The common misconception about vegan food is that it is in some way inferior to meals featuring meat, fish and dairy. But this is not true at all. To create rich, tasty and satisfying vegan food, you just need to approach it in the same way as you would a carnivore’s meal and the results can be stunning in their own right.
Cookery techniques and hacks such as marinading, rubbing, brining and caramelising all need to play a part, in order to get the wow factor into your meals – and this is particularly important at Christmas time. Christmas for me, growing up in New Zealand, was always about fresh vegetables – new potatoes dug minutes before being boiled with a sprig of mint, fresh peas podded in the morning sun on Christmas Day and carrots plucked from their rich soil just before being lightly steamed. If you make vegetables the centrepiece of your Christmas dinner, and do them real justice when you cook them, then you won’t be left feeling like you’ve missed out on anything.
Turkey is generally the centrepoint of the Christmas table, however my porcini and thyme roasted celeriac (see below for the recipe) can definitely take its place. Cooked whole, it looks beautiful and smells amazing too. It can also be carved at the table, so the theatre of the festivities remains.
Jerusalem artichokes, pumpkin and carrots can all make a great soup to kick off your Christmas Day feast. Instead of milk and chicken stock in a soup, caramelise the vegetables in oil and use a dash of coconut cream for richness and add a roasted vegetable stock with a little rice milk. Trust me, it will be delicious.
For the main event, when cooking your roast potatoes add a little thyme, garlic and rosemary to your vegetable oil. For the roast parsnips add a little nutmeg and maple syrup and for the brussels sprouts I use a touch of miso paste to add even more savouriness.
For pudding, you can substitute vegetarian suet in your Christmas pud, make custard with oat cream and there are some great non-dairy ice creams out there (one of my favourites is Swedish Glace). Boxing Day leftover meals can include roast vegetable soup, bubble and squeak and toasted sandwiches.
Chantelle Nicholson is Chef Patron at Tredwells. Her book, Planted, is out in April 2018
Porcini & thyme roasted celeriac
10g table salt
1/2 bunch thyme
10g dried porcini/cep mushrooms
1 teaspoon sea salt
50ml olive oil
1. Bring 100ml water to the boil with half of the thyme. Add the table salt and mix until dissolved. Remove from the heat and add 900ml cold water. Peel the celeriac and prick, as far in as possible, all over. Submerge in the brine for 2 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 165℃.
3. Pick the remaining thyme leaves from the stalks. Place the dried mushrooms in a small blender with sea salt. Blend until a powder is formed then add the thyme leaves. Brush the celeriac liberally with the olive oil then cover with the porcini salt.
4. Place in a roasting dish and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes then remove the foil and bake for a further 30 minutes.