano and the Parmesan.

Carefully remove the stalks from your mushrooms and discard them, then toss the mushroom caps in a little oil, salt and pepper. Lay them upside down on a baking tray so that they can be filled with small amounts of your fantastic ricotta mixture.

Carefully spoon in the filling, sprinkle a little Parmesan over the top and bake in the preheated oven till golden – about 15 minutes. Great served on a big plate, sprinkled with some dressed rocket leaves or soft leafy herbs.

2. Pomegranate & Fig Salad

saladWhat’s Great About It: High in hydrating, restorative  minerals and antioxidants that infuse straight into your cells to give it the goodness it craves. Greens are alkalising and rich in folate to boost your metabolism and help to nourish a dewy and glowing complexion. Pomegranate is high in vitamin C to aid in collagen production and it supports healthy heart function by reducing blood pressure and inflammation in the body. Figs are naturally high in fibre to help keep you fuller for longer, so they’re perfect to include in weight management programs. Figs are also high in prebiotics, that help nourish the good bacteria in your gut, improving digestive health and overall wellbeing.

  • 150 g baby spinach leaves
  • 80 g micro-green salad mix (or other green sprouts)
  • 4 figs, cut in half
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 orange, peeled and sliced
  • 80 g goats feta
  • 1 tablespoon pistachio nuts, chopped few sprigs of fresh thyme

Pomegranate Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons cold pressed olive oil

Toss spinach and micro-salad greens into a large serving bowl. Arrange the figs and slices of orange through the salad. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and scatter over and through the salad. Combine all the ingredients for the salad dressing and drizzle over the salad. Serve and enjoy. Serves 4

3. Cinnamon Roasted Sweet Potatoes

sweet potatoesWhat’s good about them: Sweet potatoes are a healthy low GI carb source that’s high in beta-carotene the precursor to vitamin A  important for eye health.  It’s also rich in potassium which is necessary for muscle contraction, nerve transmission, normal blood pressure and to help regulate fluid balance in the body,  making them a great recovery food after exercise. Sweet potatoes are also loaded with glutathione, an antioxidant that helps to nourish our immune system and protect against disease. The cinnamon not only makes these sweet potatoes taste extremely delicious, but it also improves insulin’s efficiency, which lowers and helps to regulate blood sugar levels. A Swedish study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the inclusion of just half a teaspoon of cinnamon in the diet per day lowered blood glucose levels.

  • 500 g sweet potato, cut into wedges
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 generous teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 200 C / 400 F. Combine sweet potato with olive oil, salt and cinnamon. Add a little more olive oil if needed. Arrange onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Make sure to spread the wedges out into a single layer so they roast properly. Bake for 40 minutes or until tender and golden. Serve immediately and enjoy. Serves 6

4. Vegan Nut Roast

nut roast

Ingredients

  • 50 g pine nuts , plus extra for decorating
  • 50 g linseed
  • 50 g sunflower seeds
  • 100 g unsweetened chestnut purée
  • 50 g gluten-free vegetarian suet
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • gluten-flour for dusting
  • For the spinach topping:
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 300 g chestnut mushrooms , sliced
  • 260 g baby leaf spinach , or frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 100 g silken tofu
  • 1 pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/4 sweet potato
  • Olive oil

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Spread out the nuts and seeds on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5–6 minutes. Transfer to a food processor, along with the chestnut purée, suet and maple syrup, and blitz until it comes together into a ball. It will be sticky to begin with, so stop and scrape the sides as you go.

2. Place a large sheet of baking parchment on a work surface and sit the dough on it. Then, with lots of gluten-free flour on your hands and rolling pin, roll out the dough as thinly as possible (less than 5mm).

3. If you’re making individual tartlets, oil and flour four 10cm loose-bottomed tart tins, then cut the pastry to size. For 1 large tart, roll out the dough and cut to the size of a large, shallow baking tin, and transfer to the tin using a fish slice. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, cover with baking parchment, fill with baking beans or rice and bake blind for 12–15 minutes. Leave to cool in the tray, and keep the oven on.

4. Meanwhile, make the topping. Heat 1 tbsp rapeseed oil in a pan over a medium heat, then sauté the mushrooms for 6–8 minutes, until golden. Remove and set aside.

5. In the same pan, heat the rest of the oil and wilt the spinach (or heat through if frozen) along with the pepper. Blitz the spinach, avocado flesh, tofu, nutmeg and lemon juice in a food processor until smooth.

6. Thinly slice the sweet potato using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, creating a pile of peelings. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a small pan, then fry the peelings over a high heat, turning occasionally, for 4–5 minutes, until just turning crisp.

7. Assemble the tart by spreading the spinach mixture over the baked and cooled tart base. Lay the mushrooms on top, and decorate with the sweet potato slivers and a scattering of toasted pine nuts. Eat heated or at room temperature, with potatoes and vegetables.

 

5. Wild Rice & Brussel Sprout Super Salad

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Ingredients

  • 300 g mixed wild rice
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 500 g Brussels sprouts
  • 8 radishes
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 large bunch of mixed soft fresh herbs, such as mint, parsley, basil
  • 1 large handful of dried cranberries or raisins
  • extra virgin olive oil

Method

1. Cook the wild rice according to the packet instructions, then drain and leave to cool on a large tray.

2. Peel the onions, then using a mandolin (or a food processor with a fine slicing attachment), finely slice them. Transfer to a bowl and add the red wine vinegar. Scrunch them together and set aside.

3. Using a mandolin, shred the sprouts and radishes, then, in a bowl, dress them with the lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt, massaging the flavours into the veg with your hands. Set aside.

4. Pick and finely chop the herb leaves and pop them into a large serving bowl. Add the rice, onions and lemony veg as well as the cranberries or raisins, and toss together.

5. Drizzle over some oil and season, then stir and serve.

 

6. Ultimate Roast Chicken

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Ingredients

  • 1 x 4 kg free-range chicken , with giblets
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • a few sprigs of fresh sage
  • 2 onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 500 g free range chicken wings
  • olive oil
  • 2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
  • 150 ml white wine
  • 1 litre organic chicken stock

FLAVOURED BUTTER

  • 75 g dried porcini
  • 250 g unsalted butter , (at room temperature)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 whole nutmef , for grating
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ a bunch of fresh thyme
  • 9 slices of higher-welfare pancetta

Method

Preheat the oven to 190ºC. Leave the chicken to come up to room temperature while you make your butter.

Pop the dried porcini into a small bowl, cover with boiling water and allow to sit for 5 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to remove the mushrooms, and reserve both them and their soaking liquid.

Put your butter into a bowl and finely grate in the lemon zest (reserve the lemons for later) and half of the nutmeg, then peel and crush in the garlic.

Pick in the thyme leaves, chop and add the pancetta, then add the soaked porcini along with a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper.

Mix everything into the butter until combined, then divide into two. Set aside in the fridge until needed.

Take the chicken and use your fingers and a spatula to gently work your way between the skin and the meat. Start at the side of the cavity just above the leg and work gently up along the breastbone, towards the back, until you create a large cavity.

Poke half of the butter into it, using your hands to push it through the skin right to the back, so it coats the breast meat as evenly as possible. Do the same on the other side with the remaining butter, and if there’s any left, rub it over the outside of the bird.

Halve the reserved zested lemons and pop in the cavity of the chicken along with the thyme, rosemary and sage sprigs – this will add extra flavour while the chicken cooks.

Peel and halve the onions, peel and roughly chop the carrots, then trim and roughly chop the celery.

Pile the veg into a large roasting tray, smash and add the whole garlic cloves along with the bay leaves and chicken wings, then drizzle with oil.

Place your whole chicken on top, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Roast the chicken in the oven for about 2 hours, or until the skin is golden and crispy and the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a sharp knife, basting twice during cooking. If the vegetables start looking dry, add a splash of water to the tray to stop them burning.

Remove the tray from the oven and transfer the chicken to a board. Cover with a sheet of tin foil and a tea towel and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

To prepare the gravy, spoon away any excess fat from the mixture in the roasting tray, then place on the hob over a low-medium heat.

Add the flour, stirring constantly, then pour in the wine and let it reduce down. Lastly, add the stock and stir continuously, until thickened.

Sieve the gravy into a clean saucepan, pressing down on all the solids to extract as much as you can. Keep the gravy warm in the saucepan, skimming off any fat that rises to the top. Serve with your roast chicken.

7. Healthy Christmas Cake

cake

This is a dense and moist fruit cake with a high ratio of fruit, which means you don’t need to use any extra sugar in the recipe. It also uses ground almond meal which replaces traditional white refined flours that make up most store bought cakes. The almond meal is also gluten free and adds moisture so you just need to add a small amount of heart healthy olive oil.  Serve in small portions after Christmas lunch or dinner or warm it up and serve as a pudding with vanilla bean custard or thick natural yoghurt and orange blossom honey.

 

Serves 16 – 20 small portions

Ingredients

600 g mixed dried Fruit or a  mix of the following (raisins, prunes, figs, apricot, currants, sultanas, dates)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract or paste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
zest and juice from 1 orange
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 eggs
200 g (2 cups) ground almonds
50 g walnuts

Preheat your oven to 150 C (fan forced)
Prepare a 20 cm round cake tin with baking paper lining the sides and the base.
Combine dried fruit, spice, vanilla, orange zest + juice, olive oil and eggs.
Add the almonds and walnuts and mix through.
Spoon Christmas Cake batter into your baking tin.
Bake for 1  hour and 30 minutes.  Check with a skewer to see if it comes out clean, if not bake for another 30 minutes.
Cover the top if necessary to prevent over-browning.
Cool, then remove from the tin and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month.