Happy December! With little over a week to go until the BIG day, I can’t believe Christmas is just around the corner. As I’m so often asked for Christmas tips and advice, I wanted to share some of my go-to healthy, festive recipes with you this month as I wholeheartedly believe that it’s possible to enjoy the full offering of traditional Christmas foods but with a healthier, tastier twist. I shall be posting my favourite festive recipes here throughout the month, so do check back each week (my favourite is perhaps the recipe for a spiced Martini!)”
Christmas Spiced Blood Orange Martini
Blood oranges come into season just in time for festive fun (blink and you may miss them as they are only briefly available in the UK). I love them and so always get excited to include them in my dishes. And in drinks, too, for their blush red colour – this means a Blood Orange Martini, of course! Any food or drink containing star anise always gets my attention and I confess to getting delightfully tipsy creating this delicious and simple cocktail 😉 Now, I’m definitely not saying its OK to drink this beyond a couple of glasses because naturally that would be a big lie. But as I know cocktails are something that many of you wish to enjoy over the festive season, I wanted to create one that wasn’t too heavy on the sugar. Bad news though – alcohol is still alcohol whatever we add to it – and our poor livers do have to process whatever form it comes in, so easy does it whatever your tipple might be.
I hope you enjoy this Christmassy martini in moderation! And if it’s an alcohol free night (which I encourage regularly, especially during the festive season) then just avoid the alcohol and add a little sparkling water in its place.
Serves 4 // Prep 10 mins, plus chilling // Cook 15 mins
- 500 ml blood orange juice (8-10 blood oranges or from a bottle)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise
- 1 tsp coconut nectar
- 200 ml vodka
- 100 ml 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 mins. Taste the juice – if it is very tart add the coconut 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 4 martini glasses and serve with a slice of blood orange.
Chicken Skewer Canapés with an Almond and Lime Satay
When I’m entertaining I often skip a first course and just serve great canapés as a starter. I find that most people don’t wish to overeat these days and so while I hope no one leaves my home hungry, I also hope they don’t leave feeling full, bloated and full of regret for over eating. These chicken skewers are ideal if you are busy as you can make them up a day in advance and they are great to serve pretty much anytime. I’ll definitely be serving them at some point this festive season. I hope you are all enjoying the run up to Christmas!
12 small skewers// Prep 15 mins // Cook 5-8 mins
The chicken can be marinated a day in advance and kept covered in the fridge. The dipping sauce can be made a day in advance and kept in the fridge.
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into small chunks (about 1.5cm)
- 2 limes, zested and juiced
- 2 tsp coconut aminos
- 100g fennel, cut into small chunks (about 1.5cm)
- 75ml coconut yogurt (such as coyo)
- 50g almond butter
- 1/2 tbsp chopped coriander, plus a few extra leaves to garnish
- Soak 12 small wooden skewers in cold water for 20 mins to make sure they don’t burn under the grill.
- While your skewers are soaking put the chicken in a bowl with the zest and juice of 1 lime and the coconut aminos and leave to marinate for 15 mins.
- While the chicken is marinating make the almond satay dip. Mix together the zest and juice of 1 lime with the coconut yogurt, almond butter and chopped coriander. Check the seasoning and then cover and put to one side.
- Heat the grill to high. Thread the chicken and fennel onto the skewers. Grill for 5-8 mins, turning half way through until the chicken is cooked.
- Serve the skewers on a board or large plate with the dip in a small dish. Have an empty glass to hand for guests to put used skewers in.
Quinoa Nut Roast with Cranberries
As promised, here’s another Christmasy recipe for you. I had never made a nut roast before but, oh my, I am delighted with this one. I don’t often eat quinoa but I know so many of you love it and it works perfectly here, together with the pistachios, hazelnuts, cranberries and butternut squash. It does take a little prep, but it’s worth it. Plus, it oozes Christmas flavour.
Serves 6-8 // Prep 30 mins // Cook 2 hrs
Time saving tips: 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 quinoa
- 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
- 250g cranberries
- 1/2 orange zested and juiced
- 1 tsp coconut nectar
- 2 large eggs
- 150g chestnut puree
- Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 6. Toss the butternut squash with 1 tbsp olive oil, rosemary, half of the thyme leaves and seasoning. Roast for 30 mins until the squash is softened and caramelised at the edges.
- Meanwhile, put the quinoa in a pan with 275ml cold water and bring to the boil, cover and lower the heat. Cook gently for 5-10 mins until the quinoa has absorbed all the water. Turn off the heat and leave to rest for 10 mins.
- Heat 1 tbsp 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 mins until softened. Add the mushrooms and fry for another 5 mins.
- Pop the cranberries in a pan with the orange zest, orange juice and coconut nectar. Cook for 2-3 mins until just starting to burst.
- When you are ready to cook the roast, heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line the base and sides of a 900g/2lb 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 1 hour. Leave the nut roast in the tin for 10.
Quick & Easy Gluten Free Mince Pies
Prep 30 mins, plus 30 mins to chill // Cook 20 mins
I’m not a fan of baking or making desserts, cakes, treats or sweets (even if they have a healthier form of sugar in them) as they are still going to disrupt our blood sugar levels. The abundance of sweet foods on offer over Christmas can so easily dent our willpower and health, but I am not the Christmas Scrooge! I have given in to your requests for festive treats – it’s Christmas after all. If anything was going to tempt me, it would definitely be mince pie, but because they are made with gluten I always miss out. So here is an easy gluten-free recipe. Remember, these pies are not to be gorged on in the assumption that they are healthy – make them, enjoy one and share the rest with your loved ones.
For the pastry:
- 200g gluten-free plain flour (I use Doves Farm), plus extra for dusting
- 100g coconut butter unflavoured, plus extra for oiling (I use Tiana butter)
- 75ml cold filtered water
- Icing sugar, for dusting
For the filling
- 200g dried mixed fruit (I use raisins and currants)
- Juice and zest of 1 orange, grated
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon, grated
- 4 tbsp apple puree (I make my own, but you can buy sugar free)
- 1/2 nutmeg, grated
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp vanilla powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp unflavoured coconut butter
1. You will need a 12-hole metal cupcake/muffin tin and a round cutter (or a glass or jam jar), about 7cm wide.
2. Using your hands, mix the flour, coconut butter and water together in a large mixing bowl until it all comes together to form a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, to make the filling, put all the ingredients into a blender and roughly chop (I use my hand-held blender as I like to keep some texture). Set aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and lightly oil 10 holes of the cupcake/muffin tin with coconut oil.
5. Lightly dust a board with some flour and rollout the dough (in two batches if that’s easier)until it is roughly 5mm thick, then cut into20 rounds with the cutter.
6. Arrange half of the pastry rounds into theprepared tin pushing them gently down around the edges. Put 1 teaspoon of filling into the middle of each round, then place a second round on top and press down gently to seal. Using a fork, pierce the top of each pie, then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden.
7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Sprinkle with a little icing sugar and enjoy!
Braised Red Cabbage with Apple & Pecan
Here is a long-time favourite of mine – honestly, I could eat it any day of the year – it’s super simple to cook and authentically festive and delicious. This would make a brilliant rainbow addition to your Christmas lunch or any other meal this December. And best of all, it can be prepared ahead of time.
Serves 6-8 // Prep 15 mins // Cook 45 mins
Time saving tips: the cabbage can be cooked up to 3 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 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 nectar
- 25g pecans, roughly chopped
- 15g sunflower seeds
- 15g pumpkin seeds
- pinch ground cinnamon
- Heat the oil in a large wide saucepan.
- Add the onion and ginger and cook for 5 mins until just starting to soften.
- Add the cabbage and cook for another 5 mins.
- Add the cherries, star anise (if using), vinegar, coconut nectar and seasoning then cover and simmer for 15 mins.
- Uncover, add the apple slices and simmer for another 15 mins until the apple has softened, the cabbage is cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Whilst 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 3-5 mins until aromatic.
- Remove the star anise from the cabbage and serve with the toasted nuts and seeds sprinkled on top.
My first cookbook, Cook. Nourish. Glow, contains over 100 delicious and easy to prepare recipes. It is published in the UK on December 31st, and the US and Canada on January 19th. Pre-order your copy here.
If you have pre-ordered a copy of Cook. Nourish. Glow. as a gift, why not print out a gift note to present at Christmas? Click here.