Balance out the Christmas indulgence with these festive greens

Having good vegetable-based side dishes can offer respite from all the butteriness

 

Christmas Day usually starts with a few chocolate coins being eaten while I wait for the coffee to brew. A little brandy butter with mince pies before 10am is the norm while there seems to be no limit to the amount of smoked salmon on brown bread being passed around. A quick look in my fridge this time of year speaks 1,000 words. It’s like a vault lined with gold blocks of butter, a few cartons of cream, jars of rum butter, brandy butter, cranberry sauce and all of the meats and cheeses you would expect for any medieval feast. Selection boxes seem to be arriving from all angles this year. The cessation of every after-school activity has resulted in a whole range of chocolate being scoffed in the back of my car before we reach home. Frantic rustling of papers then silence.

The tin of chocolates is like a multicoloured glittery porridge pot, constantly flowing over with little foil wrapped treats. Regenerating itself, I think, when the lid is placed on. Where among all of these delicacies do we get some actual nutritious food? Something other than sugar and caffeine has to fuel all of our merriment. This is where the side dishes come in. Of course there will be various roasted, stuffed and gravy coated meats but for me the side dishes have a starring role too. Brussels sprouts are essential and need to be on the menu.

Tiny little brassicas full of flavour that pair really well with pancetta, smokey lardons or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Roast them for caramelised edges and real flavour depth.

I love a good carrot and parsnip purée too. Add a few star anise to the cooking water for a subtle aniseed flavour and purée with plenty of salted butter. Red cabbage is delicious with Bramley apple and parsnips are perfect when roasted with a slight drizzle of maple syrup mixed with miso.

I love serving a huge platter of every type of green vegetable for anyone that needs respite from the butteriness of everything. While my potatoes are roasted in goose fat I like to have a burst of freshness pop up elsewhere on the table. This dish consists of lightly cooked greens with a bright citrus-based olive oil dressing, it’s equally good at room temperature and will ensure you get your seven recommended vegetables in this Christmas Day.

FESTIVE GREENS

Serves 6

3 tbs olive oil

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3 tbs lime or lemon juice

2 tbs coriander, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

Pinch of salt

Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

1 head of broccoli, broken into bite-size florets

200g green beans

150g mangetout

1 bunch asparagus

Method

Place the crushed garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt into a large bowl. Whisk well to combine. Add the finely chopped coriander and the chilli flakes if using. Set aside.

Bend the asparagus till the woody end snaps off. Cut into large bite-size pieces. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the broccoli and green beans. Simmer for about three minutes before adding the asparagus for a further two minutes and add the mangetout for the final minute. Cook them until they still retain a little bite. Drain over the sink and rinse with cold water to stop the vegetables from cooking any further. Ensure you shake off as much excess water as possible then tip the vegetables into the bowl with the dressing. I find it easiest to mix with my hands but you can use a large spatula or spoon to fold everything together gently so the vegetables glisten with dressing. Serve right away or cool to room temperature.

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