image via pinterest
Christmas is a time of joy, the sharing of generous gifts, lavish hospitality and the warmth of celebrations shared between family and friends.
The moment December hits, I feel the anticipation for Christmas rising within me, and a yearning to experience the sensations of the festive season drives me into the mode of planning meals, decking the halls and imagining all the ways that I can express the Christmas spirit through delicious foods, gifts and home adornments.
Have you ever thought, however, about the impact of Christmas on our planet? Christmas is the peak time for consumerism, and sadly many of the gifts that are shared are of the plastic and cheap variety. And purchases that emerge out of our buy-buy-buy culture don’t serve the planet from an environmental point of view.
If you’re buying clothes, some of the outlets have questionable ethical standards, and foods are purchased and consumed in large quantities, out of season, and often wasted.
This is the not so pretty side of Christmas, but how about this year we approach the silly season mindfully, consciously and with sustainability in mind? I believe we can do it!
This year, I don’t have a Christmas present list for myself, but if friends want to bestow presents, I’m letting them know that plants or herbs for my garden are always welcome. I’ve also highlighted a couple of things in the Oxfam catalogue too. By the way, if you’re on the lookout for natural gifts for a healthy lifestyle then you might like to read my Healthy Gift Giving Guide here.
I’d love to share with you a few of my top tips for approaching Christmas sustainably and ethically this year.
Make your own Christmas tree
You might think that sparing a live tree might be better for the environment, but fakies of the plastic varieties generally only last around six years, and you can guess where they end up….. landfill! The best option for a sustainable Christmas tree is to put your thinking cap on and create something unique, from materials around you. Why not gather driftwood and arrange it as a tree, adorned with hanging seashells? Or pot a native Australian pine? The sky is the limit, and you can create something completely unique that will be a topic of interest for your guests. I make use of the large banksia tree in my garden and decorate it with fairy lights and second hand finds.
Why not steer clear of the consumerist bandwagon and opt for gifts that are upcycled, homemade or DIY. A fun thing to do is to invite some friends around for a ‘crafternoon’, scouring pinterest for creative gift ideas. Think jars of deconstructed dry-mixes for baked goods such as brownies or cakes, with a handwritten recipe attached, or home made wall hangings, knitted or woven goods, or upcycled trash to treasure items made from op-shop finds. Steptoe and Son style :). You can also tap into the experience economy by avoiding a physical gift, rather opting for workshops, bread baking classes or cooking schools in your local area.
Meal plan sustainably
Avoid the supermarkets as much as possible, rather seeking to support small local businesses. Order organic meats and hams that are grass fed, free range and free of chemical nitrates. Enjoy ocean caught and local sustainable sea foods from your fishmonger. Hit up your farmers markets in the lead up to Christmas and stock up on seasonal fruits and vegetables, or visit co-ops locally to purchase organic nuts, seeds and dried foods in quantities you need. Plan your meals ahead of time. By working off a plan you can avoid food waste, and find ways to re-use the leftovers in the week after Christmas.
My blog and recipe books are full of seasonal delights that will tantalise the tastebuds this Christmas. You can read more about them here.
When it comes to menu planning here are a few ideas to mull around with in the lead up to creating your Christmas lunch or dinner...
To begin, some of my favourite starters include Pistachio Stuffed Mushrooms, Smoked Salmon and Pistachio Terrine or a classic chicken liver pate. Red Capsicum and Hazelnut and Basil Pesto work well as beautiful dips with Lemony Herb Crackers or Cheesy Star Crackers.
To balance out the indulgence I love to make sure my table is abundant with fresh salads full of antioxidant rich ingredients. My Kale, Strawberry, and Avocado Salad and Warm Beetroot, Carrot and Pear Salad are always crowd pleasers.
For the main course, I can’t go past a classic ham, and this Gluten Free Christmas Ham with Rosemary will drop the jaws of all your guests.
When it comes to dessert, Supercharged Christmas Cake is a after dinner winner, and no Christmas table is really a Christmas table without the presence of mince pies; these Cranberry Mince Pies are to die for. Last but not least, every Aussie Christmas feast must have a nanna inspired trifle, and my Layered Quinoa Trifle will satisfy your sweet tooth, even after filling yourself to the brim with feasting.
For my absolute top picks, here are a few of the sustainable and supercharged Christmas courses that will be gracing our family table this year from my eBook The Renewable Table.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and happy and sustainable holiday season 🙂
And now for the recipes..
Mexican lamb shoulder with cumin, oregano and pomegranate glaze
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp. dried oregano
- 1 lemon halved and pips removed
- 1 tsp Celtic Sea Salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2kg bone-in lamb shoulder joint
- 2 brown onions, cut into wedges
- 1 whole quorn of garlic unpeeled
- 1litre pomegranate juice
- 1 lemon juiced
- 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp. rice malt syrup
- 250g full fat natural yogurt
- Seeds from 1 fresh pomegranate
- Small handful mint leaves, chopped
To make marinade place garlic, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, lemon and rind, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.
Place the lamb in a large baking dish and spoon the mixture on top and massage in with hands. Let marinade in fridge for between 2 and up to 24 hours.
Heat oven to 160°C/140°C fan/ gas 3. Place lamb into pan and garlic and onions surrounding the lamb, then pour over the pomegranate juice and lemon and apple cider vinegar.
Cover the lamb with foil and cook for approx. 4 hrs, checking every hour and re- basting with the juice.
When ready and after four hours, remove pan from the oven and carefully remove lamb and pour juice into a saucepan on the stove over a medium heat. Replace lamb into baking tray and place back into the oven whilst you are making the syrup.
Add rice malt syrup and cook until bubbly and a thick syrup is formed adding more rice malt syrup if necessary. This should take about 20 minutes. Once it is ready, remove foil from lamb, pour it over the lamb and return to oven for 20 mins until the lamb becomes crispy on top.
Pistachio minted cranberry quinoa
- 1 zucchini (courgette), sliced
- 1 eggplant (aubergine), cut into bite-sized pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, whole
- 80 ml (21/2 fl oz/1/3 cup) cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, plus extra, for drizzling
- Celtic sea salt
- 270 g (91/2 oz/1 cup) cooked quinoa
- juice of 2 lemons
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1 bunch of mint, leaves only, plus extra, to serve
- 1 bunch of coriander (cilantro), leaves only, plus extra, to serve
- 1 pomegranate, seeds only
- 2 avocados, peeled, stones removed and sliced into wedges
- 4 small spring onions (scallions), chopped 125 g (41/2 oz/1 cup) slivered almonds
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6).
Place the zucchini, eggplant and garlic on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast for about 35 minutes.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, place the quinoa in a bowl with the lemon juice and zest and the olive oil. Combine well.
Place in a salad bowl with all the other ingredients and serve topped with extra mint and coriander leaves.
Festive Almond, cinnamon and rhubarb cake
Makes one cake
Firstly make stewed Rhubarb
- 750gm rhubarb trimmed and chopped into 2-3 inch pieces
- 75g coconut sugar or sweetener of choice
- 1 small orange, zested and juiced 1 inch knob ginger grated 1 tsp vanilla bean powder
- 1⁄4 cup water
Place in large saucepan and place remaining ingredients over the top.
Bring to a boil and simmer gently until soft, about 10 minutes until rhubarb is cooked but still holds it shape.
Take two cups of rhubarb for Xmas recipe and set aside and place remaining rhubarb in fridge for use on Boxing Day.
- 60g butter
- 1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
- 1 1⁄2 cups (300g) coconut sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups almond meal
- 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1⁄2 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1⁄4 tsp sea salt
- 1⁄2 cup coconut cream
- 2 cups cooked rhubarb
Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F Gas Mark 4 and grease an 18cm round cake tin.
In a bowl beat butter, rind, coconut sugar and eggs and stir in almond flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and coconut milk and stir to combine.
Add rhubarb and fold in lightly.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the cake springs back when pressed in the centre.
Sprinkle with topping mixture.
Let cool and then turn out onto a wire rack to continue to cool.