Christmas time is a wonderful part of the year with plenty of joy, gift-giving (and receiving), and the part that everyone loves the most – Christmas dinner. If you
are a vegetarian, however, you’ll be a little bit warier than meat-eaters about
what many people put forward as the best meal of the entire year.
For most vegetarians, Christmas dinner for many decades has meant one thing – nut roast. These two words would have struck terror into the hearts of vegetarians up and down the country, expecting something bland, overcooked, and lacking in the joy we come to expect from this time of year. However, things have changed and the nut roast is once again a realistic, tasty, option for Christmas dinner as a vegetarian. Nuts are one of the staple parts of the diet for any vegetarian or vegan, all year-round, so it makes a lot of sense to utilise them for the showstopper at the centrepiece of a vegetarian Christmas dinner. A nut roast offers up a traditional savoury dish made of nuts, grains, and plenty of seasoning, shaped into a loaf and served with all the trimmings.
A nut roast doesn’t have to be a substitute for meat any more, and that’s
probably the biggest shift in mindset when preparing for a veggie Christmas.
The nut roast is a tasty, satisfying meal in its own right. You can also play about with the textures and flavours, choosing to use only one type of nut or using a
few different types. You should also try and pack as much flavour into it as possible by adding lentils, celery, carrots, aubergine, mushrooms, toasted pine nuts, whatever takes your fancy. For some people a nut roast works really well by adding a creamy mushroom sauce, for others, it should be served with a rich homemade gravy using red wine and porcini mushrooms. The choice is endless and it makes for exciting preparation time for Christmas as you come up with new ideas.
Of course, there are many other options for Christmas dinner as a vegetarian other than a nut roast. This includes a whole range of potential tarts and Tarte Tatin, stuffed pumpkins, sweet potato parcels, quiche, as well as amazing salads
Once you get past the main part of the dish that is to be served the best part of Christmas dinner is everything else anyway, all the vegetables that go alongside the meat. So preparing for a vegetarian Christmas is quite easy, and not too dissimilar to preparing for Christmas with a turkey (just without the killing!).
Depending on your preference you can choose to roast some carrots until they are dark, crunchy and almost sweet, the dreaded brussel sprout can actually be cooked in various ways that make them really tasty, with other options of carrot and/or swede mash, parsnips, turnips, peas, green beans, broccoli, and whatever other types of vegetable you want to serve.
One area of Christmas dinner that is absolutely crucial, and quite often the one item on the menu that makes people sit up and take notice is that of the roast potatoes. This writer has been present on one occasion where a mother and daughter became embroiled in an almighty argument about what the roast potatoes were cooked in. The mother cooked the entire batch in Goose fat and forgot to put a separate batch on for her vegetarian daughter. The half-apology and request to ‘just eat them this one time, it won’t matter’ led to tears and shouts for a good few minutes whilst the rest of the party sat quietly waiting for the meal to be brought out to the table.
The best Christmas dinners are those that get the roast potatoes right, so always be sure that you cook any roast potatoes in vegetable oil, and never using the juices of the meat being cooked that day (if you are having a mixed Christmas dinner with meat and vegetarian options of course). It might sound obvious but it happens so often!
There are so many other ways in which you can provide great vegetarian food options throughout the day at Christmas. From spring rolls, mushroom and blue cheese melts, and soufflés for starters, to a large and varied cheese board for after dinner. The key is to be as prepared as possible, embrace all the various vegetables and fruit you can lay your hands-on, and most of all have fun and be adventurous with your cooking. That is what Christmas dinner is all about after all.