Alternative Christmas dinners
Healthy options for your festive meal
Although traditional Christmas dinner is not unhealthy in itself (it’s essentially roasted meat served with vegetables), the trimmings and extra courses that go with it can all add up to make one very calorific meal. So, why not try a healthy alternative Christmas dinner this year? Here, we give you some inspiration for cooking up your own simple but flavorsome festive feast by providing you with healthy recipes for fish, meat and vegetarian dishes.
Venison with oatmeal stuffing
If you want a change from turkey, try venison (deer meat). This is high in protein, full of flavor, lower in fat than chicken and lower in cholesterol than beef. It also provides a range of B vitamins to help maintain vascular health and regulate metabolism and iron levels, which can help to prevent lethargy, anemia and concentration and behavioural problems. When cooking your dish, follow a Scottish theme by using Highland venison and serving it with oatmeal stuffing and puréed root vegetables.
1 haunch venison, boned (your butcher can do this for you and also advise on cooking time depending on weight)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine
4 shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to season
For the stuffing:
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
Mix the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine, shallots and garlic, and use the mixture to marinate the venison for one to two hours. Remove the venison from the marinade, season, and then lay out flat, seasoned side down. Meanwhile, make the stuffing by cooking the onion gently in the oil before adding the oatmeal and stirring for five minutes on a medium heat. You may want to add a few tablespoons of vegetable stock if the mixture starts to stick.
Place the stuffing in a strip in the haunch, then wrap up and tie with a cooking string. Drizzle with olive oil and place in the oven until cooked. Venison dries easily, so make sure you baste it regularly. You can use red wine or stock to de-glaze the roasting tray for a rich gravy. Serve with a piquant sauce such as cranberry.
Poached salmon in a white wine and herb stock
Fish makes a healthy alternative to the traditional roast as it is filling, tasty and healthy. Salmon in particular is a very traditional fish to serve over the festive period. Simply serve it poached whole in a white wine and herb stock for an impressive Christmas dinner.
4 salmon filets or one whole salmon, cleaned
Half a cup of white wine
Half a cup of water
Handful of herbs (try dill and parsley)
Juice of one lemon
1 onion, sliced
5 or 6 black peppercorns
Place all the ingredients except for salmon in a large, deep pan. Bring to just under boiling point (when bubbles start to form), then add the fish and cook for five to ten minutes depending on the size of the fish (filets will take less cooking time than whole fish). When the flesh has gone opaque, remove the fish and bring the sauce to the boil to reduce its volume. Then use the sauce as an accompaniment if desired.
Root vegetable terrine
Instead of choosing the predictable nut-roast option (which can often be unhealthier and higher in fat than meat, depending on how it’s prepared and the ingredients used), why not try a colourful root vegetable terrine flavored with thyme and nutmeg?
Root vegetables contain a number of antioxidant compounds which may help to prevent cancer. Beetroots also contain a high level of folate, a B vitamin which may help to protect the heart, while sweet potato is a potent source of betacarotene, which maintains gut, eye and skin health.
4 leaves red cabbage
1 sweet potato
1 onion, sliced
1 or 2 egg yolks
Salt and pepper to season
Small handful of thyme
Nutmeg to grate
Handful of pickled peppercorns
Peel and chop the beetroot, sweet potato and turnip into large chunks. Parboil until still firm but beginning to cook. Drain well and leave to cool. Use paper towels or a cloth to squeeze out as much water as you can. Then, individually purée the vegetables to make a thick paste out of each. Add an egg yolk if you feel a mixture needs binding. Season each vegetable mix and grate a little nutmeg into the turnip mixture.
Use the cabbage leaves to form an outside ‘shell’ around a cake tin or terrine dish. Then, in layers, spread on the vegetable purées in turn, sprinkling the sliced onion, thyme and peppercorns over the dish every few layers to add texture and flavor. Continue until the tin is full. Place a weight (such as a plate) over the tin and leave for 30 minutes to settle. Then cook in bain marie for 45 minutes to an hour until the dish is firm. Serve hot or cold in slices.
You can also make variations of this dish by using different vegetables such as parsnip or carrot.