It is possible to enjoy the traditional foods you love on Christmas Day and stay within your own healthy comfort zone. So I’m sharing my tips and swaps on keeping it nutritious and nourishing with links to recipes I know and trust. It’ll come as no surprise that cooking from scratch is what it’s about, although not all on the day itself! You can make individual items pretty far in advance, although I do enjoy a day of prep on 23rd or 24th. I’ve also dropped in a few ideas for leftovers. Join me on a journey through the food and drink of Christmas Day!
Starting the day
Depending on your own traditions (when you get up, open presents, eat the big meal, etc) you might also have a breakfast that’s a bit special, like we do. This ranges from a full fry-up, to pancakes and maple syrup or smoked salmon scrambled eggs. We eat our big Christmas meal around 4pm, so we have breakfast a little late and make sure it’s enough to keep us satisfied. Opt for great quality protein and fat, and add in some veggies and fruit. If pancakes are your thing check out this plantain version. For a special fry up try my sweet potato fritters and add fried or poached eggs. And if you just can’t live without toast for your scrambled eggs, make a paleo version like this favourite of mine.
A bit of in-between
It’s that time of day, when you’re tempted by the candy canes on the tree, and you might think it’s ok to go all or nothing and eat a whole box of chocolates. This is where to rein it in and have some snacks on hand, like Christmas spiced nuts (which also make a great gift!). Only eat them if you need to! These ones from The Paleo Network are made with molasses, so will provide a little sweetness without giving you an all-out sugar high (before a crash).
The main event
If your family is anything like the rest of the western world, we go a bit overboard at Christmas Dinner. Too much food, too many courses and wastage afterwards. So, we’re simplifying a little this year, without losing the concept of enjoying a wonderful meal. And without the ridiculous portion sizes!
This bit is easy to keep within healthy borders. A small bowl of home-made soup with good bone broth is a great, nourishing way to start your meal. Try my chicken, sweet potato and tarragon or one without meat, because you’re about to eat a lot of meat! Soup’s great as it can be made in advance and frozen. Ditch the bread. No-one needs bread at the start of an epic three or four-course meal.
Pate is also a great option which can be made a day or two before. Super-nutritious lamb or chicken liver also work in this recipe from Autoimmune Paleo along with their plantain crackers (also pre-made). This year we’re going for a retro prawn cocktail with smoked trout. Just add some tomato puree, paprika, lemon juice, salt and pepper to your home made mayo to make your marie-rose sauce with some juicy prawns. We’ll serve up with shredded iceberg lettuce and lemon wedges.
Turkey? Goose? Beef? Ham? Any of these bought from a local, quality farmer would be ideal and should leave you with plenty leftovers to get creative with. If cost is an issue, get a smaller joint, you never need as much as you think you do with all the sides too.
Here’s some ways to keep the accompaniments free from nasties…
Pigs in blankets/kilties/whatever you want to call them 🙂
Essentially a cocktail sausage wrapped in streaky bacon. Like other meat choices, quality is important. And they’re so easy to make. Buy sausages without additives so they’re gluten free, along with sugar and nitrate free bacon and just roll ’em up yourself! Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need 6 per person. Keep leftover ones for a next day breakfast bubble and squeak of leftover veg and these with a fried egg on top.
I use this Jamie Oliver recipe for stuffing and just replace his breadcrumbs with some of my own if I have any (see bread link above) or flax meal. Leftovers are delicious turned into ragu.
Possibly my favourite part of the meal, but I don’t eat tons of them because alongside everything else they’re too filling. So simple. Always make your own. The frozen ones have all sorts of nasties added to them, take a look at a packet. Go for a floury potato like King Edward or Maris Piper. Peel and boil for ten minutes, allow to dry, give them a shake then tip into a roasting pan with melted goose fat. Add some rosemary and salt halfway through. Cook for 45-55 until crispy.
Christmas seems to be the time when people add several different kinds of veggies to their plate in one go, which we do it at most meals. Because we love them! Whatever your veg of choice is it can be spruced up in lots of ways, but don’t add honey to carrots and parsnips. They don’t need it and are sweet enough. This year we’re having those roasted along with Jamie’s red cabbage recipe, which I’ve pre-made.
I love gravy sooooo much! It makes any dish more interesting and I keep the juices and stocks from all of my cuts of meat to make gravies that don’t require powdered additives for flavour. For the turkey I use Jamie’s get ahead gravy recipe. Yes, there’s a theme here isn’t there? He’s just so good! I omit the booze, it doesn’t need it. And I sometimes leave out the cranberry. I replace the thickener from standard flour to arrowroot or tapioca, which I always use to thicken sauces. And I use chicken stock instead of water to make it extra chickeny! Again I’ve pre-made it and frozen it. If you have leftover gravy that you’ve lovingly made yourself, don’t ever throw it away. Put it in a stew or curry the next day.
I pre-made a lovely cranberry sauce with just four ingredients – cranberries, honey, cinnamon stick and an apple. It doubles up as a gift and goes with your turkey and also with cheese and pate! Bonus. Same goes with the red onion marmalade I made in advance (recipe to follow). We already started eating that though 🙂
If you’ve any room left for dessert you can choose from myriad paleo favourites online that are grain and dairy free. If cream is a treat for you, today is a good day to splurge on a great quality organic one. In the last few years I’ve done flourless chocolate cake, sticky date sponge and chocolate pie with a nut crust which I add a spoon of clotted cream to.
Another treat we enjoy instead is a cheese board. I’d take this over a sweet any day. We’re lucky to have a local specialist cheese shop which is queued out the door in the run up to Christmas. They let you try and taste and are great at recommending cheeses. I try to go as local as possible with two or three cheeses, and opt for unpasteurised, so that they haven’t gone through any over-processing and retain the nutrition. My ultimate indulgence is a French cheese called Epoisse. It’s divine, and I only eat it once or twice a year. We use the plantain crackers linked above, but if you’re fed up of cooking by this stage you can of course just buy some gluten free crackers 🙂 Other additions to your cheeseboard can include figs, grapes, olives, sundried tomatoes and those lovely condiments you pre-made.
You can also get really seriously into baking with some mince pies, more time consuming but fun!
We’ll all be drinking I’m sure! Go for organic or biodynamic wines if you can. And good quality spirits like gin and vodka are ok if you don’t add the fizzy sweet stuff to them. We like Eden Mill, The Gin Bothy, Ogilvy and Black Cow. Given the amount of calories we’ve just eaten we probably don’t need the liquid sugar ones too!
Listen, it’s just about being prepared. If you haven’t started doing stuff yet start today, or tonight! You don’t want to have to think about it all on the day. You deserve to relax too! And if all that seems too much like hard work, let someone else do the cooking 😉
Merry Christmas! Eat, drink, be merry and stay healthy!