Christmas is synonymous with rich and delicious food. From Christmas sandwiches to buttery mince pies, the month of December is brimming with opportunities to feast on something indulgent.
This time of year, however, can be extremely trying for someone whose diet is restricted due to an allergy or health condition. An invite to a family get-together or a social event can be tarred with the sense of dread when there’s a possibility of becoming ill if you accidentally snack on something that does not agree with your system.
When hosting an event, it can be difficult to cater for all tastes, but it’s always best to find out if any of your guests are on a restricted diet, and then perhaps pick a couple of items on your menu which are suitable, but still delicious, for all. Sometimes simply tweaking a menu a little can allow it to safely cater for everyone around the table.
For a condition such as coeliac, gluten-containing products must always be avoided. When someone with coeliac disease eats a food containing gluten, the small intestine becomes inflamed and may result in symptoms such as painful abdominal cramps and irregular bowel motions. When cooking for someone with coeliac, some precautions (such as separate chopping boards) are necessary to avoid any cross contamination with gluten-containing products.
There are plenty of good-quality gluten-free products now on the market, making it a little easier to make a dessert that caters to all your guests. Check the food labels to ensure all ingredients you use are gluten-free. Both recipes I’m sharing would make for stunning dessert centerpieces and are both completely gluten-free.
Gluten-free meringue cake with poached berries
This meringue cake is easy to make and perfect for feeding a crowd. The meringue disks and the poached berries can be made a day in advance, allowing for a quick assembly just before serving.
6 egg whites
300g castor sugar
50g caster sugar
Zest of 1 orange
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
350g mix of frozen strawberries
mint leaves – to serve
1. Line three baking trays with greaseproof paper. Draw a circle onto each of the trays approximately 20cm in diameter. Turn over the greaseproof paper, and you should still be able to see the outline of the circles.
2. Preheat the oven to 140°C/ fan 120°C/gas mark 1.
3. Place the egg whites in a large, spotless clean bowl and whisk until they become a little stiff. Gradually add the caster sugar, whisking continuously, until the mixture is thick and glossy.
4. Divide the mixture between the three baking trays and place in the preheated oven for one hour. Turn off the oven and leave to cool in the oven for an additional hour.
5. To prepare the poached berries, add the port, caster sugar, orange zest, vanilla and cinnamon to a medium-sized saucepan set over a medium heat. Heat the liquid to a simmer and add the berries. Bring back to a simmer, stirring regularly, which will take about five minutes. Once the liquid is bubbling again simmer for about 2-3 minutes until the berries have completely defrosted but most of the strawberries are still holding their shape. Take from the heat and allow to cool completely before using. If made a day in advance the poached berries can be covered and stored in the fridge overnight.
6. Once the meringues are completely cool, peel away the greaseproof paper and set the first meringue sheet onto a serving plate. Ensure the plate has a small lip to catch any of the trailing sauce or cream. Top with a thin layer of cream and a few spoonfuls of the poached berries. Repeat for the next layer. Place the final layer of meringue on top and add the remaining whipped cream and berries, plus a few mint leaves. Serve straightaway. Enjoy.
Gluten-free white chocolate cheesecake
This cheesecake is indulgent but also surprising light and fluffy in texture. For the cheesecake to be removed from the tin with ease, it’s best to use a springform/loose bottom tin.
250g gluten-free digestive biscuits
150g white chocolate
400g full fat cream cheese,
such as Philadelphia
75g icing sugar
2tsp vanilla extract
150ml cream, whipped
50g white chocolate, grated
Optional – gold dust
1. In a food processor, blitz the biscuits until they’re like a fine dust. Gently melt the butter either in a pan or in the microwave and add to the crushed biscuits.
2. Stir to combine and pour into a 17cm springform tin. Press it down firmly and evenly, and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes to chill.
3. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a heat-proof bowl over some simmering water. Leave to cool completely.
4. Add the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla extract to a mixing bowl and gently mix for a few seconds. Add the cream and continue to mix, on low, until the mixture firms up a little, which will take less than two minutes. Ensure the mixture is combined and firm but be careful not to
overmix as this can cause the mixture to split.
5. Fold in the melted chocolate. If the chocolate is completely cold, it will smoothly mix into the cheesecake, but if the melted chocolate hasn’t cooled completely, the melted chocolate will be distributed like flecks of chocolates through the cheesecake. Either version makes for a delicious cheesecake, just ensure the chocolate is almost or completely cold before adding to the cream cheese mixture.
6. Evenly spread the mixture over the biscuit base. Place in the fridge overnight to set.
7. Once fully set, remove the cheesecake from the tin. Before serving, pipe some whipped cream on top and add a good grating of white chocolate. If you have a little gold dust to hand, and it’s gluten-free, sprinkle a little over before serving. Store any leftovers in the fridge.