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Meet the challenge of feeding the family at Christmas with the help of Casa's Maria Broadbent


By Maria Broadbent


Those of you who read my column will know that as well as being all about the taste – I have a bit of a thing about wasting food, too. If you dine at CASA you may also be aware that I like nothing better than a special dietary challenge.

With Christmas looming – most of us will be faced with a guest with a special dietary requirement. Whether this is a lifestyle choice or medical this must be taken into account when preparing the meal. If you nail it at the planning stage – the prep and serving will be a breeze. Careful planning of what you are cooking and preparing will also seriously reduce the amount of waste food.

There is an irony at Christmas time that we eat bigger meals AND we eat more often. Here are some very simple ways to waste less:

Christmas tree or pines on light green pastel color background for christmas decoration with blank space . 3D rendering. (5432219)
Christmas tree or pines on light green pastel color background for christmas decoration with blank space . 3D rendering. (5432219)

Planning – thoroughly plan every meal, and try to use dishes that will use up the remaining ingredients from a previous dish.

Portion control – if you cook three carrots for three people when you are doing two veg, think that you may only need three or at the most four carrots when cooking for six people.

Serve yourself – Let people load their plates themselves, even if it is straight from the pans in the kitchen. You can re-use food from a pan easier than you can off a plate!

Christmas store hours – it’s not the end of shopping as we know it – the shops are only closed on Christmas Day and you can top up. With this in mind, try not to panic buy.

Miss a meal – not literally, just in the planning. There is bound to be some leftovers, soup to make or even a curry.

Recipes­ – have a few favourite recipes to hand for leftovers, even prep a curry sauce base to have frozen. Just defrost and add leftovers.

CURRY BASE

This is the curry my mum used to make every Christmas. Whilst it seems a little old fashioned compared to the exotic dishes we have now – everyone loves it. Plain rice, tomato and onion relish plus some mango chutney (we also have sliced banana – don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!)

1 tablespoon of oil (your preference)

1 onion – chopped

2 teaspoons plain flour (gluten free can be used)

1 tablespoon curry powder (mild, medium or hot – again your preference)

2 heaped teaspoons curry paste (I Iike a Balti paste)

¾ pint of stock (chicken or veg depending on dietary needs)

1 chopped apple (good for using one that has gone a bit soft)

2 heaped teaspoons chutney or pickle

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

A small handful of sultanas

Salt and pepper

Cook the onion in the oil till soft (see hint) add the flour, curry powder and paste and cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Slowly add the stock stirring continuously and bring to the boil. Simmer (bubble gently) for around 10 minutes. You can now cool and freeze or add your cooked meat and/or veg heat through thoroughly and serve. We have always had chicken or turkey in this but it would work with veg too.

CHEF’S TIP

When making curry, risottos or stuffings etc. where you need onions to soften – put the chopped or sliced onions in the microwave with a little water and give them a blast on medium. This will save time and energy – plus you are less likely to burn them

ROASTED VEG

This is a dish that can be as simple or as creative as you feel.

You’re going to hate me when I say “whatever you’ve got” so I will expand:

Root vegetables such as parsnips, potatoes, carrots, beetroot, onions – love red ones, sweet potatoes are all good.

Peppers, fennel, courgettes, butternut squash

(personally I would not use aubergines as texture can be difficult)

You can also roast tomatoes – but I think these are better in a separate tray

Left over veg or stuffing too!

You will also need:

Oil – I like pomace olive oil

Garlic – whole cloves and chopped

Herbes de Provence (or any dried herbs you like)

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh herbs if you have any

Preheat oven to 190°C or GM 5 for All raw root vegetables need to be cut into chunks or wedges – put them in a large baking tray in a single layer. Add the oil, herbs, salt, pepper and garlic and mix with your hands, till everything is evenly. Roast for around 40 minutes – take out half way and move them around a bit. This is the time to add any cooked veg you are using up – I would add the peppers and courgettes at this point too. When everything is hot and cooked through you can simply serve or you can add tahini dressing or a caper dressing or more fresh herbs...be adventurous!

CHEF’S TIP

When roasting potatoes or other veg that you want to crisp up – make sure they are in a heavy baking tray, that they are in a single layer (otherwise the liquid comes out the veg and they boil rather than roast) and that the oven is hot when they go in. For roast potatoes I would heat the oil in the tray in the oven before adding the par-boiled spuds

CRIB SHEET FOR DEALING WITH

SPECIAL DIETARY NEEDS

COELIAC

If you have a guest who is a coeliac, then I personally would avoid gluten in everything (apart from bread – which can be kept separate).

GLUTEN INTOLERANT

This is slightly less intimidating than a true coeliac, but I would still use a gluten-free flour to make Christmas puddings and cakes.

VEGETARIAN (lacto-ovo-vegetarian)

A person who does not eat meat or fish, but will eat dairy, eggs and honey. Traps to watch out for are jellies and marshmallows that contain gelatin which is pig fat!

VEGAN

Most people, if unfamiliar with this way of eating, fear a vegan at their table. However, rather like a vegetarian, I highly recommend creating the meal around the vegan, ensuring one dish has a source of protein. All these delicious vegetable dishes then make very tasty accompaniments to the main vegetarian, pescatarian or meat dish. Making it a win, win situation!

Foods that can challenge your thinking when catering for vegans include: cheese, eggs, honey and all dairy!

PESCATARIAN

Is a vegetarian who eats fish – I would work on the basis of making the meal meat free apart from maybe the main dish if your other guests do not like fish! You could make a baking parchment parcel with vegetables and seasoning to accompany your choice of fish – salmon works well. Fold it up carefully and pop in the oven with everything else about 12 -15 minutes before serving.

DAIRY/LACTOSE INTOLERANT

Nothing that is made from milk, so no cheese (there are some great vegan and lactose free cheeses around). Also, if you are making creamy desserts look for things like Oatley – anything labelled suitable for vegans is suitable for dairy/lactose free.

ALLERGIES

This can become deadly territory as we have seen so tragically in the news recently. If you are feeding anyone who needs an epipen, then I personally would ask them to make sure they bring it with them. I would also want to know what happens if someone does have an allergic reaction – check with them what they have been advised. One standard piece of advice is lie them down and don’t let them walk around. When shopping, the standard allergens in prepared food are listed in bold – take you glasses if you need them, as the print can be very small. Or you can take a photo on your phone and then enlarge it!



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