Saturday, December 27, 2008

Vegetarian Christmas Lunch, My Way

There are few things I enjoy more than cooking up a feast for friends and family, so it was a great privilege to be the designated chef for this year's Christmas lunch round at my Mum's on Thursday. Usually I hide in the lounge watching old films with my sister while big bro and Mum do all the food, but with both siblings away this year, I was only too pleased to offer my culinary services, and Mum was delighted to be able to put her feet up for once. I do a roast most weekends anyway, so it wasn't a massive challenge, but I did go a little bit crazy since it was a special occasion. Ant helped me do most of the preparation the night before, so there wasn't actually much to do on the day, giving us all more time to knock back a glass or two of delicious pink Prosecco. The above picture may look like a disgustingly greedy portion, but in my defence, they were unusually petite plates (Mum's not mine). It was also the first year in ages that there has been absolutely no meat or fish on the table, and although not everyone present was a vegetarian (most apart from me are pescetarians), it was so tasty that nobody minded in the least. I always try to make a plate of food as colourful as possible, so the following assortment was conceived with aesthetic as well as gustatory variety in mind.

Chestnut & spinach loaf
This was adapted from a recipe in Leiths Vegetable Bible. I replaced half the nut quantity with a tin of chestnut puree (making for a more moist end result), and added some cheese (Lancashire) to the middle layer with the spinach.

Roast potatoes
My mum is a bit of a traditionalist, so I am never normally allowed roasties with their skins on. To me the crunchy nutty jacket is by far the best bit, and thankfully noone complained when they were served my preferred version of this Christmas dinner staple, complete with skins.

Mashed swede & squash
We'd had a rather large squash (I'm not certain what variety) delivered in our Abel & Cole veg box, so it seemed a shame not to include it. I steamed this together with some swede and mashed them up with lots of butter and black pepper, and a little rock salt.

Oven roasted ratatouille
Not normally something associated with Christmas dinner, but the sharpness of the tomatoes and fresh basil, combined with slowly roasted courgettes, leeks and peppers provided a welcome contrast to the other stodgier flavours and textures on the plate.

Spiced red cabbage
Stewed down with red wine, stock and spices for over an hour, this added a fantastic splash of purple to the plate.

Oven roasted coriander carrots
According to Delia, winter carrots are blander than the summer variety, so she suggests roasting rather than boiling them in order to preserve maximum flavour. The addition of ground coriander seeds and black pepper is also her suggestion, as found on p.198 of Delia's Vegetarian Collection.

Parmesan-coated roast parsnips
A special request from Ant, these were based on another Delia recipe that I'd made once before a few years ago and he had never forgotten.

Peas & broccoli
Unadulterated greens, simply steamed for the best flavour.

Made to my own special secret recipe.

I am afraid I didn't stretch to making these myself, but we did have a good selection - including cranberry sauce, red onion chutney (my favourite) and mango chutney.

According to plan, there was plenty of everything left to make a substantial bubble & squeak on Boxing Day. We just warmed it all through in a big vat on the stove, whizzed in some extra herbs and spices, then grated over a generous helping of Applewood cheese and finished it off under the grill. Since that second gut-busting blow-out I've been living on a more moderate diet of cheese and crackers, which is honestly my favourite bit of the Christmas culinary indulgences.
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