Your six easy swaps for an ethical Christmas feast

With all the overindulgence that’s associated with the season how can we do it all in a way that feels more sustainable and ethical without turning into Scrooge and taking the fun out of it all?

1. Make the most of your meat

See if you can get local or organic meat this year. It might be a little more expensive but it will taste a whole lot better and be far less harmful on the planet. Mass production of meat is a huge contributing factor to global warming so making good decisions about where you get it from and how much to consume is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Don’t worry if you can’t manage it this year but do what you can to use up every last part of the turkey – here are four easy ways to do that.

2. Cook up a veggie feast

It might be too much of a stretch to go meat-free on Christmas day but why not try a few vegetarian alternatives over the season? Jamie Oliver’s Incredible Nut Roast looks just that or what about Squash and Blue Cheese Wellington or this yummy-looking veg lasagne. Try to buy vegetables grown in this country, rather than those shipped thousands of miles around the world.

3. Make something you’ve always bought

I always try to leave some space for late-night Christmas baking. Homemade produce is often cheaper than what you can find in the shops and creates a whole lot less waste, plus you’ll impress people with your culinary/baking/cordon-bleu skills. Things like cranberry sauce, mince pies and gingerbread biscuits are super simple to make. This year why not make one item that you would usually buy from a shop?

4. Can I have some more please?

My brother’s favourite meal of Christmas is the Boxing Day buffet when you get to eat up everything you couldn’t get through the day before. Have some recipes up your sleeve for making good use of what is left over to reduce how much you waste. There are loads of ideas online, in fact Food Network has 76 Christmas Leftover Recipes! The celebrations can get a little excessive so plan well, carefully counting up how many mouths you have to feed and do your best not to go too crazy at the tills. It’s tough with all those tempting treats beckoning but consider what will keep and what will go off – as well as what realistically you will eat before it all starts to go very pear-shaped (trust me – I’ve been there and it wasn’t pretty).

5. Keep it festive with Fairtrade

There are so many Fairtrade goodies you can now buy from Christmas pudding to a vegan chocolate selection box to Christmas tea to biscuits for cheese to Christmas cake to what I can’t live without at this time of year, After Dinner Mints. Lots of mainstream shops including Waitrose and Marks & Spencers do a pretty good range of Fairtrade products so it shouldn’t be too tricky to get a few items for your Christmas larder.

6. Bag some post-Christmas bargains

There’s an infamous story about an End-of-Christmas party that my friends and I hosted where we had a kilo of stilton on offer. We’d raided the local supermarket, and to our delight discovered loads of excellent party snacks for crazy cheap prices. It can be one of the best times to stock up on low-priced food that would otherwise get thrown away; some of which you can even freeze to eat up on one of those miserable, dark January nights. Everyone went home from that party with a stilton goodie bag and nothing went to waste.

Image by Nick Bramhall via Flickr/Creative Commons.


    Done all these things – except for the meat. And I have wrapped my close family’s presents in re-used gift wrap from last year. Save the bigger bits of Christmas wrap and trim off the sticky-taped edges. It’s so wasteful, otherwise.

    Here is my Christmas nut roast recipe. Sorry; I am old and I still work in imperial measurements. If you change each oz for 25g, it should work, I guess!

    Christmas Nut Roast

    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 onion, finely chopped
    3 courgettes, diced
    4 oz button mushrooms, chopped
    1 medium carrot, grated
    ½ tsp turmeric
    1tsp each of ground cumin and ground ginger
    ½ tsp chopped chillies. (I get mine out of a jar!)
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    2 oz porridge oats
    2 oz cashew nuts, chopped
    2 oz chestnuts, chopped
    2 oz dessicated coconut, (unsweetened)
    2 tbsp tomato paste

    1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4.

    2. Grease a 1 lb loaf tin. (If you are going to freeze the nut roast in advance of the great day, line the loaf time with foil, leaving enough to completely wrap the top of the nut roast. When it has become solid in the freezer, remove the tin from the foil-wrapped unbaked nut roast so that the tin is freed up for use.)

    3. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and fry lightly. Add the courgette and mushrooms and fry. Add the grated carrot, spices and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.

    4. Remove from the heat and add the oats, nuts, coconut and tomato puree. Mix well and season to taste.

    5. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin. (Freeze it at this point, if desired, and defrost completely for use, first by leaving the frozen nut roast out of the freezer for no more than half an hour. Peel off the foil while the roast is still fairly intact and ease back into the loaf tin for full defrosting, then bake.)

    6. Bake for 30 minutes or so, until firm. Turn out from the tin onto a large platter and surround with roast potatoes and parsnips. Place a bay leaf and a couple of cranberries on top for decoration, if desired.