I can’t believe it is one week to Christmas Day. The tree is up, garlands festoon every feasible surface, wreaths are on doors. So it is only the food to think about. And some last minute cards to post – oops!
These are my last two side dishes to give you. Both simple and make ahead (yay!). Wednesday I will offer two gorgeous and simple dessert options to prepare and squirrel away. And Friday, food to glow will feature a festive vegetarian main dish that meat eaters will almost certainly help themselves to.
But before I get on with the recipes I just want to let you know that Conner, who writes the always interesting cancer nutrition blog for Psychology Today (and is a friend of mine), has recently written up an excellent collection of gift ideas with a difference. Forget your fondue sets, reindeer shaped waffle irons, and matching his ‘n’ hers sweaters, Conner has your loved ones’ health and happiness in mind with 13 useful, beautiful, affordable, eco-friendly and healthy gifts that anyone would love to receive. I was especially taken with the idea of the Eight-Week Plan for Mindfulness (subtitle “finding peace in a frantic world”). And of course her own book, Zest For Life, which I wrote about here. Also, have a look at her instructional videos on YouTube. I wanted to link you to her gorgeous sounding gluten-free gingerbread, but all I can see now is a black screen where a video of Conner should be! Hopefully when you click you can see something. I have given you the link to the first of her 23 videos as it as introduces you to her video series about the Mediterranean diet.
And so to the three recipes – one for fennel and maple roasted carrots and the other for two ways to make creamed kale. Both vegetables are fabulous additions to any winter meal, but most especially during the holidays. Colour, nutrients and terrific taste that almost everyone will enjoy. These can easily be made ahead and also make useful leftovers. I hope you like them
A nod to my North American roots, these maple roasted carrots can be made ahead and blasted in a hot oven with your roast potatoes on the Big Day. Or, if you’ve nothing better to do (that’s a joke, btw), cook from scratch on Christmas Day itself. If you have leftovers (and like cranberry sauce, always make more than you need), whiz them up with some crème fraiche or almond cream (see Creamed Kale recipe, below) for a yummy mash.
A note on the oil, I tend to now use cold-pressed rapeseed/canola oil for roasting vegetables, with very good results. In Scotland, carrots and the stunningly picturesque rapeseed crop grow in the same type of soil, and have much more affinity with each other as roasting partners than the more usual olive oil and carrots (and other root crops). Also, the smoking point is considerably higher – organic cold-pressed rapeseed smokes at 464F, ‘plain’ olive oil at 428F, and extra virgin olive oil smokes at a low 331F. A pretty big difference. Whatever oil you use, never cook at too high a temperature; it not only goes horribly bitter, it is unhealthy too.
800g (1.75 lbs) organic carrots, scrubbed and rinsed (cut into thick cylinders if you like)
1 tbsp rapeseed/canola oil
3 tbsp maple syrup (I use Grade B – the super tasty stuff)
2 heaped tbsp fennel seeds
Drop carrots into boiling water and bring back to the boil, and fast simmer for five minutes. Steam dry in a pasta colander then pop into a wide shallow bowl (or on the baking tray) and toss with the oil and fennel seeds until well coated. Roast on a baking tray for 15 minutes at 200C (400F).
Pull the tray from the oven and drizzle over the maple syrup with a teaspoon then gently shake the tray a little to get the carrots well covered in syrup. Roast for a further 5 minutes, until the syrup starts to bubble but not burn. Carefully place the carrots in a serving dish. I used a spatula so I wouldn’t pierce the skins. Serve warm.
Make ahead: Roast with the oil and allow to cool, then store in an airtight container or wrapped in foil. When you are about ready to eat, heat a baking tray in a 200C (400F oven) oven, toss the carrots in the maple syrup and decant onto the hot tray. Roast for 8 minutes, or until bubbly and fragrant.
Serves 6, with enough for leftovers.
Soft food diet: Blend with a 2 tbsp of vegetable stock or a dollop of creme fraiche after roasting.
Creamed Kale – Two Ways
This is a simple, more than the sum of its parts side dish that you will want to eat all winter long. Even kale-deniers have been known to partake. The secret is the quick boiling and then a bath in sweet onion and nutmeg-scented crème fraiche. For vegans, a credible alternative is to make a quick cashew cream. I have given directions for both easy versions. You can make these two days in advance.
1 kg (2 lbs) kale, tough ribs removed then leaves torn and washed
1 sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped (as fine as you can get it)
2 tbsp butter or rapeseed oil (or combination of the two)
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
200g (7 oz) crème fraiche or crema (light whipping cream if others not available)
Salt and white pepper to taste
Put the chopped kale in a large pot of boiling water, return to the boil and cook for five minutes. Drain in a colander then squeeze well in a tea towel over the sink. Pop the squeezed kale onto a chopping board and finely chop (do not put in a food processor). Set aside.
Heat the butter or oil in a large pan, and when melted add the onion and nutmeg. Saute gently, stirring occasionally. When the onion is translucent – about five minutes – stir in the kale and crème fraiche, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat, pop a lid on and cook for a further 10 minutes over a very low flame, stirring occasionally. The crème fraiche will have mostly absorbed into the kale. Serve warm.
Soft food diet: After cooking blend in a blender or with a blenderstick.
Vegan Creamed Kale
1 kg (2 lbs) kale – AS ABOVE
1 sweet onion – AS ABOVE
2 tbsp rapeseed oil or coconut oil
1 batch of cashew cream – see below
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
squeeze of lemon
2 heaped tsp white or yellow miso (optional, but good for depth)
salt (if not using the miso) and white pepper to taste
Get on with the kale as stated in the first recipe, including the onions. While the onions are cooking, make the cashew cream.
When the onions are translucent add in the kale, cashew cream, lemon juice, miso and seasoning. Heat over a low flame for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Check seasoning then serve hot.
1 ½ cups raw cashews
2 cups of warm water
Pop the cashews and a little of the water into a small food processor bowl and blend until smooth, adding more water until you have the desired consistency.