Words by Lydia Smith.
Christmas is a time for indulgence, but being vegetarian or vegan doesn’t have to mean missing out on your favourite festive dishes.
One in eight Brits are now vegetarian or vegan, a survey by Waitrose found earlier this year. According to comparethemarket.com, there are now more than 3.5 million vegans in the UK.
Christmas lunch isn’t all about roast turkey and pigs in blankets with all the trimmings, there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan-friendly recipes to make a festive, belly-busting feast.
Bonita Wood, who is a chef at the vegan cafe Humblest of Pleasures in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, recommends turkey seitan – a delicious show-stopping dish made from wheat gluten which serves six to eight people.
For the turkey seitan, you will need: wheat gluten (360g), water (300ml), vegetable stock (2 tbsp), cannellini beans (2 cans), salt (half tsp), pepper (half tsp), rosemary (1 tsp), thyme (1 tsp), oregano (1 tsp), basil (1 tsp), soy sauce (1 tsp) and string.
For the mushroom & walnut stuffing: walnuts (150g), mushrooms (150g), water (100ml), garlic powder (1 tsp), onion Powder (1 tsp), basil (half tsp), oregano (half tsp), rosemary (half tsp), thyme (half tsp), wholemeal bread for crumbs (3-4 slices). You can also add an orange and cranberry sauce, for which you’ll need cranberries (300g), orange (1 for juice and zest), soft brown sugar (150g) and maple syrup (2 tbsp).
For the wine marinade: Vegan red wine (500ml), garlic granules (1 tsp), thyme (1 tsp), salt (half tsp), pepper (half tsp), cayenne Pepper (pinch), balsamic Vinegar (3 tbsp) and soft brown sugar (2 tbsp).
“In a saucepan, mix all ingredients for the wine marinade together and boil for 10 minutes constantly stirring so the sugar doesn’t stick. Reduce the heat to simmer for an extra 15-20 minutes until the texture is slightly thicker. Leave on the side to while you prep the rest of the meal,” Wood says.
For the cranberry sauce, put all ingredients in together and bring to boil, stirring occasionally, before simmering for ten minutes. For the mushroom and walnut stuffing, fry the chopped mushrooms, garlic and onion oil, before adding the herbs and stirring for another 2-3 minutes. Add to a blender with the walnuts, bread crumbs and 100ml of water and pulse together until you can form a ball in your hands. Set aside.
“Prepare a baking tray and line with tin foil, long enough to help you roll the seiten into a loaf shape in a later stage,” Wood says. “In a blender, pour the cannellini beans and 100ml of water in and pulse together until and paste is made.
“Set aside two separate bowls, one for your dry ingredients and the other for wet ingredients. Mix all your herbs and wheat gluten with the vegetable stock and lastly, add the cannellini beans in. Combine all the ingredients together and kneed for 2-3 minutes until they reach a stretchy and doughy consistency. If the dough is too wet and runny, add more wheat gluten.”
“Place the turkey seitan on top of the foil in the baking tray and spread the dough out until it’s wide enough and long enough to roll into a loaf. Once this is in place, spread a layer of mushroom and walnut stuffing over the seiten dough, following with the cranberry sauce on top.”
“With all the layers ready to be rolled, take the tin foil and gently start rolling the dough into a roulade,” Wood says. Then tie with string and wrap the tin foil around the dough, twisting it at both ends, before cooking for an hour at 180°C.
“After an hour, take the turkey seitan loaf out and unwrap the tin foil. Pour the wine marinade over the top and wrap back up and cook for a further 30 minutes. The turkey seitan should be lovely and crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.”
Alternative vegan and vegetarian Christmas lunch options
Not much of a cook? Plenty of supermarkets offer ready-made, meat-free alternatives to a turkey. Try this Tofurky Roast with Herb Gravy from Ocado for £12.99, or this vegan butternut, almond & pecan nut roast from M&S for £7.50.
Or if you’re in the market for a festive pie, Tesco’s cauliflower wellington with mushroom and butternut squash is a different and delicious take on your usual meat filling.
If you are feeling adventurous and have time to spare in the kitchen, you could try making your own wellingtons stuffed with large field mushrooms, spinach, herbs and blue cheese (leave out the cheese for a vegan version). Ready-made puff pastry available from most supermarkets makes this dish easier, but no less tasty.
It goes without saying that pigs in blankets are a staple for Christmas Day and there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian alternatives. Tesco recommends this version which uses halloumi wrapped in grilled aubergine slices, with added lemon and basil for extra flavour.
Or for an even easier dish, Morrisons recently launched ready-made vegan “veggies in blankets” containing tomato, potato, mushrooms, aubergines and basil, priced at £2.50 for ten.
And last but not least, vegetables don’t have to be cast aside on the dinner table. Try roasting your carrots and parsnips in honey, olive oil, salt, pepper and mixed herbs – people will be fighting over them.
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