Home cooking

Christmas dinner seems to be one of those last remaining bastions of meat eaters. From what I can gather it's a meal a lot of people couldn't imagine without meat. This post serves to answer one of my favourite questions when people find out I'm vegan and ask in horror: "But what do you eat for Christmas dinner? How can you not eat pigs in blankets?!"

For the third year in a row my family let me cook Christmas dinner. Previous years have involved gin-infused sorrows over celeriac, raw sweet potato and trout turned an awful shade of pink thanks to some wayward beetroot. This year, I guess after cooking with so many amazing seasonal vegetables all winter, I decided to pare everything down and just focus on some great flavours, like cranberry, sprouts, apples roasted in rosemary and mashed butternut squash. There was so much more I wanted to try out, but I ended up just choosing a few recipes I'd already cooked loads over the past few months (as you can see from December's blog roll) and could handle after four of my brother's lethal mojitos.

I guess I'm pretty lucky that the rest of my family let me hijack Christmas dinner once more- and other families have a lot of traditions that won't get changed by someone being vegan. My Dad also cooked vegetarian toad in the hole for the rest of the family, and my Mum went to town on some crazy puddings that never seemed to stop coming out the oven.

This was my first Christmas as a vegan, but it wasn't hard, it was easy. Yes there were no chocolate coins or mince pies, but I also ate about five more roast potatoes each time someone else had a slice of Yule log. I think if you know eating a vegan meal alongside everything  your family holds dear for Christmas dinner is possible, it's another brain hurdle that suddenly isn't so hard to get past, and not really all that hard to imagine. I hope you all had an amazing Christmas!

Gluten free, vegan shortbread

One thousand and one apologies for going a little quiet on the blogging front for the past few weeks. The irony is I don't know if I've ever been cooking, baking, concocting and sampling more! My laptop's bookmarks are now just full of vegan holiday recipes, while my camera has taken on an extra layer of icing sugar dust that won't budge. However, while the baking subsides a little I will be posting plenty of Christmas and winter solstice recipes here.

First up is this vegan, gluten free shortbread recipe- this would be perfect to make for any gluten free-friends you have as a homemade present, or even to have ready to stack up at your desk to try and speed up those last few days of work (and how they drag!!)

I adapted this recipe from an American one I found by Char's Kitchen. I chose to use Doves Farm Gluten Free bread flour as it comes with Xanthan Gum in the blend, which you need for this recipe. If you have a preferred GF flour then just use that but with 1/2tsp Xanthan Gum to every cup of flour.

NB: The photos here of the finished biscuits are just half the final batch.

340g vegan margarine/butter such as Vitalite
About 2/3 cup of icing sugar
2 cups of Doves Farm Gluten Free White Bread Flour (plus about another cup for rolling and dusting the biscuits)

Cream together the margarine and sugar, then sift in the flour and mix until the mixture is fluffy.
Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This helps the flour firm up a bit and makes it much easier to cut out shapes like hearts and rabbits, as otherwise the mixture does break easily.

Once the mix has chilled, pre-heat the oven to around 175 degrees Celsius. Tip the dough onto a floured surface and add more flour to knead. It will feel quite soft at first but add a little more flour at a time until it goes a little firmer.

When you're happy with the texture, roll out into around 1cm thickness and cut out with biscuit cutters. Use a spatula to transfer the biscuits to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.

Bake for around 10 minutes- you want the biscuits to stay pale and not colour. Move to a baking tray and allow to cool for 10 minutes, when they will also harden.

Supper fit for a tree

One of my ultimate favourite new-traditions-in-the-making is our yearly journey to get the Christmas tree. Last year we got a 5ft tree, this year they only had 6 ft trees left so it's now taking up half the flat. I really hope we can afford a 7ft tree next year. 

As you can probably tell by how cold I look in the photo above, it was freezing work. It became pretty clear on the trek home that a big dinner was in order, not a Christmas dinner per se, but something with the same zest for FEST.

I chopped up a few of the leftover roasted chestnuts from the other day, and added these to Sainsbury's sage and onion stuffing- which is clearly labelled as vegan making things much easier in the supermarket aisle! 

If you're looking for something a little different from roast potatoes, hasselback potatoes are fun to make and give a nice crunchy texture when you've got lots of vegetables in the mix. Get these in the oven before anything else as they take a deceptively long time- around 50 minutes to an hour. 

While trying out various ways of making the tree stand up (no dental floss this year, thankfully) I also chopped and roasted some apples, parsnip, carrots and onions, along with a few Linda McCartney sausages. Once these, along with the stuffing, where all set in the oven, I started on the gravy: chopped mushroom and onion, along with chopped cabbage. Finally I cooked through haricot beans with rosemary, crushed garlic, seasoning and olive oil, mashing lightly once bubbling and allowing the beans to thicken a little as they cooked. Cobbled together and all the tastier for it!