Festive fodder

Bah humbug no more. As we all know, 2016 has been a dark year. In the spirit of Scrooge, I almost didn’t put up a tree this year. I moaned to my friends that I wasn’t feeling festive and they told to embrace the holiday spirit. So I gritted my teeth, stuck on some carols and got on with it.

I like Christmas, really. When else do you get time off work to lounge around, watch telly and drink fizz at 9am? Festive food is rather different as a vegan, though: goodbye to turkey, cheeseboards and pigs in blankets; hello to dark chocolate, figs and that old chestnut, the nut roast, which like the much maligned sprout, is a much misunderstood meal. It’s long been served up as a meat-free alternative to turkey and can often be dry and flavourless. My dear friend Avis is a veteran vegetarian but she has some pretty strong opinions about nut roasts; in a nutshell, she refuses to eat it.

I’ll admit that in the past, I’ve been dismissive of the old nut roast and for my first vegan Christmas last year, I plumped for Anna Jones’ delicious squash galette. This time round though, my mum wants nut roast and that’s what she’ll get. I’ve put together this recipe using chestnuts, lentils, cranberries and apricots. It’s a doddle to make and can be assembled on Christmas Eve if needs be.

Serve with roasted root veg, red cabbage, and my recipe for maple and cinnamon roasted sprouts with pecans and cranberries – see below.

Christmassy chestnut and cranberry roast

 Ingredients

100g chestnuts, chopped

50g dried cranberries

30g dried apricots

2 x 400g cans lentils

1 large carrot, grated

1 apple, grated

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

3 shallots or one large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped

2 teaspoons fresh thyme

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons olive oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan, and then line it with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the length of the pan. Rinse and drain the lentils in a colander then add them into a large bowl and mash the lentils with a potato masher. The goal is to create a lentil paste while still leaving about 1/3 of the lentils intact.

Add the oil into a large pan, and increase the heat to medium. Stir in the shallots or onion and garlic and season with a pinch or two of salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the onion softens.

Stir in the celery and carrot, and continue cooking for another few minutes. Now stir in the grated apple, dried cranberries and apricots, thyme, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Cook for a few more minutes.

Stir the chestnuts into the mashed lentils mixture and add the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup, then stir in all of the veggie mixture until combined. If the mixture seems dry, add a tablespoon or two of water and mix again.

Press all of the lentil loaf mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Pack it down as firmly as you can as this will help it hold together after cooling.

Bake the lentil loaf, uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes until the edges start to darken and the loaf is semi-firm to the touch. Place the loaf pan directly onto a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Then, slide a knife around the ends to loosen, and carefully lift out the loaf (using the parchment paper as “handles”) and place it directly onto the cooling rack for another 30 minutes.

After cooling, carefully slice the loaf into slabs. Serve immediately. The loaf will continue to firm up as it cools. Some crumbling is normal if sliced while warm.

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Not as pretty as it could look, but trust me; it’s delicious

 

 

Maple roasted sprouts with pecans and cranberries

Ingredients

350g sprouts

75g pecans

50g dried cranberries

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C. In a large bowl, mix the oil, maple syrup, vinegar and cinnamon. Cut off the end of the sprouts and the immediate outer leaves. Slice in half, add to the bowl and mix thoroughly so that the sprouts are all coated in the maple dressing. Place in an oven dish and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the pecans and the cranberries and cook for another 15-20 minutes.

 

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Guaranteed to convert even the most hardened of sprout haters…

 

 

 

 

 

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