Christmas dinner table

A greener Christmas dinner

In Diet, Nutrition and Recipes, Environment, Ethical and Eco Agriculture, Health and Nutrition by LivingNowLeave a Comment

As another festive season descends upon us and the guilty pleasures of consumerism lead us on, with the best green and friendly (sustainable and ethical) food intentions in mind, it is time to put creative culinary juices into play when creating your Christmas menu.

The ingredients used in this unique Christmas menu were from my backyard, smaller retailers, farmers’ markets, health food stores and independent supermarkets. Overall I traced better quality and most often significantly better prices by diversifying my food field. My dad refers to this approach to planning greener and friendlier dishes as ‘politically correct’ foods, also described as ‘ethical eating’ by many. As for me, they are foods made with the love that comes from taking on as much holistic food responsibility as possible – this makes me feel good and at peace.

The first three of the four courses I have put together can be made as a vegetarian – or a minimalist meat version, by replacing the vegetarian protein component. The dessert is vegetarian.

On with the festivities and celebrations

Much of the preparation of these recipes can be done in advance – dressings, sauces, pesto (herb paste), cooked chicken breast, fried tofu and pudding can prepared a day or two ahead. Also, the cold fruit and vegetables for the first and other courses, as well as the roast vegetables, can be cut up in a baking tray wrapped in the fridge. The meats also can be placed on a baking tray in the fridge awaiting baking the next day. Then the only thing you will have to do on Christmas day is to cut the avocado, roast the vegetables, heat and the slice the meat and throw it all together. Place on platters to let guests put their own plates together, or assemble on plates at serving time. And remember it’s all about planning, being slow and enjoying the whole process – from talking to your vendor, cooking, serving and the gustation with friends and family. You can eat this over several hours; no one will be in a hurry on the day, as a Christmas menu made greener and friendlier will be even more impressive and keep the spirits going.

Cos lettuce cups with mandarin balsamic dipper (cold)
Serves 6

For vegetarian version
150 gm macadamia nuts roasted or plain – allow 25 gm per serve

For meat version
1 large chicken breast
6 large prawns

Fruit and vegetables
12 x 20 cm cos lettuce leaves
6 x 20 cm tomato
6 x 20 cm grapefruit
3 x 20 cm avocado

250 ml balsamic vinegar
100 ml water
1 orange or 2 mandarins
100 ml peanut oil


  1. Sear chicken in preheated frypan, cook through, cool and thinly slice. Peel prawn tails, remove, and then split meat down middle into two and remove intestinal tract.
  2. Remove outer leaves and keep middle leaves; trim stalks for the lettuce cups.
  3. Dice the tomato.
  4. Peel grapefruit; slice inwards towards centre to make pithless wedges.
  5. On the day, split the avocado, remove seed, scoop flesh out with a spoon and slice thinly lengthwise. Squeeze a little grapefruit juice on them to stop browning.
  6. To make dipper dressing, finely chop the citrus fruit and place into saucepan with water and balsamic vinegar. Bring to boil then let simmer for ten minutes, strain and allow to cool before adding oil to complete thre dressing. Whisk before serving.

To assemble
Place ingredients on a platter and let your guests make their own, or you can make the completed cups in the morning and place on a platter in fridge. Place avocado and chicken in the bottom of lettuce cups then grapefruit, tomato and then prawn – or macadamia nuts. Serve with a coupe of the dressing.

Warm salad of roast sweet potato and spring onion pesto served with a dressing of horseradish, honey and yoghurt
Serves 6

For vegetarian version
100 gm roasted peanuts

For meat version
500 gm turkey

½ thumb of ginger
6 bok choy
500 gm sweet potatoes

Spring onion pesto
1 bunch of spring onion
100 ml peanut oil
1 tsp sea salt

250 ml Greek yoghurt
1.5 tbls honey
5 tsp of horseradish from a jar or 3 tbls if freshly grated


  1. For the vegetarian version, simply use the roasted peanuts at the combination stage. Otherwise, roast the turkey with the sweet potato – see below.
  2. Peel and finely chop ginger. Peel sweet potato and cut into bite-sized pieces. Roll in a little vegetable oil and sea salt and place on one side of a baking tray.
  3. Split the bok choy leaves down the middle lengthwise or in quarters for large ones; put aside.
  4. To make pesto, wash and chop spring onion roughly then with a mortar and pestle pound to a mash. Then add salt and oil or place all ingredients in a food processor or with a stab mixer in a jug. Whiz the lot together to make a paste.
  5. To make the dressing, mix all ingredients together.
  6. Roast sweet potato and turkey at 180oC for half an hour. Slice turkey into bite-sized pieces.

To assemble
In a bowl combine roasted sweet potato, turkey slices (or peanuts) and pesto. Toss together. Serve on plates or on platter with the yoghurt dressing.

Warm salad of roast baby potato and butternut pumpkin tossed with rocket basil pesto and served with a spicy garlic, gazpacho-style dressing
Serves 6

For vegetarian version
500 gm tofu (firm) deep fried

For meat version
250gm ham

12 gm baby potatoes
1 large butternut pumpkin

1 bunch basil
2 tbls parmesan
100 ml olive oil
2 tsp sea salt

Gazpacho sauce
2 med tomato
1 med cucumber
Chili to taste
5 cloves of garlic
100 ml olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

For vegetarian version, cube the tofu to 2 cm x 2cm x 1cm size and deepfry till light brown – don’t over cook. Place in fridge for service.
For meat version, place the roast ham in a baking tray with the turkey and baste with a little honey (optional).

  1. Quarter potatoes, peel pumpkin and cut into bite-sized pieces and roll in a little vegetable oil and sea salt and place on baking tray and bake at 180oC until tender.
  2. To make pesto, wash and roughly chop basil, place in a mortar and pestle and add the salt. Pound to a paste and then mix with oil and parmesan. Or place all ingredients in a food processor or with a stab mixer in a jug. Whiz the lot together to form a paste.
  3. For a smooth gazpacho sauce you can place all ingredients into a food processor and whiz together until smooth. Season to taste. For a rough and salsa-style gazpacho, dice the tomato and cucumber; then finely chop the garlic and chili. Combine all ingredients and season with sea salt to taste.

To assemble
In a bowl, toss the roast potatoes and butternut pumpkin as well as the pesto, and, in the case of the vegetarian version, the fried tofu. Serve on a platter with gazpacho sauce in a bowl or arrange on plates, drizzling the gazpacho sauce around the plate. For the meat version, slice the ham and arrange on top of the vegetables.

Vanilla pudding with dried apricot or mango brandied sauce and crème fraiche
Serves 6


The pudding
100 gm white sugar
100 gm butter
2 medium eggs
1 tbls vanilla essence or powder or 1 tsp beans chopped
175 gm self-raising flour

200 gm dried apricots or mango
400 ml water, drinking quality
50 gm honey
100 gm sugar
100 ml Australian brandy

On the side
250 gm crème fraiche, mascarpone or whipped cream

To make the sauce, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and allow the fruit to soak in water for several hours. Bring to the boil and then mash or puree, or ideally stab mix, till smooth.


  1. Preheat oven to 185C.
  2. In a mixer or by whisk, cream the softened butter, sugar and vanilla until creamy white and light.
  3. Slowly add, one at a time, the two eggs until incorporated.
  4. Then gently fold in the flour till you have one homogenous consistency.
  5. Baste with melted butter individual pudding dishes or a large pudding dish or oven proof Pyrex glass dish and then add the mixture.
  6. Place the puddings in a water bath (baking tray with water in it) and cover with aluminum foil and tighten at the edges under the lip of the tray.
  7. Bake individual serving dishes for 25 minutes or, if in a single large pudding dish, bake for one to one and a half hours, depending on the depth of dish.
  8. Serve hot with heated dried fruit brandy sauce and crème fraiche, mascarpone or cream.


By Mike Penning

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