It’s December again and Christmas time in the kitchen for all us cooks! It’s time to bring out the stuffing recipes, make the mince pies and cover everything in alcohol! While my family really enjoy the traditional Turkey with all its trimmings, I look for a bit of a twist here and there. Below are some different takes on vegetables and my sugar-free mincemeat which makes delicious pies and puddings. Be warned, packets of mixed fruit contain lemon peel which is very high in sugar, so buy individual fruit packets and leave the peel out to help make it sugar-free, well, apart from the little in the brandy!!!! 

Buen Apetito  

Honey Roasted Parsnips

  • 125ml warm water 
  • 175g honey 
  • 1tbsp melted butter 
  • 5 parsnips, peeled and cubed 

Preheat oven to 190ºC/Gas 5. Stir together water, butter and honey in a large bowl until the honey has dissolved. Add the parsnips and toss to coat. Transfer the parsnips and honey sauce into a 23x30cm or similar sized baking dish. Bake uncovered in preheated oven until the parsnips are very soft, about 30 minutes. 

Brussel Sprouts with Pine Nuts & Blue Cheese

  • 90g Brussels sprouts (ends trimmed and yellow leaves removed) 
  • 115g butter, cut into pieces 
  • 1tsp sea salt 
  • ½tsp ground black pepper 
  • 4tbsp fresh lemon juice 
  • 4tbsp pine nuts 
  • 70g blue cheese, crumbled 
  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 4

Place Brussel sprouts into a casserole dish. Arrange pieces of butter on top of the sprouts. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Cover and bake for 25 minutes in preheated oven or until sprouts are just tender. Stir now and then to keep them from sticking. During the last 10 minutes, remove lid and sprinkle the pine nuts over the sprouts. When the sprouts are done, sprinkle blue cheese over them before serving. 

Gnocchi & Asparagus in Sage & Lemon Butter

  • 80g salted butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 bunch of fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 500g gnocchi
  • Bunch of asparagus, stalks trimmed
  • 50g parmesan grated

Boil a large pan of salted water. Meanwhile heat a frying pan and add the butter. Add garlic and sage and cook for 1 minute. Add lemon juice, zest and seasoning. Remove from heat. Place gnocchi and asparagus into boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes until the gnocchi rises to the top of the water. Strain well, then gently tip into frying pan and gently toss together without reheating. Serve sprinkled with parmesan.

Crisp Roast Potatoes

  • 1kg (2¼lb) potatoes, peeled and cut into thick chunks 
  • 3tbsp beef dripping (or vegetable oil if preferred) 
  • 2tbsp plain flour 
  • 1tsp dried oregano 
  • 1tsp turmeric 
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste 

Preheat oven to 200ºC/Gas mark 6

Cook potatoes for 8-10 minutes in a large pot of boiling water. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Place dripping or oil in a preheated roasting tin until almost smoking. Sprinkle potatoes with flour, turmeric, oregano, salt and pepper. Place a lid on the pot and shake vigorously so that potatoes are covered in the flour and spice mixture. Place potatoes in the roasting tin and toss to coat in the hot fat. Roast for about 40 minutes. 

Red Cabbage & Apple

  • 2tbsp vegetable oil 
  • 550g shredded red cabbage 
  • 1 onion, chopped 
  • 2 tart apples – peeled, cored and sliced 
  • 2tbsp water 
  • 1½tsp salt 
  • Ground black pepper to taste 
  • 3tbsp sugar 
  • 3tbsp vinegar 

Heat oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Stir in cabbage and onion. Fry until wilted. Add in vinegar.  Stir in apple, water, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer about 25 minutes. Add sugar into the mixture tasting for desired sweet and sour taste. Cook another 5-6 minutes. 

Sugar-Free Spiced Mincemeat

  • 225g cooked apple
  • 225g currants
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g raisins
  • 115g dried figs
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 100ml apple juice
  • Rind and juice of 1 lemon
  • Rind and juice of 1 orange
  • 200ml brandy
  • ½tsp cinnamon
  • ½tsp nutmeg
  • ½tsp ground mixed spice
  • 125g shelled walnuts chopped
  • 125g almonds
  • 125g mixed peel (optional)

Place all the ingredients except the nuts into a large bowl and soak in brandy for a minimum of 12 hours or overnight. Place mixture into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Allow to cool and then stir in the nuts. Use in cooking or spoon into containers or sterilized jars. Mixture will keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, but does not freeze well.

Sugar-Free Christmas Puddings

  • 115g wholemeal flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 50g margarine
  • 3 eggs
  • 550g sugar-free mince meat

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and beat well until evenly mixed. Lightly grease pudding bowl to be used. Add mixture to bowl and cover with foil. Steam for 2 hours. Alternatively, if you don’t have a steamer, place in large saucepan with water up to halfway of the bowl. Steam for 2 hours checking the water level occasionally and topping up when necessary. 

Chestnut Fool

  • 225g unsweetened chestnut puree
  • 150g low-fat plain yoghurt
  • 25g fructose
  • 25g sugar-free chocolate chopped

In a bowl, beat together the chestnut puree, fructose and yoghurt until smooth. Transfer to four small serving dishes and sprinkle with chocolate. Serve straight away or chill.