PKU at Christmas
Christmas over the last few years, in the UK at least, has been difficult to predict. The rules over social gatherings flux, as do individuals sense of risk. The one thing we can do is be aware of that change, perhaps even embrace it. While there will be some traditions we want to keep, it might help to think of this change as an opportunity. A chance to try something new.
If your guest list for Christmas dinner will be smaller than usual then the need for food prep may similarly shrink. This is an opportunity to look again at what we serve. Maybe we can take the extra time to make Christmas dinner, and the whole day, more PKU-friendly.
Thinking differently about Christmas
Language is important when it comes to PKU and food.
People often say that Christmas dinner is all about the turkey, which may leave someone on PKU treatment feeling left out.
But I rarely come across people who actually have turkey. Friends often discuss the various merits of goose, pork and beef wellington - and increasingly vegetarian mains like beetroot wellington or nut roast.
As a child, our family's Christmas dinner was always about ‘Polly’s dinner and the NZ lamb’. I would often have my own stuffed vegetables which meant I had something to carve at the table too. In more recent years, and with the availability of low protein pastry and cheese, I’ve tried new dishes. This blog post has a plethora of links and I hope that some of them inspire you to a more PKU friendly Christmas.
Suggestions for the main PKU dish
A bit tricky but can be made in advance.
Squash and blue cheese Wellington recipe This was a hit for non-PKU folk too. I made it PKU friendly with the following switches:
- Violife blue cheese: 50g is one phe.
- PKU friendly milk or aquafaba (chick pea water) rather than egg to bind & glaze.
- Leave out the pecans
If you follow the above switches, and make your own PKU pastry, the entire Wellington contains 4 phe (from the cheese). Alternately, JusRol Gluten Free Pastry is 40g for 1 phe while Genius Gluten Free Pastry is 42g for 1 phe.
Do note that this makes a large Wellington. I suggest halving the recipe and making a smaller one. You can make this in advance as it will freeze for up to two months. I would advise against using a defrosted packet of frozen butternut squash, it was too wet and led to very soggy pastry.
Alternately, the Vitafriends PKU website has a recipe for a protein free Vegetable Wellington. I haven’t tried it so please let me know if you have.
Intermediate difficulty but best made fresh
Mini Portobello & Jackfruit Wellingtons This recipe makes four individual Wellingtons and are so easy to make that I’ve been making them as a mid-week dinner. It is already a fairly PKU friendly recipe though I made the following switches:
- Breadcrumbs from a PKU loaf rather than normal bread.
- One of the protein free BBQ sauces listed in the NSPKU guide
- PKU friendly milk or Aquafaba (chick pea water) rather than egg to bind & glaze.
If you follow the above switches and make your own PKU pastry then this dish is phi-free. Alternately, use one of the low protein shop pastry mentioned above.
Aubergine ratatouille is also an easy option fort the day. This recipe is completely protein free needing no substitutes or switches. However, I’m a lazy cook so tend to ignore steps 3 & 4 and just use a can of chopped tomatoes instead. It makes for a dish with more sauce, perfect for scooping up with bread.
Easy peasy stuffed vegetables
This stuffed pepper recipe from Vitafriends is super easy. Switching out the basil for sage will help make it a little more ‘Christmasy’.
While researching this article, I came across a new stuffed aubergine recipe. I haven’t tried it yet, and will probably not bother with the courgette salad when I do. Switching in the Violife protein free feta style cheese and leaving out the ‘handful of walnuts’ would make another phe-free Christmas main.
Some folks maintain that Christmas dinner is all about the trimmings. Sadly, there is little we can do about the protein content of roast potatoes. 60g of potato is one phe and I always save one phe to ensure roasties on Christmas Day. Do remember to serve phe-free veggies too. Sweet potato, sprouts, parsnips and carrots are all protein free. Vitafriends has a recipe page dedicated to protein-free Christmas dinner trimmings.
Christmas breakfast & snacks
I was already planning to have pancakes for Christmas breakfast when I came across ‘Santa Pancakes’ on the Vitafriends PKU website. Perfect! You might think I’m a little old for this but PKU adults need their fun too.
Throw backs to my childhood mean that Christmas Day snacks always include avocado dips, sun-dried tomatoes and lots of exotic fruits like melon, pawpaw (papaya), and mango. We always buy some speciality fruit jellies to go with the chocolate covered ginger which last from Christmas Eve to Boxing day, and beyond.
If you are a baker, then the low protein food specialists have plenty of ideas for Christmas treats, including mince pies, which I’ll be trying out this year. I’m a fan of ginger so always make these Christmas ginger biscuits with PKU flour. Of the suggested decorations, the icing, cherries and currants are phe-free. But they never last long enough in this house to make decorating worthwhile!
If you want to spend less time in the kitchen, the NSPKU Twitter feed is full of snack and meal ideas which are available in the supermarkets or speciality food stores.
In fact, one online store has a dedicated page for Low Protein foods. Check out Alternative Stores for everything from meat substitutes to sauces to snacks.
With any luck, this blog has provided inspiration for Christmas Day. My main tip is to ensure you have plenty of phe-free treats around to allow the traditional gorging with less of the guilt.
And Christmas isn’t all about food so I hope you enjoy the season in other ways too.
Please let me know any other ideas you have, I love planning and trying new things!