November 30, 2018
How to have a Christmas dinner without meat
The holiday season is traditionally a time to get together with your family and friends and celebrate. Everyone has a slightly different routine over the Christmas period, but for most people it involves getting everyone around a table for an enormous meal at some point so you can fill yourself with food and drink.
Across the world, Christmas meals vary wildly. You might eat goose, turkey, ham, fish or something completely different. However, they are almost always based around a meat-based centrepiece. So what do you do if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, two options that are becoming increasingly popular?
Health-wise, cutting out meat can be very good for you, reducing your risk of obesity and heart disease. If this is your main reason for choosing a plant-based diet, then you can always cheat for one meal a year. However, if you don’t want to do this for other reasons, then you need a different option.
So, what can you use as a Christmas meal centrepiece if meat isn’t an option? Here are some of our favourite ideas you can use for you, or your vegetarian and vegan friends and family.
This Christmas, why not put a cauliflower in the oven rather than a joint of meat? All you need to do is remove the leaves and most of the stem, add a marinade or spice rub and roast, and you’ll have a nice centrepiece that you can carve up and serve with your choice of side dishes.
After trimming your cauliflower, cut out most of the stalk and core so you have a bit of a cavity; you can add stuffing to this. First, boil the whole head in a large pan of salted water for about eight minutes, then let it steam itself dry. Rub the cauliflower with a spice or herb blend, a marinade, or just oil and breadcrumbs if you’d rather the flavour came from the stuffing.
You can then make a stuffing out of whatever you’d like. Chestnuts and cranberries are very festive, or you can go with a classic sage and onion. Then all you need to do is put it on a baking tray and roast it at 200C (390F) for about 45 minutes, until it is golden-brown.
A wellington is a traditional British dish consisting of beef cooked in puff pastry, similar to cooking things en croûte. However, the filling doesn’t have to be meat-based. You can turn basically anything into a wellington, especially mushrooms. They have the right rich, savoury taste to make a great meat replacement.
Simply fry some chopped onions – three or four should be the right amount for a medium-sized wellington – with salt and pepper, then when they’re golden brown add about 300g (10.5 oz) of baby spinach and stir until it wilts. Place them in a bowl to cool, then return the pan to the heat and fry four large portobello mushrooms, keeping them whole rather than chopping them. They should need about five minutes on each side.
To assemble the wellington, preheat your oven to 200C (390F), roll out a sheet of puff pastry and place it on a baking tray. Spread half the onion and spinach mixture down the middle of the pastry – leaving a gap of about an inch (2.5cm) at each end – and place the mushrooms on top of it. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper and dried thyme, then cover them with the other half of the onions.
Carefully fold the outer two thirds of the pastry over the filling, pressing to seal it, and then seal the edges. Roll it over so the seam is on the bottom, then brush it with an egg wash (or just oil if you’re vegan). Bake the whole thing for about half an hour to 40 minutes, until it’s golden-brown on the outside.
This is one of the most versatile options, as you can stuff a squash with practically anything. Take a butternut squash, slice it in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. It’s a good idea to scoop out some of the flesh of the squash as well, so you have room for plenty of filling.
So, what do you stuff this vegetable with? There are plenty of options, but usually you would include a grain like rice or quinoa, as well as nuts, fruit (like festive cranberries), vegetables and some herbs and spices. Have a look for some recipes, or come up with your own!
When you’ve decided and made your filling, pack it tightly into both halves of your squash. Press them back together and brush the whole thing with oil, then wrap it tightly with foil. Bake it at 180C (350F) for roughly two hours, which should be enough to make the whole thing soft and tender. Then you can slice it up and serve it.