Nutritionist and chef ANNIE BELL reveals 'free from' Christmas recipes

Nutritionist and chef ANNIE BELL reveals how to serve up a ‘free from’ Christmas feast for the two million Britons who suffer allergies and intolerances… from nut-free turkey curry to gluten-free mince pies

Turkey, stuffing, mince pies and Christmas trifle – all delicious highlights of the festive season. But for the two million Britons who are hypersensitive to staple ingredients such as flour and milk, Christmas lunch can be like Russian roulette.

Just about every treat leaves you bloated, in pain – and perhaps running backwards and forwards to the toilet.

The number of Britons suffering allergies and intolerances has soared over the past decade, with up to a third of shoppers saying they must avoid certain foods.

Today, the annual market for ‘free from’ alternatives – usually made without wheat, dairy and egg – is worth £3.17 billion, rising by about one-and-a-half per cent every year.

Annie Bell’s nut-free lemongrass and ginger turkey curry 

All this means preparing dinner this year will, for many, be a headache. But The Mail on Sunday can help! We have crafted Christmas recipes for the most sensitive of eaters. Whether your problem is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gluten, dairy, eggs or meat – we’ve got your Christmas lunch covered.

Cooking times and temperatures are based on dishes put into the oven on their own. If there is more than one dish in the oven, increase the temperature by 10C.

Lemongrass and Ginger Turkey Curry


Boxing Day turkey curries are a favourite in many households. But for the millions who suffer from nut allergies, they are instead a no-go as most recipes are made using nut oils, cashew nuts or coconut, which can also trigger symptoms in some sufferers.

This tasty turkey curry is flavoured with fresh aromatic spices and uses butter instead of oil.

Serves 6

  • 2 medium-hot red or green chillies
  • 1 thumb fresh ginger, peeled
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 thumb fresh turmeric, peeled (or a teaspoon of powdered)
  • 4 sticks of lemongrass (white part only)
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 3 large red onions, peeled and chopped
  • Salt
  • 300ml turkey or chicken stock
  • 300g frozen peas (optional)
  • 600g leftover turkey, sliced or diced
  • 1 level tsp cornflour blended with 1 tbsp water
  • 200g natural yogurt
  • Lime wedges to serve

Bring a small pan of water to the boil and cook the chillies in it for 1 minute, then drain and de-seed.

Finely chop the chillies, ginger, garlic, turmeric and lemongrass.

Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium-low heat, add onions, season with salt and fry for 6-7 minutes until softened and translucent, stirring frequently.

Then stir in the aromatics and fry for another 3-4 minutes until starting to colour.

Puree all with the stock in a blender, then return the sauce to the pan.

Add the peas, bring to a simmer, cover and cook over a very low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the turkey, cover and cook for another 5 minutes.

Blend the cornflour solution with the yogurt, stir into the curry and gently heat through until a few bubbles break the surface. Serve with lime wedges.

Greens with Gherkins


Tender greens make a perfect alternative to sprouts for those who suffer an irritable bowel, and spring onion greens and gherkins are used instead of bacon and chestnuts to cater for vegetarians or vegans. You can use any whole, leafy greens here. 

Vegan/IBS-friendly greens with gherkins

Serves 6

  • 400g spring greens
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, black pepper
  • 2 bunches of spring onions (green parts only), sliced 1 cm thick
  • 30g cocktail gherkins, rinsed and thinly sliced

Bring a large pan of water to boil. Cut central stem out of the leaves and slice them across about 5cm thick.

Add to the boiling water, cover (leaving a gap for steam to escape) and cook for 3 minutes, until almost tender. Drain and press out excess water.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add the greens, season and fry for a few minutes, turning, until heated through. Transfer to a serving dish.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and fry onion and gherkin for about 3 minutes until onion is silky and starting to colour.

Spread over the top of the greens and serve.

Stuffing can be tricky for those avoiding gluten, as breadcrumbs often feature and wheat is common in sausage meat. Here, white rice assumes that role.

It is delicious when paired with punchy, IBS-friendly fennel, olives and chestnuts. If IBS isn’t an issue for you, you can replace fennel with celery.

Gluten-free/IBS-friendly/vegan chestnut and olive stuffing

Serves 6

  • 3 bulbs fennel or 300g celery, diced
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp finely chopped or dried rosemary
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus a squeeze of juice
  • 150g cooked and peeled chestnuts, sliced
  • 1 x 250g packet cooked long grain white rice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 75g pitted green olives, sliced

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium-low heat and fry fennel or celery for 8-10 minutes until softened and lightly coloured, adding the rosemary a few minutes before the end.

Stir in the lemon zest, chestnuts, rice and seasoning, then fry for a couple of minutes longer.

Stir in the olives and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Briefly pulse the stuffing in a food processor, then spread it over the base of a roasting dish to a depth of a few centimetres.

Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5, drizzle with oil and bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden.

Festive Peppers with Mushrooms


These stuffed peppers are likely to please vegans and flexitarians alike. Any mix of mushrooms will be good here. If there are lots of trimmings, just one pepper half is likely to be enough for each diner, but as a main, allow a couple per person.

Vegan/gluten-free festive peppers with mushrooms

Serves 3 as a main, 6 as a side

  • ½ chestnut and olive stuffing (see recipe, above)
  • 3 red peppers
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt, black pepper
  • 200g mushrooms, torn or sliced as necessary
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley

Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/ gas 5.

Trim the pepper stalks, then halve the peppers through the stalk and cut out the seeds.

Arrange in a roasting dish spaced slightly apart. Spread the inside with a little mustard, then drizzle over a little olive oil and season.

Fill with the stuffing, drizzle over a little more oil, and bake for 30 minutes.

Shortly before serving, heat a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat, add the olive oil and mushrooms and fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring until golden.

Season and stir in half the parsley and spoon on top of the peppers. Scatter over the rest of the parsley.

Chocolate Orange Trifle


Trifle is a star Christmas dessert, but the large quantity of cream can spark unpleasant stomach cramps for the one in ten Britons who struggle to digest lactose.

Here, soya yogurt replaces the dairy, but thanks to the strength of the chocolate and orange flavour, you can barely tell. Meanwhile, malt loaf – free from dairy and eggs – replaces the sponge cake.

You can use regular chocolate if you want, as many people who are lactose-intolerant can cope with a small amount of milk in chocolate.

Vegan chocolate orange trifle

Serves 6

  • 225g vegan dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 2 medium oranges
  • 8 x 1cm slices malt loaf, each torn into 3 or 4 pieces
  • 2 tbsp chocolate or orange liqueur
  • 600g soya yogurt
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • Cocoa for dusting
  • Decorations, such as chocolate stars or trees and edible gold spray (optional)

Melt the chocolate gently in a large bowl set over a pan with a little simmering water in it, then set the bowl aside.

Zest one orange, cut the skin and pith off both oranges and remove the segments.

Arrange the malt loaf and orange segments in a 20cm trifle bowl (or use individual dishes) and drizzle the liqueur over.

Place the yogurt, zest and icing sugar in a food processor and trickle in the melted chocolate.

When it’s all blended, smooth the chocolate custard over the trifle base, cover and chill for several hours or overnight.

Liberally dust with cocoa and decorate shortly before serving.

Banana Coconut Rum Custard


Custard can be a nightmare for those who are sensitive to dairy, as both home-made and shop-bought versions often contain lashings of whole milk or double cream.

Here, coconut yogurt is used for creaminess while a pinch of turmeric adds the yellow colour you’d otherwise get from egg yolk.

Dairy-free/egg-free banana coconut rum custard

Serves 6

  • 200g coconut yogurt
  • 2 tbsp dark rum
  • 1 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • Pinch of ground turmeric
  • 2 bananas, peeled and broken into pieces

Whizz all the ingredients except for the bananas in a blender until smooth.

Only add bananas to the mix just before eating, and blend before you serve.

Mince Pies with Lemon and Brandy


These mince pies are suitable for those with coeliac disease – the autoimmune condition that causes the body to overreact to gluten, as well as those with gluten sensitivities.

Pastry that contains gluten-free flour can often be tough to roll, but adding a touch of cornflour makes the process far easier.

Rarely, mincemeat contains wheat flour so make sure to check the label before use.

Gluten-free mince pies with lemon and brandy

Makes 12

  • 200g gluten-free flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 30g cornflour
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 130g unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 medium egg yolk
  • 3 tbsp milk (or water)
  • Icing sugar for dusting
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp brandy (optional)
  • ⅓ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 150g mincemeat

To make the pastry, place the flour, cornflour, sugar and butter in a food processor, and give it a quick burst at high speed to reduce it to a crumb-like consistency.

Then add the egg yolk and about 3 tablespoons of milk or water to bring the dough together.

Wrap the pastry in baking paper or clingfilm, flattening it into a patty, and chill for 1 hour or overnight.

Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Stir the lemon juice, zest, brandy and cinnamon into the mincemeat.

Knead the pastry until pliable, split in half and, on a lightly floured surface, roll the first half to the thickness of a pound coin.

Then cut out circles using a 7cm cutter to fit a non-stick fairy cake tray. Place these in the tin and fill each with a teaspoon of mincemeat.

Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out 12 lids the same size – use a star cookie cutter to make them extra festive.

Brush the rim of the pies with milk or water, lay the lids on top and gently press the edges together. Bake for about 25 minutes until the pastry is a very pale gold.

Serve warm about 20 minutes out of the oven, dusting them with icing sugar.

● Annie Bell’s new book, Healthier Planet, Healthier You (Pan Macmillan), is available from December 23, priced £18.99.

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