Turkey and trimmings are, for many, the peak of the festive season. And especially this year, with the usual highlights – cuddling the grandchildren, or, God forbid, a kiss under the mistletoe – likely to be limited.
So this year, we’ve hunted down special festive recipes that satisfy every dietary need.
With a few clever tweaks, those who are gluten-intolerant can still enjoy a hearty stuffing, and those with dairy allergies can dig into a creamy trifle.
And although most health experts recommend, for the sake of psychological wellbeing, that weight-loss plans are ditched for at least the big day, those wedded to going low-cal can even savour a portion of pudding. Because at Christmas, everyone should be able to join in the fun.
Tamarind turkey for taste buds killed by Covid or chemo
As anyone who’s undergone chemo and radiotherapy for cancer will tell you, the treatments obliterate the taste buds.
Just when you need nutrition the most, food suddenly tastes of nothing – making eating a huge chore. And common respiratory infections, including Covid, can have a similar effect.
Following the death of his mother from cancer five years ago, food writer Ryan Riley made it his mission to change all this, with ingenious tweaks to recipes so that even those with the most dulled sense of taste can enjoy them.
This lovely turkey recipe features some ingredients you may not be familiar with – tamarind – often used in Indian cooking and miso – typically found in Japanese
This clever twist on a classic turkey comes from his new festive-themed book, A Life Kitchen Christmas.
However, a word of warning: there are two key ingredients here that not everyone will be familiar with: tamarind paste and miso paste.
Don’t be put off. Both are sometimes available in world food sections at local supermarkets – tamarind is often used in Indian, Thai and Vietnamese cooking, while miso is typically Japanese.
We’ve checked, and you also can get both pastes online at Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose and amazon.co.uk.
Make sure you get the paste – you can get ready-made sauces that include tamarind and miso, but these will have other ingredients, and you need the concentrated stuff.
Both miso and tamarind are what’s known as umami flavours – the fifth taste after salt, sweet, bitter and sour. Scientists have found that umami receptors on the tongue can withstand far more damage than those that detect other flavours, and activating them can help reawaken other taste receptors too, increasing sweet and salty flavours in dishes.
● 3.5kg turkey crown
● 150g unsalted butter, softened
● 2 tbsp tamarind paste
● 2 tbsp miso paste
● Large bunch fresh sage, or 1 tbsp dried
● Large bunch fresh thyme sprigs, or 1 tbsp dried
● 2 tbsp sunflower oil
● Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Turn the turkey crown upside down and lift the skin away.
In a small bowl, mix butter, tamarind and miso to make smooth, spreadable butter.
Spread it underneath the skin, coating the whole bird. Preheat oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and place turkey uncovered in a large, high-sided baking tray. Take half of each herb and place into turkey cavity. Brush skin with oil and season with salt and pepper.
Roast uncovered for 45 minutes, then cover with foil and return to oven for a further 90 minutes, or until cooked through.
To serve, sprinkle remaining herbs on to the cavity.
- A Life Kitchen Christmas, by Ryan Riley, is available at lifekitchen.co.uk, free for a limited period.
Gluten-free pork stuffing
It’s not just those with coeliac disease who avoid gluten, the protein in bread. Thousands of Britons suffer with non-specific gluten sensitivity, when it reacts with bacteria in the gut, leading to bloating, cramps and stomach pains.
This stuffing uses gluten-free bread and softened parsnips.
● Olive oil
● 2 onions
● 4 parsnips, chopped
● 4 celery stalks
● 2 braeburn apples
● Splash of red wine
● 8 gluten-free sausages
● 220g gluten-free bread
● 2 tbsp boiling water
● 1 large egg, beaten
This gluten-free pork stuffing uses parsnips, celery and apples
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/ gas mark 5 and grease a baking dish. Boil parsnips on a medium heat while you finely chop the onions, celery and apples.
Fry the onion until soft. Then add red wine and salt to the parsnips and leave for ten minutes. When the parsnips are soft, remove the lid, add the apple and celery and cook for another couple of minutes.
Spoon the mixture into a bowl and allow to cool completely. Once cool, cut the ends off the sausages and squeeze the meat out of their skins into the bowl.
Blitz the bread into breadcrumbs using a food processor, then add to the bowl, along with the water.
Mix and add a little of the egg until it all comes together – use your hands if you need to.
Then press into the baking dish, cover with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, cook for another ten minutes, then serve.
Veggie gratin for sore mouths
Another common side effect of cancer drugs is mucositis, otherwise known as painful mouth sores, making it almost impossible to enjoy the crispy roast potatoes we all adore.
Crohn’s disease, nutrient deficiencies and chickenpox also cause agonising mouth ulcers.
One option is pureeing food. But as a luxurious alternative, try a gratin, with slices of vegetables gently softened in milk – either oat, for dairy-dodgers, or cow’s. This take on chef Gizzi Erskine’s classic involves miso – great for awakening taste buds – but soy sauce, thickened with a teaspoon of flour, will have a similar effect.
Veggie gratin for sore mouths
● 2 tbsp olive oil
● 4 shallots, sliced thinly (or two onions)
● 500g parsnips, sliced into thin discs
● 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
● 1 tbsp miso paste
● ½ tsp salt
● 250ml oat cream (or normal cream)
● Few sprigs of thyme
Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/gas mark 9. Heat oil in a pan and gently sweat the shallots for 20 minutes until they are soft.
In a separate pan, add sliced parsnips (don’t bother to peel), miso, salt and stock. Bring to the boil then take off the heat immediately.
Drain the parnsips, reserving the stock. Return the stock to the heat until it turns thick and syrupy. Once the parnsips are cool, take a gratin dish and make a layer of parsnips on the bottom, two or three slices thick. Then layer some onions and some of the rosemary. Repeat until you’ve nothing left but the sauce.
Over a medium heat, add milk to the sauce until dissolved, then pour over the gratin. Bake for 20 minutes until bubbling and golden on top.
Boozy orange jelly for low-cal sticklers
It may be the season for excess, but with Britons more conscious than ever of the risks of obesity, many will stick with their diet through the festivities. These fruity jellies pack a punch of flavour and come in at roughly 100 calories each.
● 7 leaves of gelatine
● 6 oranges – 5 juiced, 1 segmented
● 300ml prosecco or champagne
Using a knife, neatly segment 1 orange so it’s free of pith, and put the gelatine sheets into a bowl of cold water for a few minutes to soften.
Put 100ml of the orange juice into a small pan and gently heat. When the gelatine feels soft and the juice is simmering, remove the juice from the heat.
After allowing water to drip off the gelatine, drop them into the hot juice. When they have melted, stir the hot juice into the rest of the juice with the prosecco or champagne, then ladle into 6 glasses.
Drop in 2 orange segments per glass, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
These boozy orange jelly for low-cal sticklers will help people keep to their diets
A Christmas cake to beat the bloat
They may be show-stoppers for the table, but Christmas cakes are packed with dried fruits which can spell disaster for sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome. Heaps of raisins and sultanas, as well as almonds, can react with bacteria in sensitive guts, producing gas and water and causing bloating and pain. This version uses cranberries and blueberries instead with only a small handful of raisins.
● 40g dried cranberries
● 50g dried blueberries
● 20g dried raisins
● 80ml brandy
● 83g unsalted butter, softened
● 185g brown sugar
● 3 eggs
● ¾ medium tin of pineapple, drained ● 120g roughly chopped pecans
● 140g self-raising flour, sifted
● 80ml milk
● 1 tsp ground cinnamon
● 1 tsp ground nutmeg
● 1 tsp vanilla essence
The night before cooking, soak the mixed dried fruit in the brandy, in a bowl, cover and stand overnight.
The following day, preheat oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Grease and line a 20cm round cake pan.
Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl and add the eggs gradually, beating until combined, then stir through the soaked dried fruit, pineapple, chopped nuts, spices and vanilla. Fold through the flour and milk then spoon all into the tin, smoothing the surface.
Bake for an hour and 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Leave to cool slightly before serving with cream or custard.
This delightful Christmas cake includes baked dried fruit, pineapple, chopped nuts, spices and vanilla
Hairy Bikers’ dairy free Christmas trifle
You’d never notice that this Christmas classic – a twist on the Hairy Bikers’ boozy offering – contains no dairy whatsoever, so is perfect for those with lactose intolerance and dairy allergies. Most supermarket sponge fingers are dairy-free, but check the back of the packet just in case.
● 1 packet of trifle sponges or fingers
● 2–3 tbsp raspberry jam
● 150ml sweet sherry or marsala
● 150g amaretti biscuits
● 500g raspberries
● 1 tbsp custard powder (most brands are dairy-free)
● 100ml plant milk
● 50g toasted flaked almonds
● 1 tbsp brandy
● 1 lemon, zested
● 2 tbsp caster sugar
● 400ml thick almond or coconut yogurt
This Christmas trifle does not contain any dairy products and instead uses almond or coconut yogurt
Put 50ml of sherry or marsala in a bowl and add the brandy, lemon zest and caster sugar. Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and then leave to stand for at least 20 minutes.
Make the custard according to the packet’s instructions, using plant milk.
To assemble the trifle, spread raspberry jam on half the sponges and arrange them in the base of a trifle bowl. Pour on the remaining sherry or marsala and top with amaretti biscuits, followed by the raspberries.
Spoon the custard over the raspberries, then cover and leave to chill for 30 minutes.
Stir the sherry or marsala mixture in with the yogurt and spoon this over the top, before sprinkling on the toasted almonds and some extra lemon zest.
- The Hairy Bikers’ One Pot Wonders, by Si King and Dave Myers (Seven Dials), £22.