Christmas tips and tales
Keep visiting this page for Christmas tips and tales from some of our favourite bloggers and foodies!
Spicy Nut Cake with a Sticky Boozy Sauce by Alex Connell, Principal Tutor at the Vegetarian Society Cookery School
The Tyranny of the Nut Roast by Jon Young
Introducing family to vegan food... by Day Radley at Vegan Chef Day
My vegetarian Christmas dinners through the ages by Mandy at Sneaky Veg
Getting the kids involved with prepping Christmas dinner by Emily Leary
To nut roast, or not to nut roast? by Veggie LAD
Our supporters say... tips from Vegetarian Society supporters
Spicy Nut Cake with a Sticky Boozy Sauce
By Alex Connell, Principal Tutor at the Vegetarian Society Cookery School
Nut roasts seem to divide opinion. Some folk love them anytime of the year, enjoying this veggie classic for Sunday roast dinner with lashings of gravy or sliced with a colourful salad on a sunny day and don't forget in winter the festive nut roast with cranberry sauce. Simply delicious or is it? To others nut roast is a twee reminder of outdated and nut filled fodder, so we aren't sure what anyone is going to make of our sweet nut roast creation. All we can say is try it - it just might convert you to #lovenutroast
This cake will last up to two weeks if wrapped in foil or 3 months if frozen. Only add the topping when you are ready to eat the cake.
Serves 8 -10
Cooking: 1 hour 30 minutes
Preparation: 20 minutes
*Can be vegan
For the Cake:
200g butter (at room temperature) or *vegan margarine
2 tbsp vegetable oil
100g dark brown sugar
300g mixed chopped nuts, lightly toasted
100g ground almonds
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp mixed spice
3 tbsp rum, whiskey or brandy
1 banana, mashed
125g self-raising flour
For the Topping:
100g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
20g flaked almonds
3 tbsp golden syrup
50g butter or *vegan margarine
2 tbsp of whichever spirit was used in the cake
A light sprinkle of sea salt crystals
1. Cream the butter and sugar together then add the chopped nuts, ground almonds, ginger, cinnamon, mixed spice, spirit of your choice and banana. Mix well. Fold in the flour and transfer to a lined cake tin.
2. Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. When done, allow to cool.
3. To make the topping, place the hazelnuts, golden syrup, butter and whichever spirit was used in the cake into a pan and heat. Stir until the sauce starts to thicken.
4. Place the cake onto a serving plate then top with the sauce.
5. Finally, evenly sprinkle on the salt.
The Tyranny of the Nut Roast
By Jon Young - Blogger at Huffington Post
Rewind back to any year before 2013, and the idea of eating a nut roast as the centrepiece of my Christmas meal bordered on blasphemy. It received similar levels of disdain as other usurpers such as quorn, tofu and seitan (or Satan as I assumed it was spelt). Before turning vegetarian in 2014, I regarded any meal without meat as incomplete. The beef, chicken or turkey was always the main draw, and the vegetables were just making up the numbers. I’d often have a peperami in my coat pocket in the event of an ‘emergency’ (such as being served three bean chilli). Once, when a vegetarian friend invited me to dinner, I packed some sausage rolls to eat during toilet breaks.
As a self-proclaimed alpha male, meat-eating was central to my masculinity (how sad eh?). Rare steaks, chicken wings and bacon rolls were badges of pride (I now shudder at the thought of each). The very mention of a meat-free meal was enough to make me reach for the peperami. Suggesting it for Christmas Dinner – the biggest meal of the year – would drive me to full on panic mode.
I could write a book on the social and psychological reasons that drove me (a lifelong animal lover) to construct an identity around sausage rolls, but I’ll leave that pleasure for now. What matters is that here in 2016, after a lot of reading, soul searching, and 9 copies of The Vegetarian I am genuinely excited about my nut roast this Christmas Day. And far from being the unfulfilling, emasculating experience I once feared, I know it will be many times better than the Turkey I once ravished.
There are the ethical reasons – the knowledge that I won’t be pulling crackers and saying words of love over a dead animal that never experienced compassion in its life. But whilst ethical reasons remove guilt, they don’t generate excitement. The excitement is driven by the exquisite taste. The recipe I used last year is packed with herbs, vegetables and of course, every manner of nut. Together they generate a brilliant combination of tastes and textures, that meat simply can’t. Unlike turkey (which in itself does not taste of anything), each ingredient brings something to the table. Supported by vegetables and gravy, the experience is heavenly. I can honestly say that last year’s nut roast was the best Christmas meal I had ever tasted (sorry mum if you’re reading). I can’t wait for this year – my mouth is watering already.
Introducing family to vegan food...
By Day Radley at www.veganchefday.com
When I became vegan at age 17, 22 years ago, Christmas completely changed for me. It was once a fun day always ending with a game of pictionary with all of my extended family. It was a relaxed, joyous, carefree occasion. But, as a vegan surrounded by meat-eaters, the day became trying for many years as I learnt how to navigate it’s difficulties. I was happy enough with a plate of veg but distressed by the turkey carcass just inches away from my plate.
Needless to say that plate of veg was very difficult to eat. After a couple for years of this endurance I tentatively asked my parents if it could be carved in the kitchen. It had not crossed their minds that it was an issue and they were happy to do this for me. In hindsight I wish I had asked sooner. I wasn’t asking them to not eat it, although that would have been amazing! I was asking for a small compromise.
In recent times I use this holiday as way to showcase vegan food to omnivores. I take my own creations to gatherings, making sure that I have enough for others to sample and that the food looks and tastes amazing. This is a subtle way to introduce family and friends to fabulous animal-free food. Plus you will have an amazing meal…….not just a plate of over-cooked veg!
Vegan Chocolate Mousse with raspberries
50g cacao liquor buttons (this is pure cacao)
6 tablespoons aquafaba (I use AF from a jar as I find it is thicker and results in a better dish)
3 tablespoons rice syrup (you can add more if you prefer it to be sweeter)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 handfuls of frozen raspberries (frozen raspberries are a great thing to keep a stock of in your freezer throughout the year, they make smoothies taste delicious and can be softened then added to chia seeds and chilled overnight for a refined sugar free chia jam)
1 tablespoon roasted and chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts which were bought already toasted and ground)
1. Put the cacao in a glass bowl in a pan of water, bring to the boil and then simmer, whilst the cacao is melting mix the other ingredients
2. In a high sided bowl using an electric whisk mix the aquafaba, syrup and vanilla until it is fluffy. You won't get peaks as you would when making a vegan meringue but, after whisking for 5 minutes, you will get a slightly aerated mixture
3. Add the melted cacao and whisk until it is fully mixed in
4. Pour the mousse into 2 small bowls or ramekins, chill for an hour or more 5. Top each mousse with a handful of frozen raspberries and a scattering of nuts just before serving
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My vegetarian Christmas dinners through the ages
By Mandy Mazliah at www.sneakyveg.com
Christmas 1991 - Bohemian Rhapsody was Xmas number one, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and Sylvanian Families were all the rage and everyone was desperate for a Gameboy (I didn’t get one). It was also my first Christmas as a vegetarian. Aged just 11 I’d taken the decision in November to stop eating meat and fish and had already given a slightly excruciating presentation to my entire Year 7 class about factory farming and battery hens - which resulted in several of the other class members becoming veggie too - although I don’t think it lasted.
My parents were convinced it was just a phase. It’s turned into a long one.
What my Christmas dinner looks like these days is a long way from those early days when I usually just had the trimmings and left it at that. At best I might have had a couple of veggie sausages. I actually didn’t mind though - roast potatoes, parsnips, vegetables, not too many sprouts please, some stuffing and a generous helping of veggie gravy is actually a pretty good meal, if a little lacking in protein.
In the late 1990s my mum became gluten free and very interested in healthy eating. Subsequently a nut roast began to appear on the Christmas table. She makes a lovely one with courgettes - perhaps not the most seasonal but it is delicious and goes really well with the festive trimmings.
As I grew up and learnt to love cooking I began to diversify my Christmas main course. A couple of favourites include the Christmas galette by Rose Elliot (from Vegetarian Supercook), which is a delicious pie full of veggies, sprouts and stilton cheese and the parsnip roulade by Delia Smith. The roulade is one of the most delicious things that I’ve ever eaten and I’ve been hard pressed to find anything better for a Christmas main.
However, as I’m leaning more and more to veganism these days, and am cutting out as much dairy and eggs from my diet as possible, a nut roast is back on the agenda. This year we’ll be having a parsnip, chestnut and sage wreath. You can get the recipe on my blog, Sneaky Veg, and it’s delicious whether you’re vegetarian or vegan or neither. I’ve made it in a ring tin to make it look even more festive - however, it could just as easily be made in a loaf tin or cake tin if you don’t want to buy anything specially.
I’ve also seen lots of gorgeous Christmas recipes this year that include butternut squash such as this lovely cranberry, feta and quinoa stuffed squash by blogger Easy Peasy Foodie and this spiced chestnut and squash filo pie by Felicity Cloake (about halfway down).
Mandy Mazliah is a vegetarian mum of three whose kids don’t eat vegetables. Read about her efforts to get them to eat their five a day at www.sneakyveg.com. You can also find her at facebook.com/sneakyveg, instagram.com/sneakyvegblog and twitter.com/sneakyvegblog
Getting the kids involved with prepping Christmas dinner
13 December 2016
By Emily Leary - multi-award-winning food, lifestyle and parenting writer at www.amummytoo.co.uk
Cooking with kids provides some unique challenges but with a little planning, Christmas dinner can a perfect opportunity to get the whole family involved in something fun, and get kids on the road to picking up an invaluable life skill.
Kids are never too young to start getting interested in where their food comes from, and a great place to start is during your Christmas shopping.
Get them involved in your choosing items for Christmas dinner, explaining what you’re looking for and why, and asking them about ingredients they like. Letting them pick something out or even come up with a recipe of their own for the table is a great way of getting them move involved.
Once the big day arrives, prepare the area the kids will be working in. It should be safe, with nothing sharp, hot, flammable or likely to fall. Get all the ingredients and equipment ready to go before you draft the kids in, and have plenty of cloths and kitchen towel on hand for the inevitable spills, sticky hands and runny noses.
Remember to encourage kids get to know the ingredients as you go. A sprig of sage to smell, a sweated down piece of onion to taste, a sneaky piece of stuffing smeared in cranberry sauce. All this can really help them to understand how the different flavours come together and change while cooking.
Yorkshire pudding batter can be made hours ahead of time and chilled. With just three ingredients it's easy for even very young children to help weigh out and mix. Let them peek through the oven door from a safe distance every few minutes once the Yorkshires are baking – there’s wonderful fun to be had watching them puff up.
Washing and scrubbing the carrots, potatoes and parsnips is always a fun for small children and they’ll relish the chance to take on a job with a bit of independence. Bigger kids can even help in with the chopping, if supervised.
Stuffing can be mixed, rolled into balls, and placed on a baking tray by little hands. It's messy, it's fun and you can make a game of seeing how evenly sized the kids can get the balls, or how many they can roll in 30 seconds.
Christmas pudding is also simple to make, and can be made months ahead of Christmas, so that’s a job you could do today! The kids can choose which dried fruits go into the mix – most recipes call for raisins, currants and sultanas, but dried cranberries, apricots and blueberries work just as well and taste wonderful.
Lastly, you can start making your nut roast ahead of time and store it in the freezer, so now is a great time to let kids get involved with helping make the centerpiece of the vegetarian Christmas table.
Cheesy vegetable bake
A creamy vegetable bake with a crunchy topping of cheesy rosemary croutons.
Author: Emily Leary
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 1 hour
For the filling:
350g (12.5 oz) carrots
350g (12.5 oz) potatoes
250g (9 oz) swede
30g butter (1 oz), plus some to grease
1 tbsp garlic puree
350g (12.5 oz) trimmed leeks
salt and pepper
For the sauce:
500ml (17 fl oz) milk
30g (1 oz) butter
15g (0.5 oz) plain flour
100g (3.5 oz) mature cheese
salt and pepper
For the topping:
6 slices of stale bread
100g (3.5 oz) mature cheese
6 springs of fresh rosemary
Glug of olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Slice the bread into sixths by slicing in half vertically and into thirds horizontally, then cut all the little square in half diagonally to create 72 little croutons.
2. Place on a greased baking tray and bake for 8 minutes until crisp but not browned, then set aside. Don't turn the oven off.
3. Peel the carrots, swede and potato and cut into 1 cm cubes.
4.Place in a pan of water, bring to the boil and cook for about 8 mins until just tender.
5. Meanwhile, melt the butter and garlic in a frying pan over a medium heat with a good pinch of salt and pepper.
6. Finely slice the leeks and sweat in the butter for about 8-10 minutes.
7.Place the leeks and drained veggies in a greased casserole dish.
8. To make the white sauce, put the butter, flour and milk in the pan you used for the leeks and put over a medium heat.
9. Whisk lightly until it thickens, then add in the grated cheese and stir until melted.
10. Season to taste then pour over the veggies.
11. Spread the croutons on top of the casserole and then sprinkle with grated cheese.
12. Place the rosemary sprigs on top, then drizzle with olive oil.
13. Bake in the oven for around 10 minutes until golden and bubbling.
Recipe by A Mummy Too
To nut roast, or not to nut roast?
6 December 2016
By VeggieLAD - Blogger
To nut roast, or not to nut roast? That is the question that seems to plague any vegetarian Christmas. Personally I’m a no nut roast kind of guy. I’ve never got on particularly well with it and it reminds me of un-imaginative veggie options in the local pub. I like to make awesome Yorkshire Puddings and roasted veg the heroes of my Christmas table.
Let’s face it, roast potatoes are everyone’s favourite part of Christmas dinner anyway so I spend time and effort making sure they’re absolutely perfect. I’ve settled on rapeseed oil as my roasting fat of choice recently. It has a higher smoke point than olive oil and so helps get that super crispy crust on the outside that we all crave. Remember to par-boil them too! About 8-10 minutes should do it, then steam dry and chuff them up in a colander before putting them in to roast. Don’t be sparing with the flavours either! I add a whole garlic bulb, rosemary, thyme, sage and bay leaves to the roasting pan. Delicious!
For my perfect, stress free Christmas read my Veggie LAD guide here. It features a couple of killer recipes from the Vegetarian Society which will really make everyone wonder why meat ever played the main part in Christmas dinner!
Our supporters say...
We asked supporters of the Vegetarian Society for their tips on cooking for Christmas. This is what they said: