Coeliac disease is for life even at Christmas. Which of course means no cheat days…ever. However, with so many amazing dedicated gluten free products now available and all the foods that are naturally gluten free you really don’t need to miss out on anything. Including a rather terrific Christmas dinner.
I love making our Christmas dinner each year. And to take the pressure off thinking I have to achieve perfection, I work on the basis that it is simply like putting together an extra special Sunday roast. To make life easier, with no compromise to taste, I make sure everything on our Christmas dinner plate is gluten free. If I were to have my Christmas dinner in somebody else’s home, I would just run through with them what they were making to make sure all suitable for my diet and explain about the cross-contamination implications and how to eliminate any risk.
It’s lovely hearing how other people set about preparing and enjoying their Christmas dinner. Sharing methods, ideas and quirks can quite often spark inspiration for others. So, just in time for the big day, I thought it would be nice to share with you what I get up to in our kitchen on Christmas Day and how I pop together my gluten free Christmas dinner.
Make a list
Every year my closest friend and I cook a Christmas dinner one Sunday in December for a group of our mutual girlfriends. To make sure things run smoothly, and so we don’t forget the ‘vital trimmings’, we make a list of everything we need to cook and what time we will put things on the heat or in the oven! I definitely recommend you do this if you have a large number for Christmas dinner as it really helps – especially if you’ve hit the fizz early!
As there are only three of us for our Christmas dinner (me, Neil and my dad) we get a turkey joint, which I order from our local butcher and pick it up on Christmas Eve – I love this tradition! Our turkey joint is always big enough to give us plenty of meat for Christmas dinner and turkey and stuffing butties for tea. To prepare the turkey for the oven, I pop it into a large roasting tray, add about a cupful of cold water to the tray and sprinkle a little seasoning over the turkey skin and cover with foil. I leave it on the side for about ½ hr before putting it in the oven. Due to the size of our turkey joint it only takes about 1½ hours on 180C Fan to cook. For the final ½hr of cooking, I baste the turkey and remove the foil. Once cooked, I drain off the meat juices to use in my gravy, generally using the roasting tray to make the gravy in. I like to wrap the meat in foil and leave to rest on a plate for about 20 minutes before carving.
We have mash and roast potatoes on Christmas day. I always use Maris Piper potatoes as they make the most AMAZING mash and roasties! I put enough peeled and chopped potatoes in a pan of water for both mash and roast and bring to the boil and cook for 5-8 minutes. I then pop a good dessertspoon of goose fat into a roasting tin and pop it into the oven. Once the fat is hot, I remove the tray and with a slotted spoon – allowing any excess water to drain off – take enough potatoes for roasties from the water and gently lay them into the tray – just have to watch out for the fat spitting. I then pop the potatoes back in the oven (180C Fan) to cook for about an hour – checking them in-between and keep giving the tray a little shake or turn the potatoes with a spoon so they brown evenly. I continue to simmer the remaining potatoes in the pan until cooked and then drain them, reserving the potato water for my gravy. I mash the potatoes, adding a good knob of butter – using my separate gluten free butter of course – and season well with salt and pepper and transfer to an ovenproof dish and cover with foil. I pop these back in the oven about 10 minutes before I serve dinner up.
I only started including these in our Christmas dinner over the last few years and love them. I generally find one large parsnip is enough for two people. So, with these I just peel and slice them up into really ‘chunky chips’ pop them in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and continue to cook for about 10 minutes and then drain well. I then pop a dessertspoon of goose fat into a roasting tin and heat in the oven for a few minutes. Once the fat is hot, I remove the tray from the oven, add the parsnips and put them back in the oven (180CFan) to cook for about ¾ hour. As with the potatoes I check them in-between cooking time and turn them to brown evenly.
Carrots and Swede
I have inherited both my mums and grandmas steamers and love to use them to cook vegetables or to steam puddings. if I cook carrots on their own, I will always steam rather than boil them, as they taste so much better and are more vibrant in colour. However, if I do mashed carrots and swede, I prefer to boil them as I feel the texture is better and love this vegetable water to make gravy. It’s lovely and sweet and very tasty.
I’m a massive sprout lover, and in our house it’s compulsory we buy a ‘stick of sprouts’ for our Christmas dinner. After removing the sprouts from the stick, I peel them, score a little cross on the stalk with a sharp knife and pop into a steamer pan and steam for about 15 minutes.
Before I was diagnosed with Coeliac, I would make my stuffing using standard Paxo stuffing as a base, generally added a finely diced onion, some turkey stock and then would pop it in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes. Although Paxo now do a gluten free version, and I have a pack in the cupboard, I was torn as what to use this year, as I do love M&S ready-made stuffing in the tray on my Christmas dinner (M&S are brilliant for marking things up that are gluten free and all their suitable stuffing will indicate gluten free on the outer sleeve). Anyway, in the end, my friend Lizzi recommended a family stuffing recipe to me, which had been passed on to her by her Mother-in law. I was honoured and I decided to give it a go and was delighted with the result!
Lizzi has given me the OK to pass her family stuffing recipe on to you too:
Pigs in blankets
Good old M&S have done it again, as for quite a few years now, they have produced pigs in blankets that are gluten free and they are great! I always pick a pack of these up! Generally getting more than I really need, so we can enjoy a couple later on, with a turkey and stuffing butty. Again, like the stuffing all suitable pigs in blankets packs indicate when ‘gluten free’ on the front of the pack.
For years I used Bisto Best chicken gravy as despite it having a ‘may contain’ warning – which I would normally never risk – it was listed in Coeliac UK food and drink directory as a safe product. However, I’ve since had conflicting information when I trying to establish of its suitability. Therefore, I no longer include it within my gluten free diet. But it’s no problem, as Bisto, Knorr and other brands produce a dedicated gluten free gravy that I know will be 100% safe and I just use them instead. This year I actually went a bit freestyle with my gravy and didn’t use any gluten free gravy mixes instead I used the turkey stock, potato water, popped in a *Knorr chicken stock pot, brought all this to the boil and thickened with a little *cornflour that had been blended with a touch of cold water. Finally, I seasoned to taste!
Time to eat
I find it works well to plate all the dinner up for us on Christmas Day. If there was a few more of us, I’d pop everything on platters or dishes and put everything on the table for everyone to help themselves. Things stay hotter that way. I love too, this time of everyone passing the dishes around the table and then finally settling down to tuck in and chatter.
I’m a huge Christmas pudding fan and to be honest this is the only pudding I have ever eaten on Christmas Day after my dinner! This year we will be eating homemade gluten free Christmas pudding that I made on ‘Stir up Sunday’ – it’s currently in the freezer but I will pull out what we need on Christmas Eve and defrost in the fridge overnight and steam for about 1hr on Christmas Day. Other years I have picked myself up a tiny gluten free Christmas pudding from M&S and then a bigger standard pudding for Neil and my Dad. However, I spotted a large gluten free Christmas pudding in M&S this year and would have certainly bought this for us all if we didn’t already have one made, as their gluten free Christmas puddings are beautiful!
M&S again. The brandy sauce pictured is gluten free, delicious and to be honest I couldn’t make it any better myself. However, when I went to pick up a tub from M&S they had sold out. So, I did make my own with 1pint of full cream milk, 1 tablespoon of cornflour, 1 tablespoon of sugar and a generous splash of brandy. It’s really easy – I just pour most of the milk into a large saucepan, add the sugar and bring to the boil. In a jug I blend the cornflour with the remaining cold milk and pour into the boiling milk – whisking briskly until smooth. Then just add brandy to taste.
**By the way when I was shopping for brandy sauce, I spotted M&S custard in the tub is now no longer suitable for a gluten free diet due to the manufacturing process.
Years ago, we used to have cheese and biscuits after our Christmas dinner, but these days I’m far too full to indulge after a large meal. But I still pick out a pack of special cheese which I can enjoy with gluten free crackers and maybe a tipple of port, as and when I feel like it. Although cheese is naturally gluten free, do watch out for the added ingredients that can make it unsafe. I have spotted some with added Christmas cake before now and that would be a big no, no for anybody on a gluten free diet.
There you go that’s what happens in our kitchen on the big day – Neil prides himself that he doesn’t eat a Christmas dinner until the big day and looks forward to it so much – hope it always lives up to his expectations.
Happy Christmas to you hope you have a great time!
See you in the New Year.
*Just check to ensure no gluten containing ingredients or ‘may contain’ or ‘not suitable’ warnings on the pack. If in doubt leave it out.