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The Best Vegetarian or Vegan Christmas Dinner Without the Turkey
No matter how many loved ones we get to have around the table this year, let’s wrap up warm and make it cosy, fun, and delicious for everyone! Even the vegan millennial or vegetarian family member you’re never quite sure how to cook for ;-)
2020 is the year we’ve all learned how to do things differently, so why not add Christmas Dinner to that list too! Let’s explore what leaving out the roast turkey might look like with a festive plant-based Christmas menu instead. One that’s sure to please the vegetarian and vegan in your life, as well as the planet!
What’s the Difference Between Being Vegan and Vegetarian vs. Flexitarian?
The difference between vegans and vegetarians is that vegetarians avoid eating any meat (red or white meat, fish, or shellfish). At the same time, vegans also avoid all animal-sourced products, including eggs, honey, and dairy.
Interested in trying a day of vegan eating? Check out: Quick & Easy Vegan Recipes Under 15 Minutes
Whereas a Flexitarian is sometimes referred to as a “casual vegetarian” because they’ll occasionally add some meat to their meals. Flexitarians cut back on their meat intake and replace it with more fruits and vegetables.
Flexitarianism is growing in popularity with people who don’t want to fully commit to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle but want to help make a difference to the damaging effect the meat industry has on our changing world climate.
Mushrooms: Meat for Vegans and Vegetarians
Did you know that mushrooms are a great alternative when it comes to eating meat? Not only are they earthy in flavour and “meaty” in texture, mushrooms are high in protein and fibre, which means they leave you feeling full and satisfied. They’re also low in sodium and calories while being fat and cholesterol-free.
Here’s a memory that still brings a giggle – decades later. I grew up in Australia, and in the late ’80s and ’90s, there was a huge advertising campaign dubbing mushrooms as “meat for vegetarians.”
Women, in particular, started going crazy for these ads, not entirely because of the health benefits of the humble mushie, but because of the hot buff guy delivering the message. Wearing nothing but a butcher’s apron ;)
I digress. Except that this segues beautifully into the festive Christmas Dinner Menu, I’d like to share with you here, featuring mushrooms as the main course… possibly with someone similar carving Wellingtons at your Chrissie table.
A Traditional British Vs. Vegetarian or Vegan Christmas Dinner
While I’m Aussie, my Dad is British. Growing up, both my Mum and Dad’s side of the family insisted on having a traditional British Christmas dinner. No matter how darn hot the day was forecast to be. Chrissie Day in the land of Oz was usually sweltering. And back then, most Aussie’s wouldn’t have dreamed of trading their British-style roast turkey with Yorkshire pudding, gravy, and all the veggie trimmings, for anything.
But as this year has shown us – anything is now possible, including a Vegan or Vegetarian Christmas dinner. Here’s how to make a plant-based Christmas menu festive and delicious:
Mushroom Wellington with Sage & Toasted Pecans
To me, Christmas dinner is all about having a main course you can bring to and carve at the table, in front of everyone. Together with some traditional side dishes and trimmings.
So, while this menu is forgoing the turkey, it’s replaced with a gorgeous golden Wellington that’s simple, delicious, and can easily be made either vegan or vegetarian. Not only that, the filling can also be made ahead of time (do I hear an amen!) and is sure to draw just as many ohhh’s and ahhhh’s as a traditional turkey!
Ingredients (Makes 2 Wellingtons, serving 8-10)
- 2 sheets of vegan puff pastry (thawed, if using frozen, and already rolled out into a rectangle)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 kg mixed mushrooms, sliced, stems included, except for shiitake stems
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 4-6 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage (or rosemary, or thyme)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup sherry wine, or marsala wine, or red/white wine
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans (or hazelnuts or walnuts)
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Egg wash – use nut milk or melted coconut oil for brushing the pastry. Or, if not worried about making it vegan, use a whisked egg yolk.
Optional Additional Ingredients
- 2 teaspoons truffle oil
- 500gm spinach or Swiss Chard, wilted
- Olives, sliced
- Chunks of roasted parsnip or squash
- ½-1 cup grated Pecorino, Goats cheese or cream cheese (ok for vegetarians), OR a meltable Vegan Cheese
- 1-2 tablespoons Fig mustard
- Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius
- Make the filling: heat oil in heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onions, garlic, salt, and sage, and sauté stirring often, until mushrooms release all their liquid. Turn heat down and continue sautéing all the liquid has evaporated. Be patient – this will take a while.
- Once mushrooms are mostly dry, splash in the wine and balsamic vinegar, and again sauté on medium heat until all the liquid has cooked off. This step is really important – you don’t want a watery filling.
- Add the toasted chopped pecans, salt, pepper, and other optional ingredients (except for the mustard).
- Let the filling cool: for 15-20mins (this is where you could save time and make the filling a day ahead and refrigerate!)
- Fill Pastry: when filling is at room temp, place 1 rectangle of puff pastry onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread some fig mustard over the centre, then place half the filling in a mound along that centre, roll the pastry up, and over, seam side down. Repeat - fill and roll the second sheet.
- Brush with the egg or eggless wash.
- Score the pastry with design of your choice.
- Bake: place the Wellingtons side-by-side on the middle rack in the oven for about 35 mins – checking at the 20min mark and rotating for even browning. You want the pastry cooked all the way through, and to be a deep golden colour (no pale pastries!)
- Cool for 5 mins: before transferring to a platter to bring to the table for “carving”. Garnish with sage leaves and fresh cranberries.
Serve your main course Wellingtons with some fresh Cranberry Relish (which is already vegan), together with some of your favourite side dishes, such as:
- Roasted Butternut Squash /Parsnips with herbs (using olive oil or other plant-based oil).
- Mashed potatoes with cow’s milk, butter or cream for vegetarians, or made vegan using Vegan butter, perhaps with some extra roasted garlic
- Brown gravy (made from mushrooms)
- Crispy Shredded Brussel sprouts (already vegan)
- Braised Red Cabbage (already vegan)
Have you tried serving a festive vegetarian or vegan Christmas dinner? If so, how did it go? We’d love to know!