Winter is the sting of icy air on your ears, it’s the smell of pine needles, it’s the crunch of frost when you open your car door, it’s the rustle of tinsel and the twinkle of technicolor fairylights but it’s also those festive flavours that Christmas wouldn’t be the same without. Meats, cheeses, spices and decadent desserts that are all justified in the name of December but what happens when food allergies rear their pesky little heads?
I myself, am a self-confessed ‘part-time gluten-dodger’ and am also not totally convinced that I don’t have some minor digestive aversion to dairy so I thought I’d offer some advice for kitting out a festive dinner table with ‘free from’ goods. With lactose intolerance and a dairy or gluten allergies, the Christmas period can feel difficult to navigate but the festive period is all about food and drink so I’m hoping to make things a little less daunting for you ahead of the big day.
Below is a sleigh-load of food allergy-friendly alternatives to your most-loved Christmas recipes – but I would recommend triple checking the ingredients carefully, and being thorough in avoiding cross-contamination when cooking or baking because you never know!
• Stuffing – Traditional stuffing recipes usually call for breadcrumbs, which of course, contain gluten. Using something like cooked quinoa in place of the bread will banish bloat and introduce a new texture around the Christmas dinner table.
• Gravy – A proper Christmas dinner will never be complete without lashing of gravy but not just any old pour-over. Traditional festive gravy has to be more rich and indulgent than any other time of year and this traditionally requires flour for thickening. If you do have some food allergies in the house, simply swap this for cornflour instead.
• Mince pies – As you know from my festive foodie bucket list, I’m not a lover of a mince pie. In fact, I can’t stand them but for those of you in the vast majority who do enjoy a festive pie (or three) alongside your cuppa, it’s time to stock up on chickpeas. Bear with me… chickpea flour (AKA gram flour) mixed with rice flour is the perfectly alternative to plain flour for that iconic crumbly pastry.
• Pudding sauces – The ubiquitous topping for a fruity Christmas pudding, butterscotch/toffee sauce is typically super heavy on the dairy. If you’re playing host to any vegans this year or serving up grub to anybody with a dairy intolerance, you can make an alternative by swapping the butter for a dairy-free spread, and the cream for soya or coconut milk. Bish, bash, bosh.
• Eggnog – Switch out the egg and cream in any classic eggnog recipe for the likes of sweetened almond milk, for a dairy-free concoction that promises to be equally as irresistible as its dairy-dense counterpart.
If you’re going to be attending a festive dinner party over the next few weeks and suffer from a food allergy, make sure you give your host plenty of notice! If you’re the one in the kitchen, consider doing a practice run if you are going to make swaps in your traditional recipes to avoid any meltdowns on December 25th.
Edible Christmas presents are always welcome in my house so if you’re on the hunt for a festive foodie gift that caters for food allergies and digestive intolerance, check out the specialty hampers collection from Virginia Hayward. Oh and you’ll be glad to know you’re certainly not alone – around 2% of UK adults suffer with a food allergy or intolerance, with 1 in 100 members of the UK affected by coeliac disease.
In collaboration with Virginia Hayward Christmas hampers.