Christmas is a time of joy and plenty. Of nowhere is this more true than the festive table. In this wonderful season, food comes into its own and proudly takes centre stage. And behind every stage must lie a theatre; in this instance, that theatre is the kitchen – the true heart of every home.
With its gleaming copper pans and lovingly scrubbed oaken-table, the kitchen becomes a place of unrivalled magic at Christmas. There are so many delicious things to prepare that the cook is spoilt for choice; so much so, that selecting the perfect dish becomes more of a challenge than cooking it!
When I began the ketogenic-diet, I was slightly concerned that my kitchen would lose its magic. There’d be no more rolling of pastry or slow rising of bread. But instead of narrowing my repertoire, the low carb diet has expanded my horizons and pushed me to try new things. That must be a benefit!
With a little imagination, the low carb kitchen can yield a stunning diversity. Take these tartlets for example. They require none of the fiddly mess of pastry, nor induce the ‘bloat’ it brings on. They’re perfect for diabetics or those with a gluten-intolerance; not to mention those on a low-carb ‘keto-plan’ (like me!).
Such dishes may look complicated, but it doesn’t follow that their preparation should be either arduous or stressful. This recipe is incredibly simple & is perfect for a Christmas starter or light brunch. It can be made ahead of time and assembled at the last moment; a real boon on Christmas day, when time has a habit of running away with itself!
The first thing to tackle is the parma-ham tart-cases. Lightly oil a muffin tray or Yorkshire-Pudding tin. Cut your parma ham into lengths which just sit proud of the surface. This allows for shrinkage. Two slices per tartlet should be sufficient. You can use the trimmings to plug any gaps you have, to create a seamless shell. Into a hot oven they go for 10 minutes max. You want the sides to be ever so slightly brown, but not too crisp. Once done, take out of the oven and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, slice your asparagus spears into very thin rounds. Boil these for one minute in a shallow pan of water. I added half a stock-cube to this, plus a small ‘crush’ of garlic to provide background flavour. After the time has elapsed. strain the liquid and refresh your asparagus under the cold-tap to arrest the cooking process.
Finely chop a red onion and sauté in butter until soft and translucent. Then remove from the pan, and lay thinly on a plate to cool. The trick is as follows: the greater the surface-area of your plate, the quicker the cooling time!
Grate a little parmesan cheese into a mixing-bowl and sprinkle a generous spoonful of chopped basil on top. Once your asparagus and onion are at room-temperature, add these to the bowl and season well. Stir in an equal quantity of cream-cheese by eye and loosen the mix with a quick pour of double-cream and squeeze of lemon-juice. The texture we’re looking for like a mousse. If it’s too solid, ad a little more cream.
Taste the mix to adjust for seasoning, then spoon into your cooled tart-cases, piling the mix up in a generous mound. This is no time to scrimp! Top the tartlets with a thin slice of tomato & lemon-zest, then garnish the dish with fresh salad-leaves.
Though in no way essential, a drizzle of truffle-oil finishes the lot to perfection! Don’t worry if you can’t get hold of this – a good vinaigrette will serve just as well. Either way, the results will be flawless!
Be sure to keep reading for more festive dishes over the coming weeks! Check out The Low Carb Christmas for details.
Enjoy the festive season and thank you for reading.