The Economical Vegan


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An Economical Vegan Christmas

An Economical Vegan Christmas

Christmas – the festive season, Solstice, Hannuka, Midwinter – most of us celebrate it in one form or another. But for Vegans, it can be particularly challenging to create a superlative vegan festive menu. Very few places to eat out offer a really festive option for vegan meals, which means that, perhaps like many other vegans, I don’t tend to go for Christmas meals with colleagues at work, or with friends. So I miss out on a lot of social activities. Call me too economical, but I object to paying the same price for a bowl of soup, a few roasted veggies, and a fresh fruit salad, as my non-vegan colleagues do for much more expensive food. I have yet to find a menu that feels festive unless it is in my favourite restaurant which specialises in good vegan food.

So for me, the Christmas food marathon is all about the cooking. As I know, many vegans find the whole thing a little daunting. The ‘ready made’ festive food available is good, but it doesn’t really make up for a good, home cooked meal. And while I am busily compiling my recipe book, it won’t be ready for this Christmas, so I am sharing with you my recipes and planning for the festive season. I would like to be able to offer you some really useful recipes to make your festive season special, and to celebrate veganism as a positive food choice. In this blog post, I have included a number of recipes which you can use or adapt. I use ‘cups’ as a measurement because I don’t usually weigh anything. The main thing is to taste as you go along. I have also tried to avoid using too many ‘exotic’ ingredients, both to keep the cost down and to make it easier for the average vegan to manage the recipes. I hope that this will provide you with some tips about making your vegan Christmas a special time. I have included different recipes so you can pick and choose, and so you are not limited to only one festive meal. I would also welcome any comments and feedback.

1. Starters

If you are having multiple courses in your meal, it is useful to be able to offer some good starters. Whilst soup is a favourite, I have not limited myself to soup here as I feel that it is too often the only option for a vegan.

Garlic Mushrooms (serves 2-4)

4 cups mushrooms 4 cloves garlic 1/2 teaspoon [tsp] powdered garlic 1 tablespoon [tbsp] olive oil Salt Pepper Plain flour 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried parsely). 1-2 tbsp white wine [optional] 1 tbsp brandy [optional]

First, choose a wide, deep frying pan. Put this on a low heat and add the oil. Peel, crush and mince the garlic and add to the pan, stirring, then quarter the mushrooms and add to the pan, stirring occasionally, until they soften. Season with salt and pepper, and then turn the heat up a little, and add a sprinkle of flour. Stir in the white wine and brandy, and simmer to reduce the sauce. Sprinkle in the dried garlic, then sprinkle on the parsley and stir well.

Taste and check the texture, and add water if the sauce is thick. Serve immediately. Don’t cook the mushrooms for too long or they will shrink.

Serve with some fresh crusty bread, or toast triangles, or in a bread basket.

Quick Bread Basket

Use this for salads, garlic mushrooms, or the tequila vegetables described below.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees

Take a slice of bread (reasonably thin) making sure you use very fresh bread. Trim off the crusts and save for breadcrumbs. Using a rolling pin, roll the bread flat and thin. Brush with a little oil on each side, and then press into a muffin tin or patty pan, allowing the sides to fold in to make a wiggly shape. Bake for about 10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. TIP: reheat just before serving by putting in the oven for a few minutes, but only add the filling just before you serve, as they may go soggy.

 

Tequila Vegetables (serves 2-4)

1 red onion 8 asparagus spears [if in season or available] 3 carrots 2 red peppers 1 tbsp veg oil 2 tbsp tequila 1 tsp veg boillon or veg gravy granules 1/2 tsp smoked paprika 1/2 tsp chilli powder

Heat the oil in a frying pan, whilst peeling the carrots and cutting them first in half widthways, and then into batons about 1/2 cm thick and about 7 cm long. Add to the pan. Make similar sized batons of the pepper and add to the pan five minutes after the carrots. Stir occasionally. Just before serving, cut the asparagus to a similar length and add this, cooking for a further 2 minutes. Add the spices, then cook for 1 minute, then add the tequila and the veg granules. Cook the tequila down until it is almost completely evaporated. Serve immediately.

 

Pumpkin and Cashew Nut Soup (serves 4-6)

Six cups of pumpkin 1 carrot 2 onions 1 clove of garlic 2 vegetable stock cubes 1 cup raw cashew nuts 1 tsp English mustard Salt and Pepper 1/2 tsp turmeric.

For the dressing: 2 tbsp Veg oil 1 red chilli, deseeded. 1 tsp chilli powder.

Place the vegetables, chopped, into a large saucepan, and cover with plenty of water. Bring to the boil and simmer, adding the cashew nuts after five minutes, along with all the other ingredients. Simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small pan, and finely chop the chilli, sauteeing it in the oil. Turn off the heat, and add the chilli powder to the oil, stirring well.

Once the soup is cooked, blend with a hand blender or a jug blender, and return to a low heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with fresh crusty bread. When serving, ladle the soup into bowls, then drizzle on a little of the dressing oil in a swirl. Alternatively, prior to serving, leave the oil in the pan and toss in squares of bread to make croutons.

Mushroom Pate

This recipe is something I used to serve in the restaurant where I worked, twenty years ago. It was not originally a vegan recipe, but I have adapted it to be vegan because it is so good. It DOES require either tofu or some vegan soya cream ‘cheese’ which makes it more expensive, but it can easily be frozen in portions for future use.

6 cups mushrooms 2 tbsp vegetarian margerine 1 white onion 3 cloves garlic plenty of crushed black pepper and sea salt 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs 1/2 pack vegan cream ‘cheese’ OR 1 small pack silken tofu (if using tofu, drain well and season well with salt and some garlic powder).

Finely chop the onion, mushrooms and garlic, and then heat the pan, add the margerine, and then the chopped veg. Sautee until soft, and until the liquid starts to come out of the mushrooms. Season with black pepper and sea salt – season well as the flavour will be ‘diluted’ in the pate. Put into a blender or whizzy chopper, and blend the mixture. Place into a large bowl, and add the tofu/cream ‘cheese’, and breadcrumbs. Mix very well. If you can use an electric mixer or a hand blender do so. When the mix is finally an even colour, line a loaf tin with some greased cling film, and then press the pate into it. Chill in the fridge or freezer (it cuts easier when half frozen).  Turn out onto a flat plate, and then slice in portions. Either serve immediately with some brown toast or similar, or wrap each portion and place on a plate, then freeze.

Chestnut Soup

2 white onions 1 clove garlic four cups chestnuts (cooked and peeled) 1 large potato, cubed 1 vegetable stock cube Freshly ground black pepper 1/4 tsp fresh rosemary.

Sautee the onion and garlic in a little oil, then add 2 pints of water, and the rest of the ingredients, saving back about four chestnuts. Simmer for  30 minutes, then blend using a hand blender. Finely chop the last of the chestnuts and sprinkle onto the soup just before serving.

Spinach and Walnut Salad with Cranberries

Four cups fresh, washed spinach 1 carrot 1/2 an onion. 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 1 cup walnuts or walnut pieces 1 tsp vegetable oil 1 tbsp dried cranberries Sea Salt

Put the spinach in a large salad bowl. Peel the carrot, then use the peeler to shave the carrot into thin strips, and add these to the bowl. Finely chop the onion and put into a small bowl with the balsamic vinegar to marinate for a while. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and toss in the walnuts, toasting these until they are dark brown – but be careful not to burn them. Assemble the rest of the salad – sprinkle on the onions and then toss the salad, then sprinkle on the walnuts and the cranberries. Sprinkle with a little sea salt if you wish. Serve with the garlic pitta breads if you wish (see below).

Hummus with Garlic Pitta Bread

1 tin cooked chickpeas 6 cloves of garlic 1 tbsp tahini salt juice of two lemons veg oil

1 pack of wholemeal pitta bread 1 tbsp vegetable margerine

Put the chickpeas, tahini, and four of the garlic cloves into a blender or whizzy chopper with a little salt and the lemon juice. Whizz until smooth.  Taste and adjust the flavouring with more lemon or salt if needed. If the hummus is too thick, add a little veg oil and/or water and whizz again. Put into ramekins for serving.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Cut the pitta breads into strips widthways, about 3 cm thick. Crush and chope the remaining garlic, and mix with vegetable margerine, a little sea salt, and a little veg oil. Brush the strips with this mixture and place on a  baking tray. Bake until crispy and browning at the edges.

Serve the hummus in the ramekin with a couple of strips of the garlic pitta bread, and a lemon wedge.

 

CHRISTMAS DINNER

I will deal with the various elements of the Christmas dinner separately.

Vegetables

I usually have steamed vegetables and roasted vegetables. I also liked to have mashed veg as well For convenience and economy, I use a stove top steamer, wth whatever I want to mash in the bottom, and the rest of the veg (except the sprouts) in the upper tiers. I usually steam the broccoli, caulflower, carrots, peas and green beans.

Mashed Swede I boil swede for mash, then drain it and add black pepper and a little veg margerine, along with a teaspoon of English mustard.

Mashed potatoes

Chop scrubbed potatoes roughly, boil and then mash with a little salt and pepper and a splash of soya milk.

Sprouts

Trim the sprouts, and simmmer in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Drain well, then return to the pan with a little vegetable margerine and some whole chestnuts. Sautee gently, adding a little salt and pepper, and a splash of port.

Roasted Vegetables

Peel carrots, parsnip, swede, turnip, and butternut squash into equal sized pieces. Put into a large baking dish and drizzle with vegetable oil, then sprinkle with a little salt and garam masala or add some sprigs of rosemary. Roast in the oven on about 160 degrees until tender and crispy on the edges, turning once or twice to coat all the pieces with the oil.

Roasted cauliflower and broccoli: slice into slices about 2 cm thick, and drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Roast potatoes.

Blanch potatoes in boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain well. Place in a roasting dish with plenty of vegetable oil and some whole garlic cloves, and roast at 200 degrees until crispy golden brown, turning at least twice. Sprinkle lightly with a little sea salt to taste when serving (if you wish).

Gravy

There are lots of ways to make gravy, but I will provide you with two here that I use all the time.

Gravy 1:

Heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a saucepan, and then whisk in about a tablespoon of flour (white or wholemeal).  Stirring briskly, slowly add water and bring to a simmer, adding water until you reach the right consistency. Add a teaspoon of English mustard, a vegetable stock cube, half a teaspoon of yeast extract, and some black pepper. Add a tablespoon of wine if you wish. Simmer and taste – adjust the seasoning. If you find it is a little  bitter, add a teaspoon of tomato puree or tomato ketchup. Add gravy browning if you want a darker colour.

 

Gravy 2: Festive Special

Cut up 2 onions, two carrots, and two sticks of celery, along with one parsnip and one deseeded pepper (any colour). Peel a garlic clove and put this, with all the other veg, in a roasting dish. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add fresh or dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano) and roast until the vegetables are very soft and caramelised.  Take out of the oven and stir in some boiling water and a splash of brandy, then add everything to a blender and blend well. Pass through a sieve and put the liquid into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and then taste. Add some bouillon powder if necessary to taste.

Stuffing

For me, Christmas was always about having a wider variety of tastes than we had during daily life, and one source of this variety, for my mother cooking for a large family on a budget, was stuffing. Here I give you some easy and economical recipes for spicing up your festive dinner plate. I do use ‘instant’ stuffing packs but only those that are vegan. Luckily, quite often the very cheap versions are.

Traditional Sage and Onion

This couldn’t be simpler. Melt some vegetable margerine in a pan, and add two finely chopped onions. Add about a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh sage, and salt and pepper. Mix well with about cups of fresh breadcrumbs, shape into balls, and bake in an oven at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Chestnut Stuffing 1

This is so simple!  Make up 2 packs of sage and onion stuffing mix, and leave to cool. Take a tin of chestnut puree, and mix in with the stuffing using your hands. Shape into balls or put into a baking tray and bake for about 15 minutes.

Chestnut Stuffing 2

Make up as for chestnut stuffing 1, but with only 1 pack of stuffing mix. Make up a standard pack of sosmix, and mix that into the stuffing mix, with about two cups of extra breadcrumbs.

Apple, Thyme and Ginger Stuffing

Four apples 1 large onion 1 bunch of Thyme 1 inch square of fresh, peeled ginger Salt 4 cups wholemeal breadcrumbs 1 cup cashew nuts Vegetable oil

Grate the apples, and finely chop the ginger, thyme and nuts. Chop the onion and sautee in a little oil, then mix all of the ingredients together. Use to stuff the centre of a nut roast or nut roulade or form into cakes and fry gentle before serving.

Cranberry, Orange and Spice stuffing

1 cup dried cranberries 1 cup fresh cranberries 1 red onion 1 orange 1 tsp mixed spice 1 tsp cinnamon Vegetable oil. 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs Salt and pepper

As with the other recipes – finely chop and sautee the onion, then combine with all the other ingredients.

 

Port, Mushroom and Chestnut Stuffing

This one is a favourite of mine.

Four cups mushrooms 1 large onion 2 cloves garlic 2 cups cooked, peeled chestnuts 2 tbsp port 1/2 a veg stock cube 1/2 tsp mixed spice Freshly ground black pepper 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs Vegetable oil

Finely chop and sautee the onion and the mushrooms with the garlic, then roughly chop the chestnuts and add these. Ad the port and the stock cube, and mix well, still over the heat. Add the spices, then transfer to a bowl and add the breadcrumbs. Mix well.

Rough Cut American Style Stuffig

2 apples 2 celery sticks 1 large onion 1 cup walnuts 3 cups wholemeal breadcrumbs Veg oil 1 tbsp chopped thyme, parsley and rosemary Salt and pepper

Core the apples and chop into chunks about 3 cm square. Do the same for the celery and onion. Heat the oil and briefly sautee the vegetables before transferring to the bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix well.

THE MAIN EVENT

Everyone wants something spectacular for the main course of their festive dinner, but too often the options are somewhat limited.  I offer you a few potential dishes which could make you the envy of those around you! 

Nut Roast

I know that nut roast is generally out of fashion, but this recipe is a real staple and gives you a moist, nutty and delicious centrepiece. You can use it on its own, or as the filling for Nut Wellington (below).

3 cups nuts (walnts, cashew nuts, peanuts – whatever you have) 1 cup cooked, peeled chestnuts 2 cups breadcrumbs 2 tbsp flour 1 onion 1 cup mushrooms 1 tsp vegetable bouillon 1 tbsp vegetable oil 1 tbsp fresh herbs (eg oregano, rosemwary, thyme, parsley) 1 tsp yeast extract 1 tbsp peanut butter

Whizz the nuts, onion and mushrooms in your whizzy chopper (or finely chop them by hand). Transfer to a mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients, mixing very well. Turn into a greased loaf tin or into individual muffin tins (this makes an attractive single-sized portion and is easier to freeze). Bake for about 40 minutes on 180 degrees.

 

Nut Wellington.

1 pack frozen puff pastry (defrosted) 4 cups mushrooms 2 cloves garlic 3 cups fresh spinach salt and pepper Vegetable oil 1 tbsp red or white wine 1 nut roast mix (aee above)

Finely chop the mushrooms and garlic, and sautee in the oil until the mushrooms start to sweat. Add the salt and pepper and the wine, and cook until the liquid is almost completely evaporated. Set aside to cool. In another pan, put a little water and then quick blanch your spinach until just soft. Dry on clean tea towels. Take your defrosted pastry and roll out to the required size. Line the pastry with the spinach, then spread your mushroom mix evenly over the top. Now make a ‘log’ shape out of your nut mix and place in the centre of the pastry. Bring up the pastry around the nut roast carefully, sealing it along the edges. Score the top lightly in diagonal lines with a sharp knife and cut a couple of small holes as well. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 160 degrees until the pastry is a dark golden brown. Serve in slices. Slices can also be frozen individually.

Chestnut and Mushroom Pie

1 pack frozen shortcrust pastry 4 cups mushrooms 2 cups cooked, peeled chestnuts 2 tbsp red wine or port 1 tsp brandy 3 garlic cloves 1 onion 1 tbsp flour 1 vegetable stock cube Freshly ground black pepper 1 clove garlic

Finely chop the onion and garlic and sautee in the vegetable oil. Quarter the mushrooms and chestnuts, and add to the pan, then stir in the flour and the veg stock cube. Add the wine and stir well, adding water to achieve the right consistency. Season with black pepper and leave to cool a little. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease a pie tin or individual muffin tray and roll out your pastry. If you are using white shortcrust pastry, roll it out with wholemeal flour as this adds to texture and flavour. Line your tin(s) with about 2/3 of the pastry making sure it is even, and then fill with the pie filling. Roll out more pastry and cut your pie lids to fit. Crimp along the edges to seal the pastry, and bake in the oven until golden brown.

Raised Nut and Cranberry Pie

1 pack frozen shortcrust pastry 4 cups nuts 2 cups cooked pearl barley OR bulgur wheat OR brown rice 2 onions 1 clove garlic 1 vegetable stock cube nutmeg Fresh herbs 1 tbsp brandy 1 pack dried cranberries 2 cups frozen/fresh cranberries Veg oil Wholemeal flour 1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

 

Finely chop the onions and garlic and sautee in the oil. Finely chop the nuts. Mix these together with the cooked barley/wheat/rice. Dissovle the stock cube in about 1/2 cup boiling water and add to this mix. Finely chop the herbs and add these with the nutmeg to the mix, along with the yeast flakes and a little wholemeal flour. Mix well. Roll out the pastry quite thickly (use 2 packs if necessary) and line a deep cake tin or loaf tin, leaving about 3 cm above the edges. Fill with the nut mix until about halfway, flatten out the mix, then sprinkle in the dried cranberries. Add the rest of the mix, then top with a pie lid, crimping the edges together to form a raised edge about 1 cm deep. Put the fresh/frozen cranberries on top. Bake in the oven at 160 degrees for about 45 minutes. Remove from the greased tin and serve in slices or wedges.

Vegetable Terrine

1 pack veggie burger mix 3 cups fresh spinach 2 carrots (peeled) 2 oinions 1 orange 1/2 tsp mixed spice 4 parsnips (peeled) 1 large potato. Salt and pepper A little flour. 1 cup pine nuts. Vegetable margerine.

Make up the veggie burger mix, adding the mixed spice, and leave to set. Line a large loaf tin with greaseproof paper. Thinly slice the orange through the middle, making the thinnest slices possible and place three in the bottom of the dish. Then put in the veggie burger mix and press down firmly. Add a layer of spinach, seasoning this with a little sea salt. Boil the parsnips until soft, season with salt and pepper, and mash well. Once cooled, spread this on top of the spinach. Finely grate the carrot and mix with salt, pepper and a little flour, then layer this on top of the parsnip mix. Top with pine nuts. Then slice the potato very thinly, and layer this on top of everything, dotting it with vegetable margerine. Cover with foil.  Take a baking tray/roasting dish, and put in about 2 inches of water. Put the terrine tin into this and put into an oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. Take off the foil and return to the oven to brown the top for about 10 minutes. Either serve hot, or cool, turn out and serve in slices.

 

Bean and Nut Cutlets

This is a very easy, very quick recipe. I use the basic beanburger mix all the time as a quickie meal, but this is a festive version. Ideal if you don’t want to spend much time cooking. You can add other seasonings and flavourings to this mix to your preference.

1 tin cooked red kidney beans, drained 1 cup nuts, finely chopped or whizzed 1 tbsp tomato puree or ketchup 1 tbsp veg bouillon 1 tsp yeast extract Flour Vegetable Oil

Put the beans into a bowl, and mash up using clean hands, until they become a purple, mush, sticky mess. Add all the rest of the ingredients except the flour and oil, and mix well, then add enough flour to create a more sticky consistency. Heat the veg oil in a large pan, and form the mix into cutlet shapes, frying until golden brown on both sides. Drain on kitchen towel and serve. EASY!

 

PUDDINGS

I don’t make a lot of puddings, as I find it is not something I miss, but here are a few easy recipes for the festive period. One good thing is that many Christmas puddings you can buy are vegan (as they don’t use egg) so this makes life a lot easier if you want a traditional Chrismtas pud. Also, I usually invest in some ready-made mince pie filling as most of these are also vegan.

‘Cheese’ Cake

This is as simple as it can be.

1 pack digestive biscuits 1 tbsp veg margerine 1 pack vegan jelly crystals Soya milk

Crush the digestive biscuits. Melt the margerine and mix with the biscuit crumb, then line a greased tart tin with this mix. Make up the jelly to half volume with soya milk instead of water, and pour over the crumb, and chill. Done.

Strawberry ‘Cheese’ Cake

1 pack silken tofu 2 cups strawberries Icing sugar 1 pack digestive biscuits 1 tbsp veg margerine

Make the base as above. In a blender, whizz up the strawberries and silken tofu together, then add the icing sugar until the mix thickens to the right consistency. Spread over the biscuit base and chill. Top with sliced strawberries

Chocolate Chestnut Roulade

1 pack frozen puff pastry 1 jar vegan chocolate spread 1/2 tin chestnut puree 1 cup pecan nuts 1 cup chopped dates 1 tbsp veg margerine

Defrost the pastry and roll out gently. Spread the chocolate spread over the pastry, and then spread on the chestnut puree. Heat the margerine in a frying pan, and add the nuts, toasting them gently. Sprinkle these and the dates over the filling, then roll up lengthwise into a fat roll. Bake for about 20 minutes at about 180 degrees until the pastry is golden and crispy on top.  For extra festive cheer, drizzle with your chosen liqueur before serving.

Apple and Walnut Strudel

1 pack frozen puff pastry Four large apples 1 cup dried mixed fruit 1 cup chopped walnuts 1 cup brown sugar 1 tsp cinnamon sprinkle of mixed spice 1 tbsp brandy

Spread out the defrosted pastry. Core the apples and dice into 1 cm cubes. Sprinkle the apple, fruit and nuts evenly over the pastry, then sprinkle on the spices, sugar and the brandy. Roll up and bake at 160 degrees until golden brown.

Well, that’s all for now, but look out for more recipe ideas in future blog posts – and I will be bloggin my own Christmas meal (with photos). Happy Festivities!