Friday, December 27, 2013

What do vegetarians eat at Christmas? // A Vegetarian Christmas Menu (Pt. 1)

Vegetarian Christmas Menu
Starter: Roasted tomato soup (vegan)
Main: Mushroom Wellington (vegetarian/vegan)
Dessert: Orange Spice Cake (vegetarian)
Sides: Butternut gratin, roast potatoes and root vegetables, sweet potato and ginger mash

Last Christmas, as it happens, I didn't give someone my heart, but I did make a superb Sweet potato, hazelnut and spinach en croûte from the Cornucopia cookbook. I wanted to try something different this year, to add to my repertoire, for when I am in a position to throw candlelit dinners.

(FYI: I prepared all my vegetables, par-boiled the potatoes for roasting as well as making the soup and gravy the day before, to save on stress on Christmas day.)

Roast Tomato Soup
(from Rachel Allen: Home Cooking)
900g ripe tomatoes (about 8), halved
1 red onion, peeled and thickly sliced
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled
Leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp caster sugar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
600ml vegetable stock
50ml double or regular cream (I used Provamel soy cream)
Basil leaves, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 200C. Cut the tomatoes in half and arrange the halves, cut side up, in a single layer on a baking tray and scatter over the onion, garlic, thyme and sugar. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

2. Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until softened. Once cooked, tip the entire contents of the baking tray, including any juices, into a blender. Add the stock and blend until smooth, then pour into a large saucepan. Alternatively, place the cooked tomatoes in the saucepan, pur in the stock and puree using a hand held blender.

3. Bring the soup to the boil, add the cream, reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes to heat through. Serve topped with basil leaves.

I can't take credit for this, as my 17 year old brother made this! We had it with toasted spelt bread from Mayo's Cherry Blossom Bakery, spread with Pure dairy free margarine.

This dish is time-consuming, but you can prepare it up to the baking stage and freeze it weeks in advance. Before serving, remove the wellington from the freezer and, after thawing, glaze the pastry with beaten egg (or without if vegan) and put it in a hot oven to bake for 45 minutes at 220C/425F/gas mark 7 until puffed and golden.

Mushroom Wellington
Makes 2

600g puff pastry (I used read-rolled pastry, Jus Rol is suitable for vegans)
50ml flavourless vegetable oil

675g chopped onions

450g whole chestnut mushrooms
2 tbsp fresh or dried tarragon
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tbsp soya sauce or tamari, or replace one with marsala or sherry

320g broken cashew pieces

320g ground almonds

175g fine freshly made breadcrumbs, white or wholemeal

1 egg, beaten for glazing (omit for vegans)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Roll out the pastry into two rectangles, 23x30.5cm each, cover and place in the fridge, if you're using ready made, no need to do this as its all been done for you! To make the filling, heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion with half the crushed garlic for at least 20 minutes or until it turns a deep golden colour.

2. Remove onions from the pan and set aside, then add the mushrooms to the same pan with the rest of the garlic and half the tarragon and cook on a fairly high heat. Halfway through cooking, add the soya sauce or tamari and the alcohol, if you are using it. Continue until the mushrooms are cooked through; there should be no white centre left when you cut one open.
 I cut mine in two halfway through cooking to ensure they were cooked throughly.

3. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside, reserving all the mushroom liquor (the intensely flavoured liquid given out by the mushrooms). If you have too little liquid, add some water to the pan and swirl around until it combines with the mushroom liquid. In a food processor or blender, blend the cashews with the reserved mushroom liquor to a fine, smooth purée, adding a little water or even more of whichever alcohol you are using, until you have a smooth, sweet paste or pate.

4. Remove mixture from the blender and blend first the onions, then mushrooms – you can mix them up if you wish – until they are perfectly smooth. Mix all the blended ingredients together in a bowl, adding the breadcrumbs, ground almonds and the remaining tarragon. The mixture should gently hold its shape when formed with the hands. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Remove the pastry from the fridge.

5. Divide the mixture in two and place one lot on a sheet of pastry, shaping with your hands as you go to make a long rectangular shape about 28cm long, 7cm wide and about 5cm high. With the thin point of a sharp knife, make diagonal cuts at a 45-degree angle, starting from the left hand corner of the pastry towards the pate mixture. Repeat on the other side, this time starting at the top right hand corner and cutting down towards the centre.

6. The strips should now be about 2cm apart. Fold in the end pieces first. Then draw a strip over from the left, then one from the right, crossing them over so the mix is snugly wrapped up. Repeat for the second wellington.
 Either freeze at this stage or glaze generously with beaten egg. Place upon a floured tray, using two fish slices or the loose base of a tart tin to help you.

7. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes until golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes before attempting to lift onto a serving dish. Allow 2 slices per person, cut with a very sharp serrated knife.

To serve
Place the wellington on your large platter, surrounded by roasted vegetables. I made a red wine and juniper gravy, from the Cornucopia cookbook, you can find the recipe here.

This recipe was originally conceived by Nadine Abensur.

Behold, a totally uncurated picture of my decadent Christmas dinner, piled high with butternut gratin, mushroom wellington, roasted veg & potatoes, sweet potato & ginger mash and red wine & juniper gravy

Seasons Greetings everyone!