Creating healthy food this Christmas doesn’t mean scrimping on taste. Here, nutritional therapist Amelia Freer shares some of her feel-good festive go-tos.
“Christmas dinner is a time to nourish our social and emotional health with delicious food and joyful celebration, and is therefore never about deprivation or holding back. Those celebrations can also offer the opportunity to try out all sorts of new recipes, including options that are suitable for those who may have dietary requirements (including vegetarian, dairy-free or gluten-free). So here is my guide to a healthy Christmas, to feed body, soul and all of your guests this year!” – Amelia Freer
Smoked Salmon and Buckwheat Canapés (makes 12) (GF / DF)
100g cooked beetroot
2 tsp grated horseradish (fresh or from a jar)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
6 slices of buckwheat bread (Biona does a lovely one)
150g wild smoked salmon
A few dill fronds to garnish
- Blend the beetroot and horseradish together in a small food processor. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and season to taste.
- Toast the buckwheat bread well, and then cut into bite-sized squares. Top each square with a dollop of beetroot mix, then add a curl of smoked salmon and a sprinkling of dill. Serve with the remaining lemon wedges on the side.
Spiced Blood Orange Martini (serves 4) (Ve / DF / GF)
500ml blood orange juice (8-10 blood oranges or from a bottle)
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 tsp coconut/agave nectar
100ml red vermouth
1 blood orange, sliced for garnish
- Put the blood orange juice, cinnamon and star anise into a small pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste the juice – if it is very tart add the coconut or agave nectar.
- Leave to cool and then chill.
- When ready to serve, strain the infused juice into a jug and mix in the vodka and vermouth.
- Divide between four martini glasses and serve with a slice of blood orange.
“As a traditionalist at Christmas, I do enjoy cooking a turkey with all the trimmings. But alongside that, I will also be creating a vegetarian-friendly option and a feast of vegetable dishes to enjoy, too.”
Christmas Quinoa Nut Roast with Cranberries (serves 6-8) (V/DG/GF)
“If you want to prepare this dish ahead of time, make the quinoa mix the day before, leaving out the egg and chestnut, cover and keep in the fridge. The cranberries can be simmered the day before, covered and kept in the fridge. When you are ready to cook, mix the chestnut and egg into the quinoa, assemble and bake.”
600g butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small chunks (about 1cm)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
8 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
250g chestnut mushrooms, chopped into small pieces
2 small red onions, finely chopped
60g pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
50g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 orange zested and juiced
1 tsp coconut nectar
2 large eggs
150g chestnut puree
- Heat oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Toss the butternut squash with one tablespoon of olive oil, rosemary, half of the thyme leaves and seasoning. Roast for 30 minutes, until the squash is softened and caramelised at the edges.
- Meanwhile, put the quinoa in a pan with 275ml of cold water and bring to the boil, cover and lower the heat. Cook gently for five to 10 minutes until the quinoa has absorbed all the water. Turn off the heat and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
- Heat 1 tablespoonful of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the onions the rest of the thyme leaves and seasoning and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes until softened. Add the mushrooms and fry for another five minutes.
- Pop the cranberries in a pan with the orange zest, orange juice and coconut nectar. Cook for two to three minutes until just starting to burst.
- When you are ready to cook the roast, heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 again. Line the base and sides of a 900g loaf tin with baking parchment. Spoon the cranberries into the bottom of the tin. In a large bowl mix together the quinoa, butternut squash, onion, mushrooms, nuts and seasoning. Whisk the egg and chestnut puree together then mix into the quinoa. Spoon the quinoa on top of the cranberries and gently push down.
- Cover the tin with tin foil and bake in the oven for one hour. Leave the nut roast in the tin for 10 minutes to cool slightly before tuning out and serving.
Braised Red Cabbage with Apple and Pecan (Serves 6-8) (Ve/ DF/ GF)
“The cabbage can be cooked up to three days in advance and kept in the fridge. The nuts and seeds can be toasted up to a week in advance and kept in an airtight container.”
1 tbsp light olive oil
1 red onion
Finely chopped thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and grated (about 25g)
1 red cabbage, quartered cored and shredded
2 small eating apples (such as braeburn or cox), cored and sliced
25g dried sour cherries
2 star anise (optional)
100ml red wine vinegar
1 tsp coconut or agave nectar, or honey
25g pecans, roughly chopped
15g sunflower seeds
15g pumpkin seeds
A pinch ground cinnamon
- Heat the oil in a large wide saucepan.
- Add the onion and ginger and cook for five minutes until just starting to soften.
- Add the cabbage and cook for another five minutes.
- Add the cherries, star anise (if using), vinegar, nectar or honey and seasoning then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Uncover, add the apple slices and simmer for another 15 minutes until the apple has softened, the cabbage is cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated.
- While the cabbage is cooking, toast the nuts with a pinch of cinnamon and seasoning in a non-stick frying pan on a low heat for three to five minutes until aromatic.
- Remove the star anise from the cabbage and serve with the toasted nuts and seeds sprinkled on top.
“To finish a Christmas meal, I always put out an enormous bowl of beautiful satsumas, some lovely dried fruit (such as medjool dates and dried figs) and a dish of nuts for people to pick at as we enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. But I will also make a pile of these hazelnut salted caramels; the perfect little indulgence at the end of a joyful meal.”
Hazelnut Chocolate Salted Caramels (makes 12) (Ve / GF / DF)
14 small medjool dates, pitted
75ml coconut milk (from a can)
75ml melted coconut oil
¼ tsp Maldon sea salt, plus sea salt flakes for sprinkling
½ tsp vanilla powder or extract
Optional: Coconut flour, for dusting
For the coating:
30g cocoa powder
25g coconut oil
1tsp agave nectar (or honey)
- Soak the dates in a bowl of hot water for 20 minutes, then drain and put them into a blender with the coconut milk, coconut oil, salt and vanilla to make a caramel mixture.
- Blend into a smooth paste, then transfer to a freezer-proof container and freeze for 1 hour.
- Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Roll a hazelnut in the caramel mixture until it’s coated – it’s messy and the balls won’t be a perfect shape but this doesn’t matter, just keep using teaspoons to handle the caramel. Dust with a little coconut flour so the balls don’t stick together (or simply space well apart) and put onto the lined baking tray. Repeat until all the mixture is used up, then put the tray into the freezer and freeze for three hours.
- While the nuts are freezing, make the chocolate coating. Put all the ingredients for the coating in a pan and set over a low heat, stirring until melted. Remove from the heat and leave the mixture to cool a little until it is thick enough to drizzle over the caramel balls.
- Pour the coating over the caramel balls, sprinkle a little salt over each, then pop back into the freezer for 30 minutes. Serve chilled (but not frozen).
Discover more festive recipes over on our blog.