The reason I’m sharing my favourite Christmas Lunch side dishes with you is because a lot of fuss is made of meat-free eating at Christmas but I am telling you here and now, if you have any vegans or vegetarians coming for Christmas Lunch I can promise you that all they want are ‘all the trimmings.’
Firstly, I have specifically left roast-potatoes out of this list as they’re clearly the best side-dish and deserve their own post.
There is nothing a vegetarian hates more than being singled out with some kind of ‘special’ meal that has nothing to do with Christmas and have to watch the rest of the table eat all the yummy roast vegetables and gorgeous gravy and not be able to touch any of it because you’ve gone to the effort to make some kind of tomato nut bake that, quite frankly, the dog wouldn’t even touch. Sure, I’ve made some special vegetarian Christmas alternatives over the years but these have always been very much Christmas themed and to be eaten alongside all the yummy trimmings. So, the message to you my dear readers is, if you’re worried about making something special for the vegetarian, don’t. Just make sure all your side dishes are extra special (and meat-free of course!)
The Viking hates fussy vegetables. There’s nothing he loves more than simply steamed veg with very little else. He really doesn’t like it when people add stuff that shouldn’t belong. I think it’s a northern thing. However there’s always compromise at the Christmas table, which is why there are just so many dishes… So Some stuff may be simple, but it’s still glorious. Here are some of my favourites.
cauliflower and broccoli cheese
This is entirely stolen from Jamie Oliver (he really seems to be the only one who tells the truth about what really happens in the kitchen at Christmas) but it’s so unbelievably knock-out that it’s worth admitting that I didn’t create it. It’s the blending of the broccoli into the cheese roux that is so genius and I utterly take my hat off to the man.
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 50g unsalted butter
- 50g plain flour
- 600 ml semi-skimmed milk
- 500g broccoli – chopped
- 75g mature cheddar cheese – grated
- 1 kg cauliflower – divided into large florettes
- 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 25g flaked almonds
- olive oil
pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
peel and finely slice the garlic and put it into a medium pan on a medium heat with the butter.
when the butter has melted, stir in the flour for a minute to make a paste, then gradually add the milk, whisking as you go, until lovely and smooth.
add the broccoli to the sauce and simmer for around 20 minutes, or until the broccoli is cooked through and starts to break down, then mash or blitz with a stick blender (adding an extra splash of milk to loosen, if using fresh broccoli). Grate in half the Cheddar and season to perfection.
arrange the cauliflower florets in an appropriately sized baking dish, pour over the broccoli white sauce and grate over the remaining Cheddar.
blitz the bread into breadcrumbs in a food processor, then pulse in the thyme leaves and almonds. Toss with a lug of oil and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper, then scatter evenly over the cauliflower cheese.
Bake for 1 hour, or until golden and cooked through.
swede and carrot mash
You may think I’m mad sharing a recipe for something as simple as swede and carrot mash but this is one of my all-time favourite things to eat. I’ve never really understood people that make mashed potato as well as roasted potatoes but this swede and carrot mash is a great alternative and pleases those guests who are expecting mash. Not only is it wonderful for lunch, it also makes your bubble and squeak extra special!
- 1 large swede – peeled and cubed
- the same weight of carrots – peeled and chopped
- salt and pepper
This is a great ‘make-ahead’ dish and freezes really well too. I find the best way to make these is to steam the swede and carrots. I put the swede on steam for 10 mins and add the carrots after 5 mins. Then set them aside in a bowl with a large knob of butter and plenty of salt and pepper and place a tea towel over them until they are cool, then blitz them with an immersion blender until relatively smooth but not pureed. They take plenty of pepper so check them once again before serving. I throw them into an oven-proof dish and back into the oven 5 mins before we eat. Let them defrost completely before cooking, if you freeze them.
roasted Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and parmesan
I don’t really like to mess with Brussels sprouts as I love them so much, there’s nothing better than the simple taste along with the richness of the rest of your Christmas meal but for those who like to make a fuss I have found that a strong, salty parmesan-style hard cheese (parmesan isn’t vegetarian) gives Brussels the lift they need that bacon usually gives.
- 1 kg Brussels sprouts
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
- 100g of chestnuts – the pre-roasted and peeled, vacuum-packed kind are perfect for this
- 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan , or vegetarian hard cheese
Preheat the oven to 220ºC/gas 7.
Trim and halve the brussels sprouts, then place on a large baking tray. Add the oil, grate over the lemon zest, then sprinkle with the chilli flakes and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Mix with your hands to coat.
Roast in the oven for 10 minutes – the sprouts should start to caramelise in places; when that happens, scatter over the Parmesan and roast for a further 15 minutes, until the cheese is crisp and golden brown, and the sprouts tender.
the best vegetarian gravy
OK, this is where I feel we are really let down by the TV chefs. Yes, there are a few good ones out there but no-one that really takes the care to create something really special. Of course The Viking would be happy with Bisto (and very often this has happened after an exhausting session in the kitchen but this year I thought I’d go all out and create something special. Yes this takes some time but it’s totally ‘make-ahead’ and if you’re making both a vegetarian and turkey lunch then this one gravy will work for both, you can divide it in half and add the roasting bird juices to it before serving and it will make a stunning gravy!
- 4 large white onions – un-peeled and halved, sliced down the middle (not root to tip)
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 2 carrots – roughly chopped
- 2 sticks of celery – roughly chopped
- 1 fennel bulb – roughly chopped
- 25 g dried porcini mushrooms
- olive oil
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- 100ml white wine
- 1 tablespoon red-current jam
- 1 teaspoon Marmite or other yeast extract
- 1 tablespoon tomato purée
- 1 litres organic vegetable stock
pre-heat the oven to 170C and lay the onions cut-side up in a deep-sided baking tray (or I use my shallow casserole dish,) drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with sugar, season well and bake for 15 minutes until beginning to brown
add the rest of the veg to the pan, along with the herbs, stir well and place back in the oven for 25 mins or until the veg are gloriously caramelised and golden
remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle over the flour and stir in, then stir in the the wine, tomato puree, marmite and red-current jam. Once this is fully incorporated, pour over the vegetable stock. Now this can either go back into the oven or can quibble away on the hob for at least 30 mins on a low heat. I then let the gravy go completely cold before passing it through a sieve. Discard the veg and the gravy is ready to serve or freeze.
eat and of course, enjoy!