As you see, I couldn’t hold out any longer. My little wordpress snowfall was my unambiguous clue to unleash the festive food. And as we are well into December, and there is a layer of snow, it feels pretty official. As a matter of fact I am even sending Mr A into the loft this weekend to fetch Christmas.
So, in the spirit of my newfound, um, spirit, for the next few posts I will be giving you some healthy, easy and hopefully quite delicious recipe ideas for this festive season. I am starting with sides (cranberries, some greens, some roots) then a dessert (or two!) and finally a rather nifty little vegan main dish that we have been cooing over here at food to glow. In truth we will have the latter on Christmas Eve, but it is something suitable for any special meal. And it is dead easy to make too. But first, the sides. And today I am having a go with cranberries – cooked and raw.
Now some of you may still be opening a jar or can of cranberry sauce and plopping it into a bowl. After all, it’s only cranberry sauce. Hardly the go-to food on the festive table. But wait! Homemade cranberry sauce is SO easy and SO much nicer than bought stuff that I guarantee you will not think, “it’s only cranberry sauce.” You will like it so much that you may slap your hand for not making enough. So double the recipe: for leftovers on Boxing Day, for January nibbling with sandwiches, cheese plates, in little filo parcels with goats’ cheese, with curries (yes) and loads of other duties that sharp sauces fulfil (nice with falafels).
And then there is the relish. If you even wince at the mention of raw cranberries I double-dog dare you to try this. It is amazing. I can say that because it is my pal Niki who made it up. I of course had to mess with it a bit, but it is her genius idea to make a snappy little raw relish to eat with festive leftovers, as well as other things that cranberries like. I like it best straight from the bowl with a spoon. Or as a dip, scooped up with a tortilla chip. The sweetness is another genius trick – dates. Smooshed up dates and pomegranate molasses. If you don’t have the pomegranate molasses just leave it out and add in some balsamic vinegar in its stead, and an extra date.
I don’t really need to go on and on about how nutritious cranberries are, do I? But I will just mention that raw and lightly cooked (but especially raw) cranberries do a fabulous job of protecting the heart and liver. I bet you were just thinking they only are good for sorting UTIs. They are also abundant, massively so, in plant chemicals that may help prevent breast, colon, lung and prostate cancer. These good guys are not found in cranberry extracts, but in the whole fruit. A great reason to try the relish! For more information, read more over on whfoods.com.
Date-sweetened Cranberry & Pomegranate Relish
This is a terrifically punchy sweet and sour raw relish, inspired by one dreamed up by my friend Niki. Date as sweetener is a good trick to use in other recipes too – when pureed and added to cakes they are a good way of keeping added sugar and fat down.
I popped in pomegranate and apple, and changed the vinegar, but otherwise it is Niki’s relish. Keep it super chunky for a prettier effect. I went a bit far with my food processor!
2 cups fresh cranberries
½ red onion, roughly chopped
good handful of washed parsley (flat or curly), including stems
Juice of one orange (I used two clementines)
1 apple, cored and roughly chopped
4 fat Medjool dates (be sure they are stoned before chucking them in your processor)
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses/syrup (I use al-Rahib brand from Sainsburys, but here is a recipe from Elise at Simply Recipes)
seeds from ½ a pomegranate
Pop everything but the pomegranate into a food processor and pulse briefly until just combined. Decant into a bowl and stir in the pomegranate seeds.
Serve with rich festive food, cold festive leftovers, in sandwiches, with a cheese platter, as a chunky dip with baked tortilla chips. I like it straight from the bowl! About 12 heaped tablespoons. Don’t freeze. Use within 2 days.
Cranberry and Apple Sauce
I know this sounds like a lot of cranberries, but believe me you’ll need them. Despite cranberry sauce being a kind of second string side dish compared to roast potatoes and stuffing, it is surprising how quickly it gets eaten. And you have to have leftovers of it for Boxing Day sandwiches (or midnight munchies if you didn’t quite get your fill earlier).
A good snappy cranberry sauce magically cuts through rich fare such as duck and goose, as well as turkey and vegetarian dishes. Make this ahead and pop it in the freezer to defrost on Christmas morning. One less thing to do and it is great cold or warm. Make double or triple and decant into sterilised jars to give as pre-Christmas gifts to friends, or keep for later use. Be sure and nestle a whole star anise into each gifted jar.
500g (17.6 oz/4 heaped cups) fresh or frozen cranberries (defrost for a better finished look – I didn’t for this batch)
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
Juice of three clementines or 1 ½ oranges, plus fine zest of one orange or two clementines (zest before juicing)
150g (3.5 oz/ 3/4 cup) Demerara/turbinado sugar or golden caster sugar
3 star anise
Pop everything into a large saucepan and bring gently to the boil. You shouldn’t need to add water put if you are a bit nervous add a tablespoon or two. Simmer gently just until the berries start to pop and the apples soften. Give it a good stir and let cool before decanting into labelled freezer bags, or hot into sterilised jars. Serve cold or warm.
Serves 8. Freezes well.