Nearly every family gathering has at least one vegetarian; and for the past 25 years, in our family, that’s been me! With the festive season rapidly approaching, here are my top tips to survive a vegetarian Christmas plus my favourite recipes ( it’s not Christmas dinner without burned roasties and luke warm sprouts) Make plenty because everyone will want to try some!
1. Announcing a vegetarian christmas could be a polite way to keep the ‘in laws’ at bay over your holiday.
This works every time… especially if you adopt a ‘holier than thou attitude’.
2. If you are a non-vegetarian doing the catering, no need to go cold turkey (meat-free) overnight, try a few veggie dishes as a change.
If you only have one or two veggie guests, make the meat-free option part of the meal everyone can enjoy.
3. Cheating is allowed, there are plenty of ready made veggie dishes to buy.
From ready made nut roasts, quorn turkey roasts and vegetarian sausages, it’s never been easier!
4. Go into great detail about how you cooked everything, even if they are ready made.
Take the credit even if Linda McCartney’s kitchen did the work. The more elaborate the details the better, then if you get found out it’s not so bad.
5. The only part of the veggie dinner that grown in dark, crowded conditions are the mushrooms!
Use this joke with care.
6. Make plenty as everyone will want to try some.
If you have only one or two veggie guests, make extra as everyone will tend to want a ‘taste’.
7. Don’t wear your halo too tight. Avoid interrogating your host about ingredients. If something non-veggie slipped through the net, ignorance is bliss.
Try to communicate your needs in advance so your host can avoid simple pitfalls, and even offer to help. Always compliment them on the special effort they have made, even if the gravy has a suspiciously ‘realistic’ taste.
8. Keep it separate
The vegetarians can eat a lot of things that everyone else is having, but not if the roasties have been cooked snuggled up to the turkey!
Not Just a Nut Roast
Serves 4 (or 3 greedy / 6 fussy)
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
1 – 1 ½ tbs / 15-20ml olive oil
125g vegetarian Halloumi cheese, thinly sliced
50g fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
50g ground almonds
150g cooked basmati rice (about 75g uncooked weight), cooled
1 small red pepper, cut into small dice (about ½ cm)
2 – 3tbs / 30 – 45 ml chopped fresh coriander
1 – 1 ½ tsp / 5 – 7.5ml fennel seeds, ground
75ml hot light stock
50g stoned black olives, halved
to taste salt and pepper
2 large free range eggs, beaten
- Preheat the oven to 180C / 375F / Gas mark 5. Grease a 450g loaf tin. Line the base and ends with a single strip of baking paper, leaving an overhang at each end. This will help to ease the loaf out of the tin when cooked.
- Gently sauté the onion in 1tbs of the olive oil in a frying pan until soft but not coloured. Remove from the pan and set aside. Using the remaining ½ tbs olive oil if necessary, turn up the heat and use the same pan to fry the halloumi cheese quickly until brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool, then cut into very small dice (about ½ cm).
- Grind the cashew nuts with half the walnuts until powdery and add the breadcrumbs. Put the remaining walnuts into a processor and process until very finely chopped.
- In a large bowl, mix all the nuts together with the onions and halloumi cheese and all the remaining ingredients except the eggs. Season to taste then add the beaten eggs and beat well. Press the mixture into the prepared loaf tin, with a slightly rounded top surface. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until firm. Check after 30 minutes, and if it appears to be browning too fast, cover with foil.
- When cooked, remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 10 – 20 minutes before turning out. Slice with care using a sharp knife, and wiping the knife clean after each cut.
When you are making a veggie Christmas dinner you can really go to town on the vegetable dishes. Here are two recipes that are quite easy to make but delicious and impressive. The stoved potatoes are particularly good because you make them in a pan but they look like roasted! Saving you valuable oven space, and avoids the temptation to put the roasties in with the turkey and then ‘forget’ to tell the vegetarians.
Herby Creamed Carrots
1.5lb / 500 – 600g carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
5tbs / 75ml double cream
(*or use soya cream + 1tsp / 5ml hard vegan margarine)
1 tsp /5ml finely chopped fresh sage (or use ½ tsp dried)
½ large lemon, grated zest only
to taste salt and pepper and a pinch of caster sugar if necessary
4 sage leaves (to garnish)
1tsp/ 5ml butter (or hard vegan margarine) for greasing
- Preheat oven to 180C / 375F / Gas mark 5
- Steam carrots until al dente and pat dry. Put in a liquidizer with the remaining ingredients. Blend until pureed. If using soya cream, add 1tsp margarine.
- Check for seasoning, adding a little caster sugar if necessary. Turn into the greased ovenproof dish. Cover with foil and reheat in the oven for about 10 minutes. Serve topped with sage leaves.
Saintly Stoved Potatoes
½ tbsp / 7.5ml light olive oil
1 tsp / 5ml paprika
1 tsp / 5ml rosemary, finely chopped
1.5lb / 600g miniature new potatoes scrubbed (or any waxy ones cut into approx 3 cm dice)
1/2 pint / 300ml light vegetable stock
9 small cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
2 tbsp / 30ml chives, chopped
- Heat the oil in a large deep, frying pan. Add the paprika and rosemary and then the potatoes. Take to a high heat and stir the potatoes for 2 or 3 minutes to make sure they are coated with the spices.
- Add the stock and the whole garlic and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes, or when tender.
- Take off the cover and boil rapidly until the liquid has evaporated, stirring the potatoes occasionally to ensure they don’t stick. Once cooked they will have an almost “roasted” appearance, similar to patatas bravas – minus the fat!