The big dinner needn’t weigh you down… make it light and heathy yet still luxurious, with extra health benefits.

Sweet potato and orange soup

A simple soup is the best – and easiest! – way to kick off a winter meal. Sweet potato and orange complement each other so well.

Serves 4
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour
Per person:262kcal, 11.7g fat – 1.0g saturates – 38.1g carbs, 11.0g sugars, 2.9g protein, 6.1g fibre, 0.7g salt

Olive oil 2tbsp
Onion 1, chopped
Garlic 2 cloves, finely chopped
Sweet potatoes 3 large, peeled and cubed
Fresh turmeric root 2tsp, peeled and grated
Paprika 1tsp
Ground turmeric 1tsp
Ground cumin ½tsp
Reduced-salt vegetable stock 1250ml
Oranges 1½, juiced
Flat-leaf parsley 1 large handful, chopped
Pitted green olives 65g, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan set over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt, sweating until softened, 5-6 mins.

Stir in the sweet potato and sauté over a slightly increased heat for 7-8 mins until coloured and tender to the tip of a knife.

Stir in the turmeric root and spices, cooking for a further minute. Cover with the stock, stirring well.

Bring to the boil and then cook at a steady simmer until the sweet potato is soft enough to blend, about 25 mins.

When ready, stir in the orange juice and purée the soup with an immersion blender until smooth; you can also blend the soup in batches using a blender or food processor.
Return the soup to a simmer and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm to one side.

Stir together the parsley and olives in a dish. Ladle the soup into warm bowls and top with the parsley and olive mixture before serving.

Turmeric boasts an array of health benefits due to a compound called curcumin. A 2012 study from the University of Tsukuba showed curcumin supplements to be as effective as exercise at reducing cardiovascular disease.

Chestnut and chard tart with lamb’s lettuce

Chestnuts are, perhaps, the quintessential festive ingredient. These tarts could be a gourmet starter or even a light main course.

Serves 6
Preparation and cooking time:
1 hour 25 mins
Per serving: 431kcal, 23.0g fat – 4.2g saturates – 47.2g carbs, 8.0g sugars, 11.5g protein, 6.5g fibre, 0.5g salt

For the pastry:
White rice flour 70g,
plus extra for dusting
Brown rice flour 70g
Wholemeal flour 150g
Extra-virgin olive oil 125ml, plus 2tbsp extra for drizzling, optional
Iced water 3-5tbsp
For the filling:
Swiss chard 600g, stalks removed, leaves roughly chopped
Eggs 3 medium
Semi-skimmed milk 250ml
Cooked chestnuts 80g, diced
Sun-dried tomatoes in oil
2tbsp, drained and sliced
To serve:
Pine nuts 2tbsp, toasted, optional
Lamb’s lettuce 50g, washed
Apple 1, cored, quartered, sliced

For the pastry: Stir together the flours in a large mixing bowl. Gradually stir in the olive oil and enough water to form a rough ball of pastry.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead into a ball. Flatten into a disc, wrap in clingfilm, and chill for 1 hour.

After chilling, preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Turn out the pastry and divide into six. Roll into ½cm rounds.

Drape the pastry into the tins, pressing into the base and sides. Trim away any excess overhanging pastry and prick the bases with a fork. Put on a baking tray and chill until needed.

For the filling: Steam the chard in a covered steaming basket set over a half-filled saucepan of simmering water for 3-4 mins. Drain, pressing on the chard to extract excess liquid.

Beat together the eggs, milk, and some salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chard and chestnuts.

Ladle into pastry cases, arranging sun-dried tomatoes on top. Bake tartlets until filling is set and pastry is golden-brown and cooked through, about 30-40 mins. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

To serve: Turn out tartlets onto plates and top with pine nuts. Serve with a lamb’s lettuce and apple salad, drizzled with olive oil, if desired.

During the season of overindulgence, chestnuts have some notable benefits such as the ability to stabilise blood sugar levels due to their high fibre content, that is according to a 2017 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Venison medallions with potato and saffron dumplings and port-infused shallots

British venison  is available from good butchers and can also be delivered by specialty online retailers.
Serves 4

Preparation and cooking time: 2 hours 30 mins
Per serving: 599kcal, 12.3g fat – 3.1g saturates – 58.8g carbs, 17.2g sugars, 56.7g protein, 8.5g fibre, 0.6g salt

For the dumplings:
Large floury potatoes such as Desirée 2, unpeeled and scrubbed
Soy flour or white rice flour 45g
Ground nutmeg 1 pinch
Saffron threads 4, chopped
Eggs 2 small, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
For the venison and shallots:
Venison fillet about 800g, trimmed
Olive oil 2tbsp
Shallots 300g, peeled and halved
Pears 2, cored, peeled, and cut into wedges
Reduced-salt beef stock 200ml
Tawny port 100ml
Bay leaves 2
Cinnamon sticks 2

For the dumplings: Cook the potatoes in a pan of salted, boiling water until tender to the tip of a knife, about 30-40 mins. Drain and leave to cool slightly before peeling. Cut
into large chunks and chill for 20 mins.

After chilling, mash with the remaining dumpling ingredients; add more flour as needed if too sticky. Divide and shape into dumplings.

Cook in a large saucepan of salted, simmering water until they rise to the surface and float, 15 mins. Remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper.

For the venison and shallots: Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5.

Rub the venison with 1tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Brown the
venison in a hot pan, turning occasionally. Remove to a plate.

Toss the shallots and pears with the remaining olive oil and some salt and pepper in a roasting tin. Roast for 20 mins.

Remove from the oven and sit the venison on top.

Roast until the venison registers at least 52C/125F on a meat thermometer, about 15-20 mins.

In the meantime, combine the stock, port, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks in a heavy-based saucepan. Bring to the boil and cook until reduced by half, 10-15 mins.

Remove the venison and shallots from the oven when ready. Loosely wrap the venison in foil and transfer shallots and pears to the sauce, warming over a low heat.

If needed, briefly reheat dumplings in the oven. Cut the venison into medallions and serve alongside the dumplings, shallots, and sauce on plates.

Apple parfait tarts

A light parfait is the perfect way to finish off a festive meal.

Apples help give this dessert its structure because the pectin in them is a natural setting agent, removing any need for traditional heavier ingredients such as double cream.

Serves 4
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour
Cooling and freezing time: 5 hours
Per serving: 324cal, 10.4g fat – 2.0g saturates – 37.6g carbs, 10.9g sugars, 16.8g protein, 7.0g fibre, 0.1g salt

Wholemeal flour 150g
Baking powder ¼tsp
Salt 1 pinch
Granulated stevia 3tbsp
Olive oil 2tbsp
Iced water 2-4tbsp
Golden Delicious apples 4, cored, peeled, and diced
Lemon juice 1tbsp
Ground cinnamon ½tsp
Vanilla extract 1tsp
Gelatine leaves 2, soaked in water for 10 mins
Silken tofu 250g
Low-fat plain Greek yogurt 250g
Finely sliced apple, optional
Icing sugar, optional

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5. Pulse together the flour, baking powder, salt, and 1tbsp stevia in a food processor.

Add the olive oil and 2tbsp water, pulsing until a dough forms; add more water as needed to bring it together.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a thickness of ½cm. Cut out four rounds, slightly larger than the diameter of an individual ring mould. Arrange pastry on a baking tray.

Cover with greaseproof paper and lay another baking tray on top. Bake until pastry is golden and cooked through, about 15-20 mins. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Combine apples, remaining stevia, lemon juice, cinnamon, and vanilla extract with a splash of water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, cover, and cook over a reduced heat until very soft, 12-15 mins.

Transfer contents to a food processor along with gelatine, puréeing until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve into a bowl. Let cool at room temperature for 1 hour.

Add tofu and yogurt to apple purée, beating until smooth. Place four ring moulds on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and press pastry rounds into their bases; trim as needed. Fill with the apple mixture, cover, and freeze until set, about 4 hours.

When ready to serve, turn out parfaits onto plates and garnish with sliced apple and a dusting of icing sugar, if desired.

A 2011 study at The Florida State University showed that post-menopausal women who ate apples every day for six months had a 23 per cent reduction in levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol, with the pectin and polyphenols in the apples thought to be responsible for this change.