For some, Christmas and the festive season mean huge meals which leave you content but sleepy. For others, Christmas can be indulgent, full of warmth, happy and… Healthy. Light, even. If you’re looking to make it into the second category, here are some pieces of advice from epicurean naturopaths.
Children look forward to Christmas more than anything else.
It doesn’t always have quite the same magic for adults. But it does bring with it the urge to gather and reconnect, and tighten up those family ties over a special meal. The very essence of a festive meal that goes down well is shared pleasure in eating it.
Three French cooks – Barbara Tron, Céline Vaquer and Angèle Ferreux-Maeght (with an exclusive meal plan for We Are Clean!) guide us onto the path of a finely-tuned healthy diet to put our Christmas Clean meal plan together, with Christmas cheer firmly on the menu.
The authentic, light meal plan of naturopath Barbara Tron
Whenever Barbara cooks for her family, she makes it her business to make sure everyone is happy and that no-one leaves the table feeling stuffed. Because there’s a stubborn belief that leaving the Christmas dinner table groaning that you have eaten too much is somehow proof that you have eaten “well”. Overeating leaves you sleepy, since it saps a lot of your energy. Especially if the unusually large portions, along with a wide variety of different foods, are washed down with several different alcoholic drinks. “My secret is first and foremost abiding by the principle of not combining too many foods. I avoid [cheese + bread] and [vegetables + flour], since these complex combinations weigh heavy on the digestive system.
My winning combination: protein (fish or meat) + vegetables (only) and green salad with fruit and walnuts, which go well together and are easy to digest! Avoid combining meat or fish with pasta or rice, which take too much energy to digest” says Barbara. “And bread is often a popular feature, since Christmas is all about toasted bread and spreads, and bread also goes well with seafood. So switch out your white bread in favour of buckwheat bread or any other bread fermented with sourdough. And whenever possible, use a vegetable as a base in place of bread. An endive leaf, for example”. So what does Barbara’s festive meal plan look like?
An appetiser packed with vitamins
Certainly nothing flour-based, like toasted bread. When you combine flour, protein and vegetables, it all weighs heavy on the digestive system, whereas protein and vegetables or fruit and vegetables are easily digested! On Barbara’s meal plan: “Endive boats with salmon, salmon and avocado tartare and salmon or trout roe with a vegetable side. Fish roe is a superfood packed with omega 3s. In place of blinis, serve homemade crackers made with linseeds, almond flour and water. Linseed is sticky, like egg. You roll the pastry out on a baking tray and bake the jumbo cracker in the oven. Then, I make my own hummus, and serve it with raw vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots for dipping. I add tomatoes and radishes with a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. I serve guacamole and prawns in little glasses, with as little cream as possible, or otherwise high-quality unpasteurised cream, as it’s more easily digested”.
A balanced meal
To open the proceedings there’s a remineralising starter. Barbara doesn’t sidestep the traditional oysters or other seafood, since in her view they are essential superfoods. A source of magnesium and other minerals that you’d get from drinking sea water (zinc, iodine, etc.). And for the more foodie types, there’s salmon gravlax “for the omega 3 content”, she adds.
Then, tradition comes to the fore again as ever: turkey stuffed with fruit and stuffing. It’s served with salad, without potatoes or rice but with mashed sweet potato and a few Brussels sprouts. Barbara caramelises them with a little honey. “Sweet potato has a low glycaemic index, containing less starch than potato. And starch turns into sugar! Always go for organic sweet potatoes. Non-organic ones can be very heavily contaminated, if grown in poor-quality soil”.
Next, serve fresh goat’s cheese, which is very easily digested, all the more if served with green salad with pomegranate seeds, walnuts and diced avocado.
Dessert has to be Christmassy but light. “I make chocolate lava cake because everyone loves it, but my version is made with almond flour instead of wheat flour. It’s delectable, and much lighter. In place of milk, I use almond milk and a little butter. I always offer a second dessert, so that there’s a choice or to treat the more foodie types! This year, it’s going to be a mirabelle plum tart. Lastly, with coffee, I serve date and chocolate bars”.
Barbara’s recipe collection
- 1 whole salmon weighing 1 kg
- 50 g coarse salt
- 50 g icing sugar
- Chopped dill
- Cracked peppercorns
- Cracked coriander seeds
- Fillet the salmon without the skin.
- Carefully remove all the little bones, and wipe the fillets clean (rather than rinsing them).
- On a sufficiently-wide platter, lay one of the fillets.
- Sprinkle liberally with the salt, sugar, dill, peppercorn and coriander seed mixture.
- Place the second fillet on top.
- Place a baking sheet over it, weighed down with fairly heavy weights on top.
- Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 24 hours.
- To serve, cut into thin slices, tilting the knife as you go.
- You can make a sauce to go with it, with whipped quark + lemon juice and dill.
These are perfect as nibbles for dipping into guacamole or hummus, or for serving with meals. Here’s the basic recipe, to which you can add spices or dried fruit.
- 150 g linseeds
- 150 g ground almonds, pecan nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds
For example: 100g ground almonds + 20g pumpkin seeds + 30g pecan nuts
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Soak the linseeds in cold water for 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 180 C.
- Grind the 150g of your chosen nuts and seeds into flour.
- Mix the linseeds with the nut and seed flour, olive oil and salt.
- Take the resulting pastry, place it between two sheets of greaseproof paper and use a rolling pin to roll it thin.
- Carefully peel off the upper sheet of paper. Bake the pastry sheet for 10 minutes.
- baking tray out of the oven, turn the cracker over and bake for another 5 minutes.
- Take the baking tray out of the oven and leave it to cool.
- Break the cracker into pieces with your hands.
- Store in an airtight container (keeps for up to a week).
Gluten-free chocolate lava cake
- 100 g buckwheat flour
- 100 g ground almonds
- 150 g chocolate chunks or drops
- 180 g gluten-free oats
- 100 g brown cane sugar
- 120 g butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
- 100 g hazelnuts
- Preheat the oven to 180 C.
- Soak the oats in 45 cl water for 10 minutes.
- Mix all of the ingredients together.
- Bake for 45 minutes.
- Leave to cool before serving.
Petits carrés de granola, dattes, tahini et chocolat
- 1 cup dates
- 1 cup granola (homemade, following the @jolies_tripes recipe)
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 200 g dark chocolate
- Mix the dates with the granola, pumpkin seeds and tahini
- Put it all through a food processor
- Spread out the mixture in a square or rectangular mould
- Melt 200 g of dark chocolate and pour it into the mould
- Refrigerate for one hour
- Cut into little squares and enjoy!
The deliciously refined, classy, light festive meal of micronutritionist and naturopath Céline Vaquer
Céline is also an iridologist, functional nutrition and live food diet specialist (ensemblepleinesante.com). Her festive meal plan is steeped in tradition, light and gluten free. With sweet potato, of which she too is a big fan!
An exotic starter
“As a starter, I offer a few sweet potato rounds (in place of toasted bread) so that my guests don’t fill up on bread and gluten and promptly lose their appetite completely! Favour seasonal winter vegetables with another classy ingredient that’s nice and Christmassy. For example, cream of (steamed) butternut squash soup with scallop carpaccio. Seasoned with a refined mix of coconut milk and lemongrass sticks, it’s casein and lactose free. Those who appreciate seafood, which is brimming with trace elements, always enjoy that must-have seafood platter. I serve it with homemade mayonnaise made with cameline, poppy, linseed or rapeseed oil”.
Stuffed to the brim.
“I prefer fish (high in omega 3s) or white meat (like capon) to red meat, which is too fatty and heavy on the digestive system for an evening meal. For a stand-out Christmassy meal, I like to stuff the meat or fish. But always with the aim of keeping things light! The stuffing is very easy: polenta with snipped sage and sheep’s milk yoghurt, salt and pepper. Season it well to make a worthy substitute for the standard sausage meat stuffing. As for vegetable cooking methods, I avoid frying them in oil and instead favour gentle steaming, to keep the beneficial fatty acids intact”.
Cheese AND dessert.
Because in Céline’s view cheese is essential. But because she wants it to be easily digested, she offers a goat and sheep’s cheese platter. Preferably fresh cheese, because the fresher it is, the more water and therefore the fewer calories it contains. And for a sweet touch (if you don’t fancy dessert), serve it with dried fruit. For a classy touch, place a little bottle of truffle oil next to the cheeses. When it comes to dessert, opt for individual portions to help with portion control. For example: coconut panna cotta with lemon balm. That way there’s no milk, casein or lactose, and no egg. In place of sugar there’s wonderfully flavourful coconut sugar. There’s also an iced cocoa cake, whereby a gluten-free flour mix is used in place of flour. For example, in place of 150 g wheat flour you use 70 g coconut flour + 80 g rice flour. From the spice rack, there’s cinnamon, saffron, cumin and cardamom. Any vegetable dish can be livened up with truffle oil and fresh mushrooms. Another clever tip: instead of chocolate truffles, make Christmas energy balls.”
It’s all about the detail!
“To wash this meal down, favour a decent organic wine, free from sulphites and from vineyards that are respectful of the environment. Serve still water, with a low mineral content, to avoid having too big a mineral load to filter (which taxes the kidneys and body). Obviously, drink it at room temperature and not cold, as cold water slows down digestion. This is also the reason why ice cream is to be avoided at the end of a meal, as it impedes digestion due to the cold suddenly hitting the stomach. For those who can’t do without bread, I opt for rye bread (excellent for feeding the gut microbiome), wholemeal (for the B vitamins), very lightly toasted, just dried out for even easier digestion. And if you want to add an even more “traditional” touch, include chestnuts, as well as dried fruit, in sweet and savoury dishes, for their sweet Christmassy taste, without added sugar”.
Celine’s recipe collection
Sweet potato rounds recipe:
- Brush and peel the sweet potatoes
- Cut them into slices 1 cm thick
- Steam them for around 10 minutes (they need to still be firm).
Variation: with raw black radish or kohlrabi rounds.
- A handful of cashew nuts (steamed for three minutes to soften them, since they are a “substitute” for crème fraîche).
- A handful of dates
- A pinch of cinnamon
- The zest of one orange
- A little salt
- Two tablespoons of cocoa
- Mix all the ingredients (except the cocoa) together
- Put them through a food processor
Shape into balls and roll them in the raw cocoa powder (it’s so flavourful and so much more easily digested!)
The festive meal of Angèle Ferreux-Maeght, a naturopath, creative director and chef at La Guinguette d’Angèle,
- A sophisticated yet fun starter. “As a starter, I love to offer plant-based caviar, made with chia seeds and activated charcoal. I serve it with little buckwheat pancakes. To make them, you can make a big buckwheat pancake, use a glass to cut little circles out of it and then heat them up in a frying pan with a knob of butter or in a little oil. It’s a very Christmassy, light starter! Then, you can warm yourself up with a cream of chestnut soup with miso. That old chestnut revisited with an exotic touch”
- A dish with Christmassy flavours, from home or elsewhere. “Two possibilities: I either make stuffed roasted squash with fir tree flavours served with Jerusalem artichoke cream with cardamom, or spiced sticky chicken. That way there’s poultry on the menu, but with sweet undertones drawn from foreign cuisines. I serve it washed down with kombucha in attractive glasses”.
- And for dessert? A cloud! “To round off this meal on a refined, light note, I like to serve a floating island (“île flottante”). You can make this dairy-style dessert using plant milk (almond, hazelnut or soy, as you prefer)”.
Angèle’s recipe collection:
Cream of chestnut soup with miso
Serves 4 / Preparation time: 10 minutes/ Cooking time : 20 minutes
- 500 g cooked chestnuts
- 4 shallots
- 3 garlic cloves (or 1 leek)
- 2 tablespoons miso paste
- 25 cl almond cream (or double cream)
- 2 generous glugs olive oil
- 50 cl vegetable stock made from the week’s peelings to load up on beneficial minerals (optional)
- 1 bouquet garni (optional)
- salt, pepper
- Peel and roughly chop the shallots and garlic cloves. In a saucepan, fry them in the olive oil on high heat for 5 minutes.
- Next, add the cooked chestnuts. Once they have turned golden brown, reserve some as a garnish. Cover the rest of the mix with water or stock. Add the bouquet garni, if using. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove the bouquet garni. Add almond cream and miso. Put it all through a food processor. Adjust the consistency until it’s to your liking, adding water if needed. Season to taste.
- Serve neatly in soup bowls, sprinkled with chestnut pieces. Add a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh herbs, if you have some to hand!
Spiced sticky chicken
Serves 4/ Preparation time: 20 minutes / Cooking time: 1 hour
- 1 free-range chicken weighing 1 kg
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 red onion
- 30 cl tamari (or soy sauce)
- 30 cl maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- the juice and zest of 1 organic orange
- 1 teaspoon 4-spice or chai spice blend
- Preheat the oven to 200 °C.
- Peel and finely chop the red onion, and crush the garlic cloves. Mix the orange juice and zest, tamari, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and spice mix in a bowl. If you have time, reduce the mixture on medium heat into an even more caramelised sauce for the chicken.
- Place the chicken in an ovenproof dish.
- Scatter the minced garlic and chopped onion over the chicken.
- Using a tablespoon or pastry brush, coat the chicken with all of the sauce.
- Bake for a good hour (adjusting the time depending on your oven’s power level). Turn the chicken over regularly and baste it with the sauce, which will gradually reduce down.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and reserve the sauce.
- Carve the chicken and drizzle it with the sauce, keeping a small bowl of it aside for serving.
- Serve with fresh salad and mashed or roasted vegetables.
Lactose-free floating islands
Serves 4 / Preparation time : 15 minutes / Cooking time : 15 minutes
- 4 eggs
- 12 g vanilla sugar (or 1 vanilla pod)
- 80 cl plant milk(almond, soy, hazelnut… As you prefer)
- 50 g maple syrup
- 1 pinch fleur de sel
- Separate the egg whites from the yolks and beat the whites with the pinch of fleur de sel until foamy.
- Next, in a saucepan on a low heat, beat the plant milk vigorously with the egg yolks and vanilla sugar for around 15 minutes, without stopping. The plant milk needs to thicken slightly. Then set it aside.
- Pour the “custard” into a large salad bowl or individual shallow dishes. Then, using two tablespoons to grab each one, gently place the egg white islands on the top, and pour the maple syrup over.
- Serve lukewarm or cold.
Whether the meal plan that most appeals to you is that of Barbara, Céline or Angèle, bear in mind that enjoyment is the aim. By all means mix and match the various offerings of these consummate cooks, all three of whom are trained naturopaths, to put together your own Christmas meal plan.
It will all be delicious and in line with Clean Eating.
Happy Christmas. Eat, drink and be merry!