How to have a vegetarian Christmas
Bronte Coates shares some of her favourite recipes for non-meat eaters this Christmas.
Last week my housemates and I hosted a pre-Christmas dinner so we could celebrate together before we all disappeared into our own families and holidays. As we’re mostly vegetarians we decided to make the menu meat-free and, as I tend to get a little nostalgic this time of year, as traditional as we could get.
We started the night with a selection of Christmassy fruits, ginger beers and wine. I always get so excited for fruits over summer. I grew up in Queensland and miss the mangoes, lychees and tropical delights readily available at home but I absolutely love the surplus of berries that appear down south. Blueberries! Boysenberries! Brambleberries! I don’t quite know what those last ones are, but I do know that they’re amazing.
After the fruit my housemate Pippa brought out the main event. Instead of ham or turkey she’d prepared a nut roast, a dish I’ve only been recently introduced to, but am now happy to recommend to one and all. She’d used Jamie Oliver’s ‘Cranberry and pistachio nut roast’ recipe, which is widely recommended and has a risotto or pearl barley base. After the base has cooled, you then stir in wild mushrooms, crushed pistachios and almonds (some people recommend the nuts be pre-roasted), bread crumbs, and so forth. The recipe calls for egg and cheese but it’s fine to leave these our for vegans. While you’re meant to top the roast with fresh cranberries cooked in a little sugar, we ended up using the afore-mentioned brambleberries instead and this turned out to be a delicious option. Although, like most of Jamie’s recipes, this one was easy to follow, I still acted as ‘sous chef’ for Pippa since the prep-work was quite time-consuming. You bake the roast upside down, then leave to sit before ‘courageously' flipping right side up. It’s a little bit thrilling to discover the beautiful coloured top once this happens.
If you’re interested in something less traditional than a ‘roast’, another recipe to try is Ottolenghi’s ‘Caramelized garlic tart’ (as can be found in Plenty). This is an amazing dish: sweet and savoury, and completely decadent. As the cookbook suggests, it goes well with a crisp salad and I’d even argue such a thing is necessary to cut through the richness.
To accompany Pippa’s nut roast we had a vegetarian gravy and roast potatoes, salad and bread. I’ve been trying to bake my own bread more often this year and if you’re interested in learning yourself, Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf is a great resource for the beginner. I’m usually a bit of a salad fiend but for this evening we’d prepared a very simple one. However! If you’re looking for more exciting options then another Jamie Oliver’s recipe – ‘Roast carrot & avocado salad with orange & lemon dressing’ (as can be found in Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life) – is a show-stopper. It’s one of the dishes I’m preparing for my own family Christmas this year.
As a finale I’d baked Stephanie Alexander’s most excellent ‘Rhubarb and cinnamon cake’ (as can be found in The Cook’s Companion). Unbelievably easy-to-make, the combination of rhubarb with lemon and sour-cream is a delight. Some of our neighbours also came down for the cutting of the cake, and as an additional treat Pippa made ‘Christmas crack’, which is basically every parent’s worst nightmare. You can find the recipe here.