Sunday lunch is one of the few occasions when we feel obliged to entertain and eat as a family. Christmas day dinner is the daddy of all Sunday lunches, enough to stress out even the most competant cook. Added to this, entertaining today is even more complicated with every guest having, seemingly, a different food requirement.
In particular, what to do about the vegetarians and vegans? A traditional Christmas dinner is actually more veggie friendly than you might think. It’s one of the meals where we serve the most vegetables: roast potatoes, parsnips, peas, brussel sprouts and carrots, to name a few.
But as a host/ess you want to give vegetarian and vegan guests the same spectacular, luxurious, over-the-top banquetting food that everyone else will be getting. Christmas dinner is the ultimate winter feast and you want to serve a meat-free centrepiece to be proud of.
Vegans and vegetarians are normal people really. (Although I once had a Christmas day guest who claimed she was allergic to the modern world. I had to turn off all phones and the wifi for the day. Her flat is lined with silver foil.) Here are a few tips and tricks to survive a meat-free Christmas:
- Be aware of what cooking medium you use for the vegetables. Roast potatoes in duck fat will not be welcome. Strict vegans won’t eat brussel sprouts coated with butter nor carrots doused with honey. So always reserve a portion of the vegetables to be cooked in vegetable oil, coconut butter or nut oils.
- Gravy must be vegetarian/vegan.
- Keep emergency supplies, such as halloumi and firm tofu, for surprise vegetarians. Wrapped in puff or filo pastry, you can always cobble together something appealing.
- Use fresh herbs to garnish your dishes. They add vitality and zing, and we need our greens in winter.
- Some wines contain egg whites and fish scales for ‘fining’. Consult sites such as WineTrust for lists of vegan and vegetarian wines.
Vegetarian Christmas wreath
This can be prepped in advance and popped in the oven in time for serving. You’ll need a bundt tin, a pastry brush and 2 clean damp tea towels for covering the filo dough while you work.
1 large butternut squash, skinned, deseeded, cubed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
6 to 8 sheets of filo pastry
100g of butter (or coconut oil if vegan)
1 tbsp of cinnamon, ground
100g of walnuts
200g blue cheese, cubed (replace with either vegan cheese or smoked tofu if vegan)
3 tbsp sweet and savoury cranberries (below)
Preheat the oven to 180ºC
Prepare the butternut squash and lay in an oiled baking tin, seasoning with the salt. Roast for 25 minutes or until tender. Then remove and cool.
Mix the butter or coconut oil with the ground cinnamon.
Brush the bundt tin with the butter/cinnamon or coconut oil/cinnamon mixture.
Working carefully with the filo pastry, keep it covered with the damp cloth, removing sheets one by one.
Drape the sheets in the bundt tin, covering the inside and leaving the extra to flop over the sides (this will be folded in later). Brush all the filo with the butter/oil/cinnamon mixture as you go. As you complete the lining of the tin with the filo, cover the exposed parts with the other damp cloth so that the pastry doesn’t dry out.
Do at least 3 layers of filo brushing with the butter/oil/cinnamon.
Put the butternut squash in the bundt tin, spreading it around evenly.
Then add the walnuts and cubes of blue cheese.
Finally drizzle the sweet and savoury cranberries around the inside of the tin.
Once you fill the bundt tin with the stuffing, you will remove the cloth and cover the top of the tin with flaps of filo surrounding the tin.
If not cooking immediately, cover with cling film and place in the fridge.
Remove from the fridge, let it warm to room temperature.
Bake at 180ºC for 25 minutes.
Serve with extra sweet and savoury cranberries in the centre.
Sweet and savoury cranberries
350ml apple cider vinegar
350g white sugar
1 heaped tsp or 15 all spice berries
1 heaped tsp or 15 peppercorns
1 heaped tsp or 15 juniper berries
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
300g frozen or fresh cranberries
To a medium sized saucepan add all the ingredients, bring to a boil then turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.