Special Diets | 1 December 2016Healthy Alternatives This Christmas Share article facebook twitter google pinterest When you think of Christmas food, what comes to mind – hot, rich, indulgent, and tasty, but terribly unhealthy? Most people accept without question that their health is the trade-off for enjoying their food over the festive period, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you’re throwing a party or want to create something really special to eat with your family, read on to discover healthy alternatives this Christmas. For the starter: Pumpkin and butterbean soup with tarka Broth by Vicki Edgson and Heather Thomas (published by Jacqui Small, £20) is packed full of broth and soup recipes – perfect for the cold winter! By using Vicki’s recipes and cooking your soup from scratch, you can be sure it is full of nutritious ingredients. You can rest easy knowing it has none of the mounds of salt, sugar, and preservatives that can often be found in the shop-bought equivalents. See below for one of the delicious winter warmers featured in her book. SERVES 4 2 tbsp coconut oil 1 onion, chopped 900 g/2 lb pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and cut into cubes 1 tbsp chopped fresh root ginger 1 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp ground turmeric 2 tsp coriander seeds, roasted and crushed 1.2 litres/2 pints hot vegetable top and tail broth (see below) 1 x 400 g/14 oz can butterbeans (lima beans), rinsed and drained Salt and freshly ground black pepper 6 tbsp low-fat natural yogurt shredded coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve For the tarka topping: 2 tbsp rapeseed oil 1 small onion, thinly sliced 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1 red chilli, deseeded and shredded 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds 1 tsp cumin seeds Heat the coconut oil in a large pan and cook the onion over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender but not coloured. Add the pumpkin and cook gently, stirring it in the oil, for 3–4 minutes until golden. Add the spices and cook for 1 minute, stirring well. Add the hot vegetable broth and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer gently for 20 minutes until the pumpkin is tender. Add the beans and heat through for a couple of minutes. While the soup is cooking, make the tarka topping. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until it is tender, crisp and golden brown. Turn up the heat and stir in the garlic, chilli and seeds, and cook for 1 minute, or until the mustard seeds start popping. Remove from the heat – don’t overcook them or the garlic will colour and taste bitter. Blitz the soup to a smooth purée in a blender or food processor, or use a stick blender. Season to taste and reheat gently, then ladle into wide bowls. Swirl a spoonful of yogurt into each portion and add the tarka topping. Scatter some coriander (cilantro) over the top and serve. Vegetable top and tail broth MAKES APPROX. 1.2 LITRES/2 PINTS Choose any 6–8 from the following as you will only be using what you have cut off the whole vegetables ready to discard or compost, and pick 2 herbs and one spice at a time: onions, garlic and leeks, celery, endive, fennel, turnips, parsnips, swede (rutabaga), courgettes (zucchini), sweet potatoes, butternut squash, French, runner or broad (fava) beans, beetroot (beet), carrots, chard, kale or spinach 2.25 litres/4 pints water 2 tbsp apple cider or wine vinegar coriander (cilantro) leaves, parsley, bay leaves, sage, thyme, rosemary or fennel ginger, turmeric root, star anise, cloves, cinnamon or nutmeg Place all your ingredients (scrapings, shavings, peelings, tops and tails, less-than-perfect leaves, strong spines of chard, curly kale and spinach) into a large cauldron (this is the Witches’ Brew, after all!) and set onto a moderate heat on the hob (stovetop) for several hours, (or whilst you are cooking the main dishes for your day). Check every hour to ensure that there is sufficient liquid and to stir the ingredients in the melting pot. Turn off the heat at night and leave covered, but do not refrigerate, as the ?avours will develop more if the broth is left at room temperature. Strain the soup into another pot before ladling out your broth as needed, and heat to have as a hot drink, with mixed spice, or to add to relevant recipes. For the main: Sazon Beef Roast with Chimichurri Argentina Natasha MacAller, in her book Spice Heath Heroes (published by Jacqui Small £25), introduces readers to the joys of cooking with spices, which can possibly support health, inner balance, and wellbeing. Spices, she says, are the heroes that can help save us from disease. Try some delicious spices yourself in Natasha’s wonderfully wintry beef recipe. Recipes and food prep by Natasha MacAller. Props by Lianne Whorwood @ The Propsdepartment. Food styling by Manja Wachsmuth SERVES 4–6 1kg (2lb. 4oz.) piece of beef rump cap (aged 3 months is ideal) For the sazon rub: 1 tbsp grapeseed oil, plus extra for brushing 1 tbsp lime juice 1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed 1 tbsp cumin seeds 1 tbsp salt 2 tsp fresh oregano 2 tsp chipotle powder 1 tsp freshly grated ginger 1 tsp black peppercorns 1 tsp chili flakes 1 tsp dried mint ½ tsp ground turmeric For the chimichurri Argentina: 2 bunches (60g/2¼oz.) fresh parsley 1 bunch (25g/1oz.) fresh oregano 4 garlic cloves, peeled 120ml (½ cup) apple cider (or juice) ½ apple, peeled, cored and chopped 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar 1 whole fresh red jalapeño or other chili pepper, seeded and chopped 120ml (½ cup) extra virgin olive oil Combine the rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Pat the beef dry using kitchen paper. Score the fat, making incisions about 1cm (½in.) deep 5mm (¼in.) apart. Brush with oil to coat. Pack the rub into the fat on top of the beef, then cover and chill for 2 hours. Remove the beef from the fridge at least an hour before cooking to let it come to room temperature. Make the chimichurri Argentina. Put all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor, or small blender, and pulse until coarsely chopped. Slowly drizzle in the oil until combined, adding more if you wish. Spoon into a serving bowl, cover and chill until needed. Turn on the extractor fan, then heat a stovetop grill pan/plate or barbecue to medium–high, place the beef on it, fat-side up, and cook for about 6 minutes, then carefully turn it over and cook fat-side down for an additional 6–8 minutes. Test for doneness with a thermometer if you like (it should have reached 55°C /130°F for rare/medium–rare). Remove from heat and transfer to a carving board. Loosely cover with foil and let rest for 15–20 minutes. Thinly slice the beef across the grain and serve with the chimichurri Argentina. For the dessert: Pear, honey and walnut upside-down cake Cakes can’t be healthy? Think again. In Henrietta Inman’s book, Clean Cakes (published by Jacqui Small, £20) she shows how it is possible to bake delicious cakes free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar. Try one of her healthy Christmas alternatives below. Your guests will love it! Serves 10 1270 g (2½ oz/? cup) walnuts 180 g (6¼ oz/generous ½ cup) raw honey 4–5 medium to large pears (about 800 g (1 lb 12 oz)) 120 g (4¼ oz/generous ½ cup) non-hydrogenated dairy-free butter, plus extra for greasing 80 g (2¾ oz/½ cup) Palmyra nectar powder 80 g (2¾ oz/? cup) apple purée ½ tsp vanilla extract 60 g (2 oz/? cup plus 1 tbsp) brown rice flour 60 g (2 oz/? cup plus 1 tbsp) teff flour 20 g (¾ oz/2½ tbsp) arrowroot ½ tsp baking powder ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) ¼ tsp xanthan gum ½ tsp Himalayan pink salt 2 eggs Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3. Grease a 23 cm (9 inch) springform cake tin with butter and line the bottom with baking parchment; make the circle of parchment on the bottom of the tin come up the edges of the tin by 2 cm (¾ inch) to stop the juices and honey seeping out. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Spread the walnuts out on the lined baking tray and lightly toast for 5–8 minutes until just beginning to colour. Leave to cool and then chop finely to very small pieces. Spoon the honey evenly into the base of the tin. Peel, quarter, core and slice the pears to 1 cm (? inch) thick slices (you should have about 450–500 g (1lb–1 lb 2 oz) of slices). Arrange the slices in the tin in a circle like rays of sun, overlapping them, starting from the centre then working out. Using a handheld whisk or freestanding mixer, whisk the butter, Palmyra nectar powder, apple purée and vanilla extract until soft, smooth and light caramel in colour. Combine the flours, arrowroot, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), xanthan gum and salt. If using a mixer, change the whisk to a paddle, and add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with the eggs; or mix in by hand. Finally add the chopped walnuts and mix until just combined. Pour the mix over the sliced pears, smooth it out if necessary, and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the tin and bake for a further 10–15 minutes, until the top is dark golden brown and a skewer inserted in the centre of the sponge comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes, then remove from the tin (it is easier to remove while still warm) and invert onto a plate. Christmas is a time when we should we indulging in warm, delicious comfort food, but this doesn’t have to come at a cost. As the recipes above show, by making small changes to our cooking habits, we can make delightful dishes whilst still taking care of our bodies. If you want to check out more of these authors’ recipes, their books can be bought here. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.