Community kitchen - festive special
Here is the first of Verite's new 'Community kitchen' blogs. A monthly write-up that gives us the low down about what food is currently in season, nutritional benefits and different recipes to try. Thank you Verite, over to you!
A little about me
When I was eight, I decided it was
time I learnt to cook, I made meringues, and had an early lesson in how to
disgust people with my cooking. Thinking that bright green coloured
meringues were fun to make, it was disappointing that none of the family wanted
to eat them.
Since then I thought a lot more about what people like to eat, and loved to cook for parties. Friends would come for lunch and stay way into the evening - one memorable lunch ended at 4 am the next morning. But these days, my disabilities mean that I can't stand, or sit, for very long, so my cooking is no longer an all-day love affair whilst I try out new recipes. Instead it has become a quick dash between freezer, fridge and cupboards whilst I assemble something that I would like to eat, and hopefully gives friends a pleasant meal.
Now, instead of trying to produce gourmet menus, I focus on seasonal food - and make a feature of things like Asparagus, or the first cherries. And at Christmas time I tend to serve a hunk of a good cheese (or two or three) along with crusty bread, celery and, if I can get hold of them, wet walnuts (those wonderful walnuts that come in their shells; so fresh that the skin inside still surrounds the juicy nut). Friends fall on these, and I find seasonal foods can be just as exciting as gourmet cooking. And at Christmas, something simple is often a pleasant change.
For me as a disabled person, serving up a whole Turkey with all the trimmings is a no-no. Even if I could manage to get it into the oven, taking a heavy bird out of a hot stove has to be a no-no. Instead, Andy at my local Waitrose suggested cooking a Turkey Crown. Waitrose, along with most supermarkets, supply them in several sizes, along with ready-prepared sprouts, carrots and so on. Once bought, all you have to do with a crown is read the cooking instructions.
Just as I was writing this, out comes a new Oxford Study, which raises questions over bone health for those who are vegan. Brittle bones are very nasty and come along with age, and lack of calcium. Adults need 700mg (milligrams) of calcium a day, so until the dust has settled, I would suggest contacting the Vegan Society for their suggestions on how to ensure you have enough calcium in your diet, they also have suggestions for Christmas dinner. It might also be a good idea to check the website of your favourite grocery store, who would be likely to have a section dedicated to vegan recipes.
Alternative to Christmas pudding
You need to go to town with the pud, it should look as if you have made an effort. Many don't like Christmas pud, but if you like chestnuts, these feature often in French Christmas cooking. I make a Chestnut ice-cream pudding, and instead of pouring flaming brandy over it, I drown it in hot chocolate sauce! So here is my Christmas Chestnut Pudding:
1. First make your favourite vanilla ice-cream; or try this easy one from Nigella. To make the ice cream, you'll need:
- 250 grams sweetened chestnut puree (from a can or jar)
- 300ml double cream
- 50 grams icing sugar
- 2 tablespoons cooking brandy, or you could use rum, coffee or Baileys (optional)
See if you can find a tin of Faugier sweetened chestnut puree with which to make the ice-cream, I find it has a lovely taste. As it is sweet you may not need to use all the icing sugar, although do remember that sugar helps the set' and the ice-cream loses sweetness as it freezes. However, I would be careful using any substitute for cream; as there are no eggs in the recipe you will need all the 300 mils. Set it in a bowl that has a similar shape to a Christmas pudding bowl, and it should be enough for 6 to 8 people. Alternatively, if you'd rather not make your own ice-cream, cheat and buy a tub of the best vanilla.
2. Mix the ice-cream with a tin of sweetened chestnut purée, squash it into a greased pudding bowl, cover and freeze.
3. On Christmas morning, bring the pud out of the freezer, dip the bowl (carefully) in warmish water and turn out.
4. Decorate with swirls of cream and if feeling extravagant, cut up whole marrons glacé (sugared chestnuts) and dot around.
5. Re-wrap in tinfoil (don't press too hard on cream swirls) and return to freezer, ready to bring out 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
6. Meanwhile place a fire-proof bowl above boiling water in a saucepan and heat chocolate pieces to make a sauce (I prefer dark chocolate). Make sure the bottom of the bowl is above the level of water, otherwise it will go nasty. Cheat: heat a good shop-bought chocolate sauce instead.
7. When ready to eat, pour the melted chocolate into a heat-proof jug and hand round to pour over the ice-cream - the more the merrier!
Author : Verite.
Writes for www.aftercancers.com on disabled living, food, and so on.