Dreaming of a Light Christmas

Dreaming of a light Christmas

December is a difficult time for people when it comes to eating, so much of the food on offer is off limits. But you don’t have to avoid parties or forgo the festive feast, just make a few simple changes.

Try to keep saturated fats to a minimum and eat some slow-digesting carbohydrates with every meal. Those who are watching their weight or cholesterol levels need to cut back on all fats, but particularly saturated fat. Monitor your sugar intake as it can add many kilojoules (which can lead to weight gain), and choose foods that are high in fibre, such as fruits, vegetables and wholegrains.

In actual fact, catering for healthier eating options at Christmas and New Year can benefit the whole family. We’re fortunate in Australia as, unlike our counterparts in the northern hemisphere, an array of delectable summer fruits are at their best during the holiday season. Add crisp salads and succulent seafood, and you have all the necessary ingredients for a wide range of healthy (and tasty) meals. Following are some suggestions that will make this season’s eatings healthier for everyone.

Cut the crackling

The whole family will benefit from eating less saturated fat, which can clog arteries and raise blood cholesterol. Here are some simple tips to help you cut your intake of these “bad” fats:

  • Serve grilled, barbecued, steamed, poached or baked seafood. Providing it’s not fried, seafood is low in fat and contains valuable omega-3 fatty acids. Try prawns (which have virtually no saturated fat), stuffed squid, or whole barbecued or poached salmon or trout.
  • Choose lean meats whenever possible and cut off any visible fat. If you’re roasting pork, remove the rind and cut off the fat. Replace the rind to keep the meat moist during cooking.
  • When preparing poultry, lift the skin on the breast and remove the fatty pads. Tuck some herbs or a few lime or lemon leaves under the skin to add flavour.
  • Buy reduced-fat dairy products and save the cheese for a time when there aren’t as many fatty foods around.
  • Use vegetable oil for cooking rather than solid fats such as copha and lard. Extra virgin olive oil is the best choice of all — it has a strong flavour so you’ll use less, and a high anti-oxidant content. Macadamia and sesame oils also add a distinctive flavour and are rich in unsaturated fats. If you’re serving roast vegetables with the Christmas dinner, use an olive-oil spray instead of cooking them in the meat fat. Alter-natively, heat a baking pan until very hot. Add a teaspoon of oil, then toss the vegetables until they’re coated with a light film of oil.
  • Make all the food for Christmas dinner yourself so you can control the fat content. For example, make your own stuffing using a base of brown rice, barley or cracked wheat, rather than breadcrumbs. When baking pies and pastries, use filo and an olive-oil spray instead of shortcrust or puff pastry, which are high in fat.
  • If you need to nibble, nuts are a much healthier choice than potato chips.
  • When hosting a party, make your own dips using low-fat yoghurt. Serve them with sliced capsicum, carrot and celery sticks, raw asparagus and blanched broccoli florets rather than crackers.

Re-evaluate carbs

Carbohydrates have suffered an image problem in recent years, but much of the bad press has been generated by diet-book authors promoting a short-term fix. Your body needs carbohydrates — all you have to do is choose the healthy ones.

In the intestine, carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, such as glucose, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream. Insulin carries the glucose out of the blood and into the body’s cells to supply energy. In people with diabetes, insulin production varies, so it’s important not to flood the body with glucose. The trick is to choose carbohydrates that are digested slowly and don’t provoke a rapid rise in blood glucose. These include:

  • most fruits, including the stone fruits and berries that are in season now
  • wholegrain breads or sourdough (the real thing, rather than packaged bread with sourdough flavouring)
  • natural muesli or one of the high-fibre, bran-based cereals
  • rolled oats
  • barley
  • basmati or doongara rice
  • pasta
  • peas and all kinds of beans, including canned beans and bean mixes
  • sweet potatoes
  • waxy white potatoes such as desiree and kipfler (the kind that don’t mash well).

Dreaming of a “Light Christmas” 

Menu for 10: starter, main & dessert

Chilli & Lime Oysters with Tomato Sorbet

Chilli and lime oysters with tomato sorbet

Photography by Steve Brown

Starters for the Christmas feast are sorted with these magnificent chilli and lime oysters with tomato sorbet.

Preparation Time

25 minutes

Ingredients (serves 10)

  • 3 limes
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • 3 fresh coriander roots, washed, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbs finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 fresh red birdseye chilli, halved, deseeded, finely chopped
  • 40 oysters
  • Tomato sorbet

  • 7 (about 800g) ripe egg tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed coarsely chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 3 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 egg white

Method

  1. To make the tomato sorbet, place a shallow metal container in the freezer to chill while preparing the sorbet. Place the tomato in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. Strain tomato through a fine sieve into a large bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to push the liquid through. Discard seeds and pulp. You will need 810ml (31/4 cups) of tomato juice to make the sorbet.
  2. Add the coriander, sugar and fish sauce to the tomato juice and mix well. Pour into the chilled metal container. Cover with foil and place in the freezer for 6 hours, running a fork through the mixture twice, or until just set.
  3. Roughly break up the sorbet with a metal spoon and quickly transfer it to the bowl of a food processor. Add the egg white and process very briefly until the sorbet reaches a soft, icy texture. Return the sorbet to the metal container. Cover with foil and place in the freezer for 6 hours or overnight until firm.
  4. Finely grate the rind of 2 of the limes. Juice all the limes. Combine lime rind and juice, fish sauce, coriander roots and leaves, sugar and chilli in a small bowl.
  5. To serve, place the container of sorbet in the fridge for 15 minutes to soften slightly. Divide the oysters among serving glasses and spoon the dressing over the top. Use a sorbet scoop to place a well-formed scoop of sorbet on top of the oysters. Serve immediately.

Notes

You can make the tomato sorbet (steps 1-3) up to 3 days ahead. Continue from step 4, 15 minutes before serving. If any guests don’t eat oysters, you can substitute 2-3 peeled cooked king prawns, quartered, or a mixture of diced cucumber and avocado.

 

 

Risoni, Pumpkin & Green Shallot Salad

Risoni, pumpkin & green shallot salad

Photography by Steve Brown

Preparation Time

25 minutes

Cooking Time

25 minutes

Ingredients (serves 10)

  • 305g (11/2 cups) risoni pasta
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 800g-piece jap pumpkin, deseeded, peeled, cut into 1.5cm cubes
  • 10 green shallots, ends trimmed, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup roughly torn fresh continental parsley
  • 10 pitted kalamata olives, halved, cut lengthways into thin strips
  • 2 tbs rinsed drained capers, finely chopped
  • Dressing

  • 2 ripe egg tomatoes
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh red birdseye chilli, halved, deseeded, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp caster sugar
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. To make the dressing, use a small sharp knife to cut a shallow cross in the base of each tomato. Place tomatoes in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 1 minute. Drain. Use your fingers to carefully peel. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthways and use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds. Discard the seeds. Finely chop the flesh and place in a bowl. Add the vinegar, oil, garlic, chilli and sugar. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
  2. Cook risoni in a large saucepan of boiling water following packet directions or until al dente. Drain. Rinse under cold running water and drain well. Place risoni in a large serving bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the pumpkin and cook, turning often, for 25 minutes or until pumpkin is lightly browned and just tender. Add to the risoni with the green shallots, chives, parsley, olives and capers.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss until combined. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • You can make the dressing (step 1) up to 6 hours ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge. Continue to the end of step 3 up to 4 hours ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge. Carry out step 4 just before serving. Risoni is a rice-shaped dried pasta.

Chargrilled Asparagus with Mustard Vinaigrette

Chargrilled asparagus with mustard vinaigrette

Photography by Steve Brown

Your guests will be delighted with these spears of crunchy asparagus dipped into tangy mustard vinaigrette.

Preparation Time

10 minutes

Cooking Time

10 minutes

Ingredients (serves 10)

  • Olive oil, to brush
  • 4 bunches (about 40 spears) asparagus, woody ends trimmed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • mustard vinaigrette

  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp caster sugar
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. To make the mustard vinaigrette, place the vinegar, Dijon and wholegrain mustards, oil, garlic and sugar in a screw-top jar. Season with salt and pepper and shake until combined.
  2. Preheat a barbecue or chargrill to medium-high. Lightly brush a little olive oil over the ridges of the grill. Place half the asparagus on the grill in a single layer. Cook, turning occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned and tender crisp. Transfer to a serving dish. Repeat with the remaining asparagus.
  3. Drizzle asparagus with dressing and season with pepper.

Notes

You can make the mustard vinaigrette (step 1) up to 1 day ahead. Store in the screw-top jar in the fridge. Continue from step 2, 15 minutes before serving.

Poached Salmon with Dill & Horseradish Cream

Poached salmon with dill & horseradish cream

Photography by Steve Brown

Preparation Time

25 minutes

Cooking Time

30 minutes

Equipment

You’ll need a large fish kettle for this recipe. Fish kettles are available from kitchenware stores.

Ingredients (serves 10)

  • 1 x 2.5kg whole Atlantic salmon, scaled, gutted
  • 1 large red onion, halved, thinly sliced
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh dill
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Dill & horseradish cream

  • 150g extra-light sour cream (Pauls brand)
  • 21/2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 11/2 tbs horseradish cream
  • 1 tbs finely chopped fresh dill
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. To make the dill and horseradish cream, combine the sour cream, lemon juice, horseradish and dill in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Place in a serving jug and cover with plastic wrap. Store in the fridge until required.
  2. Measure the thickest part of the salmon and jot down the measurement. Place salmon in a fish kettle. Arrange the onion, bay leaves, thyme, dill and peppercorns around salmon. Pour in enough cold water to completely cover salmon. Add the lemon juice. Place the kettle over 2 burners or hotplates on medium-low heat or on a preheated barbecue grill. (If cooking salmon on the stovetop, it’s important to place the kettle over 2 burners or hotplates of equal size to ensure even cooking.) Slowly bring to a simmer (this may take up to 20 minutes), but don’t allow water to boil. If necessary, adjust the heat to keep the liquid from boiling. Once the water is simmering, cover and cook for 10 minutes, then cook for a further 10 minutes per 2.5cm of fish or until a thin metal skewer inserted into the thickest part of the salmon slips in easily. Use basket insert to lift salmon from the water. Carefully transfer salmon to a serving platter. Discard cooking liquid. Use a small sharp knife to carefully remove the skin from the side facing upwards. Season with pepper.
  3. To serve, place salmon on dining table. Use a metal spoon and fork to divide salmon into portions and lift onto plates. Serve with dill and horseradish cream.

Notes

  • Make the horseradish cream (step 1) up to 1 day ahead. Continue from step 2 up to 2 1/2 hours ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Semolina Christmas Pudding with Sherry Custard

Semolina christmas pudding with sherry custard

Photography by Steve Brown

Preparation Time

20 minutes

Cooking Time

240 minutes

Ingredients (serves 10)

  • 265g (1 1/2 cups) chopped seedless raisins
  • 155g (1 cup) currants
  • 135g (3/4 cup) sultanas
  • 50g (1/4 cup) mixed peel
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) pedro ximinez sherry 150g (4 slices) day-old soy-linseed bread
  • 140g (3/4 cup) fine semolina
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 x 220g can baby apple (Heinz brand)
  • 100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 250ml (1 cup) reduced-fat milk
  • Sherry custard

  • 1 1/2 tbs cornflour
  • 55g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 500ml (2 cups) reduced-fat milk
  • 2 1/2 tbs pedro ximinez sherry

Method

  1. Combine the raisins, currants, sultanas and mixed peel in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add the sherry and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 8 hours to macerate.
  2. Place the bread in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add the semolina, cinnamon and mixed spice and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Combine apple, sugar, egg and egg whites in a bowl. Add milk and mix well.
  4. Add the egg mixture to the fruit mixture and mix well. Add the semolina mixture and stir until well combined.
  5. Line the base and side of a round 22cm (base measurement) cake pan with 2 layers of non-stick baking paper. Spoon pudding mixture into pan. Tap pan on benchtop to settle mixture. Cut a 30cm-square piece of non-stick baking paper and a 30cm-square piece of foil. Place paper on top of foil and fold to make a wide pleat in the centre. Place the pleated cover over the pan, foil-side up. Tie a double piece of unwaxed white kitchen string under the rim of the cake pan to secure. To make a handle, tie a double piece of string loosely over the top of the cake pan (this makes it easier to get the pan in and out of the saucepan). Scrunch the paper and foil around the rim so they don’t get wet.
  6. Place an upturned heatproof saucer on the base of a large saucepan. Use the handle to lower cake pan into saucepan until it is sitting on the saucer. Add enough boiling water to reach halfway up the side of the cake pan. Place over medium-high heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and boil, adding more boiling water when necessary, for 4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the pudding comes out slightly sticky.
  7. Meanwhile, to make custard, combine cornflour and sugar in a saucepan. Add enough milk to make a paste. Stir in remaining milk. Stir over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes or until custard boils and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in sherry. Pour into a heatproof jug and place plastic wrap directly on surface of custard to prevent a skin from forming.
  8. To serve, turn pudding onto a wire rack and remove the paper. Cut into wedges and serve drizzled with custard.

Notes

  • Allow 8 hours macerating time.
  • You can make the pudding (steps 1-6) up to 2 weeks ahead. Wrap cake pan in plastic wrap, then foil, and store in the fridge. To reheat, steam pudding in cake pan for 1 hour. You can make the custard (step 7) up to 21/2 hours ahead. Keep at room temperature. Carry out step 8 just before serving.
  • Pedro ximinez sherry is a fruity, full-flavoured sherry from Spain. It is available from most bottleshops.

Source

Good Taste – December 2003 , Page 114

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: