Veggie’s first Christmas

Twas the day before Christmas when all the house was awake, when I whipped out my apron and decided it was time to bake!

When I chose to go meatless in September, I hadn’t stopped to think about what this would mean for Christmas dinner! Despite tradition, I’d never really been a fan of turkey so dinner would often include a spread of roast lamb and oven baked salmon with all the trimmings – crispy roast potatoes, golden brown veg (minus sprouts for me), stuffing and more. But this year I was going to miss out 😦

Nut roasts kept coming up in searches so why not throw it in the mix? And my cousin introduced me to a vegan tourtière pie a couple weeks ago so thought it would be a hearty addition.

However, I’ve also been in charge of desserts for the past few Christmases so of course I had to prioritise those – which meant palming off the nut roast to my sister to make. And after a quick Google search for some festive inspiration and I settled on a sticky toffee pear pudding and a maple and pecan tart.

Christmas baking

A savoury start

The tourtière pie is a French Canadian classic, but traditionally filled with meat. With a quick switch to chickpea, sweet potato, mushroom, leek and carrot you’ve instantly made a pie vegetarian friendly. And I say vegetarian not vegan-friendly, because I didn’t substitute the butter for frozen olive oil. Perhaps one day when I’m not baking three dishes I’ll try it, but I can vouch for the vegan version making a very convincing shortcrust.

If I haven’t already mentioned in previous posts – I love pastry – so you can imagine how upsetting it is to order a pie and find that it only comes with a lid! Thankfully this one is complete encased in buttery shortcrust – no skimping here.

The first time I made it I used ready made pastry. I know, shock horror. But this time I made my own. Nothing beats homemade, but it does mean spending longer in the kitchen.

Although I didn’t physically make the nut roast (I was tied up with the pie), both savoury dishes took much longer to prepare than the sweet treats. As well as making pastry, there’s a lot more ingredients that require peeling, chopping, grating or blitzing. Have you tried grating a sweet potato?! It’s not really something you can do in a hurry.

When it comes to the nut roast, I’d say – think stuffing. It looked like stuffing (slightly coarser) and tasted like stuffing. Aside from the obvious nutty texture, it gets a touch of sweetness from the cranberries and creaminess – not just from the accompanying mushroom sauce – but from the healthy quantity of chestnuts. I’ve discovered a new found love for them over the past couple months – so much so that they’ve made their way into every stir fry! It also helps that the supermarket has had them on special offer.

Sweet sensation

Sticky toffee pudding is one of my childhood favourites and to this day, if I see it on a menu, there’s a 90% chance it’s what I’d choose. Not only did this recipe include pears (one of your five a day – tick!), but it also happened to be vegan-friendly.

I’ve got my reservations about substituting animal-derived products for oils, but that could just be mind over matter as I’ve read that some vegetable oils can be quite good for you. I guess many things are good for you in small doses. Still, it didn’t make it any easier pouring 200ml of oil into the pudding mix.

This was also my first time poaching pears, which is such a simple thing to do… once you get past peeling its thin skin off. They were poached in a cocktail of Christmas spices – cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves and caster sugar. Even after glazing the pudding there was some poaching sauce leftover so next time I need to find a use for it instead of throwing it away. Any suggestions?

One of the great things about this pudding is that it’s entirely sweetened by 200g of dates. Natural sweetners are better, right? The other great thing is that it only needs a few ingredients and steps to make. The result is a pudding soft enough to melt in your mouth. And with small chunks of pear scattered throughout, each slice contained a fruity surprise.

However, it was the maple and pecan tart that stole the dessert crown. Despite the obvious maple syrup for sweetness, the grated pink lady apples gave it an edge. Coupled with the zingy ginger and earthy maple glazed thyme tips, there’s a lot of flavours you wouldn’t expect from traditional recipes for this tart.

I’ve got Jamie Oliver to thank for that minus the pastry – that came from Paul Hollywood. I’ll be making this one again for New Year’s Day dinner, but I’ll put less orange peel or leave it out altogether – just personal preference.

For my first helping, I tried both desserts with M&S Thick and Creamy Madagascan Vanilla Custard. This combo was too rich even for my sweet tooth. So the following day when I returned for seconds, I opted for single cream on the side – better choice. You could also try it with ice cream, but I’d still choose a plain flavour to save your sugar levels flying through the roof.

Recipes

Enjoy!

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