Valerie O’Connor offers up a couple of dessert recipes for Christmas — one is healthy and delicious — the second is just deliciously decadent.
It’s almost Christmas, let the self-sabotage begin! Recently I was advised (by someone whose services I sought out and am paying for), that a stint eating vegan would be a good idea.
While I have chosen to listen to this person, and agree with what they say, I’ll start this vegan business with fear and trepidation, but after Christmas of course.
Given that I generally follow a high plant-based diet with lots of fats, albeit from well-reared animals, I’m a little freaked out by the advice. I won’t be eating roast duck, chicken wings, sushi or meatballs for weeks, so I console myself by heading to a world famous chain of fast food restaurants and order myself a snack box.
No gravy thanks, and yes, the fork was in the bag. No fizzy drinks however, heaven forbid, a nice cuppa will wash away all that grease from the fryer. Did I enjoy the fried chicken? Oh yes, every oily bite, such yummy soggy formerly-crispy coating.
Salty, sticky, delicious. I don’t do guilt eating, guilt is for murder or embezzlement or stealing boyfriends from your friends. I try to deny to myself that I’ve eaten the chicken — afterwards, however, my belly instantly inflates to the size of a six-month pregnancy and I tell myself I have chest pains this morning.
There must be a word for food paranoia, first-world-problems-walking-on-a-food tightrope-orexia? Meanwhile I’m putting my head in the carnivorous sand and getting back to figuring out how to protect my liver during the festivities.
Christmas to me means a small handful of nights out with friends who live home and away, and otherwise I want to sleep late, read books, go for walks, stay in my PJs and enjoy doing very little. I’m not big into shopping, but I will help grannies cross the road (even when they’re not trying to), or make it on to the right bus home.
And so to the solution to feeling like you’ve just eaten a small person over Christmas? I could say eat less but nobody likes a party pooper. Stay out of the Quality Street mega tin maybe? Nobody is making us eat paté for breakfast, or drink champagne at 11am, but if you are going to misbehave, that’s a good way to do it.
At this rate, I’ll be suggesting you eat sauerkraut with your dinner and yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing. You can still throw this together and have a delicious side of appley, spiced cabbage on Christmas day. Just warm it up in a pot and pretend it’s braised red cabbage, which, by the way, is much more effort.
Eating some fermented foods with your slap-up meal, (including home-made, fried in duck-fat croquettes, I hope), will help you digest the fats and ease any stomach discomfort you might otherwise have. Sauerkraut also really reduces bloating. If your bloating is caused by a long-term love of many pints and regular fried chicken binges, sauerkraut probably won’t make any difference.
A Christmas kraut
Shred the cabbage with a large knife, you can use a food processor but it tends to chops the cabbage too finely.
Put the cabbage into the bowl with the salt and mix everything together with your hands and then get your rolling pin and begin pounding the cabbage, keep going for 10 minutes until some of the juices are being released. Cut the apple into thin pieces and mix it through the cabbage with the spices.
Sterilise your jar by putting it through the dishwasher or putting the rinsed jar in the oven at 160C for 10 minutes.
Pack the cabbage into the cooled jar with the juices, press it down and pop in a jar/weight or stone that’s big enough to put pressure on the cabbage when you close the lid down. You want it to be submerged in the juices. Place the jar on a plate to catch any juices that overflow.
Leave the jar at room temperature for 4 days, you should see bubbles happening! In a cold winter maybe put it in the airing cupboard, the ideal temperature is 20-22C. Open the jar every day to release the gasses. You can keep the jar in a cold place after this point.
As I’m working up to veganism, here’s an egg-laden, sugar filled, dairy doused, delicious and easy desert that’s impressive and posh. Also a lot cheaper than the pen of the same name, which, by the way I’d love from Santa. Makes 4
Preheat the oven to 120C. To make the meringues get a squeaky clean bowl, stainless steel or glass and separate the egg whites from the yolks, taking care that no yolk goes into the white. Pop the whites into the large bowl.
Whisk the whites with an electric mixer until they get nice and fluffy, hold the bowl over your head to check, if they don’t fall out they are well-whipped.
Slowly whisk in the sugar little by little
Take a baking sheet and line it with parchment, You can get the paper to stick to the tray by putting a tiny bit of meringue on each corner.
With a large spoon, dollop scoops of the mixture onto the tray until you have four large, shiny blobs. Now make a deep dent into each one, this is where your puree will go.
Bake the meringues in the oven for 1½ hours until they are a pale creamy colour. Turn the oven off and allow them to cool inside, this will avoid them cracking like crazy.
Peel the meringues off the paper and store them if you need to for a couple of days.
Place the individual meringues on plates and top each one with a scoop of chestnut puree, topped with thickly whipped cream, or fill the meringue with cream or ice-cream and pipe the puree finely over the meringue and cream so it looks like spaghetti strings. For a simpler finish, grate some chocolate, or dust with icing sugar to serve.
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