Roasted squash and lentil filo swirl

It’s only a week until Christmas Day! Have you decided what you’re having for Christmas lunch this year? It could well be nut roast – and why not? It’s delicious. Especially if you jazz it up a bit with a filling, like this stuffed nut roast recipe. But what if you fancy something a bit different? Or can’t eat nuts? What else can you make for that special meal?

This super tasty roasted squash and lentil filo swirl might just hit the spot for you. The soft and flavoursome filling contrasts perfectly with the crunchy flaky filo on the outside. And it looks dead posh too, even though it’s pretty simple to make.

To make this recipe easier, it’s a good idea to roasted the squash ahead of time so it’s ready for when you want it. And to make it even easier, you don’t even need to take the skin off. Peeling squash is just all too much 😉 It’s enough to wash the skin, then slice, remove the seeds inside and cut into chunks to tip into a roasting tray. Simple!

I’ve used filo for this tasty swirl as it contains only a few ingredients and is easy to use. But if you’re gluten free, it’s not ideal. You can buy it, but it’s hard to find. And you can make it, but it’s pretty tricky!

As an alternative, you could use bought gluten free pastry either short crust or puff pastry. But these can contain higher levels of saturated fat or animal fats, which again is not ideal. So an alternative is to use a large cabbage or winter greens leaf. Yup you read that correctly! It’s not as crazy as it sounds, honest!

Remove the inner stem and lightly steam for a couple of minutes. You want it to soften but not cook.  Refresh the leaf in some cold water, pat dry, then place some of the filling on one side and wrap it up in to a little parcel. Secure with some thin strips of leek or a cocktail stick. This can then be baked in the oven. It’s not a swirl, but it still tastes fab!

Of course, this recipe can be made any time of year – it’s not just for Christmas! But if you do make it for Christmas Day, I hope you enjoy it with all the normal trimmings. Do let me know how you get on!

Roasted squash and lentil filo swirl

A delicious main course for those special meals filled with delicate seasonal flavours and comes with a satisfying crunch.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
resting time 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 4 swirls

Ingredients
  

  • 1 medium squash
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 150 grams mushrooms a woodland mix or chestnut mushrooms are good
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp tamari or coconut aminos
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, coriander and cumin
  • 250 grams cooked puy lentils
  • 50 grams dried cranberries or raisins soaked in warm water
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 handfuls fresh coriander and/or parsley chopped
  • 4 sheets filo pastry
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or soya milk

To garnish

  • extra sliced almonds and chopped herbs

Instructions
 

Roasting the squash - can be done the day before

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas4.
  • Chop the squash into smallish chunks –there's no need to peel at the moment. Place in a large baking tin, massage in a tiny bit of olive oil (optional) and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or so until soft and lightly caramelised. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Make the filling

  • Finely chop the onion. Heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the base of a medium-sized pan and add the onion and bay leaves. Sauté for 5 minutes until soft. Stir regularly and add a little more water if needed to ensure the onion doesn’t stick.
  • Finely chop the mushrooms and garlic cloves. Add them to the pan with the tamari. Stir well and sauté for a few more minutes.
  • Chop the squash into small pieces – remove any thick, chewy bits of skin but otherwise keep the skin if its soft from roasting. Mash half the squash, keep the other half chopped.
  • Add the squash to the pan along with the spices and lentils. Stir well. Add the soaked fruit along with a little of the soaking water and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper. Add the ground flaxseed, sliced almonds, fresh herbs and lemon juice. Leave to cool for 15 minutes. The mix with thicken slightly.

Construct the swirls

  • If not already on, pre-heat the oven to180ºC/350ºF/Gas4. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
  • Divide the mix into 4 in the pan.
  • Carefully lay out a sheet of filo pastry onto the worktop or large board long side horizontal (landscape). Spoon one portion of the mix along the top edge of the pastry in a narrow line. Brush the rest of the pastry lightly with olive oil or soya milk and carefully roll into a long sausage shape.
  • Pinch one end of the sausage to seal then care wind it up into a swirl. Transfer to the baking tray using a spatula and brush the top with more olive oil or soya milk.
  • Repeat the process another 3 times until you have 4 swirls on your tray. Place in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly brown and crisp.
  • Garnish with almonds and herbs if you are serving straight away or leave to cool and keep in the fridge for 24 hours. Gently reheat in the oven before serving.
Keyword Christmas, entertaining, OMS friendly, plant based, vegan

 

Yule log

I hope you’ve found my Sensitive Foodie guide to Christmas helpful and you are all ready for the big day. There’s a huge range of recipes in it to help you enjoy your whole-food plant-based Christmas eating, but there is one key thing we make every year that’s not on that list yet. So as my present to you, here’s the recipe for my daughters favourite seasonal treat – yule log.

To be honest, this is one of my more complicated recipes, but if you are used to baking then hopefully you won’t find it too difficult. And if you’re not a free-from baking aficionado, then do still give this a go as to be honest, if I can do it, anyone can!

This yule log uses aquafaba, the brine left over from cooked chickpeas. Make sure you choose an unsalted version; for this recipes you will need two 400g tins. There’s lots of recipes you can make with chickpeas though so they won’t go to waste. When whisked, aquafaba reacts in the same way as egg white and so works well for the soft pliable sponge needed for yule log,  perfect if you are vegan or intolerant to egg.

You can use gluten free flour for this recipe, but make sure it has xanthum gum in the mix. This helps to stop the cake from falling apart, although to be honest with you, it is extremely difficult to stop this sponge from breaking when made gluten free. But never fear, as it’s going to be covered in lovely frosting, and unless you’re entering it into a baking competition, no-one will be too worried if it doesn’t have a perfect curl inside (and if they do, they can go and find their own yule log to eat!).

My chocolate frosting is perfect for anyone following special programmes like Overcoming MS which omit saturated fats and dairy. Admittedly it’s not as sweet as most chocolate frostings, but still taste delicious and complements the super sweet sponge. And it allows yule log to be back on the menu, which in my book is a really good thing!

Finally, if you want to go all out with the Christmas flavours, add a layer of chestnut puree on the inside of your yule log along with a layer of the chocolate frosting. But if you don’t happen to have any to hand, then don’t worry as it tastes fabulous with or without.

I hope you get a chance to make this lovely yule log. If you do, don’t forget to let me know how you get on. I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

 

Yule log

A delicious yule log recipe that is plant-based, lower in refined oils and sugar and can be made gluten-free if needed. Tastes so good that everyone will love it!
Course Dessert

Ingredients
  

  • 3 tablespoons soya milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 240 ml aquafaba (the brine from a tin of chickpeas)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 150 grams coconut sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 170 grams whole-wheat self-raising flour or gluten-free self-raising flour mix
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (ensure GF if needed)
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar

Sweet potato or avocado chocolate frosting

  • 1 medium sweet potato baked in its skin, cooled and peeled
  • or
  • 1 medium ripe avocado peeled and destoned
  • 2-4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa or raw cacao powder

To finish

  • 185 grams pack chestnut puree optional
  • 2 tablespoons soya milk
  • icing sugar to dust for decoration

Instructions
 

  • Lightly grease a swiss roll tin and cover with baking paper.
  • Add a little lemon juice to the soya milk and leave to thicken and curdle
  • Pour the aquafaba into a large bowl and whisk until thick and stiff. Add the cream of tartar and whisk again, then gradually pour in the coconut sugar whisking all the time. Finally add the vanilla essence and soured soya milk, whisk again to keep thick and light.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a separate bowl. Mix well to ensure everything is combined
  • Carefully pour the flour mix into the aquafaba mix, quickly and lightly folding it in. Try to keep as much of the air present as possible. It will become thick.
  • Quickly spoon out onto the prepared baking tray and lightly spread out to evenly cover – don’t press it down though. Tap on the work top a couple of times.
  • Place the tray in the oven and bake for 8 minutes. 
  • Place a clean tea towel on the work top and cover it with a clean piece of baking paper. Sprinkle the caster sugar over the paper. 
  • Check the cake -if the sponge is firm but springy, it’s ready. If it’s still a little wet, return to the oven for another couple of minutes but do not overbake.
  • Remove the tin from the oven. Carefully turn the cake out onto the prepared baking paper. Peel away the paper from the top, then roll up in the new baking paper lengthways. Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool. 
  • Make the chocolate frosting by placing the prepared sweet potato or avocado, maple syrup and cocoa/cacao powder into the bowl of a small food processor. Whizz until the mix is well combined and smooth. Taste and add more maple syrup or cocoa as needed for taste and/or texture.
  • Place the chestnut puree in a bowl and loosen slightly with the soya milk so it is spreadable.
  • Once fully cool, unroll. It may crack and break a little, but don’t worry!
  • Spread 1/3 of the sweet potato icing over the cake and the chestnut puree if using. Carefully roll up lengthways. 
  • Cover the outside with the remaining sweet potato cream, creating a wood effect with a fork. 
  • Transfer to a serving plate or board. Sprinkle icing sugar over the top if using and leave to set in the fridge before serving
Keyword Christmas, gluten free, OMS friendly, plant based, vegan

The Sensitive Foodie Guide to Christmas Cooking

It's December, and I now feel it's ok to start talking about Christmas. I always love this time of year; I'm particularly fond of all the seasonal treats! However, when you're a sensitive eater, whether because of food intolerances or health problems, it can be difficult to fully indulge.

That's why last year I ran my Countdown to Christmas, an advent calendar of delicious seasonal recipes; all whole-food, plant-based and adaptable to be gluten-free and nut-free (except for the nut loaf - sorry!). It covered soups and salads, mains and sides. And of course lots of sweet treats!

As these recipes are scattered over the blog, I've collated them into this guide so you can easily find the one (or two) you're looking for. And to make life even easier, I'm pinning this to the top of the blog until 26th December so you don't have to go rummaging for it. Christmas sensitive eating made easy!

Oh, and if there's something you love to eat at Christmas that's not included, do let me know so I can include them in the future.

Christmas biscotti
Christmas biscotti
Roasted squash, red onion and Brussel sprouts
Roasted squash, red onion and Brussel sprouts
Mince pies
Mince pies
Stuffed nut loaf
Stuffed nut loaf
merry-christmas-2953721_1920

Last day of Advent

It’s Christmas Eve, and day 24 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, the last instalment for this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts over the last 3 weeks or so and that they have helped make your plant-based Christmas a little easier!

As it’s Christmas Eve, I’m gifting you an early present – access to 5 of the recipes coming up in my new book Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie. I’m so excited as it’s been a long-held ambition to be a published author. Out in February 2019, my dream is coming true!

More than just a plant-based cookery book, Eat Well, Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie is an accessible guide to understanding the connection between the food we eat, our health and the wider world around us. I explore our amazing bodies and how they prefer to live like Baby Bear – just right. It’s packed full of loads of fascinating facts, useful information and my tried and tested top tips.

Of course there are delicious recipes too – over 100 of them. Easy to follow and full of deliciousness there will be something to please even the fussiest of veggie eaters!

As valued readers of my blog, I’m giving you opportunity to have a sneak-peak of 5 recipes and exclusive access to pre-launch offers. Just sign up to my special book mailing list and you will can try out the recipes straight away, just in time for Christmas (in case you haven’t got anything else to do 😉 ).

Sign up now!

Finally, the last thing to do is thank you for being part of The Sensitive Foodie community and wish you all a very merry and tasty Christmas.

Wholegrain bread sauce

It’s day 23 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar and it’s only 2 days to go until the big day! Recipe-wise, we’re down to the nitty gritty, the little extras that complement the main dish of the day. Even though we’re not serving a roast meat, there is one condiment we will not be doing without – bread sauce.

Traditionally made with butter, milk and/or cream, it may seem an unlikely side to serve. But we all love it and it’s surprisingly easy to make dairy-free and even bread (and therefore gluten) free. There’s something delightful about clove infused gloop that just hits the Christmas spot!

There are so many milk alternatives to choose from that side of things is pretty easy. I use oat milk as it is still a little creamy; almond milk is another good option. To make it extra creamy, I add a little oat cream during the last bit of cooking – Oatley cream is great for this.

For the bread crumbs, I use wholemeal bread for the rest of the family. As I am yeast intolerant, that doesn’t work for me, so I keep a little of the infused milk to one side and make a small portion of bread sauce using brown rice crumbs. It tastes just as good, although the texture is slightly more grainy.

The only downside of making your own bread sauce is you need to ensure there’s adequate infusing time; the milk needs time to absorb the onion and clove flavours. A couple of hours is enough, more if possible. If you remember, do it the night before and then it’s super quick to bring it all together on Christmas Day.

My Advent Calendar is is nearly at it’s end – only 1 more post to go! Don’t forget to let me know how you’ve been getting on with the recipes.

Wholegrain or gluten free bread sauce

  • 500ml creamy dairy-free milk like Oatley or Almond Milk
  • 1 onion, peeled but left whole
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12 black pepper corns
  • 100g wholemeal bread or brown rice crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons oat cream
  • salt to taste
  • flaxseed oil (optional)

Infuse the milk at least 2 hours before you want to make the bread sauce. Pour the dairy-free milk into a small saucepan. Stick the whole cloves into the side of the onion. Drop this into the milk along with the bay leaf and pepper corns. Slowly bring to the boil, simmer for a minute then turn off the heat and leave to infuse. If you are doing this the night before, transfer the milk and flavourings into a bowl and leave covered in a cool place.

Blitz the wholemeal bread into fine breadcrumbs. When you are ready to make the bread sauce, remove the clove-onion, bay leaf and pepper corns from the milk. Pour the milk back into a saucepan (if you have removed it) and place over a low heat. Add the breadcrumbs or rice crumbs and gently bring to a simmer, stirring regularly. The crumbs will swell and the mix thicken until it’s thick and gloopy. This may take up to 15 minutes.

Add the oat cream (if using) when it’s thick along with a little salt and stir well. Turn off the heat, transfer to a serving dish and place the onion and bay leaf back in the top until you’re ready to serve. Remove these and add a little flaxseed oil if using before serving.

Vegan marzipan

Back on day 1 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, I brought you my version of a whole-food, low added sugar Christmas cake. Mine has been hidden away, a little extra brandy added every week to make it extra moist and boozy. Now it’s time for the next stage. So for day 22, I bring you my version of marzipan – a low sugar, gluten-free, egg-free almond paste.

There’s not getting away from the fact that this a very different to marzipan you buy in the shops. It’s not smooth, delicate or yellow! It is however super tasty and easy to make. It is rather soft though, and not so easy to roll out. But if you’re happy using your hands instead of a rolling pin, it’s super simple to use as it’s pliable and really forgiving. As the dough is so soft, it’s a good idea to make a few days before you plan to ice the cake to give it a little time to dry out.

Before I go on, I feel it’s important to discuss the elephant in the room – how to ice a Christmas cake using whole-food ingredients. After all, icing is pure sugar, and icing sugar at that, the most refined you can get. To be honest, I have no alternative to offer. A Christmas cake should be white – it’s snow after all. There are recipes for brown sugar icing, but I feel it makes a cake look more like dirty slush rather than fresh virgin snow! Sometimes on special occasions, you have to make a compromise.

So I use ready-roll icing, add it to the cake to make it look lovely. Then when presented with a slice, I decide if I want to eat it or not. Since eating a whole-food plant-based diet my taste-buds have changed so much that icing really is too sweet for me now and I tend to peel it off and just enjoy the rest of the cake. Maybe one day I’ll find a good alternative, but for now, that’s the best I can come up with!

Right, now that’s been dealt with, back to the marzipan. Recipes usually call for a large amount of sugar, but I feel that ground almonds have a natural sweetness of their own, so have only added a small amount of coconut sugar. To replace the eggs, I have used ground flaxseed. As well as working as a binding agent, this adds a little extra plant-based omega 3 fatty acids, an extra healthy bonus hidden away.

Once you have made the dough, the natural oils will start coming out; this is what makes it difficult to roll out. So just grab chunks of the marzipan, flatten it in your hands then stick to the cake, pressing it into place. Once you’ve covered it completely, smooth the joins to make it look seamless and all will be well.

One last thing, I used a little warm marmalade to help keep the marzipan stuck to the sides of the cake, a preventative measure rather than an absolute necessity. I figure it’s best to stick it in place now rather then risk it sliding off when it’s dried.

The amounts in the recipe is enough for a thin coating for a 20cm round cake as per the recipe here. If you give this a try, don’t forget to let me know how you get on.

Vegan marzipan

  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 50g coconut sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond essence
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade (optional)

Mix the ground flaxseed and water together in a small bowl and put to one side. In a large bowl, add the ground almonds and coconut sugar and mix together. Pour in the flaxseed mix and almond essence and bring together, first with a spoon and then your hands to form a soft, kneadable dough. Leave to settle for 10 minutes.

Cut the dough in half. Use one half to cover the top; break in half, flatten one half in the palm of your hand then place over the top of the cake. Spread it out with your hands, pinching together any breaks and patching where needed. Repeat to cover the remainder of the top.

Whilst you are covering the top, gently heat the marmalade so it’s easily spreadable. Use a pastry brush to spread it over the side of the cake. Break the remaining half of marzipan into small balls. Flatten each one in the palm of your hand into rough rectangles and apply to the side of the cake. Pinch any joins together and patch where necessary. Finally, smooth the top edges to make it seamless.

Transfer to a serving plate, cover loosely with foil and leave in a cool place to dry for 2 days if possible before icing.

Comforting yellow split pea soup

I’m always amazed by people who manage to be ready for Christmas way before the actual big day arrives. I used to be, but then when I was pregnant with my son he decided to arrive one week before Christmas, 4 weeks early and it’s all been chaotic ever since!

It’s easy to become frazzled in the busy run up, so for day 21 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, I give you a gorgeously warming and comforting yellow split pea soup.

This soup is packed full of healthy nutrients and healing spices, perfect to help keep the seasonal bugs at bay and soothe frayed nerves. Yellow peas are grown specifically for drying; their natural break in the middle allows them to be split than stored. In India they’re used for dal and traditionally in the UK for making pease pudding, something I remember being fed as a child but seems to have gone out of fashion.

Yellow split peas contain fabulous amount of fibre, perfect to promote gut health, a key part of our immune system. And it’s yellow, so another addition to rainbow phytonutrients that support the body’s metabolism. In fact, this soup is a cacophony of rainbow colours and flavours and will bring a little sunshine to a dull December day.

So why not take a moment to sit and enjoy the wonderful flavours and switch off from all the craziness going on around you. Your body and mind will love you for it, that I guarantee.

Comforting split yellow pea soup (serves 4-6)

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium leek, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 large celery stick, diced
  • 1 fat clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 100g yellow spilt peas]
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 800ml vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • flaxseed oil to serve (optional)

Heat a couple of tablespoons of water to a large saucepan and add the onion, leek, carrot and celery. Stir well and sauté for 5 minutes until the veg starts to soften. Add the garlic and tomato and cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the spices and yellow split peas to the pan, stir well to combine and cook for a minute, then add the tinned tomatoes and stock. Stir well, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and pop on the lid. Simmer for 35 minutes or until the yellow split peas are soft and the veg is mushy. Turn off the heat and leave to cool for a minute.

Using a stick blender, blend the soup, but not completely to leave a little texture. Season with salt and pepper, and serve steaming hot in bowls with a glug of flaxseed oil if desired. Enjoy!

Celeriac ‘steak’ and red wine gravy

It’s 2 for the price of 1 for day 20 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar – another gravy for you to try, and a super easy yet delicious celeriac ‘steak’ to pair it with.

Celeriac or Ood?

If you’ve not tried celeriac before, I’d definitely recommend it. It has a mild celery flavour, but not overpoweringly so, that is also slightly nutty. Incredibly versatile, you can use it for soup, mash or roast is. It’s also lovely raw in salads; celeriac remoulade is delicious! Eating it raw also retains the wonderful nutrients hidden inside this funny looking root (we always think it looks like an Ood from Dr Who!). Vitamin  C and potassium can be found in good amounts, but can seep away when cooked. There are other benefits as well including vitamin K and B6, and lots of lovely fibre.

Of course, to get a ‘steak’ you need to cook it! They are super simple to make, in fact the most difficult bit is cutting it into equal sized slices. Once cut, celeriac starts to oxidise quite quickly. I like a little savoury marinade on my steaks, so I coat each slice as soon as it’s cut. Then it’s just a matter of popping it on a baking tray and cooking. Job done. 

Red wine gravy is the perfect pairing for celeriac steaks, or any roast including Christmas dinner. I’ve added this one for those who cannot tolerate the red onion gravy from day 16. Although it’s featured in the recipe, it’s optional (as opposed to red onion gravy when it’s kinda essential!). If you have food intolerances or are 100% vegan, don’t forget to check the red wine label to make sure there aren’t any hidden ingredients that might ruin your day. 

If nut roasts or chestnut tarts are just too much like hard work for you this Christmas season, or you fancy something a little lighter and easier on the waistline, then why not give this delicious pairing a go? And if you do, don’t forget to let me know how you get on.

Celeriac steak (serves 4)

  • 1 medium sized celeriac
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  •  

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC. Mix the marinade ingredients together in bowl. Peel the celeriac with a sharp knife, and carefully slice into 2cm thick slices.  Coat each slice with the marinade and place on a non-stick baking tray. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once to ensure both sides are browned. Serve immediately.

Red wine gravy

  • 1 onion, chopped (optional)
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stick celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (optional)
  • bay leaf
  • fresh rosemary (optional)
  • 250ml red wine (vegan)
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 2 tablespoons cornflower or arrowroot powder
  • salt and pepper

Place the cornflower/arrowroot into a small dish and stir in a little of the vegetable stock to make a thick gloopy mix. Put to one side for now.

Heat a little water in the bottom of a medium sized saucepan and sauté the onion, carrot and celery for a few minutes. Add the garlic and bay leaf and cook for another couple of minutes until things start to brown. Pour in the wine, scrapping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the vegetable stock, tamari, rosemary and salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the cornflower mix to thicken, simmer for another couple of minutes then turn off the heat and leave to cool.

Place a sieve over a large bowl or wide jug and pour in the mix, mashing it down so that as much fluid and flavour comes out into the bowl. Discard the veggie leftovers. Once ready to use, reheat gently and spoon over the bake.

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Christmas tipples

As well as fine food, Christmas is a time for a little alcoholic indulgence too – some more than others! Whether it’s the office party, a friends gathering or the main meal itself, there’s usually a glass or two on offer. But when you’re following a plant-based diet, or have restrictions due to allergies or intolerances, it can create another whole dilemma, as there can be many hidden ingredients in your drink of choice.

So for day 19 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, lets have a look at booze!

One of the reasons I started my journey to wellness was to make sure I could drink wine again. That may seem a little shallow, but discovering I had an intolerance to yeast meant that wine was off the menu. And that was very disappointing, but equally a great incentive to make positive changes. It wasn’t that I couldn’t live without wine, it’s just a very social and enjoyable thing. But one of the things I learnt about wine really surprised me – the agents used for fining, or in layman’s terms getting all the gunky fermented leftovers out.

This old blog post explains more, but basically ingredients like milk protein, egg white and isinglass (fish bladders!) are used to filter out the gunk. This means that elements of these are left behind (although some wine makers deny this), creating potential problems for anyone with a intolerance to dairy, egg or fish, or who has chosen to follow a vegan diet. Legislation has meant that labelling is supposed to clearly state what may be lurking in the wine, but this is not as good as it’s supposed to be.

And even if you find one make that seems to be ok, that might only apply for one year’s batch, not another. I realised this whilst browsing the wine in a local supermarket. A particular white wine labelled vegetarian on the shelf, but when I examined the bottle label it contain shellfish. Looking more closely, there were 2016 and 2017 batches next to each other on the shelf. One was with shellfish, the other without. It would have been very easy to pick the wrong one when the shelf label clearly said vegetarian.

Supermarket own brand wines are generally clearly labelled, which is great. The other sure way to ensure no animal product has been near your wine is to choose those clearly labelled vegan. This can be tricky when you’re actually in the supermarket, so do some research before hand on their website. Wine store like Majestic Wine have some useful information about their vegan wines and I’ve found independent wine shops are generally very helpful. Barnivore is still a great resource for getting the right wine and beer (as you can have the same issue here).  If you’re looking for some recommendations, here’s two useful articles that might help –  20 best vegan wines and 10 vegan beers.

What about the expensive stuff, champagne? Although the double fermentation process removes the problem for people with yeast sensitivities, animal products may still be used for fining. But there are well-known brands that are safe to purchase. Check out this great article on champagne, and prepare your credit card for a battering!

Sometimes it’s not the fining that’s the problem, but sulfites. These are produced as a natural by-product of fermentation, so it’s impossible to have completely sulphite-free wine. But extra is often added as a preservative, creating problems for those with a sulphite or nitrite intolerance.  If it’s an allergy then wine is just a no-go area. If a small amount is ok, look for low-sulphite options. Some organic wines fit this bill. Have a look on supermarket websites or Majestic Wine again for options. But remember that sulphites act as a preservative, so will need drinking more quickly. Not often a problem at this time of year!

As for other drinks, most clear spirits are free from animal additives, although I did come across a special Christmas gin infused with wafts of roast turkey! Needless to say, we didn’t buy it. Creamy liquors are not an option though for anyone avoiding dairy products. Good news for Baileys lovers though, as their Bailey’s Almonde is now available in the UK, although it carries a hefty price tag. I will be making my own version again this year – check out this recipe to see how. It may not taste like exactly like the original, but it’s pretty close and delicious.

Whatever your tipple choice this Christmas, please do remember to drink responsibly, particularly if you have a health problem or are taking medication and never if you are the designated driver. The older I get, the less I can tolerate, so it’s important to drink quality rather than quantity!

What’s your favourite tipple? Do let me know, especially if I haven’t mentioned it here.