Why a vegan Christmas doesn’t have to mean boring beige food

‘Roasted Nut’ are two words that will strike fear into the heart of any vegetarian.

Many of us are trying to add more vegetables to our diet, for the planet and our health, but holiday food seems to be an area where vegetarian and vegan food hasn’t gotten very far.

It tends to be a time of excess (and that often means lots of meat), leaving vegetarian dishes looking lackluster and dry.

That is why Heather Thomas has written The Vegetarian Christmas Cookbook, saying, “There aren’t many books out there dedicated to Christmas for vegetarians, and I think vegetarians ask, ‘What can we cook, what can we make that’s special? How do we get away from a nut roast, all that traditional brown and beige food that people used to eat?’”

Thomas’ recipes are colorful and vibrant, suitable for vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters alike. Here are his top tips for preparing the best vegetarian holiday meal this Christmas.

Be as prepared as possible

Particularly if you’re catering to many different dietary requirements, a little planning will go a long way.

“Plan and prepare, if you’re organized enough to do so in advance,” advises Thomas, who is 50. “It means that it’s much better when the time comes, because you always have something in the freezer if guests show up unexpectedly.

“You can make party foods ahead of time, you can even make fillings or sauces (vegetarian versions) and just freeze them until you need them.

“Then you can enjoy Christmas – you can have a few drinks and sit back and have a little fun, without having to slave over a hot stove all the time.”

Try some new recipes

Thomas urges us to “get away from the traditional way of doing things,” and that might mean trying new recipes with a classic ingredient.

“Sprouts aren’t boring,” he says, recommending them especially in a holiday salad or coleslaw.

“If you have the green of the Brussels sprouts and you have a delicious shredded red cabbage and you make a citrus dressing, a fresh one or a mayonnaise dressing, you have something that is totally different. It’s really fresh and uplifting, when maybe you’re eating a lot of heavy food and sweet things.”

Stock Up on Phyllo Dough

This is Thomas’s secret weapon for vegetarian cooking. “You can make wonderful things for holiday food with phyllo dough, you can make wonderful Christmas cookies,” she says.

“Instead of putting vegetable fillings like butternut squash in the pies, if you have some phyllo dough in the freezer or fridge ready to go, you can roll it out, [put in the filling] and roll them like cigars, and tie the ends with chives. They look like little cookies.

Think festive touches

“I think all the festive touches are really important,” Thomas enthuses, and this could be as simple as having pomegranate seeds on hand.

“Anything will perk up, be it a salad, coleslaw, desserts, if you sprinkle them with pomegranate seeds. They’re just lovely, they catch the light, they’re like little ruby ​​jewels, and they’re crunchy and sweet.”

Shop by season

One of the easiest ways to ensure that your vegetarian meal is full of flavor is to use ingredients that are in season.

“Use the best quality ingredients you can find that are really fresh and in-season,” recommends Thomas. “At Christmas, it is not necessary to buy a lot of imported and exotic things. Often the freshest, most sustainable, locally grown ingredients are the best.

“A bit like the Mediterranean concept of simple food, where if you use some really simple and fabulous ingredients, you can make the best food, and it’s the healthiest.”

For Thomas, that means vegetables like squash, squash, carrots, cabbage, and beets.

Prepare dishes that appeal to vegetarians and meat eaters.

Thomas suggests that one of the biggest traps people fall into is trying to “make a vegetarian version of traditional food,” he says, and this can take quite a while and isn’t always the most delicious option.

Instead, Thomas suggests making “adventurous, colorful food that people actually want to eat,” even non-vegetarians.

He also wants to encourage people to put more vegetarian dishes on their tables, saying, “Meat is quite heavy. A lot of people stock up on a huge turkey and a big ham and other pieces of stuff and sausage, but it’s heavy and very rich, especially when you eat it with juices and rich sauces and stuff.

“If you go vegetarian, it’s a much lighter way to eat, you can get your protein from other sources like beans, lentils, as well as dairy for non-vegans. And also, it is cheaper. I think everyone will be much more budget conscious this Christmas – they won’t be able to afford the meat or huge salmon they would in the past to celebrate. We need to show that you can feast on this wonderful food, but it’s cheaper and healthier.”

Use all the leftovers

Thomas says that he hates wasted food, so using up leftovers is a big part of the book.

She continues: “If you’re on a budget, Christmas is expensive, you don’t want to throw away a lot of food. So if you recycle leftovers into other things and create a delicious lunch, dinner, or brunch, it’s got to be a good thing.”

Thomas says it’s “so boring,” but his favorite way to use up leftovers is a classic bubble and squeak; otherwise, he can add spices and make a curry with the leftover vegetables, or make them into a soup.

‘The Veggie Christmas Cookbook’ by Heather Thomas (published by HarperNonFiction, £12.99; photography by Joff Lee), available now.

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