I must first confess. I do eat meat. After years of see-saw like moves from vegetarianism to being a non vegetarian, I seem to have found a healthy balance of a predominantly meat-free diet, but also a heightened interest in whole foods and being more aware of the food we put into our bellies.
So let’s begin. For years now I’ve been cooking Christmas, the first time I had ever hosted, I did in fact blog about my experience here as it was a serious adventure and began my more serious affair and passion with food. Now a couple of years on, and with the addition of in laws too,Christmas has really been trying to adapt to everyone’s palettes. As my F-i-l will agree, the palates of my other half’s side of the family are very much on the spicier side of the fence than I. Whilst I like spice, often I find too much and I will fall into a bloated state and more often that not, I don’t enjoy my food as much thanks to the burning sensation lying within my stomach.
As most of the family are vegetarian, I thought this year, instead of doing a couple of meat dishes, why not actually do a healthy Christmas that is completely vegetarian, with a bigger aim: to not make us the meat eaters feel like we were missing anything. Where do you go to find inspiring Vegetarian food when family only assume if you’re doing a Veggie Christmas it must be all the Indian classics like Daal and spinach?
I wanted a Christmas full of show stoppers that were both healthy, mind-blowingly tasty and outlandishly beautiful to look at. So my inspiration came from the intense amount of research I’ve been doing over the last year, to make sure myself and my better half are eating healthy food that works for our different body types and adapts to our metabolic rate.
For starters, I decided on a show stopper that no- one would be expecting. A Tandoori Roasted cauliflower with gorgeous mint chutney topped with one of my favourite flavours – fresh coriander. Prior to this starter, as my family don’t drink, I made a non-alcoholic mulled drink, with a hum of spice from the cloves, cinnamon mixed with a hot, stewed apple juice. This was a success last Christmas, so this year I made this recipe my own by adding my own take on this and I have to say it was thoroughly enjoyed.
Back to the cauliflower. This majestic dish, certainly set the mood for our Christmas celebrations, looking beautifully bright and inviting, everyone tucked into this lovingly made beauty. Next came the main course. I wanted a main course that would rival any turkey on a table and something that wasn’t nut roast. Last year’s Christmas was a great Morrocan pie, so this year I wanted to do something which was more ‘meaty’, a tad more British if you like.
A Veggie Wellington was decided on, thanks to the trusty Jamie Oliver, this was a great recipe that I was able to adapt and make my own, so with a couple of additions, this was ready. Accompanied with honeyed chilli parsnips, brussel sprouts and my mother’s contribution of gorgeous chilli marinated new potatoes, our main course was almost there! Except instead of accompanying our Wellington with traditional mash, I thought to introduce my family to the wonders of swede mash. High in fibre, and filled with complex carbs, this root vegetable really is a vegetarian’s dream. I’m sure you all know but root vegetables are amazing for so many reasons – oodles of vitamin C and beta-carotene, this helps to clean the blood and prevents issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. I didn’t make this for the health benefits, I made this because when discovered how gorgeous this was as mash, I genuinely felt everyone would enjoy this whilst thanking me for not feeling so bloated and lethargic with too much potato intake. I also wanted to create stuffing that was suitably appropriate for vegetarians, and as such a stuffing made from paneer, green chillis, potato and freshly grated coconut was created, suffice to say it was a wonderful accompaniment!
To spoon over our slices of Wellington was a vegetarian gravy and we were ready to eat! Warming, filling, satisfying would be three words that would describe how I felt eating and watching my family enjoy this meal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing this to boast about my culinary expertise in any way, I am no genius at all, I just really believe in creating food that everyone enjoys and I wanted to create a Christmas where noone would feel they were missing meat.
For dessert I wanted to create something refreshing, almost pudding like that said Christmas without it being Christmas pudding or a mince pie! So for the second year running, I made a clementine cake, recipe courtesy of the culinary Goddess that can only be Nigella Lawson. ( I don’t care what is in the paper, why are people so quick to judge someone we don’t know?!) To accompany this, I made a cream that I discovered last year, an adaptation of Nigella’s Caribbean creams, as I didn’t want this to have a strong flavour, I wanted to be a suitably rich yet not sickening addition to a moist and dense cake.
So that’s it, my take on Christmas, vegetarian style. So now it’s over to you, what do you do at Christmas, and if you had to do a meat- free version, what would you do?