An alternative Christmas menu

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat… but that doesn't mean you have to eat him. 4Food’s Lauren Bravo looks at alternatives for your festive feast


Bye bye, birdie…

The big bird may have ruled the Christmas roost for over a century, but sometimes it seems that not liking turkey is almost as traditional as turkey itself. Save yourself weeks of curry and curling sandwiches by choosing a recipe you'll want to finish on the day, like this roasted carp with peppers and pancetta, a traditional Balkan Christmas dish. Meanwhile a side of salmon not only feels luxurious but its brain boosting properties will serve you far better in charades than poultry!

As time is always of the essence on the big day, choosing a low-maintenance meat will give you more time to spend on delicious trimmings (or assembling a child's toy from instructions in Taiwanese). This spiced beef with roasted vegetables will bring warmth and colour to the table in less than two hours, while 30 minute festive beef and dumplings does exactly what it says on the dish.

But if you just can't give up your traditional roast, there's still room to rebel. This recipe for stuffed turkey crown in prosciutto is so fast and flavoursome that you'll wonder why you ever bothered with the whole bird.


Do the Brussels hustle

Having held their place on the Christmas table for so long, surely there must be a something to sprouts. The trick is not to boil them into oblivion – instead, blanch them for no longer than five minutes, then fry them with seasoning and other exciting ingredients for a sprout that's moreish, not mushy.

This recipe for sprouts with spiced breadcrumbs is a good place to start, but don't be afraid to experiment with different nuts, fresh herbs and salty additions such as anchovies or pancetta. Or if you really want to disguise them at the table, sneak them into Hugh's sproutsaverde.


Don't go nuts

Vegetarian food may have come a long way since the days of your Granny's 'hamless' ham sandwiches, but with so many other elements to juggle at Christmas, it's easy to resort to that herbivorous cornerstone, the nut roast. The first rule of alternative eating is don't accept fakes - nothing pretending to be meat will be as tasty as out-and-proud vegetables, but you'll need a little imagination and a good spice rack to make it memorable.

With exotic flavours of cardamom, orange and pomegranate molasses, The Vegetarian Society's carrot and cashew fan is a nut roast but not as we know it. Meanwhile, smoked bean curd bakes is an Eastern-inspired dish that works surprisingly well with your regular gravy. If you have the meat-eaters clamouring for a taste, you know you're onto a winner.


The proof of the pudding

If you're catering for a mixed bunch, you might want to use festive flavours but in a lighter way, such as Gordon's Christmas pudding soufflés or Jamie's Christmas pudding and ice cream sundae.

Or perhaps you want to appease the sultana-phobes and dish up something completely different. This spectacular Christmas ice castle is a guaranteed scene-stealer, but uses relatively nutritious carrot cake as its base. Meanwhile, lemon tart is a trusty palate-cleanser, while these wobbly cranberry jellies will turn everyone into big kids again – and what's more Christmassy than that?


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